- It seems that Mariners righty Steve Cishek has a bit more to overcome than just the hip labrum tear that was previously reported, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports (Twitter links). The reliever also needed a microfracture procedure, and now acknowledges that an Opening Day return is optimistic. Though Cishek is only just beginning light throwing, fellow relief candidate Tony Zych will soon progress to 120-foot throwing, Divish adds on Twitter.
The Mariners announced that catcher Jesus Sucre has been traded to the Rays in exchange for a player to named later or cash. The 28-year-old Sucre had recently been designated for assignment and outrighted off the 40-man roster, so he’ll head to camp with the Rays as a non-roster invitee.
Sucre has hit for average in the minors, batting .279/.312/.341 across parts of four Triple-A seasons, but he’s never been able to produce at the plate in the Majors. In parts of four seasons with Seattle, he owns a collective .209/.246/.276 batting line in 264 trips to the plate. There may be some temptation to assume that the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field has played a role in those struggles, but Sucre’s .640 OPS at home in his career dwarfs his .415 road mark.
Though he’s struggled at the plate, Sucre has proven to be an adept defender, throwing out 35 percent of attempted base thieves in his big league career. He’s routinely received average to above-average grades for his pitch-framing skills as well. Dating back to his prospect days with the Braves, Sucre has been touted as a strong overall defender, with Baseball America previously calling his arm a “cannon” and rating him as the best defensive backstop in Atlanta’s system in 2010.
The Rays signed Wilson Ramos earlier this offseason with the hope that he can eventually shoulder the load behind the plate following last September’s ACL tear. He’ll miss at least a couple of months of the 2017 campaign, leaving Curt Casali and Luke Maile to handle the bulk of the catching duties early in the year. Sucre could conceivably challenge that pair for playing time in Spring Training, or he could simply head to Triple-A as a defensive-minded depth piece.
There have also been rumors connecting the Rays to free-agent catcher Matt Wieters, although at this point there’s been nothing to suggest that Tampa Bay is in serious pursuit of the former Oriole or that any form of offer has been made.
- The Royals have interest in veteran right-hander Doug Fister. Kansas City is known to be looking for rotation help since the tragic death of Yordano Ventura. Fister (who celebrates his 33rd birthday today) posted a 4.64 ERA, 5.74 K/9 and 1.85 K/BB rate in 180 1/3 innings with the Astros last season. The Padres, Marlins, Pirates and Mariners have all been linked to Fister at various times this winter, though several of those clubs have made other additions to their rotation and may no longer have interest.
- The Mariners were linked to Hammel earlier this winter, and Cafardo reports that Seattle offered Hammel a one-year deal with a $10MM option for 2018. This offer came “very early” in the free agency process and no longer appears to be on the table. The M’s have since acquired Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly, so they no longer seem like candidates for Hammel’s services.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Mariners announced that right-hander Jonathan Aro and catcher Jesus Sucre, each of whom had been designated for assignment over the past week, have been sent outright to Triple-A Tacoma. Both will be in Major League camp as non-roster invitees come Spring Training. Aro, 26, lost his roster spot when the Mariners claimed Tuffy Gosewisch from the Braves. He’s tallied 11 big league innings between the Red Sox and Mariners in the past two seasons and had a solid showing in Triple-A last year, tossing 36 1/3 innings with a 2.48 ERA. In 88 career Triple-A innings he has a 2.86 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9. As for Sucre, the 28-year-old backstop was out of options and lost his 40-man spot when Seattle acquired Dillon Overton from Oakland. A solid defensive backstop, Sucre has never hit much in the Majors or minors and owns a .209/.246/.276 in 264 big league plate appearances.
- Southpaw Nick Hagadone has joined the Mariners on a minor-league pact, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times first reported on Twitter. The former Indians left-hander hasn’t pitched since 2015 due to an elbow fracture that required surgical repair. Hagadone struck up a minor league deal with Atlanta last winter but had the contract voided due to concerns in his physical. He didn’t pitch at all in 2016 but will aim to prove he’s healthy enough for a big league look with Seattle in 2017. Hagadone, 31, posted a 3.55 ERA with a 55-to-18 K/BB ratio in 50 2/3 innings with Cleveland from 2014-15 and was once well-regarded enough as a prospect to be ranked in the Top 100 of both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. He was also one of three pieces sent from the Red Sox to the Indians in the 2009 Victor Martinez swap.
- Right-hander Jean Machi joined the Mariners on a minor league pact. Machi, who will turn 35 in two days, hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2015 when he logged a 5.12 ERA in 58 innings between the Giants and Red Sox. He was a very useful relief arm in San Francisco from 2013-14, however, recording a collective 2.49 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 across 119 1/3 innings. Machi split the 2016 season between the Giants and Cubs organizations, pitching to a solid 3.65 ERA in 61 2/3 Triple-A innings.
The Mariners have been among MLB’s busiest teams this offseason, acquiring players like Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Drew Smyly, Jarrod Dyson, Yovani Gallardo, Danny Valencia, Carlos Ruiz and Shae Simmons in a long list of transactions. GM Jerry Dipoto stresses, perhaps unsurprisingly but in strongly worded language, that those moves have been made with a clear goal of winning in 2017, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune.
“I’ll say it as plainly as I can,” says Dipoto. “When you have Robinson Cano, who arguably had the best year of his career last year and is playing in his mid-30s at an All Star level; when you have Nelson Cruz, who’s roughly led the league in homers for three years running; when you have Felix Hernandez at 31, a former Cy Young Award winner who last year failed to throw 200 innings for the first time in about a decade; when you have one of the preeminent third baseman (Kyle Seager) in the league who can do a lot of things offensively and defensively, and you’ve committed at roughly $75 million annually for those players, you are in a `win-now’ mode.”
Those players are among the few remaining on the Mariners’ 40-man roster that Dipoto inherited when he took the team’s GM job near the end of the 2015 season. By my count, the only other players on the Mariners’ 40-man who remain from that time are Hisashi Iwakuma (who Dipoto re-signed in the 2015-16 offseason), James Paxton, Tony Zych, Mike Zunino and Shawn O’Malley.
“It doesn’t shock me,” says Dipoto of the Mariners’ roster turnover. “It wasn’t necessarily by design but, again, we have not done this with pandemonium in mind.”
Dipoto’s trades have included a large number of young players and prospects, but Dipoto suggests that he hasn’t mortgaged the Mariners’ future. He’s kept top prospects like Kyle Lewis, Tyler O’Neill and Andrew Moore, as Dutton notes. And while many of Dipoto’s trades have privileged short-term assets rather than longer-term ones (like the trade that bought one year of control of Dyson for four of Nate Karns), Dipoto points out that he has also made trades that have featured players at similar points in their careers (including, perhaps, the one that sent former top prospect Alex Jackson and pitcher Tyler Pike to Atlanta for young starters Robert Whalen and Max Povse). Dipoto further notes that he has acquired several players with limited service time, including Haniger, Dan Vogelbach and Ben Gamel (the last two of whom the Mariners acquired during the 2016 season), who could make an impact in the big leagues in 2017.
While Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger wasn’t the headliner in the November trade that saw him go from Arizona to Seattle, the M’s have high hopes for the 26-year-old, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. A 2012 first-round pick and former Brewers prospect, Haniger hit a below-average .229/.309/.404 in the first 129 plate appearances of his major league career last season, though his video game-like .341/.428/.670 line in 312 Triple-A PAs wowed Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. “By the numbers, (Haniger) was able to show that he was the best offensive player (last year) in the minor leagues at any level,” said Dipoto. “He’s also a right-handed batter, and we acquired him for that reason. Mitch is also the one that brings with him a skill set that includes power, and he’s got on-base ability.” Dipoto expects Haniger to serve as the Mariners’ everyday right fielder this year, which would leave Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia to fight for a reserve role.
More from the American League:
- The Astros haven’t been willing to give up 21-year-old pitching prospect Francis Martes in a deal for White Sox ace Jose Quintana, and it’s no surprise, given the Houston organization’s opinion of Martes. “He’s got as high a ceiling as probably any righty in the major leagues,” Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias told David Laurila of FanGraphs. “He has such a gifted arm, and such a weapon breaking ball, plus the changeup as a third pitch. Something that can be lost sight of is how young he is. He went to Double-A (late in the 2015 season) and held his own. In and of itself, that says something. If you look at the list of guys who have pitched well in Double-A at age 19, it’s a really, really impressive list.” If Martes’ effectiveness continues in 2017, “his road to Houston could be a very fast one,” per Elias.
- Twins reliever Glen Perkins threw only two innings last season – both in early April – before undergoing June surgery to repair a torn labrum. Perkins’ recovery from the procedure “has gone well,” but “there’s no reason to rush” back, he informed Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. With that in mind, Perkins could begin the season on the disabled list. “It’s going to be down to the finish line at the end of spring training whether I’m ready or not,” said the 34-year-old. Long an adept late-game option, the left-handed Perkins amassed no fewer than 32 saves in each season from 2013-15. Brandon Kintzler grabbed the ninth-inning reins last year for the Perkins-less Twins, who are still scouring the open market for relief help.
- Victor Diaz is the least heralded prospect in the four-player package the White Sox received from the Red Sox in exchange for ace Chris Sale last month, but Chicago regards the hard-throwing right-hander as a quality piece. The 22-year-old Diaz is a prospect worth dreaming on and could move quickly toward the majors, according to White Sox senior director of baseball operations Dan Fabian (Twitter link via Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago). Diaz, a reliever capable of hitting triple digits on the radar gun, tossed 60 1/3 innings at the Low-A level last season.
The Mariners announced that they’ve acquired left-hander Dillon Overton from the Athletics in exchange for minor league catcher Jason Goldstein. To make room on the 40-man roster, Seattle designated catcher Jesus Sucre for assignment. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune first reported that Overton could be on the way to Seattle (on Twitter). The A’s had just designated Overton for assignment earlier this week when they signed veteran infielder Adam Rosales to a one-year deal.
Oakland’s second-round pick in 2013, the 25-year-old Overton made his Major League debut in 2016 but struggled to an ERA of 11.47 in 24 1/3 innings. He did have a solid campaign in Triple-A Nashville last season, however, racking up 125 1/3 innings of 3.29 ERA ball. Overton also averaged 7.7 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 to go along with a 34.9 percent ground-ball rate in his time at Triple-A.
As recently as the 2015-16 offseason, Baseball America ranked Overton as the Athletics’ No. 8 prospect, though their assessment noted that Overton’s success would be determined by how much velocity he could regain following 2013 Tommy John surgery. Overton worked in the mid-90s in college but was in the upper 80s following his operation. The velocity seemingly never returned, as he averaged just 88.3 mph on his heater last year.
Overton has performed well at every minor league stop, though, and he has minor league options remaining, meaning the Mariners can send him back to Triple-A for further refinement. The Mariners’ rotation is full with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo all occupying spots. Left-hander Ariel Miranda is also on hand as an option in the case of injury, though he’s probably ticketed for long relief work to open the season.
Goldstein, 22, was the Mariners’ ninth-round pick just last summer. The Illinois native opened his pro career with Seattle’s affiliate in the Rookie-level Arizona League and finished out the year in short-season Class-A. Goldstein had just 68 total plate appearances in his brief time, hitting .279/.328/.311 in that time. He also threw out seven of the 14 runners that attempted to steal against him. Heading into the draft, Baseball America noted that he had limited power but handles a pitching staff well. Goldstein is no stranger to catching high-caliber arms, as he was the battery mate of 2015 first-rounder Tyler Jay (Twins) and 2016 first-rounder Cody Sedlock (Orioles) in college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Sucre, 28, was out of options and looked to be a long shot to make the Mariners’ roster with both Mike Zunino and Carlos Ruiz ahead of him on the depth chart. (Seattle also claimed catcher Tuffy Gosewisch off waivers from Atlanta earlier today.) Sucre has excelled at throwing out baserunners in his career (35 percent) and typically receives average to above-average marks for his pitch-framing skills. However, he’s yet to produce at the plate in parts of four seasons in the Majors, batting .209/.246/.276 in 264 PAs.
Gosewisch comes with a $635K arbitration salary that he already agreed to with Atlanta. He’ll add a defensively solid, experienced veteran to the Mariners’ catching mix. But Gosewisch has never done much with the bat at the MLB level. Over 416 career plate appearances, he owns a .199/.237/.286 batting line. He did turn things around last year at Triple-A, though, slashing .342/.399/.553 over 219 trips to the plate.
Aro came to Seattle from the Red Sox in the Wade Miley deal. The 26-year-old made a single MLB appearance and pitched to a 2.48 ERA over 36 1/3 Triple-A frames in 2016.