Seattle Mariners – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-01-15T21:41:18Z WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Rangers Claim John Andreoli]]> 2019-01-15T20:09:06Z 2019-01-15T20:02:59Z The Rangers have claimed outfielder John Andreoli off waivers from the Mariners, according to club announcements. He had been designated for assignment recently.

Whether this’ll be the final landing spot for Andreoli remains to be seen. He was bumped from the Orioles’ 40-man at the end of October, landing back in Seattle — where he spent the bulk of the 2018 season.

Andreoli began his career with the Cubs organization, but never cracked the bigs there despite three consecutive full seasons (2015-17) at Triple-A. He made it up to the majors for the first time last year, but received only minimal opportunities. Through nearly two thousand career plate appearances at the highest level of the minors, Andreoli is a .264/.371/.408 hitter with 121 stolen bases.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Avoiding Arbitration: American League]]> 2019-01-12T20:28:12Z 2019-01-12T20:19:32Z The deadline for players and teams to exchange arbitration figures passed at 1pm ET yesterday, meaning over the next few hours, there will be a landslide of settlements on one-year deals to avoid an arbitration hearing. We’ll track today’s minor settlements from the American League in this post. Once all of the day’s settlements have filtered in, I’ll organize them by division to make them a bit easier to parse.

It’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of teams have adopted a “file and trial” approach to arbitration, meaning that once arbitration figures are exchanged with a player, negotiations on a one-year deal will cease. The two parties may still discuss a multi-year deal after that point, but the majority of players who exchange figures with their team today will head to an arbitration hearing.

As always, all salary projections referenced within this post are courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, and we’ll also be updating our 2019 Arbitration Tracker throughout the day…

Today’s Updates

  • Yankees 1B Greg Bird will make $1.2 MM next season, per Bob Nightengale on Twitter.
  • The controversial Roberto Osuna will make $6.5MM next season, per Feinsand. Teammate Jake Marisnick, who again scuffled in ’18 after a promising 2017, will make $2.2125MM.
  • Per Mark Feinsand on Twitter, A’s lefty Sean Manaea $3.15MM in what’s sure to be an injury-marred 2019.
  • Hard-throwing reliever Mychal Givens will make $2.15MM, per Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter), with additional incentives for making the All-Star team or placing in the Top-3 for the Rivera/Hoffman Reliever of the Year Awards, added’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter).
  • The Mariners agreed on a $1.95MM deal with outfielder Domingo Santana, per’s Greg Johns (via Twitter). Santana is the second and last of the Mariners’ arbitration-eligible players.
  • The Angels agreed to contracts with a pair of players yesterday, per Maria Torres of the LA Times (via Twitter). Reliever Hansel Robles signed for $1.4MM. Robles threw 36 1/3 innings of 2.97 ERA baseball after the Angels claimed him off waivers from the Mets in June. Luis Garcia, acquired via trade from the Phillies this winter, signed for $1.675MM.
  • The Tigers and reliever Shane Greene settled on $4MM, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (via Twitter).
  • The Yankees reached an agreement with Sonny Gray for $7.5MM, per Nightengale. Gray, of course, has been involved trade rumors most of the winter, but for the time being, he stands to play a role in the Yankee pen while providing insurance for the rotation.
  • Didi Gregorius has also come to an agreement with the Yankees on a one-year, $11.75MM deal in his final season before free agency, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter links).
  • New Yankee James Paxton signed for $8.575, per Nightengale (via Twitter). Paxton is under contract for the 2020 season as well.
  • The Houston Astros came to an agreement with Collin McHugh for $5.8MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter). McHugh could be moving back into the rotation after a stellar season in the pen, either way this will be his final season of arb eligibility before hitting the open market.
  • Jonathan Villar comes away with $4.825MM for what will be his first full season in Baltimore, per Nightengale (via Twitter).

Earlier Updates

Read more

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Avoiding Arbitration: Thursday]]> 2019-01-11T02:52:05Z 2019-01-11T02:51:58Z The deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration figures is tomorrow afternoon at 1pm ET. With the vast majority of teams now adopting a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration — that is, halting negotiations on one-year contracts once figures have been exchanged and simply going to a hearing at that point — there will be a deluge of arbitration agreements in the next 24 hours. It’s a minor deadline day in terms of newsworthiness — outside of the largest cases, at least — as few arbitration cases will have a significant impact on their team’s overall payroll picture. From a broader perspective, though, the exchange of arb figures is perhaps more notable. With most or all of their arbitration cases out of the way, teams can focus more heavily on the trade and free-agent markets.

As always, it’s interesting to refer back to MLBTR’s annual arbitration projections. Here are the day’s deals:

  • The Tigers will pay Shane Greene $4MM for the coming campaign, Murray tweets. Entering his second year of eligibility, the 30-year-old had projected at $4.8MM, owing largely to his strong tally of 32 saves. Despite appealing K/BB numbers, though, Greene finished the season with an unsightly 5.12 ERA.
  • Righty Nick Tropeano settled with the Angels at $1.075MM. (That’s also via Murray, on Twitter.) That falls well shy of his $1.6MM projection. The first-year arb-eligible hurler was not terribly effective in his 14 starts last year and has just over two hundred career frames in the big leagues, due in no small part to a long rehab owing to Tommy John surgery.

Earlier Updates

  • Newly acquired outfielder Domingo Santana will earn $1.95MM in his first season with the Mariners, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. That’s just a touch below the $2.0MM that MLBTR & Matt Swartz had projected. The 26-year-old Santana swatted thirty long balls and had a productive overall 2017 season, but only received 235 plate appearances in the ensuing campaign — over which he hit five home runs and carried a .265/.328/.412 slash — before being dealt to Seattle.
  • The Angels are on the hook for $1,901,000 to rehabbing righty J.C. Ramirez, Robert Murray of The Athletic tweets. Ramirez will receive a nominal raise on his 2018 salary after requiring Tommy John surgery after just two starts.
  • Phillies righty Hector Neris has settled at $1.8MM, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia (Twitter links). He had projected at $2.0MM but will settle for a bit less in his first season of arb eligibility. Right-handed starter Jerad Eickhoff, meanwhile, is slated to receive $975K. His projected first-year salary was much higher, at $1.7MM, but Eickhoff presented a tough case since he missed virtually all of his platform season with arm troubles.
  • Southpaw Ryan Buchter has agreed with the Athletics on a $1.4MM deal, Nightengale of reports on Twitter. That lands just a smidge over his $1.3MM projection. Soon to turn 32, Buchter worked to a sub-3.00 for the third-straight season in 2018, but only threw 39 1/3 innings while working as a lefty specialist.
  • Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree will receive a $1,312,500 salary next year, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports (Twitter link). Starter Steven Wright checks in just a shade higher, at $1.375MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter). Both players had projected in this range, with Swartz pegging $1.2MM for the former and $1.4MM for the latter. It’s Hembree’s first time through the process and Wright’s second.
  • First-time arb-eligible righty Scott Oberg settled with the Rockies for $1.3MM, according to Nightengale (via Twitter). It’s $100K over the projected rate for the 28-year-old hurler, who turned in far and away his most productive MLB season in 2018.
  • The Yankees have a $1.2MM deal in place with first baseman Greg Bird, Nightengale was first to tweet. Though he had projected a bit higher, at $1.5MM, Bird’s relatively robust number of home runs (31 total in 659 career plate appearances) were threatened to be overshadowed in a hypothetical hearing by his rough overall stats over the past two seasons. He’ll need to earn his way back into a larger share of playing time in 2019.
  • Infielder Travis Jankowski will earn $1.165MM with the Padres, per Murray (via Twitter). He projected at a heftier $1.4MM, but the Super Two qualifier will still earn a nice raise after his best season in the big leagues. Jankowski will be looking to crack 400 plate appearances for the first time in the season to come.
  • The Nationals have agreed to a $1MM contract with righty Joe Ross, Murray also tweets. Though Ross projected at $1.5MM for his first season of eligibility, that was based largely upon the innings he accumulated over the prior three seasons. Ross made it back from Tommy John surgery in time for only three outings in 2018.
  • A pair of backstops have also put pen to paper on new salaries. Curt Casali will earn $950K with the Reds, per Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). John Ryan Murphy has a $900K agreement with the Diamondbacks, the elder Nightengale tweets. Casali, a Super Two, had projected for a $1.3MM salary, while Murphy projected at $1.1MM in his first arb year.
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mariners To Sign Cory Gearrin]]> 2019-01-11T02:42:47Z 2019-01-11T02:08:37Z 8:08pm: Gearrin is set to earn $1.5MM, with another $1.25MM available in incentives, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (via Twitter).

10:03am: The Mariners have agreed to a one-year, Major League contract with right-handed reliever Cory Gearrin, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (via Twitter). It’s the second free-agent agreement of the day for Seattle, as the M’s also agreed to a one-year deal with Tim Beckham. Because the Mariners’ 40-man roster is currently at 39 players, they’ll need to make a move to open a spot for the pair of signings. Gearrin is represented by agent Bo McKinnis.

Cory Gearrin | Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto has been open about his desire to add both a middle-infield “stabilizer” and at least one veteran reliever to the Major League roster recently, and the additions of Beckham and Gearrin fit the bill. While neither is a particularly exciting addition, they’re the type of moves one would expect for an organization that is currently in the midst of an on-the-fly rebuild. The addition of Yusei Kikuchi, of course, was a longer-term and far more significant splash, but the Mariners likely viewed the 27-year-old southpaw as an exception that aligned with the timeline of their long-term competitive vision.

Gearrin, 32, split the 2018 season between the Giants, Rangers and A’s, pitching to a combined 3.77 ERA with 8.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.10 HR/9 and a 41.5 percent ground-ball rate through 57 1/3 innings. However, the Athletics non-tendered him rather than pay him a projected $2.4MM through arbitration (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz). Over the past two seasons, Gearrin has notched a combined 2.80 ERA with a 117-to-56 K/BB ratio in 125 1/3 innings of work over the past two seasons and will bring seven years of MLB experience to a Mariners bullpen that has been completely revamped this offseason.

Gone are recognizable names such as Edwin Diaz, Alex Colome, Juan Nicasio, James Pazos, Erasmo Ramirez and Nick Vincent — each of whom departed the organization either via trade or, in the case of Ramirez and Vincent, via outright. Gearrin will now join Anthony Swarzak as an elder statesman in the Seattle ’pen — assuming Dipoto doesn’t find a trade partner for Swarzak prior to Opening Day, that is.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Mariners Designate John Andreoli]]> 2019-01-10T23:41:03Z 2019-01-10T22:33:50Z The Mariners have designated outfielder John Andreoli for assignment. His roster spot was needed for the team’s just-announced (but previously reported) signings of Tim Beckham and Cory Gearrin.

Andreoli, 28, received his first, brief look at the MLB level last year. He managed only a .230/.284/.262 slash in 67 plate appearances while bouncing between the Mariners and Orioles organizations.

Unsurprisingly, Andreoli has generally been quite a bit more successful in the upper minors. He’s a .264/.371/.408 hitter in four seasons at Triple-A, where he has shown a propensity for drawing walks and swiping bags.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mariners To Sign Tim Beckham]]> 2019-01-10T16:35:25Z 2019-01-10T15:07:28Z The Mariners have agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent infielder Tim Beckham, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The Wasserman client will earn a $1.75MM base salary and can take home another $250K worth of incentives as part of the deal.

Tim Beckham | Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Beckham, non-tendered by the Orioles earlier this winter, fits the mold described by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto recently when he said he expected to sign a “middle-of-the-infield stabilizer” to provide some protection for trade acquisition J.P. Crawford.

Crawford, acquired in the trade that sent Jean Segura to the Phillies, still figures to get the opportunity to prove that he can be the Mariners’ long-term answer at shortstop, but by adding Beckham, the Mariners are bringing in an experienced player to hold down the position in the event that Crawford struggles early and requires additional minor league time to get up to speed. It’s worth noting that Crawford has just over a full year of Major League service (one year, 20 days), so if the Mariners don’t give him 152 days of Major League service in 2019, he won’t reach a full second year of service and will thus be controlled for a full extra season. There’s no indication that Seattle plans to deliberately operate in that manner, but it’ll be an interesting scenario to watch unfold.

Beckham, 29 later this month, was the No. 1 overall pick by the Rays back in the 2008 draft. He’s obviously been unable to live up to that lofty billing to this point in his career, but he did post a quality .269/.320/.449 batting line with 27 home runs, 30 doubles and 10 triples in 790 plate appearances between the Rays and Orioles from 2016-17. Strikeouts were an ongoing issue for Beckham during that time, though, as he punched out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances in that time.

Beckham managed to curtail those strikeout woes substantially in 2018, dropping his strikeout rate to 24.9 percent. However, his overall production at the plate dissipated as well; he batted just .230/.287/.374 in Baltimore last season and saw his hard-hit rate fell by roughly five percent, per Statcast. Even if Beckham can’t replicate his 2016-17 production (and/or Crawford quickly takes to the everyday shortstop role), his right-handed bat could pair nicely with the left-handed-hitting Kyle Seager at third base.

Because he has four years, 134 days of Major League service time, Beckham wouldn’t qualify as a free agent next winter even if he spends the entire season on the Mariners’ roster. He’d remain arbitration-eligible for one final season, thus making him a potential multi-year option in Seattle, even if he ultimately settles into a platoon or utility role.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mariners, Dustin Ackley Agree To Minor League Deal]]> 2019-01-09T23:40:26Z 2019-01-09T23:21:28Z Veteran infielder/outfielder Dustin Ackley is headed back to his original organization, as he’s agreed to a minor league contract with the Mariners, according to multiple reports (including Fancred’s Jon Heyman, on Twitter).

Ackley, now 30 years of age, hasn’t appeared in the Majors since a brief 2016 run with the Yankees, where he hit .148/.243/.148 in a small sample of 70 plate appearances. He’s spent the past two seasons with the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, where he’s gotten on base at a solid clip but struggled to hit for power despite playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. In 284 plate appearances last season, Ackley hit .286/.378/.398 with four homers, 13 doubles and a triple.

Selected by the Mariners out of North Carolina with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Ackley was viewed as an advanced college bat who could quickly move through the system. That proved to be the case, as he was in the Majors two years later and hit .273/.348/.417 — good for a 120 OPS+ at the age of 23. However, Ackley’s bat cratered in his sophomore season with the M’s, and he’s batted only .235/.296/.358 over the life of 1971 plate appearances in parts of five big league seasons since that time. Ackley’s addition is a depth move for the Mariners, as he’ll likely open the season in Triple-A Tacoma as he looks to work his way back to the big leagues for the first time in nearly three full years.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Dipoto On Remaining Mariners' Moves]]> 2019-01-09T05:05:03Z 2019-01-09T05:05:03Z
  • Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was clear about his plan to make some further additions on the free agent market following the signing of Yusei Kikuchi, writes Greg Johns of“We’re likely to sign both Major and Minor League contracts,” said Dipoto. “I’d be shocked if we don’t sign at least one Major League reliever. And I’d be surprised — heavily surprised — if we didn’t sign one middle-of-the-field type stabilizer in the infield to provide protection and allow J.P. Crawford to transition at the appropriate pace.” There’s still a slew of free-agent relievers remaining on the open market (MLBTR Free Agent Tracker link), and free agent shortstops are also in fairly abundant supply. Freddy GalvisJose Iglesias, Adeiny Hechavarria and Alcides Escobar are among the available infielders with strong defensive reputations.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Mariners, Aaron Northcraft Agree To Minors Deal]]> 2019-01-09T01:50:41Z 2019-01-09T01:35:20Z
  • Likewise, right-hander Aaron Northcraft has confirmed that he’s going to the Mariners on a minor-league arrangement. The 28-year-old is seeking to make a comeback after turning in a solid showing in the Venezuelan Winter League. He has allowed just three earned runs over 17 2/3 innings while compiling 17 strikeouts against nine walks. The former tenth-round pick never made it to the bigs in his first effort but will try to jump start his career this spring. He was previously shipped to the Padres along with Justin Upton in the 2014 blockbuster with the Braves.
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Yusei Kikuchi]]> 2019-01-07T04:30:50Z 2019-01-07T04:29:42Z
  • Speaking to media (including the Kyodo News) in his return to Japan, Yusei Kikuchi mentioned that the Mariners were the first team to make him a contract offer.  It isn’t clear if other teams also made offers after the fact and Seattle eventually altered its offer to win the bidding, or if perhaps the M’s were the only club to issue a concrete offer to the left-hander.  The latter scenario seems rather unlikely, given that multiple teams reportedly had interest in Kikuchi during his posting period.  Then again, given how impressed Kikuchi and agent Scott Boras were with the Mariners’ detailed plans for managing Kikuchi’s workload and arm health in his transition to Major League Baseball, it isn’t entirely out of the question that Kikuchi decided to jump on the offer, especially considering the money involved (at least $56MM, and worth as much as $106MM) in the deal’s unique salary structure.
  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Poll: The Mariners’ Direction]]> 2019-01-06T05:29:46Z 2019-01-06T05:28:45Z

    The 2018 Mariners piled up 89 wins, their most victories in a season since 2003, but the club still extended its playoff drought to 17 years. No North American pro sports franchise owns a longer postseason-less streak than the Mariners, who have elected to radically reconstruct their major league roster and minor league farm system over the past couple months. Believing the Mariners were neither good enough to compete for a title nor bad enough to bottom out with the talent they had, general manager Jerry Dipoto set out to “re-imagine” their roster this winter. Dipoto has done just that in ultra-aggressive fashion, having traded one familiar veteran after another in hopes of assembling a roster capable of striving for relevance as early as 2020 or ’21.

    Dating back to Nov. 8, the Mariners have shipped out catcher Mike Zunino, left-hander James Paxton, second baseman Robinson Cano, shortstop Jean Segura, first baseman Carlos Santana (acquired for Segura), outfielders Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia, and relievers Edwin Diaz, Juan Nicasio, Alex Colome and James Pazos. In return, the Mariners have received a few 30-something veterans (first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, outfielder Jay Bruce and reliever Anthony Swarzak), substantial salary relief (including $64MM from the Cano trade) and a host of potential long-term pieces. The team’s hope is that recently acquired outfielder Mallex Smith, catcher Omar Narvaez, shortstop J.P. Crawford and outfielder Domingo Santana – all major leaguers who are controllable for three or more years – will be part of the solution for the foreseeable future, and it has the same plan for the bevy of prospects it has landed in its multitude of recent trades.

    Prior to Dipoto’s November/December transactions spree, the Mariners had the majors’ worst farm system and none of’s top-1oo prospects. But they got three such farmhands – lefty Justus Sheffield (No. 31), outfielder Jarred Kelenic (No. 62) and righty Justin Dunn (No. 89) – in those trades. Unsurprisingly, thanks to the additions of Sheffield, Kelenic, Dunn and an array of other prospects, the Mariners now boast one of the majors’ most improved systems, per Jim Callis of

    Adding to the long-term optimism, the Mariners made a major strike in free agency to kick off the New Year when they signed Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi. While Kikuchi’s not on the level of countryman Shohei Ohtani, whom Dipoto badly wanted last winter before he signed with the division-rival Angels, he could nonetheless be a game-changing acquisition. Kikuchi will slot in near the top of the Mariners’ rotation immediately, and at 27, he’s young enough and controllable for long enough (possibly through 2025) that he could be a key factor for perennially contending Seattle clubs. The same applies to Smith, Narvaez, Crawford, Santana, Sheffield, Kelenic, Dunn (and the other acquired prospects), not to mention outfielder Mitch Haniger and left-hander Marco Gonzales.

    Haniger and Gonzales – each controllable for the next handful of years – stand out as the most valuable players remaining from last season’s Mariners team. Both players, especially Haniger, no doubt possess high trade value, but it seems they’ll remain on hand as prominent members of Seattle’s next core. Still, with several other trade candidates on the roster (Encarnacion, Bruce, Swarzak, second baseman Dee Gordon, third baseman Kyle Seager and righty Mike Leake), the ever-active Dipoto may not be done flipping veterans for prospects and/or future salary room in advance of next season.

    No matter what happens between now and Opening Day, the Mariners’ 2019 roster will look far different than it did last year, when the club tallied the majors’ 11th-most wins but once again fell short of a playoff spot. Are you on board with Seattle’s decision to take a step back in 2019 with the goal of becoming a perennial contender thereafter? Or should Dipoto & Co. have taken more of a win-now approach this winter in an effort to snap the team’s embarrassing playoff drought next season?

    (poll link for app users)

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Yusei Kikuchi]]> 2019-01-06T22:41:27Z 2019-01-05T04:59:05Z
  • Yusei Kikuchi received several seven-year contract offers from teams, agent Scott Boras told reporters (including TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune) during Kikuchi’s recent introductory press conference.  While such offers guaranteed Kikuchi more security, they also would’ve required Kikuchi to adopt a regular MLB workload right away, which concerned both the southpaw and Boras given how several Japanese pitchers in the past have suffered arm injuries while adapting from a Japanese pitching schedule to North American baseball’s every-five-days rotation lineup.  Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto answered those concerns with both a unique plan for managing Kikuchi’s arm and innings, as well as a contract that could last three, four, or seven years in length.
  • ]]>
    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Follow-Up Notes On Yusei Kikuchi’s Deal With The Mariners]]> 2019-01-04T04:57:52Z 2019-01-04T03:09:47Z Yusei Kikuchi’s introductory presser was a hit in Seattle this afternoon, as the lefty kicked off his address in English and expressed his great delight in becoming the latest to revel in the Japanese-rich heritage of the Mariners, who’ve featured at least one player from the country in every season since 1998. The 27-year-old hurler – or, perhaps to a greater degree, his agent Scott Boras, acting on his behalf – seemed lured to the Pacific Northwest by the promise of a seminal pitching plan developed by GM Jerry Dipoto and staff, one crafted with the express purpose of easing the rigorous transition from Japan’s Pacific League to MLB. “He’s pitched 160-180 innings over the last couple years in Japan, so we’re not going to get super conservative,” Dipoto said (link to article from’s Greg Johns). “But we do feel over the course of 30-32 starts of a season, if every sixth start we … make that more of a bullpen day where he … stays on turn and prepares as a normal start, and then goes out and throws a one inning or 30-pitch start, it gives him a nice little breather without breaking turn or taking him away from his routine.” Such a plan would be without precedent in the majors, though with so many Japanese hurlers hitting the shelf soon after their major-league transition, it seems a savvy one indeed.

    Here’s more reaction and follow-up from the deal . . .

    • The Blue Jays were a surprise entry in the sweepstakes, with Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweeting that the team made a “strong play” for the lefty. The top of Toronto’s rotation crumbled last season, as both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman struggled to prevent runs, and the back half offered little in way of compensation. The Blue Jays have reportedly made it known that Stroman – who still posted excellent ground-ball (62%) and home-run (0.79 HR/9) rates last season – is available in trade talks, though recent reports have hinted that the club is more likely to keep him. Beyond that, prospects are grim: the club boasts no track records on which it can count, and upper-minors depth is scarce. Toronto does seem high on Trent Thornton, acquired from Houston in a November deal that sent away Aledmys Diaz, but the team will need to concentrate the majority of its efforts on finding quality hurlers in the months to come.
    • Keith Law of ESPN (subscription required) offers his analysis of the deal, writing that Kikuchi has “N0. 2 starter stuff” if healthy, but noting that the lefty’s delivery places undue stress on his shoulder, which has already endured a litany of setbacks in his young career. Shoulder troubles, of course, are notoriously difficult to overcome, and often leave the hurler unable to replicate earlier-career levels of success, so Seattle will certainly need to keep close watch on their new investment in his initial MLB foray.
    • Per Dipoto, via The Athletic’s Corey Brock on Twitter, the Mariners would still like to acquire relievers, “most likely” of the free-agent variety, and are looking to acquire a veteran infielder capable of handling shortstop. The club, of course, has been heavily rumored to be shopping recent acquisition Edwin Encarnacion, and is reportedly still looking to find a way to move both Kyle Seager and Mike Leake. The roster, under Dipoto’s watch, has been in near-constant flux, so it’s safe to assume the Mariners aren’t close to wrapping up their offseason wish list.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Mariners Sign Yusei Kikuchi]]> 2019-01-03T17:35:04Z 2019-01-02T21:57:25Z The Mariners have spent much of the offseason making trades to aggressively reshape their roster, but they announced on Wednesday what figures to be one of the largest pitching signings of the offseason: a four-year contract for free-agent left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. The Scott Boras client, who had been posted for MLB clubs by the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball, will reportedly receive a guaranteed $56MM on a uniquely structured contract.

    The first three years of Kikuchi’s contract will reportedly pay him $43MM, and at that point he’ll have a player option for the 2022 season that is valued at $13MM. However, the Mariners can also preemptively exercise a four-year club option on Kikuchi that would promise him an additional $66MM. In doing so, they’d effectively be extending his contract to a seven-year, $109MM deal. Conceptually, the deal is similar to the contract that Boras brokered between the Phillies and Jake Arrieta last year, though the overall length of the two pacts differs (as one would expect give the age discrepancy between the two).

    Kikuchi, 27, was one of the more intriguing players available on this year’s free-agent market. He was free to sign with any team that he wanted after being posted by the Lions, but he had until early January to come to terms with a new team after being posted in early December, as the current posting agreement between Major League Baseball and NPB gives MLB clubs a 30-day window from the onset of the posting period. As part of that agreement, the Mariners will pay the Lions a release fee equal to 20 percent of the contract’s first $25MM, 17.5 percent of the next $25MM and 15 percent of anything on top of that. In other words, the Mariners are effectively agreeing to pay the Lions as much as $10.275MM on top of Kikuchi’s guarantee. If the four-year option/extension is picked up in 2022, they’d pay the Lions a total of $19.725MM in addition to the full $109MM guaranteed to Kikuchi.

    The connection between Kikuchi and the M’s has long been obvious, particularly since the organization has made no secret of its interest. Though the Seattle club has made clear it’s taking a step back from competitiveness, it hopes to bounce back to contention by 2020 or 2021. That has been a driving factor in Seattle’s acquisition of young, controllable players such as Mallex Smith, Omar Narvaez, Domingo Santana, J.P. Crawford and Justus Sheffield.

    The still-youthful Kikuchi seems to fit that timeline. It’s also hard to ignore the simple geographical match. Seattle and other west coast clubs are more convenient locales for Japanese players; the M’s have previously enjoyed positive stints from players such as Ichiro Suzuki and Hisashi Iwakuma and were selected as a finalist for Shohei Ohtani’s services last winter as well.

    The addition of Kikuchi will give the Mariners’ rotation some upside to line up alongside young southpaw Marco Gonzales and veteran hurlers Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc. Bringing Kikuchi into the fold will give the Mariners the luxury of being able to ease Sheffield and/or righty Erik Swanson (acquired alongside Sheffield in the James Paxton swap with the Yankees) into the mix rather than forcing one or both into the rotation out of necessity. Of course, that complexion could still change over the course of the offseason; the Mariners are reportedly still exploring the market for Leake and other veterans.

    Over the past four seasons, Kikuchi has worked to a pristine 2.58 ERA with averages of 8.9 strikeouts, 3.1 walks and 0.68 home runs per nine innings pitched. He’s said to have a fastball in the low to mid 90s and multiple average-or-better secondary offerings to pair with that heater. Though the M’s are committing a fairly substantial sum to a pitcher who is largely a wildcard, if Kikuchi is able to find success at the MLB level, that contract could quickly become a bargain. And while that $56MM guarantee is fairly hefty for a player who has yet to throw a pitch in the Majors, it’s more along the lines of the contract a mid-rotation starter would expect to receive on the open market here. If Kikuchi can prove himself as a quality big league arm, it’s quite possible that there’ll even be surplus value on the deal.

    The Kikuchi signing is somewhat of a rarity among non-contending clubs these days: a move designed to improve the team for the upcoming season even as it looks to retool/rebuild its organization for the long haul. In an era of tanking teams that are motivated by a collective bargaining agreement that heavily incentivizes losing, few teams make this type of investment early in the rebuilding (or, to use GM Jerry Dipoto’s term, “re-imagining”) process. But the acquisition of Kikuchi and the focus on MLB-ready or near-MLB assets in the majority of the growing web of trades Dipoto has made this winter do all speak to the fact that, as opposed to the arduous multi-year rebuilds on which so many other organizations have embarked, the Mariners hope to be competitive far sooner than later.

    Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports first reported that the two sides were nearing a deal (Twitter link). Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweeted that the two sides had reached an agreement. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported the length of the contract (via Twitter), and Heyman added further details on the contract structure (also via Twitter).

    George Miller <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Reds, Holland, Mariners, Royals]]> 2018-12-31T18:45:30Z 2018-12-31T18:20:50Z Free agent left-hander Derek Holland has been in contact with the Reds, tweets MLB Network’s J.P. Morosi. After a resurgent season with the Giants, which came after signing a minor league contract late last offseason, Holland appears poised to reel in a far more valuable big league contract for the 2019 season. At the outset of the offseason, MLBTR pegged him to receive a two-year contract worth $15MM. The 32-year-old Holland has thus far been tied to the Rangers as a potential suitor; he previously played in parts of eight seasons with Texas after debuting with the club in 2009. The Reds, meanwhile, have made it clear that they intend to play more competitive baseball in the coming season, with much of that improvement tied to the starting rotation. Having already acquired Tanner Roark and Alex Wood, the Reds would still like to add another arm to join the two newcomers, budding star Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle. Though the Reds have been linked to big names such as Dallas Keuchel and Corey Kluber, those avenues appear unlikely; Sonny Gray remains a potential trade target for Cincinnati, and Holland’s name is now being thrown in the hat as a more affordable option to fill out the team’s starting staff.

    Some other notes from around the major leagues…

    • Though the Mariners have been perhaps the offseason’s busiest club to date, the team likely has more moves yet to come. Greg Johns of lists a number of trade candidates that general manager Jerry Dipoto may still move. Though it hasn’t yet been a month since Edwin Encarnacion was traded from Cleveland to Seattle, Dipoto seems intent on finding a trade partner for the veteran slugger. With Nelson Cruz now off the market, a team like the Rays, who at a time appeared to be in position to acquire Encarnacion, could move to fill their DH spot with a right-handed impact bat. Johns also names veteran right-hander Mike Leake, as well as infielders Dee Gordon and Kyle Seager, as other Mariners on the block. However, Gordon and Seager each seem less likely to find suitors, given that both turned in underwhelming 2018 seasons and are still owed significant dollar values over multiple years. As for Leake, many teams would certainly be interested in adding a durable, consistent (if unspectacular) innings-eater like Leake, who has now pitched upwards of 175 innings in each of the last seven seasons.
    • In other news out of Seattle, TJ Cotterill of The News Tribune writes that the Mariners have leveled their own allegations against former employee Lorena Martin, who in November accused team leadership of racism and gender discrimination. In addition to stating that Martin’s allegations are false, the Mariners claim that they received multiple complaints that Martin “created a hostile work environment” and that she “misrepresented herself as a medical doctor.” According to Cotterill, the Mariners have received reports that Martin implemented her own practices for treating injured players in place of doctors’ orders. In their defense of Martin’s lawsuit against the Mariners, the team is seeking to void the remainder of Martin’s contract, as well as damages for her accusations on social media that team officials made discriminatory remarks about Latino players. An investigation into Martin’s accusations was launched by MLB, which has yet to make public its findings.
    • Jeffrey Flanagan of offers his outlook on the Royals’ remaining plans for the offseason, suggesting first and foremost that the team would like to add a pair of inexpensive free-agent relievers before Spring Training. While they won’t be targeting any of the marquee bullpen arms that have yet to sign, Flanagan proposes that, due to limited payroll flexibility, general manager Dayton Moore will take a more patient approach to the market, pursuing bargain veterans whose demands have lowered late in the offseason. The bullpen, of course, is a glaring need for the team that finished with baseball’s second-worst record in 2018. And while the Royals have yet to make any significant additions in that area, Flanagan also notes that the club expects to have a surplus of candidates vying for a rotation spot, and those who fail to make the cut will likely shift to a bullpen role. This depth could make for some natural improvement, even if the Royals cannot invest big money in improving the unit.