- Mariners right-hander Chasen Bradford has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to inflammation in his right shoulder, per a team announcement. The Seattle organization will turn to fellow righty Erik Swanson in his stead. There’s no immediate rotation opening for Swanson, one of the focal pieces of the trade that sent James Paxton to the Yankees, so the 25-year-old seems ticketed for the bullpen for the time being. If Swanson finds his way into a game, he’d be making his big league debut. An eighth-round pick by the Rangers in 2014, Swanson went from Texas to New York in the 2016 Carlos Beltran trade before being sent to the Mariners in the aforementioned Paxton swap. He pitched at three levels in the Yankees’ system last year, working to a combined 2.66 ERA with 10.3 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 in 121 2/3 innings.
7:30pm: This move has now been announced.
6:37pm: The Mariners have struck a deal with the Rangers to acquire righty Connor Sadzeck, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fellow right-hander Grant Anderson will go to Texas in return.
The intra-division swap arose after Sadzeck was designated for assignment recently. He’s out of options, so he’ll head onto the Seattle 40-man and active rosters.
While Sadzeck is young and controllable, and possesses a live arm, the Rangers elected instead to carry veteran reliever Jeanmar Gomez, untested lefty Kyle Bird (who has since been optioned), and Rule 5 pick Kyle Dowdy. For all the potential that comes with his big frame and upper-nineties heater, Sadzeck has yet to show he’ll be able to deploy his arsenal effectively at the MLB level and ended up on the chopping block.
The M’s will surely be prepared to live through some more growing pains from the 27-year-old. He surrendered 11 walks while recording seven strikeouts in his first 9 1/3 MLB innings last year and then gave up eight free passes with eleven strikeouts over 8 1/3 frames in camp. But Sadzeck hasn’t been irredeemably wild in the minors. Last year, for instance, he worked to a 4.03 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 38 innings at Triple-A.
As for Anderson, the 21-year-old was plucked in the 21st round of last year’s draft out of McNeese State. He has only a dozen pro innings under his belt, but did impress enough to earn a quick (but brief) promotion to the Class A level. He allowed just four hits and two earned runs while posting a 13:7 K/BB ratio last year.
The Padres are “determined to add a starter,” according to Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of The Athletic. With a slew of young pitchers comprising the Friars’ current rotation—Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, and Chris Paddack—and the addition of Manny Machado driving the team’s desire to win now, San Diego is a natural fit for a veteran starter to anchor an otherwise inexperienced pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel, of course, remains unsigned and fits the profile, though he and agent Scott Boras have remained firm on their asking price, which the Padres have thus far refused to meet. Rosenthal and Lin also mention Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman as a potential trade target. Stroman, who endured a disappointing 2018 campaign, remains a strong candidate to be traded at some point this season, though it remains unclear just how quickly the Padres plan to move in their hunt for a starter. As Rosenthal and Lin note, trades this early in the season are uncommon, though Keuchel remains on the table for the Padres if they can reach a compromise on the price tag.
Here’s the latest from around baseball…
- Following the revelation that MLB teams award a belt to the team that best suppresses its players’ arbitration salaries, several players—including Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, and Anthony Rizzo—offered their thoughts on the news, in pieces from Nubyjas Wilborn of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Rizzo and others provide insight into the shaky relationship between the players and owners, also commenting on the possibility of a work stoppage when the current CBA expires.
- Mariners manager Scott Servais said that reliever Hunter Strickland, who suffered a grade 2 lat strain and was recently placed on the 10-day IL, will be out “at least a couple months,” per Greg Johns of MLB.com. In the meantime, then, it appears that Servais and the Mariners will adopt a committee approach to the closer situation, though the current bullpen options for Seattle are not particularly inspiring, with Cory Gearrin at the forefront of a thin group.
- Rockies fans may have had some concerns after right-handed pitcher Jon Gray left Sunday’s start against the Marlins in the seventh inning after meeting with the team’s trainer on the mound. However, Nick Groke of The Athletic tweets some good news for Colorado, as Gray was merely experiencing calf cramps and is expected to be ready for his next scheduled start.
The Mariners have selected right-hander David McKay from Triple-A Tacoma, placed reliever Hunter Strickland on the 10-day injured list with a right lat strain and moved third baseman Kyle Seager to the 60-day IL, per a team announcement.
McKay, the Mariners’ 25th-ranked prospect at MLB.com, is set for his first major league action since the Royals chose him in the 14th round of the 2016 draft. He joined the Mariners in a March 2018 trade that didn’t net the Royals much of anything in return. Now 23 years old, McKay pitched to a sterling 2.49 ERA/2.90 FIP with 12.61 K/9 and 3.73 BB/9 in 50 2/3 innings at the Double-A level last season.
Strickland, 30, is just 2 1/3 innings into his tenure in Seattle, where he has already yielded three earned runs on three hits, with three strikeouts. The former Giant, who joined the Mariners for a guaranteed $1.3MM in the offseason, surrendered what proved to be the game-losing three-run homer in the ninth inning to the Red Sox’s Mitch Moreland on Friday. The M’s held a 6-4 lead at the time, only to fall 7-6 and drop to 3-1 on the season. It resulted in a blown save for Strickland, whom the M’s could replace with some combination of Matt Festa, Cory Gearrin and Zac Rosscup in the ninth inning. Seager, meanwhile, is out for the foreseeable future on account of a left hand injury.
1:06pm: The Mariners have announced the trade. To make room for Murphy on the 25-man roster, Freitas has indeed been optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
12:55pm: The Mariners will send minor league righty Jesus Ozoria to the Giants in return for Murphy, according to Greg Johns of MLB.com. The 20-year-old Ozoria has yet to pitch above Rookie ball but logged 49 1/3 innings of 2.19 ERA ball there last season. Ozoria turned in a brilliant 59-to-7 K/BB ratio in that time and paired it with a 39.3 percent grounder rate. He’s a long way from MLB readiness but seemingly adds a live arm to the lower levels of the organization. The long-term question will be one of whether Ozoria carries more value than righty Merandy Gonzalez, whom the Giants designated for assignment when claiming Murphy; the move, in essence, swaps those two pitchers out while also clearing a spot on the Giants’ 40-man roster.
7:20am: The Mariners have reached a deal to acquire catcher Tom Murphy from the Giants, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). San Francisco claimed the out-of-options Murphy from the Rockies earlier this week but did not carry him on the Opening Day roster, ultimately designating him for assignment just days after initially claiming him. Seattle has an open 40-man roster spot, so a corresponding move isn’t a necessity.
Currently, Omar Narvaez and David Freitas are the only catchers on Seattle’s 40-man roster, so Murphy figures to supplant Freitas as the primary backup/platoon partner for Narvaez. Freitas has options remaining and can freely be sent to Triple-A without first being placed on waivers.
Murphy, 28 next week, was once considered to be among the game’s top catching prospects but hasn’t produced at the plate in limited Major League opportunities across the past couple of seasons (.188/.221/.325 in 122 plate appearances). The Rockies, who owe veteran Chris Iannetta nearly $5MM through contract’s end, opted for a more defensive-minded second catcher in Tony Wolters when they cut Murphy loose.
Murphy, however, isn’t a poor defender by most measures. He sports average caught-stealing rates in both the Majors and minors throughout his career, and while he’s not a standout in terms of pitch framing, he’s been a bit above average in that regard over the past three seasons combined. At the plate, Murphy raked at a .266/.341/.608 clip through his first 88 plate appearances from 2015-16. He has a career .286/.335/.567 batting line across 875 Triple-A plate appearances, including a .258/.333/.568 slash in 264 PAs a year ago.
This is the latest post of MLBTR’s annual Offseason in Review series, in which we take stock of every team’s winter dealings.
An 89-win season in 2018 wasn’t enough to satisfy Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who took the franchise on an aggressive re-imagining campaign over the winter. Dipoto’s plan is likely to lead to a short-term step back for the Mariners, already the owners of North American sports’ longest playoff drought (18 years), but his hope is that it’ll pave the way for perennial contention over the long haul.
Major League Signings
- Yusei Kikuchi, RHP: four years, $56MM
- Tim Beckham, INF: one year, $1.75MM
- Cory Gearrin, RP: one year, $1.5MM
- Hunter Strickland, RP: one year, $1.3MM
- Zac Rosscup, RP: one year, $610K
- Ruben Alaniz, RP: one year, $555K
- Dylan Moore, INF: one year, $555K
- Total spend: $62.3MM
Trades And Claims
- Acquired OFs Jay Bruce and Jarred Kelenic, RHP Justin Dunn and RPs Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista from the Mets for 2B Robinson Cano, RP Edwin Diaz and $20MM
- Acquired LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Erik Swanson and OF Dom Thompson-Williams from the Yankees for LHP James Paxton
- Acquired 1B Carlos Santana and INF J.P. Crawford from the Phillies for SS Jean Segura and RPs James Pazos and Juan Nicasio
- Acquired DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion, $5MM from the Rays and the Indians’ 2019 competitive balance pick in a three-team trade that sent Santana and $6MM to Cleveland
- Acquired OFs Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley from the Rays for C Mike Zunino, OF Guillermo Heredia and LHP Michael Plassmeyer
- Acquired C Omar Narvaez from the White Sox for RP Alex Colome
- Acquired OF Domingo Santana from the Brewers for OF Ben Gamel and RHP Noah Zavolas
- Acquired 2B Shed Long from the Yankees for OF Josh Stowers
- Acquired LHP Ricardo Sanchez from the Braves for cash considerations
- Claimed INF Kaleb Cowart from the Angels, then lost him on waivers to the Tigers
- Claimed OF John Andreoli from the Orioles, then lost him on waivers to the Rangers
Notable Minor League Signings
- Ichiro Suzuki (since retired), Eric Young Jr., Tommy Milone, Jose Lobaton, Dustin Ackley (since released), Aaron Northcraft, Tyler Danish, Orlando Calixte, Ryan Garton
- Cano, Diaz, Paxton, Segura, Pazos, Nicasio, Zunino, Heredia, Colome, Gamel, Nelson Cruz, Denard Span, Adam Warren, Chris Herrmann, David Phelps, Erasmo Ramirez, Nick Vincent, Justin Grimm, Ryan Cook, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Romine, Gordon Beckham, Casey Lawrence, Christian Bergman
It was December 2013, fresh off four straight awful seasons, that Seattle made one of the biggest splashes in the history of free agency by signing ex-Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM contract. At the time, then-GM Jack Zduriencik & Co. no doubt envisioned a Cano-led roster competing for World Series. Instead, with the Mariners continuing to disappoint during the first two years of the Cano era, Zduriencik lost his job in August 2015. His ouster led to the hiring of Dipoto, who, almost four years after taking the reins, cut the cord on Cano.
Aside from an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs last season, Cano largely lived up to his lofty pact in Seattle. It was the rest of the team that fell short, though, and Dipoto was apparently convinced it would have been more of the same in 2019 had he stayed the course. So, with a half-decade and $120MM still left on Cano’s contract, Dipoto set out this past offseason to clear the 36-year-old off the team’s books before age could truly takes its toll on the eight-time All-Star.
In early December, just over a month after the offseason began across the majors, Dipoto found a taker – the Mets – in a whopper of a trade. When the dust settled, seven players had moved between the two teams, and Seattle had saved $64MM. In the process, the Mariners hauled in three promising prospects – outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-handers Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista – for a farm system that has gone from pitiful to presentable in recent months. Additionally, they picked up a pair of veteran stopgaps in outfielder/first baseman Jay Bruce and reliever Anthony Swarzak to help offset money in the swap. Of course, the deal also saw Seattle wave goodbye to closer Edwin Diaz, one of the premier relievers in baseball. That’s going to hurt, especially considering the flamethrowing Diaz still has four years of control remaining, but the Mariners deemed it acceptable to lose him because it meant getting rid of a large portion of Cano’s money.
True to form, the aggressive, trade-happy Dipoto made several other noteworthy deals in the offseason. One sent No. 1 starter James Paxton and his two years of control to the Yankees for a trio of prospects, including lefty Justus Sheffield, who may be the Mariners’ top farmhand and figures to contribute as early as this season. In another, Dipoto packaged shortstop Jean Segura – who was the source of some clubhouse friction last season, and who had a guaranteed $58MM remaining on his pact – as well as relievers Juan Nicasio ($9MM) and James Pazos to the Phillies for infielder J.P. Crawford and first baseman Carlos Santana. While Santana’s the more proven major leaguer of the two, the real prize for Seattle was the 24-year-old Crawford, a former high-end prospect who the team hopes will emerge as Segura’s long-term successor.
Santana wasn’t long for the Mariners, who quickly dealt him to Cleveland in a three-team trade that also included Tampa Bay. The Mariners acquired first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion in the deal, and though he has been one of the majors’ fiercest sluggers in recent years, it was more about saving a few million dollars and netting a competitive balance pick from the Tribe. That wasn’t the only trade the Mariners pulled off that included the Rays, whom Dipoto has consistently bartered with in his time with the M’s. The first trade he made of the offseason was a five-player deal which saw catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia go to the Rays for center fielder Mallex Smith. Zunino was a competent regular for the Mariners, but he never blossomed into the star they wanted when they selected him third overall in the 2012 draft. Moreover, he has just two years of control left versus four for Smith, a breakout player in 2018 who could be the Mariners’ first mainstay in center since Mike Cameron’s tenure.
In other trades that’ll have an immediate effect on the major league product, the Mariners nabbed Zunino’s replacement, Omar Narvaez, from the White Sox and got outfielder Domingo Santana from the Brewers. All they had to surrender for Narvaez was reliever Alex Colome. Just about any bullpen would be happy to have Colome, but he’s 30 years old, somewhat pricey ($7.325MM) and two seasons from free agency. He clearly wasn’t a must-have piece for the Mariners in their present state. Narvaez, on the other hand, has been a strong offensive catcher since debuting in 2016 and is under wraps through 2022. While Narvaez is nowhere near the defender Zunino is, it still looks like a worthwhile behind-the-plate switch for the Mariners.
Likewise, the Mariners were within reason to exchange Gamel for Santana in what came off as a floor-for-ceiling trade. Gamel was satisfactory from 2017-18, but he doesn’t carry the potential of Santana, who was a 30-home run, 3.3-fWAR player in 2017 before taking sizable steps backward last year. But Santana got lost in a crowded Milwaukee outfield in 2018, and he’ll have a chance to regain his footing in a regular role for the Mariners, who have his rights through 2021.
Understandably, trades tend to occupy the lion’s share of talk when it comes to Dipoto. However, he also did quite a bit of work in free agency this past offseason. His most important transaction was reeling in left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who could emerge as the franchise’s latest Japanese-born cornerstone. The Mariners had to beat out a slew of teams for Kikuchi, a 27-year-old who fared pretty well in his first meaningful outing in the majors – a win over the Athletics last week in his homeland – and has the potential to serve as a solid starter in Seattle for a while.
Dipoto also landed Diaz’s immediate successor, Hunter Strickland, via the open market. The former Giant, 30, largely held his own with them, though he did struggle in 2018. Still, for just a $1.3MM guarantee, you can’t fault the Mariners for taking a shot on Strickland. The same logic applies to infielder Tim Beckham, their shortstop until the optioned Crawford shows up in the majors. Although Beckham was terrible as a member of the Orioles in 2018, he’s a former No. 1 overall pick (the Rays took him in 2008) who was a 3.4-fWAR player in 2017. Again, for just over $1MM, he’s worth a try. If nothing else, he’ll provide the Mariners a Band-Aid at short as they give Crawford further seasoning/manipulate his service time in the minors.
As you’d expect, there are more questions than answers with this roster. For one, who’s the next veteran Dipoto will trade? If he has his way, it may be Encarnacion, though the Mariners haven’t been able to find a match for the declining, expensive 36-year-old thus far. Bruce, Swarzak, second baseman Dee Gordon and righty Mike Leake also come to the fore as in-season trade candidates, but nobody from that group carries much value at the moment.
In terms of players who are sure bets to actually help the Mariners win games this year, only excellent right fielder Mitch Haniger truly sticks out. They don’t know what they’ll get from Smith, who wasn’t much of a hitter from 2016-17, or Santana or Beckham; Bruce was abysmal last year, and he’s likely just an average-at-best player nowadays; Encarnacion will have a hard time replacing the departed Nelson Cruz; Narvaez’s troubles behind the dish limit his upside, and it’s surprising the Mariners didn’t find a more credible backup to him than David Freitas (a proven defensive stalwart like Martin Maldonado or Sandy Leon would’ve made sense); Gordon was horrid in 2018; and third baseman Kyle Seager’s both injured and coming off a poor season, temporarily leaving third to the underwhelming Ryon Healy.
The pitching staff’s best hopes are the untested Kikuchi and Sheffield and fellow lefty Marco Gonzalez, who wasn’t great at preventing runs last year (4.00 ERA) but turned in far more encouraging peripherals en route to 3.5 fWAR. Leake’s a decent, albeit unexciting, option in his own right, and Wade LeBlanc’s a back-end type at best. Meanwhile, for the many who relished watching Felix Hernandez at the height of his powers, witnessing the former Cy Young winner, 32, turn into a replacement-level starter has been heartbreaking. He and the Mariners may divorce at the end of the season, if not sooner should his stark decline continue. For now, the man who earned the nickname King Felix in his halcyon days is due $27MM in the last guaranteed year of his deal, rendering him immovable.
The Mariners’ bullpen was an above-average unit in 2018, when it finished 10th in fWAR and ERA, but it basically derived all of its value from Diaz, Nicasio, Colome, Pazos and fellow departure Nick Vincent. Beyond Strickland, it now counts other free-agent pickups Cory Gearrin and Zac Rosscup among its most prominent choices. There are a few interesting young arms kicking around the Seattle roster, but there’ll likely be a fair bit of turnover in the relief unit as the season goes along.
2019 Season Outlook
Expect the Mariners to tack another year onto their playoff drought this season. Seattle’s roster isn’t devoid of talent, but so much has to go right that it’s difficult to imagine the M’s busting out as a Cinderella team in 2019. Realistically, if you’re a Mariners fan, hope for growth from the potential building blocks on hand and for as many nonessential vets as possible to increase their trade value.
How would you grade the Mariners’ offseason moves? (Link for app users.)
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Mariners and outfielder Eric Young Jr. have agreed to a deal, as Young himself announced on Twitter and Instagram. It’s a minor league pact for the 33-year-old speedster, MLBTR has confirmed. Young spent the majority of Spring Training in camp with the Orioles before being granted his release when he was informed he wouldn’t make the club. He’s repped by MVP Sports Group.
Young batted .323/.462/.452 with a homer, a double and a pair of stolen bases through 39 plate appearances in a strong spring showing for the Orioles but was nonetheless left off the Opening Day roster. He’s spent the past two seasons with the Angels, batting a combined .233/.293/.361 with five long balls, nine doubles, a pair of triples and 17 steals over the life of 242 PAs. Statcast shows that even as he enters his mid-30s, Young can still flat-out fly around the bases. His 29.0 ft/sec average sprint speed ranked in the 91st percentile of big leaguers a year ago.
The Mariners’ outfield is set with Domingo Santana in left field, Mallex Smith in center field and Mitch Haniger in right field. Jay Bruce, currently slotted in at first base, figures to still see some time on the outfield grass in 2019 as well. Seattle’s primary 40-man option for a reserve center fielder is Braden Bishop, who made his MLB debut in the second of two season-opening games in Tokyo, so it’s possible that Young could eventually work his way up to the big league level with a solid showing in Triple-A Tacoma. Should that eventually play out, he’d give Seattle three of the league’s fastest players alongside Smith and Dee Gordon.
In parts of 10 MLB seasons split between the Mets, Rockies, Angels and Yankees, Young is a .245/.312/.332 hitter with 13 homers, 67 doubles, 22 triples and 162 stolen bases.
9:20am: Ichiro has now formally announced his retirement via a Mariners press release. The future Hall of Famer included the following statement:
“I have achieved so many of my dreams in baseball, both in my career in Japan and, since 2001, in Major League Baseball. I am honored to end my big league career where it started, with Seattle, and think it is fitting that my last games as a professional were played in my home country of Japan. I want to thank not only the Mariners, but the Yankees and Marlins, for the opportunity to play in MLB, and I want to thank the fans in both the U.S. and Japan for all the support they have always given me.”
5:54am: Ichiro Suzuki will announce his retirement following the completion of this morning’s game between the Mariners and Athletics in Tokyo, Jim Allen of the Kyodo News reports (Twitter link). Ichiro has already informed the Mariners about his decision. The 45-year-old outfielder is in today’s lineup, starting in right field in the 2653rd game of his MLB career.
The official announcement ends months of speculation that Ichiro would hang up his spikes at the conclusion of the two-game series, giving the legendary hitter the opportunity to take a final bow in his home country. Last May, Ichiro moved from the Mariners’ active roster into a front office role, and while he didn’t play again in 2018, both sides made it clear that he intended to continue his on-field career.
With these two games, Ichiro has now appeared in parts of the last 28 seasons in both Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball, completing one of the most remarkable careers in the history of the sport. Over 951 games with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan and then 2653 games with the Mariners, Yankees, and Marlins in North America, Ichiro recorded more professional hits than any player ever.
Heading into today’s action, Ichiro had an incredible 4367 career hits — 1278 in NPB, and 3089 in MLB, reaching the 3000-hit club in the majors despite not playing his first North American game until he was already 27 years old.
After nine years as a star in Japan, Ichiro made a heavily-anticipated jump to the majors prior to the 2001 season after the Mariners won a posting bid to acquire his services. The transition was more than just seamless — Ichiro’s debut in the Show saw him hit .350/.381/.457 over a league-high 738 plate appearances for a 116-win Mariners team. He became just the second player to win both the Rookie Of The Year and MVP Awards in the same year, also winning the first of three Silver Slugger Awards and the first of 10 Gold Gloves.
Ichiro’s smooth left-handed hitting stroke and quick acceleration out of the box made him a threat to reach base every time he made contact. Perhaps the most notable of his many achievements was setting a new single-season hits record in 2004, as his 262 hits broke the 84-year-old mark formerly held by Hall-of-Famer George Sisler.
Ichiro’s defense and baserunning were perhaps just as impressive as his exploits at the plate. He stole a league-best 56 bases in 2001, and finished his career with 509 steals, tied for 35th-most in Major League history. As a right fielder, Ichiro unleashed a throwing arm that instantly drew comparisons to Roberto Clemente in terms of both power and accuracy.
While his skills inevitably declined with age, Ichiro did his best to stave off Father Time, playing past his 45th birthday due to a near-mythic fitness regime and nonstop preparation. This work ethic helped make Ichiro one of the most respected players of recent times, idolized by both fans and teammates alike all over the world.
We at MLB Trade Rumors congratulate Ichiro on an incredible career, and wish him all the best in his post-playing days.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Newly minted Yankees lefty Gio Gonzalez says it was an easy choice to join the New York organization, as George A. King III of the New York Post and MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch cover (Twitter links). The offer from the Yanks “was pretty much” the only one he got all winter long, says the veteran southpaw. It has been quite some time since Gonzalez has had to fight for a roster spot and a big-league paycheck, but he says it’s “a pretty great opportunity” that he “can’t be ungrateful” for. If he cracks the roster, Gonzalez will play for a $3MM base salary and would also take home $300K for each game started.
Here’s more from the American League …
- Mariners righty Shawn Armstrong is heading to the injured list with a grade 1 oblique strain, MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. He says he’ll be patient in allowing thing to heal, but didn’t hide his anger at hitting the shelf just before the season began. (Anderson flew to Japan believing he would be ready to roll, but the issue was worse upon arrival.) Armstrong, 28, is still hoping that this’ll be the season he fully establishes himself in the majors. He has seen action in four seasons but has yet to be entrusted with more than 21 appearances in a given campaign. Armstrong turned in sub-2.00 ERA performances at both Triple-A (in 56 innings) and the majors (14 2/3 innings) in 2018.
- The White Sox may not go long without new reliever Kelvin Herrera, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. The veteran hurler, who’s working back from a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot, hasn’t yet fully ramped things up but seems on track to get back to being a high-powered relief arm early in the new season. “I will probably be in full shape by April something or May,” he says.
- It seems there’s some new potential for late-camp movement with the Blue Jays roster. Skipper Charlie Montoyo says that righty relievers Ryan Tepera and John Axford have turned up with elbow pain that is being looked at more closely, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports (Twitter link). Those injuries are among the factors that could leave the Toronto organization with more 40-man roster room to work with — but also more 25-man roster needs to address — than had been anticipated, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm notes on Twitter.
Mariners reliever Hunter Strickland is “100% ready” for Wednesday’s Tokyo opener against the Athletics after being sidelined with back issues since March 3, per MLB.com’s Greg Johns. The high-strung Strickland, now 30, will apparently get first crack at the closer’s role for the new-look Mariners, who signed the righty to a one-year, $1.3MM deal after he was non-tendered by the Giants ahead of the November 30 deadline. After eight years in the minors, the then 25-year-old Strickland came out blowing smoke for the 2014 World Champion Giants, dominating early with a fastball that reached 100 mph on the regular. Multiple on-field dustups, including well-publicized boxing matches with both longtime nemesis Bryce Harper and a clubhouse wall, likely spelled the end for Strickland in San Francisco. After a 2015-17 stretch in which the 6’4 righty posted identical 0.8 fWAR totals with a K rate hovering around 8.5 per nine, Strickland endured his worst season in ’18, struggling to throw strikes, miss bats, and keep the ball in the park. His average fastball velocity, too, fell to a career-low 95.7 MPH, while heavier dependence on a changeup resulted only in withdrawal. Still, if the flamethrower can re-stoke his early-career heat, and direct much of it toward what seemed to be an ever-shriveling strike zone, the Mariners may yet have a massive bargain on their hands.
In other news from around the game’s Western divisions…
- It’s MLB or bust for the 36-year-old Jason Hammel, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Hammel’s been excellent so far this spring, striking out over a batter per inning while allowing just a single run in 8 2/3 IP, but says he has no interest in playing for the team’s chief affiliate: “I certainly won’t go to Triple-A,” Hammel said. “This is a grind. If it requires me to go home, I know my family is waiting for me and has been for a while. I’m more than willing to go home and spend time with them.” Per Grant, it appears the 13-year MLB vet will consider other franchises if it doesn’t work out with Texas, though he doesn’t necessarily seem set on a starting gig. He’ll compete for a long-reliever role in the Ranger pen with righty Adrian Sampson, and despite a career-worst ’18 in nearly every category, looks to have the inside track.
- The Rockies have predictably sent INF Brendan Rodgers back to minor league camp, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. A consensus top 30 prospect among all five major outlets (he checks in as high as #10 on MLB.com’s list), Rodgers had an outside shot to claim the team’s second base role in the upcoming season, but the team’ll look first to either Ryan McMahon or Garrett Hampson in the spot. The 22-year-old former third overall pick has impressed evaluators with his all-fields pop, though scouts seem less keen on his glovework at shortstop and discernment at the dish. In a late-season cameo with AAA-Albuquerque last season, Rodgers slashed just .232/.264/.290 with a 1.4% walk rate. Both ZiPS and Steamer, though, prefer him to any Rockie alternatives at the position, with the former projecting an impressive 98 wRC+/2.3 WAR line over a full season’s worth of plate appearances.