- Mariners outfielders Mitch Haniger and Braden Bishop are both set to begin rehab assignments at Class-A Modesto on Tuesday, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes. Both players have been out of action for almost two months due to frightening injuries — Haniger underwent surgery to fix a ruptured testicle, while Bishop suffered a lacerated spleen just prior to his call-up to the big leagues in early June. In other Mariners injury news, Felix Hernandez will make a rehab start for Seattle’s Class-A affiliate in Everett this week. Johns figures after that outing, Hernandez will still need to put in a rehab outing at Triple-A (which would be the veteran right-hander’s fourth rehab start overall) “before there’ll be any consideration of rejoining the Mariners.”
With over two-thirds of the 2019 season in the books, let’s check in to see how seven players are progressing towards possible vesting options in their contracts. For those unfamiliar with the term, a vesting option is an agreed-upon threshold within a player’s contract (usually based on health and/or playing time) that, if achieved, allows the player to alter the terms of the contract for the next season, and perhaps beyond in some cases.
Some vesting options aren’t reported, so it could be that more players beyond this septet could also be playing towards gaining more guaranteed money or contractual freedom for the 2020 season. For now, let’s examine just these seven names…
Yonder Alonso, Rockies: Under the terms of the two-year, $16MM deal Alonso signed with the Indians in the 2017-18 offseason, his $9MM club option (with a $1MM buyout) for 2020 becomes guaranteed if the first baseman first passes a physical, and then hit plate-appearance benchmarks. Unfortunately for Alonso, he has only 287 PA this season, so he’s on pace to fall well short of reaching either 550 PA in 2019 or 1100 total PA in 2018-19 — either of which would’ve caused his option to vest.
Andrew Cashner, Red Sox: Having struggled through six starts since coming to Boston in a trade from the Orioles, the Sox have a legitimate performance-related reason for moving Cashner out of their rotation. There would also be a financial motive involved, as Cashner’s $10MM club option for 2020 would become guaranteed if he amasses 340 total innings in 2018-19. After today’s abbreviated outing against the Angels, Cashner now has 279 2/3 IP over the last two seasons, putting him within distant range of causing his option to vest if he keeps receiving starts. (Incidentally, the option could also vest into a player option if Cashner hits the 360-inning threshold.)
Sean Doolittle, Nationals: The closer finished his league-high 47th game of the season today, giving him 82 games finished since the start of the 2018 season. Should Doolittle reach 100 games finished, the Nationals’ $6.5MM club option ($500K buyout) on Doolittle for 2020 would vest into a mutual option, giving him the opportunity to opt out of his contract and enter into free agency. This is definitely one to watch down the stretch, since with the Nats in a postseason race and the rest of their bullpen struggling, D.C. won’t hesitate to use their closer for every save situation possible. Manager Davey Martinez has used Doolittle in a traditional late-game role, so shifting him into high-leverage situations outside of the ninth inning to cut down on his games-finished numbers would be a risky (and controversial) tactic, to say the least.
Chris Iannetta, Rockies: With 110 starts at catcher since the beginning of the 2018 season, Iannetta won’t reach the 220 catching starts he needed to convert the Rockies’ $4.25MM club option on his services for 2020 into a guarantee.
Wade LeBlanc, Mariners: The unique extension signed by LeBlanc in July 2018 carried three $5MM club option years for 2020-22 that can all vest into guarantees. That 2020 option turns into guaranteed money if LeBlanc throws 160 innings in 2019 and doesn’t have a left arm injury at season’s end. A month-long IL stint due to an oblique strain earlier this season almost certainly ended LeBlanc’s chance at the 160-inning plateau, as he has only 98 IP thus far. While he’s still eating a good share of innings as a “bulk pitcher” behind an opener in most outings, it seems likely that LeBlanc won’t reach his vesting threshold.
Brandon Morrow, Cubs: Morrow’s two-year, $21MM deal carried a 2020 vesting option worth $12MM, or a $3MM buyout. It wasn’t actually known what the terms were of this option, though since injuries have kept Morrow from pitching since July 15, 2018, it’s safe to assume the option won’t vest, and Morrow will be a free agent this winter.
Oliver Perez, Indians: The veteran southpaw appeared in his 49th game of the season today, so barring injury, he’s a lock to hit the 55 appearances required to guarantee his $2.75MM club option for 2020. He also seems like a pretty safe bet to lock in even more money, as that option will be guaranteed at $3MM if Perez pitches in 60 games. The Tribe likely won’t at all mind having Perez back for another season, as the reliever continues to dominate left-handed batters.
Infielder Dee Gordon is back in the lineup for Seattle this evening, following the team’s announcement of his activation from the 10-day injured list. In a corresponding move, utilityman Ryan Court has been optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
It’s been a season to forget for GM Jerry Dipoto’s “reimagined” Seattle crew, with the northwestern outfit limping to a 48-69 record entering play Saturday. As such, it’s difficult to see the Mariners having much to gain from the reinstallation of the 31-year-old Gordon, who, in this phase of his career, offers little aside from a light bat and some still-flight feet. The second baseman, who has been sidelined since July 22nd with a left quad strain, has hit .280/.306/.367 (81 wRC+) in 2019, his second season with Seattle. It is worth noting that a good late-season showing from Gordon could, in theory, help DiPoto’s chances of offloading the veteran in the offseason; Gordon will make $13.5MM in 2020, the last guaranteed season of a 5-year/$50MM deal signed in 2016 with the Miami Marlins.
Court’s initiatory stint in the big leagues granted him just 18 at-bats with Seattle. The 31-year-old has amassed over 3000 at-bats at the minor league level and is a career .275/.366/.430 hitter within the developmental ranks.
Today, 12:38 PM: The Mariners will receive cash considerations in return, per the team.
FRIDAY, 11:56 PM: The Twins are set to acquire outfielder Ian Miller from the Mariners, per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (via Twitter). The precise return isn’t known, but Divish indicates it’s not expected to be significant.
Because he isn’t playing on a MLB deal, Miller can still be dealt. The 27-year-old, a former 14th-round pick, is still looking for his first taste of the majors. Miller has been plying his trade in the upper minors in the Seattle system since 2015.
Divish indicates that the chief interest for the Twins lies in Miller’s baserunning abilities, and that makes sense. He is an accomplished base thief, with 237 bags snatched over seven professional seasons.
Miller is less accomplished with the bat, with a .699 career OPS through just under three thousand total plate appearances. He’s sporting a bit of a power surge this year, with a .272/.354/.453 slash and 11 long balls (easily a career high) over 441 plate appearances. But that’s still slightly below the mean for Pacific Coast League hitters.
The Dodgers and Mariners have announced a deal in which veteran backstop Jose Lobaton will head to the Los Angeles organization. Cash considerations will head the other way in the swap.
Lobaton, 34, had been playing with the top Seattle affiliate on a minors deal. That’s why he was able to be traded after the July 31st trade deadline.
It’s doubtful that the Dodgers anticipate utilizing Lobaton at the MLB level. He hasn’t been a passable offensive performer in the majors since 2016. In parts of nine seasons in the majors, the switch-hitter carries a .215/.293/.319 slash.
But with prospect Keibert Ruiz going down with an injury, there was a need for a gap-filler at Triple-A. And the Dodgers undoubtedly wish to be sure they’re covered with sufficient organizational depth in the event of an unanticipated run of injuries.
- Rehabbing Mariners righty Felix Hernandez threw two innings at the Single-A level Thursday, after which he told Julian A. Lopez of the Modesto Bee he feels ready to return to the majors. The Mariners have other plans, though – they want Hernandez to make two rehab appearances with Triple-A Tacoma before he finally goes back to the Seattle. Shoulder woes have kept the pending free agent from the M’s staff since May 11 in what could be the final season of his storied tenure with the franchise.
Aug. 7: Healy underwent a debridement procedure on his right hip and is expected to require four to six months to recover, Divish tweets.
Aug. 2: Mariners corner infielder Ryon Healy is slated to undergo hip surgery, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times was among those to cover on Twitter. The procedure will sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Healy was previously diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Whether the hip issue is related directly or indirectly is not entirely clear. Neither is it known just how lengthy a rehab process will be required.
The 27-year-old Healy was already facing questions on the field before the health issues arose. He turned in below-average offensive numbers for the second consecutive season, with good power (.219 ISO) but another sub-.300 OBP. In a total of 711 plate appearances with Seattle, Healy has posted a lackluster .236/.280/.423 batting line with 31 home runs. Given his lack of defensive value and baserunning abilities, that type of output is simply too tepid.
Healy entered the 2019 season with two-plus years of big league service and will cross the three-year mark in 2019, making him eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career this winter. This year’s health troubles will suppress a theoretical raise to an extent, but the power numbers that Healy has already logged in his young career will put him in line for a decent bump from this year’s $580K all the same. As such, it’s worth wondering whether the Mariners will tender him a contract at all this winter. The answer to that question could be dependent on the status of his recovery.
- Mariners infielder Tim Beckham received an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs Tuesday, but his time on their roster might have been on the verge of ending even before then. Although he still has a year of arbitration eligibility remaining, Beckham was a candidate for a designation for assignment, according to the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish. The Mariners could have cut Beckham to make room for outfield prospect Jake Fraley sometime soon, Divish reports. However, Fraley is dealing with a quad injury at the moment. The Mariners will need to add Fraley to their 40-man roster if they do promote him, but they have four openings right now. The club acquired Fraley from the Rays in last offseason’s Mallex Smith/Mike Zunino trade.
- Sticking with the Mariners, injured outfielder Mitch Haniger and starter Felix Hernandez are progressing in their recoveries, Greg Johns of MLB.com explains. Haniger, out since June 7 with a ruptured testicle, is closing in on a rehab assignment, manager Scott Servais said Tuesday. And Hernandez, whom right shoulder problems have kept from the majors since May 11, will make a second rehab start Thursday. The 33-year-old King Felix may be able to return in late August, Johns notes, which could give the pending free agent and Mariners legend a chance to say goodbye to the franchise and its fans.
The Tigers announced that they’ve claimed right-hander David McKay off waivers from the Mariners and optioned him to Triple-A Toledo. The move fills Detroit’s 40-man roster.
McKay, 24, made his big league debut with Seattle earlier this season, tossing seven innings out of the bullpen. He was tagged for four runs on five hits and eight walks with five strikeouts in that time, continuing to display the control problems that began to plague him upon reaching Triple-A this season.
McKay logged 43 2/3 innings with Seattle’s Tacoma affiliate but struggled to a 5.15 ERA with 31 walks and 10 hit batsmen in that time. While that’s obviously an ugly line, McKay also racked up an eye-popping 71 strikeouts in that time (14.63 K/9). Control wasn’t an alarming issue for him prior to this season, and he punched out 85 hitters in 59 1/3 innings a season ago when topping out in Double-A, so the Tigers will try their hand at sorting out his location issues. McKay averaged 93 mph on his fastball in his brief big league time this season and drew a plus grade on his slider in MLB.com’s scouting report on him. He lacks a third average pitch, though, making him a rather clear-cut bullpen prospect.
Mariners infielder Tim Beckham has been suspended for eighty games under the MLB-MLBPA Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, according to a league announcement. The league says that Beckham tested positive for the banned performance-enhancing drug Stanozolol.
The 29-year-old Beckham was the first overall pick of the 2008 draft. He joined the Seattle organization on a one-year, $1.75MM contract over the winter after struggling last season with the Orioles.
In a statement, Beckham places the blame on a “tainted” substance he was given by “a trusted source.” (Twitter link via MLBPA.) But his appeal to the league was already considered and rejected.
Beckham had been in the midst of a solid bounceback season. He has continued to struggle to reach base consistently, but made up for that with sufficient pop to produce at a league-average rate. Over 328 plate appearances in Seattle, he owns a .237/.293/.461 slash with 15 home runs.
It had seemed that Beckham was a candidate to be traded at the deadline — or, perhaps, to move via waiver claim this month. Instead, he’ll spend the rest of the year on the restricted list and seek a new chance next year. Beckham will still have to sit out for 32 games to begin the 2020 season.