Mariners Make Moves

November 21, 2014

We’ve got a whole lot of player news today, so let’s jump right into it:

The Mariners had to set their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft by 9:00 pm yesterday, so that caused a bunch of moves to be made.

The team added prospects John Hicks, Ketel Marte, and Mayckol Guaipe to the 40-man roster.

Hicks and Marte finished last season with Tacoma and will probably return to the Rainiers in 2015. Guaipe is a relief pitcher who had good numbers at Double-A Jackson in 2014 and I suspect we’ll see him in Tacoma next year, too.

Not getting protected on the roster was Tacoma’s 2014 standout pitcher Jordan Pries. The team must believe that they won’t lose him in the Rule 5 Draft – we’ll find out next month.

We lost one of our stalwarts when the Mariners traded infielder Ty Kelly to the St. Louis Cardinals for Double-A starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio.

Kelly played very well in his one-and-a-half seasons with the Rainiers, but there wasn’t much opportunity for him in the big leagues with Seattle – hopefully he’ll get a better chance with the Cardinals. The Cardinals added Kelly to their 40-man roster, so that’s a good sign.

Gaviglio is a right-handed starter out of Oregon State – he was the Cardinals 5th round draft pick in 2011. He pitched for AA-Springfield last year, going 5-12 with a 4.28 ERA in 24 starts. Two stats stand out on his page: he had a 126-to-46 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 136 innings, and he surrendered only eight home runs. The Texas League is tough on pitchers so the stat line is pretty good (other than the dismal win-loss record, but he can’t control that).

Gaviglio will have a chance to make the Tacoma starting rotation out of spring training.

The Mariners claimed left-handed relief pitcher Edgar Olmos off waivers from the Miami Marlins.

Olmos split 2014 between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans last year. In the PCL, he appeared in 33 games and went 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA. He pitched twice against Tacoma in August, with the Rainiers handing him a loss in the 12th inning to finish a 4 hour, 48 minute game on the August 14th.

Olmos is bullpen depth. He is on the 40-man roster and he has one option year remaining, so he is a very strong candidate to be with the Rainiers next season.

Outfielder Xavier Avery is the first of the 2014 Tacoma players who was a free agent to sign with another club.

Today the Detroit Tigers inked Avery to a minor league deal and invited him to major league spring training.

Avery spent the entire 2014 season with Tacoma, appearing in 120 games. He batted .275 with ten homers and stole 31 bases. His most memorable part of the season came in El Paso at the end of June: after hitting just two home runs all season up to June 27, he launched four homers in three days against the Chihuahuas.

If Avery goes to Triple-A with the Tigers organization, he’ll be playing for the Toledo Mud Hens.

Two of my favorite Rainiers from the past were hired by the Philadelphia Phillies as minor league coaches.

Former catcher Pat Borders was named manager of the Williamsport Crosscutters of the short-season New York-Penn League. This is Borders first job in a non-playing capacity.

The Phillies also hired Brian Sweeney to serve as pitching coach for their rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League. Sweeney will work with teenagers down there – many of whom will be in their first professional season.

Sweeney and Borders share a trait: both continued to play in Triple-A as they approached age 40 (or in Borders case, beyond 40), mostly for a love of the competition. These are the type of men who become good coaches.

Links:

  • Bob Dutton rounds up all of this news in his Mariners notebook.
  • Here is the report on Xavier Avery signing with the Detroit Tigers.
  • You will see a distinct ex-Rainiers flavor in the list of Phillies minor league coaches. The main reason: former Mariners front office folks Pat Gillick and Benny Looper are calling the shots in Philly.
  • The Salt Lake Bees have a new manager: former major league infielder Dave Anderson.
  • Want to get lost on the internet on a Friday afternoon? Enjoy Grantland’s MLB transaction trees. Credit Rainiers executive Jim Flavin for the solid link.
  • A fellow Rainiers executive – Ben Spradling – requested I link to this story. Please don’t click on it – you will regret it.

Have a great weekend!


Pat Listach – New Tacoma Manager

November 19, 2014

The Seattle Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers announced on Tuesday that Pat Listach will be the new Tacoma manager for 2015.

This marks the second year in a row that the Mariners have gone outside of the organization to hire a Triple-A manager. They did the same thing last year, hiring Rich Donnelly to manage the Rainiers – only to have plans change during spring training, with Donnelly ending up was the major league third base coach and Roy Howell taking over Tacoma.

Howell managed the Rainiers to a 74-70 record last year – and he’ll stay in the Mariners organization. He was supposed to be the Double-A hitting coach last year before the dominoes fell during spring training, and he ended up doing a fine job as Tacoma manager. I suspect he’ll go back to his prior role as hitting coach – possibly at Double-A Jackson, where he was expected to be last season.

Rainiers fans should be excited about Listach running the club.

Listach last managed in the Pacific Coast League in 2008, leading the Iowa Cubs to an 83-59 record and a first-place finish in the American-North (they lost to Oklahoma in the American Conference playoffs, three games to two). Listach was named the PCL Manager of the Year for his efforts.

At that time, Listach was considered to be a strong major league manager prospect. Lou Piniella was the Chicago Cubs manager, and he recommended Listach for a big league coaching job in Washington. Listach served as a third base coach for the Washington Nationals and manager Jim Riggleman for two seasons, 2009-2010.

Listach left the Nationals to take an opportunity as the Chicago Cubs bench coach under then-manager Mike Quade (bench coach is considered a better job than third base coach for aspiring managers). Listach survived two tumultuous and ultimately very Cub-like seasons in Chicago before being let go after the 2012 season.

The Dodgers hired Listach to work with their minor league infielders during the 2013 season, and then he returned to the big leagues as Houston Astros third base coach in 2014. That lasted one season, as the Astros manager and staff were flushed out, and now Listach will be managing in Tacoma.

That’s a lot of stops over a short period in the big leagues, but a theme can be seen: Listach has been a coach for three poor teams that had no chance of winning right away, and twice when changes were made he was one of the guys looking for a new job. That’s the way it goes on the big league coaching carousel.

The revolving door of managers and coaches is exactly how Listach got his first managerial opportunity: he was serving as the Iowa Cubs hitting coach in 2002 and had never managed before. The Chicago Cubs made a mid-season move, firing manager Don Baylor and promoting Iowa manager Bruce Kimm to big league skipper. They asked Listach to stay with Iowa and manage the rest of the season – and he went 27-28 the rest of the way, decided he liked it, and a few years later was managing at the Double-A level in the Cubs system.

Listach is only 47 years old, and he still has a chance to be a major league manager. Being in charge for another season – even if it is at the Triple-A level – can get him back on that path.

The remainder of the 2015 Rainiers coaching staff will be announced soon – but as a preview, I’m not expecting any changes. In the meantime, let’s welcome Pat Listach to the Tacoma Rainiers family!

Links:

  • We’ll start with the The News Tribune’s story on the Pat Listach hire. Included is a list of all Tacoma managers since the city fielded a PCL team in 1960.
  • Listach was a finalist for the Texas Rangers third base coach job, but when that didn’t work out he accepted the Mariners offer.
  • Like all Tacoma managers, Listach will also coach third base. This 2009 story from the Washington Post details his strategy.
  • Listach has a reputation as a terrific coach of infielders. When Listach was let go by the Chicago Cubs, second baseman Darwin Barney gave Listach a lot of credit for his record-setting errorless streak.
  • As a player, Listach is most known for winning the 1992 American League Rookie of the Year award. As detailed in this story, he was given an unexpected opportunity due to an injury, and he took advantage of it. The story includes some personal details on Listach.
  • Thursday is a big day in the off-season maneuverings of MLB teams: it’s the deadline to set the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft. Bob Dutton has a look at the Mariners players who may need to be protected.
  • Ryan Divish thinks that Braves outfielder Justin Upton may be available via trade, and he notes that the Mariners could be in play this time around.
  • Sad news: a historic stadium in the Dominican Republic was destroyed by fire. This is the home of Aguilas Cibaenas – currently Mariners Minor League Co-Player of the Year Jordy Lara is playing for this team.
  • Here’s an interesting story on the struggles top prospects are facing when they make the jump from Triple-A to the major leagues. The takeaway: video scouting seems to favor the pitchers when a hitter first reaches the majors.
  • They are putting together the broadcast team for the 2015 Chamber’s Bay US Open. I guess this thing really is going to happen, eh?

Our next blog update will come on Friday.


Major League Cities In The PCL

November 17, 2014

A few days ago I was watching the scores scroll past the bottom of the screen and I saw “Memphis 9, New Orleans 6.”

Those are PCL cities, but the score was actually from the opening stages of an NBA game.

It brought a question to mind: which PCL cities have Major League teams in other sports?

Let’s run down the list. I did not include soccer*.

Pacific North

  • Fresno – none.
  • Reno – none.
  • Sacramento – NBA Kings.
  • Tacoma – none.

Pacific South

  • Albuquerque – none.
  • El Paso – none.
  • Las Vegas – none.
  • Salt Lake City – NBA Jazz.

American North

  • Colorado Springs – none.
  • Des Moines (Iowa) – none.
  • Oklahoma City – NBA Thunder.
  • Omaha – none.

American South

  • Memphis – NBA Grizzlies.
  • Nashville – NFL Titans, NHL Predators.
  • New Orleans – NFL Saints, NBA Hornets.
  • Round Rock (Austin, TX) – none.

PCL cities overlap with five NBA teams, two NFL teams, and one NHL team.

When I was first hired by Tacoma, we had three more NHL cities in the league: Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. The PCL decided to move out of Canada (author’s note: Booooooooooo!!!!) and now we are down to one NHL city.

I think the next change on this list will be in Las Vegas, where they are apparently close to securing an NHL expansion team.

Anyway, I think it’s kind of a fun list to look at.

Links:

  • Robinson Cano broke a toe when hit by a pitch during the MLB All-Star trip to Japan early on Saturday morning. Fortunately it should heal naturally in 3-4 weeks.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma had a rough outing in his native country on Friday.
  • The Mariners have re-signed Leury Bonilla and we can look forward to seeing him in Tacoma again next season. Also learned from Baseball America’s minor league transactions: they signed another obscure Cuban left-hander (the last time they did this “obscure Cuban left-hander” turned into Roenis Elias).
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook from Sunday has some winter league notes, including good news on Erasmo Ramirez and Patrick Kivlehan.
  • Buster Olney ranked the top ten catchers in the majors, and Mike Zunino comes in at No. 10. Jack Z has some interesting things to say about Zunino (subscription required).
  • I am not interested in playing poker with Tacoma Tigers alum Jose Canseco because it is gross.

The hot stove league really warmed up today, with Russell Martin signing with Toronto and the big Braves-Cardinals trade. The off-season is just getting started!

* Is MLS the best soccer league in the world? If so, it should be included but I don’t think it is yet. Maybe someday.


Tacoma Tigers Slugger Kelvin Moore, 1957-2014

November 13, 2014

We lost one of our all-time greats this week.

Original Tacoma Tigers slugger Kelvin Moore passed away at the age of 57 on Sunday due to cardiac arrest in his home state of Georgia. The Oakland A’s made the announcement.

Moore was the star of the 1981 Tacoma Tigers – the second year Tacoma’s Triple-A club held the Tigers name, and the first year of its affiliation with Oakland. The A’s/Tigers union lasted through 1994.

Moore’s 1981 season still stands as one of the all-time greats in Tacoma franchise history (which dates to 1960).

A right-handed first baseman, Moore hit .327 with 31 home runs and 109 RBI, leading the Tigers into the PCL playoffs. The team won the opening round against Hawaii before losing to Albuquerque in the PCL Championship Series.

Moore was not with Tacoma during the PCL playoffs. Oakland A’s manager Billy Martin noticed what he was doing up in our neck of the woods, and he made Moore a late-August call-up as the big league club was on a playoff push of its own. Moore made the A’s playoff roster and he even got a couple of hits in the ALCS against the Yankees.

Moore returned to Tacoma in 1982 and saw his batting average fall to .264 but he still ripped 21 homers with 82 RBI. He appeared in just 35 more Triple-A games in 1983, adding five more dingers.

Moore’s 57 career Tacoma home runs ranks 8th on our all-time list, and his 213 RBIs is 10th all-time.

And that 1981 season stands up for the ages. Here are Moore’s 1981 numbers, where they rank on the Tacoma single-season list, with the all-time leader in parenthesis:

  •  .327 AVG – 6th all-time (Brian Raabe .352 – 1997)
  • 31 HR – 5th all-time (Adrian Garrett 43 – 1971)
  • 109 RBI – 5th all-time (Dan Rohrmeier 120 – 1997)
  • 166 Hits – 6th all-time (Jesus Alou 210 – 1963)
  • 291 Total Bases – 2nd all-time (Adrian Garrett 292 – 1971)

What a massive season.

Kelvin Moore’s Major League career was pretty brief. Here is his baseball reference page.

By now you know that Felix Hernandez did not win the American League Cy Young Award. He finished a very close second to Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians.

I was surprised by this result – I thought Felix had it in the bag, even though the stats are very close. I figured his star power and standing as a previous winner would help carry him in a tight race. I was wrong.

Lots on this in the links below.

Jake deGrom of the New York Mets won the National League Rookie of the Year award. He pitched against Tacoma in April.

deGrom opened the season with Las Vegas and faced the Rainiers on April 26 at Cashman Field. The Rainiers managed seven hits and two runs against him in five innings (Gabriel Noriega doubled twice off deGrom). However, deGrom and the 51s won the game, 11-3.

He was in the big leagues shortly thereafter. deGrom made two more Triple-A starts before the Mets called him up in mid-May, and then he rolled right on through the NL.

Links:


Touching Some Bases

November 11, 2014

We have lots of small items to get to after I took a long weekend off, so let’s jump in:

The official list of minor league free agents came out, and several 2014 Rainiers players are on it. As expected, Logan Kensing, Xavier Avery, Blake Beavan, Nate Tenbrink, and Leury Bonilla are all free agents.

You might recall I was unsure if all-star infielder Gabriel Noriega qualified for free agency. It turns out that he does. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mariners try to re-sign him.

The major league General Managers meetings started over the weekend, and this means that the off-season rumor mill started churning.

We are going to be hearing rumors involving the Mariners throughout the winter – especially since the front office stated that payroll is going to increase. Most of these rumors will concern established right-handed hitters who can play outfield or first base/DH.

The M’s are definitely going to do something. We’ll have to wait and see what Jack Z has up his sleeve.

If you think chasing the rumors is fun (I do!), check the links down below.

Meanwhile, the Winter Leagues continue and one of our guys has reported. Erasmo Ramirez made his first start for Cardinales de Lara in Venezuela over the weekend, working six strong innings.

Two starting pitchers of note for Rainiers fans are performing well right now: James Gillheeney and Victor Sanchez.

Gillheeney spent nearly all of 2014 with the Rainiers, and he had his ups and downs. But in Mexico right now, it’s all positive for Gillheeney: he’s made six starts with a 2.37 ERA, and a 21-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30.1 innings.

Sanchez spent the 2014 season at Double-A Jackson and is a strong candidate to jump to Tacoma next year. He’s with Erasmo pitching for Lara, and he’s made six starts with a 2.73 ERA.

Links:


Seager’s Gold Glove A Rainiers-Mariners First

November 6, 2014

Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager was honored with his first Gold Glove award on Tuesday, and it marked a first in the long Tacoma Rainiers/Seattle Mariners relationship.

After twenty years of affiliation, Seager became the first former Rainiers player to win a Gold Glove as a member of the Mariners.

There have been other players who played in Tacoma and won the Gold Glove – but they have all done it with other teams after a trade or free agency. Adam Jones is a perfect example – he won his fourth for Baltimore on Tuesday.

But nobody came up though the Mariners farm system, stopped in Tacoma on their way to the big leagues, and won a Gold Glove for the Mariners in the last 20 years. Until now.

The award is a result of the hard work Seager put in to improve his defense, which was pretty solid but not raved about when he was in the minor leagues.

There have been a few players who won the Gold Glove earlier in their careers who played for Tacoma on rehabilitation assignments, and I figure we should mention that.

Ken Griffey Jr. jumps to mind as one, and then there is the curious case of Franklin Gutierrez.

After being acquired in a trade, Gutierrez won the Gold Glove for Seattle in 2010. He then played in a whopping 75 games for Tacoma on various rehabilitation assignments from 2011-2013.

Links:

  • Here is the report on Kyle Seager winning the Gold Glove. He got the news while on vacation.
  • A pair of Mariners won Player’s Choice Awards. The major awards will be announced next week.
  • The M’s are taking a look at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, Jon Heyman reports.
  • The PCL’s 2014 leader in Earned Run Average was traded yesterday. Nick Tropeano went from the Astros (Oklahoma City last year) to the Angels in a deal for Federal Way native Hank Conger. I believe the Angels are hoping Tropeano makes the big league rotation out of spring training.

I’m off for a few days. We’ll be back with a new post on Tuesday.


Free Agent Season Starts

November 3, 2014

Now that the World Series is five days in the rearview mirror, the Hot Stove League is underway.

The Mariners will once again be looking for right-handed hitting – specifically a player who can hit in between left-handed batters Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the lineup. An outfielder or 1B/DH type would be ideal.

There will be plenty of reports on the Mariners big league moves, and we’ll link to them all winter long.

Seattle will also try to sign some players to help the Rainiers, and serve as depth for the major league club.

Specifically, I figure the Mariners will try to sign a couple of Triple-A starting pitchers who have some MLB experience. You just can’t have enough of these guys.

They will also look for a veteran catcher in the Humberto Quintero/Guillermo Quiroz mold, and probably some experienced bullpen help.

I doubt if they will be very active trying to sign free agent infielders or outfielders for the Rainiers – it seems that the organization is well-stocked in these areas. Maybe one veteran outfielder, like Cole Gillespie last season?

We’ll be following it all winter.

As soon as I finished typing the above segment – I mean literally right away – the Mariners announced that they have claimed 26-year-old utility infielder Carlos Rivero off waivers from Boston.

Rivero made his MLB debut last year, getting into four games for Boston. He had good Triple-A seasons in 2012 (Syracuse: .303-10-64) and 2014 (Pawtucket: .286-5-36 in a half-season).

Rivero has been passed around 40-man rosters and is out of options. He’d have to clear waivers before he could ever play for Tacoma.

One move over the weekend made me happy: the Detroit Tigers announced that they re-signed Mike Hessman to a Triple-A contract.

Hessman is the active minor league home run king, with 417 career minor league dingers. He also is the all-time International League home run leader – he has 272 in that league alone.

I figured that the 36-year-old Hessman might retire after reaching 400 and claiming the IL title last season, but instead he is back! Maybe he’ll go for 500.

We won’t see him in 2015; he’ll be with Toledo. Hessman led the PCL with 35 home runs for Oklahoma City in 2012 and that was his only season in our league.

Links:


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