Mariners Bring Back Raul

December 23, 2012

Former Tacoma Rainiers slugger Raul Ibanez has agreed to sign a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners, according to multiple reports. This will be his third go-around with the Mariners.

The 40-year-old Ibanez played for Tacoma from 1996 through 2000, and he came back on an injury rehabilitation assignment in 2004. He ranks in the top-20 on the Tacoma all-time career leaderboards in hits (17th), runs (16th), total bases (16th), doubles (16th), and runs batted in (18th).

When he was in Tacoma initially as a young up-and-comer, he spent a lot of time here – mostly because Mariners skipper Lou Piniella was unsure if Ibanez could hit major league pitching. It wasn’t until Ibanez became a minor league free agent and signed with Kansas City that he finally got a true big league opportunity, and he made the most of it.

For his career, Ibanez has 1,883 hits and 271 home runs – not including an additional six home runs in the playoffs, half of which came just three months ago for the Yankees.

The general reaction among many Mariners fans seems to be, “I like Raul, but his career is just about over. Why did they sign him?”

That’s a good question, and I think I know why.

Eric Wedge has spoken in the past about the team needing a veteran influence on the roster. Ibanez fits the profile perfectly – he is extremely popular in the clubhouse, one of the most respected players in the game for his work ethic and how he handles himself. The Mariners are hoping this rubs off on the young position players surrounding him.

As for playing time, I would be surprised if Ibanez is more than a pinch-hitter and occasional spot-starter in favorable match-ups. Maybe he’ll get hot at some point and play regularly for a week or two, but in the big picture I would not expect him to take meaningful playing time away from any of the young players.

Raul is truly one of the nice human beings in the game. It’s thrown about all the time that such-and-such player is “a good guy,” but the reality is that almost all baseball players are good people – just like regular people everywhere. That being said, Raul stands out above the crowd in terms of how he handles himself around the team, both publicly and privately.

It will  be good to have him in a Seattle uniform this season, and I suspect that the club would be proud to have him retire as a Mariner.

The Mariners also signed former major league starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league contract, and I suppose we must consider him as a potential Rainiers player – although it is a little early for that, because of this: Bonderman has not pitched since 2010 due to arm problems that eventually led to elbow surgery.

The Mariners are bringing the Pasco native in to spring training on a no-risk gamble. In fact, there are reports that the Mariners didn’t even scout him in-person; they just said “come to spring training and we’ll take a look.”

So that’s exactly what they will do: keep an eye on Bonderman. He had Tommy John surgery in April and recently began throwing again. Even if he looks promising in March, don’t be surprised if he has to stay back in extended spring training before joining a team, building up arm strength.

Links:

  • Stories on Raul Ibanez signing with the Mariners: one from Ryan Divish of The News Tribune, and one from Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.
  • In this blog post, Baker talked to Ibanez to get his thoughts on coming back. Not surprisingly, Raul is already talking about helping the young kids.
  • As I post this, the Mariners have not made a complimentary move to fit Ibanez on the 40-man roster. They have reached a point where it is hard to find a player on the roster who has a good chance of getting through waivers (the last player removed, Mauricio Robles, was claimed by the Phillies). Don’t be surprised if they make a small trade instead, moving a 40-man roster player to another club in exchange for a prospect who is not on the 40-man.
  • Here is more on the Mariners signing pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.
  • Former Rainiers in the latest round of Baseball America’s minor league transactions: Brad Nelson signed with his home-state Iowa Cubs, and Ryan Langerhans inked a deal with Toronto.
  • USA Today did a slideshow of 50 Strangest Sports Team Names. I was highly entertained – there is a little blurb on the origin of each name. As you might expect, Minor League Baseball is well-represented – but not so much as the colleges. Scottsdale Community College might have the best mascot. High schools are covered, too.
  • In the PCL, the New Orleans Zephyrs are going to host their parent club the Miami Marlins in an exhibition game at Zephyr Field at the end of spring training. It will be the first major league exhibition in New Orleans since 1999.
  • Looking for a last-second Christmas gift for a loved one? How about this 23,000 square foot mansion being sold by Chipper Jones?

Have a great holiday!


A Different Look At Mariners Prospects

December 21, 2012

Today Baseball Prospectus released their version of the Mariners Top Ten Prospects, and it looks quite a bit different from the lists put out by other publications such as Baseball America and Fangraphs.

The Baseball Prospectus rankings can only be read by subscribers to their website – if you are a subscriber, here is the link. However, the author granted me permission to list the names, so here’s how they rank ‘em.

The Top Ten

  1. RHP Taijuan Walker
  2. Mike Zunino
  3. LHP Danny Hultzen
  4. IF Nick Franklin
  5. LHP James Paxton
  6. RHP Brandon Maurer
  7. LHP Luiz Gohara
  8. RHP Victor Sanchez
  9. LHP Tyler Pike
  10. IF/OF Stefen Romero

The author of this particular list is Jason Parks, who has more of a scout’s eye towards the rankings than many other publications. He is far more interested in a player’s potential upside than simply if he will make it to the majors.

Because of this, he has three teenage pitchers on his list – two of whom do not appear on the Baseball America or Fangraphs top-tens.

Luiz Gohara is a 16-year-old the Mariners signed from Brazil this past summer, and the word in the scouting community is that this kid has serious upside. Sanchez we have spoken of before; he’s the 17-year-old who pitched well for Everett last summer in a league full of 21-year-olds. The other new name is Tyler Pike, an 18-year-old who was the Mariners 2012 3rd round draft pick.

Prospectus has Walker ranked higher than Zunino – the opposite of Baseball America – because Parks and his contacts believe that if both players reach their top-level of performance, Walker will be better. Zunino is a safer bet to reach the majors, but Walker has a better chance for stardom – and that is why he has Walker ranked No. 1.

In the comments at the end of the post, Parks mentions this: “That Tacoma (Triple-A) roster could feature seven prospects from the Top Ten, not to mention a few other players that were in Top 10 consideration. Stacked isn’t a strong enough word.”

So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice!

Today is the last day of business of the 2012 calendar year for the Tacoma Rainiers. Almost all minor league baseball teams close their offices for the week between Christmas and New Years, and the Tacoma Rainiers do this as well. It offers a needed respite for office workers who logged long nights-and-weekends hours during the baseball season.

If you have any Rainiers business needs, the team office will re-open on Wednesday, January 2.

This blog will be quiet during the office closure, but if there is baseball news that requires a blog post, I’ll be on it. Otherwise, we’ll start up again the first week of January, when we will begin to look forward to the 2013 season.

Links:

  • In a Seattle Times blog post, Geoff Baker speculates that Michael Saunders will be playing a lot of right field this season.
  • John McGrath of The News Tribune weighed in on the Kendry Morales trade.
  • As we go into the holidays, I present you with the long and twisted baseball career of Santa Claus. Enjoy!

Reaction To Vargas – Morales Trade

December 20, 2012

Yesterday afternoon the Mariners made their first impact move of the off-season, trading starting pitcher Jason Vargas to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for slugger Kendrys Morales.

This is an interesting trade between division rivals, and it appears to be one of those trades that makes a lot of sense to both sides. Morales was expendable for the Angels, because they just signed Josh Hamilton and it created a backlog of hitters.

The Angles needed a starting pitcher, the Mariners have plenty of starting pitching prospects and needed a hitter, and here we are.

Both players are free agents after the 2013 season, so this deal is unlikely to have long-term ramifications.

I really like it from the Mariners side. They desperately needed a hitter who is a power threat in the lineup, and now they have one.

One side effect is that the arrival of Morales is going to put pressure on Justin Smoak to make the team. Smoak has one minor league option year left, and could end up in Tacoma if he does not have a productive spring training. With all apologies to Justin, if this happens, we’ll take him!

Reaction to the trade:

  • The Seattle Times has a news story on the trade from Geoff Baker, who also has a blog post on how the trade came into focus.
  • The esteemed Larry Stone calls the trade a “win-win.” He also notes that the Mariners are expected to save roughly $2.5 million on salary with this move.
  • The News Tribune has a news story on the trade from Ryan Divish, who provides much deeper analysis of the trade on this blog post. He also talks about the starting rotation, and who is available on the market to take the Vargas slot. I think he left out a key name on the list of in-house candidates: Charlie Furbush has a lot of starting experience and the M’s are deep in left-handed relievers to fill his bullpen spot.
  • Jack Z talked about the trade with Mitch on KJR this morning, here is a link to the interview.
  • The trade sent Dave Cameron into a writing frenzy over at USS Mariner. In this post he tries to figure out how the pieces fit together now (and also takes a tweet of mine way out of context as a joke), and here he writes that the trade probably leaves Mike Carp dangling in the wind.
  • At Lookout Landing, Jeff Sullivan posted his thoughts on the deal.
  • On an ESPN video interview, analyst Keith Law likes the deal and still thinks the Mariners are trying to add more offense.
  • Rob Neyer asks the question, what does Kendrys Morales do for the Mariners?
  • If you are a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, here is their analysis.
  • In the PCL, the Reno Aces announced their coaching staff. Brett Butler returns as manager, ex-Mariners starter Mike Parrott is back as pitching coach, and the new hitting coach is Greg Gross. Gross, parrott butler.
  • 2012 PCL Pitcher of the Year John Ely was traded by the Dodgers to the Astros yesterday, opening up an opportunity in the majors for him. Ely went 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA with 165 strikeouts last year, leading the league in all three categories for the “pitcher’s triple crown” – and he did that despite pitching on the moon in Albuquerque.
  • Anyone who buys the Rainiers 12 Days Of Tacoma Pack today gets entered to win a chance to throw out the first pitch at a 2013 Rainiers game. Info is here, you can buy it here or just call 253-752-7707.

Tomorrow Baseball Prospectus releases their Mariners Top Prospects list, and I’m told it will be different and interesting. Looking forward to that…


Angels Sign Rodriguez

December 19, 2012

Infielder Luis Rodriguez signed a minor league free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, ending his stay with the Tacoma Rainiers.

Rodriguez had an excellent season for Tacoma in 2012, batting .296 with 12 home runs. He walked (50) more than he struck out (41), posting a .389 on-base percentage.

However, he did not get called up by the Mariners last season – a big disappointment for a player who has spent much of the previous six years in the majors. He’s hoping to get back to the majors with the Angels, presumably in a reserve infielder’s role. If that doesn’t happen, we might see him in a Salt Lake Bees uniform.

Rodriguez was expendable as far as the Rainiers and Mariners are concerned.

In the middle infield at the major league level, we’re looking at starters Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley, with Robert Andino the new utility infielder.

Here in Tacoma, we have Carlos Triunfel and Nick Franklin switching between second base and shortstop, with more young middle infielders about ready to come up: Brad Miller and Stefan Romero are waiting in the wings.

The Rainiers will miss the bat and quiet leadership of Rodriguez, but we should be set in the middle infield for two seasons moving forward (unless there is a big trade of some sort).

Links:


Weekend Notes

December 17, 2012

A round-up of news, notes, analysis, and humor from the weekend:

  • On Sunday Ryan Divish wrote a story on where the Mariners stand now that Josh Hamilton is off the table. It nicely wraps up all of the options.
  • Baseball America has another round of Minor League Transactions, and we learn that ex-Rainiers pitcher Steve Garrison signed with Arizona and could end up with the Reno Aces, along with much-traveled former Rainiers infielder Josh Wilson.
  • From the above link, the guy I desperately want on the Rainiers – infielder Rainer Olmedo – signed with the Twins. Total bummer.
  • George Brett – who can tell a good story, you might be aware – has some great Hall of Fame stories, including one about golfing with Yogi Berra and Bill Murray. More importantly, he reveals who is in the Hall of Fame wine clique.
  • Well, at least one minor league team is trying to get to the bottom of this December 21, 2012 end of the Mayan calendar stuff. That would be the Class-A Lake Elsinore Storm, who are hosting a talk with a Mayan Grand Elder tonight.
  • MLB is getting serious about the new padded protective hats for pitchers. Samples have been issued.
  • Could San Antonio be the next Triple-A city? Some guys down there are kicking around the idea of a new, downtown, expandable-for-MLB stadium. This is just in the idea phase right now.
  • If you like mid-20th century jazz and baseball, you will like this. Otherwise, move along – nothing to see here!

Reactions To The Josh Hamilton Signing

December 14, 2012

The Angels signed Josh Hamilton yesterday, causing quite a stir among Mariners fans (myself included) who were hoping Seattle would land the free agent slugger.

Free agent options are now limited for outfielders at the major league level. Nick Swisher is still available, and he would be a nice piece for Seattle to add. Michael Bourn is a good player, but he doesn’t have the power that the Mariners are looking for. Delmon Young? I’m not seeing that one.

Hamilton moving to the Angels may open up more trade discussions for Jack Z and his staff. If they can’t sign Swisher, a trade will be the best way to add an impact hitter.

Another thought is to do nothing. I’m sure this would be an unpopular move, but what if Swisher signs elsewhere and you can’t work out a decent trade? Perhaps you just go into this season as is, and then revisit things at the trade deadline and look at next winter’s free agent class. It could come to that.

Lots of pieces about the Hamilton signing in the links:

  • Greg Johns has reaction from Jack Z in the wake of the Josh Hamilton signing.
  • Ryan Divish reports that the Mariners offer for Hamilton was very large – he has the numbers, it seems that Hamilton simply preferred the Angels.
  • John McGrath of The News Tribune is happy that the Mariners did not overpay for Josh Hamilton.
  • At the Seattle Times, Geoff Baker dropped a blog post listing the hitters who have changed teams this year. If you read this one, make sure you make it through the second paragraph, which had me laughing here in my office.
  • Larry Stone has an excellent post on the Mariners and trading prospects. The nuts & bolts of it is this: evaluating your own minor league talent is extremely important.
  • The Phillies made a waiver claim on ex-Rainiers pitcher Mauricio Robles. The left-hander was taken off the Mariners 40-man roster last week when Jason Bay was signed. Robles has been unable to throw strikes at the Triple-A level in the past.
  • We have a solid Q&A with Mariners pitching prospect Taijuan Walker over at Fangraphs. I was interested to read that the Mariners have prevented him from throwing his slider – the M’s did the same thing with Felix Hernandez when he was a teenager. Felix used to cheat and throw one or two each game in Tacoma, driving pitching coach Rafael Chaves batty.
  • If you have an hour to kill, this ESPN feature on Roberto Clemente and the bat used for his 3,000th hit is enjoyable on a number of levels.

Hall Of 100 – Tacoma Style

December 13, 2012

ESPN has stirred up a debate by releasing a “Hall Of 100″ ranking the top 100 players in baseball history.

This type of project is something that can be argued about forever, with no solution in sight. It’s extremely difficult to compare players across eras in a sport that has been played at a professional level since the late 1800s.

I’m not even going to attempt to critique their list – you can check it out for yourself, the whole presentation is right here.

However, I am willing to look at the Tacoma connections on their list:

Played for Tacoma: Mark McGwire (ranked #83) played for the Tacoma Tigers in 1986. Juan Marichal (70) was a member of the original Tacoma Giants in 1960. Gaylord Perry (66) pitched for the Tacoma Giants from 1960 to 1963. Willie McCovey (57) played for Tacoma in 1960. Ken Griffey Jr (34) played in that one rehab game in 1995. Alex Rodriguez (18) was with the Rainiers in 1995 and 1996. Walter Johnson (12) infamously pitched in one exhibition game for the 1906 Tacoma Tigers before manager Mike Lynch told him he would never make it as a pitcher.

Definitely played at Tacoma as a visitor: we saw Manny Ramirez (85) roll into town with Sacramento just last season. Mike Piazza (78) came through town as an Albuquerque Duke in 1992. Tony Gwynn (61) was a visitor with the Hawaii Islanders in 1982, and possibly Las Vegas in 1983. Pedro Martinez (41) came into town with Albuquerque in 1992. Mike Schmidt (16) played in numerous games at Cheney while with Eugene in 1972. Willie Mays (2) made several appearances at Tacoma in Tacoma Giants vs. SF Giants exhibition games in the 1960s.

May have played at Tacoma as a visitor: Jim Thome (94) played portions of two seasons with Colorado Springs, in 1991 and 1992 for a total of 53 games. It’s possible he came through Cheney Stadium back then. Craig Biggio (90) played a half-season with Tucson in 1988 and seems likely to have played at Cheney. Roberto Alomar (73) played in a whopping nine games for Las Vegas in 1988 – the chance that any of those were in Tacoma is slim. Ferguson Jenkins (62) pitched parts of two seasons with Arkansas in 1964-1965. Arkansas, believe it or not, was a PCL team during those seasons and Tacoma played 14 games against the them, so it is likely that Jenkins played at Cheney. Rickey Henderson (14) played a half-season with then-PCL entry Ogden in 1979; he may have played in Tacoma – if any readers know for sure on Rickey, please contact me.

Tacoma-related: Bob Feller (59) did several appearances/autograph signings at Cheney Stadium in his post-playing days. Babe Ruth (1) played exhibition games in Tacoma and Seattle in the early 1920s.

I will leave you with one complaint about ESPN’s list: no Ichiro? Not even in the “honorable mentions?”

Links:

  • Josh Hamilton signed a five-year contract with the Angels. This really limits the Mariners chances of acquiring an impact hitter – they might have to go the trade route at this point, as Nick Swisher seems to be the last quality free agent hitter on the market.
  • On The News Tribune’s Mariners blog there is a wrap-up with audio of Jack Z and Eric Wedge visiting the Hot Stove League radio show.
  • Ex-Rainiers third baseman Jack Hannahan signed a two-year major league contract with the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Another former Rainiers player, Shin-Soo Choo, was part of a somewhat controversial three-team trade. Choo is also now on the Reds, and there are reports that Cincinnati is going to try him in center field.
  • In the PCL, the Iowa Cubs have a new manager and it is Marty Pevey.

Goodbye Luis

December 11, 2012

Word came down this morning that slugger Luis Jimenez signed a free agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, ending his two-year run as a member of the Tacoma Rainiers.

Jimenez had a solid season for the Rainiers in 2012, batting .310 with 20 home runs and 81 RBI. He also drew 64 walks, leading to a .394 on-base percentage and an OPS of .908.

The 30-year-old designated hitter received his first major league call-up last September, going 1-for-17 mostly as a pinch-hitter. In Seattle, he made more of a mark with his prodigious power displays during batting practice. He took the “Hit It Here Cafe” sign literally.

Hopefully the Blue Jays are a good fit for Luis. Their Triple-A affiliate moved to Buffalo, NY (from Las Vegas) during the off-season. He’ll presumably play there unless he is needed to DH in Toronto.

As for right now, Luis is once again leading his hometown Venezuela Winter League team Cardinales de Lara in home runs and RBI.

We’ll miss Luis in Tacoma, where he was popular with fans and brought some thunder to the middle of the lineup.

We still have not heard a single name of any minor league free agents signed by the Mariners.

This is not unusual – the team usually announces the signings in one big group in January. However, we usually have some names leaked earlier, via Baseball America or Twitter. I’ve been on the lookout and have asked around a little bit, and I’ve come up with nothing.

I expect the Mariners to sign veteran Triple-A types to fill a few Tacoma positions: a catcher, an outfielder or two, and maybe a couple of relievers.

Links:

I have to admit, I didn’t even know that we used to have our own pocket gopher.


Brownie, Dwight & HoJo in 2013

December 7, 2012

The Seattle Mariners announced late Thursday that manager Daren Brown will return for his seventh season at the helm of the Tacoma Rainiers. Brown will be joined by longtime pitching coach Dwight Bernard, new hitting coach Howard Johnson, and returning coach Brent Johnson.

Brown will be the first person to ever manage Tacoma for seven seasons – his 416-419 record after six seasons leaves him as the franchise all-time leader in both manager wins and manager losses. This is a sign of longevity – he’s been here since 2007, minus his 50-game stretch as Mariners big league manager in 2010.

Dwight Bernard is also embarking on his seventh season as Rainiers pitching coach. The former major league reliever has been a minor league pitching coach since 1986, and the 2013 season will be his tenth in the Mariners organization.

The new guy is hitting coach Howard Johnson. “HoJo” was a power-hitting switch-hitter who led the National League with 38 homers and 117 RBI for the 1991 New York Mets. HoJo also played for the 1984 World Series champion Tigers, and the 1986 World Series winning Mets. All told he played 14 years and had 228 career home runs.*

For 11 years HoJo worked for the New York Mets in various roles, including a three-year stretch as their Major League hitting coach (2008-2010).

HoJo replaces Jeff Pentland as Rainiers hitting coach. At the end of last season, Pentland was not real interested in returning to the minor leagues for 2013. I got the feeling that if he didn’t get a major league job, he would be perfectly content retiring to his cabin in Arizona.

Our other Johnson is Brent, who will return for a second season as a Rainiers coach. Brent Johnson helps with the hitters and outfielders, and last year he coached first base – which I suppose he’ll do again this year, unless HoJo really wants to be on the bases.

I spoke with Daren Brown on the phone today, giving him a needed respite from hanging Christmas lights on his house in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s what he had to say:

On coming back for year seven: “I am looking forward to it. I like it there, and with the group they had in Double-A I think it will be an exciting year in Tacoma.”

On working with Dwight Bernard again: “Obviously, I know him quite well and he knows me. I know what kind of job he’s going to do, and what he has always done. There’s a bit of comfort there having a guy that’s been through everything with you in the last five out of six years I’ve been there.”

On new hitting coach Howard Johnson: “I’ve never met him, but I know what kind of player he was back in the late 1980s, and he was a hitting coach with the Mets for a few years. He’s a guy with a lot of experience and he’ll be a good guy to have around our young kids.”

On the outlook for 2013: “At the end of last year, even with the record not being what we would like, we had Carlos Triunfel, Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen, Vinnie Catricala… with these young kids, getting their feet wet in Triple-A, it should be an exciting year this year. Any time you are looking at having young kids at a high level, there is a lot of room to improve and it is fun as a coach to watch these kids improve as the year goes on.”

Personally, I’m happy to have Daren and Dwight back in the fold – not only do I have a good working relationship with these two guys, but I count them as friends. They’ve done a fine job leading the team the last seven years, and they are not to blame for the struggles of the 2012 club – that was a roster construction problem, and not a manager/coaching letdown.

On the medical and conditioning side of things, we welcome back Tom Newberg for his seventh season as the Rainiers head trainer, and his 27th year in the Mariners organization. He’ll be joined by assistant trainer BJ Downie (who served as a Rainiers strength and conditioning coach several seasons ago), and new performance specialist Rob Fumagalli.

Links:

  • Here’s a list of all of the Mariners minor league coaching staffs from The News Tribune. Of note: ex-Rainiers catcher Jim Horner is back in the organization as High Desert manager after two years coaching at Texas Tech University, and the M’s hired longtime PCL outfielder Chris Prieto to manage short-season Pulaski.
  • The Winter Meetings ended yesterday and the Mariners came home empty – for now, Ryan Divish writes.
  • If you can get past the schmaltzy Simon & Garfunkel video on his blog, Divish reveals that he, too, believes that the Mariners will land one of Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, or Michael Bourn.
  • Larry Stone says that the Mariners shouldn’t hesitate to sign Josh Hamilton.
  • Check out the Baseball Reference page of new hitting coach Howard Johnson.
  • At least one minor league baseball expert thinks that the team logos have gone too far. Read it for the sub-heading “I’ve Got An Ostrich On My Head.”
  • John McGrath weighs in on the departure of sports radio host Mike Gastineau.

Have a great weekend!

* as Mariners fans we often lament bad trades. Well, every team makes bad trades: in December 1984 the Detroit Tigers traded the 24-year-old Howard Johnson to the Mets straight up for fungible veteran pitcher Walt Terrell. Johnson would become a two-time all-star and hit 209 big league home runs after the deal.


Rainiers Gain Player In Rule 5 Draft

December 6, 2012

The Rule 5 Draft was held at the Winter Meetings this morning, and the Mariners did not lose any players. They also did not select any in the Major League phase, as expected.

However, in the minor league phase of the draft, they selected infielder Eric Farris from the Brewers organization.

The minor league Rule 5 Draft has different rules than the major league portion: selected players do not have to spend a full season in the majors or be returned, instead the drafting team simply pays a fee to the player’s organization in order to keep him. Essentially, the Mariners just bought Eric Farris from the Brewers for $12,000.

Remember just yesterday, when I wrote that in recent years the only player drafted in the minor league Rule 5 Draft to impact the Rainiers was 2005 first baseman Aaron Rifkin? Well, he might have company.

Farris has played the last two-and-a-half seasons with the Nashville Sounds, even getting called up to the Brewers briefly (he’s appeared in 14 MLB games, going 1-for-9 at the plate). Last year with Nashville, Farris hit .286 with 7 homers and 51 RBI. His OBP was .329.

What Farris brings to the table is speed. He was 35-for-48 stealing bases last year, and he swiped 21 bags in Nashville in 2011. When he was a young kid down in A-ball in 2009, Farris stole 70 bases in one season.

OK, so Farris has plenty of Triple-A experience, and he has speed, but where does he fit in? That is the big question. Farris’s primary position is second base, and the Rainiers are set there in 2013. Barring any trades, Tacoma will have Carlos Triunfel and Nick Franklin switching between shortstop and second base – and both players will have priority for playing time over Farris. Even if Triunfel or Franklin is not on the Tacoma roster for some reason, Farris is still roadblocked because Stefan Romero would come up from Double-A and slot right into second base.

On the plus side, Farris does have a little bit of experience at other positions. Last year he played 110 games at second base, but he also logged 13 games in left field and ten games at shortstop. It seems that if he is going to see any playing time with the Rainiers in 2013 he’ll need to get used to playing other positions.

Even more positively, my spies with the Nashville Sounds tell me that Farris is a tremendous person who was friendly with fans and was very active with the team’s community events. Nice!

The No. 1 pick in the Major League Rule 5 draft was former Rainiers reliever Josh Fields. You might remember him as the Mariners first-round draft pick in 2008, the final first-round pick of the Bill Bavasi administration who held out on his contract and Jack Zduriencik inherited the negotiations.

Fields had injury problems and some rather ordinary performances in the Mariners system, and he was eventually traded to Boston in the three-team deal involving the Dodgers that netted the Mariners Trayvon Robinson, among others.

Seemingly out of nowhere last year, at age 27, Fields velocity jumped up to his college levels (97 mph) and he had a strong year in the Red Sox system. The Houston Astros selected him first today, and they will either keep him in the majors all year or ship him back to Boston.

Fields pitched in nine games fo Tacoma in 2011, allowing ten runs in 13 innings, walking 13 batters. Clearly, he has improved since then!

As for the big moves at the Winter Meetings, the consensus is that everybody is waiting for the dominoes to begin to fall. It apparently all starts with Zack Grienke – once he signs, then other teams know if they have the money to sign Josh Hamilton, or Nick Swisher, or Michael Bourn. The Mariners are patiently waiting to see how it plays out, having reportedly contacted all three of the free agent outfielders.

Links:

  • For full Rule 5 Draft results including a one-sentence scouting report on each player selected, head right on over to Baseball America.
  • The Mariners are in agreement to sign Jason Bay, as Geoff Baker notes in his meetings round-up. Mariners fans seem particularly anxious about this signing; I’m here to tell you not to worry about it – there is no substantial financial expense, and if he stinks they’ll just release him in spring training. The Mariners are just taking a look.
  • Of more substance, Baker believes that the Mariners are much deeper into talks with Josh Hamilton than has been widely reported. Hopefully he’s right!
  • Ryan Divish of The News Tribune is still down in Nashville – here is his story from this morning’s edition rounding up the meetings, and he’s got a running day four blog right here.
  • Greg Johns is not surprised the Mariners came away from Nashville empty, but he still expects them to add an impact bat and is even ready to wager that it will be Nick Swisher.
  • Over at USS Mariner, Dave Cameron is optimistic that the Mariners will land either Hamilton or Swisher.
  • Larry Stone agrees that the Mariners are in position to land a big name.
  • Several ex-Rainiers have surfaced in the minor league transactions: Cesar Jimenez signed with the PhilliesChris Seddon has flown to Korea, and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang has signed with the Rangers.
  • The late Tom Cheek was the winner of the Frick Award for baseball broadcasting excellence.
  • Lots of commentary out there on the Interwebs about the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets changing their name to the Pelicans. Many people seem unaware that Pelicans is the long-time nickname of New Orleans minor league baseball.
  • I never thought we would be saying goodbye to the Gas Man, but Mike Gastineau is moving on from KJR. Mike filled in for me when I was away from the Rainiers and he has been a friend of our team for a long time; we wish him the best in his future endeavors. Just for fun, here is rock ‘n’ roller Duff McKagan‘s goodbye column to the Gasman.
  • Looking for a holiday gift to get your kids involved in the Rainiers? Check out the Rainiers kids-oriented “12 Days Of Tacoma” family package available now.

Just as this was ready to go, the Mariners surprised us all and announced the minor league coaching staffs for 2013. The Rainiers staff is manager Daren Brown, pitching coach Dwight Bernard, new hitting coach Howard Johnson, trainers Tom Newberg and BJ Downie, and performance coach Rob Fumagalli. I’ll write more about this tomorrow!


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