Rainiers Gain Player In Rule 5 Draft

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 Phillies,¬†Chris 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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