Mariners Trade For Ruggiano; Bawcom In Baseball Limbo

December 17, 2014

The Mariners made a trade today, and two current or former Tacoma Rainiers players will be affected by the deal.

The M’s traded Double-A reliever Matt Brazis to the Chicago Cubs in order to get 32-year-old outfielder Justin Ruggiano.

You can see Ruggiano’s stats right here – he’s a right-handed hitter who usually wallops left-handed pitchers, but isn’t nearly as good against right-handers. He’s a perfect platoon outfielder.

The acquisition of Ruggiano is bad news for Stefen Romero, who now is going to have a much more difficult time cracking the Mariners opening day roster. If that means Romero starts the season in Tacoma, well… we could certainly use his bat in the lineup!

It’s also bad news for Rainiers reliever Logan Bawcom. The Mariners had to make space on their 40-man roster for Ruggiano, so they designated Bawcom for assignment.

That means Bawcom is on waivers and any other team can claim him as long as they put him on their own 40-man roster. So for the next few days, Bawcom has to sit around down there in Dallas and wait for the phone to ring. He’s in baseball limbo.

If no team claims Bawcom off waivers, he will be assigned a minor league contract with the Mariners and will likely return to the Tacoma bullpen in 2015.

Bawcom had an excellent season for Tacoma in 2013, saving 21 games and posting a 2.91 ERA – he earned his spot on the 40-man roster after that campaign. But in 2014 he had trouble getting into a groove, he landed on the disabled list for the first time in his career, and his ERA went up to 4.93.

I never now what to root for in these situations. It would be good for Bawcom’s career if he was claimed by another club and got to stay on a 40-man roster. On the other hand, Bawcom has been a valuable member of the Rainiers both on and off the field – he even shared the 2014 Rainiers Community Award with Forrest Snow.

All we can do is wait and see how it plays out.

Links:

  • Here’s more from the Seattle Times on the Justin Ruggiano acquisition, and here we have Baseball America’s run-down on the deal.
  • Ruggiano is a useful player who provides a lot of roster flexibility, Jeff Sullivan writes as only he can.
  • From Baseball America’s latest batch of minor league transactions, we learn the Mariners signed Carlos Rivero to a minor league deal. Rivero was originally claimed off waivers from Boston, then was non-tendered and became a free agent. Now the M’s have signed him on a minor league deal and Rivero is a candidate to hit in the middle of the lineup for your 2015 Tacoma Rainiers. He’s currently leading the Venezuelan Winter League with 14 home runs.
  • The Mariners are still looking for outfield help – Ryan Divish runs through a litany of uninspiring choices.
  • Bob Dutton explored the possibility of the Mariners trading for Justin Upton.
  • Old pal Mike Morse inked a two-year contract with the Miami Marlins. I think Morse still lives in Florida – if so, that may have been a factor in his decision.
  • Matt Tuiasosopo is going to spring training with Baltimore on a minor league contract.
  • Former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher Brandon Morrow will try to get healthy with a new team: the San Diego Padres.
  • Larry Stone has a column on Rod Belcher, the longtime Seattle sports broadcaster who passed away last weekend.
  • In the PCL, the Salt Lake Bees announced their coaching staff led by new manager Dave Anderson.

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!


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:


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.


Smoak Moves On; Game Seven Tonight

October 29, 2014

Yesterday the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Justin Smoak on a waiver claim, ending Smoak’s time with the Seattle Mariners.

We saw quite a bit of Smoak over the last few years at Cheney Stadium, and he always provided a solid bat in the middle of the Tacoma Rainiers lineup. Smoak appeared in games for the Rainiers each of the last five seasons, including a 56-game stay in 2014.

Adding up the total numbers, you get just about one full PCL season’s worth of plate appearances. Here is how Smoak hit for Tacoma over the last five years:

  • Games: 120
  • At-Bats: 436
  • Hits: 126
  • Doubles: 28
  • Triple: 1
  • Home Runs: 14
  • Runs Batted In: 70
  • Walks: 75
  • Strikeouts: 95
  • Stolen Base: 1
  • Batting Average: .289
  • On-Base Percentage: .396
  • Slugging Percentage: .454

Those are pretty good numbers for a first baseman in Triple-A. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to approach this level of production in Seattle, and now he’s a Blue Jay.

I enjoyed having Justin on the club. He’s a likable guy and I wish him the best with his new team.

Justin Smoak 2014

Here is some good news: we won the baseball lottery!

We’re getting a World Series Game Seven tonight, and it should be awesome. I know I’ll be stationed directly in front of the television starting at 5 pm.

Do you have a favorite Game Seven?

In recent years, 2001 Diamondbacks-Yankees stands out as a thriller, but my favorite of the last 20 years is 1997 Marlins-Indians. That game saw the Marlins rally to tie in the bottom of the ninth before winning in the 11th. The Indians were loaded with hitting talent and somehow the Marlins won the series. Here is the box score.

Links:

  • Roger Angell is 94 years old, a Hall Of Fame baseball writer, and he’s seen more Game Sevens than we have, so let’s start with his musings on tonight’s contest. His thoughts on the players reaction to last night’s blowout are spot-on.
  • It’s a free week at Baseball Prospectus, and their stats have the Giants as a 59% favorite tonight. However, Rob Neyer says you can throw the stats out the window for tonight.
  • Jonah Keri has a Game Seven preview over at Grantland, with four key factors.
  • The road team is a big underdog in Game Seven, Grant Brisbee writes. This story also serves as a quick review of the Game Sevens of the past 35 years.
  • Ryan Divish has the news story on the end of the Justin Smoak era.
  • John McGrath rehashed the trade that brought Smoak to the Mariners.
  • As usual you can find some good tidbits in Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook.
  • Congratulations to Salt Lake Bees broadcaster Steve Klauke, who won an award!
  • If you were forced to guess which former Tacoma Tigers player shot himself while cleaning his gun, there is one obvious answer, isn’t there?

OK that’s enough for today. I need four hours to prepare for Game Seven.


The Local Angle

October 17, 2014

The Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants advanced to the World Series, and each team was spurred by a player with local ties.

Kansas City completed a four-game sweep of Baltimore on Wednesday, with former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher Jason Vargas earning the win in the deciding game. Vargas pitched 5.1 innings and allowed just two hits and one run in the Royals 2-1 victory.

Later on Wednesday, San Francisco reliever and 2010 Rainiers pitcher Yusmeiro Petit tossed three scoreless innings and earned the win in a Game Four victory over St. Louis.

The Giants polished off the Cardinals on Thursday night, 6-3. Former Rainiers and Mariners infielder/outfielder Mike Morse hit a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it 3-3.

Then in the bottom of the ninth inning, Federal Way High School (Class of 2002) product Travis Ishikawa hit a walk-off three-run homer to give the Giants a 6-3 victory.

Ishikawa played at Cheney Stadium this year, as a visitor for the Fresno Grizzlies in a series July 11-13. A longtime off-the-bench player in the majors, he opened the season with the Pirates, was released in late April, signed by the Giants to a Triple-A deal, and then promoted to San Francisco in August. He’s played all or parts of seven years in the majors, and 11 years in the minors.

Today Ishikawa’s name is on an impressive list (source: Lee Sinins ATM Reports):

WALKOFF HOMERUN TO CLINCH A POSTSEASON SERIES

Bill Mazeroski      World Series  1960  Pirates
Chris Chambliss     ALCS          1976  Yankees
Joe Carter          World Series  1993  Blue Jays
Todd Pratt            NLDS          1999  Mets
Aaron Boone        ALCS          2003  Yankees
David Ortiz           ALDS          2004  Red Sox
Chris Burke          NLDS          2005  Astros
Magglio Ordonez   ALCS         2006  Tigers
Travis Ishikawa     NLCS          2014  Giants

I must admit, I forgot about Todd Pratt.

Now we have a long wait for the World Series. Game One is on Tuesday in Kansas City. We’ll have some sort of preview for you on Monday.

Links:

  • The folks at MiLB.com have their Mariners minor league all-stars, with lots of commentary from Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn. There is some good stuff in here.
  • Bob Dutton has an overview of where Mariners landed on the various Baseball America league top prospect lists.
  • Here’s how Mike Morse prepared for the biggest hit of his career.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher Yusmeiro Petit is gaining a lot of respect in San Francisco.
  • 2005 Pacific Coast League MVP Andy Green (who was with the Tucson Sidewinders) was named third base coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks. New Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale was the Tucson manager when Green won the MVP.
  • John McGrath recalls his experience covering the 1989 Earthquake Series.
  • The Rainiers Team Store received a brand new shipment of those retro hats you guys love so much – including a new Tacoma Cubs model. Here’s the direct link.

Playoffs Continue With Former Tacoma Players

October 13, 2014

Former Tacoma Rainiers players continue to make an impact in the MLB playoffs, which have been particularly exciting so far.

In the American League Championship Series, Baltimore’s Adam Jones has finally come alive at the plate. Jones had two hits in Game Two on Saturday, including a game-tying two-run homer. However, his Orioles have lost the first two games of the series to Kansas City (who looks like they may never lose again).

The former Rainiers player on the Royals – Jason Vargas – has not pitched yet, but his day is coming. Vargas gets the start in Game Four on Tuesday night. The way the Royals are playing, Vargas could be trying to finish off a sweep on Tuesday.

The NLCS between St. Louis and San Francisco is tied 1-1, with Game Three set for Tuesday night. The Giants activated former Tacoma infielder/outfielder Mike Morse from the disabled list prior to the series, and he came off the bench for a pinch-hit single last night.

Former Rainiers pitcher Yusmeiro Petit has not worked yet for the Giants in this series. He’s serving as a long reliever because teams don’t need five starters in the playoffs.

The NLCS had a real thriller on Sunday night, with the Cardinals getting huge home runs – including a walk-off shot – from rookies Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong. St. Louis also suffered a crucial injury, losing star catcher Yadier Molina.

Links:

  • In order to get ready for the NLCS, Mike Morse went back to where it all started.
  • As baseball looks to pick up the pace of play, many purists are opposed to the idea of a pitch clock because baseball has no clocks. John McGrath has a good idea: use a traffic light system.
  • What does a recently retired major league star who made over $100 million in the game do with himself? Lance Berkman went back to school.

 


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