Brian Moran Selected In Rule 5 Draft

December 12, 2013

The Mariners and Rainiers lost left-handed reliever Brian Moran today, as he was drafted away from the organization. Moran spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with Tacoma, and he represented the Rainiers in the Triple-A All-Star Game in July.

Moran could return to the Rainiers next year – this gets kind of confusing, but let me explain…

This morning at the Winter Meetings, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Moran with the fifth pick in the Rule 5 Draft. The Jays then traded Moran to the Los Angeles Angels (in exchange for about $250,00 in additional international free agent spending cap room – not actual money, but the ability to spend money on Latin American teenagers).

The Angels added Moran to their 40-man major league roster, and he will go to spring training with them. But here’s the kicker on the Rule 5 Draft: Moran must make the Angels opening day roster, and stay in the major leagues (on the 25-man roster) all season long. They can put him on the disabled list if he’s injured, otherwise he must stay in the majors, on the active roster, for the entire 2014 season.

If Moran pitches poorly and the Angels decide they can no longer keep him in the majors, they have to put him on waivers. Any of the 28 other teams (all but Seattle) can claim him off waivers, but the claiming team must continue to follow the rules and keep him in the major leagues. If no team is willing to do that, Moran clears waivers and is offered back to the Mariners – and the Mariners would have the freedom to send him to Tacoma.

This is a huge opportunity for Brian. It’s the major league shot that the Mariners have not yet given him, and this will be the most important season of his career so far. We wish him the best – hopefully he’ll stick in the big leagues. But hey, if he doesn’t – we’ll take him back!

Links:

  • Here is the Angels report on acquiring Brian Moran, which includes a scouting description from General Manager Jerry Dipoto.
  • The Mariners did not draft anybody in the major or minor league phases of the Rule 5 Draft. Here is the complete draft list – ex-Rainiers infielder Vinnie Catricala was one of the player selected in the minor league phase, he’s now with the Brewers organization.
  • The Rangers made waves in the minor league section of the Rule 5 Draft by selecting Rockies “second baseman” Russell Wilson. Yup, the Seahawks Russell Wilson. This story explains why, and over at Sports Illustrated Jay Jaffe had some fun with it.
  • The Mariners announced a press conference for 3:00 today in which they will officially introduce new second baseman Robinson Cano.
  • Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer tried to find the meaning of the Cano signing.
  • Ryan Divish has a story on the Mariners pending acquisitions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Keith Law shares his opinions on those deals (ESPN Insider). Jeff Sullivan wrote about them, too, and it’s free.
  • In the TNT, Bob Dutton has a winter meetings day three notebook.
  • Former Mariners and Rainiers slugger Mike Morse signed a one-year deal with San Francisco. He was a free agent.

Starting to hear some strong rumors on the identity of the next Rainiers manager – we should have this news officially quite soon.


M’s Grab Hitters In Orlando

December 11, 2013

Today is the last full day of the Winter Meetings, which wrap up mid-day on Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft.

The Mariners are still heavily involved in most of the rumors coming out of Orlando. There is no question they are being very active trying to land additional players. There is word out there that the team has signed Corey Hart to a one-year deal, pending a physical later this week. A Carter Capps for Logan Morrison trade appears to be done, too.

On the minor league side, there are still no reports of the team signing any six-year (minor league) free agents. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t signed any – it’s just that no word has gotten out yet. There will be a few for sure.

The minor league coaching staffs are still not set. One of the Rainiers front office executives at the meetings asked Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn about Tacoma’s coaching staff, and he said he was working to finalize it now. My gut feeling is that we are going to have a trio of new faces running the Rainiers.

There was some huge news in the PCL last night: the City of Nashville gave final approval for a brand new ballpark to be built for the Nashville Sounds. This is great news for the league, and especially for the fans in Nashville.

They have been working towards a new ballpark in Nashville for about a decade. It will be great to see it happen – opening day, 2015!

Links:

  • Here is Ryan Divish’s Winter Meetings Day Three rolling blog post.
  • Notes on today’s Mariners moves.
  • The Mariners don’t have to trade Nick Franklin, Bob Dutton writes.
  • New Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has already had talks with Robinson Cano.
  • The solution to the Mariners off-field problems is to win, Larry Stone writes.
  • The new ballpark in Nashville is on the way.
  • You can add former Rainiers slugger Luis Jimenez to the list of players signing with teams in Korea. Jimenez will play for Lotte Giants, I’ve been told.
  • The Salt Lake Bees announced their coaching staff - no changes.
  • I am linking to this story on 1950 PCL MVP winner Catfish Metkovich simply because I wanted to type Catfish Metkovich. Twice. It’s actually a quirky old baseball story.

Lots of action, following these meetings. It’s fun to have the Mariners in on almost everybody.


Hey, We Got A Hall-Of-Famer!

December 9, 2013

Baseball’s Winter Meetings began this morning, and one of the first announcements came from the Hall of Fame, which will induct three managers this summer: Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox.

Tacoma can lay claim to one* of the three: Bobby Cox played for the Tacoma Cubs at the start of the 1966 season.

Cox was a third baseman as a player, and he spent the entire 1965 season in the PCL with the Cubs affiliate in Salt Lake City. Affiliations changed after the 1965 season, with Tacoma losing the Giants and signing on with the Cubs – and Tacoma inherited their Triple-A third baseman, Cox.

Cox played in ten games for Tacoma at the start of the 1966 season – struggling mightily, going 4-for-34 at the plate. On April 28 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Billy Cowan (who would play for Tacoma and also five major league teams). The Braves assigned Cox to their Double-A team in Austin.

Cox would kick around the minors for a few more seasons, and also get a year-and-a-half in the big leagues before going into managing. He managed four years for Triple-A Syracuse before the Braves would once again come calling – this time to start his Hall of Fame managerial career.

At this point in a blog post like this, I would insert a photo of Bobby Cox in his Tacoma Cubs uniform. However, I am sad to say that we don’t have that photo in our archive. If you have any leads on where to find one, please shoot me a message.

We’ll have lots of links this week as the meetings are on.

Links:

Current plan is to be back with a fresh post on Wednesday, but if any big news breaks from Orlando I’ll chime in on Tuesday.

* I believe Tony LaRussa appeared at Cheney Stadium managing Oakland in exhibition games in the late-1980’s/early 1990s, and he certainly played here with visiting Vancouver in 1968.


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!


Winter Meetings Day Three

December 5, 2012

Still no Mariners news but lots of activity – and the third day of the Winter Meetings is typically the “action day.” Things happen today, and then tomorrow morning is the Rule 5 Draft before people fly home in the afternoon.

Speaking of the Rule 5 Draft, the Rainiers had a player last year who is a candidate to get picked: left-handed reliever Brian Moran, who was not protected on the Mariners 40-man roster.

Moran is one of those guys – and they are rare – where if a team just looks at the stats and doesn’t have an in-person scouting report on him, they might pull the trigger and pick him. He had 82 strikeouts in 68.2 innings last year, between Double-A and Triple-A. He gave up only 53 hits and had a 2.62 ERA. Great stats!

On the other hand, most teams (perhaps all teams) have scouted him and saw that his fastball is not-so-fast, running at 82-87 mph. He often strikes guys out with a 85 mph fastballs, because of deception. There are certain hitters who have a very difficult time seeing the ball against Moran – it’s so extreme that catcher Guillermo Quiroz said that some opposing hitters said Moran throws an “invisi-ball” in this article I wrote in August.

If Moran keeps putting up numbers in Triple-A, somebody will give him a chance in the Majors. But will it be right now, via the Rule 5 Draft? This draft means they have to keep him in the big leagues all year, or else return him to the Mariners. It costs $50,000 to draft him, and the drafting team gets $25,000 back if they have to return him to the Mariners. So, it would cost a minimum of $25,000 just to look at him in spring training.

The Mariners get a selection in the Rule 5 Draft tomorrow, too, but I don’t expect them to draft anybody. The draft is mostly a collection of left-handed relievers and fifth outfielders, and the Mariners are covered in these areas.

There is also a minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft, which has different rules, essentially allowing you to purchase the contracts of certain lower-level players from other teams. This draft rarely results in Triple-A players coming over – I can think of one instance during my time in Tacoma, when the Mariners grabbed a first baseman named Aaron Rifkin in the minor league Rule 5 Draft, and he stayed with the Rainiers all year.

JUST IN: we have reports the Mariners signed Jason Bay, who was the Mets version of Chone Figgins the last few years. This is nothing to think about much, all they are doing is bringing him in to spring training and taking a look. If Bay looks good in March, then you start to see if he fits on the roster.

Let’s hit the links:

  • For The News Tribune, Ryan Divish writes that the Mariners are not desperate. He also has a Winter Meetings Notebook with thoughts on a Felix Hernandez contract extension. The paper’s website also put together a “Mariners Budget Tool” where you get to sign your own free agents to fill the roster.
  • If you are following along today, this link takes you to Divish’s “Day Three Live Blog” from Nashville.
  • Over at the Seattle Times, Geoff Baker writes that the Mariners may be looking to sign two outfielders – one more than commonly thought. Baker has a blog post in which he tries to figure out what the various Mariners-related rumors add up to.
  • Larry Stone tried to make some sense out of the Michael Bourn rumors.
  • It’s looking like one rumored Mariners target – Royals DH Billy Butler – is off the market for now.
  • The Double-A Jackson Generals are no longer playing at Pringles Park. Pringles passed on the sponsorship renewal and now it is just Generals Park. I think they should make it singular: General Park.
  • The Mariners did make some news yesterday: they announced a new Safeco Field restaurant called Edgar’s.
  • My man John McGrath is 58, his lawn looks like hell, and he let his Hall Of Fame ballot sit around for several days with the unpaid bills. He’s voting “no on steroids” in 2012.
  • Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated has a look at the mechanics behind a big four-team trade that is being discussed down in Nashville.

My favorite headline of the day was from Baseball Prospectus, on the Red Sox signing Shane Victorino: “Boston Declares Victorino.”


Winter Meetings Day Two

December 4, 2012

Welcome to day two of the Winter Meetings, in which we are going to continue to hear rumors that the Mariners have “reached out to” or “spoken with”… every single hitter on the planet.

Seriously, after one day, the Mariners have been linked to Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Nate McLouth, Ryan Ludwick, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Wil Myers, Garrett Jones, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Upton, Jason Bay… you name a hitter, the Mariners have reached out.

However, as I push the “publish” button on this post, nothing has happened for the Mariners yet.

Stay tuned, as the reports are that Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners have been very active in Nashville. All of the work will lead to something – hopefully something good.

Links:

  • The News Tribune has a story from Ryan Divish on Mariners GM Jack Z, his contract status, and if that changes his approach to off-season moves. Divish also has a Winter Meetings notebook from the morning paper. While he is working today, he’s keeping a live blog of the latest news and rumors right here.
  • At the Seattle Times, Geoff Baker filed this story for this morning’s edition. Baker is also blogging away, with his latest post stealing the line I was going to use to open my post today. Baker had it first – that’s why he’s a reporter and I am not.
  • In another post, Baker writes that the Mariners discussions in Nashville reveal that they are not set on going into spring training with Justin Smoak at first base. This is not surprising – I really like Justin and root for him, but after last season the M’s clearly must get more offense out of first base.
  • Lots of reports that he Mariners are going to sign another team’s Chone Figgins. If this happens, don’t expect much.
  • In a classic blog post from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee newspaper, it is reported that Triple-A Nashville’s stadium is “a dump” and there are no current plans to build a new one in the city. Seriously, the newspaper reported that the stadium is a dump. Gotta say, it is accurate reporting.
  • Here is the real news story – or “lack of news” story – from Nashville regarding the static ballpark situation.
  • Baseball Prospectus has a free Winter Meetings round-up of day one from John Perrotto. Lots of good tidbits in this one from a longtime MLB beat writer.
  • This will cause a reaction come April: John Kruk is moving out of the studio and into the Sunday Night Baseball booth.
  • Meanwhile, new Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons went to a Rush concert.

Here’s hoping for some tangible Mariners moves soon!


Meetings Underway; Mariners Top-10 Prospects

December 3, 2012

The Baseball Winter Meetings started today in Nashville, Tennessee.

They are two hours ahead of us in Nashville, and by the time I woke up this morning and logged onto the computer there was already word from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the Boston Red Sox have signed free agent catcher/DH Mike Napoli – so we can cross that name off the board, Mariners fans.

Major League free agent signings and trades will be at the forefront of the news coming out of Nashville, but there is a lot going on there other than big league deals.

Every single minor league team has sent a few people there, all of the agents are there, the baseball media is there, the people who manufacture baseball-related products are there (they are a big contingent), and even people looking to work in baseball are there.

The Tacoma Rainiers contingent in Nashville is team president Aaron Artman, VP of Business Development Jim Flavin, Director of Baseball Operations and Merchandise Ashley Roth, and member(s) of the team ownership.

Artman and the owners will be participating in high-level PCL and Minor League Baseball meetings. Flavin, I suspect, will be on the lookout for motivated ticket sales people and other business-side front office personnel.

Roth has the job that affects both you and me the most: she’ll blanket the gigantic Baseball Trade Show, looking for cool stuff to sell in the team store or to package as part of our season ticket promotions. She also represents Tacoma at the PCL travel meetings, in which they try to find the delicate balance between a) saving money and b) making my (and the team’s) travel less miserable.

They will all attend the Mariners affiliate dinner, which I have been to before and is kind of a trip: the Mariners host a dinner for all of their minor league affiliates. So in one room, we have front office representatives from the Mariners, Rainiers, Jackson (TN) Generals, High Desert (CA) Mavericks, Clinton (IA) Lumberkings, Everett Aqua Sox, and Pulaski (VA) Mariners. The ringleader is Mariners Director of Minor League Administration Hide Sueyoshi – who is the only person in the room who actually knows everybody, because he travels to all six affiliates every year. The dinner is fun and it gives people a chance to meet folks with similar jobs at other stops in the organization.

There will be lots of news coming out of Nashville all week. If you are on Twitter and want all of the national baseball news as it develops, make sure you follow @JonHeymanCBS and @Ken_Rosenthal – these two guys seem to get every story first.

It’s a wealth of news today, as Baseball America released their Seattle Mariners Top-10 Prospects list this morning.

Baseball America is the leader in this “prospect ranking” field. You can see the list right here – and if you are a Baseball America subscriber you can read all of the scouting reports right here. Also for subscribers only, there is a chat with BA expert Conor Glassey.

The big story, I suppose, is that catcher Mike Zunino has leapt all the way up to the No. 1 spot in just three months since signing with the Mariners out of the University of Florida.

Here is the good news for us Rainiers fans: it is quite possible, even likely, that we will see eight of the top-10 prospects in Tacoma at some point this season. Only Carter Capps (majors) and Victor Sanchez (he’s 17 years old) are unlikely to appear in a Rainiers uniform this season.

A large group of prospects in Triple-A is always fun to watch. Now, it doesn’t necessarily add up to Triple-A wins, but it is fun to watch prospects develop and get better over the course of a season. And sometimes a large group of prospects does win (see 2010 Rainiers).

Links:

  • The new full-time Mariners beat writer for The News Tribune is Ryan Divish, and he is blogging away from Nashville in his first full-time Mariners assignment. Divish had a pre-meetings story run in the today’s paper, and yesterday he put up a story on Jack Z‘s thoughts going into the meetings.
  • The Seattle Times sent Geoff Baker to Nashville, and he filed a pre-meetings story on the Mariners goals.
  • Larry Stone riffed on that Mariners Top-10 Prospects list.
  • Former Dodgers General Manager (and friend of the blog) Dan Evans has a column on what the Winter Meetings are like from a GM’s perspective – this is a tremendous insider’s look.
  • Grantland’s Jonah Keri wrote a Winter Meetings preview which includes some very positive Mariners thoughts.
  • A Class-A team in a prime geographical location is using the Winter Meetings to hire a general manager. This is the type of thing that happens annually at the meetings.
  • So you want to be a Radio Guy? Low-level minor league teams sometimes hire RGs at the Winter Meetings – and apparently this year there are quite a few openings.
  • There are three new members of the Baseball Hall Of Fame and Rob Neyer has the lowdown. Count me among those who assumed that Col. Ruppert was already in the Hall – whoops!
  • Former Rainiers infielder Alex Rodriguez is having another hip surgery and is out 4-6 months. Barry Bonds home run record is looking safer and safer…

Check back Tuesday – I expect to have things to write about all week!


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