Free Agency Arrives For A Few Rainiers

October 23, 2014

Every day in the off-season I check the baseball transactions, and today I noticed that some minor league free agents are starting to change teams.

A minor league player can become a free agent if he has played six full seasons in the minors without being added to the major league 40-man roster. There are other stipulations for players who were once on a 40-man roster but then taken off of it.

Here are the players who finished the 2014 season with Tacoma and are eligible to be free agents:

  • Xavier Avery, outfield.
  • Blake Beavan, pitcher.
  • Leury Bonilla, everything.
  • Todd Coffey, pitcher.
  • Logan Kensing, pitcher.
  • Nate Tenbrink, infield/outfield.

One player whose status I am not sure about is infielder Gabriel Noriega, who the Mariners signed from Venezuela in 2007 when he was just 16 years old. The rules are different for international signees, but Noriega was playing in the US in 2008 in short-season leagues and his first full-season league was in 2010.

Just because a player is a free agent doesn’t mean he’s leaving. The Mariners sometimes re-sign these guys – Leury Bonilla was a free agent last year and they worked out a way to keep him.

The Royals rallied to score five runs in the sixth inning, snapping a 2-2 tie and leading to a 7-2 victory over San Francisco on Wednesday night. That evened-up the World Series at 1-1 and greatly improved our chances of getting a six- or seven-game series.

Ex-Rainiers did not factor much in Game Two. Mike Morse was again in the Giants lineup as the DH, and he went 1-for-3 with a single. He’s now 2-for-8 in his first World Series.

One fun fact on Game Two: each of the nine starters in San Francisco’s lineup had exactly one hit. According to ESPN, this was the first time in MLB postseason history that had happened. If they just hadn’t used that pinch-hitter, this boxscore would have been perfect.

There is no game on Thursday and the series continues Friday-Saturday-Sunday in San Francisco. All games start at 5.

Links:

  • Felix Hernandez was picked as the top pitcher in the American League in a poll of front office people.
  • The Mariners have three finalists for the Gold Glove awards. Bob Dutton has all of the finalists at each position, and Ryan Divish has advanced defensive metrics for the Mariners candidates.
  • Here’s a day in the life of Mike Morse as he prepared for Game Two of the World Series (it’s in the video).
  • Another former Rainiers player in the World Series is Yusmeiro Petit, and he had a strange path to glory.
  • Mariners fans can look at the Royals with jealousy, Larry Stone writes.

I’m taking a long weekend off and our next blog update will be on Tuesday.


Royals Streak Ends

October 22, 2014

After eight consecutive postseason wins, the Kansas City Royals finally took a loss in the opening game of the World Series on Tuesday night. San Francisco beat ‘em, 7-1.

The game was lacking in the drama department. The Giants scored three runs in the top of the first inning against James Shields, with Hunter Pence connecting on a long two-run homer.

Former Rainiers star Mike Morse started as the Giants designated hitter, and he produced an RBI single in fourth inning that made it 4-0. He finished the game 1-for-5.

Kansas City was down 3-0 in the bottom of the third when they put runners at second & third with nobody out, but Madison Bumgarner escaped the jam and cruised from that point forward.

Bumgarner is a former PCL player who never pitched against Tacoma. Bumgarner made 14 starts for Fresno in 2010, going 7-1, 3.16. Fresno and Tacoma play each other a lot: 16 times each season. Yet in 2010, they played 12 of the 16 games late in the season, after Bumgarner had been called up. The one time they faced each other while Bumgarner was on the club (at Cheney Stadium in June), he was the lone member of Fresno’s five-man rotation who did not start in the four-game series. He spent four days in Tacoma and didn’t pitch – I’m sure he threw a bullpen, and he probably ran some laps. I hope he enjoyed his time in our fair city.

Anyway, I digress. Game Two of the World Series is tonight at 5, and the Royals desperately need a win or else they face the prospect of going on the road to San Francisco down 2-0.

Links:

  • Bob Dutton has some notes on Mariners in the Winter Leagues.
  • Mariners pitcher Chris Young was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year. This award is voted on by the players.
  • Former Tacoma Rainiers manager Steve Smith was let go from his job as third base coach for the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Yesterday Hall of Famer Old Hoss Radbourn – who died in 1897 – returned from the grave to preview the World Series. Or as he calls it, the World’s Series.
  • This is fun: Baseball America unearthed a Q&A with Hunter Pence from when he was in Double-A in 2006.

Baseball Returns Tuesday

October 20, 2014

We survived a baseball-free weekend (and for most of us a bad football weekend) and now we look forward to the World Series, which gets underway in Kansas City on Tuesday night (5:00 Pacific on Fox – all games will start at 5 and are on basic Fox).

The main story of the series is that both teams qualified as wild cards. Kansas City finished behind Detroit in the AL Central, and the San Francisco Giants were runners-up to the Dodgers in the NL West. Each team had to survive a one-game wild card play-in game, and then win two full series to advance to the title round.

This is exactly the opposite of what MLB was shooting for when they switched to the one-game wild card playoff last year. The goal was to create an easier path to the World Series for the division winners, and make it tougher for the wild card teams to advance.

They succeeded in the goal – it is definitely tougher for wild card teams to advance now – but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. This year’s World Series is Exhibit A.

Both teams have played exciting ball throughout the postseason, and I think we can count on that to continue in the Series. What I am hoping for is something that has not yet happened in the 2014 MLB postseason: a series stretched out to full length.

No losing team has won more than one game in a series yet in this postseason. It’s time for that to change: I’m hoping we get to at least six games. And if we can get to a Game Seven, well, that’s the best our sport has to offer.

Quick refresher, your ex-Rainiers and other locals:

KANSAS CITY: pitcher Jason Vargas is scheduled to start Game Four on Friday night. Raul Ibanez is with the team but is probably not going to be on the active roster.

SAN FRANCISCO: infielder/outfielder Mike Morse is probably going to get starts as the DH in the games played at Kansas City. Yusmeiro Petit is the long man in the bullpen. The Giants also have state of Washington natives Tim Lincecum and Travis Ishikawa, though neither of them played for Tacoma.

Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker has left the Arizona Fall League after just two starts, rather than the four or five that the team was hoping he would make.

Fortunately this is not injury related. Walker reportedly feels great and is 100% healthy; he just had a need to go home to California according to the report linked below.

I’m hearing that this is no big deal and Walker will be ready to go for spring training.

Links:

If I could time travel to see a World Series, I would go to 1926. Cardinals – Yankees. Sportsman’s Park, Yankee Stadium. St. Louis wins in seven. The Grover Alexander vs. Tony Lazzeri battle in the 7th inning of Game Seven remains one of the most famous moments in World Series history. Rogers Hornsby. Babe Ruth. Lou Gehrig. Miller Huggins. Waite Hoyt. Herb Pennock. Urban Shocker. Branch Rickey. And the whole thing ends when Ruth gets caught stealing second while representing the tying run.

I would convince Graham McNamee to hire me as help in the broadcast booth during the games. I would spend all of the money I made on cigarettes – not to smoke, just to try to get mint condition Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Rogers Hornsby baseball cards. I’ll smuggle the cards back to the current day, sell them, and buy an island to spend my winters on. Pretty good plan, eh?


Cards Turn To Rookie – Again

October 30, 2013

The St. Louis Cardinals are in do-or-die mode, trailing the World Series 3-2 going into Game Six at Fenway Park (5:00 tonight, FOX). Once again, they are turning to rookie pitcher Michael Wacha to keep them alive.

The rookie has been unbelievable in the playoffs for the Cardinals. He’s made four starts, and he is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA. He’s given up only 11 hits in 27 innings, for crying out loud.

Rainiers fans saw a bit of this in person back in May.

Wacha pitched at Cheney Stadium on May 16, and he shut down the Rainiers for seven innings. This game occurred during a period when the Rainiers were really good – Tacoma went 11-5 over the next 16 games.

Rainiers starting lineup:
Nick Franklin (SS), Franklin Gutierrez (DH), Alex Liddi (3B), Carlos Peguero (RF), Stefen Romero (LF), Mike Zunino (C), Nate Tenbrink (2B), Rich Poythress (1B), Corey Patterson (CF)

Wacha allowed just two hits: a single to Romero in the fifth inning, and a solo home run to Poythress in the sixth. He struck out eight and walked only one.

Perhaps you were there? The crowd was 4,127 – not bad for a Thursday in mid-May.

I’m pulling for Wacha tonight, for one simple reason: there is nothing better in baseball than a World Series Game Seven. We’re one Wacha win away from getting that thrill.

Links:

  • Rainiers reliever Logan Bawcom blogged about pitching on opening day in the Venezuelan Winter League. Good stuff.
  • Sorry ladies – the third-most-famous* ex-Rainiers player in the Major Leagues is now engaged. Congratulations, Adam!
  • Add former Albuquerque Isotopes manager (and former NL All-Star) Tim Wallach to the list of Mariners manager candidates. It sounds like Jack Z is holed up in an Arizona hotel room, interviewing people.
  • In The New Yorker, former Sacramento and Iowa second baseman Adrian Cardenas writes beautifully about quitting baseball.
  • Want to be a Major League broadcaster? All you need to do is get the Pawtucket radio job and you’ll be in the big leagues in no time!
  • I take back anything even remotely negative I may have said, written, or thought about the El Paso Chihuahuas. They’re off the hook, because we now have the Akron RubberDucks. (yes, one word, with a capital letter in the middle of course). My condolences to Eastern League broadcasters.
  • People often ask me what minor league baseball team employees do during the off-season. This Facebook post answers that question.**

When we next update the blog on Friday we’ll have a World Series champion and the “Hot Stove League” will be underway.

* I rank the two most famous ex-Rainiers in the big leagues as A-Rod and Felix. Note that I wrote famous, not best or popular.

** Sarcasm alert! The majority of the Rainiers Front Office is sales people, who actually work harder in the off-season than during the season!


Series Tied

October 28, 2013

This is shaping up to be a memorable World Series, if not the most well-played one.

In case you missed it over the weekend, Game Three ended on a rare baserunner obstruction play (the diving third baseman accidentally tripped the runner trying to score), and then Game Four ended with a runner picked off first base with the tying run at the plate.

Add to that a lot of sloppy infield defense along the way, and this hasn’t been the most aesthetically pleasing World Series. However, it has been tense – and it is lining up for a potential thrilling finish.

Our lone ex-Rainiers contributor has had a slim role so far. Boston’s Mike Carp is 0-for-2 in the World Series, with an RBI.

Game Five is tonight at 5:00.

Links:


Giants Sweep Series

October 29, 2012

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, who swept the Detroit Tigers to claim their second World Series championship in the last three years.

The Giants have done it with a mix of home-grown superstars and deft additions via trade and free agency to round out the roster.

The nucleus of the team was signed and developed within the Giants farm system. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo (and the 2010 closer Brian Wilson) are all products of the Giants scouting and player development process.

The Giants have been highly successful adding key role players through a variety of means. In particular, the Giants had huge contributions this season from Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias – and both players were signed prior to the season as minor league free agents.

The Giants have also been astute traders. Who knew that picking up Marco Scutaro would be such a season-changing event? Brian Sabean, I guess.

(After Scutaro had the game-winner last night, Dave Cameron posted on Twitter “Today’s youth are going to remember Marco Scutaro the same way I remember Mark Lemke.” Us fans of a certain age know exactly what he is talking about).

As long as that core group of homegrown starting pitchers stays healthy – along with Posey – the Giants appear set up for playoff contention for another few years.

Posey might be the absolute key. The two years he has been healthy, they won it all. The one year he was injured, they did not reach the playoffs.

We are now officially into the off-season – the first thing you will hear about is players declaring free agency. The awards will start to be announced, beginning with the Gold Gloves on Tuesday. We’ll check out the off-season schedule on Wednesday.

Links from the weekend:

  • World Series articles from the San Francisco newspaper: the game story, and Pablo Sandoval was named World Series MVP.
  • Dave Cameron writes that the Giants won with depth, not star power.
  • Mariners infielders Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan are Gold Glove Award finalists.
  • Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times speculates that the Mariners may trade pitching prospect James Paxton for offensive help.
  • Baker – who apparently is in Arizona attending the Fall League – also has a piece on hopeful catcher-of-the-future Mike Zunino.
  • Larry LaRue, the former Mariners beat writer for The News Tribune, has a new job with the paper. It’s a non-sports job, but here are the details if you are curious.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Mariners have hired a new Director of International Scouting.
  • Former Tacoma Tigers shortstop Walt Weiss was interviewed for the Colorado Rockies manager job.
  • Here is the newspaper story on Sacramento manager Darren Bush getting moved up to the big leagues as a bullpen coach. No word yet on who will be the new Sacramento manager.
  • Susan Slusser – the excellent Oakland A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle – became the first woman president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Only three-and-a-half months until spring training!


Will Luis Jimenez Return To Tacoma Next Year?

October 26, 2012

Prior to World Series Game Two last night, the Seattle Mariners announced that slugging designated hitter Luis Jimenez has been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma.

What this means is that the Mariners removed Jimenez from their 40-man Major League roster, and he cleared waivers and was assigned to the Tacoma roster. Yes, there is a Tacoma roster, even in the off-season, for organizational purposes (we never get to see it).

This does  not mean, yet, that Luis will return to the Rainiers next season. Because he has over six full seasons of minor league time, Jimenez is allowed to declare himself a minor league free agent after the World Series is complete. He’ll probably do this, to keep his options open.

Then it is up to the Mariners and Luis. The Mariners could offer him a Triple-A contract with a decent salary, plus an invitation to big league spring training, and Luis might go for it. Or, Luis could accept an offer from another team – I’m sure he’ll get a few offers, he has value as a Triple-A slugger for an American League affiliate.

With no “inside” information, I think that if the Mariners offer Luis a decent contract, he’ll come back. Three big reasons why:

  • the Mariners were the first team to ever give him a major league opportunity.
  • the Mariners have strong ties to the Cardinales de Lara, Jimenez’s Venezuelan Winter League team. Luis is the superstar of this team.
  • stability, which could be a key for Jimenez, who prior to signing with Seattle two seasons ago was a true baseball nomad.

On the other side of the coin, why would the Mariners re-sign Luis? Point #2 up above, the relationship with Lara, would be the biggest reason other than simply providing Tacoma with a good DH. We just don’t know if the Mariners are interested in keeping him in the organization.

There’s nothing we can do now except wait and see how it plays out.

The Giants went up on Detroit last night, 2-0 in the series. Coincidentally, they won Game Two by a score of 2-0.

Madison Bumgarner silenced all critics with about as strong of an outing as anyone could have asked for, going seven shutout innings to earn the win.

Former Rainiers pitcher Doug Fister took a tough loss for Detroit, surrendering one run over six innings. Fister also got knocked in the head by a line drive, yet he shook it off and kept on pitching. I couldn’t believe he stayed in the game after that, but he appeared unshaken.

The series moves to Detroit for Game Three on Saturday at 5:07 (Fox), and then Game Four on Sunday also at 5:07 (also on Fox). It’s Ryan Vogelsong vs. Anibal Sanchez in Game Three, and Matt Cain vs. Max Scherzer in Game Four. This brings us to today’s poll:

Links:

  • We start with the AP news story on Game Two, with all of the details revealed in AP Style.
  • Doug Fister took a hit and kept on going.
  • At the back-in-action Mariners blog at The News Tribune, there is a brief post with a quality photo of Luis Jimenez.
  • Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan won a Fielding Bible award, which is awarded to one player at each position in the majors for defensive excellence. Link includes a highlight reel video.
  • Unsurprising fact: after you hit three home runs in one World Series game, it’s easy to convince your favorite restaurant to re-open its kitchen.
  • From Baseball America’s minor league transactions and other sources, two former Rainiers catchers were designated for assignment by MLB teams this week: Jeff Clement and Rob Johnson. You know what’s funny? The Rainiers could use Rob Johnson in 2013 – they need a veteran catcher.
  • In the PCL, the New York Mets front office brass made their first visit to new Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas. If I was Sandy Alderson I would make monthly trips to “evaluate the Triple-A club.”
  • On twitter, Oakland A’s beat writer Susan Slusser reported that Sacramento manager Darren Bush has been promoted to A’s bullpen coach. That is the first time I have ever heard of a Triple-A manager becoming a Major League bullpen coach. A weird one, for sure, but congrats to Bush.

Have a great weekend!


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