M’s Acquire Three Potential Tacoma Players For 2019

November 15, 2018

It has been a wild and unpleasant week in Mariners news, as you surely know if you are a reader of this blog, but we actually have quite a few on-the-field baseball tidbits to pass along so let’s focus on those instead.

The Mariners have started working on their 2019 depth, which means they are acquiring players for the Tacoma roster. Lets get to those players and the rest of the links right now.

  • The Mariners signed minor league free agent Dylan Moore to a major league contract, adding him to the 40-man roster. Moore was in the Brewers system; he played a four-game series at Cheney Stadium in early August while with Colorado Springs. In that series he hit leadoff and played third base for the Sky Sox. It looks like he’ll compete for a major league utility role in spring training, and if that doesn’t work out we’ll have him in Tacoma. Here are his career stats.
  • The priceless Mariners Minors twitter account reports that the team signed catcher Austin Nola to a minor league contract. The brother of Phillies ace pitcher Aaron Nola, Austin caught for New Orleans last year after converting from the infield in 2017. He was famous in New Orleans for (almost) wearing a jersey with his name on the front and the back.
  • Mariners Minors also reports that the team signed second baseman Tim Lopes, who was originally a Mariners draft pick that got traded to Toronto in 2017. He hit .277 with 18 stolen bases (but without much power) in the pitcher-friendly International League last year – here are his career stats. He’s only 24 years old and there might be some upside here.
  • From Baseball America’s latest Minor League Transactions update, we learn that the M’s have re-signed reliever Ryan Garton on a minor league deal. Garton is a good reliever in the PCL when healthy, and he has had some successful stints in the majors as well.
  • The Rule 5 Draft is less than a month away, and the Mariners have to consider protecting eligible minor leaguers on the 40-man roster. The most likely additions according to USS Mariner are anticipated 2019 Tacoma outfielder Braden Bishop and reliever Art Warren, with catcher Joe DeCarlo a possibility.
  • Greg Johns has a story on potential replacements for Mike Zunino behind the plate.
  • USS Mariner has more on the Zunino trade and the latest developments surrounding it.
  • Mariners third base coach Scott Brosius decided not to return in 2019. We wish the former Tacoma Rainiers hitting coach the best in his next endeavour.
  • The M’s are hiring new coaches Tim Laker and Perry Hill.
  • Former Rainiers reliever Mark Lowe is attempting a comeback. He did not play in 2018.
  • Larry Stone caught up with former Mariners manager Lou Piniella, who finds himself on the Hall of Fame ballot in the latest incarnation of what we used to call the Veteran’s Committee. Hall expert Jay Jaffe looks at his candidacy (along with that of one of his former employers).
  • Forbes reports that T-Mobile has secured the new naming rights to (formerly) Safeco Field. The Mariners say we are a few weeks away from an official announcement.
  • Shoreline native Blake Snell won the AL Cy Young Award. The Everett Herald caught up with his high school coach in a fun story.
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First Big Trade: Zunino To Tampa

November 8, 2018

The Mariners made their first major roster move of the offseason this morning, sending catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Tampa in exchange for outfielder Mallex Smith.

There were prospects in the deal, too. Tampa received left-handed pitcher Michael Plassmeyer, and the Mariners received Class-A outfielder Jake Fraley.

It’s difficult to picture the Mariners without Zunino, but here we are. He has been through many ups and downs during his six years as the Mariners erstwhile starting catcher, and has had trips to Tacoma during five of the last six seasons.

A great guy, Zunino has never been bitter or moody in the clubhouse during his numerous stints with the Rainiers, trying to fix his swing. He’s a team leader and a great defensive catcher. The organization is going to miss that aspect of his game.

Mallex Smith figures to slot in to center field. He’s a speedster, a good defensive player, and he’s coming off his best offensive season at age 25.

As for the prospect, look for Fraley to open the season at Double-A Arkansas – we’ll see him in Tacoma down the road. He was a second round draft pick out of LSU in 2016, had an injury-filled 2017 season, and then got it going in the second half last year at Advanced Class-A. He hit .347 for Charlotte, not much power, reportedly plays good defense. He was a little old for the level (23 last year) because injuries wiped out most of 2017 and the first half of his 2018 season.

The Mariners now have a desperate need for a catcher. David Freitas is the only one on the 40-man roster. The two catchers who finished the year in Triple-A are gone: Cameron Rupp is now a free agent, and Garrett Kennedy was released after the season. There isn’t anyone in the organization ready to play in the big leagues, other than Freitas.

This was just the first step for Seattle. There will be many more.

Links:


M’s Gear Up For Winter Moves

November 7, 2018

There has been a rumble of Seattle Mariners rumors spread around the internet recently, although not much has really happened yet.

The M’s have been clearing out space on the 40-man roster, getting ready for what will surely be a busy offseason.

Rumors from the national baseball writers (via Twitter) say that Jerry Dipoto has made it known that almost everybody on the team is available for trade – if it makes sense for the Mariners. Nothing new here; this is how Dipoto operates.

The major league General Managers Meetings are going on this week, so early trades start to develop during this time. We’ll see if Jerry has anything up his sleeve.

About a week’s worth of recent Mariners moves and other moves involving former Rainiers players are in the links below.

Baseball America published its annual list of minor league free agents, sorted by the organization they finished the season with. The entire list of over 500 players is right here. Below are the Mariners:

Seattle Mariners (23)
RHP: Jheyson Caraballo (R), Jordan Desguin (Hi A), Bryan Evans (AAA), Trevor Frank (AA), Ashton Goudeau (AA), Tyler Higgins (AAA), Hisashi Iwakuma (AAA), Johendi Jiminian (AA), Jeffeson Medina (Hi A), Williams Perez (AA)
LHP: David Rollins (AAA), Marc Rzepczynski (AAA), Daniel Schlereth (AAA)
C: Alexander Capriata (AAA), Cameron Rupp (AAA), Ryan Scott (AA)
2B: Danny Muno (AAA)
3B: Seth Mejias-Brean (AAA)
SS: Yonathan Mendoza (AA)
OF: Beau Amaral (AA), Andrew Aplin (AAA), Cameron Perkins (AAA), Dario Pizzano (AA)

Fifteen of these guys played for Tacoma in 2018. In a new twist, one of them has signed on with the Rainiers as a front office employee: Danny Muno joined the Rainiers sales team. More on this later.

Keep in mind that the Mariners could re-sign any of these players to a minor league contract, so don’t be alarmed if one of your favorite players is on the list. There are several I’d like to see back in 2019.

Links:

  • Here’s Ryan Divish’s story on the Mariners offseason: who has trade value, and who doesn’t. In the story, Divish reports that another M’s – Tampa trade has been discussed, this time involving Mike Zunino.
  • The M’s made another of their non-traditional hires, naming Paul Davis major league pitching coach (replacing Mel Stottlemyre Jr.). Read about him here.
  • Erasmo Ramirez and Nick Vincent declared free agency, and Chris Herrmann was claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros. The Seattle Times has the story.
  • At USS Mariner, marc w riffed on the latest Mariners news. He makes an interesting point about going the other way, and diving into the great free agent class.
  • Fangraphs has a story on the Mariners possible – but not likely – tear down.
  • The Mariners announced some shuffling and promotions in the Baseball Operations department.
  • Seattle reportedly inked Marco Gonzales to a two-year deal in exchange for him dropping an ongoing service time grievance he had filed against the St. Louis Cardinals prior to being traded to the Mariners.
  • Chris Woodward – shortstop of the 2010 PCL Champion Tacoma Rainiers – was named manager of the Texas Rangers. Congratulations, Chris!
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Jeremy Reed was hired as the Los Angeles Angels major league hitting coach. Reed played all or parts of three seasons for Tacoma (2004, 2007-2008) and had a career .309 batting average here.
  • In the PCL, progress continues on the new ballpark in Wichita, Kansas. They are in line for a 2020 opening, with the New Orleans franchise expected to move there.

Recalling Willie McCovey’s Days In Tacoma

November 1, 2018

Willie McCovey – one of three Hall of Famers to play for the original Tacoma Giants of the 1960s – passed away yesterday at the age of 80.

A member of the 500 Home Run Club when it was much more elite than it is today, McCovey hit 521 career homers – 469 of them in a San Francisco Giants uniform – and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. He drew a large number of walks and posted high on-base percentages during a time in which that stat wasn’t even calculated.

Over the years I have wondered about Willie McCovey’s time in Tacoma – what was he like, how did he handle it? He did not play for Tacoma in the usual way. He wasn’t supposed to be here.

1959: Willie McCovey wins the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

1960: mired in a “sophomore slump,” Willie McCovey gets optioned to Tacoma.

Tacoma built Cheney Stadium in 1960 and welcomed Triple-A baseball to the city in April. It was an exciting time, the community jumped on board and backed the team, Juan Marichal was Tacoma’s ace and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. McCovey was in the big leagues and there was no thought that he might play for Tacoma.

After hitting .354 with an 1.085 OPS while winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1959, McCovey was struggling in 1960. He started out the season just fine, but after a 36-game stretch in which he hit just .198, McCovey became the first player to be sent to Tacoma for more seasoning. He needed to work on his hitting, and break out of his slump. With that, Willie McCovey became the first major league household name to play for Tacoma in the modern era.

McCovey could have been the first “bitter Triple-A guy” in Tacoma baseball history, but teammate Orlando Cepeda recalls it differently in this Associated Press obituary, saying that McCovey did not complain when he was sent down.

Wearing uniform No. 21 – the same one that Marichal had worn prior to his call-up three weeks earlier – McCovey made his Tacoma Giants debut on July 18, 1960. Over 4,000 fans attended a Monday night game against Portland – and saw the Beavers intentionally walk him twice.

He needed three weeks to get right. Jacob Jordan’s book Six Seasons – A History of the Tacoma Giants 1960-1965 details McCovey’s action on the field for the Tacoma Giants – all of which came at Cheney Stadium, since McCovey joined the team at the start of a 21-game homestand.

According to Jordan’s research, McCovey touched the giant wall in center field for a triple early in his stay. A few days later during a Sunday doubleheader against Sacramento, McCovey “rocketed a game-winning home run way up on Tightwad Hill” (that’s where the Foss tennis courts are today; tightwads people used to sit up there and watch the games for free).

On July 31st McCovey went bonkers in a doubleheader against Vancouver, hitting a triple and a game-winning homer in the opener, and another home run in the nightcap, and that was that: the San Francisco Giants recalled him on August 1st and McCovey’s time as a member of the Tacoma Giants was over. His final stats for Tacoma: 17 games, .286 average (18 hits in 63 at-bats), three home runs, two triples and one double, and 16 runs batted in.

He would come back, but only for exhibition games. The San Francisco Giants annually played an exhibition game at Cheney Stadium on an off day in the major league schedule (can you imagine that today?). Tacoma Giants fans would see McCovey, Willie Mays, Cepeda and others once a year.

Health problems over the last decade made travel difficult for McCovey. He regularly attended San Francisco Giants games close to his home, but he rarely branched out to other parts of the baseball world. It would have been fun to interview him about his time in Tacoma, but the opportunity never arose.

Links:


Edgar Changes Roles, First 2019 Rainiers Moves Made

October 31, 2018

We got some big news from the Mariners yesterday, who announced that hopeful Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez is stepping down from his role as the team’s hitting coach.

Saying that he wants more time with his family, Edgar is taking a new role as an organization-wide hitting adviser. This will allow him to spend some time with his family during the season.

The new role includes work with minor league prospects, so there is a chance that Edgar will visit Tacoma to work with some of the Rainiers hitters during the season.

Now the Mariners need both a hitting coach and a pitching coach at the major league level. I’m curious to see if either of the Rainiers coaches – hitting coach David Berg and pitching coach Lance Painter – will get consideration.

Today the Mariners announced that they have claimed outfielder John Andreoli off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles, adding him to their 40-man roster.

Andreoli spent most of the 2018 season with Tacoma, hitting .287 with a .397 on-base percentage and 19 stolen bases. He was called up by the Mariners in May and made his major league debut, getting a couple of brief looks in the big leagues.

In August the M’s designated him for assignment, and Baltimore claimed him off waivers and he spent the remainder of the season in the big leagues with the Orioles.

Now the M’s have re-claimed him. Andreoli has two option years remaining, so if he holds his spot on the 40-man roster all winter he becomes a likely member of the 2019 Rainiers.

The team also announced that they are adding Double-A first baseman Joey Curletta to the 40-man roster, preventing him from becoming a minor league free agent.

Curletta won the Texas League Player of the Year award by hitting .282 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI for Arkansas. He now has the lead to become your 2019 Tacoma Rainiers first baseman, in what would be his first Triple-A season. His power is needed – the Rainiers lacked home run power in 2018, especially during the times when Dan Vogelbach was in the big leagues.

The World Series finished over the weekend, with the Boston Red Sox defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, four games to one. Congratulations to the Red Sox, and the two former Rainiers players on their coaching staff who will now receive gaudy rings: Andy Barkett and Ramon Vazquez.

On the other hand, former Rainiers infielder Chris Taylor has now been on the losing side of the World Series two straight years with the Dodgers. Reaching and playing in the World Series must be an incredible experience, but losing it twice in a row has got to hurt.

With the postseason over, the Hot Stove League begins. We’ll start to hear about free agent signings next week. The annual General Managers Meetings are soon, and Baseball’s Winter Meetings begin in six weeks.

The lead story of the offseason surrounds the two young superstar free agents: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Where they land will be fun to follow – a couple of teams have spent the last few seasons clearing payroll to make aggressive plays for these guys.

Locally, we’ll wait and see what the Mariners have planned. They are in a weird spot, which is the topic of the third link down below.

Links:


Quietly, Triple-A Free Agency Begins

October 17, 2018

We haven’t had any news to write about here on the blog the last two weeks, as all is quiet in baseball while the major league playoffs continue.

The current League Championship Series have been entertaining and close, which is nice to see after a (mostly) drama-free round in the Division Series. My sure-to-be-wrong playoff predictions might be mistitled this year, as I actually got three of the four LCS teams correct, and I’m drawing live on my World Series pick.

As soon as the World Series ends, we’ll be diving right into the free agency period and the roster reshaping that we expect Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto to do with both the major league team, and our team in Tacoma.

Many of the players who finished the season with the Rainiers are eligible to become minor league free agents, and some have officially declared. So far, I can find records of pitchers Ross Detwiler, Christian Bergman, Mike Morin and infielder Zach Vincej choosing free agency.

These players can still come back. Christian Bergman finished the 2017 season with Tacoma, declared free agency, looked around for a while, and ultimately signed back with the Mariners and was a valuable member of the organization in 2018.

Another transaction that has been reported: the organization released catcher Garrett Kennedy. Kennedy was the Rainiers surprise opening day catcher last year, and he spent quite a bit of the season with the club appearing in 31 games.

We’ll follow all of the minor league moves that impact the Tacoma Rainiers here on the blog.

A friend called it quits earlier this week, as Bob Robertson retired from Washington State football broadcasts on Monday. I’m sure this was a difficult decision for my Sunday partner, who has been the voice of WSU football for 52 years. More in the first link below, which has a secret code buried in it just for fun.

Links:


Former Rainiers On Postseason Rosters & Some Terrible Predictions

October 5, 2018

It’s a baseball smorgasboard today, with four straight major league playoff games being televised with very little overlap.

With that, let’s find out who the former Rainiers players are in the postseason this year – and then I’ll make my annual incorrect predictions.

First off, there are not many former Tacoma players on the postseason rosters this year. To really load up on ex-Rainiers, we need one of Jerry Dipoto’s trading buddies to make the playoffs – but both Tampa and Arizona came up short.

American League

Boston Red Sox: no active players have Tacoma ties. Two ex-Rainiers are on the coaching staff: Andy Barkett and Ramon Vazquez.

Cleveland Indians: the bullpen includes Oliver Perez, the veteran lefty who re-started his career as a reliever with the Rainiers in 2012. Also in the bullpen: sidearming Adam Cimber, who never pitched for Tacoma but is a graduate of Puyallup High School (Class of 2009). Ex-Rainiers pitchers from long ago Brian Sweeney and Scott Atchison are both on the Indians coaching staff.

Houston Astros: there are no former Rainiers on the active roster, but if you come to Cheney Stadium a lot you have probably seen about half their team suit up for Fresno on the visiting side. Here’s a deep pull for you: first base coach Alex Cintron played brifly for Tacoma in 2009.

New York Yankees: another team with no ex-Rainiers on the roster. Bench coach Josh Bard caught for the Rainiers toward the end of his career, in 2010 and 2011.

National League

Atlanta Braves: ageless catcher Rene Rivera is on the playoff roster. He played for Tacoma parts of three seasons: 2004 to 2006. The coaching staff includes 2010 Tacoma interim manager (and PCL Championship winner) Jose Castro, former Tacoma Tigers infielder Walt Weiss, and trivia question answer* Jose Yepez who caught for the Rainiers in 2010 and 2011.

Colorado Rockies: like the Astros, the Rockies don’t have any former Tacoma players but do have a lot of familiar names from the opposing roster when Albuquerque has been in town the last few years.

Los Angeles Dodgers: super utility man Chris Taylor played for Tacoma extensively from 2014 to 2016. Third base coach Chris Woodward was a regular infielder for the Rainiers in 2009 and 2010.

Milwaukee Brewers: catcher Erik Kratz was with Tacoma briefly in 2015.

That’s it, that’s all we’ve got. Four active ex-Rainiers players, one local guy, and ten coaches.

Now for the predictions, which are always wrong, so don’t even bother reading the next part. Why am I even typing them? I could be taking a nap right now. Anyway, here we go.

NL Division Series: Braves over Dodgers in five games, and Brewers over Rockies in four.

AL Division Series: Astros beat Indians in four, and Red Sox defeat Yankees in four.

NL Championship Series: Brewers take it over the Braves in six games.

AL Championship Series: Red Sox edge Astros in seven

World Series: Red Sox 4, Brewers 1.

So that’s not going to happen.

* Jose Yepez was called up by the Seattle Mariners and spent a few days in the big leagues without ever appearing in a game. The only other Rainiers player in the last twenty years to do this was pitcher Ryne Harper in 2017.