Ohtani – Oh, No!

December 8, 2017

Well, that’s a bummer.

After all of the Mariners efforts, Japanese star Shohei Ohtani decided to sign with the division rival Los Angeles Angels. He’ll play alongside Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and Albert Pujols in a star-studded lineup.

This has got to be a crushing blow to Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners, who made it clear from the start that Ohtani was their No. 1 priority. The need for a high-quality starting pitcher continues for Seattle.

Dipoto did improve the lineup on Thursday, trading three prospects to the Marlins in exchange for two-time all-star Dee Gordon. A former Gold Glove winner at second base, Gordon will be moved to center field where the Mariners believe his blazing speed will become a defensive asset.

In the attempt to sign Ohtani, the Mariners acquired $3.5 million in International Signing Cap money. They have until June 15th to spend it, if they choose. The cap space doesn’t carry over to next year, but they don’t have to spend it – heck, Dipoto might trade it away. The available players are essentially a picked-over group of teenagers from the Dominican and Venezuela, and a Cuban defector of some intrigue named Julio Pablo Martinez. There is the group players who were recently granted free agency in the Atlanta Braves scandal, but the top prospects among them have already signed with other teams.

The Winter Meetings officially start on Monday, but action will begin on Sunday as teams land in Orlando. I expect a lot of news this year, due to the slow start to free agency – and now we may have an enraged Dipoto making a dozen transactions in three days!

A couple of Rainiers-related notes: the Mariners claimed reliever Mike Morin off waivers today. He’s been an up-and-down guy with the Angels and Salt Lake the last couple of seasons. I’m not sure if he has an option year remaining.

On his podcast yesterday, Dipoto said that the Mariners are going to look at recently acquired lefty Sam Moll as a starting pitcher in spring training. Moll was a starter in college but was quickly converted to relief by the Rockies once his pro career began. We’ll tentatively pencil Moll into the Tacoma rotation.

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M’s Make Push For Ohtani

December 6, 2017

The Seattle Mariners are making their run at Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani this week, hoping to score a huge win before the Winter Meetings get underway on Monday.

Ohtani narrowed his list of teams down to seven, and the M’s made the cut. Seattle’s contingent had its meeting with Ohtani in Los Angeles yesterday, making the big recruiting push.

Reportedly Ohtani meets with his final team today, and then… I don’t know what happens next. He might visit two or three of the cities? There is a deadline for him to sign, which I believe is December 23. It’s possible he could make a snap decision before this week is complete.

Personally, I feel this is going to come down to Mariners vs. Padres. The Padres are no joke as a contender, as revealed in this story.

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Mariners Add Triple-A Reliever

December 1, 2017

A little player news as the industry prepares for the Winter Meetings, which begin on December 10th.

The Mariners have claimed left-handed reliever Sam Moll off waivers.

Moll spent the last two seasons pitching for Albuquerque, the Colorado Rockies affiliate. A 5-foot-10 lefty with a low-90s fastball, Moll pitched in 92 PCL games over the past two seasons, posting a 4.24 ERA (remember, that’s a pretty good ERA in the thin air of Albuquerque.

The Rockies third round draft pick in 2013 out of the University of Memphis, Moll has been used as a one-inning reliever over the last two seasons.

Moll is now on the Mariners 40-man roster (which still has three open spots). He does have options remaining, so he can be freely sent to Tacoma during the 2018 season.

It’s a bullpen depth move which should help the Rainiers, with the possibility that the 25-year-old can make improvements to become a major league contributor.

With regards to our previous post on Hisashi Iwakuma, today Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto provided some clarity on his health during an interview with 950-KJR.

Dipoto said Iwakuma, who had shoulder surgery in late September, won’t be ready until late May or early June.

So the timeline is bumped back a couple of months, but we could still see him in Tacoma this season.

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Next week things should start to get interesting in terms of offseason news. The Ohtani recruitment begins, and free agents will begin to sign. It’s been so quiet that the Winter Meetings could really be crazy this year.


Iwakuma To The Rainiers? It’s Possible.

November 28, 2017

The Mariners announced on Monday that they have re-signed free agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma to a minor league contract, with an invitation to major league spring training.

Iwakuma was limited to just six major league starts last year because of a shoulder injury which eventually required surgery in late September. All we know about his health at this point is that he told the Japanese media he hopes to be ready for the start of the coming season.

This deal is a smart one for the Mariners, who will be able to see how Iwakuma looks once he’s able to pitch again, and determine if he can help the major league club without having to pay out a lot of guaranteed money.

He’s always been effective when on the mound for Seattle. Iwakuma turns 37-years-old this April, and he has a lifetime major league record of 63-39 with a 3.42 ERA. He doesn’t rely on velocity to get hitters out, so his chances of rebounding from shoulder surgery seem a little better than most.

This is a minor league contract, so there is a chance Iwakuma pitches for the Rainiers next year. The logical way that would happen: if he’s still rebuilding arm strength by the time the season starts, and isn’t quite ready for the majors but looks promising during spring training. In that scenario, you could picture Iwakuma in the Rainiers rotation for a few turns at the beginning of the season.

On the other hand, if a healthy Iwakuma pitches poorly in spring training and doesn’t look like he’ll help the big club in 2018, I doubt he’ll pitch for Tacoma.

Is it the end of the line for Iwakuma, or can he pull off a comeback? It will be something to keep an eye on in March.

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Mariners Prospects Shine In Fall League

November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s clean up some recent Mariners news before we clean our plates.

The Arizona Fall League ended earlier this week, and a Mariners prospect was one of the top performers in the circuit.

Outfielder/first baseman Eric Filia hit up a storm in the desert, batting .408 with a .483 on-base percentage while slugging .605. He reached base safely in all 23 games he played in, and finished runner-up to Atlanta Braves mega prospect Ronald Acuna for league MVP.

Filia hits for contact, draws walks, and has doubles power. He’s a career .337 hitter in the low minors, and is expected to open the 2018 season with Double-A Arkansas.

As an older prospect – Filia has a very unique background, which brought him to professional baseball late (read about it here) – the Mariners may move Filia to Triple-A quickly next year if he hits well early in the season at Arkansas. Assuming he isn’t traded for a relief pitcher during the offseason.

Max Povse pitched well in the Arizona Fall League after returning to his natural role as a starting pitcher.

His final numbers don’t jump off the screen – 1-2 with a 4.61 ERA in six starts – but he improved as the season went on, culminating with a six inning, one run start in his final outing.

Another Mariner in the Arizona Fall League who had a big showing was reliever Art Warren.

A right-hander who turns 25 in March, Warren did not allow a run in nine appearances, covering 11 innings. He struck out 12 and walked four, and allowed only five hits.

Warren spent all of last season at Class-A Modesto, but he could be a quick climber through the upper levels of the farm system in 2018.

As expected, the Mariners did not protect any Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects prior to the deadline. This is due to a lack of young talent in the upper levels of the farm system, a situation created by all of the trades of prospects for major league and Triple-A players over the last two years.

Speedy outfielder Ian Miller was the most likely candidate to be protected, but the Mariners elected to keep a handful 40-man roster spots open for waiver claims and free agent signings. We’ll have to wait and see if Miller gets selected in the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings next month.

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It’s Trading Season. Guess Who Went First?

November 16, 2017

It’s always trading season for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who made the first deal of the GM Meetings last night, and then followed it up with another trade this morning.

The first deal filled the Mariners hole at first base. Seattle acquired Ryon Healy from the Oakland A’s, giving up former Rainiers reliever Emilio Pagan and infield prospect Alexander Campos.

Healy replaces Danny Valencia and Yonder Alonso in the Mariners lineup. Both of those first baseman are currently free agents – and interestingly, both former Oakland A’s players. The Mariners last three first basemen have all been acquired from Oakland. Current A’s first baseman Matt Olson should start shopping for a condo in Seattle.

Healy is young and has power, hitting .271 with 25 homers this year. He has less than two years of major league time and can’t become a free agent until 2023.

You know about Pagan, who broke into the majors this season and fared quite well as a rookie. He looks like he could have a nice major league career and we wish him the best with the A’s.

Campos is a wild card – he hasn’t even landed on U.S. soil yet. The 17-year-old hit .290 in the Dominican Summer League this year.

This morning, the M’s traded hard-throwing reliever Thyago Vieira to the Chicago White Sox for $500,000 in international slot money, which is kind of confusing but might be quite meaningful.

Teams are only allowed to spend X-amount of money each year on international players who are under the age of 25. The amount is different from team to team, depending on standings and market size, etc. There are tough penalties for spending over the allotment.

Normally this international money is spent on teenage kids from the Dominican and Venezuela, or one of the Cuban players who manages to get out. But there is a big fish in this particular ocean right now: Shohei Ohtani, who is expected to become available next week.

Ohtani’s signing bonus is going to come from this pool of money. According to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, today’s trade increased the Mariners cap that they can pay Ohtani to $1,557,500.

If the Mariners are unable to successfully recruit Ohtani, they can spend the money on talented teenagers from the Dominican and Venezuela – or maybe Brazil, where they once found Thyago Vieira.

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  • The Seattle Times has stories on the two trades: the Ryon Healy deal is right here, and you can read about the Thyago Vieira trade here.
  • The Mariners have added to the major league coaching staff, hiring former pitcher Jim Brower as Assistant Coach. It’s interesting that they hired a pitching coach in this role when it went to a hitting-oriented coach (Scott Brosius) last year.
  • Seattle is going to sign some pitchers who are currently minor league free agents. Fangraphs has notes on the top ten available pitchers. I like No. 2 on the list a lot – he looked really good against the Rainiers.
  • The Pacific Coast League released the entire 2018 schedule, with all game times, in this .pdf file because that is exactly what you need on November 16th. We’ll have some complaints comments about the new schedule in a future blog post.

 


Mariners Add Veteran Outfielder On Triple-A Deal

November 14, 2017

A SB Nation reporter says that the Mariners have signed outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to a minor league contract – much to the chagrin of our PR guy Brett, who will have to spell that all of the time.

Nieuwenhuis has played all or parts of six major league seasons, with the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers. He’s been a reserve outfielder in the majors. He has some power and is a good defensive player, but he hits for a low average and strikes out a lot. In recent seasons he has been drawing a lot of walks, helping his OBP and bringing extra value.

In the Pacific Coast League, Nieuwenhuis has played for both Las Vegas (2013-15) and Colorado Springs (2017).

This year the 30-year-old Nieuwenhuis appeared in 84 games for Colorado Springs, hitting .244 with a .366 on-base percentage. He hit four home runs in 205 at-bats, which was a surprisingly low total for him (he hit 13 homers in the majors for Milwaukee in 2016, in 335 at-bats).

I suspect the Mariners appreciate the fact that Nieuwenhuis can play all three outfield positions, as well as his major league experience. Nieuwenhuis will go to spring training and compete for the fourth or fifth outfielder spot, with a season-opening assignment in Tacoma a strong possibility.

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