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!