Winter Meetings Coming

November 30, 2015

We’re back from Thanksgiving – I hope you had a good one – and next up on the offseason baseball calendar is the Winter Meetings, which begin this weekend in Nashville.

Trader Jerry Dipoto apparently took the holiday weekend off, but the Mariners figure to be active at the meetings as they continue to try to revamp the club.

There was little in the way of baseball news over Thanksgiving weekend. I did, however, find a handful of interesting stories to link.


  • Baseball America’s minor league transactions updates us on several ex-Rainiers players, including: Carlos Rivero signed with Arizona/Reno, Adam Moore is back with Cleveland/Columbus, Humberto Quintero inked with Toronto/Buffalo, Lucas Luetge signed with the Angels/Salt Lake, and the Mariners released some players including 2015 Rainiers lefthander Cam Hobson.
  • The owner of the New Orleans Zephyrs wants to bring minor league baseball to Cuba (no, he’s not moving the Zephyrs there).
  • Minor league home run king Mike Hessman announced he is retiring from playing – and moving directly to coaching. An unbelievable career: 433 minor league home runs, with 323 coming at the Triple-A level.
  • Baseball American announced its Minor League Manager of the Year and the winner was Fresno’s Tony DeFrancesco.
  • Jim Caple caught up with the ultra-creative minor league operator Mike Veeck.

Could be a quiet week here on the blog – although that will change when the baseball world overtakes the Opryland Hotel this weekend.


M’s Moves & Rainiers Winter Updates

November 25, 2015

It’s Thanksgiving eve and Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is continuing to makes changes to the Seattle Mariners roster.

Yesterday he signed veteran catcher Chris Iannetta – yet another player with a track record of some success, but who is coming off a poor season. It’s a one-year deal.

(radio geek interlude: it’s pronounced “eye-ah-netta”).

Iannetta hit just .188 for the Angels last year, but he has been a much more productive player than that over the course of his career. He’s always drawn a lot of walks (something the Mariners haven’t been doing lately) and shown a bit of power.

The Mariners didn’t get any offensive production from the catcher position last year, so help was needed. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Dipoto adds another one.

On Tuesday night more rumors swirled that Dipoto is working to try to acquire toolsy young outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins. He’s another player coming off a down year, but a player with a lot of potential. For more on that, see the links below.

Former first round draft pick Danny Hultzen cleared waivers and had his contract outrighted to Tacoma.

He’s still battling shoulder issues, of course. But because he cleared waivers, my understanding is that he now has two full seasons left before he becomes a free agent – which means that the he and the Mariners have plenty of time to work through the shoulder rehabilitation and see if he can get it going again.

This is good news for the M’s, who have invested a lot of time and money in Hultzen.

Here’s a quick winter ball update on some Rainiers players:

First off, Tacoma manager Pat Listach has his Estrellas club in the Dominican League in second place, with a 17-13 record. They are 1.5 games out of first.

D.J. Peterson finished the Arizona Fall League with a .209 average. He had three homers and 12 RBI in 67 at-bats, with a .709 OPS.

Stefen Romero appeared in four games in Venezuela in October, going 3-for-15 with a homer. I’m not sure if he’s been injured or went home.

After being added to the 40-man roster, Patrick Kivlehan reported to the Dominican League, appearing in two games this week.

Starting pitcher Stephen Landazuri is getting good results in the Mexican League, where he is 4-1, 3.43 with 40 strikeouts and seven walks in 39 IP. He struggled in his first Triple-A experience last season but could get another shot with the Rainiers in 2016.

Tyler Olson has been working as a starter in the Dominican. He’s 0-2, 5.91 in six starts – I wonder if the Mariners will use him as a starter in spring training.


Let’s have a long, festive weekend and report back on Monday.

Monday Notes & Moves

November 23, 2015

We’ve got a few tidbits today:

1) The Mariners added two more coaches: first base coach Casey Candaele and bullpen coach Mike Hampton.

Both are former Houston Astros players who new manager Scott Servais is familiar with. Servais clearly had a lot of say in choosing his coaching staff – something previous manager Lloyd McClendon did not have.

Ryan Divish has a blog post on the hires.

2) Rainiers first baseman Ji-Man Choi can no longer be described as “Rainiers first baseman.” The switch-hitter has reportedly signed a minor league free agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles. Here is the news story out of Baltimore on the signing.

3) Lloyd McClendon is going back to Triple-A. He’s been hired to manage the Toledo Mud Hens – the Detroit Tigers affiliate.

4) In the PCL, the Nashville Sounds announced their 2016 coaching staff, including the return of manager Steve Scarsone. Former Tacoma Tigers reliever Rick Rodriguez is the pitching coach.

5) We’ve got an update on Reese McGuire, the catcher from Puyallup who the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted in the first round in 2013.

That’s it for today – our next scheduled update is Wednesday.

Mariners Set 40-Man

November 20, 2015

The Mariners made a few moves on Friday morning to set the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft, which is coming up next month at the Winter Meetings.

First they traded outfielder Ramon Flores to the Milwaukee Brewers for infielder Luis Sardinas.

Flores played for Tacoma in August. Acquired from the Yankees in the Dustin Ackley deal, Flores hit the cover off the ball for two weeks before severely breaking his ankle in the outfield at Cheney Stadium. Flores is still recovering from that injury, and he’s out of minor league options so it seemed the M’s weren’t going to be able to use him.

Sardinas is a good glove/light hitting shortstop who can also play second and third. A 22-year-old switch-hitter, Sardinas hit .282 for Colorado Springs in 2015. He has one option year left, so he’s good infield depth for 2016.

The team elected to protect newly acquired outfielder Boog Powell and cornerman Patrick Kivlehan. Both were added to the 40-man roster, and at this point we expect to see both of them in Tacoma in April.

Kivlehan tied for the Rainiers team lead with 22 home runs last season. He hit .256 and drove in 73 runs while playing first base, third base, and all three outfield positions.

Powell was acquired from Tampa in the six-player trade that sent Brad Miller to the Rays for pitcher Nate Karns, among others. Powell is supposed to be a high on-base percentage center field prospect.

The M’s had to clear one spot on the 40-man and they chose to designate Danny Hultzen for assignment. Hultzen is out of options because he was signed to a major league contract after being drafted out of Virginia in 2011 – he must make a big league club in 2016, or be exposed to waivers. The Mariners are hoping nobody claims him since he’s had a litany of shoulder problems and has barely pitched in the last three years.

They decided not to protect Jabari Blash, who I wrote about yesterday. Don’t be surprised if a team with a power shortage selects Blash in the Rule 5 Draft.


  • Ryan Divish has a post on the roster moves.
  • Longtime Mariners team doctor Larry Pedegana has passed away.
  • The MVP awards were announced: American League winner Josh Donaldson played in the PCL for Sacramento in 2010, 2011, and 2012 (his PCL batting averages, in order: .238, .261, .335), and he appeared in numerous games at Cheney Stadium. National League winner Bryce Harper never played in the PCL.
  • Radio Guy talk: if you are a young one trying to break in, the Mariners Double-A Jackson club is hiring a No. 2 broadcaster.
  • It’s Big Game Week, and I’m obviously a huge Cal fan. Please enjoy one of the greatest finishes in football history along with the iconic radio call. Sorry not sorry, Elway.

Have a great weekend and Go Bears!

Protection Day

November 19, 2015

Friday is the deadline for the Mariners to set their 40-man major league roster, in order to protect players from being swiped in the Rule 5 Draft.

This is always an interesting decision process. Players who were drafted out of college in 2012 (or earlier) or high school/international signings from 2011 (or earlier) are the player pool we are looking at.

If a player who qualifies is not on the 40-man, he can be drafted by any of the other 29 teams as long as that team keeps him on its active major league 25-man roster for the entire 2016 season.

When looking at the list of players who would be eligible to be selected, the Mariners ask themselves two questions: 1) will this player help us in the majors in the near future, and 2) if we don’t protect this player, will other teams be tempted to draft him?

To my eyes the most interesting Rainiers player in this situation is outfielder Jabari Blash.

This is not Blash’s first time in this spot: he was available to be drafted in the Rule 5 last year, and nobody took him.

But that was before Blash’s remarkable 2015 season.

Blash tied for second in all of minor league baseball with 32 home runs in 2015. He did this while batting .271 with a .370 on-base percentage. Twenty-two of his 32 home runs came after a promotion to Triple-A in early June. He slugged .640 in Triple-A.

For those of you who came to the games, you probably saw him go deep – and when Blash goes deep, there is usually no question about it. He hits long ones. I wish we had some Home Run Tracker numbers with estimated distances of his homers, but we don’t have that technology in the minor leagues.

Jabari turned 26-years-old on July 4th, so he’s a bit of an older prospect. That’s part of the internal discussion when it comes to determining if the Mariners will protect him.

During any PCL season I speak with a lot of scouts for opposing teams, and it’s always interesting to get their opinions.

While Blash was launching all of those tape measure dingers last season, I asked quite a few different scouts what they thought of him. Opinions were all across the map, from “he’ll start for a few seasons in the big leagues,” to “will never get an MLB plate appearance,” to “he’s going to make a lot of Yen,” to “Triple-A lifer,” and even a few “I don’t knows.”

(It’s always rare when a scout says “I don’t know” since having an opinion is the very essence of their job)

So, will the Mariners protect Blash tomorrow?

It all depends on if the new front office thinks he may help the big league club in 2016. We’ll find out soon enough.

Jabari Blash

Looks like a pop-up, but it probably carried over the fence.


Jake Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel won the Cy Young Awards. Arrieta made just seven PCL starts for Iowa in 2013, but one of them was a dominant outing at Cheney Stadium: five shutout innings of two-hit ball, with 11 strikeouts on August 4. Keuchel made 24 PCL starts for Oklahoma City but never faced Tacoma. Keuchel did have a classic PCL-style Triple-A debut: pitching in Las Vegas, he allowed 11 runs in 3.1 innings. Nice recovery, eh?

Jones Moved In Latest Mariners Trade

November 17, 2015

The swappin’ Seattle Mariners were at it again yesterday, making a five-player deal with division rival Texas.

Seattle sent Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones, and a player to be named later to the Rangers for center fielder Leonys Martin and reliever Anthony Bass.

This rare in-division deal appears to help both clubs. The Mariners needed a center fielder who can play superior defense, and the Rangers needed bullpen help.

What we lose in Tacoma is a fun-to-watch player in James Jones.

Jones hit .272 with one homer for the Rainiers last year – that wasn’t the fun-to-watch part. The fun began when he reached base. Jones stole 25 bases in just 72 games for the Rainiers in 2015, and he was thrown out only four times. He also hit seven triples, and triples are always fun.

We’ll miss Jones and his big smile in the Tacoma dugout. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to stick in the big leagues with the Rangers.

James Jones Star Wars Night

     Taking his talents to Texas


  • Here’s the news story on the trade, with comments from general manager Jerry Dipoto.
  • For subscribers, Baseball Prospectus has an analysis of the trade.
  • Ken Griffey Jr. will make the Hall of Fame but it won’t be a unanimous vote, John McGrath writes.
  • USS Mariner has a look at some M’s players in the Arizona Fall League.
  • Greg Johns has a look at the Mariners new Director of Player Development Andy McKay.
  • In the PCL, Omaha extended its player development contract with the Kansas City Royals through the 2018 season – which will be the 50th year that Omaha and KC have been together.
  • Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa won Rookie of the Year awards yesterday. Both played in the PCL, but only Bryant played at Cheney Stadium (in August of 2014, for the Iowa Cubs).

Former Tacoma Player Hired As Hitting Coach

November 13, 2015

Yesterday afternoon the Mariners announced that they have hired former major league third baseman Scott Brosius to be the Tacoma Rainiers hitting coach in 2016.

The pride of Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, Brosius starred as the third baseman for the New York Yankees 1998-2001 dynasty, when they three-peated as World Series champions before losing a dramatic seven-gamer to Arizona in 2001.

Brosius was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1998 World Series – a four-game Yankees sweep of the San Diego Padres.

Brosius knows Tacoma well. He originally came up through the Oakland A’s farm system, reaching the Triple-A Tacoma Tigers for two games in 1990. He then spent the majority of the 1991, 1992, and 1993 seasons playing for Tacoma before establishing himself as a major leaguer.

After his playing career ended, Brosius returned to McMinnville and began coaching at his alma mater Linfield College. He started out as an assistant coach before taking over the head coach spot in 2007 and holding it through 2014. In 2013 he piloted Linfield to the NCAA Division III national championship.

I wonder if Brosius has visited Cheney Stadium since his last game here in 1993? It would be kind of funny if nobody told him the stadium was renovated.

We are still waiting for official word on the remainder of the Tacoma coaching staff. It appears that Pat Listach is in line to return as manager if he doesn’t get a major league coaching job, and we have no idea at this time who the pitching coach might be.


Try to enjoy what appears to be a wet weekend!

M’s Continue To Make Moves

November 12, 2015


New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in his introductory press conference that he saw the trade market as the most likely way to improve the Mariners this offseason, and he wasn’t kidding.

After the six-player deal with Tampa last week, today Dipoto traded for veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit formerly of the San Diego Padres.

Seattle gave up two Class-A minor leaguers: intriguing starting pitcher prospect Enyel De Los Santos, and infielder Nelson Ward.

Benoit is 38-years-old but his track record over the last three years is amazingly consistent and highly successful. Here’s his major league stats page.

The bullpen was an area of much concern for Seattle last year. This should really help.

De Los Santos is the primary get for the Padres, a 19-year-old lottery ticket who is coming off a strong first season in the US after being signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014. He split his season between the Arizona Rookie League and Everett, striking out 71 in 62 innings pitched. Could he come back to haunt the Mariners? I don’t know; roll the dice.

Ward looks like organizational depth at this point, a 23-year-old second baseman who hit .278 with a touch of power at Class-A.

The Mariners re-signed free agent outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year major league contract.

Guti had a terrific revival last season, becoming a powerful bench bat and fourth outfielder for the Mariners. This was after he started the season with Tacoma, coming off a year away from the game.

Because he signed a major league deal, Gutierrez won’t be in the Tacoma outfield picture. And this is a good thing – we’ve seen enough of him on various rehab assignments over the years. Here’s hoping a great comeback story continues in 2016.


Catching Up

November 10, 2015

I’m back from a little vacation and a lot has happened. Let’s get caught up.

The Mariners made their first trade under new GM Jerry Dipoto.

On Thursday afternoon the Mariners announced that they traded Brad Miller, Danny Farquhar, and Logan Morrison to the Tampa Bay Rays.

In return, Seattle received major league starting pitcher Nathan Karns, Triple-A reliever C.J. Riefenhauser, and outfield prospect Boog Powell.

Karns provides some much-needed starting pitching depth and figures to slot into the back of the Mariners rotation. Riefenhauser is a lefty who has had a few cups of coffee in the big leagues and should get a chance to crack the Mariners big league bullpen.

Unlike his namesake, Powell is a speedy outfielder who has posted strong on-base percentages in the minor leagues. The 22-year-old had a great first half at the Double-A level for the Rays last year – he was on the Montgomery Biscuits! – and then his numbers came down during a two-month stint at Triple-A Durham. He figures to open the 2016 season with Tacoma, and will hopefully be ready for the majors at some point during the summer.

The big loss in the trade is Miller, who I still believe can become a productive major leaguer. Farquhar struggled in Seattle last year and ended up spending a lot of time with Tacoma, and the arbitration-eligible Morrison was unlikely to be tendered a contract for 2016 by the Mariners.

This trade indicates Dipoto was serious when he said he wants to build a team this fits Safeco Field. He picked up a speedy, contact-hitting outfield prospect in Powell and jettisoned Logan Morrison – making it appear as if we’ll be looking at first baseman Mark Trumbo and DH Nelson Cruz next year. The team needs more outfielders, though.

Also the trade apparently shows that they like what they saw from Ketel Marte and are going to move forward with him as the starting shortstop. Unless they trade for another shortstop – the offseason is still young.

Seattle claimed outfielder Daniel Robertson off waivers.

The short, quick outfielder had a pair of real strong seasons in the PCL for Tucson in 2012 and 2013, and last year tailed off a bit for Salt Lake. He’s been in the majors with both the Texas Rangers and the LA Angels, and now he’ll try to cross another AL West team off his list.

Robertson has minor league options remaining. He’ll either make the Mariners as an extra outfielder or we’ll be seeing him here at Cheney Stadium.

The minor league free agent list was released.

Here is a list of Mariners players who have six full years of minor league service and are not on the 40-man roster. They are now free agents:

RHP: Oliver Garcia (AA), Moises Hernandez (AA), Luis Jimenez (DSL), J.C. Ramirez (AAA), Kyle Schepel (AAA), Richard Vargas (AA), Chien-Ming Wang (AAA)
LHP: Joselito Cano (SS), Anthony Fernandez (AA), James Gillheeney (AA), Lucas Luetge (AAA)
C: Carlton Tanabe (Hi A)
1B: Ji-Man Choi (AAA), Patrick Leyland (Lo A), Aderlin Rodriguez (AA)
3B: Leury Bonilla (AAA), Jordy Lara (AA)
OF: Arby Fields (Lo A), Burt Reynolds (Lo A)

The free agents who spent the most time with Tacoma are J.C. Ramirez, Chien-Ming Wang, James Gillheeney, Lucas Luetge, Ji-Man Choi, and Leury Bonilla.

The Mariners could re-sign any of these guys – I’m sure they’ll re-sign Leury Bonilla, who has been a free agent and re-signed each of the last two winters.

Choi is an interesting case. He was once on the Mariners 40-man roster, but he barely played last year due to a broken leg suffered in spring training. Choi is currently playing for Tacoma manager Pat Listach down in the Dominican Winter League. Listach and Mariners scouts will be checking on his progress to see if they want to re-sign him.

Coaching Shuffle

The Mariners announced that first base/infield coach (and former Rainiers shortstop) Chris Woodward opted to not return for 2016, saying he wanted to be closer to his family in Florida. He jumped right into coaching as soon as his lengthy playing career ended three years ago, and never took that time off at home to be with the kids more. Look for him to be either coaching for one of the Florida teams or working in a roving/scouting capacity which allows him to spend some time at home during the season.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the M’s are bringing in former major league manager Manny Acta as the third base coach. This has the appearance of a good hire: the Mariners need another Latin American on the coaching staff, and the Dominican Acta is highly respected in the game.

Even with Acta, the Mariners still need a first base coach who can work with the infielders. Listach would be a logical fit, but he’s still getting to know all of the new faces around here just like everybody else.

Sacramento pitcher Tommy Hanson passed away.

The former Atlanta Braves starter fell into a coma and passed away yesterday. Hanson pitched for both Salt Lake and Sacramento in the PCL, and he made two starts at Cheney Stadium last year.

Our condolences to his family and friends. Twenty-nine is far too young.


* OK, ok, you probably didn’t hear it here first.

Warm Up Those Stoves

November 4, 2015


The “Hot Stove League” is upon us, as baseball’s offseason is officially underway.

At the major league level, 139 players were declared free agents and are available to test the open market starting on Saturday. Included are three Seattle Mariners: Joe Beimel, Franklin Gutierrez, and Hisashi Iwakuma.

Prior to Saturday, the Mariners can present a “Qualifying Offer” to a free agent, which is a one-year contract for a whopping total of $15.8 million. The player then gets to decide if he wants to accept it, or continue on to free agency.

Of the three Mariners free agents, only Iwakuma prices out as a possibility to receive a Qualifying Offer. That is required to happen by Friday, if it does.

As detailed in the links below, Iwakuma is an important piece for the Mariners for next season. If they don’t re-sign him, they will be forced to pursue another free agent to replace him.

On the Triple-A front, veteran (at least six full seasons in the minors) Tacoma Rainiers players who are not on the Mariners 40-man roster can become free agents on Friday. We’ll try to keep track of the minor league free agents throughout the winter, as this is how the Rainiers get some of their key players each season.

Coming up on the calendar, the major league General Manager meetings are next week – so we’ll start to hear some rumors of trades and free agent signings.

In about two weeks the teams have to set their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. It’s always interesting to see which minor league prospects the Mariners value enough to put on the roster.

Then the Baseball Winter Meetings are held December 7-10. Much to the joy of everyone in the game (<– sarcasm font), the meetings are in Nashville once again this year.

We’ll be following along all winter here on the blog, keeping you updated on current and former Rainiers and Mariners players who are on the move.


  • Ryan Divish has an offseason primer.
  • Keeping Hisashi Iwakuma is an immediate priority for the Mariners, Bob Dutton writes.
  • Dutton has more on the Iwakuma qualifying offer process and a look at free agents who might tempt the Mariners.
  • Here’s an update on M’s players in the various winter leagues.
  • Two Rainiers players from the 2015 season (both had brief stints) made the Arizona Fall League all-star game: D.J. Peterson and David Rollins.
  • The Nashville Sounds checked their time of game trends and noticed very similar results to the ones the Rainiers had (which I wrote about a few days ago – scroll down if you need to catch up).
  • Sad news from Albuquerque, where longtime Isotopes public address announcer Stu Walker has passed away. The man had some serious pipes.
  • Meet the man who pitched for 50 different minor league teams. Fifty.
  • As you may be aware, the Rainiers business office is assisting with the reboot of the Tacoma Stars indoor soccer team. The Stars season opener is on Friday night at 7:30 at the Showare Center in Kent. If you want to check it out, tickets are available at the door or online right here.

That’s it for a few days. I’m out-of-town on a fun trip through the weekend, and I’m not even bringing the laptop. Pete Rose could get reinstated by Commissioner Manfred and hired by the Mariners to manage the Rainiers next season, and I wouldn’t have a post about it until I get home. Our next fresh post will come on Tuesday.