The Year-End Break (Maybe)

December 23, 2015

It’s that time of year again, when most baseball offices close up shop until the new year.

We’ll be taking a blog break until January 4th unless the Mariners make any moves of note before then. As active as Jerry Dipoto has been, it seems likely he’ll do something during the holiday break. But if he doesn’t, we’re out until the first Monday in January.

Once the new year kicks in, we’ll start looking forward to spring training. The annual positional previews looking at which players going to Peoria might start the season in Tacoma will be a lot tougher to write this year, due to all of the new players. That will be the main blog project until spring training starts.

In the meantime, have a festive and safe holiday season. We’ll see you in January or whenever Dipoto pulls off another move – whichever comes first.


  • Bob Dutton suggests that the Mariners may sign reliever Ryan Cook. He also has some winter ball updates in this notebook.
  • Ryan Divish shared his thoughts on the Mariners payroll.
  • Two ex-Rainiers relievers have new teams: Logan Kensing signed with the Tigers, and Yoervis Medina was picked up on waivers by Pittsburgh.

A Book Suggestion

December 21, 2015

It was a quiet weekend in the Mariners world – this is the brief portion of the calendar when many baseball people take some time off – so let’s do something different today: a book recommendation.

During an Amazon shopping spree I impulsively bought a slim little hardcover called “The Grind – Inside Baseball’s Endless Season,” by Washington Post baseball writer Barry Svrluga. Svrluga (note: I haven’t the foggiest idea how to pronounce that, and I have to look it up every time just to spell it) takes a unique look inside the game.

Utilizing his experience as a beat writer covering the 2014 Washington Nationals, Svrluga focuses on nine different people who are each part of the relentless day-after-day grind that is professional baseball.

The book includes chapters on the star everyday player, the reliever, the scout, and the team travel guy. You get a real behind-the-scenes look into what happens prior to the first pitch.

I particularly enjoyed the chapters called “The Wife” and “The Twenty-sixth Man.” The look at what a player’s wife goes through is illuminating, and here at the Triple-A level we know all about the 26th man who goes back-and-forth between the minor and majors several times in the same season.

The writing style is clean and direct, as you would expect from a newspaper reporter. Svrluga was granted a lot of inside access. I give this book two thumbs up, and it might make a nice gift for yourself or the other total baseball nut in your family.


Check back on Wednesday when we’ll lay out some future blog plans.

Iwakuma Is Back

December 18, 2015

The plan for today was to write about the minor league free agents recently signed by Seattle who will probably play for Tacoma this coming season. We’re still going to do that, but we got some surprising news late last night.

Straight out of nowhere, the Mariners re-signed veteran starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma – who was thought to be long gone.

A free agent after 2015, Iwakuma reportedly agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This happened right at the start of the Winter Meetings. The Mariners had hoped to re-sign Iwakuma, so this news was a bummer and it forced them to make a deal for a veteran starter – which they did, in the Carson SmithWade Miley trade.

But the Dodgers deal with Iwakuma was never completed. It turns out that something came up during Iwakuma’s physical that the Dodgers weren’t comfortable with.

Whatever it was, the Mariners are OK with it – because they swooped in and signed Iwakuma to a one-year deal which includes vesting options for two more years (based on innings pitched).

It’s a big get for the Mariners, who now have six established starting pitchers going into spring training. This gives them protection in the event of an injury.

To make room for Iwakuma on the 40-man roster, recently acquired outfielder Daniel Robertson was designated for assignment. We’ll have to wait and see if he clears waivers.

The team also officially announced the signing of five veteran minor league free agents. Each player is also invited to major league spring training.

Two of the players we already knew were in the mix: outfielder/first baseman Mike Baxter and utility infielder Ed Lucas.

The three new names are pitchers: left-handed starter Brad Mills, and right-handed relievers Blake Parker and Casey Coleman.

Mills knows his way around the Pacific Coast League: he’s pitched for Las Vegas, Salt Lake, Round Rock, and (for the last two years) Nashville. He’s made 130 career starts in the PCL – adding in another six outings in the International League and Mills has a 4.20 ERA in 136 Triple-A starts. Mills is a change-up artist and we’ll go ahead and pencil him into the Rainiers starting rotation.

Parker was terrific out of the Iowa Cubs bullpen from 2011-2014, riding the shuttle between Triple-A and the big leagues during the later three seasons. He pitched in just three games last year due to elbow problems, but if he’s back to full health he could not only help Tacoma but also compete for a spot in the Mariners bullpen.

Coleman is another former Cub who has pitched in 58 major league games – including 26 big league starts. As a swing man for Omaha last season, Coleman went 5-4, 4.92. Coleman provides more veteran pitching depth for the organization.

All five of these players have considerable major league experience, and all five are possible Tacoma players in April.

Even though these players are technically listed as “minor league free agents” they do get paid well, due to their extensive major league experience. Seattle has already signed six minor league free agents with MLB experience: the five above, plus pitcher Donn Roach. It appears that they are spending more money than usual on solid Triple-A depth pieces – which should help Tacoma field a better club.

This just in: left-hander Tyler Olson was traded this afternoon to the Dodgers for “a player to be named later or cash.” The 2015 Rainiers/Mariners reliever out of Gonzaga will get a new start with L.A. Their Triple-A club is in Oklahoma City.


  • Here is the news story on Hisashi Iwakuma re-signing.
  • The Times has a report on the five minor league signings.
  • Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs writes that Tony Zych is the Mariners secret weapon.
  • Former Rainiers and Mariners hitting coach Howard Johnson is going to manage the Class-A High Desert club for the Texas Rangers this season.
  • Speaking of the Rangers, they signed former Rainiers outfielder Justin Ruggiano to a one-year major league deal.
  • The Padres are taking a look at the oft-injured former Mariners and Rainiers pitcher Brandon Morrow.
  • In this important story for ESPN, Jim Caple correctly tabs Ichiro as baseball’s Yoda.
  • They’re playing minor league ice hockey outdoors at Sacramento’s Raley Field (link includes pictures).

Moves & A Prospect List

December 16, 2015

Today the Mariners made another roster move involving players who are likely to be in Tacoma next season, and we also had the first reputable Mariners Top Ten Prospects list come out.

First the roster move:

Seattle claimed RHP A.J. Schugel off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks, adding him to the 40-man roster. To make room, they designated LHP Tyler Olson for assignment.

Schugel is a starting pitcher who has worked in the PCL for both Salt Lake and Reno. He has really struggled at the Triple-A level, allowing 119 runs in 127.1 innings. Yikes. However: he pitched extremely well at Double-A last year, even earning a September call-up to Arizona where he pitched (as a reliever) in his first five major league games.

Olson is the Gonzaga product who had a terrific spring training last year, earning a spot on the Mariners opening day roster. He was optioned to Tacoma in May and spent the rest of the season with the Rainiers, working as both a starter and a reliever. He went 3-5, 4.47 for the Rainiers. We’ll have to wait and see if he gets through waivers.

Baseball Prospectus released its Seattle Mariners Top Ten Prospects List, which also serves as a review of the farm system. It’s the first link below, and it’s pretty depressing stuff.

No doubt about it, 2015 was not a good year for the Mariners farm system – surely one of the reasons for the regime change in the organization. Poor seasons by previously hyped hitting prospects were the biggest issues.

There are three players on the list who we’ll probably see in Tacoma in 2016: outfielder Boog Powell, first baseman D.J. Peterson, and starting pitcher Edwin Diaz.

Several outlets produce organizational top prospects lists. I’ll always link to the bigger ones here on the blog, but keep in mind that these are for entertainment purposes only. Even the most successful lists have far more misses than hits.


  • Baseball Prospectus’s post with full write-ups on the Mariners farm system is right here.
  • Bob Dutton has a post reacting to the BP prospect list.
  • Fangraphs reviewed the Mariners offseason (so far).
  • First baseman Andy Wilkins was briefly a member of the Mariners 40-man roster, but he got claimed off waivers by Texas. So apparently he won’t be playing in Tacoma next year after all.
  • In the PCL, Sacramento announced a new manager in former infielder Jose Alguacil. Our old pal Dwight Bernard returns as pitching coach.

M’s Add To Bullpen & Triple-A Depth

December 14, 2015

Over the weekend the Mariners made a few more moves to bolster the major league & Tacoma bullpens, and they added a veteran Triple-A infielder to the spring training mix.

The biggest move was officially announced this morning: the team signed submarining reliever Steve Cishek to a two-year major league contract.

Cishek is a former closer for the Miami Marlins who has 95 saves, including consecutive seasons of 34 and 39 saves in 2013-2014. Last season he struggled with Miami but then pitched quite well for St. Louis (2.31 ERA) after a trade deadline deal.

Mariners broadcasters can breathe a sigh of relief: the team doesn’t play San Francisco this season, so they are unlikely to have to deal with the Steve Cishek vs. Andrew Susac tongue twisting match-up.

To make room for Cishek on the 40-man roster, lefthander Rob Rasmussen was designated for assignment.

The Mariners announced that right-handed reliever Ryne Harper was the “player to be named later” they received from the Braves when they shipped Jose Ramirez to Atlanta.

Harper is a likely Tacoma Rainiers bullpen man this year: he posted a 1.87 ERA in 33 innings of relief for the Braves Double-A team last year. Harper was drafted in 2011 out of Austin Peay University – for you longtime fans, that’s the same school that produced George Sherrill, a very good Tacoma reliever who went on to have success in the big leagues.

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto told the Mariners press corps at the Winter Meetings last week that he is signing some Triple-A veterans to help Tacoma and provide major league roster depth. One of them is infielder Ed Lucas.

Lucas is a 33-year-old utility infielder out of Dartmouth. He’s played in 163 major league games, all with Miami in 2013 and 2014 (he was a 31-year-old rookie when he got his first call-up). Last year Lucas spent the entire season with Round Rock, batting .316 with a .390 OBP.

Ed Lucas is a veteran of the PCL wars: he’s been playing at this level since 2008, donning the uniforms of Omaha, Salt Lake, New Orleans, Round Rock, and now probably Tacoma.

There will be more Ed Lucas types signed by Seattle. Quality depth on the Triple-A roster seems to be a concern of the new regime.


Blash & Bawcom Move On

December 10, 2015

Baseball held its annual Rule 5 Draft this morning to close out the Winter Meetings in Nashville, and the results hit the Tacoma Rainiers pretty hard. We lost two of our most popular players today.

Powerful outfielder Jabari Blash was selected in the major league portion of the draft by the Oakland A’s, who promptly traded him to San Diego. The Padres must keep Blash in the major leagues on the active 25-man roster all season long or else offer him back to the Mariners.

We had a hunch this might happen – I wrote about it a few weeks ago. It’s not going to be easy for Blash to stick with the Padres: they acquired four players via this draft, and it’s going to be tough for them to keep all four in the majors all season. This will be the most important spring training of Blash’s career.

What turned out to be a big morning for current and ex-Rainiers continued when reliever Logan Bawcom was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

The minor league phase works very differently from the major league Rule 5 Draft. It’s complicated – I’m not going into the details here because I don’t want to spend the rest of the week typing – but the short version is: the Dodgers have essentially bought Bawcom’s minor league contract. Unlike the major league Rule 5 Draft, there is no scenario in which Bawcom is returned to the Mariners. He’s Dodgers property and they can do what they please with him – which in all likelihood is an assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City, not far from Bawcom’s Dallas-area home.

We’ll miss Bawcom on the mound – he pitched in 136 games for the Rainiers over the past three seasons, recording 29 saves – but we’ll really miss him as a human being.

Bawcom was honored along with Forrest Snow each of the last two seasons as the Rainiers community men of the year. Bawcom enjoyed doing all of the Rainiers outreach programs, whether it was visiting kids at Mary Bridge hospital or saying hi to troops at the military base or reading books to disadvantaged youth. He did all of these things while wearing a Rainiers jersey, representing the team in a positive light throughout the community.


Logan Bawcom fires a pitch at Cheney Stadium

But wait, there’s more.

The Mariners also lost former Rainiers Brian Moran and Julio Morban in the minor league phase.

A left-handed reliever, Moran pitched quite well for Tacoma in 2012 and 2013. Last year he was recovering from Tommy John surgery and pitched for Double-A Jackson. The Cleveland Indians selected him today; their Triple-A club is in Columbus.

Also on the move is the outfielder Morban, who saw limited action the last two seasons due to a variety of issues. Once a member of the Mariners 40-man roster, Morban is still only 23 years old. He’s moving with Bawcom to the Dodgers organization.

The Mariners added a relief pitcher in the minor league phase, grabbing RHP Isaac Sanchez from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sanchez had a 2.71 ERA in Class-A last year; he appears targeted for Double-A Jackson.

Another ex-Rainiers player on the move was Ji-Man Choi, who has had an eventful offseason. Choi was a free agent, so he signed a minor league deal a couple of weeks ago with Baltimore. But this morning he was drafted in the major league Rule 5 Draft by Los Angeles Angels, who have to keep him in the big leagues or else return him to Baltimore.


  • Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto says that the big moves are done. This is a nice recap from Bob Dutton which includes a projected roster.
  • Larry Stone has a column on how Dipoto has completely changed the cast of characters who will support the Mariners returning core.
  • Dutton has details on the Rule 5 Draft and also notes that the M’s have signed minor league middle infielder Benji Gonzalez. Gonzalez spent some time with El Paso last year and could possibly break camp with Tacoma.
  • Baseball America has every pick from today’s Rule 5 Draft, along with a note on each major league pick.
  • The best story I saw out of the Winter Meetings came about when a writer realized that his Uber driver was former major leaguer Floyd Youmans. Poignant stuff about being out of the game you love.

That’s it for the Winter Meetings, but there will still be plenty of Hot Stove League action for the rest of the winter.

More Trades! More Trades!

December 9, 2015

Dealin’ Dipoto was at it again, making two deals since early yesterday afternoon when I hit “publish” on the blog.

Last night he added right-handed reliever Evan Scribner from the Oakland A’s, giving up bullpen prospect Trey Cochran-Gill to get him.

Scribner is known for his curveball, which he has used often against the Rainiers while with Sacramento. Last year he spent the entire season in the majors with Oakland, posting a 4.35 ERA with some wild stats: in 60 innings he struck out 64 batters and walked only four. Four walks! But… he allowed 14 home runs. Should be noted that the 14 home runs were completely out of line with his career stats prior to 2015.

Cochran-Gill was a Mariners 17th round draft pick in 2014 out of Auburn. He pitched in one game for Tacoma last year, as a fill-in from the low minors when the Rainiers were short in the bullpen because of roster moves. Afterw his one Rainiers game he struggled with his control during an extended look at Double-A Jackson.

This morning the Mariners acquired the first baseman they were looking for: Adam Lind, from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Lind, 30, is a left-handed power hitter with one year left on his contract. He hit .277 with 20 homers and 87 RBI last year, while chipping in 32 doubles. He also posted a strong .360 on-base percentage and an .820 OPS.

Lind will play often for Seattle, though there may be an opening for Jesus Montero to make starts against left-handed pitchers. There has been some talk about that from Dipoto during his Nashville media briefings.

To get Lind, the Mariners gave up three teenage pitchers whom I know very little about: Carlos Herrera (18, played in Dominican Summer League last year), Daniel Missaki (19, was off to a good start for Low-A Clinton before needing Tommy John surgery), and Freddy Peralta (19, played in Arizona Rookie League last two years).

The Mariners had to make room for Lind on the 40-man roster, so they designated Andy Wilkins for assignment. Wilkins was just claimed off waivers exactly one week ago and now he can be claimed by any of the other 29 teams.


The meetings wrap up with the Rule 5 Draft tomorrow morning.

M’s, Rainiers Add Players

December 8, 2015

Seattle made its first trade of the Winter Meetings yesterday, sending starter Roenis Elias and reliever Carson Smith to the Boston Red Sox for starter Wade Miley and reliever Jonathan Aro.

Miley replaces Hisashi Iwakuma in the starting rotation. He’s a reliable left-hander who did not have a terrific 2015 season (11-11, 4.46) but has been really good in the past when he was with Arizona. He was an all-star in 2012 and is 29 years old.

Aro is a player we’ll likely see in Tacoma next year. A right-handed reliever, Aro made a fast rise through the Boston farm system to briefly reach the big leagues last year. In 26 games for Triple-A Pawtucket last season he posted a 3.14 ERA, with 53 strikeouts and ten walks in 51 innings. Apparently his pitches sink – he’s allowed only 13 home runs in 301 professional innings pitched.

From the reaction of fans on social media, it appears that many were upset about trading Carson Smith. He was one of the few positives in the much-maligned 2015 Mariners bullpen – a bullpen which still needs a lot of help. General Manager Jerry Dipoto must figure that it is going to be easier to find quality relief pitchers than starting pitchers.

Elias was the Mariners sixth starter, so now the team needs more depth in the rotation. Seattle’s current rotation (not in any particular order other than No. 1) is Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, Miley, Nathan Karns, and James Paxton.

Because of Paxton’s injury history the team absolutely needs another starting pitcher with big league experience.

We did get an addition to the Tacoma starting rotation yesterday.

The Mariners signed pitcher Donn Roach to a minor league contract and invited him to big league spring training. Roach is the first minor league free agent and likely Tacoma Rainiers player signed by the club this offseason.

Roach is a right-handed starting pitcher from Las Vegas who turns 26 years old on Monday. He was teammates with Bryce Harper at the College of Southern Nevada in 2010.

The Angels selected Roach in the third round of the 2010 draft and traded him to the Padres in 2012. Roach reached Triple-A in 2014 and made 19 appearances (13 starts) for El Paso that season, while also making 16 appearances in the majors for San Diego.

Last year Roach bounced around the waiver wire, pitching for three different Triple-A clubs and starting one game for the Chicago Cubs.

Roach provides starting pitching depth for the Mariners. Look for him to take a regular turn in the Tacoma starting rotation in 2016, and be ready when needed in Seattle.

Right before I posted this, Buster Olney tweeted that the Mariners have signed veteran first baseman Mike Baxter to a Triple-A contract. Baxter becomes a likely 2016 Tacoma Rainiers player.

The 31-year-old Baxter has been playing in Triple-A or the big leagues since 2009. In the PCL he’s played for Portland, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and last year Iowa.

He’s also appeared in 232 major league games – with a lot of pinch-hitting duty – for the Padres, Mets, Dodgers, and Cubs.

Playing left field, Baxter made a famous catch in Mets history to help preserve Johan Santana‘s no-hitter in 2012.

He’s a career .285 hitter at the Triple-A level, with a .369 OBP. More of a line drive hitter, much of his power comes in the form of doubles.

Baxter will be in Tacoma’s 1B/LF/DH mix come March.


Yesterday as soon as I posted the blog the Mariners made a trade. Will we have a repeat? There are Adam Lind rumors floating around…

Mariners Have New Need

December 7, 2015

The Winter Meetings got started on Sunday and the first news out of Nashville was not good.

According to many reports – but no official announcement yet – free agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is going to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Obviously this is trouble for the Mariners, who were hoping to bring back Iwakuma on a two- or three-year deal. Time to look at Plan B.

Based on what we’ve seen so far from new GM Jerry Dipoto, I think we can safely assume he’s had a Plan B all along. There are lots of middle-tier free agent pitchers on the market, but the price for starting pitching has been quite high.

Top-of-the-rotation starters Zach Greinke and David Price just inked record-setting contracts. Reliable second-level guys like Jeff Samardzija and John Lackey are getting $15 million/year.

Dipoto has been saying all along that the team isn’t likely to sign a big name free agent, but he must have had payroll set aside for Iwakuma. With Kuma apparently gone, we’ll probably hear a lot about the Mariners being in the starting pitcher market this week.


Stay tuned. The plan is to have daily updates here during the meetings.

2016 Rainiers Coaching Staff Set

December 4, 2015

The Seattle Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers announced the 2016 coaching staff today.

Pat Listach returns for his second year as Rainiers manager. The former major league shortstop and 1992 Rookie of the Year award winner piloted the Rainiers to a 68-76 record in 2015.

In my one year of working with him, it appeared to me that Listach’s strongest attribute is player communication. This is extremely important at the Triple-A level – perhaps more so than at any other level in the game. You have this bizarre mix of young players who are close to the majors for their first time, Triple-A vets who are looking for a shot in the show, and experienced major leaguers who are not happy to be in the minors. Listach seemed to be really good at keeping the guys informed and relaxed.

On the field, Listach’s team stole a lot of bases at a very successful clip. It may have been a losing season (primarily due to talent issues), but at least it was fun to watch all of those steals.

We have new pitching and hitting coaches this year: Lance Painter will be the pitching coach, and as we previously reported Scott Brosius has been hired as the hitting coach.

Painter has worked as a pitching coach in the Mariners system for ten years, including five at Double-A Jackson. In the past I’ve heard some Rainiers pitchers say very positive things about their work with Painter, so that’s a good thing. Painter was a left-handed reliever who spent all or part of ten seasons in the majors, appearing in 314 games and tossing 450 innings. He pitched in the majors for Colorado, St. Louis, Toronto, and Milwaukee.

We wrote about Brosius earlier. The former Yankees third baseman and 1998 World Series MVP coached at his alma mater Linfield College for 16 years before being hired by the Mariners in November. Brosius played for Tacoma from 1990 to 1993.

Tom Newberg returns for his tenth year as Tacoma trainer and… wait for it… his 30th year with the Mariners. Somebody get this man a certificate of participation.

We’ll also have a new “Performance Specialist” – i.e. strength and conditioning guy – in Derek Mendoza. He was at Jackson last year, and did a season in the Dominican Summer League in 2014.

It’s the Friday before the Winter Meetings start, and the Mariners continue to make moves with the 40-man roster.

Today they traded reliever Jose Ramirez to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later and cash. Ramirez is the hard-throwing right-hander who was acquired from the Yankees in the Dustin Ackley trade. Despite throwing 99 miles per hour, Ramirez had enormous difficulty getting hitters out when he was with Tacoma last year. He’s also out of minor league options for 2016.

The move creates a spot on the 40-man roster, so maybe Dealin’ Dipoto is on the cusp of another move. He may have eyes on a player in the Rule 5 Draft, which is at the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

This morning we also learned the left-handed reliever Edgar Olmos was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs. I’m not surprised he was claimed: lefties who throw 95+ are very rare.

The Winter Meetings start on Sunday for some and will be in full bloom by Monday. As always, the Rainiers will be sending a small contingent of front office people.

The PCL will have meetings on various topics, discussing travel, public relations, and marketing. The league’s executive committee will meet to discuss big-picture subjects.

The Mariners always host a gathering for all of their minor league affiliates. This will be the first opportunity for the Rainiers group to meet the new Mariners front office.

Job seekers are crawling all over the meetings. Some years the Rainiers do a little hiring here, other years not so much.

Then there is the massive Baseball Trade Show. This is where you buy things like new seats for your stadium, or new t-shirts to sell in your store, or a man in a chicken suit to dance between innings. Someone always writes a fun article about the trade show and we’ll link to it when it appears.


Next week should be a busy one.