The Mariners made the first move what figures to be another busy offseason for General Manager Jerry Dipoto on Monday afternoon, trading for a veteran catcher.
The M’s sent left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuno to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for catcher Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz replaces Chris Iannetta, who left via free agency.
As it stands now, Ruiz and Mike Zunino will handle the catching duties at the major league level in 2017.
Ruiz will play next year at age 38. Ruiz was contributor to the Phillies 2008 World Series championship, though his most productive seasons came later from 2010-2012.
He’s always been a good on-base percentage player, with a career mark of .352. Ruiz also has a world of experience to draw upon, and should fill the role of “savvy veteran.”
The trade cost the Mariners one of their few left-handed relievers, and Dipoto will certainly address that this winter. The team has already made one move in that area, claiming LHP Dean Kiekhefer off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kiekhefer rode the Memphis-to-St. Louis shuttle last season, appearing in 29 Triple-A games and 26 Major League games.
He was very successful for Memphis, posting a 6-1 record with a 2.08 ERA in the PCL. Included was an appearance against Tacoma at AutoZone Park on August 12th in which he earned the win with two scoreless innings of relief.
In the majors, Kiekhefer had a 5.32 ERA in 22 innings pitched. It was his first season getting big league experience.
Kiekhefer uses deception rather than overpowering stuff to get outs. He is particularly effective against left-handed batters.
He should help the Rainiers. Whether he can make the necessary adjustments to help the Mariners remains to be seen.
We’ll take a moment to honor former Rainiers lefty Matt Thornton, who announced his retirement from baseball yesterday at age 40.
Thornton was the Mariners controversial first round draft pick in 1998, when he was selected 22nd overall out of tiny Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan. It was a surprise first round pick – Thornton was more of a basketball player in college.
He was a project from the day the M’s drafted him: a tall, hard-throwing lefty with little pitching experience. It eventually worked out (in a pretty big way), but not until he had exhausted his minor league options with the Mariners and was traded to the White Sox for Joe Borchard in spring training, 2006.
Thornton pitched in 748 major league games over 13 seasons, settling in as a flamethrowing set-up reliever. He had a career ERA of 3.41, with 642 strikeouts in 662 innings pitched. He pitched in the 2010 All-Star Game.
With Tacoma in 2003 and 2004, Thornton was still a minor league project. He was a starter in 2004, making 16 starts and going 7-5 with a 5.42 ERA. I remember some days he looked dominant, and most days he was wild. He walked 63 batters in 83 innings.
Eventually he figured out how to command his pitches, and the long big league career followed. Congratulations to Matt.
- John Orsino passed away at the age of 78. He was one of three catchers used by the PCL Champion 1961 Tacoma Giants – the greatest team in the city’s history; they went 97-57. Orsino also played for Tacoma in 1962 before being traded to Baltimore.
- One of the key Rainiers of 2016 has signed to play in Korea. Pitcher Donn Roach inked a deal with the KT Wiz of the KBO, reportedly for $850,000 on a one-year contract. And that, folks, is why you see good veteran Triple-A players jump to the Korean league.
- Here’s Bob Dutton’s news story on the Carlos Ruiz – Vidal Nuno trade, with comments from GM Jerry Dipoto.
- Ryan Divish caught up with Mariners CEO John Stanton.
- Divish is down in Arizona covering the GM Meetings, and checking out some Arizona Fall League action. M’s top prospect and likely 2017 Rainiers outfielder Tyler O’Neill is out for a few games with a stiff back.
- Injured Mariners Charlie Furbush and Steve Clevenger have both declared free agency. Yesterday, Ryan Cook declared as well.
- Some lower-level Mariners minor leaguers spoke about the player development changes the organization implemented in 2016.
- For Baseball America subscribers, Josh Norris has a story on the Mariners emphasis on winning in the minor leagues.
- In the PCL, Memphis Redbirds manager Mike Schildt was promoted to the major league coaching staff as “Quality Control Coach.”
- We’ll have a new manager in Reno, too. Phil Nevin was added to the San Francisco Giants major league staff as third base coach.
- The Giants also promoted Sacramento manager Jose Alguacil to major league first base coach. So now we have four known PCL manager openings: Reno, Sacramento, Memphis and Las Vegas.
- We need something like this in the PCL: when a team wins the World Series, the team that won the previous year buys pizzas for the entire front office staff of the new champion.
Check back for a new post on Thursday; we’ll do another All-Star Flashback unless Dipoto does something amazing for the Rainiers, like sign Wily Mo Pena.