Roster Churn Begins

October 27, 2017

The World Series is just warming up, and so is the Mariners juggling of the final five spots on the 40-man roster.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto recently told the media he wasn’t going to be making a lot of moves this offseason, but when it comes to the bottom five spots on the 40-man roster he just can’t help himself.

In the last two days the Mariners have made four 40-man roster moves involving players who were Rainiers last year, or project to be Rainiers in 2018.

Relief pitcher Ryan Garton was removed from the 40-man roster, cleared waivers, and outrighted to Tacoma. Because this was his first time coming off the 40-man roster, the Mariners are able to retain him because no other team claimed him by adding him to their own 40-man roster. Garton becomes a likely Tacoma player for 2018.

Outfielder Jacob Hannemann was also removed from the 40-man roster, but he got claimed. His original organization the Chicago Cubs claimed him and added him to their 40-man roster. The Hannemann era was a brief one for the Mariners.

Seattle claimed catcher David Freitas from the Atlanta Braves and added him to the 40-man roster. Freitas made his major league debut last season, appearing in six games for the Braves. The 28-year-old spent time in the PCL with the Iowa Cubs in 2016.

Pitcher Rob Whalen was removed from the Restricted List and added to the 40-man roster again. Whalen made a start for Tacoma in Reno on July 5, pitched five innings and allowed five runs, and was not seen again with no official explanation given.

We’ll attempt to follow all of the offseason roster moves here on the blog.

How about that World Series so far? Two great and very different games, with Houston getting the crucial extra innings victory on Wednesday to make it more likely that we’ll have a six- or seven-game series.

The three ex-Rainiers on the Dodgers have been in the thick of it.

Chris Taylor is becoming a household name. Brandon Morrow has protected a lead in two relief appearances. And Josh Fields was on the other side, getting roughed up in Game Two.

Can’t wait to see what happens tonight!

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World Series Begins Tonight

October 24, 2017

The World Series starts tonight. With the 101-win Houston Astros facing the 104-win Los Angeles Dodgers, we have two 100-win teams squaring off in the World Series for just the eighth time in baseball history – and the first time since 1970.

Because the National League won the All-Star Game, the Dodgers have home field advantage. Games One, Two, Six and Seven will be played at Dodgers Stadium.

All games begin at 5:00 (Pacific) and will be televised by Fox (channel 13 locally). The radio broadcast can be heard on 710 AM, except the weekend games will be shifted to 770 AM.

The ace lefties get the start in Game One, with Dallas Kuechel facing Clayton Kershaw. The Astros start Justin Verlander in Game Two, against Rich Hill. The Dodgers have announced Yu Darvish for Game Three, while the Astros are keeping mum.

The Dodgers are rested after dispatching the Cubs in five games, while the Astros had to go a full seven games to knock out the Yankees.

Los Angeles gets a boost with the return of star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the Cubs series with a back injury.

There is a heat wave in L.A. right now, with temperatures expected to reach 100 today. Not sure how or if that will factor into the game.

The Dodgers easily win in the all-important ex-Rainiers category, 3-0. Chris Taylor, Brandon Morrow, and Josh Fields are all on the Dodgers active World Series roster which was announced earlier today.

Because of this last fact, I’ll be pulling for L.A. Hopefully my little sister who is a lifelong Giants fan and Dodgers hater does not read this blog.

We have a little Rainiers player news to pass along.

Baseball America reported that Rainiers pitchers Cody Martin, Christian Bergman, Ernesto Fieri, and Ryan Weber have each declared free agency.

This is just the beginning. There will be other players who finished the 2017 season with Tacoma declaring free agency, such as catcher Tuffy Gosewisch. Players who have spent over six years in the minor leagues and are not on the 40-man roster can become free agents.

Soon we’ll have a list of all of the minor league free agents on the market. The Mariners will have to sign more free agents than usual this offseason, because the Double-A Arkansas club was primarily made up of free agents in 2017, meaning there are only a couple of players to naturally promote through the ranks.

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Taylor Leads Dodgers Into World Series

October 20, 2017

Former Rainiers shortstop Chris Taylor was named Co-MVP of the National League Championship Series (along with Justin Turner) after the Los Angeles Dodgers eliminated the Chicago Cubs last night.

Taylor hit .316 (6-for-19) in the five-game series, with four of his six hits going for extra bases. He homered twice, while adding a double and a triple. Taylor also drew five walks for a .458 on-base percentage as the Dodgers clinched their first World Series appearance in 29 years.

Congratulations to Chris, who has really made the most of this opportunity. The first link below tells how it happened.

We have a chance for the first Dodgers-Yankees World Series since 1981, which to those of us of a certain age is kind of mind-boggling. When I was a kid it was pretty much expected that the Dodgers would play the Yankees in the World Series every year.

The Yankees need to win one of the next two games in Houston to make it happen – but it’s not going to be easy.

The home team has won each of the first five games in the ALCS. Houston is at home for the final two.

Houston has superstar Justin Verlander starting tonight, against the Yankees talented yet erratic youngster Luis Severino. A Game Seven appears likely – and then anything can happen.

And that is my desired result as a baseball fan: more Game Sevens, please!

Links:

  • We have previously linked to a different version of this story, but Chris Taylor‘s playoff surge has caused it to be retold: how a 71-year-old Dodgers hitting consultant completely remade Taylor’s swing after the trade.
  • Chris Taylor is getting on John McGrath’s nerves.
  • Here’s news of another PCL manager change, though we don’t know who the new guy is yet. Oakland has promoted Triple-A Nashville manager Ryan Christenson to the major league coaching staff, creating a job opening. Send your resume to Billy Beane, Oakland, CA.

 


Playoffs, Possibilities, and Portland?

October 17, 2017

Clearing my desk of couple of recent items, as we get ready for a pair of huge playoff games later today.

  • Former Rainiers shortstop (and now Dodgers centerfielder) Chris Taylor talked a bit about his first playoff experience. The Dodgers lead the Cubs 2-0 in the best-of-seven NLCS.
  • 97-year-old hall of fame baseball writer Roger Angell sums up the playoffs so far, for The New Yorker.
  • Mariners bench coach Manny Acta is getting a chance to interview for the New York Mets manager opening, according to the New York Post.
  • Baseball America contributor and longtime ballwriter Tracy Ringolsby submitted an article discussing Major League Baseball’s intention to expand by two cities, making a 32-team league. He suggests Montreal and Portland as expansion cities. I have a lot of difficulty imagining Portland pushing for it, since the city already dumped Triple-A Baseball by converting its perfectly fine ballpark into a soccer-only facility.
  • The Arizona Fall League is underway. Mariners top prospect Kyle Lewis is scheduled to play in the league, but he has not yet appeared. Apparently this is because the outfielder is continuing to rehabilitate from the serious knee injury he had in 2016. Greg Johns reports that Lewis will start playing in the AFL soon.

We’ll have more on Mariners and Rainiers players in the Arizona Fall League and other winter leagues once they get a little deeper into the season.


Tacoma Ties To MLB League Championship Series

October 13, 2017

And we are down to four teams. It’s the Astros against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, and the Dodgers versus the Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

As usual, my pick to win the World Series (Cleveland) is already golfing. Standard.

Also as usual, we have a few former Tacoma Rainiers players to root for in the playoffs. This year the ex-Rainiers are all in the National League.

The Chicago Cubs have outfielder Leonys Martin on the playoff roster, and he was with Tacoma for over half of the 2017 season. Also on the Cubs roster is left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery, who pitched for the Rainiers in 2015.

Tacoma native Jon Lester is also on the Cubs. To my knowledge Lester has not pitched at Cheney Stadium since (probably) high school.

Former Mariners pitcher and long-ago (2001) Rainiers pitching coach Chris Bosio serves as the Cubs pitching coach. The Cubs third base coach is Gary Jones, who played for the Tacoma Tigers from 1987 to 1989.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a pair of ex-Rainiers in the bullpen, and another in the outfield.

Chris Taylor has been starting in center field and hitting near the top of the Dodgers lineup. He played for Tacoma for parts of three years, 2014-2016.

In the bullpen the Dodgers use right-handers Brandon Morrow (with Tacoma in 2008 and 2009) and Josh Fields (a brief stint with the Rainiers in 2011).

The Dodgers have Kyle’s brother Corey Seager in the lineup at shortstop, if you want to root for the Seager family. Their third base coach is ex-Rainiers shortstop Chris Woodward.

The ALCS is free of former Tacoma players. Houston does have quite a few players who appeared at Cheney Stadium in recent years, thanks to their Triple-A affiliate Fresno being a frequent visitor. Former Tacoma Rainiers hitting coach and all-around-good-dude Alonzo Powell is the Astros assistant hitting coach.

So, who to root for? I’ve never been a fan of any of these teams. I’ll root for good baseball and the ex-Rainiers to have some moments.

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Ex-Rainiers Battle In Playoffs; PCL News From Vegas

October 10, 2017

The playoff series with the most ex-Rainiers on the field came to an end last night, when the Los Angeles Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If you watched just an inning or two of one of these games, chances are that you saw a former Tacoma player.

The Dodgers advance to the National League Championship Series, where they will face either the Washington Nationals or the Chicago Cubs. That means one-time Rainiers players Chris Taylor and Brandon Morrow will continue their playoff experiences.

Taylor has been batting leadoff for the Dodgers, and starting in center. Last night he doubled and scored a run in the series-clinching 3-1 victory.

Watching on TV, you can really see the swing change that Taylor implemented after being traded to the Dodgers by the Mariners during the 2016 season. He has a big uppercut now, and it seems to really be working for him.

Morrow was originally a Mariners draft pick back in 2006, and Seattle had a tough time determining if he was a starter or a reliever. After many role changes the M’s eventually traded him away, and he has kicked around from team to team while dealing with several injury issues. He’s now 33 years old, healthy, and throwing gas out of the Dodgers bullpen.

On the Arizona side, Ketel Marte played very well in the Diamondbacks four playoff games. He hit two triples in the NL Wild Card victory over Colorado, and then he was 4-for-12 with a homer in the three games against the Dodgers.

No such luck for Taijuan Walker, though. The former Rainiers and Mariners hurler started the opening game of the Division Series and survived just one inning, allowing four runs and taking the loss. He did throw very well down the stretch for the Diamondbacks and had a good season overall.

There are a few other former Tacoma players scattered around the remaining playoff teams. We’ll get to all of them later this week, once we are down to four teams.

We’ve got some PCL news, and it all involves Las Vegas.

The 51s are apparently getting closer to building a new ballpark in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin. They are close enough that they are negotiating to sell the stadium naming rights, as reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The article suggests the stadium will be done in 2019.

New stadium or not, the Las Vegas 51s will not be a New York Mets affiliate in 2019. The Mets announced that they are buying the Syracuse franchise of the International League, and they will make it their Triple-A affiliate in 2019. That means that Las Vegas will be one of several PCL teams expected to be looking for a new MLB affiliate after the 2018 season. If they get the stadium deal done, Vegas will suddenly be a very attractive option for the western MLB teams. The A’s and Padres immediately jump to mind as strong Vegas affiliation candidates.

The 2018 season will be the final year that the Mets will feed a team in the Pacific Coast League, and they have hired a PCL stalwart to manage the team. Tony DeFrancesco will skipper the Las Vegas 51s this coming season, and he’ll add to his totals as the PCL’s winningest manager in history. Tony D piloted the PCL to a win on the Triple-A All-Star Game at Cheney Stadium back in July.


Fearless Predictions

October 5, 2017

Time for my annual public display of stupidity, in which I share my MLB playoff predictions.

You may recall the Boston Red Sox celebrating their World Series Championship last Fall, just a few weeks after I predicted it. That’s what I remember, and I’m sticking with it.

Looking back, I once picked the Tampa Bay Rays to win a World Series. And the Reds! I picked Cincinnati in 2012!

I’m terrible at this.

So here are some wrong picks:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Houston beats Boston in four games, 3-1.

Indians sweep the Yankees, 3-0.

Cleveland needs all seven games to dispatch Houston in an epic series, 4-3

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Cubs edge the Nationals in five games, 3-2.

Diamondbacks top Dodgers in five games, 3-2 (series includes several bench-clearing incidents)

Cubs barrel past Diamondbacks, 4-1

WORLD SERIES

Second verse, same as the first verse: the Cubs repeat as World Series Champions, beating Cleveland in six games.

So, that’s not going to happen. Sorry Cubs fans!

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