Happy Holidays To All

December 20, 2017

It’s that time of the year again, when minor league baseball offices close down for the holidays and front office workers get some rest until the new year. Then everybody shows up on January 2nd and says “wait, there are only how many days left until opening day? Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!”

The Rainiers office closes today and will re-open January 2nd. However, the team store is still open on holiday hours through Saturday if you need to do some shopping.

Not much baseball news going around right now. The Mariners did officially announce the signing of free agent reliever Juan Nicasio, which was reported several days ago but was in limbo until he took and passed his physical, which he has now done.

There are still a few big free agent names out there, but as far as I have seen the Mariners have not been linked to any of them. I thought they might have some interest in Yu Darvish, and perhaps they do, but Darvish is in an odd spot: his outstanding track record commands a very large contract, yet everyone’s most recent memory is those two bad starts he had in the World Series.

If the Mariners do make any substantial moves between now and the new year, I’ll chime in with a blog post here. If not, we are going dark until 2018 – when we will start looking forward to a new year of Tacoma Rainiers baseball.

Have a great holiday season!



Winter Meetings Wrap Up With Rule 5 Draft & Major League Reliever

December 14, 2017

The Winter Meetings ended this morning, with the Rule 5 Draft at breakfast time and then everyone flew home from Orlando.

If the social media accounts of my baseball friends are any indication, there apparently was a end-of-meetings blowout at Disney World last night. One friend Snapped the entire Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which I think is worse than Snapping from a concert. Can we get a ruling on that?

Sorry for the digression. On to the baseball news.

The Mariners came to terms with veteran relief pitcher Juan Nicasio on a two-year contract, pending a physical.

Nicasio was a mediocre starter for several years who has taken off since being moved to the bullpen. Last year he was with three different teams, since it was known he would be a free agent at the end of the season. All told he pitched in 76 games and went 5-5 with a 2.61 ERA, and great numbers across the board. In 72.1 innings he struck out 72 and issued 18 unintentional walks, giving up only 58 hits.

Pleased to report that the Mariners did not lose any players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft, so we’ll get a locker ready for Ian Miller. The Rainiers speedy outfielder was the most likely player to be grabbed by another team.

The Rule 5 Draft requires the drafting team to keep the player in the majors all season long, or else return him to his previous organization. Seattle chose one player, from the New York Yankees: first baseman Mike Ford.

Ford split last season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting terrific numbers as a 25-year-old. However, as a left-handed first baseman it’s really hard to figure out how he’ll fit into the Mariners opening day roster.

There is a possible work-around: the Mariners can look at Ford in spring training, and if they like him but don’t have room on the opening day roster they could put together a trade with the Yankees, which would eclipse the Rule 5 restrictions and allow the M’s to send him to the minors. But that rarely happens.

There is a minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft which works completely different from the major league phase, and the Mariners were active here.

During the offseason major league teams list their minor league players on different rosters: a Triple-A roster, Double-A roster, on down the line. This is an on-paper roster, with limits of how many players you list at each level. These rosters are never made public.

In the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, a team can select certain qualified players off another team’s lower-level roster with only a cash obligation. Basically, they are buying the player.

Today the Mariners ‘drafted’ catcher Joe Odom from the Atlanta Braves and catcher Tyler Baker from the Arizona Diamondbacks. These moves were made to help the organizational catching depth at the mid-levels of the farm system.

Of the two, Odom has more experience including about 50 games at Double-A and three at Triple-A. Baker has been at the Class-A level.

Seattle lost Class-A pitcher Lane Ratliff to the Diamondbacks. Ratliff was one of the many emergency fill-in pitchers for Tacoma last season, appearing in two games and earning a spot in the Can You Name The 52 Pitchers Used By The 2017 Tacoma Rainiers online quiz.

Taking a look at the entire list of Rule 5 Draft picks, a former Rainiers player stands out: shortstop Tyler Smith was selected by the Braves (from the Texas Rangers) in the minor league phase. He’ll probably get a chance to put on an original Gwinnett Stripers uniform.


M’s Add More Players To Tacoma Mix

December 13, 2017

The Mariners added two minor league free agents late on Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings – and one of them is a local player.

Triple-A first baseman Matt Hague has signed with Seattle and is likely to break camp with Tacoma in April. A six-year veteran of Triple-A baseball – all in the International League – Hague hit .297 with ten homers and 67 RBI for Rochester last season. He posted a .379 on-base percentage, with 61 walks and just 75 strikeouts in 502 at-bats.

Hague is a 2004 graduate of Kentwood High School, before playing three years of college baseball at the University of Washington. He transferred to Oklahoma State for his senior year before starting his professional career.

A right-hand swinging first baseman, Hague reached the majors with Pittsburgh in 2012, and returned for brief stints in 2014 and 2015. He played in Japan in 2016.

Another confirmed signing is speedy outfielder John Andreoli, who played for the Iowa Cubs the last three seasons. The 27-year-old has stolen base totals of 33, 43, and 26 in the last three seasons. He’s also got a little pop, having hit 14 homers in 2017 and 12 in 2016. He batted .244 with a .348 OBP in 2017.

Hopefully the Rainiers can get Andreoli and Ian Miller on base at the same time a lot and wreak havoc on the basepaths.

Today the Mariners re-acquired left-handed starter Anthony Misiewicz from Tampa, in exchange for international signing bonus cap money. The M’s traded Misiewicz to Tampa in early August for Ryan Garton and Mike Marjama.

Misiewicz pitched at the Double-A level during the second half last season (12 starts) and is a candidate to play for Tacoma in 2018, so I guess I should learn how to pronounce his name (I have no idea).

We also have an unconfirmed report that the Mariners have minor league deals in place with infielder Rey Navarro and reliever Johendi Jiminian. This source did have the correct information last week on Casey Lawrence re-signing, so let’s give it the benefit of doubt for now.

Navarro is a 28-year-old middle infielder who hit .278 with seven homers and 82 RBI for Salt Lake last year. He’s mostly a singles hitter; he picked up all of those runs batted in by hitting .313 with runners in scoring position last season.

Jiminian is a 25-year-old right-hander who the Rockies signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010. He got his first taste of Triple-A ball last year, appearing in 18 games for Albuquerque and posting a 5.04 ERA. He had control problems with the ‘Topes, issuing 22 walks in 30.1 innings. He pitched against Tacoma twice last year so don’t worry about me with his name – I know how to say this one. Him-in-ian.

Just now the M’s have traded more international cap room to Cleveland for reliever Shawn Armstrong.

Armstrong has been an up-and-down reliever for the Indians, bouncing back-and-forth between Triple-A and the majors for the last three years. He’s out of options and will need to make the Mariners major league roster in the spring, or else be exposed to waivers.

He has a 3.59 career ERA in 39 big league relief appearances, so maybe he’ll make the club. If he somehow gets through waivers and ends up in Tacoma, that would be a positive for the Rainiers. He’s put up great numbers in Triple-A.


Winter Meetings Bring Some Help For The Rainiers

December 12, 2017

So far the Mariners have not made any big moves at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando this week, but they have made some additions which should help the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers.

First and foremost, the Mariners are bringing back infielder Gordon Beckham on a minor league contract. Beckham can fill a big hole in the Rainiers infield, playing any of three spots.

A veteran of eight Major League seasons, the 31-year-old Beckham hit .262 with nine homers and 45 RBI in 83 games for Tacoma last year. He’s also a good clubhouse guy and should help set an example for any younger players on the club.

The Mariners also claimed a Triple-A outfielder off waivers from the Phillies. Cameron Perkins is a 27-year-old outfielder out of Purdue who has spent all or parts of the last three seasons with the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

In 2017 Perkins made his major league debut, hitting .182 in 42 games (88 at-bats). But at Triple-A Lehigh Valley he batted .288 with a .373 on-base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage in a pitcher-friendly league. He should hit well in the Pacific Coast League.

However, Perkins has to still be in the organization in April to help the Rainiers. Holding down one of the final five spots on Jerry Dipoto‘s 40-man roster is a very tenuous proposition. We’ll have to wait-and-see on Perkins.

One other move: the Mariners released projected Rainiers pitcher Seth Frankoff so he could sign with a team in Korea and make a bunch of cash. Frankoff was acquired by the Mariners a couple of days after the 2017 PCL season ended, so he never appeared in a game for the Rainiers or any Mariners-affiliated team.

Former Rainiers slugger Jabari Blash was dealt this morning in Orlando, from the San Diego Padres to the New York Yankees. He was traded for third baseman Chase Headley (and his large contract) and a pitching prospect.

Blash was known for his tape measure home runs in Tacoma – and more recently, El Paso. Now he joins Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in New York, where his batting practice moon shots will have some competition, to say the least. Hopefully he makes the team in a reserve role just for some 5:00 fun – maybe the three of them can hit in the same BP group.


Ohtani – Oh, No!

December 8, 2017

Well, that’s a bummer.

After all of the Mariners efforts, Japanese star Shohei Ohtani decided to sign with the division rival Los Angeles Angels. He’ll play alongside Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and Albert Pujols in a star-studded lineup.

This has got to be a crushing blow to Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners, who made it clear from the start that Ohtani was their No. 1 priority. The need for a high-quality starting pitcher continues for Seattle.

Dipoto did improve the lineup on Thursday, trading three prospects to the Marlins in exchange for two-time all-star Dee Gordon. A former Gold Glove winner at second base, Gordon will be moved to center field where the Mariners believe his blazing speed will become a defensive asset.

In the attempt to sign Ohtani, the Mariners acquired $3.5 million in International Signing Cap money. They have until June 15th to spend it, if they choose. The cap space doesn’t carry over to next year, but they don’t have to spend it – heck, Dipoto might trade it away. The available players are essentially a picked-over group of teenagers from the Dominican and Venezuela, and a Cuban defector of some intrigue named Julio Pablo Martinez. There is the group players who were recently granted free agency in the Atlanta Braves scandal, but the top prospects among them have already signed with other teams.

The Winter Meetings officially start on Monday, but action will begin on Sunday as teams land in Orlando. I expect a lot of news this year, due to the slow start to free agency – and now we may have an enraged Dipoto making a dozen transactions in three days!

A couple of Rainiers-related notes: the Mariners claimed reliever Mike Morin off waivers today. He’s been an up-and-down guy with the Angels and Salt Lake the last couple of seasons. I’m not sure if he has an option year remaining.

On his podcast yesterday, Dipoto said that the Mariners are going to look at recently acquired lefty Sam Moll as a starting pitcher in spring training. Moll was a starter in college but was quickly converted to relief by the Rockies once his pro career began. We’ll tentatively pencil Moll into the Tacoma rotation.


M’s Make Push For Ohtani

December 6, 2017

The Seattle Mariners are making their run at Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani this week, hoping to score a huge win before the Winter Meetings get underway on Monday.

Ohtani narrowed his list of teams down to seven, and the M’s made the cut. Seattle’s contingent had its meeting with Ohtani in Los Angeles yesterday, making the big recruiting push.

Reportedly Ohtani meets with his final team today, and then… I don’t know what happens next. He might visit two or three of the cities? There is a deadline for him to sign, which I believe is December 23. It’s possible he could make a snap decision before this week is complete.

Personally, I feel this is going to come down to Mariners vs. Padres. The Padres are no joke as a contender, as revealed in this story.


Mariners Add Triple-A Reliever

December 1, 2017

A little player news as the industry prepares for the Winter Meetings, which begin on December 10th.

The Mariners have claimed left-handed reliever Sam Moll off waivers.

Moll spent the last two seasons pitching for Albuquerque, the Colorado Rockies affiliate. A 5-foot-10 lefty with a low-90s fastball, Moll pitched in 92 PCL games over the past two seasons, posting a 4.24 ERA (remember, that’s a pretty good ERA in the thin air of Albuquerque.

The Rockies third round draft pick in 2013 out of the University of Memphis, Moll has been used as a one-inning reliever over the last two seasons.

Moll is now on the Mariners 40-man roster (which still has three open spots). He does have options remaining, so he can be freely sent to Tacoma during the 2018 season.

It’s a bullpen depth move which should help the Rainiers, with the possibility that the 25-year-old can make improvements to become a major league contributor.

With regards to our previous post on Hisashi Iwakuma, today Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto provided some clarity on his health during an interview with 950-KJR.

Dipoto said Iwakuma, who had shoulder surgery in late September, won’t be ready until late May or early June.

So the timeline is bumped back a couple of months, but we could still see him in Tacoma this season.


Next week things should start to get interesting in terms of offseason news. The Ohtani recruitment begins, and free agents will begin to sign. It’s been so quiet that the Winter Meetings could really be crazy this year.