M’s Add Lefty, A Top Prospects List, Maybe A Power Hitter For Tacoma?

November 25, 2019

We’ve got some Mariners news items before heading off to Thanksgiving, so let’s get to it.

The Mariners have acquired left-handed pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. from the New York Yankees in exchange for international signing cap space.

Cortes spent most of the 2019 season in the Yankees bullpen, going 5-1 with a 5.67 ERA, but when he was in Triple-A he was used as a starting pitcher. He has a 3.11 ERA in 42 career appearances (31 starts) at the Triple-A level. In the majors Cortes had a home run problem, just like MLB itself.

He will be added to the Mariners 40-man roster, which now has three open spots on it. Cortes reportedly has two options years remaining, so he could spend time in Tacoma in 2020 and 2021.

One of the Mariners big weaknesses in the farm system is advanced-level left-handed pitching, so Cortes helps in that area. The Rainiers went most of the 2019 season without a lefty in the bullpen, although there were a few in the starting rotation: the improving Anthony Misiewicz, and the veteran Sean Nolin who is currently a free agent.

The Baseball Prospectus website unveiled its Seattle Mariners Top Prospects package, which features in-depth write-ups of key players in the organization. It’s a subscription site, but here’s how they ranked the Mariners Top Ten:

  1. Jarred Kelenic, OF
  2. Julio Rodriguez, OF
  3. Logan Gilbert, RHP
  4. Evan White, 1B
  5. Justin Dunn, RHP
  6. George Kirby, RHP
  7. Juan Then, RHP
  8. Noelvi Marte, SS
  9. Justus Sheffield, LHP
  10. Jake Fraley, OF

One indication that the farm system has really improved is the simple fact that there are no minor league relief pitchers on the top ten prospects list.

Speaking of Evan White – he’s No. 4 on the list above – the Mariners have signed him to a six-year, $24 million contract with three years of team options tacked onto the end of it. White has played in 92 Double-A games and four Triple-A games.

This is a gamble for the Mariners, who believe that White will become at least an average major league first baseman in the near future. Meanwhile, White gave up a lot of potential future earnings should he become an above-average major leaguer, and especially if he becomes a star.

The M’s take a big risk here that White doesn’t become complacent now that he is set for life financially. The Astros tried this type of contract with a highly ranked minor league prospect named Jon Singleton and it was a big waste of money for the team.

Current major leaguers who inked this type of deal before spending a day in the big leagues include Philadelphia’s Scott Kingery (struggled as a rookie, much better in year two) and the Chicago White Sox slugger Eloy Jimenez (decent rookie season).

Hearing rumblings that the Mariners are signing a power-hitting Triple-A corner infielder. This is a wise move as Tacoma badly needed power in the lineup last year. The player in question has smartly hit over 30 homers in a season twice in the PCL while playing in the American Conference. A veteran whose sagacity could only help younger players. I’m still waiting for a little more knowledge about the situation before confirming it.

Links:

  • The Seattle Times has an article on the Evan White contract extension. In the story, author Ryan Divish notes that the contract does not guarantee White will be on the Mariners opening day roster, and could spend time with Tacoma if the player development staff deems it necessary.

 


New PCL Team Name & Logos Revealed

November 18, 2019

The newest Pacific Coast League team announced its name late last week. Welcome to the PCL, Wichita Wind Surge.

The Wind Surge are formerly the New Orleans Baby Cakes. The New Orleans franchise relocated to Wichita, where construction of a new downtown ballpark is nearing completion. They will be the Miami Marlins affiliate this year.

The nickname of the team will be shortened to Surge, I suspect, in most instances. Primarily because “Wind Surge” is kind of hard to say – it doesn’t just roll off the tongue. Go ahead and say it out loud. It’s hard to make it flow smoothly.

These are the main and alternate logos.

wichita wind surge

The Surge will make its first visit to Cheney Stadium for a four-game series August 8-11, 2020. Tacoma should take its first road trip to Wichita in 2021.

The Rainiers announced they will be participating in Minor League Baseball’s Copa de la Diversion initiative once again, as Familia de Tacoma. A new design was released via the team’s social media, if you missed it.

The Rainiers are doing a cool local fundraiser, helping the kids at Jason Lee Middle School raise money to install solar panels at the school. Five dollars from every hat purchased at the Rainiers Team Store this month is being donated to the project. More info can be found here.

Do some early holiday shopping for a loved one (or yourself) and pick up a hat or two this month.

Links:

  • Here’s the news story from Wichita on the team name reveal, which includes reaction from fans.
  • The M’s have signed a Double-A outfielder named Connor Lien, according to MLB.com’s Greg Johns. His statistics suggest he was signed to help Arkansas, but we’ll see how it shakes out in spring training.
  • Multi-positionist Kristopher Negron announced he is retiring as a player. Negron played for Tacoma and Seattle in 2019.
  • MiLB.com looks at the Park Factors for the Triple-A ballparks, which show the new Las Vegas Ballpark as the new No. 1 hitter’s park in the PCL. For the statheads, Baseball America has a post breaking down the numbers into sub-categories. As usual, Cheney Stadium played as a pitcher’s park by PCL standards. Of note: the Mariners Double-A Arkansas ballpark maths out as the most extreme pitcher’s park in all of minor league baseball, so keep that in mind when looking at the stats of Mariners pitchers (and hitters!) coming up from Double-A.
  • The Mariners are catching up to the Astros simply by watching the Astros self-destruct, Larry Stone writes.
  • More information on MLB’s plan to contract 42 minor league teams is starting to leak. Again, this is all a step in negotiations at this point in time, and Tacoma is not involved. Here is a list of the potentially contracted teams.
  • This year’s Hall of Fame ballot is out, and three former Tacoma players are on it: Jason Giambi (Tacoma Tigers 1994), Raul Ibanez (Rainiers 1996-2000 with a rehabilitation assignment in 2004), and JJ Putz (Rainiers 2002-2004, rehab 2008). Another player, Cliff Lee, pitched in a rehab game for Tacoma in 2010. None are likely to be elected to the Hall, but a significant MLB career is required to appear on the ballot.

Many 2019 Rainiers Players Declare Free Agency

November 7, 2019

Today Baseball America released the complete list of minor league (or so-called “six year”) free agents. Any player who has at least six full seasons of minor league experience and is not on a major league 40-man roster can become a free agent. Also, players who have previously been released by one organization and signed by another become free agents after the season, without needing six years.

A large number of players who finished the season with Tacoma qualify as free agents. Copy-and-pasted from Baseball America, here is the full list of Mariners:

Seattle Mariners

RHP: Chasen Bradford (AAA), Matt Carasiti (AAA), Nabil Crismatt (AAA), Brian Ellington (AAA), Aaron Northcraft (AAA), Pablo Santana (DSL)
LHP: Elniery Garcia (AAA), Sean Nolin (AAA), Matt Tenuta (AA)
C: Alexander Capriata (AAA), Brennon Kaleiwahea (SS), Jordan Pacheco (AAA)
2B: Kelby Tomlinson (AAA)
3B: Mike Ahmed (AA)
SS: Orlando Calixte (AAA), Daniel Castro (AAA), Ryan Court (AAA)
OF: John Andreoli (AAA), Jaycob Brugman (AAA), Aaron Knapp (AAA), Ariel Sandoval (HiA)

A couple of notes:

  • These are free agents, so the Mariners can re-sign them. They may do that with a few players.
  • Andreoli has been signed by the Mariners as a minor league free agent twice already. Could we see a trifecta? He recently finished playing for Team Italy in a European tournament that served as an Olympic qualifier (Israel won the bid).
  • The hard-throwing relievers (Carasiti and Ellington), along with the submariner Northcraft, all seem like candidates to be re-signed.
  • Brugman was a really nice mid-season find and will probably receive interest from many teams.
  • Tacoma bullpen catcher Alexander Capriata appears on the list every year. For some reason he gets listed as being on a player’s contract despite being treated as a coach.
  • The full list of free agents from all 30 teams can be found right here.

The Mariners announced their major league coaching staff for 2020.

The new pitching coach is Pete Woodworth, who is being promoted from Double-A Arkansas. Former minor league field coordinator Carson Vitale – a frequent visitor to Cheney Stadium in recent years – has been promoted to the major league staff. Manny Acta has been moved to third base coach.

Here’s the full list:

Links:


The Rainiers Have A New Pitching Coach

November 4, 2019

We knew Tacoma would have a new pitching coach in 2020, once Lance Painter and the Mariners parted ways after four years in Tacoma.

Class-A Modesto pitching coach Rob Marcello has earned a two-level promotion in the farm system, and will be joining Tacoma for 2020. Marcello made the announcement on his twitter account.

Marcello won the Dave Henderson Minor League Staff Member of the Year award for his work at Modesto this year, with his pitching staff ranking second in the California League in ERA (3.36) and strikeouts (1442 in just 1222.1 innings). Modesto broke the California League record for most strikeouts in a season – but so did Rancho Cucamonga, which finished a few K’s ahead of Modesto.

The 29-year-old was in his first season as a professional pitching coach this year, after the Mariners hired him out of a pitching academy in Orlando, Florida. He’s an example of the new trend in player development that many teams are now following, in which instructors without the traditional background (eg: ex-players) are hired because of their knowledge of the latest technologies and ability to translate the numbers into effective teaching. His former academy – Top Level Athletes, or TLA – presents itself as a destination for “data influenced training.”

Marcello did briefly pitch professionally. He was drafted in 2013, as a 17th round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies, and he spent one season with their Williamsport affiliate in the New York-Penn League. He then moved into coaching, with the academy and at a couple of small colleges, before being hired by Seattle.

He had a very successful season in 2019 with the Modesto group. Triple-A will be a different challenge for Marcello, with the revolving-door pitching staff made up of guys who are new to the organization and often older than him. Hopefully he can help generate some strong results, and bring Tacoma back to being one of the better pitching clubs in the PCL as we have traditionally been.

With the World Series over – congrats to the Nats, thanks for beating the Astros, and thanks for making my Sure-To-Be-Wrong Predictions wrong once again after that embarrassment in 2018 – it’s now roster change season in baseball.

The Mariners have already made a handful of moves, “cleaning up” the 40-man roster, activating players who were on the injured list and deciding what to do with them. They even claimed a pitcher off waivers who might be a Rainiers starter next year. These moves are detailed in the links below.

We’ll follow the player moves and any PCL news all winter, so be sure to check in every once in a while.

Links:

  • The Times has a story on Felix Hernandez becoming a free agent, and the article includes a list of all of this year’s free agents. Wade LeBlanc is added to the list since the Mariners opted out of his 2020 contract.
  • The Mariners outrighted three players off the major league roster to Tacoma, in Ryon Healy, Chasen Bradford and Connor Sadzek. All three are dealing with serious injuries and it is not clear if any of them will be able to play in 2020. Healy has elected to become a free agent. The M’s also let a couple of relief pitchers go via waiver claims.
  • The M’s claimed RHP Phillips Valdez off waivers, and he looks like a potential Tacoma pitcher for 2020, or a possible up-and-down guy. He spent most of the 2019 season with Nashville, but also made his MLB debut with Texas..
  • The News Tribune has a Mariners roster tracker to follow the offseason moves.
  • USS Mariner looks at minor league players the M’s might consider adding to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. It’s a brief list, since most of the players that fall into this category were already added to the 40-man roster during the September call-ups.
  • Ron Fairly passed away at age 81. He spent 50 years in the game as a player and broadcaster. Larry Stone has several great stories about Fairly in this remembrance. Shannon Drayer remembers her first time meeting Fairly.
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Michael Saunders announced he is retiring from pro baseball (but still suiting up for Team Canada) and has been hired to manage an Atlanta Braves rookie-level affiliate.
  • Baseball America posted a Q&A with out-of-nowhere Mariners pitching prospect Penn Murfee, who secured a spot on the Team USA roster.