Winter Meetings Recap

December 13, 2019

The 2019 Winter Meetings will be remembered for three massive major league contracts that were handed out. Locally, however, there was little to report.

On Monday the Washington Nationals re-signed Stephen Strasburg to the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history. His rule lasted about 24 hours.

Tuesday the New York Yankees blew Strasburg’s deal out of the water, signing Gerrit Cole to a massive deal that is now the biggest pitcher contract in history.

That left the Los Angeles Angels in the dust. They wanted one of the two big free agent pitchers. Instead, they spent their money on a huge contract for third baseman Anthony Rendon that gives the Angels an even more formidable starting lineup. Their pitching remains suspect.

The three biggest free agents on the market signed right in a row, one per day, during the meetings in San Diego.

As promised by general manager Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners were quiet, making no moves except for a selection in the Rule 5 Draft. I guess we should have believed him.

Seattle selected hard-throwing right-hander Yohan Ramirez in the major league Rule 5 Draft, adding him to the 40-man roster. This is the deal where Ramirez must remain in the major leagues all season long, or be returned to his previous organization (the Houston Astros).

Ramirez has three stats that tell you pretty much everything you need to know: 106 innings pitched, 158 strikeouts, and 74 walks. He amassed those totals while pitching at Advanced Class-A Fayetteville and Double-A Corpus Christi last season.

The Mariners will work with him in spring training, see if they can get his control improved, and will have until opening day to make a decision about keeping him in the majors during the regular season.

The team selected three players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. These players do not have to appear at particular levels of the farm system in 2020 – without getting too detailed because it is quite confusing, the minor league portion of this draft is best described as an opportunity to purchase select qualified veteran minor leaguers from another organization.

Only one of the three players has a good chance to appear with the Rainiers in 2020: catcher Brian O’Keefe, who reached Double-A in the St. Louis Cardinals organization last year. He’s probably targeted for Double-A Arkansas (along with top prospect Cal Raleigh), but he is an older player at age 26 and could end up in Triple-A at some point this coming season.

The Mariners also selected Advanced Class-A outfielder Jhonny Santos from the Miami organization, and a first baseman named Dariel Gomez who played short-season ball in the Cardinals organization last season. Neither figure into Tacoma’s plans for 2020 at this point.

In one of his media sessions at the Winter Meetings, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred indicated that a couple of long-discussed rule changes are going to be put into effect this season.

Manfred expects the major league roster size to increase to 26. He expects a three-batter minimum rule for relief pitchers to be put in place. He also stated that the minimum stay on the Injured List will increase from ten days to 15 days for pitchers only.

The last rule should decrease the number of transactions we have in Triple-A, which is a good thing for all. Roster continuity benefits the fans at all levels of the game.

Longtime major leaguer and former Rainiers star Adam Jones made a surprising deal as the Winter Meetings occurred in his hometown: he signed to play in Japan, with Orix, for the next two years.

Jones, 34, played in 197 games for Tacoma in 2006 and 2007. He’s been in the majors ever since: 11 years with Baltimore, and last season with Arizona. Jones has four Gold Glove awards, was MLB’s “Man of the Year” in 2015, and is a five-time All-Star.

The move to Japan shows the adventurous side of Jones: he’s a sharp guy with worldly interests, and the idea of playing in a foreign country certainly appealed to him. He definitely would have gotten a major league job this season, had he been willing to wait out the market.

We learned that milestone statistics don’t matter to Jones. One more major league season would have allowed him to reach 2,000 hits (he’s 61 short), 1,000 RBI (needs 55), and a shot at 300 homers (needs 18).

Already a good Instagram follow, the @simplyaj10 account should be quite interesting in 2020.



Baseball Winter Meetings Underway

December 9, 2019

The Baseball Winter Meetings are officially underway down in San Diego. Free agent signings and trade rumors will start flying around the internet this week – although Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto insists that it’s going to be a quiet week for the M’s.

The underlying story throughout the convention will be the relationship between MLB and MiLB regarding the major’s plan to eliminate 42 minor league teams. A final deal is unlikely to be struck this year, but it will be a continuous point of discussion throughout the week at the only event that is attended by every major and minor league team.

It will also be interesting to see how frosty the other 29 MLB teams are towards executives of the Houston Astros, now that the details of their sign-stealing project have been revealed. Will MLB announce its punishment this week?

As always, the Rainiers have a contingent of front office employees there. The PCL holds several key operations meetings during the event, and the Baseball Trade Show is a must-attend for some Tacoma staffers. Additionally, the Winter Meetings are a great place for minor league teams to do some hiring.

The Mariners have already moved their primary trade chip prior to the Winter Meetings, sending catcher Omar Narvaez to the Milwaukee Brewers for 22-year-old class-A pitching prospect Adam Hill, and a draft pick. The draft pick is likely to be No. 70 or 71 this coming June.

The trade is somewhat controversial, as the Mariners gave up a very strong hitter for little return, but apparently the M’s decided they couldn’t live with Narvaez’s defense any longer. Tom Murphy will be the Mariners No. 1 catcher moving forward.

Look for Seattle to sign a veteran Triple-A catcher with MLB experience before spring training. They’ll need someone to share Tacoma catching duties with Joe Odom. Last year Jose Lobaton filled this role.

We don’t get too many changes among the radio announcers in the Pacific Coast League, but suddenly we have a pair of moves.

Longtime Omaha Storm Chasers broadcaster Mark Nasser has stepped away from the booth, but will continue to work for the team in the front office. A growing family made the road trips less appealing to Nasser.

Omaha’s ownership group has several minor league teams at different classifications, including the Double-A Richmond team, so they promoted within their organization and moved up Jake Eisenberg from the Flying Squirrels.

Another opening has developed in Reno, where lead voice Ryan Radtke has resigned from the booth due to his booming career. Radtke does national radio broadcasts for Westwood One, including NFL and college football games, and the NCAA Tournament. If you listen to national broadcasts on the radio, you have probably heard him – he was on the mic for the SEC Championship Game on Saturday. Haven’t heard anything from the Aces on their plans to fill the opening.

Both Mark and Ryan are good friends and I wish them the best in the future.


M’s Acquire Some Hitters For Tacoma

December 2, 2019

Hopefully you all had a good holiday weekend. Let’s get caught up on a couple of Mariners signings that could help the Tacoma Rainiers in 2020.

Right before Thanksgiving the Mariners announced they have signed corner infielder Patrick Wisdom, a deal that I rather blatantly hinted about in the last blog post.

Wisdom has been a regular in the Pacific Coast League’s American Conference for the last four years, playing three seasons for Memphis before spending the 2019 season with Nashville. He has logged some big league time the last two years, with Texas (2019) and St. Louis (2018).

In the PCL Wisdom has been a reliable power hitter, ripping 31 home runs in both 2017 with Memphis and 2019 with Nashville. In four Triple-A seasons he has slugged .478 while playing in the side of the league that does not have the high-elevation ballparks.

Defensively, Wisdom had been an infielder his entire professional career until 2019, when he started to mix in some corner outfield play. However, nearly 90% of his Triple-A starts have come at third base.

The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Wisdom out of St. Mary’s University with a supplemental first round pick in 2013, the same year they selected Marco Gonzales earlier in the draft. Wisdom moved to the Seattle area after turning pro, where he and Gonzales have worked out together in the offseason. Now they have another chance to be teammates in the big leagues.

Seattle signed Wisdom to a major league contract and added him to the 40-man roster, but he does still have an option year remaining and could spend considerable time in Tacoma this year. The Rainiers had a severe power shortage in 2019, and Wisdom could really help with that.

Another successful Triple-A hitter should be coming our way, as the M’s have signed outfielder/first baseman Jose Marmolejos to a minor league contract.

Marmolejos had a strong season for Fresno last year, batting .315 with 16 homers in 101 games for the Grizzlies. A left-handed line drive hitter, Marmolejos makes decent contact by current standards, and he posted a career-best .911 OPS in his first season of Triple-A ball. Of course the MLB Superballs we were using last year helped his power numbers, but hey, that’s the ball they use in the big leagues.

Undrafted out of high school in Florida, but wanting to turn pro, Marmolejos went to the Dominican Republic (he is of Dominican descent) and participated in amateur showcases until he was signed by the Washington Nationals. He gradually rose through the Nats system, reaching Triple-A in 2019, before becoming a free agent last month.

On the major league side, the Mariners have signed starting pitcher Kendall Graveman and reliever Carl “C.J.” Edwards Jr. You may have read about that already, but if not we’ve got the links down below.

Now that December is here we should start to get more news on big major league free agents inking deals. The Winter Meetings begin this coming Sunday – they are in San Diego this year – and the rumor mill will start to churn.


  • Here’s the story on the Mariners signing Kendall Graveman. Fangraphs has a logical analysis of the signing.
  • And the story on inking reliever C.J. Edwards, along with the Fangraphs article.
  • Some background on the Patrick Wisdom signing.
  • Former hard-throwing Tacoma relievers Thyago Vieira and Tayler Scott have both signed contracts to pitch in Japan in 2020.
  • Ex-Rainiers infielder Patrick Kivlehan signed a minor league deal with Toronto.