Mariners Minor League Free Agents Revealed; Two Rainiers Re-Sign For 2018

November 8, 2017

Some team news to pass along today, as we have the list of free agents and news of a couple of veteran players re-signing with the Mariners.

Baseball America released its list of minor league free agents. Here are the Mariners players who elected free agency:

Seattle Mariners (36)
RHP: Jonathan Aro (AAA) | Ralston Cash (AA) | Tyler Cloyd (AAA) | Justin De Fratus (AA) | Ronald Dominguez (Lo A) | Bryan Evans (AA) | Ryne Harper (AAA) | Ryan Kelly (AA) | Tyler Knigge (AA) | Casey Lawrence (AAA) | Evan Marshall (AAA) | Brian McAfee (SS) | Micah Owings (AA) | Blake Perry (AA) | Fabian Roman (SS) | Dylan Unsworth (AA) | Aaron West (AA)
LHP: Aronny Cruz (DSL) | Kyle Hunter (AA) | Dean Kiekhefer (AAA) | Ashur Tolliver (AA)
C: Nevin Ashley (AAA) | Steven Baron (AA) | Alexander Capriata (AAA) | Marcus Littlewood (AA) | Tyler Marlette (AA) | Arturo Nieto (Hi A) | Yojhan Quevedo (Lo A)
1B: Ryan Casteel (AA)
2B: Rafael Fernandez (Hi A) | Shawn O’Malley (AAA) | Nelson Ward (AA) | Gianfranco Wawoe (Hi A)
SS: Joey Wong (AAA)
OF: Willie Argo (AA) | Kyle Waldrop (AAA)

Minor leaguers can become free agents if they are not on the major league 40-man roster and they have over six years of minor league service.

With 36 free agents, the Mariners have far more than any other team. The Marlins came closest, with 30. The M’s were forced to add many veteran minor league players during the season because of lost players due to 40-man roster manipulation and trades (we should probably just call that ‘Dipotoism’).

The complete list of 572 minor league free agents, sorted by team, can be found here.

Two members of the 2017 Rainiers who should be on that list are not because the Mariners have already re-signed them.

Veteran catcher Tuffy Gosewisch has re-upped with the Mariners, and figures to be part of Tacoma’s catching mix in 2018.

Also re-signing is utility man Danny Muno, who hit well for the Rainiers last year.

These signings were  listed among several others in Baseball America’s Minor League Transactions. Another player of note for Rainiers fans is pitcher Lindsey Caughel, who spent the entire 2017 season at Double-A Arkansas and could appear for Tacoma next year.

Former major league star Roy Halladay passed away in a plane crash yesterday. He was one of the most influential people in the sport; players were crushed by the news. I found Marc Webster’s post on Halladay to be a good one.

The Mariners are hiring a Baseball Analytics Intern. Dust off your resume and send it in!

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2018 Rainiers Get A Shortstop

November 7, 2017

Looks like we have a player for the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers: shortstop Zach Vincej.

Vincej appeared in his first nine major league games last year for the Reds, going 1-for-9 at the plate. He spent the majority of the season playing for Triple-A Louisville, where he hit .270 with three homers and developed a reputation as having a smooth glove.

The Mariners acquired Vincej when he was claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds last week, and then outrighted to Tacoma today. Since he doesn’t yet have six years of minor league experience, he’s not eligible for free agency.

He’s 26-years-old, was drafted out of Pepperdine in the 37th round in 2012, and has spent his entire career in the Reds organization until the past few days.

How do you pronounce Vincej? I read that it’s “Vince-ee,” but of course we’ll double-check with him when we meet him in the spring.

This fills a big hole the Rainiers had in the offseason. Actually, it was a big hole in the regular season after Tyler Smith was let go. Take a look:

2017 Tacoma Shortstops

  • Tyler Smith (79 games) – DFA’d, now with Texas Rangers
  • Taylor Motter (19 games) – with Mariners
  • Ryan Jackson (15 games) – released
  • Shawn O’Malley (8 games) – DFA’d, currently a free agent
  • Joey Wong (5 games) – currently a free agent
  • Eugene Helder (5 games) – Class-A player who filled in
  • Zach Shank (4 games) – not really a shortstop but made a couple of starts
  • Gordon Beckham (3 games) – currently a free agent
  • Rayder Ascanio (3 games) – traded to Cardinals in Mike Leake deal
  • Kevin Santa (2 games) – Class-A player who filled in*

There is nobody to promote from Double-A. Wong was the shortstop there, and he was promoted to Tacoma for the final week of the season and is now a free agent.

With Motter likely to remain in Seattle as the utility man, that leaves no holdovers to play shortstop for Tacoma. As this point, Vincej is our shortstop for 2018.

Links:

*Santa only played in away games and never met Rhubarb the Reindeer.


Astros, Free Agents, Sounders & Kyle Lewis

November 2, 2017

Congratulations to the Houston Astros organization, winners of the 2017 World Series.

As a baseball fan, I found the series to be entertaining all the way through. In fact, this was a great October for baseball – most of the other playoff series were outstanding as well.

Now the offseason begins, and front offices will go to work to improve their teams for next year.

Today the Mariners announced their major league free agents. Hisashi Iwakuma, Yovani Gallardo, Yonder Alonso, Jarrod Dyson, Gordon Beckham, Carlos Ruiz, and Danny Valenica are free to sign with any team.

The Mariners needs in the offseason are a first baseman, an outfielder who can play center, and all of the pitchers they can find.

Here in Tacoma we had some big non-baseball news last night.

The Tacoma Rainiers and Seattle Sounders announced that the S2 team will play its home games at Cheney Stadium, starting this coming March. Cheney will house the team as plans to build a 5,000-seat soccer stadium in Tacoma continue to develop.

The to-be-named S2 team is the top feeder club of the major league Sounders, just like the Rainiers are the top affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. It’s the same basic deal: the Sounders will provide the players to the Tacoma team and run the on-field side, while the Rainiers front office will handle the business of marketing the team and operating the stadium experience. I like to think the Rainiers front office is really good at this, and it should work out well for soccer fans in Tacoma.

The conversion of the field back-and-forth from baseball to soccer will be a challenge for the Cheney Stadium grounds crew. The Rainiers front office has studied this and learned from other ballparks that host both baseball and soccer, including Yankee Stadium.

The article in The News Tribune covers some of the questions about how soccer will look at Cheney Stadium – you can read it right here.

In addition, Matt Driscoll has a story on the long-range plans for soccer in Tacoma.

The Mariners have pulled top prospect Kyle Lewis out of the Arizona Fall League after just two games, causing further concern about the outfielder’s health.

This is the third time that Lewis has stopped playing in games, due to ongoing knee discomfort.

The Mariners first round pick in 2016 suffered a major injury to his right knee while playing for the Everett Aqua Sox on July 19, 2016. The knee had to be surgically rebuilt, with a long rehabilitation process.

He tried to come back in June, 2017. He played in two games for Class-A Modesto before it was decided that he needed more time to rehabilitate. He sat out for two weeks, then re-started his rehabilitation in the Arizona Rookie League.

After some starts and stops in the Arizona Rookie League, Lewis rejoined Modesto on July 20 and played consistently until the end of the California League season. He was used as a designated hitter at first, but started to see regular time in center field at the end of the season.

That was all really encouraging, and the M’s announced Lewis would play in the Arizona Fall League.

But Lewis did not immediately report to the Arizona Fall League, with the Mariners announcing he was back on a rehabilitation program. He eventually reported to the league, played in two games, and was shut down by the Mariners for further rehabilitation.

This progression is unusual and concerning, but according to this report from Shannon Drayer Lewis has had an MRI that came back clean. Hopefully a winter of further rehabilitation can prepare Lewis for everyday play in 2018.

Links:


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!

Links:


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.

Links:


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.