As long as these guys are making the decisions in Anaheim, the Mariners have a chance.
When I asked [Jerry Dipoto] if there was a specific area in which he and [Mike Scioscia] have evolved, he answered: “Communication. Communication. That’s where the last 30, 40 days have been really healthy. We’re communicating in a different way than we had maybe for the previous two years. That’s been a healthy improvement.”
Dipoto maintained there was “no seminal moment” or single meeting with Scioscia when everything became different. It was simpler, according to the GM. “We’ve learned to communicate better,” Dipoto said. And that’s good, because the Angels have plenty to discuss this winter — starting with a 4.23 ERA that ranked 11th among 15 AL teams in 2013. The Angels are trying to acquire rotation help, even though their payroll is heavy already (thanks to the Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings) while the farm system has left Dipoto with few trade chips close to the majors.
“We need to sort through our own pitching — depth, impact, all of the above,” Dipoto acknowledged. “It’s something that’s a great need for us. We’re focused on it this offseason. Frankly, we’ve been focused on it for a couple years and it’s eluded us. We plan on putting our resources toward improving those areas. On the field, that’s where our biggest changes are going to come.” —Jon Paul Morosi at Fox Sports
So they said
Never bet against progress when you’re dealing with such a profitable industry. —Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs
I do think it’s interesting that the market continues to place minimal value on quality reserve position players, even as teams make plans to build golden urinals with their new television money. —Dave Cameron at FanGraphs
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
There are teams quite interested in John Lackey, who had a breakout year after Tommy John surgery. Teams especially love the fact that he’s owed $15.75 million total for the next two years (because he had elbow surgery, he is obliged to give the Red Sox a sixth year at minimum salary). Why would the Red Sox trade Lackey? If you believe his value has never been higher, and if you get what you want for him, isn’t it prudent to deal? There has been interest in Boston’s other starters: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront. The pitcher the Red Sox probably would like to move is Ryan Dempster, but the interest hasn’t been as intense in him. —Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe
Gregor Chisholm, the Blue Jays beat writer for MLB.com has noted their possible payroll restrictions this off-season and suggests some moves they could make to get some relief, including a couple of arms that might appeal to the Mariners.
J. A. Happ: The southpaw is owed $5.2 million in 2014, with a $6.7 million option for ’15, which includes a $200,000 buyout. Happ is not the frontline starter the Blue Jays are currently in the market for, but he does provide some depth and is a relatively nice fit in the No. 5 spot. Toronto does have other back-end rotation options, though, and the club should have Hutchison, Drabek, Rogers, Redmond and prospect Marcus Stroman competing for that role next year. Trading Happ could remain a possibility, and his salary could then be allocated to other areas.
Ricky Romero: The left-hander likely could use a change of scenery following a pair of frustrating seasons in Toronto’s organization. The former ace spent almost the entire 2013 season with Triple-A Buffalo and still has $15.6 million in guaranteed money remaining on his contract. Romero likely will be difficult to trade, but even if the Blue Jays eat a large portion of his contract, any type of savings could be used to help upgrade the overall roster.
The Royals are reluctant to move Billy Butler, their biggest right-handed threat in a lineup that leans left with Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. But the addition of a right-handed replacement likely would alter the club’s thinking, and the Mariners are among the teams that covet Butler, according to a major-league source. The Mariners actually tried to acquire outfielder Wil Myers from the Royals last off-season, and a second source said they proposed a 1-for-1 deal involving one of their big three pitching prospects — Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton. The Royals, however, wanted a veteran ace for Myers, and ended up with the Rays’ James Shields. If it seems like the Mariners are pursuing virtually every available hitter, well, it’s because they are. Danny Hultzen and Felix Hernandez are their only players signed beyond next season, and combined they will receive $27.6 million in 2015 – all but $1.7 million of it going to King Felix. —Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports
“Dallas Braden, a free agent, told me he will try out for teams once he increases his stamina,” says Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Braden was once good, but he has had two shoulder surgeries and not pitched since 2011. He is still going to be in his age-30 year next season.
The Jays Journal has a feature titled Roundtable: Most Important Free Agent To Pursue. A contributor named Justin Jay wrote the following piece, which echoes my own opinion for the M’s. “My guy is under the radar. My guy is Dioner Navarro. Navarro is 29, a former All Star, and it seems the poor years from 2009-2011 are behind him. Last season for the Cubs, in only 240 ABs, he clubbed 13 HRs with a .300 AVG and .365 OBP. Navarro’s best contribution will come in the field. Though his arm may have fallen off a bit in throwing out base runners in 2013, 26% is still better than J.P. Arencibia’s 25%. With the exception of this season, Navarro’s typically thrown out closer to 30% or better, which is better than the league average. He also had only 5 errors this season. They were all on throws. Oh yea… he also knows how to frame a pitch and block pitches in the dirt. I know Navarro sounds like a “Who? Big deal..” signing, but take a look at the moves the 2013 Boston Red Sox made. Those little moves like signing Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Jonny Gomes excited nobody, but the positive impact of a few good, under-the-radar signings made a huge difference on that team. Navarro is one of those guys for Toronto. Inexpensive and just what the doctor ordered.”
By The Numbers
In 2007, 13 different relievers averaged at least 95 with the fastball. This past season, the total was all the way up to 46. Also, nine starters averaged at least 95, coming close to the 2007 number for arms in the bullpen. Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs
Alex Liddi’s minor-league deal with the White Sox includes an invitation to ML camp. I’m told he had similar offers from 5 other clubs. —Jon Morosi at Fox Sports
The Nationals, according a person familiar with the situation, have significant interest in Mariners free agent Oliver Perez, a 32-year-old whose resurrection as a reliever started when he pitched for Class AA Harrisburg in the Nationals’ system in 2011.With Seattle last season, Perez struck out 73 batters in 53 innings with a 3.74 ERA. Left-handed batters hit .238/.358/.288 against him. In two years as a reliever with the Mariners, Perez has a 3.16 ERA in 82 2/3 innings. —Adam Kilgore at the Washington Post
The Yankees and veteran left-hander reliever Javier Lopez have “expressed mutual interest” in preliminary talks, Lopez’s agent Barry Meister said on Friday morning. Meister expects to conduct more substantive discussions later in the winter, after the Yankees have handled their more expensive matters. —Andy McCullough at The Star-Ledger
Comment From jon: Where do you think Kendrys Morales ends up?
Dave Cameron: Seattle, the only team in baseball that actually thinks he’s all that good.
Comment From SW: Kemp for Seager or who would the Mariners deal for him?
Dave Cameron: Kyle Seager, right now, is a better player than Matt Kemp, without even considering the contracts.
Comment From Eddie Oropesa: Assuming all money equal, would you rather have Marlon Byrd or Nelson Cruz the next three seasons?
Dave Cameron: Cruz.
Comment From Alex: What can Porcello net in return, generally?
Dave Cameron: Probably a similar interesting-but-not-yet-established young player. While I don’t love the idea, there is some merit to an idea of swapping Dustin Ackley for Rick Porcello, in that it would be trading from depth to fill a need for both teams.
Comment From Long Suffering: Loved your USSM article on the Mariners’ rumored pursuit of Nelson Cruz. In your opinion, what’s the short answer to what is wrong with them?
Dave Cameron: They lack talent.
Comment From semperty: Is Ackely’s career at 2B over?
Dave Cameron: No, he’s actually a pretty good defender there. The Mariners only shifted him to the OF because they wanted to get Nick Franklin playing time, and Franklin can’t play anywhere else.
Comment From des moines: Matt Kemp represents a huge risk, but a risk a team such as Seattle might take. The Mariners can’t force Jacoby Ellsbury to Seattle, but the Dodgers apparently could force a trade to Seattle. What if the cost was Hector Noesi?
Dave Cameron: I wouldn’t take Kemp at 6/130 unless the Dodgers offset some of the cost.