There are new sheriffs in town.
“The purging of the Mariners coaching staff continued this week when the team informed pitching coach Carl Willis that he wasn’t coming back despite having a year left on his contract. Bullpen coach Jaime Navarro — who had been interested in becoming pitching coach in the event Willis wasn’t retained — was instead told today that he would be re-assigned within the team’s minor league ranks. And first base coach Mike Brumley, who also had a year left on his Mariners deal, told the team earlier in the week that he was taking an assistant hitting coach position with the Chicago Cubs. Earlier this month bench coach Robby Thompson was fired by the team ahead of McClendon’s hiring. Third base coach Jeff Datz was told he’d be re-assigned to a scouting position if he chose to remain with the organization.” —Geoff Baker at the Seattle Times
The Mariner’s search for closers includes Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour, sources tell me and Jon Morosi. M’s are interested in both, among others. —Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports
AL West Commentary
On Friday morning, the Angels and Cardinals finally consummated a deal they’ve been talking about all month; one in which both clubs essentially traded from positions of depth to shore up positions of need. The Cardinals got outfield depth by acquiring a center fielder in Peter Bourjos and a prospect in Randal Grichuk, who was previously ranked fourth in the Angels’ system by MLB.com and recently added to the 40-man roster. Now they can move Matt Carpenter to third base and create some room for rookie second baseman Kolten Wong.
The Angels addressed their uncertainty at third base, added an extra bullpen arm in 28-year-old right-hander Fernando Salas and cleared up their outfield, with Mike Trout (center field) and Hamilton (left field) sliding into positions they’re more comfortable with while opening up right field for the upstart Kole Calhoun. Bourjos is already among the best defensive center fielders in baseball, can run with the best of them and still has plenty of upside at the plate — but the Angels ultimately saw him as their most expandable piece. In the deal, the Halos took on about an extra $4 million in salary commitments. The Angels are still in desperate need of pitching — at least two starters and one reliever — and they have just over $10 million to spend before reaching the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million. —Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com —Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com
“The Angels needed a third baseman, I guess, but they traded a good player for a worse player who costs more. Anaheim keeps spinning their wheels, while the Cardinals keep marching on towards sustained excellence.” —Dave Cameron at FanGraphs
Having acquired first baseman Prince Fielder from the Tigers, the Rangers have only partly succeeded in addressing their primary goal for the winter. General manager Jon Daniels made it clear that Texas is still looking for another big bat to fit in the middle of the lineup. The two open spots are designated hitter and left field. Brian McCann remains a possibility as a part-time designated hitter and backup catcher behind Geovany Soto. “We’d still like to add to the offense,” Daniels said. “That’s probably still our top goal, our top objective, but we’re open to improving the club any way we can. That could be with an obvious name that everybody is talking about, or it could be in the area of adding depth, filling out the club and giving Wash [manager Ron Washington] some options. We’re not ignoring the pitching staff by any stretch. We’re open to a variety of ways to improve the club.”
While Texas has the perception of being ready to spend big this offseason, the opposite may be true. The Rangers have told other clubs this season they want to “manage their money” better and be more protective of their assets in a Minor League system that has been hit hard by trades over the past few years. There are still five prominent free-agent outfielders still available: Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran,Curtis Granderson, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. All five were extended qualifying offers and will cost their signing team a Draft pick. Draft picks could be especially important to the Rangers next summer. That’s because the club went far over its financial allotment as far as international amateur signings this past summer, and the Rangers will be limited to what they can spend next July. In past years, Texas has been a heavy player in the international amateur market, and that has allowed the club to overcome some big injuries and setbacks to key top Draft picks.
That’s three GMs today that claim when they checked in Peralta he had $13Mx4 in hand. From Peter Gammons at Gammons Daily
Peralta has been asking in the 4-year $56M range to as much as $75M for 5 years. The Mets and Yankees are interested, but not at those prices. Will they fall? From Joel Sherman at the New York Post
Source: Orioles have interest in Jhonny Peralta as a left fielder. Yankees have pursued him, too. So they said. From Jon Morosi at Fox Sports
“They love him [White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson] in Chicago. He’s been with us almost consistently since 1982, with a year off to be the general manager. Then he had to leave for a couple of years so people could get over that disaster.” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to Barry M. Bloom at MLB_News
“Over time, the arbitration process in baseball has been amazingly pro-player,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told The Associated Press. “It was that process which created free agency. It allowed Steve Howe to remain on the field despite numerous drug violations and resulted in the shortening of suspensions like John Rocker’s. The notion that this same process is not fair enough or good enough for Alex Rodriguez is ridiculous.” Paul Hagen at MLB_News
Jay Z and Robinson Cano walk into a bar. The bartender says to a customer, “You know that guy just might reach 3,000 hits.” The customer says, “No doubt, but who the hell is that with Jay Z?” Joel Sherman at the New York Post
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
For years, Dan Haren has been one of baseball’s top pitchers with the Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Angels. He received big money on a one-year deal to fill out the Nationals‘ rotation in 2013. But it didn’t work, mostly; after 15 starts, Haren had a 6.15 ERA and had allowed opposing batters an ugly line of .306 AVG/.340 OBP/.548 SLG. After his 15th start, he ended up on the disabled list with what was officially termed “shoulder soreness” but what was widely believed to be more of a simple breather to get him some time off the mound.
When he returned, he was a new man. In his final 16 games (15 starts), his ERA was 3.29, his line against was a solid .228/.271/.355, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was an excellent 84/18. Just as importantly, he allowed only nine homers in his second half, as opposed to 19 before that. Haren isn’t the ace he once was, not with 11 years in the bigs on his arm and downward-trending velocity. But he showed in the second half that his excellent control and a commitment to keeping the ball down can still allow him to be a productive pitcher, and his poor first half ensures he won’t get anything like $12 million again, making him a nice buy-low candidate. By Mike Petriello at ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]
The Boston Red Sox regard Dioner Navarro as more of fallback option if other free agent catcher dominoes don’t fall their way. From Scott Lauber at the Boston Herald
If Tim Hudson can get a two-year contract, at age 38, coming off a broken ankle, is there a two-year deal out there for Bartolo Colon, even as he approaches age 41? Clubs that have spoken with Colon’s agent, Adam Katz, say he isn’t rushing into any one-year contracts before he determines whether someone is willing to tack on a second year. Jason Stark at ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]
Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports writes that Matt Kemp does not want to be traded, according to his agent, Dave Stewart. But Stewart said Kemp understands why the Los Angeles Dodgers could move him, and that his preference — if it happens — would be to join a winning team. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has said he is open to trading one of its outfielders but is not shopping any of them. Yasiel Puig is highly unlikely to be moved. Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford are more realistic targets, Kemp perhaps the most realistic of all. The Seattle Mariners have expressed interest in Kemp, according to sources who spoke with Fox Sports Jon Paul Morosi.
The larger question, though, is whether a trade involving Kemp is even possible. Kemp, 29, underwent two operations at the end of the season — arthroscopic surgery to clean up his left shoulder and a more serious procedure on his left ankle. Colletti told reporters at the GM meetings that health concerns might preclude him from trading any of his outfielders. Crawford, 32, missed more than a month with a strained left hamstring last season. Ethier, 31, played with a sore lower left leg in the postseason.
The Rangers, Mariners and especially his old Royals could become real threats to keep star free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran from returning east to the Yankees or Red Sox, according to people familiar with his talks. Kansas City is believed serious in its intention to bring him back. “They are in on him for sure,” said one person familiar with the discussions. Beltran is said by a source to have requested a four-year deal, though it’s believed he’d probably take the right three-year deal, if offered. The Royals went four years on mid-rotation pitcher Jason Vargas, who had an ailment last year, so it seems conceivable they’d go more than two for Beltran, their former star. By Jon Heyman at CBS Sports
Draft and Prospects
The Mariners are high on hard-throwing relievers Dominic Leone and Carson Smith. Leone led the AFL with six saves and had a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts and one walk in 12 innings over 11 appearances. Smith was shut down after posting a 12.60 ERA in five outings following a strong season with Jackson when he put up a 1.80 ERA with 15 saves in 44 games. Leone opened the year with High Desert, then finished up alongside Smith in the Jackson bullpen and combined for 16 saves with a 2.25 ERA.
“He was a starter in college, but we moved him to the ‘pen and his velocity jumped,” Gwynn said. “When I saw him in High Desert, he was throwing 96-98 mph and overpowering the league. We sent him to Double-A and he didn’t miss a beat. He’s got to understand, just like Smith, that location is 95 percent of it. You’ve got to locate the ball. But we’re really proud of both of them. Smith was shut down because of his innings,” said Mariners Minor League Coordinator Chris Gwynn. “His innings are hard because he comes in and lets it fly. But he had a great year and we’re looking for big things from both of those guys.” Greg Johns at MLB
Baseball Best Practice
“Closers just sort of appear a lot of times, and you don’t know for sure who’s going to do it until they’ve done it,” Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said. “There’s something to having stuff and the ability to execute, but it’s also a different exercise to be out there for the last three outs than at other points in the game. There are probably more guys who can do it than we think.” By Jerry Crasnick at ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]
By The Numbers
A full postseason share for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox was worth $307,323, down from a record $370,873 for the San Francisco Giants last year. But for an established star like World Series MVP David Ortiz, the “bonus” money in some ways represents a pay cut. Ortiz earned $14.5 million in salary last season. Divided equally over 162 games, that’s $89,506.17 per game. But a player’s postseason share for the Red Sox, who played 16 playoff games (4 ALDS, 6 ALCS, 6 World Series), is worth only $19,207.67 per game — less than a quarter of Ortiz’s usual check. From ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]
Dan Uggla hit 22 home runs this year — and still barely had a higher slugging percentage this season (.362) than a guy who hit no home runs (Ben Revere, who slugged .352). By Jerry Crasnick at ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]
Now the waiting begins for Alex Rodriguez and MLB. A-Rod’s grievance hearing to overturn his 211-game suspension ended Thursday when both sides rested their cases, a day after the New York Yankees third baseman angrily walked out and decided not to testify in his own defense. The sides set a schedule to file briefs and reply briefs next month, which will close the record and submit the matter to arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. The timing of the case could complicate planning for the Yankees, who don’t know if they will have to pay Rodriguez his $25 million salary and are unsure whether they will need a different starting third baseman. Outside MLB’s offices, representatives of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, including state senator Ruben Diaz, held a prayer vigil to express opposition to Rodriguez’s discipline. Based on material from Associated Press and Sports Illustrated