Greg Johns notes the following:
When Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners‘ brass descend on Walt Disney’s Swan & Dolphin Resort for next week’s Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Florida they’ll be far more interested in shopping than sightseeing. Although the Winter Meetings are sometimes more about rumors and reports than actual wheeling and dealing, Zduriencik and the Mariners are in position this offseason to make some moves in free agency. Seattle could be one of the teams creating news when executives from all 30 Major League teams gather from Monday through December 12.
Seattle already made one move this week in signing free-agent utility man Willie Bloomquist, pending a physical exam, and Zduriencik figures to be in the middle of the action at Disney World on several fronts. “Like all clubs, we’re having a lot of dialogue with agents and other teams,” Zduriencik said. “We’re just trying to improve the club. You don’t know where discussions will lead, and obviously it’s early. We have some specific needs we’d like to address. And we do have a little more payroll flexibility, but prices are going up as well.”
The Mariners cleared about $35 million off their books when contracts expired, and they’ve indicated a willingness to go beyond last year’s $90 million payroll range if the right opportunities arise. For that reason, Seattle has been mentioned in connection with seemingly every top available free agent, from Robinson Cano to Jacoby Ellsbury to Nelson Cruz, to top pitchers Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. “You’re going to have five on the club, so certainly it’s an area you can target to upgrade,” Zduriencik said. “We have a fairly young outfield group, and Ackley is just learning the position. There are certainly pieces available there. A lot of things that are written don’t have legs, but there are outfielders available. We’ll certainly look at all the options.”
But Seattle has other needs as well. A veteran backup catcher is important, given rookie Mike Zuninois the only returning backstop. And while the infield returns youngsters at every position — with Kyle Seager at third, Brad Miller at short, Nick Franklin at second and Justin Smoak at first — Zduriencik isn’t ruling out additions there as well, and he already made one move to improve the depth with Bloomquist’s agreement. “I wouldn’t say we’re set,” the GM said. “Seager has certainly established himself as a good player. The rest of the infield, Smoak still has some things to prove, though we like what we’ve seen. And the three kids in the middle, if you include Carlos Triunfel, are guys who have a lot to prove yet. We like what we’ve seen, but we’re not going to give anything to them.” Zduriencik isn’t hiding the fact he’ll pursue another veteran starter to bolster that mix, and history shows it’s easier to lure top arms to Safeco Field than big bats.
“I am interested,” Zduriencik said. “There’s no question. I’ve made it clear. Pitchers like to throw here. It’s a good place for them. You’re weighing acquisition cost against what you’re trying to do to help offensively. It’s part of that puzzle, but I do think a legitimate quality starter would be of great value, for two reasons. No. 1, it’s a proven player. And No. 2, it would help take pressure off those younger kids. At the end, you weigh all of that.”
While Garza, Santana and Jimenez have been mentioned as the cream of the crop, there are other available hurlers like Bronson Arroyo, Bartolo Colon and Scott Feldman who might look favorably on a Safeco Field situation at a more reasonable cost, which would allow pursuit of more offensive help as well. So stay tuned. The holiday season is at hand. And the Mariners definitely have some shopping to do. Source: Greg Johns at MLB
“The way I see it, I’m a reporter. My goal is to provide sufficient information on topics for you to make up your own mind. To use the above example, I’ll ask why so-and-so is batting leadoff, and provide you with that answer. Then it’s up to you to decide whether you agree with the reasoning.” —Bob Dutton the new Mariners beat reporter at The News Tribune (I’ve read quite a bit of Bob’s stuff with the Kansas City Star, he’s a good get.)
Mariners have been among the most aggressive suitors for Matt Kemp, sources say. They are looking at free agents too. —Jon Morosi at Fox Sports (Kemp is a bi-birdist, a turkey who will become an albatross.)
Sources familiar with the negotiations between the Yankees and Cano told ESPN New York that the Yankees believe Seattle might be willing to offer Cano $200 million over eight years. One of the sources said the Mariners were “desperate for hitting and desperate to put people in the ballpark.” “
I wouldn’t presume to say that there’s no one out there that will meet [Cano’s] demands,” said another source, who named Seattle along with possibly the Texas Rangers as teams that might be willing to outbid the Yankees for Cano’s services. “Now it’s a question of, does [Cano] want to be a Yankee, or is he just about the money?” a baseball insider said. Source: Wallace Matthews at ESPN New York
AL West Commentary
Astro’s GM Jeff Luhnow on pursuing pitching: “I’m confident we’ll have another deal or two done by this time next week.” —Brian McTaggart at MLB.com
It all began Monday morning, when Beane signed right-hander Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal that is expected to be finalized Wednesday. By evening, he had swung a deal for another All-Star in closer Jim Johnson, giving up Jemile Weeks in the process. But the GM wasn’t done.
On Tuesday, Beane gained further traction in his push to take his club on a deep postseason run, first by making an intra-division deal with the Rangers and acquiring outfielder Craig Gentry and right-hander Josh Lindblom in exchange for Michael Choice, Oakland’s top outfield prospect. Texas also received Minor League infielder Chris Bostick in the swap. Hours later, the A’s announced they had traded outfielder Seth Smith to the Padres for yet another bona fide reliever, righty Luke Gregerson. Gregerson has been one of the most reliable setup men in baseball over the last few years, most recently posting a 2.71 ERA over 66 1/3 innings in 2013 with San Diego. The 29-year-old has 16 saves, a 2.88 ERA and 352 strikeouts against 107 walks in 363 relief appearances over his five-year big league career. Source: Jane Lee at MLB.com
Re: Trumbo, looks like Angels front office convinced the fair deal (top young starting pitching) to be worth trading Trumbo does not exist. —Jeff Miller at the Orange County Register
So they said
“Ultimately, making the playoffs and not making the playoffs is less important… than trying to win a World Series. You’re either good enough or you’re not. Last year, we weren’t good enough. We’ve got to find ways to get to the point where we are good enough, no matter how long it takes.” —Brian Cashman to USAToday
“We’ve talked to everybody. There’s not a free agent we haven’t talked to. We’ve cast a wide net.” Jack Zduriencik
“Had the Mariners signed Shin-Soo Choo and Bartolo Colon and then signed Willie Ballgame, well, maybe it doesn’t generate quite as much vitriol”. —Ryan Divish at the Seattle Times
“Mariners, I get why you like Robinson Cano. I get why he’s pretending to like you back. Don’t fall for it, though. Don’t be the nerd doing the pretty girl’s homework in hopes that she’s going to realize that the jocks are stupid and you’re the one for her. You’re just going to end up in the friend zone. Go find someone who is actually into you for you, and not someone who wants to use you for your money.” —Dave Cameron at USSMariner (If the M’s just had a friend zone.)
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
Free-agent first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart finally got the good news on Tuesday that he had eagerly been anticipating. “Cleared!” Hart wrote in a text message to MLB.com , indicating he had been medically cleared for full baseball activities by the surgeon who performed the second of Hart’s two knee surgeries this year. Hart, 31, is a free agent for the first time after sitting out the entire 2013 season, having undergone right knee surgery in January and then left knee surgery in July. He had been rehabbing in recent weeks by running and participating in agility drills, but Hart’s formal foray into the open market was on hold while he awaited the go-ahead from Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The two met Tuesday in Los Angeles. With his medical clearance in hand, Hart is ready to begin fielding offers from interested clubs.
He said last month that a number of teams, including the Brewers, Rays, Red Sox and Rockies, had called to check in, but clubs were not willing to discuss contract parameters until Hart was fully functional. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hart had yet to receive any offers. Asked earlier this week whether Hart would have an offer in hand from the Brewers before the start of next week’s Winter Meetings, Brewer GM Doug Melvin said, “There’s a possibility he will.” The Brewers and Hart have mutual interest. In the wake of his injury, Milwaukee ranked last in the Major Leagues last season in OPS from first basemen, and the position is “wide open,” Melvin said Monday. Hart could be a one-year bridge to a Brewers prospect like Hunter Morris or Jason Rogers, the organization’s last two Minor League Players of the Year.
Hart has been open about his desire to return to Milwaukee, even at a discount, suggesting he felt a sense of obligation to an organization that drafted him in 2000 and paid him $10 million last season to rehab his knees. Hart insisted in a radio interview last month that he was mobile enough to consider moving back to the outfield. —Adam McCalvy at MLB.com
Source tells me Nelson Cruz could emerge as Yankees‘ target if they miss out on Carlos Beltran. From: Mark Feinsand at the NewYork Daily News
The Pirates view Mike Napoli as the perfect fit at first base, but it doesn’t appear they will lay out the cash needed to sign him. From: Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe
The Rangers are high on Shin-Soo Choo’s plate discipline and on-base ability. They are, according to a source, one of four teams to be actively engaged with Choo. A source, however, indicated that odds were still long the Rangers would land Choo. According to at least one internet-based report, Detroit has also targeted Choo as its next free agent target. With an aging owner and smarting from four trips to the ALCS or World Series without a championship over the last eight years, Detroit may be more willing to spend aggressively to finish out its roster. Choo, who turns 32 in July, has a .392 OBP and .851 OPS over the last five years compared to a .352 OBP and .798 OPS for Jacoby Ellsbury, 30. Choo has also played in 157 more games than Ellsbury in that span. Source: Evan Grant at the Dallas Morning News
Agent: “Yanks have played it smart with Cano. But $170 million doesn’t sound like quite as much when you give Ellsbury $153 million.” —John Harper at the New York Daily News
Rival exec on Ellsbury deal: “He’s a good player, but he gets hurt a lot. And not enough power for that kind of money, for me. And he’s 30.”
By The Numbers
Richie Sexson is one of 28 players to have multiple 45+ homer seasons. He has as many as Hank Aaron. Source: YCPB You Cant Predict Baseball
Teams have now spent $524 million on free agents this offseason. The Yankees account for $238 million of that, or 45.4%. —Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports
Plans for the Dodgers’ new regional sports network, SportsNet LA, are still being formulated, but there is progress.
Nomar Garciaparra has been hired as a new commentator by the Dodgers, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Garciaparra, who was born in Whittier and went to Bellflower St. John Bosco High School, spent three seasons playing for the Dodgers and has been an ESPN analyst for the last four years.
Garciaparra is expected to do pre- and post-game commentary and be utilized on both the television and radio broadcasts. Roles are still being defined. The Dodgers are also pursuing ex-Dodger Orel Hershiser to be an announcer and the future broadcasting face of the team, according to USA Today. Hershiser is also currently with ESPN, though his contract will soon expire.