Mariners Mini Morsels: December 29

Ryan Morrison at Inside The Zona has rated the leading contenders to sign Masahiro Tanaka. He gives the Cubs a 55% chance, the Yankees a 25% chance and Mariners just a 5% probability. The also-rans include the Angels, Dodgers and Diamondbacks at 3% each, while “The Field” has the remaining 6% possibility. Morrison states that:“After the Cubs and Yankees, I think other teams’ chances of landing Tanaka are so low that Seattle’s “wild card” factor makes them the next-most-likely team.  Maybe the Seattle organization disagrees with the perspective of outsiders that the Robinson Cano signing still has them falling short of the playoffs by a fair margin — but maybe they do agree, and maybe, if they agree, they’re willing to bid as wildly as they did in the Cano sweepstakes.  Seattle has never been burned by an investment in a Japanese player before, unless you count Kenji Johjima (I don’t).  There’s value in laying claim to a new cross-section of baseball fans in Japan, too.” Naturally I disagree, just as you likely will with my projections. Those are: Yankees 50%, Cubs 25%, Mariners 10%, Dodgers 5%, Rangers 3%, Angels 3% and “The Field” 4%. Morrison doesn’t project what Tanaka will cost, but I will. While I believe he could go as high as 8/$160M, I think he’ll probably get 7/$140M. This doesn’t include his “transfer fee” of $20M. The confluence of teams with new media money, the lack of competitive talent available (not only this off-season but in subsequent years too) compounded by owners’ egos and wealth have put Tanaka at the center of a perfect storm of opportunity. Plus, his new agent Casey Close is one of the best, and he’ll get top dollar. Although money will not be the only factor involved, it will be the primary one.

Ew.

AL West Commentary

Right now, the one team I know I’m picking to go far is OaklandBilly Beane and David Forst have been aggressive in filling in some big pieces this offseason, including Jim Johnson. They recognize that their time is now. Predicting big comeback seasons for Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Hamilton’s overall game picked up toward the end of last season. He will also be playing left field full time, lessening the wear and tear. Pujols just needs to be healthy, and it appears he’s on his way. Upgrades by the Angels and Mariners are going to make the AL West interesting in 2014. Source: Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe   Shin-Soo Choo, who signed a seven-year, $130 million contract with the Rangers, was introduced at the Ballpark in Arlington, (the Rangers are supposedly considering selling the naming right to their ballpark to further increase their income stream) with both sides describing it as a perfect fit.” That financial commitment could make it difficult for Texas to sign Tanaka and almost certainly means that free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz won’t be returning. The Angels officially added a powerful left-handed bat, finalizing their one-year contract with veteran slugger Raul Ibanez. Source: Andrew Simon at MLB.com (I’ll take the under on Raul hitting 29 dingers again.)   In winning the last two AL West titles, the A’s have been able to boast the best pitching in the division. Tanaka could alter that balance if he lands in the West, particularly if he were to settle in Seattle, which already has Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of the rotation. Seattle has already made one big splash with the signing of second baseman Robinson Cano, and the Mariners, who have deep ties to Japan, would love to land Tanaka in an effort to eradicate a decade-long stretch without a post-season appearance. Source: John Hickey at Inside the Bay Area   When Shin-Soo Choo got up and put on a jersey with the number 17 on Friday during his introductory news conference, it was a pretty clear sign that Nelson Cruz isn’t likely returning to Texas. Cruz, who has worn 17 since blossoming into a power hitter at the big league level in a Rangers uniform, remains on the free-agent market. The Rangers, who have kept up communication with Cruz’s agent, Adam Katz, don’t expect the slugger to play for Texas in 2014. Source: Richard Durrett at ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth

So they said

One of the things that is happening in baseball right now, that I scratch my head with [is that] young players are so overvalued right now, and I think falls in with the draft picks, too. No one builds through the draft. You add through the draft.” J. P. Ricciardi Mets special assistant   “You could see from day one he’s kind of a different animal,” McGehee said. “He’s unbelievably competitive. The jury is out on how many pitches he has, but he’s got at least three that are weapons, not just pitches he uses here and there. He can lean on any one of his fastball-slider-split at any time. “His forkball is the best one I’ve seen,” McGehee said. “A lot of guys over there throw one. He’s the one guy that was able to manipulate it and have it do what he wanted. He could throw it for strikes. He could take speed off of it. He could throw it harder. He could bounce it. He was really special with that pitch. He was completely committed to the team while he was over there and didn’t let any of the outside stuff affect what he was doing. Whoever gets him…it’s going to be money well spent.”  Tanaka’s Rakuten Golden Eagles teammate Casey McGehee” href=”http://www.sun-sentinel.com/topic/sports/baseball/casey-mcgehee-PESPT000010243.topic”>Casey McGehee  to Juan CRodriguez at the Miami Sun-Sentinel  

Baseball Best Practice

There probably has been more focus on evaluating and maximizing defensive efficiency than any other part of baseball in the last five years. If we’re looking for explanations about why offensive production has been declining, increased  defensive production might be responsible.  Source: Buster Olney at ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]

Mariner’s potential off-season targets

So here we go again.Tanaka is just the latest baseball player to become bigger than life before donning his first Major League uniform. The hype continues, though, and this is mostly good. For one, the rising mania surrounding Tanaka on this side of the Pacific adds to baseball’s reputation as a resting place for those who dare to dream. Courtesy of our National Pastime, anything is possible, ranging from sunshine bursting through every cloud to a World Series title for the Cubs sitting just another October away. There also is this: Tanaka is worth every syllable of his hype, because his brilliant right arm says so. He was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season. Not bad, and the same goes for his lifetime numbers. After seven seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, Tanaka has a 99-35 record and 2.30 ERA. And, yes, he was throwing for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles instead of the Yankees, but we’re talking about a 25-year-old who has yet to peak, and Major League scouts say he has the control of a Greg Maddux and the power of a Nolan Ryan. I’d take him. So would the Yankees, the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Red Sox, the Rangers, the D-backs and the Mariners. So it sort of matters that Tanaka is a two-time winner of the Sawamura Award, which is Japan’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award. He also was named Most Valuable Player of the Pacific League. In addition, he added to his legend by marrying Japanese pop star Mai Satoda. Roy Hobbs never married a pop star. Does that mean Tanaka is better than Hobbs? We shall see. That’s just for starters. Source: Terence Moore at MLB_News   When I look at the starting pitcher with the most value, I go with Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez made $5.75 million last year and is 29-years-old. He also posted a 13-10 record with 3.30 ERA and 9.6 strikeouts per 9 innings for the Indians. Jimenez is probably looking for something in the 4-5 year $15-16 million range, and that market will exist for him. The Indians should still be the logical landing spot for Jimenez as he is a tendered free agent. Ervin Santana is a strange situation for a team. Santana made $13 million last season and hasn’t had a winning season since 2010. He did post a 3.24 ERA for the Royals, which could translate well for a National League club, but Santana has been rumored wanting $15-16 million dollar range contract. It would be real hard for me to pay that money for a pitcher with career ERA over a 4. Santana market should be the $13 million he made last season for 3-4 years. He then might attract some teams looking for a number three starter. Plus since you would have to give up a first round pick for him, his market might be only the Royals or a protected pick team. When I look at the starting pitcher with the most value, I go with Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez made $5.75 million last year and is 29-years-old. He also posted a 13-10 record with 3.30 ERA and 9.6 strikeouts per 9 innings for the Indians. Jimenez is probably looking for something in the 4-5 year $15-16 million range, and that market will exist for him. The Indians should still be the logical landing spot for Jimenez as he is a tendered free agent. Ervin Santana is a strange situation for a team. Santana made $13 million last season and hasn’t had a winning season since 2010. He did post a 3.24 ERA for the Royals, which could translate well for a National League club, but Santana has been rumored wanting $15-16 million dollar range contract. It would be real hard for me to pay that money for a pitcher with career ERA over a 4. Santana market should be the $13 million he made last season for 3-4 years. He then might attract some teams looking for a number three starter. Plus since you would have to give up a first round pick for him, his market might be only the Royals or a protected pick team. Matt Garza is someone who doesn’t warrant a big time contract. I see him as a consistent average pitcher who would do well with a team that has dominant top of the line starters. He made $10.25 million last season, and has been dealing with injury problems the last two seasons. He is 67-67 lifetime and will be 30 as we enter the 2014 season. I give him the same contract as Nolasco (4/$48M) and I know that is fair value, as the Nolasco contract is a ridiculous over pay, which probably is hurting the Garza market. A NL team like the Dodgers or the Phillies could use Garza. Let’s group Burnett and Arroyo together at this point. Both will be 38, they both made 16+ million this season and the market is very limited for them at this point in their careers. Burnett is probably more in the Hudson range (2/$23M)  and Arroyo in the Colon (2/$20M) range of contracts. They will have to be satisfied with taking big pay cuts, but 2yrs-$20-22 million is fair for both of these guys now. I would expect the Reds, Phillies, Blue Jays, Indians, and Royals might give some interest to them. Source: Vincent Lombardi Jr at Outside Pitch

By The Numbers

From Aug. 1 on last season, the ERA leaders were: Zack Grienke (1.49), Andrew Cashner (1.70), Clayton Kershaw (1.73), and Ubaldo Jimenez (1.92). The Bill Chuck Files

Alumni News

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Yankees — It’ll be interesting to see whether in the next few weeks the Yankees can move him. With Brett GardnerJacoby EllsburyAlfonso Soriano, and Vernon Wells also in a crowded outfield, Ichiro, who can still play defense but can’t hit at the level he used to, could be a functional player for someone. The Giants always remain a possibility. Source: Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe