Mariners Mini Morsels: January 7

“So let’s get down to what Tanaka would mean to Seattle’s projections. The composite average of the 2014 Mariners from Steamer and Oliver numbers on FanGraphs have Seattle at 37.7-combined fWAR from hitters and pitchers. If we add in Tanaka (and subtract Noesi, Beavan and Maurer’s 224 innings), that total — with the 3.2 fWAR average of the comps on Tanaka from above — jumps to 40.8. Overall team “Replacement level” (which was unified between FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference this past March), or the baseline to grade team WAR on, is 47.7 wins. So the M’s would — theoretically — jump from a 85 win team to an 88 win team by adding Tanaka.”

Source: Rick Randall at Mariners Clubhouse

Realistically, to sign Tanaka it would take ownership approval regardless of the situation. The contract numbers being thrown about for him (5-years, $100 million, 6-years, $120 million) by different sources are automatically going to take ownership approval – in just about every organization. Cruz’s reported asking price ($16 million per year) would also require the same. We don’t know what is the exact Mariners’ payroll budget is for this year.

CEO Howard Lincoln said the budget definitely wouldn’t go down and likely would go up this season. Last year, the organization budgeted a $95 million. A Tanaka signing could push them over that limit, so obviously Lincoln and ownership would have to be consulted.

I think we all agree that Tanaka would be a good signing for the Mariners.

Source: Ryan Divish at the Seattle Times


AL West Commentary


Houston isn’t ready to contend yet, but for the first time in four years, it should be a better team in the coming season than it was in the previous one. That will be thanks to the arrival of outfield prospect George Springer, an astute trade for Rockies centerfielder Dexter Fowler, the maturation of sophomore starting pitchers Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock and the potential addition of 2013 top pick Mark Appel to the rotation during the season. The Astros aren’t ready to take their big step forward just yet, but for the first time since 2010 they should win more games than they did the year before. Source: Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated

Don Baylor, hitting coach, Angels — Baylor may become one of the more important coaches in baseball this season. Baylor, who left the Diamondbacks to join the Angels, will have the task of straightening out Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols, at one time two of the more feared hitters in the game. He’ll also be Mike Trout’s hitting coach. The hope is also that Baylor can make Howie Kendrick that batting-champion-type hitter many thought he’d be. Source: Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe


So they said


Scott Boras’ philosophy when it comes to getting free agent clients signed is “January 15 is Thanksgiving, March 1 is Christmas.” Source: Peter Gammons at Gammons Daily


Mariner’s potential off-season targets


Source: About half a dozen teams have expressed interest in Brett Tomko. He’ll throw for teams within the next few weeks in Poway, California or Arizona. Tomko is open to a bullpen role and is willing to go to Triple-A and mentor pitching prospects, which should help him land a job. The veteran is healthy and hitting 90-92 mph on the gun with his fastball to go along with a solid changeup and cutter. Tomko is seeking a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league spring training.  

From Zach Links and Charlie Wilmoth at MLB Trade Rumors


John Buck is still available on FA market, but was told Mets have no interest in reunion. Even so, team still open to adding catching depth.

From Mike Puma at the New York Post


Dave Cameron at ESPN [Insider needed and recommended] suggests “three pitchers who are likely going to sign for a fraction of what the top pitchers get this winter, but could be perfect fits for teams looking to add quality innings without spending an arm and a leg.” (Why would anyone spend an arm and a leg for just an arm?) He suggest these three.

Chris Capuano: He notes that, “if you can get batters to swing and miss while throwing strikes, you’re most of the way to being an effective hurler, and that’s exactly what Capuano did last year. And it was actually the third consecutive year in which Capuano ran a K/BB ratio over 3.00. From 2011 to 2013, Capuano posted the 29th-best K/BB ratio of any regular starting pitcher in baseball. Capuano could easily be a quality mid-rotation starter again in 2014.

Jerome Williams: “Would also be a good addition to a team that doesn’t yet have five big league starting pitchers. While his lack of an out pitch gives him limited upside, Williams has shown the ability to get ground balls and avoid walking too many hitters, which is the basic recipe for a classic innings-eater.”

Paul Maholm: As a 32-year-old lefty with an 87 mph fastball, though, Maholm doesn’t exactly get anyone excited. However, it isn’t hard to make a case that Maholm can give a team most of what Jason Vargas could put up, and Vargas got $32 million over four years earlier in the offseason.”


Chris Capuano is looking for a two-year deal, and is said to be willing to wait for that deal to evolve someplace. From: Buster Olney at ESPN


As a free agent, Nelson Cruz has four problems. First, he’s no help defensively — he’s below average even when compared to other right fielders, posting negative UZR numbers in all of the past three seasons. Second, he’s 33 and projects to age badly, as an offensively minded player who doesn’t actually hit all that well. Third, his ties to the Biogenesis scandal might raise questions about his immediate future. And fourth, the team that signs him will have to forfeit a draft pick.

There have been indications that Cruz wants a four-year, $75MM contract. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards as one win above replacement is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $6MM or $7MM on the open market, so for Cruz to justify even the three-year, $39MM deal MLBTR projected he would get, he would have to produce about six wins over the life of the deal, even before considering the draft pick. Even 6 WAR seems like an optimistic projection over the next three years. Cruz produced WAR figures of 1.3, 1.1 and 1.5 the past three seasons. Source: Charlie Wilmoth at MLB Trade Rumors


Draft and Prospects


17-year-old Luiz Gohara, 18-year-old Victor Sanchez and 19-year-olds Edwin Diaz and Tyler Pike make up the next “Big Four” for Seattle. Two left-handers and two right-handers, all boasting a combination of stuff, polish and poise that really makes them stand out among their peers, even when their peers are almost always years older than the pitchers themselves. These four teenage arms represent the best that the Mariners have to offer in the pitching prospect department, and the group is among the best in all of baseball. They’ve combined to make 96 starts and sport a collective 2.61 ERA, 1.13 WHIP while allowing fewer than seven hits-per-nine innings in their 469 innings. Source: Rick Randall at Mariners Clubhouse


Baseball Best Practice


Rotation depth is something you don’t usually think about at first, you’re simply focused on just the first five, because no pitcher is individually likely to break down, and if the five are good enough you should never need a replacement, right? I thought it could be useful to provide some updated numbers from the season most recently finished. Those sixth and seventh starters in a system — they’re going to get innings, sometimes a lot of them.

Overall, these guys made 967 combined starts, for an average of 32 per team. They threw a combined 5,097 innings, for an average of 170 per team. They totaled 7.2 RA9-WAR, and 24.1 regular WAR, for averages of 0.2 and 0.8. Their combined ERA- was 125; their combined FIP- was 119. Contenders and non-contenders alike had to give dozens of starts to guys who didn’t so much figure to be starters in March and April.

Take that team average of 32 starts, that’s a fifth of all starts, basically its own rotation slot. Building rotation depth isn’t the easiest thing because real good arms will get rotation jobs right away. You won’t be able to sign good starters to minor-league contracts to stash in Triple-A. You generally won’t be able to keep good, established starters in the bullpen. Good depth often has to come from within, in the form of younger talent. Depth is hard to build but it’s easy to deplete.

As an example, I instantly think of the Mariners. Right now, they’re looking at a rotation of Felix HernandezHisashi IwakumaTaijuan WalkerJames Paxton, and Erasmo Ramirez. There’s not much of anything behind them. The Mariners intend to add another starter, be it Masahiro Tanaka or a free agent or a trade acquisition. That would push Ramirez into the sixth-starter role. A follow-up move could be trading a young starter for some kind of bat, but then they’d be back in their current position, with depth in the persons of Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer. Ramirez is probably superior, given his health, and he’d make for an excellent sixth-starter option.

The tricky thing is the unpredictability. You never know when you might suddenly have a need, or for how long. The absence of quality depth will usually cost a team, in one way or another. Based on a post by Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs


By The Numbers


The pitchers who have allowed the most hits over the last two seasons are Jeremy Guthrie (442), Joe Saunders (427), and Jon Lester (425). Source: The Bill Chuck Files


Alumni News


The Angels recently signed LH Justin Thomas to a Minor League contract. Thomas, 27, is expected to start in AAA. From: Alden Gonzalez at (Thomas, who appeared in 8 games for the Mariners in 2008 finished the last half of 2013 with the Nippon Ham Fighters.)