“If the Mariners are going to spend at the Rangers’ and Angels’ levels rather than Cleveland’s and Kansas City’s, it’ll change the entire complexion of the AL West. It’s tough to see the M’s leaping to the top of the division just yet, and even landing [Masahiro] Tanaka might not be enough to make that happen in 2014. But they have [Felix Hernandez], [Robinson Cano], and a highly touted crop of infield prospects, and more moves could be on the way if ownership continues to act on its sudden impulse to give a damn. The Mariners could tolerate the slow progress under GM Jack Zduriencik when the team was building backyard forts out of thousand-dollar bills. If things don’t improve soon, though, a new regime will take over, and it will have enough money to bully competitors out of top talent.” Source: Jonah Keri at Grantland
“It worked out well,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said earlier this offseason. “Both with Taijuan and Paxton, neither one of them had to be on the roster this winter. But we decided it was in our best interest and their best interest to get them big league experience, so the whole month of September they travelled with the big league club and they each had a chance to pitch. We got them to pitch into September for the first time and they got a chance to face big league hitters and be around the big league club,” said Zduriencik.
“So the first time we break out of Spring Training, if both guys are on the club, they’re familiar with a Major League road trip. They’re familiar with a Major League locker room and throwing against Major League hitters. That’s what we wanted accomplished, and in both cases, we did that.” Zduriencik said both can legitimately be viewed as challengers for rotation berths going forward. “Absolutely,” he said. “Are they going to be on the staff? That’s up to what happens in Spring Training, obviously. But are they candidates, yes? We were very pleased with what we saw from both guys.” Greg Johns at MLB
Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated in an early off-season review gave the Mariners a Preliminary Grade: B. Writing that:
Cano is such a good and reliable player (average of 160 games played the last seven years) that it’s difficult to come down too hard on the team that signed him, regardless of the contract. Seattle also gets credit for some of the moves it didn’t make, such as trading Walker, a potential front-of-the-rotation starter as early as this, his rookie season.
With all of the talent they have coming up, they’re better off taking a long view than trying to force a 20-win improvement in one offseason. As it is, with the Mariners should still take a big step forward in 2014. Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and the 21-year-old Taijuan Walker will lead the rotation and Cano will anchor a lineup that saw improvements from Kyle Seager (now 26) and Justin Smoak (27) in 2013 and should get a full season from Zunino (23 in March) and whichever of Franklin or Miller remains at shortstop. Of course, simply achieving mediocrity would be an improvement after last season.
Comment From Big John: Who has a more productive 10-year contract, Cano or Pujols?
Steve Adams: I’ll say Cano just because we know that Pujols’ first two seasons haven’t been great (at least by his standards… his 2012 was solid). Have to worry about future injuries for Albert now too, and I don’t know that we’ll be concerned about Cano’s health just 18 months in like we were with Albert.
Comment From jamesess: Cory Hart comeback player of the year? Will wearing sunglasses for night games hinder his performance? Steve Adams: As long as he’s healthy, Hart should be in the mix for that award.
Comment From Bucfan: Who has best chance to be traded for 1st base by the Pirates?
Steve Adams: It sounds like a lot of the first base trade candidates are staying put. I wonder if/when the Mariners really consider moving one though. I can’t imagine Smoak is untouchable by any means.
AL West Commentary
While the latest buzz says Tanaka has narrowed down his list of true suitors to the Angels, Dodgers, and Yankees, the Mariners and Rangers are also reportedly attempting to secure the righty’s services. Wherever Tanaka signs, the fact that 60 percent of American League West teams look like viable threats to land by far the best player left on the market, and one of the most hotly pursued in years, underscores the financial boom these teams have experienced. Baseball’s balance of power has started to shift, and it’s swinging toward the AL West. Source: Jonah Keri at Grantland
(Jonah has written a review of the looming AL West surge in performance that is a wonderful read for anyone who has an interest in the teams involved. You can find it here.)
Comment From Warren Chinese Buffet: If baseball teams were stocks, whose would you buy low on now, expecting to make a big profit at the end of 2014? Dave Cameron: Probably the Angels.
So they said
“Just because [Masahiro Tanaka] had great success over there doesn’t mean he’s going to be lights out here,” one [Yankees] official said. “We’ll find out soon enough, but it’s not like he’s a sure-fire thing. I’d like to think so, but I’m not convinced.” Source: Dan Martin at the New York Post
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
Doug Miller at MLB.com has put together mini-bios on some available under-the-radar pitchers, including:
James McDonald, RHP: For much of 2012, McDonald looked like he might be a future fixture in the Pirates‘ rotation, but he struggled after the All-Star break. Still, the right-handed starter, who turned 29 in October, can reach 94 mph with his fastball and gave up only 147 hits in 171 innings, while striking out 151 that year. McDonald needs to iron out command issues, something he couldn’t do while walking 25 batters in 29 2/3 innings with Pittsburgh in 2013. A change of scenery and a new pitching coach might help.
Suk-min Yoon, RHP: Most of the hype coming from Asia this winter has been about Tanaka, and rightly so, but this 27-year-old Korean right-hander wants to debut in MLB in 2014, too, and there’s been some interest from the Red Sox and Twins of late, according to reports. Yoon projects as a starter or reliever, and he is certainly looking for a Major League deal, so he figures to be more expensive than most of the names on this list. But he’ll be much more affordable than Tanaka, Garza and the rest of the high-profile free-agent starters. Whether Yoon will be that good remains to be seen.
David Aardsma, RHP: It was a long road back to the big leagues after several surgeries for Aardsma, 32, but he made it to the Mets last year and showed he can still strike batters out (36 in 39 2/3 innings in 2013). He’ll have to be healthy and more refined to get close to where he was when he saved 69 games as the Mariners‘ closer from 2009-10, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be a useful bullpen arm at a great price.
Comment From Prich: Would Franklin for Hicks be a fair deal, or would one side perceived to be getting hosed, rightly or not? Jeff Sullivan: Favors the Twins. Hicks is coming off an unimpressive season and he’s also older.
Comment From Brian: Jason Vargas and Paul Maholm have very similar numbers the past 3 seasons. Vargas got 4/32 and Maholm is not expected to get anything close to that. What am I missing? Dave Cameron: Maholm has big LH/RH splits, so some teams see him as a reliever.
Comment From Guest: Who takes a 1 yr deal Cruz, Morales or both? Dave Cameron: Neither. I’d guess both sign for 3/30ish.
Comment From Joe: Where does Garza sign and for how much? Dave Cameron: Angels, 4/50.
Comment From Bryan Robinson: Best value free agent still out there? Dave Cameron: Chris Capuano.
Draft and Prospects
Comment From David Pearl: Who do you feel better about as a prospect, Brad Miller or Mike Zunino?
Jeff Sullivan: Miller
Comment From Big John: Will DJ Peterson see MLB time this year?
Steve Adams: He only got to A-Ball after being drafted last year. That’d be very, very aggressive. I don’t see it.
Baseball Best Practice
Value is a combination of risk and reward. Focusing solely on reward is a great way to come up with a wrong valuation. Source: Dave Cameron at FanGraphs
“You hear things about how good this organization [Tampa Bay Rays] is, and it really lived up to that. Everyone here is great on communication, and the program they put you on is one-of-a-kind,” [Jake Odorizzi] says. “You can see why they’re so successful and continue to be that every year.” Source: Sam Dykstra at MiLB
MLBAM has announced that R.B.I. Baseball 14, a video game brand not seen in nearly two decades, will return this spring. R.B.I. Baseball 14 is being developed by MLBAM for multi-platform distribution across current and next generation consoles and smart phones and tablets. For the latest developments on R.B.I. Baseball 14, please visit rbigame.com and follow @RBIGame.
In 1996, McClatchy paid $95M (roughly $150M today) for Pirates. The Dodgers paid $215M for one pitcher. From: Rob Biertempfel at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Chone Figgins, trying to make a comeback, worked out for a number of teams today. The Dodgers and Twins among those in attendance. From: Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports