Mariners Mini Morsels: January 25

It turns out that Mather does, in fact, have a face. It looks different than that of Chuck Armstrong.

Kevin Mather admits he isn’t a “baseball guy” and won’t be telling Jack Zduriencik how to run the Mariners‘ baseball operations, but as the new club president, he definitely knows the importance of helping the franchise do what every fan wants to hear. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Mather is a 1984 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where he received a degree in accounting and risk/insurance prior to taking a job with an accounting firm for four years.

Mather talked of the ownership group being fans themselves, and said it’s not hard right now to convince them to pursue talented players, as evidenced by the $240 million signing of Robinson Cano this offseason. “There are different opinions in the room,” Mather said of the board of directors. “But as a group, it’s an easy sell. You just have to show them a plan. It’s an easy sell, because we’ve been losing and these guys are tired of it.” In the short term, Mather said there is still some financial flexibility for a team whose payroll currently sits at about $85 million with less than three weeks before Spring Training opens. “I asked Jack, ‘Where are we? Where are your holes? What were your priorities this offseason? Is there still value out there?” Mather said. “The answer to that question [about still having money] is yes, but he said, ‘I just want the flexibility to have conversations.’ I told him I’m working on that and he does have that.

“Our ownership group pays for their own tickets. They are fans. And they never say no to a capital call or budget adjustment or a move. We’ll be having those conversations over the next several years, particularly if there’s value, because we are close. I’m kind of stepping into an opportunity,” Mather said. “We think we’re really close. If these guys are above-average Major League players — and it’s taken a year or two longer than we thought — but if they’re above-average players like we think they are, we’re going to have a long run of very good baseball teams. And we need to win more baseball games.” Source: Greg Johns at MLB

(And if this guy is delusional, and our players aren’t above average, our long run of poor teams is just going to keep on and on and on. Not being a “baseball guy,” he must not know the bust rate of prospects.)

 

Jonathan Bernhardt at Sports On Earth has written a piece on “Which baseball clubs have the best starting rotations?

He ranks them from #1 Dodgers, #2 Nationals, #3 Red Sox, #4 Reds and #5 the Mariners. He writes that:

The Mariners have had a fairly rough offseason in the press, all things considered. Cavalierly throwing over $200 million at a second baseman over the age of 30 and then doing pretty much nothing else of note to revamp a roster that lost 91 games last year was correctly recognized by most people for what it was — desperation tinged by necessity. That said, the Mariners already have the pieces in place to field one of the best rotations in the game, and adding Robinson Cano should not only help the team score runs, but prevent a few as well. The question is: will that be enough to get the team into a position to make some noise in the 2014 AL West? (His answer is: no.)

Nevertheless, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are a pretty good pair of guys to stick at the top of a team’s rotation. I’d take Kershaw-Greinke, Strasburg-Zimmermann, and maybe Verlander-Scherzer from Detroit and Hamels-Lee from Philadelphia over them for the 2014 season, but that’s about it. Iwakuma is the particular concern here, because he’s still only thrown 345 total innings in America. I’d like to see him keep his stellar career 2.84 ERA and 3.36 K/BB ratio for one more season before I rank him where those rate stats say he should be ranked.

Hernandez, meanwhile, has been quietly slipping from the kind of pitcher that got him the nickname “King Felix“. Over the last three seasons he’s thrown 670 innings of 3.20 ERA baseball, which on the surface is precisely the same as the six seasons before that, when he threw 1154.2 innings of… 3.20 ERA baseball. However, since league offense has declined over the course of Hernandez’s career, the 3.20 ERA in his first six years is good for a 132 ERA+, but over the last three years, only a 117 ERA+. Both performances are still something teams would count themselves lucky to have 200 innings of in their rotation each season. Only the former leads to the sort of job security Hernandez got from the Mariners when they signed him to a seven-year, $175 million extension last February.

So if both Iwakuma and Hernandez are question marks in their own way, how are the Mariners making this list?Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, mostly. Walker is a better prospect than any of the various Red Sox arms listed above (Paxton isn’t), and the pair of them were impressive in the PCL last year and continued to impress in a quick stint in the majors at the end of the season. Is it likely that in practice, the Mariners actually have the fifth-best rotation in baseball next year? Not especially; given Oakland and Texas’s current rosters, they might not even have the best starting pitching in their own division. I do think the upside of Taijuan Walker from a Hernandez/Iwakuma/Walker/Paxton rotation with the fifth starter being either Brandon Maurer (age 23) or Erasmo Ramirez (age 24) is enough to justify putting them on the list. (Edited for brevity.)

 

So they said

“I’m not going to give up these kids,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve been too patient as an organization.” Source: Greg Johns at MLB  (He was singing from a different song book last off-season.)

 

“It was a long season. I definitely got tired. But I think those three starts in the big leagues definitely gave me a boost of energy. Now I know what to expect for the coming season.” Taijuan Walker from Greg Johns at MLB

 

Mariner’s potential off-season targets

The Rays added Balfour, Bell, Forsythe and Hanigan. They re-signed Loney, Molina and seven arbitration eligible players. That’s not vibe of a team about to trade Price. From: Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports

 

Source: 5 teams in the hunt for Jason Hammel. Nothing imminent, but a decision should be made next week. From: Chris Cotillo at MLB Daily Dish

 

Arroyo’s people also had conversation with Dodgers after Tanaka went to the Yankees. It is uncertain how interested the Dodgers are though. From: Jon Heyman at CBS Sports

 

Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com is the Angel’s beat writer for MLB. He has reviewed some of the same pitchers the Mariners should be looking at. He writes that: Below is a look at five free-agent starters who may still be options for the Angels, provided that Garza’s deal with the Brewers ultimately gets finalized:”

Bronson Arroyo: He’s 36 but durable, averaging 207 innings since 2004 and never once going on the DL. During that 10-year span, Arroyo has posted a 4.10 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and a 2.54 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He gives up a lot of homers (a Major League-leading 252 since ’06) and doesn’t strike out a lot of batters (5.8 per nine in his career), but his numbers have been very respectable in a tough pitcher’s park like Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. The Dodgers’ reported interest may price him away from the Angels, though.

Jason Hammel: The 31-year-old right-hander may make sense on an incentive-laden contract. Hammel missed seven weeks with a flexor strain in his pitching elbow last season with the Orioles, and finished with a 4.97 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP and a 2.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But his average fastball velocity was 92.7 mph in 2013 and he had a solid 2012, posting a 3.43 ERA in 20 starts despite knee surgery.

Chris Capuano: The 35-year-old lefty spent 40 days on the disabled list with groin and left shoulder injuries in 2013, finishing his Dodgers season with a 4.26 ERA, a career-high 10.6 hits per nine innings, the lowest strikeout rate since his shortened rookie season (6.9) and a lost September. Strangely, though, the Tommy John product’s average fastball velocity was the highest of his career, jumping from 86.7 mph to 88.4 mph from one year to the next.

Paul Maholm: He doesn’t strike out many people (5.8 per nine innings in his career) and doesn’t throw very hard (average fastball velocity of 87.5 mph in 2013), but the 31-year-old left-hander gets a lot of ground balls. He has a career ground-ball percentage of .521 and has been pretty durable, averaging 181 innings per season since 2006. With the Braves last year, Maholm was limited to 153 innings with a wrist sprain and elbow inflammation. His ERA jumped to 4.41 and he was replaced by Freddy Garcia for the playoffs. The Cubs and Rangers have been linked.

Scott Baker: The 32-year-old right-hander had a 3.98 ERA with the Twins from 2007-11, then spent 15 months recovering from Tommy John surgery — from April 2012 to July 2013 — and was missing a couple ticks off his fastball upon returning. He posted a 5.46 ERA in eight rehab starts in the Cubs’ system, then a 3.60 ERA in three Major League starts in September. The Mariners and Indians have been deemed as heavy favorites, probably for an incentive-laden deal.

 

Sources:Jerome Williams has offers from at least 3 teams, seems close to making a decision on where to sign. From: Chris Cotillo at MLB Daily Dish

 

International

Steve Sypa at Amazin Avenue has written two very informative profiles of international free agents who are currently or will be shortly available. One is: Free Agent Profile 2014 Odrisamer Despaigne on a Cuban defector soon to be available.

The other is:International Free Agent Profile 2014 Suk Min Yoon who is an award winning Korean pitcher who is currently available and represented by Scott Boras.

 

By The Numbers

Of the 55 batters with at least 5,000 plate appearances over the last 10 seasons, no one has drawn fewer walks than A.J. Pierzynski (209 in 5,216 plate appearances). From: The Bill Chuck Files

 

Alumni News

The Dodgers have inked outfielder Trayvon Robinson to a minor league deal. The Dodgers originally drafted him and included him in the three-team Erik Bedard trade with the Red Sox and Mariners in 2011. Robinson, 26, has a .602 OPS in parts of two big league seasons but is a .266/.344/.454 hitter in Triple-A.

The Orioles have signed infielder/outfielder Scott Savastano to a minor league deal. The 27-year-old has spent six years playing in the Mariners’ minor league system where he’s amassed a .282/.360/.406 batting line. The versatile Savastano has recent experience at first base, second base, third base, left field and right field. Source: Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors