Mariners Mini Morsels: January 29

Ervin Santana can perform flying karate kicks from the ground.

Like several other teams (the Blue Jays, Orioles among them), the Mariners have been talking to the top pitchers on the market, waiting to see if they could be comfortable with price tags for Santana, who is the most durable and consistent of the free-agent hurlers in their prime (23 quality starts last year, 59 over the past three years) or Jimenez. It also was learned the Mariners have talked with Arroyo, too. While Arroyo is thought by some to have a slight preference for the East Coast and spring training in his home state of Florida, he has a connection from his Pittsburgh days to new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.

The Mariners have been linked publicly to Cruz, who’d seem to be a fit but has drawn mixed reviews within their front office; he’s also a .238 career hitter at Safeco Field. Morales hasn’t been mentioned, at least not publicly (lately), but Seattle has continued dialogue with him, even after deals for Hart and Morrison. Mariners people love Morales, not only for his bat (an impressive 23 home runs and 80 RBI considering Safeco is a pitcher park) but his leadership ability as well. Either he or Cruz would make sense as candidates to bat behind their new star Cano, as well.

If they were to re-sign Morales, who received a $14.1 million qualifying offer from them, it would seem to possibly signal the possible expiration of Justin Smoak’s tenure in Seattle — though insiders say Zduriencik remains a fan of Smoak. Source: Jon Heyman at CBS Sports


Perhaps rounding out the rotation is James Paxton, the southpaw who ranked third in our prospect rankings. Despite middling (okay, poor) results at Triple-A, I’m more excited about his fantasy prospects this year than Walker’s. Eno Sarris summed up Paxton’s up and down ride recently. What I see is a hard-throwing ground ball machine with above average strikeout potential. In limited action during his cup of coffee, his curve ball was fantastic in inducing swinging strikes and it also caused batters to chop it into the ground half the time. Control is going to be the last thing to come around, which gives him further upside.

Possibly battling for a rotation spot is Brandon Maurer, who endured a forgettable first half that saw him post an ERA approaching 7.00, fully backed up by weak skills. But he returned in a relief role at the end of July before making four starts at the end of the year and his skills surged. His whiff rate improved on all three of his secondary offerings, the changeup, slider and curve ball, while he threw his changeup and curve for strikes more frequently. He had struggled with his control in the minors throughout 2013, but hadn’t done so previously, so it appears he has corrected what afflicted him. One other problem is as primarily a fastball/slider guy, he’s prone to platoon issues, as his strikeout rate plunged versus lefties. Source: Mike Podhorzer at FanGraphs


Robinson CanoBrad Miller, and Kyle Seager all share a common trait, as none of the three ever appeared on a Baseball America top-100 prospect list. Source: Carson Cistulli at FanGraphs


His knees, and how they hold up, are his only concern. “I’ve got to show people I can do some stuff,” [Corey Hart] said. “I totally understand that. I’ve got to prove that to myself because I’ve missed a full year because of my knees. ”He expects there to be pain. “I’ll have to figure out if it’s pain because of injury,” Hart said, “or just soreness from muscles that I haven’t been using. … I’m going to have to go through that. But having missed a year, I want to make sure I don’t rush things and have any setbacks. So far, it’s been great. My workouts have been great. Everything has been encouraging.” Source: Bob Dutton at The News Tribune


Given he’s never had any arm problems in his career, the lanky [Tom Wilhelmsen] maintained his familiar workout routine and says he’s ready now to start throwing bullpen sessions in anticipation of the start of camp on Feb. 13. For Wilhelmsen, a fresh start seems to have brought the old sparkle back in his eyes. “Just like any other season, I’m just making sure I’m physically prepared to last 160-plus games. Hopefully more like 180, you know?” he said. “We’re all excited. It’s nice to have the break, but this is what we love to do and we’re all pretty eager to get back.” Source: Greg Johns at MLB


AL West Commentary

The Rangers have undergone a considerable facelift since last October, and their offense should be much improved, giving them a shot at reclaiming their AL West supremacy. That said, the loss of Holland exacerbates their lack of proven rotation options, and until [GM Jon] Daniels bulks it up with additional resources, there’s reason to be concerned. With the $30 million Texas received from the Tigers, it will be paying an average of $19.7 million for its first baseman, [Prince Fielder] still well below the average annual salaries of Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez. Source: Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated 


Not sensing urgency on part of Angels to add a starting pitcher, but if they do, they seem to be leaning more toward Hammel or Capuano than Arroyo or Maholm. From: Mike DiGiovanna at the LA Times


The Angels have agreed to minor league deals with OF Brennan Boesch and 1B Carlos Pena. Pena, 35, had a .207/.321/.346 slash line with 8 HR, 25 RBIs in 89 G for KC and HOU last season. Receives ST invite from Angels. From: Mike DiGiovanna at the LA Times


So they said

“I don’t really see too many scenarios where $240 million for Cano is insane but $175 million for Tanaka is rational. Either they’re both crazy or they’re both great, and if the Yankees really had unlimited funds, maybe they should have signed both.” Source: Dave Cameron at FanGraphs


Mariner’s potential off-season targets

Free agent right-hander Ervin Santana is drawing interest from eight teams including the Rockies, Orioles, MarinersYankees and Dodgers, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. he Marlins and Cubs also recently inquired about him, but their interest does not appear to be too serious at this time. With Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Garza recently off the board, Santana’s market is expected to heat up in the near future, with league sources speculating that teams like the Blue JaysDiamondbacksRoyals and Tigers could become involved. Things have been quiet on the Santana front since Thursday, and sources caution that it is “still early” in the process. Source: Chris Cotillo at MLB Daily Dish


The Mariners are in on Fernando Rodney. With the Mets and O’s, that makes three teams that we know of.  From: Tim Brown at Yahoo! Sports


Free agent starting pitcher A.J. Burnett has decided to pitch in 2014, reports Jon Heyman at CBS Sports. This came after months of Burnett having not made a final decision. Also of note, remember last spring that Burnett said after his final season of his last contract he’d either choose to return to the Pirates or retire.

Pirates beat writer Travis Sawchik at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Burnett is now open to pitching for a club other than the Pirates. We also know the Mariners and Blue Jays are looking for starting pitching, so the Pirates might have to pony up a bit here if they hope to keep their man.

Burnett, 37, was 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA (107 ERA+), 1.22 WHIP and 209 strikeouts in 191 innings pitched. He led the NL with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings (among qualifiers). He’s had a productive two seasons after escaping New York to join the Pirates, so it’s worth wondering if a return to the AL East would really be attractive to a man so close to retirement.



South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon is in talks with two suitors and expected to sign a deal shortly. The 27-year-old righty, who has experience in the rotation and bullpen, is a Boras Corporation client. He is believed to have had four offers from MLB clubs, and is now in discussions with two of the offering teams. He is currently working out at the Boras Corporation training facility near Los Angeles. Source: Naver Sports


By The Numbers

The Phillies ranked last in the majors in defensive runs saved last year at minus-103. The Cardinals were second worst in the NL at minus-39. Source: ESPN Stats & Info


Last season, B.J. Upton had 5.8 times as many strikeouts as RBIs (151 Ks/26 RBIs). He is one of three players in baseball history who played at least 125 games in a season with a ratio that bad. The other two were Gary Pettis (124/17 in 1987) and Tommie Agee (103/17 in 1968). From: The Bill Chuck Files


From Sept 6, 2005 to Sept 9, 2006, the Phillies Ryan Howard batted .312/.405/.689 with 65 home runs and 162 RBI over a 162 game-span. Source: MLB Play Index


Baseball Biz

The Yankees again will pay a 50-percent tax, and every dollar they now spend will cost them $1.50. Tanaka was one thing; the Yankees, desperate for starting pitching, were willing to effectively pay $33 million for him in 2014 – $22 million in salary plus $11 million in tax. Source: Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports


Baseball History

The remaining barrel of the bat Roger Clemens threw at Mike Piazza during the 2000 World Series is up for auction, as ESPN first reported. The bidding on the barrel opened last week, ESPN reported, and it currently sits at $4,481.25, though Heritage Auctions lists its estimated value as greater than $10,000. The auction will finish on Feb. 22, when bidding will culminate at the Ukrainian Institute of America at The Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion in Manhattan. Source: New York Post staff report. (Is there likely to be a heavy Ukrainian interest in this?)


Alumni News

Source: Free-agent IF Yuniesky Betancourt has reached agreement with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes. From: Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports

Last year, spending most of his time at first and third for the Brewers, Betancourt checked in with a .212/.240/.355 line and 13 home runs in 409 plate appearances. Betancourt has played nine MLB seasons, registering a cumulative .261/.285/.388 slash line in 4,278 plate appearances. He has not maintained an OPS of over .700 since the 2007 season, and both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference credit Betancourt with a cumulative sub-replacement level contribution over his career to date. Source: Jeff Todd at MLB Trade Rumors