Mariners Mini Morsels: February 28

For now McClendon is looking for one of the numerous starters in camp to step up. (In response to Walker’s bursitis.) “A lot of opportunities,” he answered when asked if the Mariners had enough in camp to fill the current rotation needs. “We have a lot of big arms to hopefully take advantage of those opportunities. Like I said, I just hope they don’t all eliminate themselves. Then we have got a problem.” Source: Shannon Drayer at My Northwest

 

Jim Leyland and I talked this morning and I said, ‘Skip, no disrespect, but this is probably the best camp I’ve ever been involved in,'” said McClendon, back in the saddle for the first time since managing the Pirates from 2001-05. “And I mean that sincerely. And the reason is because of the players, not so much what we’ve done. Just the effort the players have put forth. “They’ve blown me away with their energy and how they’re going about their business. I’ve been very pleased.”

McClendon is pleased with the talent he’s seen in camp so far. And Cano echoed the same thought.

“It’s fun here,” Cano said. “You see all the young kids and everybody gets along. Felix is always joking around. It’s amazing. It’s better than what I thought. I’m getting along with these guys. We have great talent. We can have a pretty good team. We just need to stay together and go out and play hard every day.” Source: Greg Johns at MLB

 

[One thing that Erasmo Ramirez brought to the table last season] was a troubling tendency to serve up home runs. He permitted at least one in nine of his 13 starts. Too often, hitters seemed to just sit on his fastball. That, too, he believes will change with his new approach. “In Venezuela,” Ramirez said, “I got my confidence back. What I learned is it’s not that easy to read the pitches if you have the same arm speed and the same mechanics. You do that, and it’s hard (for the batter) to read your pitches. Now, I just have to do that.”

It’s a less-is-more approach that might have one other benefit, particularly early in camp. “Before, I would just throw like crazy,” he said. “Just throw as hard as I can, right from the beginning. Now, I’m smarter. I’m still using my fastball, but I’m trying to rely more on command instead of just speed. “Before, I wasn’t smart in the way I threw. I just pushed my body too much. Now, it’s not bad to push yourself, but the body has a limit. I passed that limit the last two years.”

The key now, Ramirez acknowledged, is not to let his competitive drive overwhelm his newfound common sense. Source: Bob Dutton at The News Tribune

 

Mets’ person says club will scout Nick Franklin throughout spring training and decide if a trade makes sense. They like his pop but are unsure about his defense at shortstop. From: John Harper at the New York Daily News

 

Scott Strandberg at FanGraphs has posted in interesting piece entitled The sneaky fantasy value of Abraham Almonte, which fans of Abraham (Don’t call me Abe) Almonte should enjoy reading.

 

Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs, in a post titled The most and least improved teams for 2014, notes that “reality always deviates from the projections, but that doesn’t mean the projections are valueless, and I thought it could be worth looking at which teams appear the most and least improved from last season.

“We’ll begin with the ten most-improved teams:  Astros, +18 WAR   Phillies, +12   Mariners, +11   Marlins, +8   Yankees, +8   Blue Jays, +8   Padres, +8   White Sox, +6   Twins, +5   Brewers, +4

“Now to turn things around and look at the other end of the spreadsheet:  Red Sox, -16 WAR   Tigers, -14   Rays, -8   Braves, -8  Athletics, -8   Reds, -7  Rangers, -7   Royals, -6   Orioles, -6   Pirates, -5″

I find it interesting that the Mariners improved by 3 WAR more than the Yankees and the Yanks outspent them by many millions of dollars during the off-season, despite our $240 million dollar man. While our new division-mates the Astros improved the most they should still serve to keep us from becoming cellar dwellers, at least for this season. However our +11 WAR improvement and the retrograde movements of the –8 Athletics and –7 Rangers would seem to offer some hope of advancement against them in the coming season. —Maqman

 

AL West Commentary

[Texas] General manager Jon Daniels has had a nice offseason, having acquired Shin-Soo Choo for the top of his lineup and Prince Fielder for the middle. And then stuff started happening. Left-hander Derek Holland injured his left knee and is gone until at least midseason. Right-hander Matt Harrison is sidelined with a sore back. When Texas went to the World Series in 2011, Harrison and Holland combined for 62 starts, 288 strikeouts and almost 400 innings. Harrison was 25, Holland 24, and the Rangers believed they’d acquire their rotation for years to come.

And the Rangers still might. In fact, they both might be back in time to carry Texas right into October. If they’re not, the Rangers could be desperate for pitching. At the moment, there’s pitching available. There might not be in August.

It’s not just Holland and Harrison. Right-hander Alexi Ogando has been almost as good as either of them when he has been healthy. In that 2011 season, he made 29 starts, pitched 169 innings and had a 3.51 ERA. But Ogando was on the disabled list three times last season with arm and shoulder issues.

So for now, the Rangers can count on Darvish and Perez, who has made only 26 starts in the big leagues. That’s it.

They’ve got an intriguing youngster in Nick Tepesch and a veteran, Tommy Hanson, in camp to try and jump-start his career. It would be a mistake to underestimate the quality of the arms in the system, but this is a club that sees itself as capable of playing deep into October. Their lineup and bullpen appear to be good enough to do just that. Source: Richard_Justice at MLB.com

 

So they said

You concentrate on doing your job,” [Jeff] Samardzija said.  “You can make as many excuses for yourself as you want. But when it’s all said and done, that doesn’t fly. Your numbers are your numbers. Your record is your record.” From: Patrick Mooney at CSN Chicago

 

“I [Erasmo Ramirez] prefer to see the infielders working on the ground balls and not the outfielders on the fly balls. I loved what happened today.” Source: Shannon Drayer at My Northwest

“Ballplayers, we’re all brainwashed to win. We’re brainwashed to want that. That’s what we want.” Tori Hunter to Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk

 

Baseball Best Practice

“Part of creating a winning environment is setting ambitious goals and working toward them. But it has to be systematic and it can’t be totally unrealistic.” Mets GM Sandy Alderson. Source: John Harper at the New York Daily News

 

Ask Ervin SantanaStephen Drew and Kendrys Morales how the land of milk and honey of free agency is working out for them. The boom in contract extensions is being fueled by the increases in national and regional television rights, but that’s not all that’s behind it. Teams know that, in the drug-testing era, you no longer want players aging through their mid- to late-30s. “What you’re seeing is the industry showing an eagerness to buy up the best years of a player’s career,” one prominent agent said. “They want the ages 24 to 31 or 32 and don’t mind doing long-term deals to make sure they get them. After that? You’re still going to see some big deals here and there, but teams know the value isn’t there. So you’re going to see more and more of the [Freddie] Freeman type deals.”

Here’s how much the game has skewed younger. In 2000, players aged 36 and older combined for a better OPS than subsets of players 31-35, 26-30 or 25 and younger. Yes, players were getting better as they got older! That’s just crazy — or the wonders of illegal chemistry. But last year, the 36-and-older crowd posted below-MLB averages in batting average, OBP and slugging. What we are going to see is a further eroding of the free-agent market as a place of any kind of efficiency. Teams will continue to make bad deals on free agents because it mostly involves paying too long and too much for the decline years of star players. Source: Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated 

 

By The Numbers

Buster Posey is a .299 lifetime batter as a catcher and .357 as a first baseman. Mauer is a .328 lifetime batter as a catcher and .324 as a first baseman. From: The Bill Chuck Files

 

Only three potential free agents will play next year in their 20s: Colby Rasmus, at 28, Pablo Sandoval, 28, and Asdrubal Cabrera, 29. Source: Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated 
The Mariners have a franchise-record 68 players in camp. Source: Greg Johns at MLB

 

52.2% of MLBTR readers polled see Justin Masterson not signing an extension with the Indians and becoming a free agent after this season. Source: Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors

 

Baseball Biz

Wendy Thurm of FanGraphs is on of my favorite reads (and a great follow on Twitter – I won’t forget “Shift happens!”)

In a piece titled How teams are allocating their spending for 2014, she ranked the projected 2014 Opening Day payrolls, estimated the number of pre-arbitration players on each Opening Day roster, and calculated the percentage of each team’s payroll attributed to the highest paid player.

She ranked the Mariners as the 21st highest payroll out of the 30 MLB teams at $87,500,000. This compares to our AL West Division mates Angels 6th highest at $151,000,000, 9th ranked Rangers at $131,000,000, 26th place Athletics with $79,000,000, while the 29th place Astros splashed out with $49,000,000.

She also lists the percentage of each team’s payroll spent on the highest-paid player. In this category the Mariners had the 2nd highest paid in Robinson Cano at $24,000,000, which is 27.45% of their payroll. This compares to the 7th ranked Rangers Prince Fielder, also on $24,000,000 but that’s only 18.30% of their payroll. The Angels were 15th with Albert Pujols $23,000,000 counting for 15.25% of their payroll. The 24th place A’s pay Yoenis Cespedes $10,500,000 this season or 13.30% of their total. The 3rd place Astros are giving Scott Feldman $12,000,000, or 24.50%, of their newly inflated payroll this year.

In a Part Two of her payroll series, which is titled 2014 payroll allocation by position, she broke down the payrolls even further, into four component parts: the starting rotation, the starting lineup, the bullpen and the bench.

 

Rank

Team

Projected 2014 Payroll

Rotation as % of Payroll

Starting Lineup as % of Payroll

Bullpen as % Payroll

Bench as % of Payroll

6

Angels

$151,000,000

22.7%

47.8%

15.2%

1.3%

9

Rangers

$131,000,000

21.1%

64.6%

6.9%

2.7%

21

Mariners

$87,500,000

36.4%

45.7%

11.8%

5.5%

26

Athletics

$79,000,000

13.9%

48.3%

22.6%

6.2%

29

Astros

$49,000,000

31.9%

30.0%

15.3%

5.7%

 

Alumni News

While Joe Saunders had a workout with the Rangers today, the Orioles still remain in the mix for the left-hander. From: Scott Boeck at USAToday

 

The Cleveland Indians today announced the club has signed free agent right-handed pitcher Aaron Harang to a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to Major League spring training camp. Harang, 35, owns a career Major League record of 110-116 with a 4.28 ERA in 325 games (319 starts) over a 12-year Major League career. The 6-7, San Diego native spent most of the 2013 season with the Seattle Mariners after going to spring training with the Dodgers, going 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA in 22 starts (77ER/120.1IP).  He was the only Mariners pitcher to toss a shutout in 2013, recording a 4-hitter vs. San Diego in May and a 2-hitter vs. Houston in June.  He latched on with the New York Mets over the last month of the season after being released by the Mariners, going 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA (23.0IP, 20H, 9ER, 26SO) and averaged 10.17 strikeouts per 9.0IP in four starts with the Mets. Source: Cleveland Indians’ mlb.com site.