Sunday notes and other things

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG

Spring training is officially underway and here to catch you up, are some notes and other things.

Big (League) Things

 

Hernandez, known for his fiery attitude and will to win, showed up to camp with the same attitude but a brand new blonde goatee. “I know you guys said last year at the end of the year I was hurt, but I wasn’t,” he said to reporters, including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. “I’m fine. Physically, I’m fine. I’m ready to throw.”
Bart Hernandez, an MLB player agent (most notable for representing Leonys Martin), was arrested on Friday after being indicted by a federal grand jury on human trafficking charges. Hernandez faces up to 20 years in prison and a minimum sentence of three years. It’s expected he’ll appear before a U.S. District Court judge in Miami on Friday afternoon.
UPDATED: Martin’s statement on the issue can be read here.
After a quick 15 pitch bullpen session, Mariners setup man Charlie Furbush reported feeling fine after throwing for the first time since mid-August. Furbush still figures to be the primary lefty for Manager Scott Servais. Plus, with the lack of dependable lefties in the ‘pen, Furbush is a major factor for the M’s bullpen.
As part of a total organizational shift, Mariners pitching coach Mel Stotlemeyer Jr. said he’ll change how often pitchers throw bullpen sessions. Instead of every two days, as former pitching coach Carl Willis (now with the Red Sox) had it operating, they’ll now throw every three days. The article cites “giving them an extra recovery day to battle early stiffness and fatigue” as the main reason for the change.

Minor (League) Things
Trying to get the most out of his pitchers, Servais announced LHP Vidal Nuno will be competing for a bullpen job instead of a rotational spot. This sets the stage not only for a better bullpen competition this spring (with former first-rounder Danny Hultzen being moved to the ‘pen) but for a more refined starting rotation contest.
Baseball American recently obtained the bonus pools for every club’s international signings (aka how much they have to spend). The M’s will have exactly $2,875,400 to spend on the crop of international talent.

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h/t Ryan Divish for the original video

Spring story lines to follow

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG

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Photo courtesy of Greg Johns

Hand in hand with spring training usually comes the obligatory “best shape of his life” and “comeback/underdog” type of stories. But luckily (or to the dread of pessimistic fans), the 2016 Seattle club reeks of both (primarily the latter). Why luckily? Because with so many of those kinds of stories running around, it transcends the border between mundane to downright gratuitous. Thus leaving the writers covering the Mariners this spring to find more substantial stories. Here are some we should be keeping an eye on for this year’s camp.

Sanchez/Lee/Montero competition
Spring training isn’t Spring training without a few competitions taking place. The first one that catches my eye is the battle that’s taking place right now between newly minted M’s Gabby Sanchez and Dae ho-Lee. They’re facing the former prospect, turned food connoisseur turned healthy living (and, probably, CrossFit enthusiast) Jesus Montero. But you know what they say, competition breeds excellence.
Minor league depth
I’ll touch on this later in a different article, but presently I’ll put it like this: the Mariners, with the exception of their outfield, have little to no depth whatsoever. That said, I’m confident Jerry Dipoto understands this and that’s why he’s placing a fair amount of value in this year’s upcoming draft. But in the meantime, Dipoto is almost hamstrung by the lack of depth which should make this camp an interesting barometer of the farm’s future success.
Bullpen battles
Like it or not, the Mariners no longer have Carson Smith, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen, and the serviceable Joe Beimel. The pen is almost entirely reshaped. Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit, and Charlie Furbush are now at the helm of the bullpen and Spring should provide an interesting foresight into where the remaining guys fall in place.

Fifth spot starter
Karns vs. Paxton. Buy your tickets now, kids. Both are likable guys. Both have unique stories (something not uncommon to the Mariners) and, finally, both have the on-paper talent to be evenly matched. It’s really just a matter of who puts on the better show. That said, Paxton does seem to have the upper-hand experience wise.

Here’s to a great 2016 Spring training to keep us busy!

M’s prospect throws eight shutout innings in WBC Qualifier

By Ethan Novak @ethannovak

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Baseball prospects were created to break your heart, and yet–because they’re always around, playing in the shadows of the minor leagues and winter leagues you’ve never heard of and stringing together the occasional hot streak you’ll undoubtedly hear about–they were created to fill it.

Prospects doing fun things is fun, and I couldn’t help but picture Mariners minor-leaguer Dylan Unsworth in navy and teal as he dazzled his way through eight shutout innings tonight in South Africa’s 7-1 win over New Zealand in a WBC qualifying game.

When the ninth-inning came, when the ball was no longer his to throw, Unsworth had tallied four strikeouts, two hits allowed, no walks, and just 89 pitches. Even more impressive, Unsworth’s best inning was his final inning, as the 23-year-old struck out the side in a perfect eighth.

It wasn’t the most dominant performance–Unsworth left several pitches over the middle of the plate that New Zealand hitters failed to take advantage of–but his fastball-change combo induced plenty of weak contact and he managed to work ahead of just about every hitter he faced.

It was the kind of performance that reminded me of Blake Beavan on a good day (as few and far between as those days were). Pound the strike zone, limit hard contact, rely on defense, and so on.

This was, however, a fantastic start to the 2016 season for Unsworth, who is heading into his seventh season with the Mariners. His 2015 season was his most productive year yet, as he tallied a 3.32 ERA in 40.2 IP in the hitter-friendly California League before being called up to AA-Jackson for 13 starts (4.34 ERA, 66.1 IP). Unsworth doesn’t have magical stuff, but having Double-A experience and eight shutout innings in international play by the age of 23 isn’t nothing.

And most importantly, baseball is back. Four balls and three strikes are back. Questionable umpire calls are back. And prospects who capture my heart in a single night are back. I’m ready.

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10 things Mariners fans should look forward to in 2016

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG

Only 10 days stand between the fans and their first glimpse of the 2016 Seattle Mariners doing actual baseball things near an actual baseball field. So to fill the void until February 19th, here are 10 things all Seattle fans should look forward to in 2016.
1) Felix doing Felix-y things. Again.
Year in and year out, Felix Hernandez performs. As sure as the world rotates, Felix dominates. Now, with what should be a reasonably decent offense and some defensive upgrades behind him, Hernandez is poised to do some pretty incredible things.
2) Cano getting back on track.
Even the most pessimistic outlooks for Cano’s projected performance have him returning to semi-regular form. And let’s be honest here, who isn’t looking forward to seeing this swing again?
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3) Playoffs? Playoffs? Who said anything about playoffs?
The playoffs aren’t out of reach anymore. That feels weird to write but the Mariners are still in a win-now mode, with their core players coming up to or eclipsing their prime — it makes plenty of sense. That said, we’re still a long ways away from October.
4) More of Kyle Seager.
Do I really have to say more? Take this Seager .gif and enjoy.
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5) Rotation depth.
Felix-Iwakuma-Miley-Walker seems solid enough to contend. Throw in a healthy James Paxton, as well as Nate Karns, Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno all vying for the fifth spot. You know what they say: competition breeds excellence.
6) A lineup that can get on base.
GM Jerry Dipoto knew what he was looking for the second he took the gig: players who can get on base. With Cano and Cruz right in the middle of it all, it seems more likely we’ll see a major offensive boost.
7) A revamped bullpen.
Seattle has Steve Cischek, Joaquin Benoit, and Charlie Furbush poised to be at the back end of a young and bounce-back ready bullpen. Additions like Ryan Cook plus the return of a promising Tony Zych and David Rollins, the Mariners shouldn’t be too far off from a 2014 lookalike ‘pen.
8) Cruz mashing.
There’s a pretty good chance we’ll be seeing more of Cruz crushing just about everything. Like so.
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9) New faces in Safeco.
With a brand new field staff, starting with manager Scott Servais, the M’s have a load of fresh faces ready to tackle the 2016 season. Optimism should abound for, at the very least, the first few weeks of the season.
10) More of this.
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Sunday notes and other things – 2/7

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG


This is the last Sunday without baseball activities until the season concludes with a World Series champ being crowned. So, to ramp everyone up, let’s take a look at the action affecting the M’s and their division rivals.

Big (League) Things

Mariners sign slugger Dak ho-Lee 

Lee, 33, signed a minor-league deal (with a ST invite) but will be competing with Jesus Montero and Gabby Sanchez to be the backup first baseman and a right-handed option off the bench for Scott Servais. The lumbering first baseman hit 31 HR for Japan’s Fukuoka Softbank. He also posted a .282 batting average.

Seattle “probably done” with big offseason spending

At a luncheon on Thursday morning, Jerry Dipoto said the club is “probably done making significant moves.” Which makes sense, considering there hasn’t been much action in the Northwest (transaction wise) for awhile.

Minor (League) Things

Angels continue reshaping their club, add Christian Friedrich 

L.A. claimed the big left-hander off of waivers from Colorado. In return, the Angels designated infielder Taylor Featherson for assignment.

M’s pick up Cuban infielder Dayner Moreira

At 31 years old, Moreira isn’t a top shelf prospect. He isn’t going to post 2013 Yasiel Puig numbers but he will provide depth for a team in need of additional guys up the middle.

Orioles DFA Rifenhauser

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because C.J. Rifenhauser (whose name is now committed to my memory for no apparent reason) was a part of the Dipoto’s very first deal as Mariners GM. Ah, how the days and trades seem to fly by.

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How we’ll all feel once baseball is back

What’s Next?

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG


In a recent interview with MLB Network, Jerry Dipoto declared “the outfield, as it stands, is about done”, adding yet another check to Dipoto’s offseason shopping list. Thanks in part to the recent acquisition of Adam Lind, the infield seems to be looking more solidified. And it’s only December.

So with that in mind, I asked my followers this:

And here are two of the tweets that stood out the most to me:

While I think adding another solid, slightly more than an innings-eater type would be beneficial, I really don’t see Dipoto going out and signing another starter. A sturdy, dependable closer has been hard to come by in Seattle lately, so if Jerry can land that type of guy — I’m all for it. And as Bob Dutton (of Tacoma News Tribune) reported, Dipoto’s only remaining area of need is the bullpen.

Like I said previously, while a starter isn’t necessarily a priority for the new GM, it would be nice to add depth to a weak farm system. We’re probably going to see another big league free agent. The position? No one can say for sure (except Dipoto) but the smart bet would be in the bullpen.

It’s pretty safe to say Mariners fans want bullpen depth and another starter.

Fair enough.

It’ll be interesting to see how he pursues a closer, in particular. The acquisition of said closer is probably going to be an under appreciated move for some. Mostly because if we learned anything, it’s that Dipoto likes the comeback candidates. Sure, there’s probably another move up his sleeve (I’m pretty sure he invented #TeamNoSleep) but I doubt it’ll be much of a blockbuster.

What we do know: he called the outfield pretty much done, as well as the infield, and we can expect to see the rotation wrapped up in the upcoming weeks. The only spot that remains is the bullpen.

We’ll see soon enough what’s next for Seattle.

Everybody Panic

By Ethan Novak @ethannovak


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Rumors can be fun.

When the Mariners were linked to Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton and Robinson Cano (hey-o!) and Melky Cabrera and Jacoby Ellsbury and just about every other player that wasn’t contractually attached to another team, it was fun. Of course, you don’t take them all seriously, but you enjoyed playing along and imagining a future featuring Player X. Ellsbury would be the next great center fielder in Safeco. Fielder would probably hit the ball really freaking hard really freaking often. Cano would be dreamy.

Rumors are fun, until they aren’t.

There are times when rumors pop up and leave you irrationally angry at your organization of preference, even when there’s nothing to suggest the rumor should be taken seriously. This past offseason, the Mariners were relentlessly linked to Dayan Viciedo, an inept outfielder who doesn’t bring anything resembling value to the table. Given Jack Z’s history of a soft spot for future slow pitch softball champions, the rumor made some sense and scared the hell out of everyone. Luckily, this never amounted to anything real, and the Mariners instead opted to trade Gabby Guerrero, Jack Reinheimer, Dominic Leone, and Welington Castillo to Arizona for Mark Trumbo, who was actually worse than Viciedo in 2014.

Okay, so we’re all caught up on the emotional effect of rumors, correct? Good. Without further ado, I present the following cause for catastrophe, courtesy of Bob Nightengale:

This is bad. This is really bad.

This is the same Kevin Towers who puts an emphasis on grit and openly encourages the tired practice of retaliation. This is the guy who traded a top prospect in Trevor Bauer for a package centered entirely around Didi Gregorious. This is the Towers who traded away Justin Upton and Chris Johnson and didn’t really get anything to be excited about in return. This is the Towers who builds teams that resemble an older style of play: willing to overlook certain aspects if they hit the ball far or have had the word ‘ace’ attached to their name at one point or another. This is the Towers that traded away Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton for a Mark Trumbo-based package. This is the Towers whose system has struggled to develop prospects seemingly every bit as much as Z’s.

This is, oh god, just don’t do it, Mariners. Just let the rumor be a rumor. Please hire Kim Ng or really anyone else not named Kevin Towers.

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