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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 5, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Prince Fielder speculation, Winter League update, and other notes

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(Photo by Associated Press)

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN has an interesting article today about Scott Boras’s strategy of waiting out the free-agent market, which I touched upon earlier this week. Prince Fielder is just one of many Boras clients still unsigned.

Crasnick quotes an unnamed major-league general manager who calls the Mariners “a darkhorse for Fielder or one of the other unsigned Boras clients.”

“There’s some pressure on Jack (Zduriencik) to do something to counteract what the Angels and Texas are doing,” the GM told Crasnick. “They’re kind of lying in the weeds.”

Other still-available Boras clients include Edwin Jackson and Ryan Madson, who don’t make much sense for the Mariners, and Carlos Pena and Johnny Damon, who might.

Jon Heyman of CBS, meanwhile, checks in with his latest assessment of the Fielder derby. Heyman lists seven teams as being possible destinations, with the Mariners ranked second, behind the Washington Nationals. Here is his comment:

GM Jack Zduriencik, who picked Fielder No. 1 when Zduriencik was scouting director in Milwaukee, loves Fielder. The feeling apparently is mutual. The one question is whether Fielder wants to play 3,000 miles from his Orlando, Fla. home and in a ballpark that isn’t conducive to home runs (though it’s better for lefthanded hitters than righties).

Stay tuned — I expect things to really heat up next week. The thing about a negotiation for a superstar like Fielder, with an agent like Boras, is that everyone is doing a delicate dance right now, no one wanting to reveal their hand. But when it finally becomes time to get serious, it can get crazy really quickly, with a lot of unexpected twists and turns.

Meanwhile, there are strong rumblings that the Mariners are nearing an agreement with Japanese right-handed pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. You might recall that the Oakland A’s won the posting rights to Iwakuma last year but were unable to sign him (some have speculated that the A’s had no intention of signing Iwakuma, but wanted to keep him away from other teams). He went back to Japan, battled shoulder problems, and went 6-7 with a 2.42 ERA last year. Now he’s an unrestricted free agent, reportedly healthy. The 30-year-old is a former MVP and pitched 201 innings in 28 starts in 2010. Zduriencik has stated his desire to add a veteran starter to the Mariners’ rotation.

In this Associated Press story, Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki confirms what I wrote a couple of weeks ago — that the Mariners are bringing him into camp. It will be a minor-league contract, but he should compete strongly for the backup shortstop/utility job. I heard from a reader in Japan today that the nightly sportscast on the television news last night was about Ichiro beginning training with Kawasaki in Kobe. Kawasaki, he said, was talking about how he hoped to play for the Mariners.

Here is the latest Mariner winter-league report. Outfielder Denny Almonte is tearing apart the Australian Baseball League for the Adelaide Bite (got to get one of their t-shirts!), hitting .347 with 21 runs, eight doubles, 10 homers and 32 RBI in 30 games. Almonte had 24 homers last year for High Desert.

James McOwen, playing for the Perth Heat, is hitting .333.

Meanwhile, in the Dominican Winter League, Carlos Peguero leads in homers (11), extra-base-hits (20), total bases (85), runs (29), intentional walks (9), and HR ratio (1 every 15.09 at-bats). He’s second in slugging percentage (.512) and third in RBIs (26) in 45 games. Peguero is hitting .259 and has struck out 63 times in 166 at-bats.

The Mariners today announced a couple of changes in their amateur scouting department. Mark Lummus was promoted to National Cross Checker. He was previously Midwest Supervisor. And Jeremy Booth, previously an area scout with the Milwaukee Brewers, is the new Midwest Supervisor.

Here are scout.com’s rankings of minor-league prospects. The Mariners check in with four in the top 100, three of them pitchers: LHP Danny Hultzen No. 11, SS Nick Franklin No. 41, LHP James Paxton No. 71, and RHP Taijuan Walker No. 77.

Finally, the MLB Groundskeeper Hall of Fame has announced its first two inductees — Emil Brossard and George Toma. Yes, there’s a local angle. One of the members of the committee that established the Hall of Fame standards and nominated the first two inductees was Seattle’s head groundskeeper, Bob Christofferson. Roger Bossard, Emil’s grandson, consulted on the design and construction of Safeco Field.

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