December 4, 2013 at 3:46 PM
General manager Jack Zduriencik had a conference call with local reporters early this afternoon to discuss the upcoming winter meetings.
“I wanted to give you an update as much as I can without saying anything,” Zduriencik joked.
But really there was one question looming over the call and on everyone’s mind: What’s going on with Robinson Cano?
As most of you know, Zduriencik does not comment on this sort of stuff. He hasn’t since he arrived in Seattle in 2009. Still it needed to be asked in some way. Times’ columnist Larry Stone had the honors today. And Zduriencik essentially shot it down.
Stone: “Jack, I know you don’t like to talk about specific players. But there’s been a lot of national interest on Robinson Cano. Is there anything you can say about the Mariners’ interest in him?”
Zduriencik: “You know, Larry, it’s like I’ve always said. I think any time you are engaging or attempting to engage or having ongoing discussions or even any hints of any kinds of things, you have to keep it in house. We have a lot of dialogue going on a lot of fronts.”
But the Mariners are clearly interested in Cano and there is an understanding in the organization that they will have to overpay to get him. How much? It could be over $200 million for eight years.
On the subject large, long-term contracts – not specifically Cano – and teams growing more and more resistant to giving deals over five years to free agents, Zduriencik’s comments were telling.
“I don’t think anybody loves them,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the case with anybody in baseball. Any kind of deal you can get on a short term, there’s more surety to it and less risk. But then there’s also the market that plays into it. You’ve seen these things go the way they go. You have to adapt to the market. In some cases, if you have to stretch more than you want, then you just have to and there’s not much you can do about it.”
Zduriencik hinted the team has payroll flexibility to make that happen.
“It was a clear goal of ours is to get us to point where we would have young and inexpensive players throughout the line-up and I think we’ve accomplished that goal,” he said. ”I always felt there would be a time where would have to augment this club. I think we are at that time. I do think I have a lot of support.”
As for the perception that the Mariners are “desperate for hitting,” Zduriencik didn’t seem to like it, but couldn’t really deny it.
“I think we need to improve that area, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” he said. “If we could bring in some bats, that would be great. But if Icould add some pitching, I’d be happy to do that as well.”
Ideally, those bats would be outfielders.
“When you want to improve yourself offense is one area, another starting pitcher would be a great and you never walk away froma good bullpen arm,” Zduriencik said. “I would say overall, there’s a few places on this club we’d like to address, outfield would be one and offense would be the other.”
When asked if they needed to add two bats, Zduriencik said, “That would be great, I’d like to add three.”
The Mariners have certainly been linked to more than three hitters. They’ve been linked to almost every free agent.
“The fact that we are linked to a lot of people, well, we probably should be, based on the work we’ve done,” Zduriencik said.
December 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM
Dan Wilson is slowly becoming more of a presence within the Mariners organization. On Tuesday, the team announced that Wilson has been named the Mariners’ roving minor league catching coordinator.
“I am excited and thankful for this opportunity,” Wilson said in a press release. “We have been blessed by the game of baseball and by this incredibly generous community, and I am privileged to join the Mariner family again and help pass along what I’ve learned with a very talented group of young catchers.”
Wilson will start at spring training, working with catchers at all levels. He’ll continue that through the minor league season. Roving coordinators make multiple appearances at each of the Mariners’ affiliates during a season to check on young catchers.
“We are happy to have Dan, one of our former players, affiliated with us,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “His on-field experience and passion for the Mariners organization makes him a great fit in his new role with us. We are looking forward to Dan’s contributions as he spends hands-on time with our players.”
In the past, Wilson was hesitant to commit to a coaching role in the organization wanting to spend time with his family. He had made a few appearances at spring training as a guest coach. By accepting this role, it signals that Wilson is starting to become serious about a coaching/managing role in baseball. This is a good start for him.
Wilson, 44, caught 14 seasons in the big leagues. He made his MLB debut with Cincinnati (1992-93) . The Mariners acquired him and Bobby Ayala (shiver) in a deal for Bret Boone and Erik Hanson. Wilson then spent the rest of his career with the Mariners (1994-2005). He caught more games (1,281) than any other player in franchise history. He also has the franchise record for home runs by a catcher (88, including 2 inside-the-park homers), and the team’s single-season records for catchers RBI (83, 1996) and home runs (18, 1996).
December 3, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Update 7:05 p.m.: In between discussing how the Mariners are willing to overpay for Cano, the Yankees were agreeing to overpay for Jacoby Ellsbury. As most of you know, multiple reports are out there that Ellsbury will sign a 7-year, $153 million dollar deal, pending a physical. This is more than the 7-year, $135 million contract Scott Boras floated to the Red Sox near the end of the season.
Does this somehow make it more possible for the Mariners to sign Robinson Cano? Yes and no. Obviously, the Yankees have already invested a gargantuan amount of money in Ellsbury and Brian McCann, but there are reports that they still could sign Cano if he were to agree to that the 7-year, $170-180 million contract.
The Yankees do what the Yankees do.
Update 3:44 p.m: Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, who wrote the story below, had this to say on a phone interview on ESPN.
“It comes down to: “Does Robinson Cano want to be a Yankee or does he want to get every last dollar that’s out there for him? At least people in the Yankees organization believe that the Mariners are willing to go as high $200 million for nine years for Cano, and the Yankees won’t say they go anywhere near that.”
So there is that.
Update: According to ESPN New York, the Mariners have emerged as major players for Robinson Cano. Cano is looking for a contract of $200 million or more, per this story they’d be willing to give him an 8-year, $200 million contract. The easy assumption from this report would be that the Mariners are being used as leverage. And it’s not wrong to think that. The Mariners do have interest and general manager Jack Zduriencik has met with Cano’s representatives. That’s a lot of money and a lot of years, even for the best free agent on the market.
So the Mariners’ first move of the offseason is to sign free agent Willie Bloomquist. Judging by twitter, a few comments on the blog post and Dave Cameron’s rather critical blog post, it seems as though people were slightly non-plussed with the signing. It’s understandable. While Bloomquist fills a definite need, the length of the contract, the fact that he’s yet another former Mariner retread and age 36 makes it all a little frustrating for fans. I get that.
Really, the fact that it is the first move and only move so far in an offseason with much expectation is understandably galling to fans. Had the Mariners signed Shin-Soo Choo and Bartolo Colon and then signed Willie Ballgame, well, maybe it doesn’t generate quite as much vitriol.
To make matters worse, the rest of baseball seems to be making moves hourly in the days leading up to the winter meetings.
Yesterday, old friend Doug Fister was traded to the Washington Nationals for three players, including Steve Lombardozzi. This is a huge get for the Nats with a relatively minimal cost. He’ll join a rotation that features Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman.
Also the Oakland A’s continue to make solid moves in the offseason, signing lefty Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal. The A’s also traded for Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, giving up second baseman Jemile Weeks, who didn’t seem to be in the future plans. Johnson will fill in for free agent Grant Balfour. The A’s also just traded prospect Michael Choice and minor league second baseman Chris Bostick for Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry and pitcher Josh Lindblom.
Kazmir was a pitcher that would have fit nicely in the M’s rotation and not cost a ton of money. But his signing pretty much ensures that the team won’t sign Bartolo Colon.
The Mariners are definitely interested in Colon and have had discussions. The interesting aspect will be contract length. The A’s were willing to give Colon a one-year deal. But at age 40, he believes he can pitch for three more years. For the Mariners to sign him, they will likely have to give him at least a two-year deal.
Obviously the team needs outfield help. Jacoby Ellsbury’s name has been used often. Scott Boras was reportedly looking for a 7-year, $135 million contract. From what I’m being told, the Mariners think the asking price and the year commitment is a little too high. They are said to be much more interested in Choo, whose asking price won’t be quite as high. Of course, the Mariners had Choo in their system. It’s difficult to say whether his past experience in the organization will affect his decision. Initial reports had Choo and Boras looking for a five-year, $100 million contract.
Expect the Mariners also to look to possibly add to the outfield depth by adding someone like Rajai Davis. No it’s not sexy, but other than Michael Saunders, there really isn’t much legitimate outfield depth on the roster.
Jon Morosi has tweeted about the Mariners interest in acquiring Matt Kemp because of a crowded outfield. There really is no way to gauge the level of “interest.” We’ve heard this often about the oft-injured center field, who signed a $160 million contract before 2012. He’s owed about $130 million still. Kemp played in 73 games last season and a few scouts believe he’s breaking down at a rapid rate. Any trade for Kemp would have to be judged on how much money the Dodgers would pick up on his contract.
December 2, 2013 at 10:21 AM
I wanted to get this up earlier, but I was in mid-commute to Seattle when it broke.
A source within the Mariners confirmed the report from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that infielder and Port Orchard native Willie Bloomquist will be returning to the organization that first drafted him out of Arizona State.
The signing will be announced sometime later this week, pending the results of a physical.
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Daily Republic reports that Bloomquist will be getting a 2-year deal, somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 or $6 million dollars.
Obviously, Bloomquist is not going to start. At age 36, they are bringing him into be a bench player/utility infielder. He is serviceable in that role, but it does make the two-year contract a little curious. Is it an overpay? Yes, but it’s not as though this signing will preclude them from pursuing other free agents this offseason.
Realistically, he fills that role better than Carlos Triunfel or another minor league/AAAA player. Were there better options out there? It’s possible. But most utility infielders try to exhaust National League and playoff level teams first. The Mariners needed to fill a role on the bench. The fact that it’s a former Mariners player and the whole narrative of grit and hustle has generated a fair amount of snark on twitter (stunning).
There was some thought amongst fans that the Mariners would try and somehow use Dustin Ackley in a hybrid left fielder/second base role to go with Brad Miller at shortstop and Nick Franklin at second base like they did at the end of last season. But sources have said the Mariners are willing to part with one of those three players in a trade to acquire starting pitching or outfield help.
November 27, 2013 at 6:39 PM
Howard Lincoln knew there would be a day when he would have to replace Chuck Armstrong. Over the last few years, the two discussed Armstrong’s eventual retirement and its ramifications.
The announcement came on Monday, but Lincoln was notified of Armstrong’s decision last week.
“I was aware that Chuck was considering it,” Lincoln said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “We certainly talked about it on more than one occasion, so I can’t say I was stunned. On one hand, while I’m very happy for Chuck and he needs to move on with his life and spend more time with his family, that’s certainly understandable, but it is a great loss for the Mariners and certainly for baseball.”
Now Lincoln and the Mariners must begin the process of moving forward. Even with Armstrong’s retirement not going into effect until Jan. 31, Lincoln is beginning the process of finding a replacement.
Because of the conversations and prudence, Lincoln had already considered the possibly process for replacing Armstrong and potential candidates. But he isn’t going to simply go off of any previous thinking.
“I think as a businessman you always have to anticipate personnel changes within an organization, certainly at the top and in other areas,” he said. “But I go into this with a completely open mind.”
And it’s his mind that will make the decision for the best candidate. He will handle the search for Armstrong’s replacement. It won’t be a search by committee.
“I will take care of that,” he said.
Lincoln doesn’t expect anything to happen in the next few weeks.
“I haven’t made any decisions relative to Chuck’s replacement and really don’t plan on making decisions I would bring to our board of directors before the holiday,” he said. “Ultimately, I will come up with a plan and share that with our board, seek their advice, guidance and approval and move on. I think that’s probably some weeks away.”
Could the search and decision-making process extend beyond Armstrong’s departure date?
“I suppose it is conceivable that we could beyond Jan. 31,” he said. “If we don’t think that we are ready to make the decision, we certainly could do that. But I think it’s much more likely and better for the organization if we have finalized this before Jan. 31.”
So what is looking for in the candidates? Will it be an established baseball guy, or a business person outside the game?
“I’m certainly prepared to look at all possibilities,” he said. “But I have a very good idea of what we need because I have a very good idea of what Chuck does. Quite frankly, it’s going to be very difficult to replacement and that’s not only because he knows the business of the Mariners, but he knows the business of baseball. This guys knows everybody in baseball from the commissioner on down. He even knows the umpires. He knows all the owners, the club presidents, the CEOs, the general managers, the field managers. He literally knows everyone in baseball.”
Armstrong’s relationships within the game extend of a career that spanned three decades. Not many candidates would have that type of experience. But Lincoln believes some level of experience is necessary.
“I think anybody that steps in is going to have to have a lot of these attributes,” he said. “I don’t think that it would make any sense to bring in somebody that had no experience in baseball. Whoever does this and whoever replaces Chuck is going to have to have these attributes and certainly be knowledgeable about the pretty much all aspects of baseball. It’s a strange business when I separate the business of baseball from the business of the Mariners.
“Anybody who takes this job is going to have to have an understanding of what a cashflow statement is and have to know about accounting, finance, sales and marketing, those are skills that you can have that don’t have anything to do with baseball. But when it comes to the business of baseball, that’s different and the person who succeeds Chuck is going to have to have the knowledge of the business of baseball. He has to know his way around the game. He has to know the players. I’m not going about baseball players, but the players in the game. He has to know the people that run major league baseball – the people that we compete with and are partners with – other owners, other CEOs, other presidents and general managers. This person has to have those kinds of contacts or he can’t perform his job.”
That person might even work for the Mariners currently. Lincoln wouldn’t rule out promotion from within.
“Oh yes, we certainly have qualified internal candidates,” he said. “But I’m going into this thing with a wide open view and I’m not limiting to it outside or inside candidates.”
It doesn’t sound as though Lincoln will change the structure of the front office. Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks have split up the responsibilities of the president position between two people – giving one person control of the business aspect and the other as director of baseball operations.
“I know that some clubs have done that,” he said. “I’m not at the point where I can say it’s a good idea or a bad idea. Most clubs I think operate the same way the Mariners operated under Chuck’s leadership. There are clubs that have tried to separate the baseball operations from the rest of the business. I’m aware of that. I really haven’t started thinking that way yet.”
Another quick note: Lincoln said the payroll budget for the upcoming season will be higher than what the team budgeted last season. The team budgeted close to $95 million for payroll last season, but only used about $84 million.
“It’s certainly going to be above what we budgeted last year,” Lincoln said. “How much? For competitive purposes, I’m not prepared to say. But it certainly is not going to go down.”
So there’s that.
November 26, 2013 at 11:27 AM
So this was supposed to be my first blog post. It was going to be simple introduction of who I am and what I covered and more importantly what I plan to do with the Mariners coverage.
But then this happened ….
So that was my first blog post.
But we – my bosses and I – felt like it would still be a good thing to write a brief introduction. I will also do a live chat today at 4 p.m. to answer any questions you have about me, my coverage, the Mariners, the greatness of the University of Montana, the grittiness of Willie Bloomquist, the friendliness of Chone Figgins and whatever else you could possibly want to know.
Some of you are familiar with me and my work. I spent seven years at the Tacoma News Tribune – five of those covering baseball.
For those of you not familiar, here’s a quick bio:
I was born and raised in Havre, Mont., home of the mighty Havre High Blue Ponies. For the record, it’s pronounced: HAVE-er. I played baseball for four years at Dickinson State University where I was recruited as a second baseman and ate myself into a catching position. After getting a teaching degree at DSU, I quickly realized that I didn’t care much for educating our youth. So I went to University of Montana and earned my journalism degree. Add it all up, that’s 7 ½ years of college (insert Tommy Boy movie reference here). My parents were so proud at the accumulation of debt.
After college, I worked for two years at the Havre Daily News as sports editor. From there, I went to the Idaho State Journal where I covered Idaho State University sports. After nine months, the News Tribune, where I worked as an intern in college, hired me as a general assignment writer. After a year at the TNT, I started covering the Mariners/National baseball, while helping with other sports. After a year covering the Huskies, I returned to covering the Mariners full time last season.
November 26, 2013 at 10:06 AM
November 25, 2013 at 4:30 PM
After two separate stints, which totaled 28 years of service, Chuck Armstrong stepped down as Seattle Mariners President and Chief Operating Officer in a somewhat surprising announcement on Monday afternoon.
The team issued a press release, stating that Armstrong, 71, would retire, effective January 31, 2014.
“Thirty years ago my family and I were given a wonderful opportunity to move to the Seattle area and become associated with the Seattle Mariners,” Armstrong said in a statement. “We quickly grew to love this community and this team. Through all the good times and the not-so-good times on the field since 1984, the goal always has been to win the World Series. My only regret is that the entire region wasn’t able to enjoy a parade through the City to celebrate a World Championship together.
“After much thought and reflection, it is now time for me to retire and enjoy as much time as possible with my wife Susan and our family. The recent deaths of several good friends have really had an impact on me and helped crystallize my decision. This was a very difficult, very personal decision, but I know in my heart that it’s time to turn the page and move to the next chapter of my life.
“Thanks to our outstanding ownership, the franchise is stable and will remain the Northwest’s team, playing in Safeco Field, a great ballpark and great example of a successful public-private partnership. The team is in good hands and positioned for future success. I am thankful for this important part in my life and I will always bleed Mariners Blue. Susan and I plan to continue to live here and remain involved in many community events and causes.”
November 25, 2013 at 10:12 AM
ADDITIONAL NOTE: 10:46 a.m.: Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik just said in a conference call that Dave Hansen could stay on as an assistant hitting coach under Howard Johnson if he doesn’t get a job elsewhere. Daren Brown has been offered a minor league deal if he doesn’t get an MLB job elsewhere, while Jeff Datz has accepted a pro scouting job with the team.
We’ve told you about the coaches the Mariners have let go the past few weeks, despite all of them having a year left on their contracts. Today, the Mariners completed the process, replacing hitting coach Dave Hansen and third base coach Daren Brown and bringing in an entirely new staff in lieu of the one that finished last season under manager Eric Wedge.
The new hitting coach is Howard Johnson, who replaces Hansen after handling hitting coach duties for Class AAA Tacoma. AAA manager John Stearns takes over as third base coach for Brown.
Former Pirates slugger Andy Van Slyke is the new first base coach, Rick Waits becomes the pitching coach, Mike Rojas the bullpen coach and Chris Woodward is the infield coach.
November 22, 2013 at 3:43 PM
The purging of the Mariners coaching staff continued this week when the team informed pitching coach Carl Willis that he wasn’t coming back despite having a year left on his contract. Bullpen coach Jaime Navarro — who had been interested in becoming pitching coach in the event Willis wasn’t retained — was instead told today that he would be re-assigned within the team’s minor league ranks.
And first base coach Mike Brumley, who also had a year left on his Mariners deal, told the team earlier in the week that he was taking an assistant hitting coach position with the Chicago Cubs. The Mariners had given Brumley permission to interview elsewhere, uncertain of whether he’d be retained on the staff under new manager Lloyd McClendon.
Earlier this month, bench coach Robby Thompson was fired by the team ahead of McClendon’s hiring. Third base coach Jeff Datz was told he’d be re-assigned to a scouting position if he chose to remain with the organization.
Like Thompson, pitching coach Willis was seen as very close to former manager Eric Wedge. The team had left Willis’s fate unresolved and gave him permission to interview for pitching coach jobs in Baltimore and then again late last week with the Philadelphia Phillies.
When Willis was told he hadn’t gotten either job, he phoned Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik yesterday to try to figure out whether he still had a future in Seattle.
“He told me he felt it would be too awkward for me to come back with everything that had happened,” Willis said, referring to Wedge’s abrupt departure from the organization at season’s end and stated differences with the way the team was being run by the front offfice and ownership.