Hope everyone has recovered enough from Christmas to enjoy New Year’s. It’s been relatively quiet from the Mariners and on here in the past few days.
Really nothing has changed with the organization going forward for the 2015 season. The team still needs to add to it’s outfield depth at the big league level. Obviously, Padres outfielder Seth Smith was a much talked about candidate to serve as a platoon-mate with Justin Ruggiano in right field and also providing some insurance in case Dustin Ackley were to struggle early like he did last season.
Smith is still a player the Mariners are considering. There have been offers made to San Diego. The Padres, who have been beyond active, are still trying to figure out their next move after a flurry of activity.
It was always assumed that since the Padres acquired a glut of outfielders that they would make Smith readily available. However, if you look at their 40-man, they have 11 outfielders on their 40-man roster and are pretty right-handed heavy. Really only Smith and Will Venable are big league candidates for that. Venable struggled last season after signing a two-year extension. The expectation is the Padres will keep one of them and trade the other. Now it comes down to asking price. Obviously, the Mariners won’t give up young starting pitching. They wouldn’t do that for better players. My guess it’s will probably cost a young relief pitcher, which they have surplus of.
Jon Morosi of Fox Sports wrote that Rays super utility player Ben Zobrist will be traded. The Mariners had interest in Zobrist last offseason, this past season and this offseason. His versatility and production level would be a very nice fit for Seattle. It would be a major upgrade to the roster. He has one year left on his current contract and will make $7.5 million this season – quite affordable. So it comes down to asking price again. When the Mariners and Rays were working on deals in the past, a large part of their focus was on Taijuan Walker. But in talking with sources, the Rays believe they can develop their own pitchers. Much like the Mariners, they have trouble developing hitters. Evan Longoria seems to be their main exception. So that may influence their asking price for Zobrist.
If he’s made available, the Mariners will have competition to acquire him if they choose to join that fray. Zobrist’s value and versatility make him attractive for several teams in baseball.
As for free agents — Colby Rasmus and Nori Aoki are still out there. Not sure what the interest level is in those players.
From the ESPN Sweet Spot blog, there is this post on why the Rockies won’t trade Troy Tulowitzki . There has been more than a few fans that have mentioned/dreamed the dream of acquiring Tulowitzki or his teammate Carlos Gonzalez. The Mariners have liked both players – who wouldn’t? Tulo is like a slugging, but oft-injured unicorn of hope for some fans. In talking with some sources close to the Rockies, the asking price for either player is going to be exorbitant, including major league ready level prospects with little financial relief. That doesn’t sound like a team actively shopping their two best players just yet. Obviously based on money owed and age, Gonzalez is more attractive. But questions about his splits away from Coors Field and also his building injury issues are legit concerns. I’ve heard little on this front from the M’s. Also it doesn’t sound like Rockies’ GM Jeff Bridich feels like it’s an imperative to move them.
I have no thoughts on payroll at the moment.
BBWAA writers are starting to release their Hall of Fame ballots. (I don’t have a HOF vote yet).
Larry Stone wrote a column a few weeks ago about his ballot. He voted for Edgar Martinez.
My buddy John McGrath of the TNT, offers up his ballot and his thoughts. He voted for Edgar Martinez.
I will try and have Geoff send in his HOF vote and some thoughts. Not sure about the other local guys yet.
I think we all know with Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez joining the ballot this year, Edgar’s chances are dwindled. If the ballot gets expanded from 10 to 12 next year, that could help him some.
In 15 games in the Dominican Winter League, Jordy Lara hit .298 with a .994 OPS, including three homers. Lara has been a late bloomer as a player.
From a piece I wrote on Baseball America about him ….
The 6-foot-3, 180 pound Lara has always had talent, but injuries and inconsistency have stymied his growth at times. This year, it all came together thanks to maturity and understanding of the game.
“He made a huge jump this year,” said DJ Peterson. “He just looks tremendous.”
In 33 games with the Generals, Lara hit .286/.326/.492 with an .818 OPS, including 14 doubles, four homers and 24 RBIs.
“I feel like this year could help me take the next step,” Lara said through Mariners translator Fernando Alcala. “The jump up (to Double-A) really helped in my career advancement.”
Lara credited a change in mindset.
“It was more focus—not dwelling on a bad at-bat,” he said. “Before, I would dwell on a bat at-bat more. Just moving forward and being able to focus on my next at-bat helped.”
He will likely start the season back in Jackson, but this past season raised eyebrows in the Mariners organization.
“I have to keep working word hard for next year,” he said. “Keep the focus and work ethic that have helped have this success.”
Lara probably won’t be a factor on the big league club this year. And with Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan likely headed for Tacoma and the presence of Jesus Montero, Lara will probably be back in Class AA Jackson. But he’s an interesting guy to watch.
A few people asked about Danny Hultzen and his outlook for this season. Here’s some stuff I wrote for Baseball America and some comments from Jack Zduriencik …
“It will be a normal spring training for him,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
Last year, he came to spring training in the midst of a grueling, year-long, incremental process. The interminable rehab, the hours of playing catch and bullpen sessions that culminated in late September with a promising 25-pitch outing in an instructional league game that left the Mariners organization hopeful he was on his way to becoming the pitcher everyone hoped he could be.
“He was throwing 90 mph and wasn’t letting it fly,” Zduriencik said. “The rhythm was there, the feel for the changeup and snap on his breaking ball was there.”
There were slight differences in the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder’s mechanics as well.
“He made a little tweak in his delivery, a little tweak in his arm angle,” Zduriencik said. “I think everybody walked away and was like, ‘Wow, this was impressive.’ ”
The Mariners then shut him down after that outing.
“We thought he could have thrown in the fall league,” Zduriencik said. “He was kind of prepared for that physically. But when you go through a year-long rehab like he’d been through, it made more sense to give him time off.”
So what is realistic to expect from Hultzen in 2015?
“That’s a very good question,” Zduriencik said. “When you look at the unknown on how he’ll perform, that’s up in the air.”
Hultzen, 25, last pitched in an official game on Sept. 1, 2013, for Triple-A Tacoma.
“You have to be careful,” Zduriencik said. “You can’t throw this guy to the wolves. He’s going to have a progression.”
If you get a chance, read Jayson Stark’s “Strange but true” feats of the 2014 baseball season. It always has some crazy and amusing stuff.