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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

Topic: free agents

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February 1, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Mariners payroll stands at just under $79 million with spring training right around corner

The Mariners would currently spend about $78.6 million — before incentive bonuses — if they put their current roster on the field. Photo Credit: AP

When the year-end payrolls were reported late in Decemeber, the Mariners checked in at $84.4 million for the 2012 season. To-date, with spring training just around the corner, the team has committed just under $79 million to the current squad for 2013.

That total includes the $1.5 million deal reached with backup catcher Kelly Shoppach this week, a move the club has yet to announce because the 40-man roster is full and somebody needs to be moved off it. It also includes a rumored $1.6 million contract with Robert Andino for the 2013 season, even though I never saw official figures for him after the Mariners non-tendered and then reworked a deal with the infielder. Danny Hultzen has to be paid MLB money even if he’s in the minors. If Hultzen makes the team, you can subtract one of the MLB minimum players from the payroll equation. But Hultzen will almost certainly start the year in Class AAA, so he has to be paid, as well as another league minimum type to fill the roster spot Hultzen will not be occupying.

Don’t forget, the club is also paying all of Chone Figgins‘ salary plus a pro-rated signing bonus for 2013, plus the buyout on Miguel Olivo’s deal.

As of right now, I have the team at $78.65 million in guaranteed contracts, pro-rated bonuses, minimum-salaried payouts to others on the roster, plus those no longer here who have to still be paid.

Whenever I do this exercise, I get the inevitable “Didn’t the team defer payments to Ichiro?” questions. The short answer: yes, the team did and no, it does not count towards current payroll. MLB has its own rules and practices for dealing with deferred payments and the Mariners have stated previously that this is accounted for and handled separately from ongoing payroll. So, no, nothing the team did or is doing with Ichiro has any impact on payroll for the purposes of these discussions. For those who will continue to argue that it does, please don’t.

The Mariners usually keep a contingency fund of roughly $5 million, as do many teams. This is to pay out incentive bonuses plus any mid-season add-ons the club might make in a pennant push or a mid-season trade that takes on value. So, assuming they were to max out on that, payroll would be at just under $84 million — which is still less than last year’s squad cost. But assuming the contingency fund will be maxed out on would not be the best way to go, since the Mariners could also jettison payroll via in-season trades. Remember, they have several bats — Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, to name some — who are only on one-year deals and could be dealt.

So, we’ll just have to see.

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Comments | More in payroll | Topics: free agents, Jack Zduriencik, salary

December 21, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Jeremy Bonderman giving it ‘one last shot’ at big league career

Jeremy Bonderman began throwing again a few months ago following his ligament transplant surgery. Photo Credit: AP

Jeremy Bonderman remembers the first time he tried to thow a baseball a couple of months ago, having undergone “Tommy John” ligament transplant surgery last April. He’d built himself  “a shop” in a steel hangar type of building, put a mound inside of it and picked up a baseball.

“It was kind of weird,” he told me today. “I had no idea what to expect.”

Bonderman hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2010. When he was finally diagnosed with the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, he decided to take the year off and see what happened.

“I just thought it would be a good idea to give it one last shot,” he said.

The first try at that came inside the steel hangar, not far from his Pasco home.

“It took me a while to get comfortable again,” he said.

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Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: free agents, Jack Zduriencik, jeremy bonderman

December 19, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Off-season additions having immediate impact on World Series odds

The Toronto Blue Jays have become favorites to win World Series after acquiring R.A. Dickey, according to online gaming site Bovada. Photo Credit: AP

Just got the latest World Series odds courtesy of online gaming site Bovada and they list the Toronto Blue Jays as favorites to win the World Series following their acquisition of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the Mets. The Blue Jays were at 12/1 odds to win it all before the acquisition, but now have moved up to 15/2, just slightly ahead of the Los Angeles Angels at 17/2.

It’s worth noting that last week, after the Angels acquired free agent Josh Hamilton, they became Bovada’s favorite to win the World Series. So, that lasted less than a week. The Dodgers are third (tied for second, really) at 17/2, followed by the Nationals at 9/1 and the Tigers at 10/1.

The Mariners are a bit further down the list at 75/1, in a four-way tie with the Mets, Indians and Twins.

What’s interesting about these odds is that they do reflect a changing-of-the-guard of sorts in the game, especially with the Yankees not making an appearance until No. 8 on the list at 14/1. That’s just behind two other playoff teams, the Rangers and Reds, who are at 12/1. But we don’t see any previous division winners in the top three, which is somewhat unusual based on my experience of looking at these odds.

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Comments | More in odds | Topics: free agents, payroll, r.a. dickey

December 18, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Mariners finding out that timing is everything when it comes to rebuilding and upgrading

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is not getting the types of trade offers he’d once hoped for in exchange for his top young prospects. Photo Credit: AP

One of the more interesting trends to follow this winter has been the continued devaluation of the prospects market in baseball. At least, from the transactions we’re seeing and the words of general managers attempting to upgrade their teams via trades of top prospects.

Once upon a time, prospects were the new gold standard in baseball. Teams could not hoard enough of them, hoping to use them as currency in trades to eventually better their teams with the more veteran performers any balanced lineup needs. Well, as happens in just about any market, be it fiscal or baseball, things don’t always stay the same. As with any long-term portfolio, you have to have a mixture of assets to help temper any dramatic market shifts. For the Mariners, they had been hoping that some of their stockpiled prospects would provide the needed currency to upgrade their lineup via trade in order to counter what is generally perceived as a high-priced, mediocre free agent market.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, after years devoted to gathering the prospects that used to be enough to generate decent trade returns, the market has now changed and apparently not for the better when it comes to the value of minor league players unproven at the big league level.

We saw continued evidence of this yesterday when the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets completed a trade that saw 38-year-old Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey — let go by the Mariners after the 2008 season — dealt from the Big Apple along with young catcher Josh Thole and a lesser backup, Mike Nickeas, for two of the better-known prospects (and catcher John Buck) from Toronto’s system. Now, to be clear, Dickey is not like most pitchers his age in that knuckleballers tend to age well once they master their pitch and figure out some secondary stuff. For Dickey, he’s been more than just a one-year wonder for a while now and seems to have “figured it out” as far as maintaining his arsenal at a top level.

But still, it wasn’t too long ago that dealing a top catching prospect like Travis d’Arnaud and pitching prospect in Noah Snydergaard for a late-bloomer like Dickey would have drawn hoots of derision. When I say not “long ago” I’m thinking about two months. After all, d’Arnaud was ranked the 17th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America, is expected to make his MLB debut in 2013 and is known for his defensive catching skills as well as a bigger bat (despite the obvious red flags of some high strikeout totals and piling up his offensive stats in hitter-friendly Las Vegas). Snydergaard is touted, at worst, as a future mid-rotation guy by the folks who enjoy making these types of projections.

Giving up several years of control over two guys who look destined to be MLB regulars is a lot if you assume Dickey only has a handful of years left.

Some are comparing this deal to the Wil Myers-James Shields trade between the Royals and Rays in terms of what Kansas City paid in prospect value to get a few years worth of veteran pitching. Now, I happen to agree the price is similar. I know that many people feel the Blue Jays are closer to making the playoffs than the Royals are — which I wholeheartedly agree with — but that doesn’t change the price we’re seeing in these deals.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik suggested several times at the winter meetings that teams did not seem to be valuing unproven minor league prospects as much as they were young players with some MLB experience. Zduriencik seemed surprised by that at the time, which suggested a shift in how prospects were being valued was already underway.

I read with great interest this story last week in Prospect Insider suggesting that what was driving the obvious value decline was the new reality of the second wild-card in baseball. As a theory, it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen put forward yet.

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Comments | More in trades | Topics: free agents, Jack Zduriencik, prospects

December 17, 2012 at 6:06 PM

Mariners final 40-man roster payroll for 2012 checked in at $84.4 million

The Mariners, under guidance of team president Chuck Armstrong (left) and CEO Howard Lincoln (right), spent $84.4 million total on their 40-man roster last season. Photo Credit: AP

There was so much going on late last week with the whole Josh Hamilton saga that that I didn’t have time to include the final 2012 MLB payroll figures as reported by the MLB head office and obtained by Associated Press. Now, these are usually different from the ones we give you on Opening Day in that they include all costs paid out for players on the 40-man roster throughout the course of a season, as opposed to the 25-man major league squad on the first day of the season.

In the case of the Mariners, they ended at $84.4 million. That’s 21st  in MLB and 10th in the AL.

For comparison’s sake, the Mariners ended 2011 at $98 million, which was 14th in MLB and 8th in the AL.

The AP puts out the final figures each year and says they are: for 40-man rosters and include salaries and pro-rated shares of signing bonuses, earned incentive bonuses, non-cash compensation, buyouts of unexercised options and cash transactions. In some cases, parts of salaries that are deferred are discounted to reflect present-day values.

So, the Opening Day payrolls are where the team began each season, looking at where money would be spent if the season ended that same day. Naturally, things happen throughout the course of a season that can alter those April intentions. When salaries are shed via trade and other player movement takes place, things change. These figures I’m giving you now are for all the money teams wound up spending on player payroll in the given year.

In some ways, the end of season payroll is more reflective of a team’s true intentions in any given year than is the Opening Day version. After all, a team can begin the year with a big payroll, then dump players at the trade deadline and wind up fielding a Class AAA squad the final two months. Likewise, a team can start off small, but with plans for a mid-season boost if they stay in contention.

Worth noting as well is that these numbers are not somebody’s payroll guess. These are the official figures required to be reported to MLB’s head office for purposes connected to the collective bargaining agreement. In other words, teams cannot dispute these figures after-the-fact.

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Comments | More in payroll | Topics: chuck armstrong, free agents, howard lincoln

December 6, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Mariners ‘still interested’ in Josh Hamilton, waiting to see what happens with free agent logjam

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik fielding media questions today in Nashville after the Rule 5 draft.

Lots to discuss this morning after last night’s tweet and blog post about the Mariners and Josh Hamilton being “very close” to a deal. More on the semantics of that in a second, but first, I caught up this morning with team president Chuck Armstrong as he was coming out of the Rule 5 draft. I asked him about Hamilton point blank and he did not deny interest this time.

“We’re still interested in him, yes,” Armstrong said.

He also said the Mariners are not overly concerned by Hamilton’s past issues involving injury and vision problems. The main concern, as always, remains the money and the number of years committed. But on that front, the likelihood that Seattle would have to go more than four years in a Hamilton deal appears to be shrinking.

As mentioned last night by my source, the big key here is what the Texas Rangers do with free agent pitcher Zack Greinke. If Greinke signs with Texas, the likelihood the Rangers would splurge on Hamilton as well diminishes.

And from what I’m told, the Mariners are far enough along in their discussions with Hamilton that the two sides would not need very long to come to a deal. Armstrong has been getting into the finer details of stuff in trying to play down Seattle’s interest.

“We haven’t even exchanged numbers and figures yet,” Armstrong told me, in a line he’s repeated elsewhere this morning.

But that’s largely semantics.

From what I’ve heard, the Rangers and Dodgers haven’t exchanged numbers and figures with Greinke yet, either. But that deal is not expected to drag out too much longer before it gets resolved. When teams and the agents for players talk at these meetings, they often give each other broad strokes of where they’d like to go with a deal before any formal offers and counter offers are made.

The agent for Hamilton, Michael Moye, is said to have told the Rangers they’ll have an opportunity to match any offer from another team before Hamilton makes a decision. So, there is no real need for the Mariners to make him a formal offer right now, knowing that Moye is waiting on resolution to the Greinke affair so that the Rangers can match any Hamilton bid.

But I was told by my source last night that Hamilton is very interested in Seattle and it is “very close.”

The source added that a deal could happen “very soon” after Greinke makes his decision.

“Greinke holds the cards right now,” the source said.

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December 6, 2012 at 12:09 AM

Mariners said to still be very much in the running for Josh Hamilton

The Mariners and Josh Hamilton are said to be “very close” to a deal, depending on what happens first between free agent pitcher Zack Greinke and the Texas Rangers. Photo Credit: AP

It once seemed like Josh Hamilton had become a forgotten man for the Mariners here this week as they pursued a host of other offensive options. But I’m now told the talks between the two sides have been a lot more serious than anyone has let on and that they are actually “very close” to getting a deal done.

The one thing holding the process up is the fact the Texas Rangers are also interested in hanging on to Hamilton and remain the most serious Mariners competitor on that front. But the Rangers also remain engaged in a two-pronged battle with the Dodgers for the services of starting pitcher Zack Greinke and would not be able to land both him and Hamilton.

Yahoo! reported that Hamilton’s agent, Michael Moye,  met with Rangers GM Jon Daniels here at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and told him he would have an opportunity to match any offer sent Hamilton’s way. But if the Rangers decide to sign Greinke, they would not have enough left over to match any Hamilton offer as well.

That would leave the Mariners, who, the source said, would likely make a Hamilton deal happen “very soon” afterwards.

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December 5, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Jason Bay looking like only player Mariners will come out of winter meetings with

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, as I mentioned earlier, is meeting with some agents and teams tonight before the winter meetings wrap up tomorrow morning with the Rule 5 draft. The Mariners don’t expect to be active in the draft, since their roster is maxed out at 40 players and they are only picking 12th.

In other words, unless something big happens tonight — and I’ve just gotten word that it’s not likely anything will — these meetings are pretty much done for the Mariners without any impact pieces being added. Now, that’s not the end of the world, since many times you’ll see the bigger free agents and trades go down after the meetings. In fact, this might be the first year I’ve ever attended a winter meetings where the main stage in the media room was not used to announce any trades.

The only free agent signing in which the stage was used happened this morning when David Wright’s extension with the New York Mets was officially announced. For the Mariners, you had word today that free agent outfielder Jason Bay was on the verge of inking a one-year pact with the ballclub, though that is not expected to be finalized until after the meetings are done.

Zduriencik said this afternoon, in his briefing with Seattle-area writers, that he can’t comment directly about Bay. But he did reply when I asked him a general question about his desire to land a more veteran bat — knowing full well I was thinking about Bay when I asked the question.

“I think we said from the very beginning that if we could come up with a veteran player —  preferably our needs would be a corner outfielder, a corner player, a DH, a right-handed bat — it would be very helpful,” Zduriencik said. “So, that’s one of the things that has been on our agenda. It doesn’t limit us, but it’s certainly something that we have focused on.”

Zduriencik said that his team is by no means done trying to improve.

“We’ve had several meetings today with clubs as well as player representatives,” he added. “We have some tonight as well, so we’re just going to continue to push forward and explore every option. And if it leads to a road well-taken by both parties, then hopefully something gets done. Otherwise, you just keep doing it. You keep doing the work and hope something clicks.”

As I wrote earlier, though, in my post about Michael Bourn, it doesn’t seem likely that much will click over the next 15 hours or so before most team executives will check out of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel for good.

“It looks that way,” Zduriencik said. “I think that if you’re looking at some players still out there, the meetings will be over tomorrow. So, unless something happens between from now until some time in the morning, it forces it to go into post-meeting deals if you will.”

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December 5, 2012 at 4:07 PM

Scott Boras says he already met with Mariners on Michael Bourn, hopes to continue talking after meetings end

Just got done speaking to agent Scott Boras, who represents some of the game’s biggest players, including center fielder Michael Bourn, who the Mariners have expressed an interest in. Boras gave his annual “state of the union” address to a crowd of reporters in a lobby here at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. When it was done, I walked with him towards one of his meetings and he told me he’d already met with the Mariners and had no more plans to speak with them here in Nashville.

Boras said he plans to continue discussions with the team by phone in the days and weeks ahead.

“I expect that we’ll have the usual follow up,” he said. “We know where they’re at and they know where we stand but I imagine we’ll continue talking.”

The Mariners face an interesting choice in whether to bring in Bourn or go an entirely different route with somebody like corner outfielder Nick Swisher. The pricetag for outfielders keeps on climbing at these meetings, to the point where the Mariners will likely have to hand out more than they’d hoped upon arriving here.

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