ICYMI: December 8-22

 With the final days of 2013 just around the corner, the baseball hot stove season tends to take a slight break for the holidays; although I’m sure more than a few baseball executives will be checking their iPhones between helpings of turkey. That likelihood increased with new reports suggesting a decision on Japanese superstar Masahiro Tanaka could come on Chistmas Eve or Christmas day.

The Seattle Mariners have been linked as an obvious destination for Tanaka given Seattle’s proximity to Japan as well as their previous success with Japanese imports, not to mention the presence of Tanaka’s former teammate Hisashi Iwakuma as well. PI’s Jason Churchill argues that the M’s should stay committed to right hander when one considers his value on a long term contract compared to the top available starters, and the considerale commitment ownership’s made to Robinson Cano and GM Jack Zduriencik. Cano isn’t going to be a superstar forever so now is the time to add a serious boost to the M’s rotation in 2014 and beyond with a Tanaka signing.

Speaking of the top available starters, Chris Moran compares Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Ubaldo Jimenez, and finds Garza to be the safest bet among the three. There’s been plenty of speculation surrounding the three starters as they represent the top arms available via free agency, but their markets have been held up while clubs wait for a resolution to the Tanaka situation. Seattle is reportedly looking to add another top of the rotation arm, and it’s worth noting that signing Garza will not cost the club a draft pick as he was traded midseason.

The Winter Meetings came and went with very little news on the Mariners’ front. Jason summed up some of the rumblings as well as provided several free agent and trade candidates that could be considered. Jason also provided an in-depth analysis on Jose Bautista as a potential trade candidate. While dialogue between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays has been minimal, there is an obvious match as the M’s possess the young pitching the Jays desire, and Seattle is still on the lookout for offence. Bautista would slot in nicely behind Cano, but with the Jays looking to make noise in the AL East this season, it’s unlikely they’d move their right-fielder unless they were blown away. Even if the slugger is deemed unavailable, there’s plenty of other right handed fish in the sea for the M’s to consider.

It wasn’t long after the meetings finished up that the Mariners made their moves,  as the acquisitions of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart came in literal back to back fashion. As Alex Carson noted, Hart’s deal is of the one-year variety with a base salary of $5 million and incentives that could push the total value of the contract to $13 million. Morrison was acquired from the Miami Marlins for reliever Carter Capps who posted uninspiring numbers in the M’s bullpen in 2013 but still has some potential moving forward.

Many in the Mariners community were in favour of signing Hart and there’s minimal risk on a one-year deal. The 31-year old smashed 87 home runs in the middle of the Milwaukee Brewers’ lineup between 2010 and 2012, and looks to hit in the middle of the Mariners’ batting order in 2014. As Jason notes in his analysis of both transactions, Seattle could just be looking to add depth given their interest in Billy Butler and Nelson Cruz. It’s noted that Morrison and Hart appear to be very similar players on paper. Both are better suited to DH/1B roles due to knee injuries, but with Justin Smoak still in the fold and no incumbent left-fielder, it’s likely both will see plenty of time in left field. Morrison has actually spent more of his career in the outfield than first base, but he was somewhat of a defensive liability even before his health struggles.

Rounding out the M’s recent transactions was news that Franklin Gutierrez would be brought back into the fold on a one year deal with a base salary of $1 million. The former Gold Glove winner hasn’t played a full season since 2010 due to a plethora of injuries, but he provides insurance as a fourth outfielder with some upside if he can regain his health. Like the Hart signing, there’s little risk in the transaction but high reward if the players can rebound. Considering the other available free agent depth-type outfielders, re-signing Gutierrez made the most sense because he brings defensive value to the table in a way that Rick Ankiel can’t.

Shin-Soo Choo found his way back to the AL West on saturday after reportedly agreeing to sign with the Texas Rangers. It was looking unlikely that the Mariners would be serious contenders for Choo’s services, but now that the Rangers are unlikely to further pursue Nelson Cruz, it only increases the possibility that Cruz winds up in blue and teal in the coming months; a very unpopular thought among M’s fans.

Elsewhere at PI, Steve Simas takes a look at shortstop prospects in the most recent instalment of his Fantasy Prospect Ranking series; Chris stacks King Felix Hernandez up against some of the best starters of all time, and it’s very easy to forget Felix will turn just 28 this coming April; Rob Balboni takes a look at the acquisition of Mark Trumbo by the Arizona Diamonbacks and offers some insight into the baseball mind of GM Kevin Towers; Mike Zunino needs a catching partner, and I took a look at some viable options (although Kurt Suzuki has since signed).

Of course, we can’t forget to mention…

 

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

7 Comments

  1. Oh Christ, why would ANY team want to go after Miguel Bautista!?

  2. One other thing the M’s might want to save some time and cash for: resigning guys.

    I’ve been spending far too much of my time thinking about potential trade acquisitions, and there are a lot of guys like Ryan Braun, Jay Bruce, and Miguel Batista who would be awesome acquisitions largely due to their contracts. It pays to resign guys early.

    Now that the M’s actually have some talent, they might want to think about locking up people like Kyle Seager, Brad Miller, and Taijuan Walker.

    They need to resign Seager in particular. Right now, I think he’s still underrated. He’s a really valuable player right now, but could make the jump into .280/.370/.450 range, with continued solid defense as early as next year. He’s heading into his age 26 season, and should be entering his peak years. Although his bad final two months hurt his numbers, he showed improvement in BB rate and a small bump in ISO. Its not unreasonable to think that with another year under his belt – and perhaps a bit more rest late in the season – he could put together a more consistent year. If they can buy out his remaining years of team control, and perhaps add in a year or two of free agency (ideally team options) it would be really smart. If Seager keeps doing what he’s doing (and I don’t see much reason to believe otherwise), he’ll be a good value. If he takes that next step forward, he’ll be a bargain.

    If the M’s want to keep signing premier players, they could use as many bargains on the roster as possible.

  3. I’m still holding out hope for a blockbuster. Kemp would qualify.

    Some of the players you mention are highly unlikely to be available, like Myers and Starling Marte. At least not for a reasonable price.

    I’d also hope they avoid guys with limited time before hitting free agency. Gardner and Rasmus fall into this category. If they could be gotten without dealing any of our premium chips – Walker, Zunino, Paxton, Franklin, etc. – then great. But I doubt that will be the case.

    I’m hoping Jack can shock us with another Cliff Lee-caliber move. Stanton, Jason Heyward, Miguel Batista, or Ryan Braun: Something jaw dropping.

    Or perhaps a move for someone we’d never think about, like Nick Swisher, Alex Gordon, Denard Span, Jay Bruce, or Nick Markakis. Or maybe even something further off the radar, like Melky Cabrera.

    It seems like every offseason there are a handful of good players who get dealt for surprisingly little. This year is was Norichika Aoki and Dexter Fowler. In the past it was Denard Span, Nick Swisher, and Justin Upton (the actual trade). I’m hoping the M’s can pull off one of those deals. It could be the blockbuster variety (“The M’s got Ryan Braun for THAT? Seriously”) or something more modest (“wow…..I would have thought some other team would have beaten that deal for Markakis…”). The last time we were on that end of a trade like that, it was Cliff Lee. Time for a repeat, this time for a hitter.

  4. Jason suggested Gomez would be a great potential trade candidate a few weeks back, but you’re right, after the Aoki trade it’s doubtful the Brewers move him. Would love to see him roam Safeco.

  5. I agree we can probably sign a pretty decent starting pitcher, and that will help. We might be able to make a minor deal or two to strengthen the bullpen. Finding a high-quality outfielder this winter could be quite problematic.

    To get a solid first division starter for the OF, I think it might take more than Franklin + Smoak or Morrison and a couple of prospects, but it’s worth a try. I think most discussions for players of the quality we would like to get probably start with the other team asking us for some of our other top kids like Walker, Zunino, Miller and Paxton.

    It seems like the Dodgers might be a fit when it comes to having a surplus of outfielders, but I don’t know what they would want for someone like Kemp, or Ethier or Crawford, or even a much-talked-about prospect like Joc Pederson. I like the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, and he would be an upgrade… but do the Yankees want to trade him? Someone like Dominic Brown or Giancarlo Stanton would be nice to get, and so would guys like Starling Marte, Jose Tabata, Colby Rasmus, Wil Myers, and Desmond Jennings, but I think their teams would probably ask the moon for them.

    So I think it’s also a matter of whether or not the Mariners can acquire pieces they need without creating holes elsewhere. Despite their new players they have acquired, much of the M’s success will continue to depend on whether or not some of the kids pan out… they are still having to rely a lot on kids. Let’s hope management knows which young players are keepers and which ones are really trade bait. And like you say, let’s avoid trading players like Franklin (or any of the others) until the right deal happens.

  6. I think Gomez is the perfect match for our needs, but he probably isn’t available at all with Aoki gone. Right handed bat with pop to play CF everyday and he’s under control for 3 years.

    If he is available, I’d rather take whatever package TB wants for Price and offer it to Milwaukee instead.

  7. I think its highly likely the M’s add a plus starter to the roster before the end of the offseason. Hopefully its Tanaka, but Garza and Jimenez are also legit options (in appx order of preference).

    The key to the offseason is whether or not the M’s can swing a trade for a good OFer. This is where Jack Z can prove his critics wrong, or reinforce all the bad things that people have been writing about him lately. The M’s really need a solid first division starter in the OF, and a player who matches that description just isn’t available on the free agent market right now. With a glut of 1B/DH types of the roster right now, plus a logjam at 2B, the M’s are in a good situation to deal from a position of strength to address that need.

    I guess it comes down to how other teams value Nick Franklin. I think he’s a good candidate to be really good in 2014 and beyond, but his late season struggles complicate things a bit. If you look at his track record, he always seems to struggle a little after a promotion, then adjust and put up big numbers. In 2012, he put up big numbers in AA, then struggled in the second half after a promotion to AAA. In 2013, he dominated at AAA, then struggled a bit after a promotion to the big leagues. I think he’s a great bet to adjust in 2014 and turn into a very good major league player.

    The M’s need to avoid trading him unless the right deal comes along. Although he clearly is ready to play at the ML level right now, they can always be patient and option him to AAA for a bit longer. A mid-season deal might be the best option, as guys like Giancarlo Stanton might become available, or a contender might be willing to move a good young OFer to address a need in the middle infield.

    Hopefully Jack can swing a deal.

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