It’s that time of the year again when the Hot Stove cools to barely a broil, despite the fact plenty of top free agents still remain unsigned.  That should change soon however, as a Masahiro Tanaka decision is expected by Tuesday or Wednesday. It doesn’t appear that the Seattle Mariners are finalists for the Japanese ace at the moment after being labelled as favourites earlier this month. Of course a lot can change over the next 48 hours, but considering the Mariners didn’t meet up with Tanaka and his representatives when they were in Los Angeles recently, they can be considered a long shot.

In front office news, talk has cooled on Tony La Russa possibly taking over for Chuck Armstrong as president of the club. The former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals doesn’t think he’ll even get an interview for the job. It appears that the Mariners prefer utilizing an internal option for the role, and Geoff Baker suggests Bob Aylward and Kevin Mather as the most likely candidates.

Michael Saunders avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $2.3 million plus incentives in his first year of eligibility. I recently took a look at the 27-year old’s career to date and how he projects in 2014. While center field has hurt Saunders’ defensive value and his bat cooled after a 20 home run 2012 season, he could still be an above average contributor in a corner outfield spot. As it stands, the Canadian could be in line to start the year in center field, but that will depend on Franklin Gutierrez‘s health, and whether or not Dustin Ackley has improved over the offseason.

The Mariners’ other two arbitration-eligible players, Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak, have filed their numbers and could see a hearing sometime in February if they can’t come to terms. Morrison is seeking $2.5 million and the Mariners countered at $1.1 million; Smoak is looking for $3.25 million and Seattle countered at $2.025 million.

The Mariners did make a splash in free agency this week when they agreed to terms with veteran catcher John Buck. Not only does he represent an upgrade over the other backup catching options on the roster, he’s been great defensively (pitch framing talk aside) throughout his career, and has shown an ability to hit for power. Should Mike Zunino struggle this year, Buck is a viable option to play more than just once or twice a week. The deal is for one year and a million bucks, no reported incentives or options, so there’s very few scenarios where this deal could backfire on Seattle. Outfielder Carlos Peguero was designated for assignment to make room for Buck on the 40-man roster.

Elsewhere in free agency, PI’s Chris Moran took a look at some quality buy-low options for the Mariners. He notes Chris Capuano as an interesting veteran to add to the bottom half of the rotation after the 35-year old spent the past two season with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he started 55 games. With Joe Saunders unlikely to return, it would do the M’s some good to add another innings eater to the rotation given the uncertainty surrounding some of the younger pitchers. Chris also notes Grant Balfour and Chad Gaudin as some potential relief options. I also took a look at several available free agent relief options.

Sticking with the bullpen, Jason Churchill recently had a conversation with reliever Danny Farquhar in which the righty revealed he’s been looking to add a change-up and an improved two-seam fastball to his repertoire. As it stands, the 26-year old is the most likely in-house option to start 2014 in the closers role. He saved 16 games after taking over the role from Tom Wilhelmsen, who also remains in the mix moving froward. The addition of a proven closer such as Balfour could change that though.

In another piece, Jason argues that only Taijuan Walker and Zunino should be untouchable in trade talks. He gets the feeling that the Mariners might be valuing James Paxton the same way they are Walker given the lack on inactivity on the trade front. Given the Mariners’ team looks fairly similar heading into 2014 aside from swapping Kendrys Morales for Robinson Cano in the batting order, there’s no reason for Seattle to sit on their prospect stash and wait. Especially since the $24 million annual instalments set to enter Cano’s bank account begin in a little over two month’s time.

Nick Franklin has been a topic of trade debate ever since Cano’s signature was printed on his massive contract. Considering Franklin plays a premium position and will be very cost effective for the next several seasons, Chris suggests he could be the main piece in a deal for a young starter like Jordan Zimmermann or an affordable outfielder like Jay Bruce. There hasn’t been much reported for trade talks surrounding Franklin, but that’s partially because an obvious match such as the Toronto Blue Jays simply don’t have the right pieces to offer in return. Letting Franklin rake in Triple-A to start the year wouldn’t be the worst possible scenario. Perhaps a contending team’s starting baseman goes down early in the season and would be willing to pay more to acquire a player like Franklin.

PI’s Rob Balboni gives us an update on the MLB Rule IV Draft order for the upcoming year. The Mariners will pick sixth in the first round, and should Morales sign with another team before the draft, will sacrifice their Competitive Balance Round A pick for Signing Cano who had decline a qualifying offer from the New York Yankees. If Morales doesn’t sign before the draft, the Mariners will forfeit their second-round draft pick as compensation.

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Tyler Carmont

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  1. The compensatory sandwich-round pick and the Competitive Balance Round A pick are not synonymous.

  2. Yes that’s what I was saying. If Morales signs elsewhere, the M’s get the compensation pick for his departure, and then lose the pick for signing Cano. In this scenario they keep their second round pick. Seattle only loses their second round pick if Morales resigns or waits until after the draft to sign.

  3. Seattle does not have a Competitive Balance Round A pick to lose. If Kendrys Morales signs elsewhere, the Mariners lose their compensatory sandwich-round draft pick for signing Robinson Cano. In the unlikely event Morales re-signs with the M’s, Seattle loses its second-round pick for signing Cano because that would be the team’s highest unprotected draft pick.

  4. I’ll disagree that signing Young removes the Orioles from signing either Morales or Cruz. Let’s not forget, Young is pretty awful, even on good days. Mind you, the Orioles seem content to fall out of contention over the next couple years so who knows. I think both Morales and Cruz are sticking to their guns (or their agents) and maintaining their unrealistic asking prices assuming someone will get desperate. Jeff Sullivan did a great piece at USSM on finding a price where Cruz actually makes sense.

    I have a hard time buying thoughts nobody will sign these guys until after the draft. I’m willing to guess the Mariners will eventually sign one of the two, but the price tag will have fallen enough so that we don’t shudder every time we think about it.

  5. Once Tanaka is out of the way, the M’s and others will make moves. I believe M’s will trade one or all of Smoak, Ackley, Franklin….and get a good long tern OF, probably CF…Not much longer now to wait.

  6. I disagree. Delmon Young is a bench player, at best. Signing him doesn’t remove Morales from Baltimore’s want list. It depends on how seriously they consider their window of opportunity. Young won’t get them there, if that window is now.

    Personally, I’m tired of the Garage Sale mentality, that the M’s need to find someone else’s old clothing, with the hope that it will come back in trend. Kemp might be worth the risk, but considering that his injury could be chronic and affect his level of play, moving forward, I wouldn’t give up anything significant to get him. I agree, for that reason, the Dodgers aren’t going to sell low. And if they did, we should be worried.

    There are options within the organization. Seattle eventually, could move DJ Peterson to the outfield, similar to what KC did with Gordon. There is no reason to panic, and rush to take on someone like Kemp.

    Point being, if you can’t make the right move, don’t make one at all. It might be frustrating, but in the long-term, it makes more sense.

  7. The Dodgers have stated they are not trading Kemp until he has reestablished his value. They know doing so now would be selling low. If and when they do move him what they expect in talent will depend on how much of his contract is assumed, he’s not going to be cheap.
    The Orioles having signed Delmon Young pretty much removes them as a destination for Morales. Baring a surprise suitor the Mariners might be the only one to make an offer. If so it won’t be too expensive. The problem is where they play him. He may well have to wait through spring training fror an opening to develop. I’d rather have him than Cruz, even if Cruz can pretend to be an outfielder. Vernon Wells is avail;able for the major league minimum of $500,000, He hit lefties for .269 and he’s probably as good in the outfield as Cruz, if not better.
    Cedrick Bowers, LHP, free agent — Starting to catch the eyes of scouts in Venezuela, Bowers is a reliever throwing 91-93 miles per hour. He ended last season in the Atlantic League, where he went 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 14 appearances. Source: Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe

  8. I do agree with your first point for sure, on paper, the team isn’t all that much improved outside of Cano. Even though Ibanez was dreadful in the outfield, his 29 home runs are being replaced with a gamble on Hart, and don’t get me wrong I like the signing very much, but here’s hoping his knees are good and he shakes the rust off quick. It’s hard to get a grip on what exactly Paxton and Walker can bring to the table yet, so to some extent, I kinda consider them as wild cards at this point. Even though he was a DH, Morales still contributed to the lineup and he’s out of the picture for now as well.

    Barring a surprise, I don’t see much reason for the Dodgers to not just wait and see with Kemp. They have the money, they have concerns with their other three outfielders, and they don’t have any obvious holes that a trade of Kemp could fix. I think eventually there’ll be a time when LA moves an outfielder, but I think it’s much more likely next winter. A healthy year and a shallow market for bats will greatly increase Kemp’s value. Jason suggested Paxton, Franklin, and another prospect for Kemp as a reasonable deal. If Kemp tanks? Overpay. If he doesn’t? Could be great value. Very hard to say.

    I like SVS and agree he’s one of those guys that could just need an opportunity to break out. He does satisfy a couple of needs, namely, a right handed bat and outfielder who could reasonably play center, and relative youth, so I think he makes sense so long as the price isn’t outrageous. The only concern I have is how much better does he make the team? That’s hard to say right now. Oliver projects 1.5 fWAR for him and he did manage 0.9 fWAR in 53 games with LAD last year, so it’s not unrealistic to think he could produce a couple wins over the course of a full year. If he could get that average up closer to .270 and maintain his Triple-A 19% walk rate (highly unlikely but possible) then he seems like a decent fit as a potential leadoff hitter, especially given the present alternatives. Long story short, he’s a good pickup and fits the plan for a couple years, but presently he lacks the potential impact/proven player that I’d prefer to see the M’s go for.

  9. Go Hawks. Tyler, after all the buzz and rumors and talk, the M’s are basically the same team as last year at this point, would you agree? I think we can improve the pitching (more than Baker) pretty easily by signing one of the decent free agents available. I project the outfield as one the worst as it stands. If the Dodgers do decide to trade Kemp or one of their outfielders, they will seek an abundant return. I saw this quote:

    “We can’t sell off to sell off, then go into 2015 saying, ‘Let’s go get an outfielder on the free agent market.’ We’ve seen the list. It’s not overloaded with choices,” Neil Colletti said on Dec 8. “There is a lack of impact outfielders that are going to become available in the near future. We better be sure that, if we make a move, it would help this club for a while.”
    Which makes me think the M’s could overpay (prospects) for Kemp if desperate, as they attempted to do for Upton. Before we even mention $$ and health risk involved. The M’s are still a young team and outfielders are scare anyways. I’m thinking the M’s might want to go after the 3rd base coaches son, Scott Van Slyke. A 27 y/o right hander who has raked in the minors, hasn’t really had an opportunity to play, is stuck behind 4 outfielders right now, and plays a decent LF and can fill in CF. I would imagine he would be cheaper than Kemp. And if he plays to potential, he improves the OF. IYHO does this make sense?

  10. The best sentence in the entire article: “Outfielder Carlos Peguero was designated for assignment to make room for Buck on the 40-man roster.” While I don’t “hate” Peguero, I did hate him being on the 40 man.

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