Pitchers and catchers are now just days away from reporting to Spring Training complexes, signalling the nearing of Opening Day. As of Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners are just 55 days away from opening the season against the Los Angeles Angels on April 6 at Safeco Field.
Now that James Shields has signed on with the much-improved San Diego Padres, the Hot Stove season is all but finished. Once we reach the mid-point of March and teams have began to make roster decisions things will heat up slightly with several out-of-options players — see Ramirez, Erasmo — potentially on the move. Expect to see a few more minor league deals handed out or minor trades in the meantime, but for the most part, teams are ready to get to camp and attempt to sort out what all they have.
The notable recent minor league deals handed out by the Mariners for the 2015 season include:
- Familiar outfielders: Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez
- Catching depth: John Baker
- There’s never enough pitching depth: The club has reportedly considered bringing back Joe Beimel for a second season. The southpaw is still without a contract but is said to have received some form of interest from several clubs.
As noted, February is typically a slow month for meaningful transactions. However, last year on February 13, Seattle signed veteran closer Fernando Rodney to a two-year, $14 million contract. The enigmatic right-hander would go on to save a league-leading 48 games in 2014. Although the ‘save’ statistic has proven to be overrated — except by traditionalists — the arrow-slinging Rodney effectively stabilized the best bullpen in baseball. Incumbent closers Danny Farquhar and Tom Wilhelmsen were pushed to set-up and middle relief roles respectively, improving the pen as a whole.
February transactions certainly aren’t all meaningless.
ESPN’s Dan Szymborski, via FanGraphs, released the ZIPs projection for the Mariners in 2015. Of note, Robinson Cano is projected for a 5.3 zWAR season while newcomer Nelson Cruz received a 2.3 zWAR projection. The recently extended Kyle Seager sits in between the pair with a 4.3 zWAR projection. On the pitching side of things, Felix Hernandez is projected for another excellent season at 5.6 fWAR. Hisashi Iwakuma follows with a 2.8 zWAR projection while Danny Farquhar projects to be the best bullpen arm at 0.8 zWAR.
A pair of Mariners prospects cracked MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects for 2015: 2014 first-rounder Alex Jackson came in at No. 28 while D.J. Peterson took the No. 50 spot. Both hitters also appeared on ESPN’s Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects list: Jackson at No. 59 and Peterson at No. 61. Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs secured the No. 1 spot on both lists.
Jackson is expected to begin the season in the low minors while Peterson will be at big league camp and could start the season at Triple-A.
Back on the major league side of things, Prospect Insider’s Luke Arkins pondered Dustin Ackley’s future in Seattle. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft will turn 27 later this month and is coming off his best season since debuting in 2011. Arkins opines that Ackley could be best served as one half of a left field platoon, with the left-hander primarily starting against right-handed pitching.
The Mariners selected left-handed pitcher David Rollins in this past year’s Rule 5 Draft. I caught up with him back in December and discussed his plans for 2015 and thoughts on being acquired by the organization for a third time.
Back in January I compared the perceived offseason strategy of the Oakland Athletics — filling each position with league average or better players and plenty of depth — to the current state of the Mariners. Arkins offered a different Hot Stove strategy for the M’s with an eye on run prevention vs. run production.
Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times breaks down the Mariners roster by position heading into Spring Training. There is still a noticeable hole at first base behind Logan Morrison but Divish notes that the starting pitching depth is much improved. Sam Gaviglio, Justin Germano, and Mike Kickham have all been added to the mix this winter.
Don’t forget you can catch PI’s Jason A. Churchill and Alex Carson every Saturday night on The Hot Stove Report. In the most recent edition, the guys discussed Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Danny Hultzen in 2015 with all three coming off injuries. Paxton figures to be a near-lock for a rotation spot while Walker and Roenis Elias are likely to compete for the No. 5 spot. Hultzen is healthy and will report with the other pitchers and catchers but starting the season at Triple-A is probable.