Pitching Notes: Iwakuma, Walker, Baker, Santana

 Official Cactus League games are now underway for the Seattle Mariners, but the fact there’s baseball once again is overshadowed by the news that it’s unlikely Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker will be healthy by Opening Day. Iwakuma sprained a tendon in his middle finger just before camp began and Walker has been shut down for seven days after experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder throughout camp. Both don’t figure to miss time beyond April, but if their respective injuries take longer to heal than expected, the Mariners could be in some serious rotation trouble.

We already knew that Iwakuma would be out for at least the first couple weeks of the regular season, and on Friday it was revealed he must keep his finger in a splint for the next three weeks and should then be able to resume throwing. Manager Lloyd McClendon suggested it’ll take the All-Star around 20 innings of minor league action or simulated games to be ready to face major league hitters once again, and a couple weeks participating in a regular throwing program will be required to build up some arm strength first. Most were hoping Iwakuma would be slightly ahead of schedule after doing various throwing exercises without gripping a ball earlier in the week, but it appears that a mid to late April return to the rotation is the most likely outcome.

It’s not time to completely panic yet, but concern is growing quick over what’s going on with Walker after Friday’s tests revealed inflammation in his throwing shoulder. The Mariners have down played the injury and suggested it’s nothing to be worried about, but it’s hard to remain calm when the same was said about Danny Hultzen last year. Perhaps it really is just a simple bout of soreness and Walker will be just fine in a weeks time, but many won’t be sleeping easy until he steps on to a mound again. The young righty is being optimistic about the setback however, and doesn’t plan on letting it affect him more than it has to. If there is a silver lining in any of this, it could be that Walker is prepared to deal with troubles from a mental standpoint, a trait not always found in young players. Should he be able to resume throwing next weekend, he’ll really only be a couple weeks behind schedule. Not ideal of course, but far from the end of the world.

Suddenly Seattle’s lack of proven pitching depth has become even more magnified, especially when Randy Wolf‘s name is being mentioned as possible stopgap piece while Iwakuma and Walker get back to full strength. This concern isn’t new by any means and many agree that the M’s pitching staff doesn’t resemble that of a contender even in a best case scenario. The offseason signing of Scott Baker could almost be considered crucial now given the recent events. He made his first appearance if the spring today throwing two innings and allowing two to reach base. But pointless Spring Training stats aside, his early velocity is a definite positive.

Baker was a strong candidate to make the rotation out of camp anyways so long as he was healthy once again, but he could definitely start the year as the number three guy in the rotation depending on how the rest of camp goes. It’s still possible he pitches out of the bullpen at some point this year and the incentives in his contract are set up for both situations, but if his arm strength and durability allow him to pitch six or more effective innings every five days, he could be one of the best moves of the Mariners’ offseason.

Seattle has off and on again been connected to free agent Ervin Santana given their lack of pitching depth and the difficulty that exists in acquiring decent pitching via trade without giving up too much in return. It’s easy to connect the dots and suggest the M’s should pick him up given the uncertainty in their rotation has only increased in the past month, but Santana seems content to wait for the deal he wants to sign. That’ll likely be in the four-year $50 million range that his free agent counterparts signed for, but with seemingly minimal interest, is there a chance he folds and accepts less? Maybe, but probably not.

It wasn’t that long ago that Santana’s agents wanted $100 million for their client, but obviously that pipe dream was neither realistic or relevant once Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez signed their respective contracts. It’s not unreasonable for the right-hander to hold out for a four year deal and get it, the Toronto Blue Jays were rumored to have offered three years, but one has to think the likelihood decreases as the days go by. The Baltimore Orioles were reportedly interested before their free agent splurge, but they’re probably sitting back right now. The Colorado Rockies have kicked the tires a little bit recently but don’t seem overly interested. The New York Yankees were rumored to have some interest but haven’t been reportedly involved in a long time, and the Jays seem content to go with what they have at the moment.

Seattle has always appeared to be a logical destination, and perhaps is the only remaining one at this point. So long as the budget allows for it, it’s probably not all that bad of an idea to sign Santana right now. Three years would be preferable, but a four-year pact worth $10-13 million annually isn’t really all that bad; especially given the fact Bronson Arroyo will make north of $10 million in each of the next two seasons. Personally, I don’t like the idea of signing Santana to a multi-year deal given his history, but I like it a lot more than Seattle being forced to rely on young arms like Brandon Maurer and Erasmo Ramirez once again. Nothing against the two, the M’s just need more certainty in their rotation heading into the year.

It remains to be seen whether the Mariners have any more moves up their sleeves or not, but one thing is for certain: it never hurts to have extra pitching depth.

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Tyler Carmont

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37 Comments

  1. … and the Mariners have done BOTH. Every year since 1999.

  2. There is a big difference between making a profit and distributing cash to owners. While making profits in a lot of years, the current Mariners’ ownership group has repeatedly stated that they have not removed cash from the organization. I don’t think any of us have any evidence or logical reason to deny this. I assume cash revenues have been used to build fancy scoreboards, and help finance fancy training facilities, and maybe even ROOT sports, but that money is still used within the organization. Almost all the cash revenues are needed just to pay the yearly expenses of running the team. The owners are not feeding their families on your ticket money. Like mgvernon said, they will cash in on their investment when they sell the team. Until then, I’m sure they would be happy to just avoid having to invest more cash in.

  3. Well for one, these are all opinions based on general knowledge. No matter how much we try and think of it otherwise, baseball is a business. Therefore, the owners have to be making money for it to continue. Let’s trade the Seattle Mariners for a Starbucks coffee shop. If the coffee shop isn’t making money, then it’s either not going to last long, or be sold to somebody else. That’s how business works.

    I highly doubt you’re going to find an income statement from the Mariners in any way, shape, or form. I get what your saying about Safeco Field being publicly funded, but that doesn’t mean the M’s have to declare everything to the public. They aren’t a publicly traded organization like the Green Bay Packers. And it’s simply bad business to let the competition know exactly what you’re working with financially.

    Mariners’ ownership is making profit on this franchise. Some years it’s not much, other years it’s quite a bit. That we can say for absolute fact. How much? Who knows. Phone the organization and ask? I don’t know. That’s the best that we can reasonably provide here.

  4. I like to see some reference to fact rather than opinion on profits. That doesn’t jibe with what they reported to the Public body that financed Safeco. Not all teams are alike incidentally.

  5. Agreed.

    Even if the Yankees team lost millions, they make it back with YES profits. Nobody owns a team simply to be “good citizens”. Ask Howard Shultz about that, as he watches the Thunder playing basketball on his big screen TV.

  6. Of course they have. What ownership group doesn’t. It’s preposterous to think otherwise.

  7. Easy killer. Morrow has yet to accomplish much as a Blue Jay yet anyways so what’s the real difference between him and the time league spent in Seattle? That deal was pretty much a wash by now. If Morrow truly breaks out and stays healthy it’ll look great, but until that happens, keep your shorts on.

  8. I don’t think a team should ever take a guy who projects as a reliever in the first 4-5 rounds.

    The idea that relievers are low-risk guys who reach the majors fast is totally bunk. They fail all the time.

    Most importantly, pitching in relief should be Plan B. The M’s did a decent job with Capps in that sense: they drafted a guy with a big arm, let him start until it became clear that that wasn’t his path to the big leagues, then changed him to relief.

    Speaking of which, I’m still pissed about how this team fucked up with Brandon Morrow. Relief pitchers aren’t hard to get, and burning a high draft pick and/or a top arm for relief help is just stupid.

  9. The Mariners ownership HAS ABSOLUTELY taken profits.

  10. LOL. Nope. Not a chance

  11. They have to report them to the PFD as part of the deal to finance Safeco Field, so it’s not entirely confidential.

  12. I agree. If the figures being discussed in rumorville, then Santana wants 4 years @ $50 million. He’ll never get it, but he’s not giving in, at this point. Boras is probably waiting for a team to get desparate, and I hope it’s not Seattle. Texas is going to sign Joe Saunders. If Ervin was actually as good as his numbers last year, Texas might have been persuaded to sign him.

  13. A horrible bet for Santana. He has a checkerboard history, and he’ll probably NEVER repeat last year.

  14. The majority of the information relating to the Mariners’ financials is not released to the public so I’m not sure how you know that for fact. Things can be said in public to make them sound good, but at the end of the day these guys are business men. If they weren’t making money, they wouldn’t still be owners.

  15. I doubt that many here would put their own money on Morales or Santana being a missing cog.

  16. Texas Rangers sign Joe Saunders to anchor their rotation. I am ready to anoint them AL West champs after that move. Sorry Oakland, better luck next year…

  17. Mariners owners have never taken any money out of the team, so they are not stuffing profits in their pockets. If I recall correctly they even buy their own tickets. Their equity investments in the team have increased in value substantially but they will have to sell that equity to see any profit. They have made some bad baseball decisions and hirings but they have been good financial stewards of the team.

  18. I’m not speaking to you specifically, but I think the vast majority of us, including myself, really have an idea as to where all this new TV money will go. $20 million is the number we’re hearing, but that’s supposedly on average, and not necessarily appearing anytime soon. We also can’t assume that money will automatically be spent on payroll. The Mariners haven’t been overly profitable the last couple years, so one shouldn’t be surprised if the bulk of that extra revenue goes right to the owners’ pockets.

    Based on numbers and what I’ve read, i consider the Mariners’ budget to be right around $100 million. You have to remember that incentives (Hart’s $7M) and pre-arb deals aren’t always included in the payroll calculations numbers. Factor those in and I’d imagine the Mariners are pretty much at near their ceiling. Now, there’s rumored to be more money if it’s absolutely needed, as in Jack Z sells them on a transaction that’d push them team over the top, but at this point it’s unlikely mid-tier players like Morales and Santana are enough to get ownership to open their wallets a little further.

  19. I wouldn’t want to see them give Santana 4/$50 million, which I think is what he’s looking for. I would like to see them give Morales 3 years at $10 to $12 million each.
    I’m seeing multiple references to the Mariners not having money to sign any other players. According to Wendy Thurm at Fangraphs and based on Cot’s Contracts the M’s have $87.5 million in payroll obligations to this point for this season. This is just about exactly what they had last season, although Lincoln said the budget for 2013 was $95 million, they just didn’t use it all. He also said there would be more than that available this season but did not name an amount. Given the increased media revenues and his statement there should still be payroll space to sign a Morales or Santana, especially if their deals are back loaded or deferred. Pleading poverty may be a negotiating ploy, if not then Lincoln was not being honest in his payroll pledge.

  20. I thought before the off-season that the M’s needed to pick up two starters, not including some minor league contract invites from the first aid heap. I still think the same way. There’s a good reason the Cards stock pile young arms, and we should be stock piling ours instead of throwing them into the rotation before their time. I know JZ acknowledged the need for another starter during the off-season. So Santana must be asking for more than the M’s will pay, whatever that is. Or the M’s must be doing their due diligence examing the trade market waiting for a deal they like. I’m not sure what is going on, but I predict that the next couple of moves or non-moves will predict JZ’s future with the M’s.

  21. They could not have known in February of 2009 that by signing the 2008 first round pick Josh Fields that they would miss out on a superstar by not just going for a new pick instead. But they could have easily figured that they could do better than a reliever for that pick. I guess that in the Zduriencik era they went with the same idea that was used in 2008 in drafting Fields in the first place and that was he could be in the majors quickly. As it turned out Fields took a long, long time to make it to the majors and was sent off to the Red Sox in a 2011 trade. Again, they could not know four months before the draft who they would miss, but in almost any draft (2009 was a weak class beyond #1 but did end up producing stars like Trout, Goldschmidt and a few good pitchers) something better than a reliever was available in round one.

  22. Ackley was the pick at the time of the draft as the clear cut #2 player in the draft. You don’t pass on him and no team with the #2 pick would have taken anyone but Ackley. So you can’t lament on not selecting Trout there.

    The crazy thing was, the M’s were very very IN on Trout and had actually entertained an idea (although briefly) of selecting Trout. If Trout would have lasted to Franklins pick they would have taken Trout, IMO. The real head scratcher is, knowing that they loved Trout, that Jack still went ahead and signed Josh Fields, a guy he didn’t select. It really doesn’t make sense. Fields hadn’t signed all year and right before the draft they sign him? If they pass on signing him, like everyone was hoping they would do, they would have had the 20th pick in the draft and could have selected Trout with that pick and the entire future of the M’s would be drastically different.

    That draft should have yielded Ackley, Trout and Franklin. Oh well. Should a, could a, would a…

  23. If Santana and Morales were willing to sign those deals, I doubt either would still be free agents. They’re still holding out to get paid closer to what they feel they’re worth, or at least their agents do anyways.

    Also, there’s no reason for Jack Z to talk about the available free agents. He’s purely providing the lip service all GM’s are giving because it’s only March 2. Everyone wants to see what they’ve got and what they still need. Like Spring Training numbers, Spring Training comments from executives mean practically nothing.

  24. Exactly. Before people start ripping the Mariners for not taking Trout, there were over twenty teams who passed too. Ackley was very highly thought of when he was drafted so it’s not like Seattle was taking a shot in the dark. He’s struggled with his consistency, but it’s hard to find a groove when you’re learning new positions. He’s hit the ball real well so far in the first couple ST games so let’s hope that continues.

  25. Santana is not coming to Seattle on a one year deal. Throw any thought of that out the window. The difference between Santana and Nelsen Cruz is that Santana is working off of a career year. He’s (via Scott Boras) is not going to take a one year deal to prove anything, because he had probably his best season, last year. He’s going to try and milk it. And, if he was going to take a one year deal, why not pick a contender?

  26. Ichiro would have been a nice 5th outfielder on this team with no outfield depth, but he was never going to accept this kind of a reserve role on this team…

  27. Is it strange of me to still want Ichiro on this team? I miss the guy.

  28. “I believe three years and $36 million for Santana and one year at $10 million for Morales should be enough to sign both of them.” So says Jim Bowden at ESPN. There’s a reason he’s a twice-fired GM.

    “There are still some pieces out there, so who knows?” Zduriencik said. “We’re open to talking about anything. We’ll see. You never know. I would never close the door to anything.” Zduriencik is practiced at being noncommittal, but the focus doesn’t appear to be on those two top free agents, at least at the moment. “They’re not here,” Zduriencik said. “This is our ballclub right now. Our concern is what’s in front of us.” Source: Jon Heyman at CBS Sports

  29. You have to remember that the M’s had a shallow farm system and were picking college players who projected to be major league ready quicker than the high school kids. That said, I doubt anyone projected Trout to be the next Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays at such an early age, including the Angels. There were quite a few teams that had a shot at Trout before the Angels.

  30. You know what, I just considered this as an option: Santana signs for one-year in Seattle, has a similar year to 2013, declines a qualifying offer at the end of the year, signs multi-year deal somewhere else. Hypothetically Seattle gives up a second or third round pick in this draft and gets a first round pick next year. That’s highly debatable, especially since this draft class is very highly regarded and quite deep, but if we’re throwing out ideal scenarios that are mostly unrealistic, why not?

  31. If Cruz can have a 25-30 HR year and stay healthy, he could probably cash in a 3/30 deal next winter, far from his original asking price at the beginning of this one, but better than what he was realistically going to get right now.

    The perception around the league is that once the draft pick compensation is removed from Santana, and the other guys for that matter, that teams would be willing to meet the asking prices. I’m kind of surprised the Jays and Yankees haven’t gotten in to play more with Santana since he’d help both clubs and they have the financial resources available. If I’m Seattle I don’t sign Santana on a one-year deal because of the draft pick factor. If Morales signs elsewhere then maybe giving up the pick on Santana isn’t so bad, but ideally you get a multi-year pact done if a pick is also included in the cost. 3/33 for Santana would be solid value, but I wouldn’t be upset at 3/42 either. The fourth year guaranteed is what scares me.

  32. I am not a fan of signing Santana, but if we do I hope we get more than one year. Two plus a team option would be great. $28 million/2 years. If we’re going to lose the 2nd/3rd round draft pick, which has been a good pick for us, we need more value than a 1 year pillow contract provides.

  33. Nelsen Cruz took a one year deal in to play in a ballpark that is hitter friendly, where he felt he could put up some good numbers and try this whole FREE AGENT THING again next year. I realize starting pitchers are much more in demand than a limited player like Cruz, but how much longer will Santana hold out for a team to come around and pay him? When does he realize that the “music has stopped and he is left standing without a chair to sit in?”

    I think Seattle would be a GREAT place to go on a one year deal, put up great numbers in a pitcher friendly ballpark, and try this whole FREE AGENT THING again next year. Wouldn’t he rather do this than take a 3 year deal he isn’t happy with? What team out there is going to give him four years and 50 million? I realize injuries could change things but the clock is ticking.

    If he sits around until after the draft hoping for a better deal I think he is a greater risk to get injured. Don’t see how missing spring training, sitting around for months, and then getting thrown into the fire can be a good thing…

  34. I like Maurer, but there’s no way he should be in the M’s rotation before he tastes AAA success. As a stopgap, I’d rather see Elias.

  35. Getting rid of Jack Z at this point, or after the season, would be basically admitting ‘another’ rebuilding. I don’t see it happening. They will let his draft picks come up and either make/break Jack Z. With the kind of money Mariners are coming into, along with a paid off stadium, TV ownership deal, yadadada the Mariners will start tackling their problems with money as these draft picks come up from here on.

    Cano was just the “start” of spending on the TOP FA’s. Look for this to continue and payroll to start hitting the $130-$145m range come 2015 and 2016!

    I know hindsight is 20/20, but Ackley at the #2 pick in the draft while the same Angels in the same draft pick Trout around #26 (can’t remember the exact pick of Trout, but that hurt!).

  36. ^ Ugh. Really?

  37. Really wished we could sign santana and morales. We need some protection in the lineup for cano. He seems to be all that is left and I dont think he wants to play here either.looks like another horrible season on the horizon but at least jack z will be gone

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