Their search for right-handed hitting outfielders could bring the Mariners back to a familiar figure as general manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledged Tuesday that the club is talking to free agent Franklin Gutierrez.
The Mariners declined a $7 million club option last month on a contract that would have kept Gutierrez with the team this season, but are willing now to talk about a smaller one-year deal with the oft-injured center fielder.
Gutierrez, 31, played just 173 of the team’s 486 games over the past three seasons due to a variety of injuries and illnesses, many of which he’s since attributed to an inflammatory condition called ankylosing spondylitis.
The 2009 American League Gold Glove winner believes he finally began dealing with that condition with medication after being diagnosed in midseason last year, but an attempt to play Winter Ball in Venezuela recently was canceled when he became sick again.
The Mariners obviously couldn’t count on Gutierrez, but could bring him back on a low-risk salary and see how he performed.
Zduriencik continues pushing for a right-handed impact bat and the club has met several times with the agents for Nelson Cruz, one of the premier remaining free-agent outfielders. But the Rangers are interested in having Cruz return to their club and he’s believed to have other pursuers as well.
Zduriencik told 710 ESPN Seattle on Tuesday that reports of Cruz turning down a five-year, $75 million offer from the Mariners were inaccurate.
Another oft-mentioned target for Seattle at the Winter Meetings rumor mill is outfielder Matt Kemp, who has six years and $128 million remaining on his contract with the Dodgers. Kemp was one of baseball’s top center fielders when healthy, but played just 73 games last year and his broken foot is still in a boot as he continues recovering from one of the three injuries that led to time on the disabled list.
Welcome to Day 2 of the Winter Meetings, where not a lot happened the previous day as teams spent more time talking and getting settled in after a hectic prior week where many of the top free agents came to agreements.
One of those obviously was Robinson Cano, and I keep getting questions about when that deal with the Mariners will become official. All I can tell you at this point is that Cano is flying to Seattle soon for a physical exam, after which the deal — assuming all goes as expected — will be signed and the team will hold an introductory press conference in Seattle. I expect all that to take place by the end of this week, but that’s just a presumption at this point as the Mariners continue their policy of not confirming anything until a deal is completely in place.
As for the action here in Orlando, Jack Zduriencik made the rounds on the TV circuit in the hotel lobby this morning as he continues being a sought-out person in the media, given the Mariners remain linked in reports to many of the top names still on the board.
Zduriencik told us yesterday that he won’t trade Taijuan Walker, but he isn’t saying his club is out of the picture if the Rays are willing to trade David Price. I’m not sure what package of prospects it would take to pry Price away, but it’s hard for me to imagine giving away so much of its prized young talent I remain skeptical on that front.
I do know the Mariners continue pushing hard for a right-handed outfield bat, with Nelson Cruz a prime target. But the Rangers are also interested in keeping Cruz and that one will be competive. It seems far-less likely that Shin-Soo Choo winds up with the Mariners, given his left-handedness, the massive contract he seems headed toward and the fact he may not have been all that keen on his initial experience in Seattle.
The Mariners are exploring numerous outfield options beyond Cruz, but the dominoes seem to start with Choo and Cruz, so it’ll be interesting to see if one or both of them sign in the next few days.
Seattle tried a pair of right-handed power bats in the outfield last year in Michael Morse and Jason Bay, but neither panned out. Morse is being mentioned as a free-agent of interest by the Rockies, Rangers and others. But Bay, I learned this morning, appears headed to the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.
Bay took a lot of heat from Mets fans, but he’s a great guy who obviously just wants to keep playing baseball. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
On the flip side of the Japan exchange, the future of Masahiro Tanaka may soon become clearer when the Rakuten Golden Eagles decide whether to post their ace right-hander. Rakuten’s owner is expected to arrive in Orlando today, which figures to be an interesting situation as the Japanese clubs try to sort through MLB’s new posting system that caps posting fees at $20 million.
I’m not sure why Tanaka hasn’t been mentioned more prominently as a potential Mariners’ target. Maybe the Mariners are just lying low, but seems to me he could be a natural fit as a former teammate of Hisashi Iwakuma’s at Rakuten. Imagine sliding Tanaka into a rotation with Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker. He won’t come cheap, but the $20 million posting limit makes it more realistic and the 26-year-old seems a far better bet than the questionable “high-end” free agent possibilities currently on the market.
New Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon will meet with the media today at 1 p.m. PT, so I’ll have an update from that as well as our afternoon get-together with Zduriencik. So we’ll talk again then …
While Raul Ibanez led the Mariners with 29 home runs last season at age 41, general manager Jack Zduriencik indicated Monday at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., that re-signing the veteran outfielder is not a high priority right now for a club more in need of adding a right-handed bat.
Ibanez has said he’d like to play another year after hitting .242 with 65 RBIs and tying Ted Williams’ record for most home runs by a player age 40 or better. But that opportunity might have to come from another team unless things change in Seattle’s current thinking.
“We’re very fond of Raul,” Zduriencik said. “We have to sift through some things at these meetings, primarily because we are so left-handed. As much as he and I would like to get something done, I think we need a little more time to figure out how we’re going to allocate and what opportunities present themselves here. And that’s hard to say because he had such a good year and he’s such a great guy. But we certainly again are touching all our bases on a lot of players.”
The Mariners are on the verge of finalizing a deal for left-handed hitting second baseman Robinson Cano and also have left-handers Kyle Seager at third base and Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders in the outfield.
Seattle has just three returning outfielders from last year’s final Major League roster in Ackley, Saunders and September callup Abraham Almonte, who is a switch hitter, so a right-handed hitter there would be optimal.
“It would be very important,” Zduriencik said. “That could very well be our main focus. But I also think if you can add talent, you just have to take a chance. Even though we are more left-handed oriented than I’d like to be right now, you still have to try to improve your club. But preferably a right-handed bat would be better.”
The top right-handed hitting outfielders on the free agent market include Nelson Cruz and Corey Hart, while Shin-Soo Choo is a left-hander.
While one of the prime rumors circulating prior to the Winter Meetings involved the Mariners interest in potentially trading top young pitching prospect Taijuan Walker in a package for Rays ace David Price, general manager Jack Zduriencik dashed that thought on Monday afternoon.
Meeting with Mariners reporters in his hotel suite at the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista., Fla., Zduriencik said Walker wasn’t going anywhere.
“I don’t have intentions of trading Taijuan,” Zduriencik said. “You listen to any opportunities that present themselves and you go into discussions with a lot of people. And his name will come up. Why wouldn’t it? As do a lot of our guys, quite frankly. But Taijuan is high profile because he’s rated our top prospect. So if I was a club out there, why wouldn’t I ask about Taijuan Walker? That would be a smart thing to do because you never know where it’s going to take you. But I have no intentions of trading him.”
Walker has a strong chance of landing a job in the Mariners rotation this spring after making three starts last September for Seattle. The 21-year-old is under team control for six more years and is regarded as the fourth-highest rated prospect in baseball by MLB.com.
Price, 28, was the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner and is a three-time All-Star, but the Rays will want a huge return of young talent in any trade. Price has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining for the Rays and figures to make about $13 million this season and more in 2015 before becoming a free agent.
The Mariners would like to add another starting pitcher to their rotation, which already includes All-Stars Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. But if they traded Walker, then they’d still need to add another pitcher since Walker figures as part of the rotation this year as well.
The notion of dealing six years of control of the up-and-coming Walker — as well as likely more young talent — for two years of Price was a worthy baseball debate, but now appears to be a moot point. It’s doubtful the Mariners have enough other premier prospects to lure Price and the Rays are under no pressure to make a hasty deal since he still has two years on his contract.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik issued a statement Monday addressing a story in Sunday’s Seattle Times accusing the club’s front office of being a dysnfunctional situation. The story was based largely on comments by former manager Eric Wedge and former assistant to the GM Tony Blengino.
Here is Zduriencik’s statement:
Over the years, we have chosen to take the high road in talking about former Mariners personnel. It hasn’t always been easy but we always felt it was important to do so, not just for the club but also for the individual. And in every case, it proved to be the right way to handle things. However, we believe the comments made by former members of our organization that appeared in the Sunday Seattle Times require a brief response.
Eric Wedge, our former manager, criticized our organization, accusing Howard Lincoln, chuck Armstrong and me of meddling.
Everyone in our organization, including Howard and Chuck, is focused on putting a championship team on the field. We all care very deeply about this team, just like the fans do. We all see when the team is playing well, and when it isn’t.
I’ve worked for several Major League organizations. Our upper management has suggestions and asks questions, just like CEOs and presidents in other organization do, all to be helpful and contribute to the goal of winning. We all want to win as soon as possible.
When there are areas that need improvement, it’s my job to ask questions, suggest ideas and give direction to the field staff. When our upper management has questions or suggestions, it’s my job to respond to them. I don’t believe meddling is a fair portrayal.
One good example is the issue of the Mariners doing extra work last September. That suggestion was mine. Everyone in the baseball department thought this would be a good teaching time to help us improve our fundamentals with a young team, and help set the tone for spring training.
Howard, Chuck, Eric and I met every five to six weeks the past couple of seasons to make sure we were all on the same page. Never once did Eric complain about our communications during those meetings. In fact, we all agreed that this was a good time to offer and share ideas.
Eric approached me numerous times throughout the year expressing his desire for a long-term contract. Even the day before he quit, Eric called a meeting with me and demanded a contract extension.
I can also say that our current statistical analysis group is doing excellent work. Our dedicated staff and the tools they are using are a key component in our decision making process, and are light years ahead of where we have been. I am engaged with their work on a daily basis and very excited in the improvements made.
We have never deviated from our rebuilding plan. We have stayed the course, and we now have a talented group of young players. We are hard at work looking into every option to add to this core group, as we said we would, and we are looking forward to 2014 and beyond.
Though the Winter Meetings are now underway, there’s nothing very “wintery” about things here in Orlando, Fla.
Not complaining , for sure, as this must be the only place in the U.S. where it’s warm and humid today with temperatures already in the 80s this morning.
Now we’ll see whether things heat up on the Hot Stove as well. It should be an interesting four days, given many teams — including the Mariners — have already aggressively begun their offseason shopping.
The meetings kicked off moments ago with the announcement of Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee. One of other contenders was Ted Simmons, one of Jack Zduriencik’s special assistants in Seattle and a former standout catcher.
On the Mariners front, Seattle won’t officially announce the Robinson Cano signing until later this week, presuming he passes his physical exam. But obviously that agreement sent a message to baseball that the Mariners are willing and able to do business — big business — and Zduriencik will continue pushing to add a few key pieces to his young club in the next days and weeks.
Not all the moves will be glamerous. The Mariners need a backup catcher. They need a veteran bullpen arm or two. They need outfield depth. But they well could make another bigger splash, either in trade or free agency, given the desire to add a prominent outfield bat as well as a starting pitcher.
The premier free agent pitching market is the one area that hasn’t moved much yet, so this week will be interesting on that front.
I’m on site at the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin Resort and will update as news happens and after we sit down with Zduriencik for daily updates every afternoon. And hopefully I’ll get a chance to slide outside every now and then to see the sun, which is a warm and welcome sight after a chilly week in Seattle.
After several years of missing out on big free agents, the Mariners landed a whopper on Friday when five-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano agreed to a 10-year, $240 million deal, according to multiple reports.
The Mariners have not yet confirmed the report, which originally was released by Cano’s camp through ESPN Desportes reporter Enrique Rojas.
The contract terms, if accurate, would equal the deal Albert Pujols signed with the Angels two years ago. Only the two contracts Alex Rodriguez signed, one with the Rangers and the other with the Yankees, have been more lucrative.
Cano, 31, is regarded as the premier free agent in this year’s market and is coming off a season in which he hit .314 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs in 160 games for the Yankees.
Cano and his representatives flew to Seattle on Thursday and met with Mariners officials, looking for a better deal than the seven years at about $170 million offered by the Yankees.
Early Friday morning, a report by the New York Daily News said that talks between Cano and the Mariners had broken down when his agent, Jay-Z, raised the free agent’s price.
But Cano wound up agreeing later on a deal that dwarfs even the seven-year, $175-million contract the Mariners gave ace pitcher Felix Hernandez last spring, which at the time made him the highest-paid pitcher in Major League history.
Cano has been one of the most-consistent offensive performers in the Majors since 2009, averaging 28 home runs and 103 RBIs per season over those five years. He’s been an American League All-Star and finished in the top six in AL MVP voting each of the past four seasons and just completed a contract that paid him $15 million for 2013.
The Mariners have considerable payroll available this offseason, with only Hernandez ($22 million) and Hisashi Iwakuma ($6.5 million) under any sort of sizable contracts and just two players – Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak – entering the arbitration process.
General manager Jack Zduriencik has been pushing for an impact hitter the past few offseasons, but came up short in efforts to land Prince Fielder in 2011 and Josh Hamilton last year.
Hernandez is the only player under contract beyond 2014 for a Seattle club whose payroll has been in the $90 million range the last few years.
Free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano flew from New York to Seattle to meet with Mariners officials on Thursday, according to an ESPN Deportes report, as negotiating tactics for the five-time Yankees All-Star kicked up a notch.
ESPN Desportes quoted a source as saying the Mariners would be willing to go up to 10 years and $230-$240 million for Cano, who reportedly has been offered seven years at about $170 million by the Yankees.
FOXSports.com is reporting that Cano asked for $240 million, but the Mariners have not offered more than $200 million. Only Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have signed Major League contracts larger than $225 million.
MLB.com has not confirmed that the Mariners have talked any specific figures with Cano and the Mariners declined to comment on the ESPN Deportes report, as is their policy with all free-agent negotiations.
What the report doesn’t say is whether Cano and his agents are truly interested in signing with Seattle or are leaking news of his dalliance with the Mariners as negotiating leverage to drive up the Yankees’ offer.
Here’s my full story on MLB.com.
This won’t satisfy Mariners fans hoping for a blockbuster move, but veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist returned to his roots on Thursday as Seattle officially announced his signing of a two-year deal.
Word of the agreement emerged on Monday, but Bloomquist had to complete a physical exam before finalizing a contract that will pay him $5.8 million over the next two seasons.
While Bloomquist isn’t the big-name acquisition Seattle fans are clamoring for, he figures to fill a versatile role for new manager Lloyd McClendon as one of baseball’s noted “super utility” players, having played every position except catcher during his 12 seasons in the Majors.
Here’s my full story on Bloomquist, who talks about returning to Seattle, his role and more moves to come.
As for what does happen next and any anticipated blockbusters? As I noted on my Twitter account this morning, I’m skeptical of how interested Robinson Cano really is in the Mariners and also how interested the Mariners are in Rays pitcher David Price. I know both those deals have been hot on the Hot Stove rumor mill. And I do think Jack Zduriencik is pushing to make a big acquisition and has they money to do some things this winter.
But Cano feels far more like a situation where the player and his agents are looking to create leverage by playing up a competing team for the Yankees. And Price, while a marvelous pitcher, doesn’t seem to make sense to give up the farm for — including six years of team control of premier right-hand prospect Taijuan Walker — when he’s at the high-end of his arbitration years and then will be a free agent in two years.
Prospects for high-priced proven talent like Price is certainly a worthy trade option, but it makes more sense for the Mariners to trade for offense — given free-agent hitters are reluctant and/or costly when being lured to Safeco Field — rather than pitching, which can be signed far more easily in Seattle’s case.
If you’re going to use Walker as a trade chip, I’d expect it would be for a big-time hitter. Zduriencik pursued that last year with Justin Upton and this year’s big target could be Matt Kemp, who has six years and $128 million left on his contract with the Dodgers.
Kemp is a marvelous talent as well, though he played just 73 games in an injury-plagued season last year with three DL stints due to ankle, shoulder and hamstring issues. But that’s one of the reasons Kemp is available now and the upside is one of the game’s premier outfielders and a five-tool stud who is an MVP-caliber player with six years of team control remaining.
Whether that kind of blockbuster is actually in the works remains to be seen as well, but it at least makes more sense to me if we are going to be tossing around Hot Stove speculation.
Looking to provide some depth in their young infield and outfield, the Mariners are bringing back veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist, according to a Major League source.
The deal is still pending a physical exam, with a likely mid-week announcement if everything goes as expected with the 36-year-old free agent. Bloomquist played for Seattle from 2002-08 after being drafted by the Mariners in the third round in 1999 out of Arizona State. He is a native of the Northwest, having grown up in Port Orchard, Wash.
Bloomquist isn’t the big offensive boost fans are hoping for in free agency, but his addition makes sense for a club that can use his versatility to back up several positions with a quality glove man and proven on-base threat.
Bloomquist has played every position except catcher during his 12 seasons in the Majors, including his last three years with the D-backs.
The Mariners return rookies Brad Miller at shortstop and Nick Franklin at second base and Bloomquist is capable of playing both those positions, as well as the outfield. Seattle has just three outfielders – Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders and Abraham Almonte – currently under contract from last year’s final roster.
Speaking on Saturday, before word of Bloomquist’s signing came out, general manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledged that he wanted to add to the middle infield mix with Miller, Franklin and Carlos Triunfel all being extremely young.
“We’ve seen glimpses and flashes of these guys having talent,” Zduriencik said. “But they’ve got to come back and be prepared and they should be challenged in Spring Training. As you continue to look at other options, either through trade or free agency, you do what’s best for your club in the long run. We like what we’ve seen, but we’re not going to give anything to them.”
Bloomquist hit .317 with a .360 on-base percentage and .367 slugging percentage last season in 139 at-bats while playing 48 games, which was his least playing time since his rookie season in Seattle in ’02. He missed the first two months of the season with an oblique injury and another two months later in the year after breaking a bone in his hand when he was hit by a pitch.
He hit .302/.325/.398 in 324 at-bats in 80 games in 2012 and for his career is a .271 hitter with 17 home runs and 207 RBIs in 973 games.
He’s played 329 games in the outfield, 282 at shortstop, 132 at third base, 123 at second base and 37 at first base in his career. Bloomquist became a free agent after his two-year, $3.8 million deal with the D-backs expired after last season.