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.
Chuck Armstrong, who has been the president of the Mariners for 28 of the franchise’s 37 seasons, announced his retirement on Monday.
Armstrong, 71, was one of the driving forces in helping keep the Mariners in Seattle when former owner George Argyros attempted to sell the club to an out-of-state buyer in 1989 and again when Jeff Smulyan sold the team in 1992.
Armstrong will work through Jan. 31 and the team said a search for his replacement will begin immediately.
“Thirty years ago my family and I were given a wonderful opportunity to move to the Seattle area and become associated with the Seattle Mariners,” Armstrong said. “We quickly grew to love this community and this team. Through all the good times and the not-so-good times on the field since 1984, the goal always has been to win the World Series. My only regret is that the entire region wasn’t able to enjoy a parade through the city to celebrate a World Championship together.”
Armstrong said his decision was fueled by a desire to spend more time with family.
“After much thought and reflection, it is now time for me to retire and enjoy as much time as possible with my wife Susan and our family,” he said. “The recent deaths of several good friends have really had an impact on me and helped crystallize my decision. This was a very difficult, very personal decision, but I know in my heart that it’s time to turn the page and move to the next chapter of my life.
“Thanks to our outstanding ownership, the franchise is stable and will remain the Northwest’s team, playing in Safeco Field, a great ballpark and great example of a successful public-private partnership. The team is in good hands and positioned for future success. I am thankful for this important part in my life and I will always bleed Mariners Blue. Susan and I plan to continue to live here and remain involved in many community events and causes.”
Armstrong has worked as team president under two different ownership groups. The Kentucky native originally served as team president and chief operating officer for Argyros from 1983-89, then was let go after the club was sold to Smulyan.
He remained in the Seattle area and was interim athletic director at the University of Washington in 1991 before returning to the Mariners in 1992 after working as a consultant during the sale from Smulyan to the current Nintendo ownership group.
Armstrong has remained team president the past 21 consecutive years. He has been active during that time both in Seattle and in Major League Baseball, where he has served on the board of directors of MLB Enterprises, Inc., the 14-member Commissioner’s Special Committee for On-Field Matters, MLB International Committee and the Commissioner’s Ticketing Review Committee.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig described Armstrong as “a great baseball man” and wished him well in his retirement.
“Chuck was one of the key leaders who secured the national pastime’s future in the Pacific Northwest, guiding the Mariners as they became a model franchise in a wonderful ballpark,” Selig said. “His knowledge and experience on both the baseball and business sides was an asset to our entire sport in numerous ways, including on my Special Committee for On-Field Matters and our International Committee, and he always kept the best interests of our game in mind.
“I and Chuck’s many friends throughout the game will miss him both personally and professionally. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I wish Chuck, his wife Susan and their family all the best, and I thank him for his many contributions to the game he loves.”
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon completed his coaching staff on Monday and the group will have a mix of new and old faces.
McClendon, who was Detroit’s hitting instructor before being hired by Seattle to replace Eric Wedge, hired two coaches with whom he had former Tigers connections in first base coach Andy Van Slyke and bullpen coach Mike Rojas.
McClendon reached into the Mariners farm system to promote hitting coach Howard Johnson, pitching coach Rick Waits, third base coach John Stearns and infield coach Chris Woodward.
And the new skipper retained two members of Wedge’s former staff in bullpen catcher Jason Phillips and left-handed batting practice pitcher Scott Budner.
That group joins former Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett, who already had been announced as McClendon’s bench coach.
None of Wedge’s primary staff was retained, including bench coach Robby Thompson, pitching coach Carl Willis, hitting coach Dave Hansen, first base coach Mike Brumley, third base coaches Daren Brown and Jeff Datz and bullpen coach Jaime Navarro.
Datz, replaced the final five months of last season by Brown after being diagnosed with cancer, has been offered a position in the scouting department. Brumley has taken a job as the assistant hitting coach with new Cubs manager Rick Renteria.
Thompson interviewed for Jewett’s third-base job with the Nationals and Willis was a finalist recently for pitching coach openings with the Phillies and Orioles, but those jobs have since been filled by others. All of Seattle’s former coaches remain under contract through next season.
Johnson, a two-time National League All-Star who won a pair of World Series titles with the Tigers (1984) and Mets (’86), takes over as hitting coach after holding that position with Triple-A Tacoma last year. Johnson spent the prior 11 seasons in the Mets’ organization, including three and a half years (2007-10) as their big-league hitting coach.
Johnson, 52, started the 2007 season as the Mets’ first base coach before becoming their hitting coach in July and then held that position through 2010. Over a 14-year Major League career, he hit .249 with 228 home runs, 760 RBIs and 231 stolen bases as a switch-hitting third baseman and outfielder with the Tigers, Mets, Rockies and Cubs and he led the National League in home runs (38) and RBIs (117) in 1991 with the Mets.
Johnson worked with the Mariners as an assistant hitting coach in September last season after the Rainiers’ season ended, so he’s already worked with Seattle’s players as well as many of the top Minor League prospects.
Waits, 61, is also a familiar figure with many of the Mariners after spending the last three seasons as the team’s Minor League pitching coordinator. He’ll be taking his first job as a Major League pitching coach, but has helped develop top prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez since joining the organization in 2011.
Prior to being hired by the Mariners, Waits spent 15 seasons in the Mets organization, including seven years as their Minor League pitching coordinator from 2004-10 and was the Major League bullpen coach in 2003. Waits pitched in the Majors for 12 seasons with the Rangers, Indians and Brewers from 1973-85.
Stearns, 62, takes over as third-base coach after finishing last year as the manager in Tacoma. He opened the year as Seattle’s Minor League catching coordinator, a job he began in 2012, but took over the Rainiers after Brown was promoted to Seattle’s third-base coach to replace Datz. A four-time National League All-Star with the Mets, Stearns has been in professional baseball for the past 39 years as a player, coach, scout, manager and ESPN broadcaster.
Woodward, 37, joins the Major League staff after spending last season as the Mariners roving Minor League infield coordinator. That was his first coaching position after retiring from a 12-year Major League career that included two years with the Mariners in 2009-10. Woodward also spent time with the Mariners late last year working with young infielders Nick Franklin and Brad Miller.
McClendon reached into his Tigers past to hire Rojas and Van Slyke. Rojas, 50, spent the past two and a half seasons as Detroit’s bullpen coach. The son of former Major League infielder and manager Cookie Rojas had been with the Tigers since 2004, including four years as their Minor League field coordinator and then director of player development. He has been a Minor League manager in the Tigers, Reds, Astros and White Sox’s organizations after playing several years in the Minors as a catcher.
Van Slyke, 52, has been out of baseball the past four years after working as the Tigers first base coach from 2006-09 when McClendon was Detroit’s hitting coach. The three-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove center fielder was also teammates with McClendon with the Pirates from 1990-94 as part of a 13-year Major League career.
Phillips and Budner are holdovers from the previous staff. Phillips has been the bullpen catcher the past five years and also works with advance scouting reports, while Budner was hired two years ago to help throw left-handed batting practice and help chart games after working as a Minor League pitching coach in Seattle’s system from 2000-08 as well as similar posts with the Orioles and Giants.
A record eight night contests and a visit to the Cubs’ new Spring Training home in Mesa, Ariz., highlight the Mariners’ 33-game 2014 Cactus League schedule that was released Tuesday.
Under new manager Lloyd McClendon, the Mariners will open Spring Training at a remodeled Peoria Sports Complex when pitchers and catchers report for physicals on Feb. 12.
Pitchers and catchers will take the field for the first time on Feb. 13, with position players reporting Feb. 17 and the first full-squad workout slated for Feb. 18.
The Mariners will then work out daily before beginning Cactus League action with the annual Charity Game against the Padres on Feb. 27 at Peoria Stadium.
The Mariners will play 16 spring games at Peoria Stadium, including one when the Padres are designated the home team on Feb. 28. The road schedule will include a March 20 contest against the Cubs at their new spring facility being built at the old Riverview Golf Course in Mesa.
The eight night games will be March 8 at the Dodgers in Glendale, March 10 at the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, March 12 vs. the Cubs in Peoria, March 14 at the Rockies in Scottsdale, March 18 and 21 vs. the Padres in Peoria, March 25 at the Royals in Surprise, and March 28 vs. the Rockies in Peoria.
For the first time since 1988, the Mariners won’t play outside of the Phoenix area in the final days of spring before opening the regular season. Instead, they’ll stay in Arizona and play two exhibition games against the Rockies – in Peoria on March 28 and at Scottsdale on March 29 – before flying to Anaheim for a workout day on Sunday, March 30.
They’ll then open the regular season Monday, March 31, against the Angels in Anaheim. The home opener will be April 8 at 7:10 p.m. against the Angels at Safeco Field.
Here’s the Mariners’ Cactus League schedule, or you can click here for a look at the full calendar:
Thursday, February 27 San Diego Padres (Charity Game) Peoria 1:05
Friday, February 28 at San Diego Padres Peoria 1:05
Saturday, March 1 Los Angeles Angels Peoria 1:05
Sunday, March 2 at Cleveland Indians Goodyear 1:05
Monday, March 3 Colorado Rockies (ss) Peoria 1:05
at Cincinnati Reds (ss) Goodyear 1:05
Tuesday, March 4 at Los Angeles Dodgers Glendale 1:05
Wednesday, March 5 Cleveland Indians Peoria 1:05
Thursday, March 6 at Chicago White Sox Glendale 1:05
Friday, March 7 Cincinnati Reds Peoria 1:05
Saturday, March 8 at San Francisco Giants (ss) Scottsdale 1:05
at Los Angeles Dodgers (ss) Glendale 7:05
Sunday, March 9 Texas Rangers Peoria 1:05
Monday, March 10 Kansas City Royals (ss) Peoria 1:05
at Arizona D-backs (ss) Scottsdale/Talking Stick 7:05
Tuesday, March 11 at Los Angeles Angels Tempe 1:05
Wednesday, March 12 Chicago Cubs Peoria 7:05
Thursday, March 13 at Arizona Diamondbacks Scottsdale/Talking Stick 1:05
Friday, March 14 at Colorado Rockies Scottsdale/Talking Stick 6:40
Saturday, March 15 San Francisco Giants Peoria 1:05
Sunday, March 16 at Los Angeles Angels Tempe 1:05
Monday, March 17 OFF DAY
Tuesday, March 18 San Diego Padres Peoria 7:05
Wednesday, March 19 Milwaukee Brewers Peoria 7:05
Thursday, March 20 at Chicago Cubs Mesa 1:05
Friday, March 21 San Diego Padres Peoria 7:05
Saturday, March 22 at Oakland Athletics (ss) Phoenix 1:05
at Colorado Rockies (ss) Scottsdale/Talking Stick 1:10
Sunday, March 23 Oakland Athletics Peoria 1:05
Monday, March 24 Chicago White Sox Peoria 1:05
Tuesday, March 25 at Kansas City Royals Surprise 6:05
Wednesday, March 26 at Texas Rangers Surprise 12:05
Thursday, March 27 OFF DAY
Friday, March 28 Colorado Rockies** Peoria 7:05
Saturday, March 29 at Colorado Rockies** Scottsdale/Talking Stick 12:10
Sunday, March 30 Workout in Anaheim Anaheim TBD
Monday, March 31 2014 Season Opener Anaheim TBD
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales turned down the Mariners’ qualifying offer on Monday and now becomes a free agent able to negotiate with any of the 30 Major League clubs.
Morales, 30, was one of 13 players in the Majors to receive a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer last week. All 13 players had until Monday’s 2 p.m. PT deadline to accept and all 13 declined.
Here’s the full list:
· Carlos Beltran, STL
· Robinson Cano, NYY
· Curtis Granderson, NYY
· Hiroki Kuroda, NYY
· Shin-Soo Choo, CIN
· Stephen Drew, BOS
· Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS
· Mike Napoli, BOS
· Ubaldo Jimenez, CLE
· Brian McCann, ATL
· Kendrys Morales, SEA
· Ervin Santana, KC
· Nelson Cruz, TEX
A qualifying offer is the equal of the average salary of the 125 top-paid players in the Majors last season and would bind the player to his current team for one season.
Last year, nine players around the Majors were extended qualifying offers, and all turned them down as well. Three of those players – David Ortiz of the Red Sox, Adam LaRoche of the Nationals and Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees – wound up re-signing with their original teams. The other six eventually took longer-term deals with new teams.
Rejecting the qualifying offer didn’t necessarily earn those players a higher annual salary on the free-agent market. The qualifying offer in 2013 was $13.3 million and five of the nine players who rejected it wound up accepting a lower average annual salary, but for more years.
Rafael Soriano signed with the Nats for two years at $22 million, LaRoche re-upped with the Nats for two years, $24 million; Ortiz returned to the Red Sox for two years at $26 million, Kyle Lohse took three years and $33 million from the Brewers and Michael Bourn agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal with the Indians.
Kuroda was the only one of the nine last year who took a one-year deal as he re-signed with the Yankees for $15 million. The three biggest winners were Josh Hamilton to the Angels for five years at $133 million, Justin Upton to the Braves at five years, $75 million, and Nick Swisher to the Indians for four years at $56 million.
The Mariners are interested in pursuing a longer deal with Morales, who led the club in batting average (.277), hits (167), doubles (34), RBIs (80) and extra-base hits (57) in his first season in Seattle after being obtained in a trade with the Angels for Jason Vargas.
Morales hit 23 home runs and tied for fourth in the American League with 15 game-winning RBIs. He hit .312 (44-for-141) with runners in scoring position, providing a needed clutch bat in the middle of Seattle’s young order.
That bat will make Morales attractive to some other teams as well, but he is limited defensively, as Seattle started him just 31 times at first base and 121 times at designated hitter in 2013. The Cuba native missed all of 2011 after shattering his ankle in a home-plate celebration following a walk-off home run against the Mariners in 2010, but he played 134 games with the Angels in 2012 and 156 with Seattle last season.
By making the qualifying bid, the Mariners are assured of receiving a compensatory pick at the end of the first round of next June’s First-Year Player Draft should Morales sign with another team.
Seattle currently would receive the 32nd overall pick if Morales signs elsewhere, though they would move up or down if teams ahead of them forfeit their own first-round selections by signing players who have turned down qualifying offers or if they sign one of those players themselves.
The Mariners are free to sign any of the other players who rejected qualifying offers without losing their own first-round pick (sixth overall) because teams with a top-10 Draft pick are protected. Instead, Seattle would lose its next available pick, which currently is the sixth selection in the second round, but would be higher if they receive a compensatory pick for Morales.
Jewett, who coached third and first base for the Nats over the past three seasons, previously worked with McClendon in Pittsburgh. I spoke to him shortly after his hiring was made official on Monday and you can read that full story here on Mariners.com.
Jewett, 49, was McClendon’s third-base coach with the Pirates from 2001-02 and has managed 17 seasons in the Minor Leagues in the Pirates and Nationals’ systems with a career record of 1,178—1,166.
Jewett was in Seattle over the weekend to meet with McClendon, who was named as the Mariners new skipper last Tuesday.
Jewett interviewed for the Nationals managerial opening earlier this offseason after Davey Johnson’s departure, a job that ultimately went to D-backs third base coach Matt Williams. Jewett was expected to return as the third-base coach on Williams’ new staff, but the Nationals gave McClendon permission to interview him for Seattle’s bench-coach position.
Jewett managed for 15 years in the Pirates organization, including 11 as their Triple-A skipper at Calgary, Nashville and Indianapolis. He spent two years managing in the Nationals farm system, including his last year at Triple-A Syracuse in 2010 before joining their Major League coaching staff.
McClendon talked about the importance of his coaching staff and the need to “get it right” in this story I posted on Mariners.com on Friday, which also talks about some potential hitting coach candidates.
We should learn more on that front in the coming days as McClendon will move quickly to fill out his staff.
Yeah, you could say it was a bit of a crazy day for the Mariners on Tuesday. Within the span of about an hour, a quiet offseason afternoon was shattered by word leaking that Lloyd McClendon was going to be the new manager, Hisashi Iwakuma was one of three finalists for the AL Cy Young Award. And, oh yeah, Raul Ibanez had won the prestigious national Fred Hutch Award.
Obviously the McClendon story trumped everything and it was a bit awkward how it played out, since the Puget Sound Business Journal tweeted the initial scoop before the Mariners even had a chance to notify McClendon or the four other finalists who didn’t get the job.
The Mariners made it official not too much later and will hold a press conference Thursday to introduce McClendon to the media at Safeco Field.
It’s an interesting hire, with Jack Zduriencik opting for a guy with a losing record while managing some bad Pirates teams from 2001-05. But McClendon was well-regarded for his work the past eight years in Detroit on Jim Leyland’s staff and in hindsight, his record with the Pirates was better than those who followed during a 20-year run of losing seasons in Pittsburgh.
Known for his temper and emotions with the Pirates (as he’s shown arguing with an umpire during his early days above), he kept things firmly in check in Detroit. Of course, being hitting coach is different than the managerial hot seat. But people can learn. And he had a chance to learn from one of the best in Leyland and will now get a chance to show his own stuff in Seattle with a club eager to take the next step with a young nucleus.
Rest assured, McClendon will bring some fire to the job. He’s included in this ESPN Top 10 meltdowns video for his 2001 eruption when he “stole” first base after a disputed call. It’s No. 6 on the list and you get a bonus Lou Piniella view just for the effort.
Now 12 years older (and wiser?) at 54, McClendon has preferred not to talk about that incident much when asked during his Tigers’ time when Detroit has returned to Pittsburgh. But he worked well with Tigers players, spending a lot of time helping with video and scouting reports and game-planning how to attack pitchers. He had some top-notch hitters in Detroit, of course, and that crew reached two World Series and four ALCS.
The Mariners certainly could use a better offensive approach and it’ll be interesting to see how McClendon works with their young nucleus and who he brings in for a coaching staff. Those are questions that can now begin getting answers.
Also for your reading pleasure, here’s an interesting piece that MLB.com columnist Tracy Ringolsby did on McClendon last August, with the focus on his “Legendary Lloyd” efforts as a Little League World Series hero from Gary, Ind., while growing up as one of 13 kids in his family.
Ringolsby also checked in today with his view on this hire by the Mariners. You can read his take here.
The Mariners have made no official announcement yet, but a club official didn’t deny a Tweet by the Puget Sound Business Journal that initially broke the story.
General manager Jack Zduriencik just concluded talks with five finalists to replace Eric Wedge, with McClendon among the group brought to Seattle for a second interview.
McClendon, 54, was the only candidate with previous Major League managing experience, having led the Pirates from 2001-05.
McClendon had a 336-446 record when Pittsburgh was in the middle of a 20-year run of losing seasons, then was immediately hired by Jim Leyland in Detroit and was regarded as a big part of the Tigers’ success as they reached the American League Championship Series four times and the World Series twice during his eight years.
McClendon interviewed with the Mariners in 2010, when they hired Wedge, and was under consideration to replace Leyland this past week by the Tigers, who instead named former catcher Brad Ausmus as their new skipper on Sunday.
The other Mariners finalists were A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, former Mariners second baseman and long-time White Sox bench coach Joey Cora and Dodgers third base coach Ron Wallach.