Teams have a five-day window after the end of the World Series to negotiate exclusively or make qualifying offers to their own free agents. On the sixth day, any unsigned players are able to negotiate with any of the 30 Major League clubs. That means players can sign with new teams as of 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday or 9:01 p.m. PT on Monday on the West Coast.
The Mariners free agents will be starting pitcher Chris Young (pictured), left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, catcher Humberto Quintero, first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielders Endy Chavez, Chris Denorfia and Franklin Gutierrez.
The Mariners aren’t expected to make qualifying offers to any of those players, with this year’s number at $15.3 million for a guaranteed one-year deal. Players extended a qualifying offer can reject that offer, but if they sign with another team their original club receives draft pick compensation.
Seattle’s most-marketable free agent would appear to be Young, who was named The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year after going 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 30 games in his first fully healthy season since 2007.
The Mariners are interested in adding a veteran starting pitcher to a rotation that currently includes Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias, but Young’s solid season might have changed his market value enough that he’ll be looking for more money and years now than Seattle is willing to offer in their situation.
“I would love to be back,” Young said. “This was most fulfilling and gratifying season of my career. I’d love to be part of finishing what we’ve started there. That being said, I understand it’s a business and they’ve got a lot of good, young arms and it might not be in the best interest of the Mariners or vice versa.”
Zduriencik said the Mariners have interest in all their free agents. Beimel and Chavez both made the club last year on Minor League deals and filled valuable veteran roles, while Quintero was a September callup in the same scenario.
Zduriencik said Gutierrez has indicated a desire to return to baseball after sitting out 2014 due to lingering health issues. But after spending last year on the reserve list, Gutierrez would only be of interest to the Mariners as a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal.
Denorfia was acquired at the July 31 Trade Deadline from the Padres for outfielder Abraham Almonte, but hit just .195 in 32 games with Seattle.
Morales figures to be an interesting offseason figure again as he tries to determine his market value. The veteran DH turned down Seattle’s $14.3 million qualifying offer last winter, then had to sit out the first two months of the season before landing with the Twins and eventually getting traded back to the Mariners.
But the late start hurt the 31-year-old’s timing and production and he batted .218 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 98 games, a far cry from the .277 average, 23 home runs and 80 RBIs he put up in 156 games with Seattle in 2013.
While Seattle can deal with its own free agents now, the real offseason interest figures to begin in five days when clubs can start pursuing others. Though few deals are struck immediately, that’s when the market will begin to play out for the 121 available free agents, which include Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Melky Cabrera, Michael Cuddyer, Michael Morse and Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas, as well as pitchers Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and Ervin Santana.
Former Mariners Ichiro Suzuki, Munenori Kawasaki, Joe Saunders, Aaron Harang and Asdrubral Cabrera are among this year’s free agents as well. Here’s a complete list of the players eligible to file for free agency as of Thursday.
So stay tuned. The offseason has just officially begun.
Smoak, who put up a .224/.309/.380 slash line in 566 games with Seattle, lost his starting job to Logan Morrison at midseason and didn’t appear to be part of the club’s future after batting just .202 in 80 games this past year.
The Mariners had a $3.65 million option on Smoak for next season, or could have declined that option and had him enter his final season of arbitration. Instead, they placed the former Rangers first-round Draft pick on waivers and Toronto now will have three days to exercise the same option or decide whether to enter Smoak’s final year of the arbitration process.
Smoak earned $2.63 million last season.
The move opens up a spot on Seattle’s 40-man roster as the club prepares to enter the free agency period at the conclusion of the World Series.
Smoak was acquired from the Rangers on July 9, 2010 when Seattle sent pitchers Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe to Texas in exchange for Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson.
Smoak, the 11th overall selection in the 2009 Draft out of South Carolina, hit 74 home runs and 234 RBIs in five seasons with Seattle, including a career-best 20 homers and 64 RBIs with a .238 average in 2013. But he totaled just seven homers and 30 RBIs in 248 at-bats in 2014 and lost his job to Morrison after being sidelined in June by a strained hamstring.
Morrison hit .262 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs in 99 appearances last year, including .321 with six homers, 21 RBIs and an .878 OPS over his final 51 games.
Peterson will be Seattle’s lone representative on the West team in the ninth-annual game that features many of Major League Baseball’s top prospects who are competing in the 32-game AFL season.
The game will be played at 5:08 p.m. PT at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and will be televised by MLB Network and online on MLB.com, as well as on the MLB Radio Network on Sirius/XM satellite radio.
Peterson is one of 14 players selected who are ranked in MLB.com’s current Top 100 prospects list. The former New Mexico standout is ranked 49th on the MLB.com list after hitting .297 with 31 home runs and 111 RBIs while splitting last season between High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson.
Peterson, 22, has played mostly third base in the AFL this fall while hitting .214/.353/.357 with three doubles, one home run and six RBIs in his first 12 games for the Surprise Saguaros.
Shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers top prospect and younger brother of Mariners All-Star third baseman Kyle Seager, was also selected for the West team. Seager is hitting .255/.345/.412 with six doubles, a triple and seven RBIs in 13 games for the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez have been better known for their hitting and pitching prowess in their Mariners careers, but the two Seattle All-Stars were named top-three finalists for Rawlings Gold Gloves at their positions on Thursday.
Second baseman Robinson Cano, a two-time Gold Glove winner while with the Yankees, was the third Mariners player named as a finalist for the Rawlings awards, which will be announced on Nov. 4 in a 4 p.m. PT televised presentation on ESPN2.
Seattle didn’t have any finalists last year, while shortstop Brendan Ryan and second baseman Dustin Ackley were top-three finalists in 2012. The Mariners haven’t had a Gold Glove winner since 2010, when outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez both were honored.
When no Seattle players were selected in 2011, it broke a string of 24 straight years with a Mariners Gold Glove winner, a streak helped by 10 straight selections by Ken Griffey Jr. from 1990-99 and 10 more by Ichiro from 2001-10.
Cano was an AL Gold Glove winner in 2010 and ‘12, with Boston’s Dustin Pedroia taking the second base honors in 2011 and ’13. Pedroia and Cano are finalists again this year at second, along with Detroit’s Ian Kinsler.
The third base finalists are Seager, Josh Donaldson of the A’s and Adrian Beltre of the Rangers, while Hernandez is joined in the final three for pitchers by Dallas Keuchel of the Astros and Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays, who was a three-time Gold Glove winner for the White Sox from 2009-11.
Baltimore’s Manny Machado won the 2013 AL Gold Glove at third base, but the 22-year-old played just 82 games in an injury-plagued season this year. Beltre is a four-time Gold Glove winner, including twice with the Mariners in 2007 and ’08.
Seager had a big year offensively, earning his first AL All-Star berth while leading the Mariners with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs. But he quietly took a big step forward with the glove as well and now has been recognized for that effort in the Gold Glove nominations, which are based about 75 percent on voting by AL managers and coaches and 25 percent on defensive metrics.
Hernandez’s nomination can be added to an outstanding season in which he went 15-6 with an AL-leading 2.14 ERA and a career-high 246 strikeouts. The 28-year-old is also a leading contender for his second AL Cy Young Award, which is voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and will be announced Nov. 12.
Felix Hernandez has been named the American League’s top pitcher in 2014 as part of The Sporting News AL All-Star team selected by a vote of baseball executives, becoming the first Mariners player honored since 2010.
Hernandez was also named The Sporting News AL Pitcher of the Year in 2010, which was the year he went on to win his first AL Cy Young Award. This year’s Cy Young, which is chosen in a vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, will be announced Nov. 12.
The Sporting News All-Star team selects one player at each position, plus one starting pitcher and one reliever in each league. The Mariners haven’t had a position player named to the AL All-Star squad since outfielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2009.
Robinson Cano was the AL second baseman on The Sporting News All-Star team the past four years for the Yankees, but saw that run end this year when the Astros’ Jose Altuve was selected at that position.
Hernandez finished the season with a 15-6 record while leading the AL with a 2.14 ERA in 34 starts. He also posted a league-low 0.915 WHIP while racking up a career-best 248 strikeouts in 236 innings. Hernandez started the AL All-Star Game after being selected to his fifth Midsummer Classic.
The only previous AL Pitchers of the Year for the Mariners as selected by The Sporting News were Randy Johnson in 1995 and Hernandez in 2010.
This year’s Sporting News AL All-Star team: catcher Salvador Perez (Royals); first baseman Jose Abreu (White Sox); second baseman Altuve (Astros); shortstop Erick Aybar (Angels); third baseman Adrian Beltre (Rangers); outfielders Mike Trout (Angels), Michael Brantley (Indians) and Jose Bautista (Blue Jays); designated hitter Victor Martinez (Tigers); pitcher Hernandez (Mariners); and reliever Dellin Betances (Yankees).
The NL All-Star team: catcher Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers); first baseman Anthony Rizzo (Cubs); second baseman Dee Gordon (Dodgers); shortstop Jhonny Peralta (Cardinals); third baseman Anthony Rendon (Nationals); outfielders Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) and Justin Upton (Braves); pitcher Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers); and reliever Craig Kimbrel (Braves).
Feeling he’d finally overcome a series of shoulder issues that had hindered much of his career, Chris Young just wanted a chance to pitch every fifth day and be part of a Major League rotation again after being released by the Nationals at the end of Spring Training.
But the 35-year-old right-hander did far more than that, putting together a strong 2014 season for the Mariners that resulted in Young being named The Sporting News American League Comeback Player of the Year on Monday.
“I am extremely honored,” said Young, who went 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 30 games (29 starts). “There are many deserving players who have demonstrated the commitment, dedication and perseverance to overcome similar obstacles and I am humbled to be recognized amongst them. The life lessons I have learned throughout this experience are invaluable and will stay with me the rest of my career.
“I hope that I can serve as inspiration to other players in the same manner in which I was inspired to pursue my comeback. I am extremely grateful to my teammates, coaches, the Seattle Mariners organization and my family, as each and every member contributed to my success.”
Young is the fifth Mariners player ever to earn the award and first since pitcher Gil Meche in 2003. Previous Seattle winners were Gorman Thomas (1985), Richie Zisk (1981) and Willie Horton (1979). The Sporting News has been selecting AL and NL Comeback Players since 1965.
MLB and the Players Choice Awards also name a Comeback Player of the Year, but those honors haven’t been announced yet for this past season.
Young provided a classic comeback story, having not pitched in the Majors at all in 2013 and finally solving shoulder issues that prevented him from pitching a full season since 2007, when he was an NL All-Star with the Padres.
“Chris was a big part of our success in 2014, really solidifying our rotation,” said manager Lloyd McClendon. “To think he won as many games as he did, and made 29 starts, coming off the type of surgery and the injuries that he had, I think it’s just tremendous. He is a tireless worker and showed his determination with his performance. This is a very deserving award for him in every way possible.”
Young went 1-2 with a 6.81 ERA in nine Minor League starts for the Nationals in 2013, then was released by that club on the final roster cut this spring.
But after having surgery in June of 2013 to repair a nerve blockage in his chest and shoulder called thoracic outlet syndrome, Young said he finally felt at full strength for the first time in years. The Mariners signed him to one-year, $1.5 million base deal just four days before the start of the regular season and he wound up earning another $2.975 million in incentive bonuses by staying healthy and performing so well through the year.
The 6-foot-10 right-hander had the eighth-lowest opponents batting average in the AL at .234, was 21st in the league in WHIP at 1.230 and his 165 innings pitched were his most since 2007.
When healthy, Young has always been an effective Major League pitcher, owning a 65-52 record and 3.77 ERA over 10 seasons. But his shoulder problems have led to three surgeries and allowed him to make just 28 starts over the previous four seasons combined.
He exceeded that number for Seattle this year alone with his 29 starts, helping solidify the rotation for a club that finished first in the AL in ERA and improved by 16 wins to 87-75 in McClendon’s first season at the helm.
Though the increased workload finally seemed to catch up with Young at the end of the season when he went 0-3 with an 8.35 ERA over his last five outings, the 35-year-old finished third on the Mariners in wins and innings pitched behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and his 12 victories equaled his career high set in 2005 with the Padres.
“This is a tremendous and well-deserving honor for Chris,” said Mariners pitching coach Rick Waits. “He worked tirelessly and stuck to his routine to keep himself healthy and on the mound throughout the season. He had a breakthrough year making a comeback, but it wasn’t really that surprising to me. This is a testament to his resolve, patience, determination, hard work, his routine and his tireless study of opposing hitters.”
Young earned 49 votes from AL players to easily beat runner-up J.D. Martinez of the Tigers for the honor. Martinez had 22 votes, Scott Kazmir of the A’s was third with 14, followed by the Yankees’ Derek Jeter (11) and Toronto’s Melky Cabrera (6).
Miami’s Casey McGehee was the NL Comeback Player of the Year.
Taijuan Walker was scratched from his scheduled Arizona Fall League start Saturday night and has decided not to pitch any more this offseason, though he is completely healthy, general manager Jack Zduriencik said Sunday.
The 22-year-old right-hander had been slated to pitch his third AFL game for the Surprise Saguaros on Saturday at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, but fellow Mariners prospect Stephen Landazuri replaced him and wound up allowing five hits and three runs in three innings to take the loss in a 9-4 loss to the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Walker had posted a 2.00 ERA in his first two AFL starts, allowing two runs and seven hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts in nine innings of work.
“Taijuan is completely healthy and was very impressive in his two outings, but made a personal decision that he needed to return home at this time,” Zduriencik said in a statement released by the club. “He will continue with his off-season program and we look forward to seeing him at Spring Training in February.”
Walker is regarded as one of the top young pitchers in baseball and was 2-3 with a 2.61 ERA in eight games for the Mariners this season. But he missed the first two months of the year with shoulder issues and Seattle officials had suggested they wanted him to throw about 25 innings in the AFL to increase his workload before shutting things down until next spring.
Landazuri is one of six other Mariners prospects on the Surprise squad. The 22-year-old right-hander had previously thrown three games in relief in AFL action and is now 1-3 with a 10.29 ERA in seven innings of work. Landazuri went 6-5 with a 4.33 ERA in 19 starts for Double-A Jackson this year.
Two of Seattle’s top position prospects, first baseman Patrick Kivlehan and third baseman D.J. Peterson, each had doubles in Saturday’s game. Kivlehan went 1-for-4 with a walk, an RBI and two runs, while Peterson was 1-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs.
Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker made his second straight strong start in the Arizona Fall League with five innings of one-run ball as the Surprise Saguaros lost a 7-4 decision to Salt River on Monday in Surprise, Ariz.
Walker, regarded as one of the top young pitchers in baseball, allowed just two hits with two walks, a hit batter and six strikeouts while throwing 77 pitches.
Walker outpitched Salt River’s Archie Bradley, the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2011 Draft, as the 22-year-old Diamondbacks right-hander gave up five hits and three runs in three innings.
Walker, also 22, was the 43rd overall pick in 2010 as a compensation-round selection by the Mariners. He is expected to start six games and pitch about 25-30 innings in the AFL as the Mariners look to get him some extra work after missing the first two months of the season with shoulder issues.
Walker has a 2.00 ERA in two AFL starts (two earned runs in nine innings) after going 2-3 with a 2.61 ERA in eight appearances for Seattle this past season and 7-4 with a 4.37 ERA in 16 Minor League outings.
Just as in his first AFL game, Walker wound up with a no-decision after turning a lead over to his bullpen. This time Surprise coughed up a 4-1 advantage as Salt River scored six times in the top of the seventh off Padres prospect Tayron Guerrero.
Surprise is now 3-3 after the first week of the 32-game season. Mariners position prospects D.J. Peterson, Patrick Kivlehan and John Hicks all played in Monday’s outing as well. Peterson was 0-for-4 and is now batting .231 as the team’s primary third baseman. Kivlehan played first base again and went 1-for-4 with a walk to put his average at .238, while Hicks was 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored as the young catcher is hitting .273.
Matt Brazis, one of three Mariners relievers on the staff, replaced Guerrero with two outs in the seventh and gave up a hit and Guerrero’s final run before ending the six-run uprising with a strikeout. Brazis then retired the side in order in the eighth with two more strikeouts.
Center fielder Rusney Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72 million deal with the Red Sox out of Cuba in August, went 2-for-5 with an RBI double and leads Surprise with a .350 batting average in his first four games. Each team in the AFL is made up of top prospects from five Major League franchises.
While MLB narrows its focus on the field this week, with the American League Championship Series now set between the Orioles and Royals and the NLCS down to the Cardinals against the winner of the Giants-Nationals series, the business of business of baseball continues for all 30 teams as the offseason gets underway.
And one of the first orders of business was determining the new qualifying offer figure, which will be $15.3 million, as announced Tuesday, based on the average salary of the top 125 paid players in the game.
That’s another significant hike from the original $13.3 million after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement introduced the qualifying offer plan in 2013 and the $14.1 million from last year. What will be interesting now is to see how players — and teams — deal with qualifying offers this offseason after Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew turned down the $14.1M last year and then wound up having to sit out the first two months of the season before struggling upon their late arrivals.
Of the 22 players who received qualifying offers in the first two years of the system, all 22 have rejected the guaranteed one-year deal and pursued free agency. But with the Draft pick compensation tied to those players, the lower tier of those qualified free agents have discovered a tough market and Morales and Drew both paid a pretty good price for rejecting the one-year deals.
Thus it will be interesting to see how things play out this offseason, with clubs having until the fifth day after the completion of the World Series to extend qualifying offers.
This isn’t a scenario that will impact the Mariners as directly this winter, however. Offering Morales a qualifying offer last year was a no-brainer. With Scott Boras as his agent, the veteran DH made it clear he was setting a high market for himself by turning down multi-year deals with Seattle in the three-year, $30 million range. The Mariners knew he would turn down a qualifying offer, so it was an easy choice to make him that offer and give themselves a chance to recoup a high draft pick in return if he signed elsewhere.
As it turned out, Morales and Boras misread the market, he didn’t sign anywhere else until after the June Draft and Seattle wound up with no draft pick compensation. In the ultimate twist, they wound up acquiring Morales by trade from the Twins for reliever Stephen Pryor six weeks later, a move that didn’t pay great dividends when Morales hit just .207 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 59 games with Seattle.
There’ll be no repeat scenario of the qualifying offer to Morales this winter and not just because he played poorly in 2014. Players traded in-season can’t be extended qualifying offers. So Morales, one of seven Mariners headed to free agency upon conclusion of the World Series, will be free to go wherever he wants.
Morales has expressed interest in staying in Seattle, but he said the same thing last season and then turned down some pretty good offers. This time I find it extremely unlikely the Mariners will pursue Morales’ return unless his price drops dramatically and other options fall through.
The Mariners certainly will have interest in retaining some of their other pending free agents, but none fall anywhere near the salary structure that would call for a qualifying offer. Reliever Joe Beimel is a solid bet to return, but he made the team as a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal last spring and won’t break the bank. Same story with outfielder Endy Chavez, who has made the team on Minor League deals the past two seasons.
Veteran right-hander Chris Young figures to be the most-pursued of Seattle’s free agents after his strong comeback season, going 12-7 with a 3.85 ERA in 30 outings. Young certainly improved his negotiating strength with his first healthy season since 2007 and will cost a lot more than the $1.5 million base salary he played on this year, but he’s certainly not a $15.3 million qualifying offer candidate with his injury history.
Seattle’s other free agents are outfielder Chris Denorfia, catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who spent the year on the restricted list. Again, none of those three are big-money targets, nor was DH Corey Hart, who already became a free agent after being designated for assignment.
So the Mariners won’t play the qualifying offer game with their own players, though it’s possible they’ll pursue other teams qualified free agents. They did it last year with Robinson Cano, sacrificing their own top non-protected Draft pick to land the biggest free agent on the market.
Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (pictured) figures to be in that boat this winter and surely the Mariners will be one of the many pursuers for his right-handed bat, though that competition — and price — figure to be steep. Do the Mariners have a chance? Sure. After seeing Cano come to Seattle a year ago, it would be foolish to think otherwise. But Martinez will have lots of options, including staying in Detroit, so its extremely premature to even speculate on those possibilities.
Who else figures to be in the qualifying offer category? It seems likely that starting pitchers James Shields from the Royals, Max Scherzer of the Tigers and Ervin Santana of the Braves will draw the one-year guaranteed offer of $15.3 million, along with outfielders Nelson Cruz of the Orioles and Melky Cabrera of the Blue Jays, shortstops Hanley Ramirez of the Dodgers and J.J. Hardy of the Orioles, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, Pirates catcher Russell Martin and Yankees closer David Robertson.
Others may join that list, but those 11 are a pretty solid starting point for discussion. Cruz turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer last year from the Rangers, wound up settling for an $8 million deal with the Orioles and then put up an AL-leading 40 home runs with 108 RBIs for Baltimore.
So, yeah, it’s an interesting game within the game to watch this winter. And the price of business was set at $15.3 million.
Taijuan Walker threw four innings of one-run ball and fellow Mariners prospect Patrick Kivlehan homered as the Surprise Saguaros opened the Arizona Fall League with a 5-4 loss to the Peoria Javelinas on Tuesday in Surprise, Ariz.
Walker, one of the top young arms in baseball, allowed five hits with no walks and five strikeouts in a 57-pitch start and left with a 3-1 lead. The Mariners would like the 22-year-old to get 20-25 innings of work in the AFL after missing the first half of this past season with shoulder problems that limited him to 120 1/3 innings overall, including 38 with Seattle.
Walker was 2-3 with a 2.61 ERA in eight appearances for Seattle and 7-4 with a 4.37 ERA in 16 Minor League starts, with 14 of those coming with Triple-A Tacoma.
Kivlehan, a 24-year-old infielder who played football at Rutgers before getting drafted by the Mariners in the fourth-round in 2012, opened his second AFL season with a 1-for-4 outing that included a solo home run in the third inning off Royals prospect Kyle Zimmer, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 Draft.
Kivlehan split this past season between Class-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, hitting .293 with 20 home runs and 103 RBIs, with 104 of his 138 games coming at Jackson. Kivlehan played first base in Tuesday’s game, with fellow Mariners prospect D.J. Peterson opening at third base and going 1-for-3 with an RBI double and a walk.
Peterson, Seattle’s first-round Draft pick in 2013, is the No. 49 rated prospect in baseball by MLB.com and was named Seattle’s co-Minor League Hitter of the Year after putting up a .297 average with 31 homers and 111 RBIs in 123 games with High Desert and Jackson.
Catcher John Hicks, the Mariners other position player on the Saguaros squad, went 1-for-3 with a walk and picked a runner off first base. Hicks, 25, split last season between Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma and hit a combined .290 with five homers and 47 RBIs in 81 games.
Right-hander Stephen Landazuri, one of three other Mariners prospects on the pitching staff, took the loss after giving up four hits and three runs in the eighth inning. The 22-year-old was 6-5 with a 4.33 ERA in 19 starts for Jackson this year.
The AFL consists of six teams with each squad made up of prospects from five different Major League clubs, with each team playing 32 games from now through Nov. 13.