January 2013

Kelley signs one-year deal to avoid arbitration hearing

Right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley signed a one-year contract with the Mariners on Wednesday, avoiding an arbitration hearing and becoming the final player on the 40-man roster to come to terms for the upcoming season.

Kelley agreed to a base salary of $935,000, MLB.com has confirmed, with potential bonuses for being with the Major League team at 60, 90, 120 and 150 days that could raise that total to $1.1 million.

Kelley had asked for $1.2 million at the Jan. 18 arbitration deadline, while the Mariners offered $750,000.

Kelly, 28, made $600,000 in 2012 in his first year of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two qualifier. He pitched 47 games for the Mariners, posting a 2-4 record with a 3.25 ERA in 44 1/3 innings during three separate stints with the club.

Kelley also made 14 appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, going 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings.

If Kelley hadn’t come to an agreement, the two sides would have gone to a three-person arbitration panel in February. The Mariners haven’t had a player go to an arbitration hearing since Freddy Garcia in 2003.

It’s a deal: Paulino signs Minor League contract

Baltimore Orioles v. Chicago White SoxThis one has been brewing for a few days now, but the Mariners finalized a Minor League deal Friday with veteran Ronny Paulino to add some depth to their catching position. The one-year contract includes an invitation to Major League camp.

The agreement with Paulino had been in the works for several days, but he had to pass a physical before the contract was finalized and that became official on Friday.

Paulino, 31, owns a .272 batting average over an eight-year career with the Pirates, Marlins, Mets and Orioles. He was with Baltimore for the first half of last season, but played just 20 games behind Matt Wieters while hitting .254 in 63 at-bats.

The Dominican native finished up last year with the Orioles’ Triple-A Norfolk club, hitting .287 with one home run and 15 RBIs in 150 at-bats over 40 games.

The Mariners are looking to bolster their catching position after trading John Jaso to the A’s in a three-way deal that brought outfielder Michael Morse from the Nationals.

Seattle’s only catcher on its current 40-man roster is Jesus Montero, though the club also has extended non-roster invitations to young prospects Mike Zunino and John Hicks as well as Jesus Sucre for the upcoming camp, which opens with pitchers and catchers reporting Feb. 12 in Peoria, Ariz.

General manager Jack Zduriencik said Wednesday he planned to sign two veteran catchers before Spring Training. The club is still interested in adding another free agent, with Kelly Schoppach one possible target.

Schoppach played four years with manager Eric Wedge in Cleveland from 2006-09 and remains unsigned after splitting last year between the Mets and Red Sox.

Other unsigned free-agent catchers include Brian Schneider, Chris Snyder, Matt Treanor, Rod Barajas and Miguel Olivo. Olivo was with the Mariners the past two years, but isn’t expected to return.

Yorvit Torrealba, one of the other remaining free agents, agreed to a Minor League deal Thursday with the Rockies. Another potential target, left-handed hitting George Kottaras, was claimed off waivers by the Royals on Friday. He’d been designated for assignment by the A’s on Jan. 16 after Oakland acquired Jaso.

Boom! Fireworks coming to Safeco this summer

For the first time since Safeco Field opened in 1999, the Mariners will have post-game fireworks displays following two home games this coming season, the club announced Wednesday.

The Mariners will team with Pyro Spectaculars, the company that produces the New Year’s Eve at the Space Needle show, to provide postgame shows following two Friday night games – June 28 against the Cubs and Aug. 9 against the Brewers.

The club has been limited in its fireworks offerings in the past due to the City of Seattle’s worry about traffic safety on nearby Interstate 5, but Mariners marketing director Kevin Martinez and officials from Pyro Spectaculars met with fire department officials last summer to develop a show that is compliant with the city’s concerns.

“Fireworks have a long tradition in Major League Baseball and we’re excited to bring that to Safeco Field,” said Martinez. “Hopefully it becomes a new summer tradition here in Seattle.”

The two fireworks nights were part of the special events schedule released by the team, which also includes Ken Griffey Jr.’s induction into the Mariners Hall of Fame on Aug. 10, a Felix Hernandez “Perfect Game” bobblehead night on May 25, a Dustin Ackley “gnome” giveaway on July 13, bat night on April 27 and the introduction of a combination “beard-hat” night on April 26.

The full schedule of events can be seen at www.mariners.com/promotions.

If you’re wondering what a “beard-hat” might be, here’s a video of Martinez introducing the new fashion item at today’s pre-Spring Training media luncheon.

Just how much is King Felix worth?

Ken Rosenthal of CBSsports.com reported this morning that the Mariners continue to talk to Felix Hernandez and his representatives about a contract extension. That isn’t new as we’ve discussed that numerous times this offseason, the latest coming during the Winter Meetings.

But Rosenthal did put some financial conjecture into the conversation, saying the club is “at least weighing” a four-year, $100 million extension. On top of the two years at $39.5 million left on his present deal, he figures in essence they’d be locking him up for six more years at $139.5 million.

One minor point there. Hernandez actually is set to make $40.5 million over the next two years, as his 2013 and 2014 salaries each received a $500,000 bump due to a bonus in his contract for his 2010 Cy Young Award.

What’s an extra million among friends though, right? The real question is how much money — and how many years — it’s going to take to induce Hernandez to re-up at this point rather than head for free agency in two years. The Mariners aren’t going to want him to get close to that point, of course, and will be forced to think about trading him if he indeed gets closer and closer to that point and they might lose him for nothing more than draft pick compensation.

That’s why all this talk is happening now. And it is pretty subjective, obviously, since Rosenthal doesn’t indicate an offer has actually even been made. But Jack Zduriencik has made it clear the club wants to keep Hernandez and this is just another sign that things could get serious pretty quickly.

How much is King Felix worth? That’s an interesting topic and one that MLB.com’s Hot Stove show took on today as well. You can give that a look here on this video:

Griffey to be inducted into Mariners Hall on Aug. 10

Minnesota Twins v Seattle MarinersThis one was inevitable, given Ken Griffey Jr. is considered by most to be the greatest player ever to don a Mariners uniform. But the club announced Tuesday that Junior will be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame on Aug. 10 of the upcoming season.

Griffey, who retired from baseball on June 2, 2010, will become the seventh member of the Mariners Hall of Fame.

He’ll join Alvin Davis (1997), Dave Niehaus (2000), Jay Buhner (2004), Edgar Martinez (2007), Randy Johnson (2012) and Dan Wilson (2012).

To be eligible for selection, a player must have been active in a Mariners uniform for at least five seasons and be retired as a player at least two years.

Griffey will be inducted during a pregame ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 10, before a 6:10 p.m. game against the Brewers. More information about the ceremony and Hall of Fame induction festivities will be announced at a later date.

Griffey spent 13 of his 22 years in the Majors with the Mariners and currently is working with the team as a special consultant. He ranks near the top of every offensive category in franchise history, including first in home runs (417), second in RBIs (1,216), doubles (341) and slugging percentage (.553), third in hits (1,843), runs (1,113), games (1,685) and at-bats (6,317).

He still holds Mariners single-season records for home runs (56 in two different years), RBIs (147) and extra-base hits (93).

In his Major League career, which also included stints with the Reds and White Sox, Griffey earned 13 All-Star awards, 10 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger Awards and four American League home run titles.

He stands sixth on MLB’s all-time home run list with 630 and was the 1997 AL MVP.

“Like all Mariners fans, I consider it a privilege to have watched Ken Griffey Jr. grow up before us to become one of the greatest players in baseball and a true gentleman,” said Mariners president Chuck Armstrong. “He was a naturally gifted athlete who played the game with pure joy. We are proud to welcome Ken to the Mariners Hall of Fame and look forward to the day in January 2016, when he gets the call from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.”

Morse added to next weekend’s FanFest lineup

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game FiveNew Mariners acquisition Michael Morse has been added to next weekend’s FanFest lineup, bringing the total number of participating Major League players to 11 for the two-day event at Safeco Field.

Morse will be making his first public appearance since being acquired from the Washington Nationals last week to help bolster the Mariners offensive attack. The 30-year-old outfielder/first baseman previously played for the Mariners from 2005-08.

Also added this week was starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who is preparing for his second season with the Mariners after establishing himself as an integral part of the rotation last year after going 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA.

The 16th annual FanFest will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 26-27, with the player interview and autograph sessions among the many offerings for fans.

Also participating will be outfielders Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders and Casper Wells, third baseman Kyle Seager, catcher Jesus Montero, shortstop Brendan Ryan, starting pitcher Blake Beavan, closer Tom Wilhelmsen and reliever Carter Capps.

Four of the Mariners top prospects — catcher Mike Zunino, pitcher James Paxton and infielders Nick Franklin and Stefan Romero –- will also take part, along with manager Eric Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik.

Among this year’s highlights is a new 200-foot zip line ride through the Safeco Field outfield as well as a “Felixing” photo opportunity for fans who want to put themselves in the image from Felix Hernandez’s perfect game celebration.

Fans will also be able to run the bases, tour the Mariners clubhouse, try to hit against a simulated Felix fastball, play catch in the outfield, view memorabilia from the perfect game and last year’s combined six-pitcher no-hitter and swing a game-used bat.

Fans can also get their first look at Safeco Field’s offseason ballpark improvements that are currently under way, including construction of the new outfield walls, the addition of an Edgar’s Cantina and Lounge down the left-field line and installation of the new video screen in center field, which will be the largest in Major League Baseball.

FanFest tickets are $10 for adults, with kids 14 and under getting in for free. Tickets are on sale at http://www.mariners.com/fanfest and Mariners Team Stores.

Morales, Ryan sign one-year deals

Kendrys Morales and Brendan Ryan came to one-year contract agreements with the Mariners on Friday to avoid arbitration, leaving reliever Shawn Kelley as the only unsigned player on the 40-man roster.

Morales signed for $5.25 million, plus possible performance bonuses, according to Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com. He earned $2.975 million last year with the Angels.

Ryan signed for $3.25 million after making $1.75 million last year.

Both Morales and Ryan are in their third and final years of arbitration-eligiblity and will be free agents at the end of this coming season.

The Mariners exchanged salary figures with Kelley at Friday’s filing deadline, in accordance with Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. According to CBSsports.com, Kelley asked for $1.2 million and the Mariners offered $750,000.

If the two sides don’t reach agreement in the coming days, Kelley will go to a hearing in which a three-member arbitration panel chooses either the salary number he and his agent submitted Friday or the lower figure submitted by the team.

Binding arbitration hearings take place from Feb. 4-20. The Mariners haven’t had a player go to an arbitration hearing since Freddy Garcia in 2003.

Kelley, 28, earned $600,000 last year in his first year of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two qualifier. He pitched 47 games for the Mariners, going 2-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 44 1/3 innings, over three different stints with the club.

Felix heads four Mariners named to WBC squads

FelixMariners ace Felix Hernandez was named to Venezuela’s provisional roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic on Thursday and will be one of four Major Leaguers from Seattle expected to compete in the international tournament this spring.

Also named on provisional rosters released by Major League Baseball were outfielder Michael Saunders (Canada), left-handed reliever Oliver Perez (Mexico) and third baseman Alex Liddi (Italy).

Six players affiliated with the Mariners’ Minor League system were also selected for provisional rosters. Final rosters are due Feb. 20, prior to the start of the March tournament.

Four of Seattle’s Minor Leaguers are on Brazil’s team:  shortstop Pedro Okuda, left-handed pitcher Luiz Gohara and right-handers Jean Tome and Thyago Vieira. Okuda and Vieira played for the Venezuelan Rookie League Mariners last year, Tome competed in the Brazilian League and Gohara is a 16-year-old who has yet to play pro ball.

Kalian Sams, an outfielder with Double-A Jackson last year, has been selected to the Netherlands, while right-handed pitcher Wei Wang will play for China. Wang, 34, didn’t play in the Mariners system last year.

Hernandez, Saunders, Perez and Liddi are all on the Mariners’ 40-man roster and will begin Spring Training as normal next month when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12, then join their national teams in early March to prepare for the first-round of games from March 7-10.

Hernandez will have his first-round action in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Pool C play is slated against the Dominican Republic, Spain and Puerto Rico.

Hernandez is part of a stocked Venezuela squad that consists entirely of MLB players, including Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, Pablo Sandoval and Asdrubral Cabrera. Venezuela’s pitching staff will include Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano, Francisco Rodriguez, Edward Mujica, Jose Mijares, J.C. Gutierrez, Ronald Belisario and Henderson Alvarez, in addition to Hernandez.

Saunders, Perez and Liddi will stay in Phoenix for Pool D play, which has the United States, Canada, Italy and Mexico squaring off at Salt River Fields and Chase Field.

The top two teams in each of those pools advance to second-round action at Marlins Park in Miami from March 12-16. The four-team championship round will be in San Francisco from March 17-19.

Participants will thus miss between 10-20 days of Mariners’ Spring Training, depending how their teams fare, before rejoining the club in preparation for the April 1 season opener in Oakland.

Goldsmith hired as new radio voice alongside Rizzs

Aaron-Goldsmith-HeadshotAaron Goldsmith, a St. Louis native who was the radio broadcaster for the Pawtucket Red Sox Triple-A team last year, has been selected as the Mariners new voice to work alongside Rick Rizzs in the radio booth this coming season.

Goldsmith, 29, is the first full-time replacement for Dave Niehaus since the Hall of Famer’s death in November of 2010. The club used six part-time broadcasters on a rotating basis the past two seasons to work with Rizzs on 710 ESPN Seattle and the Mariners radio network.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining the Seattle Mariners broadcast team,” said Goldsmith. “The idea of contributing to an organization with such a rich tradition on the radio is a tremendous honor and a standard I look forward to upholding. I’m eager to start working alongside Rick Rizzs and contributing to the Mariners both on and off the air.”

Dave Sims and Mike Blowers will return as the Mariners television announcers for their seventh seasons. Rizzs will begin his 28th year with the Mariners broadcast crew when the season opens on April 1.

Goldsmith worked as the play-by-play man for the PawSox last year after spending two seasons as the voice of the Frisco RoughRiders, the Double-A affiliate of the Rangers. Prior to that he was the broadcaster and studio host for the Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs, the Red Sox’s Double-A club, in 2009.

“Aaron has a bright future as a broadcaster and we believe Mariners fans in the Northwest will enjoy listening to him with Rick Rizzs on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network,” said Randy Adamack, Mariners vice president of communications. “He will be a great fit here for many years to come.”

Goldsmith graduated from Principia College in Elsah, Ill., and began his broadcast career in 2007 covering the Gateway Grizzlies of the Independent Frontier League in Sauget, Ill., then did play-by-play for the Bourne (Maine) Braves in the Cape Cod League in ’08.

For the last two seasons, the Mariners had Rizzs work with former Niehaus broadcast partners Ron Fairly, Ken Levine and Ken Wilson as well as former players Dan Wilson, Dave Henderson and Dave Valle on a rotating basis.

“It’s a great opportunity for a young man who deserves it,” Rizzs said. “We had an exhaustive search and he was selected from a very talented group of baseball broadcasters. He’s going to make a great contribution to our broadcast team, and I am confident the fans will enjoy his work.”

Mariners acquire Morse for Jaso in 3-way deal

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game FiveThe Mariners continued their offseason search for offensive upgrades by acquiring Nationals outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse on Wednesday in a three-way deal that sent catcher John Jaso to the A’s, MLB.com has learned.

Oakland traded three prospects to the Nats to complete the deal. One of those is right-hander A.J. Cole, 21, who was reacquired by the Nationals after being dealt to Oakland in last offseason’s Gio Gonzalez trade.

Morse, 30, gives Seattle another middle-of-the-order bat as he returns to the Mariners after three and a half seasons with the Nationals.

Morse hit .298 and averaged 24.5 home runs and 78.5 RBIs the last two years despite missing the first 60 games last year with a back injury. He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $6.75 million in 2013.

Jaso, 29, figured to be the Mariners’ backup catcher behind Jesus Montero this coming season after hitting .276 with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs in 108 games last year.

Seattle obviously will be in the market to add another backstop, with Montero now the only catcher on the 40-man roster. The club does have 2012 first-round Draft pick Mike Zunino waiting in the wings, but figures to also pursue a veteran as well.

Kelly Schopach, Yorvit Torrealba and Ronny Paulino are among the free-agent catchers still available.

Jaso was one of four Mariners who filed for salary arbitration on Tuesday. He is in his first season of arbitration eligibility and will be under the A’s team control for three years after earning $495,000 in 2012.

The Mariners have now added first baseman/designated Kendrys Morales, infielder Robert Andino and outfielders Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay and Morse this offseason.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik had been pushing to acquire D-backs outfielder Justin Upton until that deal fell through when Upton blocked a trade to Seattle last week .

Morse joins a Mariners outfield competition that now includes Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero, Ibanez and Bay.

Morse can play first base as well as the corner outfield, though he made 92 of his 101 starts in the outfield last season and the other nine at DH, while playing just five innings of first base.

Seattle has Morales, Justin Smoak and Mike Carp at first base.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Morse came up in the Mariners organization as a shortstop after being acquired from the White Sox in 2004. He played 107 games for Seattle from 2005-08, though he was limited to five games his final season after tearing a labrum on a diving catch attempt in the outfield.

Morse was playing for Triple-A Tacoma in ’09 when he was traded to the Nationals for outfielder Ryan Langerhans.

He finally started seeing significant playing time in 2010 with the Nats and hit .289 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs in 266 at-bats. The following year he posted a career-high 31 home runs and 95 RBIs while hitting .303 in 522 at-bats, while ranking fourth in the National League in slugging percentage (.550) behind Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder.

A strained back muscle caused Morse to miss the first two months last season, but he came on to hit .291 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 406 at-bats.

He became expendable for the Nationals when they acquired Denard Span from the Twins this offseason to team with Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the outfield, then re-signed free agent Adam LaRoche to play first base two weeks ago.

In his eight years in the Majors, Morse has put up a .295/.347/.492 line with 100 home runs and 368 RBIs.

Jaso, who was acquired by Seattle for reliever Josh Lueke a year ago, is a career .255/.359/.395 hitter with 20 home runs and 121 RBIs in four seasons. He caught Felix Hernandez’s perfect game and also provided a number of clutch hits for the Mariners last season with three walkoff RBIs while ranking second in the AL with his .378 batting average with runners in scoring position.