October 2013

Valle included in first round of interviews


General manager Jack Zduriencik has concluded his initial round of talks in Phoenix with prospective managerial candidates for the Mariners and will return to Seattle this weekend and then begin bringing in several finalists for second interviews in the coming days.

Zduriencik is believed to have talked to at least a dozen candidates to replace Eric Wedge, who stepped down at the end of last season. The fifth-year GM is keeping the process as confidential as possible, given that two other teams – the Tigers and Cubs – are still pursuing many of the same names for their own vacancies.

The Reds and Nationals have both filled their openings, with Cincinnati promoting pitching coach Bryan Price prior to the World Series and the Nats finalizing their deal with D-backs third base coach Matt Williams on Thursday.

Zduriencik is known to have talked with A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus.

An interesting sixth name emerged Thursday as a SportsIllustrated.com report came out that former Mariners catcher and current broadcaster Dave Valle (pictured) had interviewed for the job this week. A source familiar with the talks confirmed that story, though indicated the interview actually took place last week.

Though Valle has no prior managing experience, Zduriencik met with him after the former catcher expressed interest. It’s not known if any other internal candidates have interviewed, though assistant GM Ted Simmons and two of Wedge’s coaches — Daren Brown and Robby Thompson — are all potential candidates.

Valle, 53, was a 13-year Major League veteran who played for Seattle from 1984-93 and then had short stints with the Red Sox, Brewers and Rangers before retiring in 1996. He has worked as a broadcaster for the Rangers and Mariners since his retirement and also has done analysis for the MLB Network.

Though Valle has no managing experience, all five teams with Major League openings this offseason seem more open to non-traditional candidates after the success of Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny, a former catcher who reached the World Series in his second year on the job after never managing prior to his hiring.

Robin Ventura of the White Sox is another former player who worked only as a special advisor to the club before getting his shot at managing the past two years. Don Mattingly never had any managerial experience before being hired by the Dodgers in 2011, but did work as a Major League hitting coach for several seasons.

Of this offseason’s two hires, neither Price nor Williams has previously managed, though Price was a long-time pitching coach and Williams worked as the D-backs third base coach the past four seasons.

The Tigers interviewed Renteria — who managed in the Minors before moving onto the Padres coaching staff in 2008 — on Thursday as they continue searching for a replacement for Jim Leyland. Detroit is also known to have interviewed Wallach, McClendon and Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, another former player with no coaching or managing experience.

The Cubs interviewed Wedge on Tuesday and have also spoken with Renteria as well as former D-backs manager A.J. Hinch, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and former Indians and Nats skipper Manny Acta.

Both the Cubs and Tigers are believed to be interested in Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who hasn’t been available until now because he was coaching in the World Series. It’s not known if the Mariners have any intention of pursuing Lovullo.

Free agency begins with five M’s hitting the market


With the Red Sox clinching the World Series last night, MLB’s offseason offiicially begins today. And there is no time to be wasted on the MLB calendar as that means free agency is already underway for players not under contract.

For the Mariners,  five veterans became free agents today — outfielders Raul Ibanez and Endy Chavez, designated hitter Kendrys Morales (pictured), catcher Humberto Quintero and lefty reliever Oliver Perez.

Two other players — lefty Joe Saunders and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez — could become free agents if the Mariners don’t agree to options in their contracts that would bring them back in 2014.

The Mariners’ 40-man roster is now at 35 players with reliever Stephen Pryor still on the 60-day disabled list. Pryor will need to be put back on the 40-man by Monday.

I posted this story today on Mariners.com that outlines the Mariners’ offseason agenda with free agency and what positions are of greatest need and how much money figures to be available.

I also recommend this story by my MLB.com colleague Doug Miller as a good overview of the whole free-agent process and what to look for at different points this offseason.

Teams now have five days to exclusively negotiate and sign their own free agents. Then on the sixth day after the World Series — which will be next Tuesday — free-agent players can sign with any of the 30 Major League teams, including re-signing with their own team if they choose. 

The other option is for teams to make a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to any of their own free agents. If the player turns that down, the team will receive a compensatory pick at the end of the first round of next June’s draft. Obviously such offers are only made to players who the team would be willing to pay that much money to if accepted, so it’s a pretty elite group that receivers offers.

Nine players around MLB got qualifying offers last year and all nine turned them down and later worked out longer-term deals either with their own teams or elsewhere. The Mariners are expected to make Morales a qualifying offer and he is expected to turn it down. Which, again, doesn’t mean he won’t return to Seattle. It just means he won’t return for a one-year, $14.1 million deal, but instead will look to see how much he can get on the open market.

The deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to their own free agents is 2 p.m. PT on the fifth day following the conclusion of the World Series (or this coming Monday). A player has until 2 p.m. PT on the seventh day after receiving the offer to accept it, which in this case makes Nov. 11 the latest date of acceptance.

Dodgers’ Wallach to interview on Thursday

Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves

Tim Wallach is the newest name to emerge on the Mariners’ managerial search list, as the Dodgers third base coach confirmed to MLB.com on Tuesday that he will be meeting with Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik this week.

Wallach, who is expected to interview on Thursday, becomes the fifth confirmed candidate for the opening created by Eric Wedge’s departure. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was the first to report Wallach would be talking with Zduriencik. The 56-year-old already has interviewed for the Tigers’ vacancy as well.

Zduriencik is conducting preliminary interviews in Phoenix with a large group of candidates, possibly as many as 10-12, and will likely finish up that process this week and then bring several finalists to Seattle as early as next week.

The other candidates that are known to have talked with Zduriencik already are A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus.

Wallach was a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner as a third baseman for the Montreal Expos during a 17-year-playing career from 1980-96 that included stops with the Dodgers and Angels.

He has been the Dodgers third base coach the past three seasons after managing the club’s Triple-A team in Albuquerque to a 152-135 record in 2009-10. Wallach was the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009, when he also was named Baseball America’s “Best Manager Prospect.”

Wallach also served as the Dodgers hitting coach from 2004-05 and previously coached and managed at the Class-A level with two different Dodgers’ clubs, as well as spending a year coaching at his alma mater, Cal State Fullerton in 2000.

Wallach was a career .257 hitter in the Major Leagues and racked up 2,085 hits, 260 home runs and 1,125 RBIs. He led the Majors in doubles in 1987 with 42 and won two Silver Slugger Awards before retiring in 1996.

The Dodgers drafted each of his three sons. One remains a catcher in the Dodgers organization, another is pitching in the Cubs system and the third is currently a catcher at Cal State Fullerton.

Giants’ Wotus joins list of Mariners candidates

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers

Ron Wotus is the latest name to emerge as a candidate for the Mariners managerial vacancy, as Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik interviewed the long-time Giants bench coach on Friday, according to a baseball source.

Wotus, 52, has been in the Giants organization the past 25 years, including the last 15 on their Major League coaching staff.

The Connecticut native managed in the Giants’ Minor League system from 1991-97 and earned two Manager of the Year awards while compiling a 554-412 record. He joined the Giants staff in 1998 as Dusty Baker’s third-base coach and then became the bench coach in 1999, a position he’s held ever since on a team that won World Series titles in 2010 and ’12.

Wotus is the longest-tenured coach in Giants history, having worked with three different managers. He stayed with the club when Felipe Alou replaced Baker and again when Bruce Bochy took over in 2007.

Wotus was an infielder who played professionally for 11 years, including parts of 1983 and ’84 with the Pirates in his only Major League action. He finished up his playing career in the Giants organization before they hired him as a coach.

Wotus is the fourth name to emerge from Zduriencik’s search to replace Eric Wedge, who stepped down after his third season at the helm. A’s bench coach Chip Hale and Padres bench coach Rick Renteria are known to be among those who also interviewed last week and Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon told MLB.com he’ll interview this week.

Zduriencik was in Seattle over the weekend, but flew back to Arizona on Sunday night and is continuing the interview process in Phoenix this week. He’s believed to be having preliminary talks with a large group of candidates before narrowing the search.

The Mariners are one of three teams still looking for a manager, along with the Tigers and Cubs, with the Reds having already promoted pitching coach Bryan Price and the Nationals reportedly having reached agreement with D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams.

Teams are discouraged from announcing managerial hires during the World Series, so no further announcements are expected until the Red Sox and Cardinals conclude play this week.

McClendon to interview with Mariners next week


Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon can be added to the list of candidates interviewing for the Mariners managerial opening, as the former Pirates skipper confirmed to MLB.com on Saturday that he’ll be talking to Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik next week.

Zduriencik began preliminary interviews with a number of people this past week in Arizona, with the other confirmed talks being with A’s bench coach Chip Hale and Padres bench coach Rick Renteria.

Zduriencik was in Seattle on Saturday to speak at an American Legion Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, then was scheduled to return to Arizona for more interviews. Among the inductees Saturday night were Mariners groundskeeper Bob Christofferson and former Mariners pitchers Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Campbell.

McClendon was the first candidate interviewed by the Tigers on Thursday and is regarded by some a leading contender for that post after Jim Leyland stepped down last week. He worked on Leyland’s staff the past eight seasons after managing the Pirates from 2001-05.

The Tigers have also interviewed Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, who is also believed to have interest in Seattle’s opening.

McClendon also interviewed with the Mariners in 2010 when they instead hired Eric Wedge, who just resigned following his third-straight losing season due to a disagreement with management.

McClendon had a 336–446 record in five years with the Pirates when Pittsburgh was in the midst of a 20-year run of losing seasons, then was immediately hired by Detroit and has been regarded as a big part of the Tigers success as they’ve reached the American League Championship Series four times and the World Series twice during his eight years with Leyland.

The Mariners are one of three teams still looking for a manager along with the Tigers and Cubs, with the Reds already having promoted pitching coach Bryan Price and the Nationals reportedly having reached agreement with D-backs third base coach Matt Williams.

Teams are discouraged from announcing managerial hires during the World Series, so no further announcements are expected until the Red Sox and Cardinals conclude the Fall Classic.

All three remaining teams could also be waiting to interview candidates from those teams, with Red Sox third base coach Torey Lovullo regarded as one of the top available prospects.

Lincecum thought about M’s, but time not right

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles DodgersTim Lincecum officially signed his two-year, $35 million contract extension with the Giants on Friday, as reported here by MLB.com’s Cash Kruth.

And while most of Friday’s press conference in San Francisco was naturally focused on Lincecum and his decision to remain with the same club he’s played with for all seven of his Major League seasons, a question was asked about whether the Northwest native had thought about being courted by the Mariners in free agency and if he pondered playing for his hometown team.

“I did, I did,” LIncecum said. “Home is always going to be home to me and maybe I’ll look at that route later on in life as a professional place, but personally I wasn’t ready for that kind of jump.

“I always kind of looked at the Mariners as an opportunity to go home and play for a hometown team. Obviously, I went to UW and grew up in Renton, but [that’s a possibility] later on in the career. Right now I’m just focused on being as good as I can be and I feel like I’m at the age where I make those decisions and act upon them.”

While there was some early speculation that the Mariners might be interested this offseason in the pitcher they passed over in the first round of the 2006 Draft, they never had a chance to pursue Lincecum as he re-upped with the Giants before the free agency period even began.

Unsigned veterans become free agents immediately after the final game of the World Series and their own teams then have five days of exclusive negotating rights before other teams can sign them.

Experience not big factor in latest managerial hires

Arizona Diamondbacks v. Los Angeles DodgersThe Washington Nationals are on the verge of naming D-backs third base coach Matt Williams as their new manager, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, which continues an interesting early trend among the five managerial openings.

Of the two hires so far — the Reds promoting pitching coach Bryan Price and now the Nats closing in on Williams (pictured at right) — neither involves a man with previous Major League managerial experience even though those are two contending teams with high expectations.

Maybe it’s the available crop, or the realization that an untested skipper like Mike Matheny — who spent two years as a roving Minor League instructor with the Cardinals before getting his shot — has done just fine in getting the Cardinals to the World Series.

For whatever reason, there doesn’t seem to be a big push for any of the remaining teams — the Mariners, Cubs or Tigers — to chase even after Dusty Baker, the biggest-named available skipper after he was fired by the Reds.

The Tigers have interviewed Lloyd McClendon, who previously managed the Pirates, but has been Jim Leyland’s hitting coach in Detroit since 2006. They appear in the likeliest position to pursue a proven skipper, given their playoff success and position to continue challenging in the American League in the immediate future, but among the names brought up as potential Tigers candidates is former catcher Brad Ausmus.

Ausmus has never managed or coached at any level, but has been in the Padres front office since retiring in 2010. There appears to be mutual interest between the Mariners and Ausmus as well, but these things are hard to gauge and GM Jack Zduriencik has been talking to numerous people this week in Arizona.

Zduriencik is returning to Seattle this weekend and will be the keynote speaker on Saturday night at an American Legion Hall of Fame Induction event at the SeaTac Marriott, then will return to Arizona to continue interviews and watch the Mariners’ Arizona Fall League club.

Among the people Zduriencik has interviewed this week are A’s bench coach Chip Hale and Padres bench coach Rick Renteria. Those are just the names that have come out so far, but both are well respected in baseball circles as bright coaches with good leadership and communication skills and knowledge of the game.

Renteria is regarded by many as the top contender for the Cubs opening and he has a past relationship with Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, who was previously in San Diego.

But the Cubs are keeping things open as well and word emerged Friday that Eric Wedge will interview with them next week, as reported here by my colleague Carrie Muskat from MLB.com. Wedge is one of the most-experienced names being tossed around, given his 10 years as skipper of the Indians and Mariners. It will be interesting to see how he’s perceived as a candidate, coming off his abrupt departure following three losing seasons in Seattle.

My sense is the Mariners will join the Nats and Reds in hiring a fresh face, someone with some coaching background at the Major League level who can grow with a young club. Hale and Renteria fit that mold. So might Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach or Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo. Or a number of other smart baseball men who are just waiting for their chance after working in the background for a few years.

These kind of candidates don’t appease fans who want a proven commodity. But it’s worth remembering that proven commodities don’t always win. In fact, they’re only available because they got fired elsewhere. As much as fans clamor for a proven guy like Lou Piniella, even Piniella was 519-578 in seven seasons with the Rays and Cubs after leaving Seattle.

Piniella won in Seattle with the right combination of players. A good manager can make a difference, but the biggest key for any club is the talent level of its athletes. Finding the right leader to put those players in positions to succeed, develop and get the most out of their abilities is part of the equation.

But as Matheny has shown in St. Louis, there isn’t one right or wrong type of manager. The key isn’t finding the biggest available name. It’s finding the right man for the job. The Reds, after winning 90 games last year, are turning the ship over to Price for his first run at anything more than pitching coach. The Nats, after winning 86 games, are turning to Williams, who has four years as a base coach with the D-backs and six weeks of Arizona Fall League managerial duty on his resume.

We’ll see in the next week or two if Zduriencik follows a similar path.

Mariners come up empty in Gold Glove voting

Thanks largely to 10-year runs by Ken Griffey Jr. and then Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners reeled off 24 straight seasons with a Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner from 1987-2010. But now for a third straight year, Seattle will be without a Gold Glover. And this time, the Mariners didn’t even get a finalist for one of the defensive honors.

Rawlings announced its top three finalists at each position for the 2013 Gold Gloves in the American and National Leagues on Friday and the Mariners were one of five teams in the AL and four in the NL that didn’t get any players selected.

The AL West as a whole was pretty defenseless this year, apparently, as only three of 27 AL players selected came from that division, compared to eight from the Central and 16 from the East.

Before anyone starts screaming East Coast bias, however, among the NL finalists, 11 were from the West, 10 from the Central and six from the East.

This year’s voting did have a new twist. The awards previously have been based solely on voting by managers and coaches from all 30 clubs, but this year Rawlings added in a sabermetric component, with about 25 percent of the decision relying on several different defensive metrics favored by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

Besides Seattle, teams with no Gold Glove finalists were the Angels, Astros, White Sox and Indians in the AL and Giants, Padres, Phillies and Marlins in the NL.

Here’s a complete list of the finalists, and you can read more on this story on MLB.com. The winners will be revealed on Tuesday at 4 p.m. PT on ESPN2.

American League:

·        P: Buehrle (TOR), Dickey (TOR), Fister (DET)
·        1B: Davis (BAL), Hosmer (KC), Loney (TB)
·        2B: Cano (NYY), Pedroia (BOS), Zobrist (TB)
·        3B: Beltre (TEX), Longoria (TB), Machado (BAL)
·        SS: A Escobar (KC), Y Escobar (TB), Hardy (BAL)
·        C: Mauer (MIN), Perez (KC), Wieters (BAL)
·        LF: Cespedes (OAK), Dirks (DET), Gordon (KC)
·        CF: Cain (KC), Esllbury (BOS), Jones (BAL)
·        RF: Markakis (BAL), Reddick (OAK), Victorino (BOS)

National League:
·        P: Corbin (ARZ), Greinke (LAD), Wainwright (STL)
·        1B: Goldschmidt (ARZ), Gonzalez (LAD), Rizzo (CHC)
·        2B: Barney (CHC), Ellis (LAD), Phillips (CIN)
·        3B: Arenado (COL), Uribe (LAD), Wright (NYM)
·        SS: Desmond (WAS), Tulowitski (COL), Simmons (ATL)
·        C: Ellis (LAD), Martin (PIT), Molina (STL)
·        LF: Gonzalez (COL), Marte (PIT), Young (NYM)
·        CF: Gomez (MIL), McCutchen (PIT), Span (WAS)
·        RF: Bruce (CIN), Heyward (ATL), Parra (ARZ)

Renteria interviewed by Zduriencik for M’s opening

San Diego Padres v. Los Angeles Dodgers

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is continuing his interviewing process for a new manager while spending the week in Arizona and you can add Padres bench coach Rick Renteria to the list of contenders.

Renteria, 51, interviewed earlier this week with the Cubs about their vacancy and a baseball source indicated he talked Thursday with Zduriencik about Seattle’s opening as well.

The Mariners are also believed to be interested in Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, who has been mentioned prominently as a contender for the vacant Tigers position following Jim Leyland’s resignation. Ausmus, 44, finished an 18-year Major League career as a catcher in 2010 and has since worked in the Padres’ front office.

Ausmus, a three-time Gold Glove winner, has not managed or coached in the Majors or Minor Leagues, but did manage Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and was well regarded for his leadership and baseball knowledge as a player.

Renteria has a longer track record in coaching as he just finished his sixth season on the Padres’ Major League staff, including the last three as bench coach. He also managed Mexico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Renteria has worked in the Padres organization since 2003 and spent four seasons managing the club’s Class A team at Lake Elsinore and another year leading Triple-A Portland before moving up to San Diego in 2007 as a first-base coach.

Renteria also managed four seasons in the Marlins’ organization at the Class A and AA levels and was the Midwest League Manager of the Year in 1999.

Renteria played parts of five seasons in the Majors as a utility infielder between 1986-94, including 43 games with the Mariners in 1987 and ’88.

Zduriencik has interviewed several candidates this week, including A’s bench coach Chip Hale, as he goes about the process of replacing Eric Wedge, who resigned at the end of a disappointing 71-91 season.

The Mariners, Cubs, Tigers and Nationals are all in pursuit of new managers and will likely wait until after the World Series concludes to make any final decisions. The Reds promoted pitching coach Bryan Price to fill their vacancy prior to the start of the World Series.

Zduriencik meeting with A’s bench coach Chip Hale

Oakland Athletics Photo DayJack Zduriencik has spent the past three weeks putting together his list of managerial candidates to replace Eric Wedge and now things will begin heating up, with A’s bench coach Chip Hale among the first to meet with the Mariners general manager.

Zduriencik is in Arizona for the remainder of this week and was scheduled to meet with Hale on Wednesday, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com. Hale, 48, has worked as Bob Melvin’s top assistant the past two years in Oakland and lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Zduriencik will be having initial talks with a number of people in Phoenix this week, some serious candidates and some just for background purposes as the hiring process heats up. Zduriencik is expected to talk to some internal candidates in the Mariners organization as well.

Hale was an infielder with the Twins and Dodgers from 1989-97 before getting into coaching. He spent six seasons as a Minor League manager in the D-backs organization and earned Pioneer League and Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year awards before joining Bob Melvin’s staff as the third base coach and infield coach in Arizona from 2007-09.

He then spent two years as the Mets third base coach in 2010-11 before rejoining Melvin’s staff in Oakland the past two years.

Hale is regarded in baseball circles as one of the up-and-coming managerial prospects in the game as a young, energetic candidate who is detail-oriented and good with the media. He’s obviously familiar with the American League West from his time with the A’s and has worked with some very successful teams, including the National League West champion D-backs in 2007 and the AL West champion A’s the past two years.

Hale interviewed with the Mariners in 2008 when they hired Don Wakamatsu and has also been a contender for several other openings in recent years.

The Mariners are expected to extend their hiring process into early November, after the conclusion of the World Series. Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is among a lengthy list of candidates that has been mentioned, but he has made it known he doesn’t want to talk with any suitors until his team is done playing.

Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, former White Sox and Marlins bench coach Joey Cora and current Mariners front-office member Ted Simmons are among the potential candidates, though other names likely will emerge as the process plays out.

There are currently four Major League teams looking for new managers – the Cubs, Nationals, Tigers and Mariners — with the Reds having just promoted pitching coach Bryan Price to replace Dusty Baker.

It’ll be interesting to see what direction the Mariners go. While many fans clamor for familiar names like Baker, the current trend could lean more toward giving lesser-known candidates a chance, given Mike Matheny and John Farrell have led the Cardinals and Red Sox into this year’s World Series. MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince had a good take on that earlier this week in looking at all the openings around baseball.