Veteran right-hander Scott Baker has agreed to a one-year Minor League contract with the Mariners with an invitation to Major League camp, according to a club source, as Seattle looks to add to its starting rotation competition.
Additionally, the club announced Wednesday it has traded outfielder Carlos Peguero to the Royals for cash or a player to be named. Peguero was designated for assignment last week to open a roster spot for catcher John Buck.
Baker, 32, pitched just three games for the Cubs last September after returning from Tommy John surgery, but is now nearly two years removed from the elbow injury that plagued him in 2012 while with the Twins.
Baker passed a physical exam with the club and the deal is expected to be formally announced Wednesday.
The deal is for $1 million, if he makes the Major League roster, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, with a potential $3.25 million in additional incentives.
If Baker proves healthy this spring, he figures to get a good shot from the Mariners, who are seeking a veteran starter to add to a rotation that has Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top and a host of youngsters – Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi – competing for the other spots.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder was a solid starter for Minnesota from 2005-11, posting a 63-48 record with a 4.15 ERA in 163 games (159 starts). He had the eighth-best ERA in the American League in 2008 at 3.45, won 15 games in ‘09 and was the Twins’ Opening Day starter in ’10.
But after going 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA in 2011, Baker missed the final two months of that season with elbow problems and then had Tommy John surgery the following year. The Cubs signed him to a $5.5 million deal last year, but he was able to make just three Major League starts, compiling a 3.60 ERA in three no-decisions while allowing just nine hits and four walks in 15 innings in the final month.
He also made eight rehab starts in Class-A ball earlier in the year.
This story will be up soon on Mariners.com, but wanted to get it out there now because I think this will be of much interest to Mariners fans who don’t know much about new president Kevin Mather. I was among several reporters who met Mather for the first time this afternoon after the team announced he’d be replacing Chuck Armstrong and his message was interesting.
So here’s a quick version for those interested:
Kevin Mather admits he isn’t a “baseball guy” and won’t be telling Jack Zduriencik how to run the Mariners baseball operations, but as the new club president, he definitely knows the importance of helping the franchise do what every fan wants to hear.
“Obviously we need to win more games,” Mather said Friday in his first meeting with reporters after being named to his new position. “Take care of your fans, take care of the community, be a good community asset. But win more games and everything else happens a lot sooner.”
Mather won’t officially replace the retiring Chuck Armstrong until Feb. 1, but he already met with Zduriencik on Friday morning and his first questions concerned what the baseball side needed to put a better team on the field.
“I think the president’s role is to provide resources,” Mather said. “Coordinate the business side and the baseball side and provide resources. Whether it’s a Dominican academy or a Draft signing or a new pitching coach in Tacoma or a free agent on the market, we have to provide the resources.”
Much of that, particularly on the Major League roster, requires money, of course. Mather has been the executive vice president of finance for the Mariners for the past 18 years, which means overseeing accounting, ticket sales, retail sales and ballpark operations. But that doesn’t mean he’s a penny-pinching tightwad, as many fans fear.
Instead, Mather talked of the ownership group being fans themselves and said it’s not hard right now to convince them to pursue talented players, as evidenced by the $240 million signing of Robinson Cano this offseason.
“There are different opinions in the room,” he said of the board of directors. “But as a group, it’s an easy sell. You just have to show them a plan. It’s an easy sell because we’ve been losing and these guys are tired of it.”
On the short term, Mather said there is still some financial flexibility for a team whose payroll currently sits at about $85 million with less than three weeks before Spring Training opens.
“I asked Jack, ‘Where are we? Where are your holes? What were your priorities this offseason? Is there still value out there?” Mather said. “The answer to that question [about still having money] is yes, but he said, ‘I just want the flexibility to have conversations.’ I told him I’m working on that and he does have that.
“Our ownership group pays for their own tickets,” he said. “They are fans. And they never say no to a capital call or budget adjustment or a move. We’ll be having those conversations over the next several years, particularly if there’s value, because we are close.”
Mather said he feels the club needs “a three-year rolling, working plan” when it comes to payroll and player acquisition.
“Historically it’s been, here’s your payroll for next year,” he said. “But free agents don’t sign one-year deals, unless they’re desperate. Free agents sign three-, four-, five-, – or in Cano’s case, 10-year – deals. We need to have a longer-term vision. That’s where I think I can add value. If we have a hole that needs filling, it’s no fun losing. Let’s fill the hole and we’ll find the resources. And our ownership group has been historically very good about that.”
Mather grew up playing hockey in the Midwest and briefly at the University of Wisconsin before realizing his future was in finance, not sports. But he found a way to satisfy both when he went to work for the Twins 25 years ago and is now well-entrenched in the baseball world.
He’ll be expanding his role now with the Mariners, but appears ready and comfortable with that and said he’ll be at FanFest both days this weekend at Safeco Field to talk with people and answer questions.
“I want to interact with the fans,” he said. “Gametime for Chuck, he kind of got reclusive. He had his suite and watched the game, kept score, banged the table, picked up the phone. And I’m sure I’ll do that. But I’ll be out. I’m going to wander. I’m going to talk to our fans. I want to respond to what they say. You can’t respond to everything, but if we win, the rest of it gets a lot easier.”
The only thing Mather feels badly about is replacing Armstrong before the long-tenured president had a chance to see things turn around on the field. He said no one will replace Armstrong’s energy and “go-go-go” spirit. And he does believe the Mariners are already close to turning the corner after missing the playoffs for 12 straight years.
“I feel bad for the timing because in 2003-04 we started losing and we tried to rebuild, but stay competitive. And that was a mistake,” Mather said. “Because we made bad personnel decisions, we traded prospects, we signed veterans.”
Mather feels Zduriencik has made important strides in building up the farm system through successful Drafts and international signings. The key, he believes, is now seeing some of the key youngsters like Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Mike Zunino, Justin Smoak and others come together with key new additions like Cano.
“I’m kind of stepping into an opportunity,” he said. “We think we’re really close. If these guys are above-average Major League players — and it’s taken a year or two longer than we thought — but if they’re above-average players like we think they are, we’re going to have a long run of very good baseball teams. And we need to win more baseball games.”
Kevin Mather, the Mariners vice president of finance and ballpark administration for the past 18 years, has been named the club’s new president and chief operating officer, the team announced Thursday.
The club also promoted Bob Aylward to chairman of the board of NW Sports Net, which is the club’s new regional sports network formerly known as ROOT Sports Northwest. Aylward will also retain his previous duties as the club’s executive vice president of business operations.
Chuck Armstrong, who handled both those roles, will retire from the club on Jan. 31 after 28 years with the franchise. Mather and Aylward will begin their new jobs on Feb. 1.
Armstrong was the Mariners president and chief operating officer from 1983-1989 and 1992 to the present, and has chaired the board of directors of NW Sports Net since the Mariners acquired majority interest in the regional sports network last April.
Both Mather and Aylward will report to Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln. General manager Jack Zduriencik continues to oversee baseball operations.
“Kevin and Bob have been very valuable executives of the Mariners,” Lincoln said. “They are both extremely talented, experienced and well-qualified to lead our organization into the future. There will be a seamless transition as Chuck begins his retirement one week from today.”
Mather, 51, has been overseeing the club’s accounting and financial reporting, ticket services, concessions and day-to-day operations of Safeco Field. He was vice president of finance of the Minnesota Twins from 1989 to 1996 before being hired by the Mariners.
“Our fans, first and foremost, are our focus, and we understand what they want most – a championship team,” Mather said. “I am looking forward to supporting Jack Zduriencik, as he continues to lead the baseball operation and builds the Mariners both for 2014 and for future seasons. At the same time, our commitment to this community and this region will remain a top priority. This is a tremendous opportunity, and I’m excited about the Mariners future.”
A native of Madison, Wisc., Mather is a 1984 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where he received a degree in accounting and risk/insurance prior to taking a job with an accounting firm for four years.
Mather was hired by the Mariners as vice president of finance and administration on July 31, 1996, then promoted to an executive vice president’s position in December, 1999.
“Kevin’s experience in the game of baseball has prepared him well for this position,” Lincoln said. “He is highly thought of around Major League Baseball and in this community. He will work closely with me to make sure Jack Zduriencik has the resources he needs to build winning teams. Jack remains the leader of the baseball side of our organization.”
Aylward, 60, joined the Mariners in 1997 as vice president of business and sales. After overseeing all business aspects of the transition from the Kingdome to Safeco Field, he was promoted to executive vice president of business operations in December 1999. He has been a driving force in the Mariners efforts in corporate sponsorships, advertising and ticket sales, marketing, broadcasting and communications.
We’ll have more coming on Mariners.com.
A familiar face will be returning to Mariners camp this spring as veteran outfielder Endy Chavez, who played 97 games for Seattle last year, has agreed to return to the club on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp, according to a baseball source.
Chavez, 36, hit .267 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 266 at-bats and led all Mariners with a .295 batting average at Safeco Field last season.
The Venezuelan native is a 13-year Major League veteran with a career .269./.307/.364 line and has played for the Royals, Expos, Phillies, Mets, Rangers and Orioles, as well as a previous stint with Seattle in 2009.
Chavez’s 97 games last year were his most since 2008 with the Mets as he filled in at all three outfield positions after injuries to Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Morse created playing time. He also hit .357 (5-for-14) as a pinch hitter, including a home run at Cleveland on May 20.
Chavez had a pair of eight-game hitting streaks during the season and also finished third on the team in outfield assists with four.
Chavez figures to provide added depth in the Mariners outfield competition. The club has returnees Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez and Abraham Almonte, plus new additions Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. But Hart and Morrison are both returning from knee injuries, so it’s not certain yet how much outfield they will play. Both are capable of playing first base and designated hitter as well.
Utility man Willie Bloomquist, who signed a two-year Major League contract as a free agent, is also capable of playing the outfield.
You never know where Minor League deals with veterans looking for a shot might lead, but here’s an interesting one for the Mariners. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, who hasn’t pitched in the Majors since undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in 2012, has agreed to a Minor League contract with the Mariners with an invitation to Major League camp.
The Mariners haven’t confirmed the agreement, but clubs typically don’t announce deals until a player passes a physical exam and officially signs the paperwork.
Beimel, 36, is an 11-year Major League veteran who has appeared in 567 games. He was a big part of the Dodgers bullpen from 2006-08 and pitched in the postseason for the Dodgers in ’08 and Rockies in ’09.
Beimel underwent surgery after running into elbow troubles in 2011, but Brown said scouts indicate his velocity has returned now that he’s fully recovered. He appeared in 30
games for the Braves’ Triple-A Gwinnett affiliate last year, with a 4.36 ERA in 33 innings.
The Mariners have two returning lefties in the bullpen with Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge, but went with three southpaws most of the past two years. Oliver Perez, who was used extensively in that role in 2012-13, is a free agent and has not signed with anyone to this point.
The Mariners also have southpaws Anthony Fernandez and Bobby LaFromboise on their 40-man roster and will also be bringing three of their own Minor League prospects — Roenis Elias, James Gillheeny and Nick Hill– to camp as non-roster invitees when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12.
Beimel posted a 24-32 career record and 4.21 ERA in 587 2/3 innings in the Majors from 2001-11. He started 23 games with the Pirates in his first two seasons, but has since been used strictly as a reliever.
He posted a 3.04 ERA in 216 games with the Dodgers from 2006-08, including a club-record 83 appearances in ’07, and pitched 71 games with a 3.40 ERA for the Rockies in 2010. But the elbow issue began flaring up in 2011 and he spent two different stints on the disabled list with the Pirates in 2012 season, recording a 5.33 ERA in 35 games before being released in late August.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder signed a Minor League deal with the Rangers in 2012, but was released at the end of Spring Training and then underwent Tommy John surgery a month later.
Friday’s 10 a.m. PT deadline for arbitration-eligible players to sign before exchanging arbitration numbers has come and gone with no news on Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison, so it appears both will be entering the arbitration phase of MLB’s contract system.
Bottom line, both players are under contract with the Mariners for the coming season, but just how much they’ll earn is still in question. Arbitration-eligible players who don’t come to terms before Friday’s deadline must submit their salary request at that point, while the team counters with its own offer.
If no middle ground is reached in the coming days, the cases then go to an independent arbitration panel in February and that group selects either the number submitted by the player or the team. The Mariners haven’t had a player actually go to an arbitration hearing since Freddy Garcia in 2003, so we’ll see if either Smoak or Morrison reaches that point.
In the meantime, the Mariners announced two non-roster invitations to camp on Friday, with right-handed reliever Logan Kensing and catcher Manny Pina signing Minor League deals with invites to Major League camp.
Kensing has a fair amount of big-league experience, pitching 108 games as a reliever for the Marlins from 2004-09, while Pina has all of five games of Major League time while with the Royals in 2011-12.
Kensing, 31, pitched two-thirds of an inning with the Rockies last year in his lone Major League appearance since being sidelined all of 2010 following a pair of shoulder surgeries. He’s pitched at the Triple-A level with the Yankees, Pirates and Rockies over the past three seasons and was pretty good for Colorado Springs in the PCL last season with a 3.05 ERA in 44 relief appearances with 37 hits, 41 strikeouts and 22 walks in 44 1/3 innings.
Piña, 26, spent last season with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha in the Royals system, hitting a combined .228 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs. He threw out 32 of 79 attempted base stealers (40.5 percent). He gives the Mariners added depth at catcher, where they’ve also recently signed veteran free agent John Buck to a Major League deal and Humberto Quintero to a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invitation.
Mike Zunino, Jesus Sucre and Buck are the only catchers on the 40-man roster, with Jesus Montero converting to first base. But Pina, Quintero and Minor Leaguers John Hicks and Michael Dowd will join that group when pitchers and catchers report to Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 12.
The club now has 10 days to trade, release or outright the contract of Peguero to the Minors. Peguero, who turns 27 next week, is out of Minor League options and would have had to either make the 25-man roster this coming season or be exposed to waivers. He’s hit .195 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 65 games over the past three years with Seattle.
Terms of Buck’s deal were not announced, but CBSSports.com reported on Tuesday that he had agreed to a $1 million contract. After passing his physical exam, Buck completed the deal Thursday and will join the Mariners pitchers and catchers when they report to camp in Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 12.
Buck, 33, hit .219 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs in 110 games with the Mets and Pirates last year, joining Pittsburgh for its post-season drive in an Aug. 27 trade.
Buck was an American League All-Star with the Blue Jays in 2010, when he hit .281 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs. He is a career .234 hitter with 133 home runs and 485 RBIs in 1,058 games with the Royals (2004-09), Blue Jays (2010), Marlins (2011-12) and Mets and Pirates (2013).
Buck ranks fifth among active catchers in career games and has played in 106 or more games in eight of his 10 Major League seasons, including the past four in a row. How much he’s used by the Mariners will likely depend on the development of Mike Zunino, who caught 52 games last year after being called up in midseason as a 22-year-old rookie.
Zunino was the third-overall pick in the 2012 Draft and is regarded as the Mariners catcher of the future, but Buck will add veteran stability and depth at a position where Seattle went through seven players during the regular season last year.
Jesus Sucre had been the only other catcher besides Zunino on the 40-man roster and he’s caught just eight games in the Majors. Jesus Montero began last season as the starting catcher, but was demoted to the Minors after getting off to a slow start and is now being converted to first base.
The Mariners also recently signed veteran Humberto Quintero to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League camp. Quintero caught 22 games last year after being picked up in late July after Zunino broke the hamate bone in his left hand.
Peguero’s future with the Mariners could be over now after the big Dominican was designated for assignment. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder has had several stints with the Mariners over the past three seasons, but figured as a long shot to earn a 25-man roster bid coming out of camp after Seattle signed free agents Corey Hart and Willie Bloomquist, traded for Logan Morrison and retained Franklin Gutierrez to go along with outfield returnees Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley and Abraham Almonte.
Peguero has shown impressive power at times and represented Tacoma in the Triple-A All-Star Game last year. He hit .260 with 19 home runs and 83 RBIs in 118 games for the Rainiers in 2013, but has had trouble making contact in his Major League opportunities with 84 strikeouts in 205 at-bats.
Pretty interesting news out of the owner’s meetings in Arizona today as instant replay was unanimously approved for the upcoming season. There’d obviously been lots of talk and conjecture on this front, but today we get the full story of how things are going to work.
Managers will have at least one challenge to use each game. If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, then the manager who challenged the play will retain the ability to challenge one more play during the game. But no manager may challenge more than two plays in a game.
Once a manager has used up his challenges during the game and after the beginning of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may choose to invoke instant replay on any reviewable call. Home run and other boundary calls will remain reviewable under the procedures in place last season.
A designated communication location near home plate will be established at all 30 MLB ballparks. There, the Crew Chief and at least one other Major League umpire will have access to a hard-wired headset connected to the Replay Command Center, which will remain at MLB Advanced Media headquarters in New York. Major League umpires will be staffed as replay officials at the Replay Command Center. After viewing video feeds, the replay official will make the ultimate determination of whether to overturn the call, based on the continuing standard of whether there is clear and convincing evidence.
Instant replay will be utilized during some televised games in Spring Training for the purposes of educating on-field personnel on the rules of the new system.
The following play types will be subject to review:
- Home run
- Ground rule double
- Fan interference
- Stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)
- Force play (except the fielder’s touching of second base on a double play)
- Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)
- Fair/foul in outfield only
- Trap play in outfield only
- Batter hit by pitch
- Timing play (whether a runner scores before a third out)
- Touching a base (requires appeal)
- Passing runners
- Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score, and substitutions)
All other plays will not be reviewable; however, the Umpires may still convene on the field at any time to discuss the play.
INITIATION OF INSTANT REPLAY
- Field managers may initiate replay review on one reviewable play per game by verbally indicating his intention to challenge, in a timely manner, to the Crew Chief. Guidelines will be established to determine whether a challenge is timely.
- The manager may request that the umpire review multiple portions of the same play, but he must specify exactly which portions of the play he is challenging.
- If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, the manager who challenged the play will retain the ability to challenge one more play during the game. No manager may challenge more than two plays in a game.
- Once the manager has exhausted his ability to challenge plays during the game and after the beginning of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may choose to invoke instant replay on any reviewable call. In that circumstance, the Crew Chief is not obligated to invoke instant replay if requested by the manager.
- Home run calls that are currently subject to instant replay review will continue to be reviewed at the Crew Chief’s discretion. Managers may request that an Umpire review a home run call, but managers cannot challenge home run calls.
- Once instant replay review is invoked (either by the Manager or the Crew Chief), the Crew Chief will signal to the official scorer that the play is under review.
- The Crew Chief and at least one other umpire will then move to a designated communication location near home plate, where they will have access to a hard-wired headset connected to the Replay Command Center in New York.
- Major League Umpires will be staffed as Replay Officials at the Replay Command Center, located at MLB Advanced Media headquarters, for all Major League games.
- The Replay Command Center will have direct access to video from most cameras in the ballpark in real-time, regardless of whether they are shown on the live broadcast.
- The Replay Official will look at the video feeds and determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to overturn the call on the field. If the Replay Official overturns a call on the field, he will also use his judgment to determine where to appropriately place runners if the play had been called correctly on the field.
- The umpires on the field will not have a monitor to review the play and they will not leave the field at any time.
- The Replay Official will make the ultimate determination of whether to overturn the call.
- On-Field personnel may not argue with the decision of the Replay Official.
CLUB ACCESS TO VIDEO
- To determine whether to challenge a play, personnel in the dugout will be permitted to communicate with a video specialist in the Clubhouse who has access to the same video that is available to Replay Officials. This communication will occur via the dugout phone.
- Both the home and visiting Clubs will have standardized technology to ensure each Club has equal access to all video.
- No monitors or additional electronic equipment will be permitted in the dugout.
- Clubs will now have the right to show replays of all close plays on its ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether the play is reviewed.
Seems to be a growing number of news items regarding baseball these days and that can only mean one thing. Spring Training is getting closer. And indeed, there are just 29 days remaining until Mariners pitchers and catchers report to Peoria on Feb. 12.
Major League Baseball finalized the start times for all of the regular-season games today and you can see the full Mariners schedule on a month-by-month basis here, starting with Spring Training.
The Mariners also announced their Minor League coaching staffs today for the upper-level teams. A few interesting tidbits there, including long-time Major League coach Rich Donnelly taking over as Tacoma’s skipper. Also, two members of Eric Wedge’s former staff – Jaime Navarro and Daren Brown – will remain in the organization.
Navarro will be the pitching coach in Tacoma after working as Wedge’s bullpen coach the last three years. Brown, who started last year as the Rainiers manager before replacing Jeff Datz as Wedge’s third-base coach, has been hired as a roving instructor in the Minor League system.
You can read up on that and all the staff news for Tacoma, Jackson, High Desert and Clinton here.
On the Major League front, outfielder Michael Saunders agreed to a one-year deal that will pay him $2.3 million next season. Saunders was already under contract, but as an arbitration-eligible player for the first time, both sides had to come to an agreement on the salary or he would have gone to an arbitration panel next month.
That leaves Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison as the only remaining arbitration eligibles and we’ll likely hear news on them by Friday, when players and teams have to exchange contract numbers if they haven’t reached agreements.
MLB.com has been doing a series of stories this week ranking the top 10 prospects at each position. Today was the right-handed pitchers and Taijuan Walker was listed No. 2. Here’s my story on the Mariners’ plans for him this spring as he’s expected to challenge for a rotation berth.
And speaking of pretty good pitchers, the Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a seven-year, $215 million deal today that drops Felix Hernandez down to third on the pitching money list. When Felix signed for seven years and $175 million last February, that was the biggest deal for a pitcher in MLB history.
A month later, Justin Verlander topped that with seven years and $180 million. And now Kershaw has set a new ceiling, one that averages $30.7 million a year. That means he’ll make about $1 million a start from 2014-20, assuming he stays healthy and pitches 30-plus games a year. Not a bad gig.
Shortstop Chris Taylor, last year’s Mariners Minor League Player of the Year, is one of 15 youngsters not on the 40-man roster who’ll be invited to take part in Seattle’s Major League Spring Training when manager Lloyd McClendon opens his first camp next month in Peoria, Ariz., the club announced Tuesday.
In addition to the 15 Minor League non-roster invitees, the Mariners have so far signed four veteran free agents to Minor League deals with Spring Training invitations – right-handed pitchers Ramon Ramirez and Matt Palmer, catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Cole Gillespie.
That number of veteran free agents figures to grow before camp opens with pitchers and catchers reporting on Feb. 12 and position players on Feb. 17. But the Minor League invitations have now been extended, with Taylor among 10 rookies who’ll receive their first exposure to the big-league camp.
Also getting their first Major League camp invites are catcher Mike Dowd, infielders Ty Kelly, Gabriel Noriega and Nate Tenbrink, left-handed pitchers Roenis Elias, James Gillheeny and Nick Hill, and right-handers Stephen Kohlscheen and Dominic Leone.
Five other invited Minor Leaguers will be getting their second big-league camp experience – catcher John Hicks and right-handed pitchers Jonathan Arias, Andrew Carraway, Chance Ruffin and Carson Smith.
These players will be invited to camp in addition to those on the 40-man roster, which can be viewed here.