Lowe is one of three players with Major League experience who have signed Minor League deals with camp invites, the club announced Wednesday. The other two are right-handed pitcher Justin Germano and infielder Carlos Rivero.
Lowe, a nine-year MLB veteran, posted a 3.95 ERA in 162 games for Seattle from 2006-10 before being sent to Texas as part of the Cliff Lee deal that brought Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson in return.
The 31-year-old spent most of last year with the Indians’ Triple-A Columbus club and was 4-3 with 17 saves and a 5.62 ERA in 41 appearances, but did pitch seven games for the Indians with a 3.86 ERA (three earned runs in seven innings) with 10 hits, six walks, six strikeouts and two home runs.
Lowe was a fifth-round Draft pick of the Mariners in 2004. He pitched three seasons in Texas, one with the Angels and then last year in the Indians organization since leaving Seattle. He has a career 4.16 ERA and 1.468 WHIP in 271 games.
Germano is another right-handed veteran who spent most of the past two years in the Minors in the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Rangers organizations. He pitched 24 games (23 starts) with Round Rock and Albequerque in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League last season, with a 5-14 record and 5.02 ERA in 145 1/3 innings.
The 32-year-old has a career 10-30 record and 5.40 ERA over nine seasons with seven different clubs. He pitched two games in relief for the Rangers last year, allowing seven runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. Germano’s last significant stint in the Majors was in 2012 when he pitched 13 games, including 12 starts, while going 2-10 with a 6.75 ERA for the Cubs.
Rivero, 26, made his Major League debut for the Red Sox last season and went 4-for-7 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs in four games. The Mariners claimed him off waivers in November, then designated him for assignment several weeks later to open space on their 40-man roster.
But Seattle wants to keep Rivero in the organization and re-signed him to a Minor League deal. Rivero has played mostly shortstop and third base in his pro career, along with a little outfield work. He hit .264 with seven home runs and 53 RBIs in 105 games last year while splitting time between the Red Sox’s Double-A and Triple-A clubs.
Rivero currently leads the Venezuelan Winter League in home runs (14), RBIs (42), extra-base his (23) and is third in slugging percentage (.564) while hitting .282 in 48 games for Cardenales de Lara.
The move could foreshadow a platoon scenario for the Mariners in their right-field situation. Ruggiano, 32, gives Seattle a right-handed option who can play all three outfield positions. The six-year Major League veteran hit .281 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 224 at-bats in 81 games last year for the Cubs.
He hit .323 with nine doubles, four homers and 20 RBIs in his last 44 games before missing the final month with an ankle injury.
Ruggiano has a career line of .257/.319/.431 in 398 games. He spent his first three Major League seasons with Tampa Bay, then had two years in Miami before getting traded to the Cubs last offseason.
The Texas native earned $2 million last year in his first season of arbitration eligibility and won’t be a free agent until 2017.
Ruggiano has a career OPS of .704 against right-handed pitchers and .836 vs. lefties. The Mariners have left-handed hitting James Jones and right-handed Stefen Romero as their two returning right field candidates after dealing Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays last month.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Ruggiano is also capable of backing up Austin Jackson in center field or Dustin Ackley in left. He has played 166 career games in center, 118 in left and 76 in right.
General manager Jack Zduriencik indicated last week he might make two moves to fill the right-field spot. If that is the case, the Mariners could still be in the market for a left-handed hitting outfielder to team with Ruggiano. The club is known to have interest in the Padres’ Seth Smith, who is a strong platoon option with a career OPS of .839 against right-handers compared to .605 vs. lefties.
Other lefty-hitting outfielders who could be available on the trade market include Gerardo Parra of the Brewers, Andre Ethier of the Dodgers, David Murphy of the Indians, Travis Snider of the Pirates and David DeJesus of the Rays.
Remaining left-handed hitting outfielders on the free-agent market include Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus, Ichiro Suzuki and Endy Chavez.
Brazis, 25, split last season between High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, going 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA and six saves in 40 appearances. He also was one of Seattle’s representatives in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 5.11 ERA in 12 1/3 innings over 10 games. The 6-foot-3 right-hander was a 28th-round Draft pick out of Boston College in 2012.
Right-handed reliever Logan Bawcom was designated for assignment by the Mariners to make room on the 40-man roster.
The Mariners departed the Winter Meetings on Thursday without having filled their biggest remaining goal of adding a right fielder, but it appears only a matter of time before general manager Jack Zduriencik checks off that last remaining box on his winter wish list.
Zduriencik said he had productive talks on several fronts over his four days at the Manchester Grand Hyatt and there are still free agent and trade possibilities to pursue.
A source told MLB.com the White Sox were in discussions with the Mariners about acquiring outfielder Dayan Viciedo for one of Seattle’s relievers, though a second source downplayed that report and said Viciedo was just one of just numerous options the Mariners have explored in recent days.
Viciedo, 25, hit .231 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs last season and is projected to make about $4.4 million next year in his first year of arbitration eligibility. He could provide Seattle another right-handed threat in a lineup that already added free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz this offseason, though he is regarded as a below-average defender and had just a .281 on-base percentage in 145 games last season.
Zduriencik said he wasn’t disappointed to be leaving San Diego without finalizing any deals, given the club already signed Cruz and traded for left-handed starter J.A. Happ the previous week to fill his top two offseason priorities.
“We have possibilities of something happening,” he said. “If nothing happens, you always want to improve your club. But as the dust settles with all the clubs and everybody disperses, sometimes they can go back and reflect on some things and say, ‘Now this makes sense for us now.’”
Some dominos fell in the outfield picture on Wednesday morning as the Dodgers dealt Matt Kemp to the Padres and the Red Sox swapped Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit. Zduriencik said neither move surprised him nor changed Seattle’s outlook.
“I don’t think that necessarily affects what we have a possibility of happening,” he said. “So we’ll wait and see.”
The Mariners also still have options in the free-agent market, where Melky Cabrera and Alex Rios are the top remaining outfielders. Zduriencik noted it’s still only mid-December and the club didn’t add All-Star closer Fernando Rodney until Feb. 13 last year.
Despite only adding a Rule 5 pitcher during the Winter Meetings, the Mariners offseason has already been productive.
“With extending Kyle Seager, trading for a pitcher, having Cruz on board and now we took a Rule 5 guy, I think we’re in a really good spot,” Zduriencik said. “Everybody would like to be better all the time, but I think we’re in a good spot. I like where our club is at and we’re going to continue to dot our i’s and cross our t’s and do the best we can to make decisions if something presents itself.”
David Rollins, a left-hander in the Astros organization, was selected by Seattle in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft and general manager Jack Zduriencik said the 24-year-old will be given a shot at winning a job in the Mariners bullpen.
Rollins had been selected twice by Seattle in the June Amateur Draft – in the 23rd round in 2009 and 46th round in 2010 – but never signed until being selected by the Blue Jays in the 24th round in 2011 out of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas.
In four Minor League seasons Rollins has posted a 23-16 record with a 3.39 ERA with 343 strikeouts in 358 2/3 innings over 88 games, including 64 starts. He was 3-4 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 games (12 starts) with the Astros’ Double-A Corpus Christi club last season.
“He’s got a pretty good fastball, a 94-95 mph arm,” Zduriencik said. “He’s got a breaking ball, he’s got velocity, he’s a tough kid and we have history with him. We’ll give him a chance to come in and see what happens. It’s another strong arm and from the left-hand side.”
The lefty quotient is key as the Mariners are already well stocked with right-handed power arms in their bullpen. Rule 5 Draft picks must spend the entire season on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the club from which they were selected, so Rollins would have to earn a spot in a relief crew that has southpaws Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge returning.
The Mariners also claimed lefty reliever Edgar Olmos from the Marlins last month and he’s also on the 40-man roster.
“Our thought was this is a good arm and when you look at our bullpen, we’ve got a lot of good arms,” Zduriencik said. “When you think of the chances of a guy sticking as a Rule 5, your odds of a pitcher sticking are a little better than a position guy and a left-hander increases the odds a little. We’ll see. He’s coming in to a bullpen that’s pretty good, but they’ll go and compete and we’ll see what happens in Spring Training.”
Rollins was the 12th player selected in the Major League phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. The Mariners didn’t make any selections in the Minor League portion of the Draft and didn’t lose any players in either phase.
The addition of Rollins puts the Mariners’ 40-man roster at 40 players.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik made it clear Wednesday that Taijuan Walker, the talented young right-hander most often named in trade rumors, remains an integral part of his club going forward.
Zduriencik responded strongly to a Tweet by ESPN.com analyst Keith Law saying he’d been told by several baseball executives that the Mariners had “soured on Taijuan Walker’s makeup, in part due to his behavior in the AFL.”
“There is no truth in that whatsoever,” Zduriencik said. “That’s ridiculous.”
The 22-year-old made two strong starts in the Arizona Fall League in October, then told the team he wanted to take the rest of the winter off to work out and prepare for next season. Walker missed the first few months of 2014 with shoulder problems, then split time between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle. He went 2-3 with a 2.61 ERA in six games for Seattle and finished with a complete-game four-hitter in a 1-0 loss at Toronto.
Zduriencik said the Mariners have no problems with Walker.
“We’d have maybe liked Taijuan to pitch a little more, but he really didn’t feel he was where he needed to be to pitch for other reasons,” he said. “But physically he was throwing 100 mph, he’d given us two really good starts at the end and two really good starts in the Arizona Fall League and he was at the point where he was ready to get into his offseason program.
“There was great logic after our discussions with him at the time. We knew what was going on and he’d pitched great. He had four very successful outings at the end and all that set him up for the coming year. So we’re very pleased with Taijuan Walker. This is a great, young arm, a very talented kid that is going to be a part of this for years to come.”
Zduriencik noted that Walker is young, but there is no question or concern about his work ethic.
“Here’s the thing with Taijuan. No matter what, even when he was in Triple-A and wasn’t pitching that great in the middle of the summer, the one thing everyone said about Taijuan Walker is he’s a great young man and an excellent worker,” Zduriencik said. “Taijuan does what he needs to do every day to prepare himself for now and the future.
“But you’re never going to get away from the fact he was 21 years of age. He was 20 when he was first pitching in the big leagues. This is a young guy. There are guys not even out of college yet and he was already pitching in the big leagues. With Taijuan, we’re fine and looking forward to seeing him in the spring.”
McClendon met with Walker in Arizona several weeks ago and told Zduriencik he was extremely pleased with their conversation. The Mariners have six strong candidates for five rotation spots at the moment, but McClendon feels Walker is in the thick of the competition.
“He needs to continue to work on his game, become very consistent with what he’s doing with his approach and how he goes about his business,” McClendon said. “Quite frankly, I thought he did a tremendous job in September for us, and certainly has earned the right to come into Spring Training and compete for a starting position.”
A few Mariners notes on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings.
- The Mariners aren’t making a lot of news here in San Diego — not surprisingly, since they made their splash last week with Nelson Cruz’s signing and the trade for J.A. Happ and really have just one more major move to make. That will come if and when they sign or trade for a right fielder. At this point, Melky Cabrera and Alex Rios remain the most-logical solutions in free agency, but both are still testing the market and seeing what they can get.
Most of the movement at these Winter Meetings has circled around pitching and that market should open up more now with the Cubs signing Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal late last night. The Astros made some moves overnight as well, bolstering their bullpen by coming to terms with Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson.
The Meetings continue today before concluding with the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.
– Jack Zdurienick says Robinson Cano’s broken toe is healing fine and isn’t viewed as any kind of problem. And not surprisingly, Cano has been checking in regularly to see how things are going. Cano is friends with Nelson Cruz and Cabrera and has never shied from offering his opinions. Zduriencik says Cano has tremendous baseball knowledge and welcomes his input.
“Robbie is funny, is a good way to say it,” Zduriencik said. “He’ll send me different messages here and there. Sometimes it’s just hello or a thumbs up. He’s keeping in touch and he’s committed. He’s got a good perspective on some things. He’s well aware of what we’re doing and he’s bought in and is part of it, so it’s fun.”
– Zduriencik reiterated that D.J. Peterson will likely continue playing third base as well as some first base going forward. Many have wondered why the Mariners don’t just move him off third, given Kyle Seager’s presence there.
“We’ll continue to move him around.,” Zduriencik said. “You never know what will happen. First base would be a little easier transition for him. He’s played it in the past and played there some this year. He still needs some work at third base. Let him continue to do that.
“The thing with Peterson is just the proper amount of ABs. He missed a lot of time. It’s not his fault. But once we get him at a point where he has enough ABs and we feel he’s fairly close to being called to the big leagues, if there’s a position switch involved – and there probably will be – then we’ll make that position switch at that time. But you never know what’s going to happen with Kyle. He’s healthy and rolling right now and everything is great, but a twisted ankle or three weeks on the DL, you have to look for alternatives and you want Peterson to be able to play that position.”
– Peterson is the Mariners’ No. 2 ranked prospect by MLB.com. Their top prospect, outfielder Alex Jackson, was honored as Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year on Tuesday. Jackson is 18 — he’ll turn 19 on Christmas — but the Mariners are extremely optimistic about the potential of the right-handed hitter.
What would be a natural progression for a teenager who played 23 games in the Arizona Rookie League last year?
“It depends on the individual. At times you have players that exceed,” Zduriencik said. “You had that here years ago with Ken Griffey, who was a star. You see at times. Justin Upton, Dwight Gooden got to the big leagues in a hurry. I’m not suggesting that’s the case here, but I do think his acumen toward the game is pretty advanced. You have to note that a player like this has the ability to move at a faster pace than your typical player. You’re cognizant of it, you put him in position to succeed. How he prepares himself this offseason to come into Spring Training, it’ll be really interesting to watch this kid.”
Jackson won’t be part of the Mariners’ Major League camp this spring, but Zduriencik said he might well get pulled over to play in a Cactus League game or two. The youngster will be in Seattle as part of FanFest on Jan. 24-25.
While Jesus Montero has been the subject of considerable criticism in the past, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was effusive with his praise for the 25-year-old on Tuesday as he talked about the former top prospect’s offseason efforts.
Montero is spending the winter in Arizona, working out daily with Mariners strength and conditioning coach James Clifford, after being sidelined by the team for the final month of the 2014 season following an altercation with a Mariners scout during a Minor League game.
Montero played six games for Seattle last year, but otherwise spent the year in Triple-A Tacoma, where he hit .286 with 16 home runs and 74 RBIs while converting to first base. The former Yankees top catching prospect was suspended for 50 games in 2013 in the Biogenesis case and then drew Zduriencik’s further ire for showing up last spring overweight.
But Zduriencik said he’s received “very positive reports” about Montero’s efforts this offseason.
“We should tip his hat do what he’s done,” Zduriencik said. “He’s worked extremely hard. He’s worked a lot of days to the point of absolute exhaustion. It was designed that way, to try to get him in a position where he went above and beyond anything he’s ever done before. I think that goal has been accomplished. Everything they’ve told me about how he’s approached this has been extremely positive.”
Zduriencik said the Mariners arranged to have a nutritionist meet with Montero and his wife several times over the offseason to work with his diet and he’s been at their Peoria complex every day to work on his conditioning.
“I think mentally he’s in a good spot,” Zduriencik said. “I think he views himself differently than he probably did a year ago. The process he’s been through has been extremely painful, but I also think there are rewards at the end of this thing. I don’t think any of us would want more than for Jesus Montero to become a really good citizen and a really nice baseball player because the skills are there for him to do it.”
Zduriencik said Minor League coordinator Chris Gwynn told him Montero was the best hitter in Triple-A at times last year and the club remains intrigued by the potential of the right-handed bat of a youngster who hit .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs in 135 games as a rookie in 2012 while splitting time between catcher and designated hitter.
“But he has to maintain these things,” Zduriencik said. “He’s had other obstacles in his life that have prevented him from doing it. But he’s at a really good place in his life right now. He’s really appreciative of what he has and that’s a very important element for him to be successful going forward.”
Whether Montero has a place still with the Mariners remains to be seen. He’ll be invited to Spring Training in February and given the chance to show where he’s at both conditioning-wise and as a player.
“The message I gave him was he has to mentally view himself as a first baseman,” Zduriencik said. “He has to say to himself, ‘This is where I’m going to play.’ If he’s a DH someday, that takes care of itself. But he has to commit himself to being an adequate first baseman. He’s a big, physical guy. If he could play there, it would be a benefit to everybody.”
The Mariners just signed Nelson Cruz to a four-year, $57 million deal to fill their DH role. Logan Morrison returns as the starting first baseman after a strong finish to 2014 in which he hit .262 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs in 99 games.
Former Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez hit a home run in his first at-bat in the Venezuelan Winter League on Monday as he began preparing for what could be a comeback attempt in Major League Baseball.
Gutierrez, 31, spent all of 2014 on the restricted list after telling the Mariners he wanted to sit out the season to deal with ongoing issues with an inflammatory nerve condition called ankylosing spondylitis.
He is now a free agent and the Mariners have indicated some interest in his possible return on a Minor League deal, but general manager Jack Zduriencik said Monday he’s had no recent talks with the 2010 Gold Glove center fielder.
Zduriencik said Monday at the Winter Meetings that the club had checked a day earlier and Gutierrez wasn’t playing Winter Ball yet in Venezuela, as had been expected. But Gutierrez did get in the lineup for Leones del Caracas on Monday and ripped a two-run home run in his first at-bat in the second inning of his debut against Aguilas del Zulia.
Gutierrez walked and scored in his second at-bat and wound up going 1-for-1 with two runs and two RBIs before being replaced in the seventh inning by Trayvon Robinson, another former Mariners outfielder who is also a free agent now after spending last season with the Dodgers’ Triple-A club.
Gutierrez was able to play just 81 games total in 2012-13 for Seattle due to a variety of injuries, many of which he later attributed to an illness that wasn’t diagnosed until late in his final year with the Mariners as he played out a four-year, $19 million deal.
The Mariners offered to bring him back last year for $1 million, but he wound up sitting out the season while living in Florida.
“I have not talked to him myself,” Zduriencik said. “I plan to, but I’ve not done that yet. He missed a whole year, so we’ll see. I don’t know where he is physically or mentally. The last time we talked last year he was going to see how his whole off year went and where he was at with his illness.”
Here’s a video of Gutierrez’s home run Monday in Venezuela.
The Winter Meetings focus largely on the business of baseball, the potential wheelings and dealings between teams and players and agents. But baseball has a personal side, too, and that side rose up Monday afternoon in a Stand Up To Cancer gathering at the Manchester Grand Hyatt that kicked off an MLB auction to benefit LUNGevity.
For the third consecutive year, Major League Baseball, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and the 30 clubs have organized a Winter Meetings charity auction that includes unique baseball experiences and items to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. The initiative was inspired by the numerous employees, friends and fans of the game who have been directly affected by cancer.
Funds raised from this year’s auction will be donated to LUNGevity, the largest national lung cancer-focused nonprofit, in memory of Orioles public relations director Monica Barlow, who died of lung cancer in February.
Each MLB team has contributed items to auction off to fans. The Mariners came up with three unique offerings:
– A meet and greet with radio announcers Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith, with the chance to watch the first inning of a game (on a mutually agreeable date) from the Safeco Field radio booth and then watch the rest of the game from behind home plate with four free tickets.
– A pre-game tour of the TV truck compound and an on-field meeting with ROOT Sports broadcaster Brad Adam, then the opportunity to accompany him to his pre-game show in center field before watching the game from behind home plate with four free tickets.
– The chance to watch Mariners batting practice from on-field, then meet Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, before watching the game from behind home plate with four free tickets.
The public relations directors from all 30 teams gathered Monday to promote the auction and remember Barlow, who died at 36. Barlow’s husband, Ben Barlow, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter both said she would have balked at being the center of such attention, but welcomed the effort to fight a disease that affects 400,000 Americans every year.
Of that number, about 60 percent are non-smokers, like Barlow.
The list of auction items from around baseball includes the chance for a fan to take out the lineup to an Orioles game with Showalter, a private pitching lesson with CC Sabathia, the chance to have Tony LaRussa coach a Little League team for a game and a personal haircut from National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom.
Fans can see a full list of items from every team and place bids at MLB.com/Lungevity. The auction, which has raised $250,000 over its first two years, ends on Thursday.
As the Winter Meetings open this morning, the A’s and Indians engineered the first trade as Oakland dealt first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss to the Indians for Minor League second baseman Joe Wendle.
One of the big questions looming over this week’s gathering in San Diego is whether the trade market will be booming as many clubs seem interested in dealing. From a Mariners perspective, the main question on the national front to date has centered around whether Jack Zduriencik might be willing to part with top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker or one of his top arms.
Once Seattle signed Nelson Cruz to fill its much-needed hole for a right-handed slugger in the middle of the lineup, the pressure lessened on Seattle being forced into such a deal. Zduriencik said he likes his pitching at this point and doesn’t want to take away from that strength.
The Mariners do have trade options beyond Walker, of course. And one of the common perceptions is the club might be willing to part with one of its young shortstops, Brad Miller or Chris Taylor, who split time last year as rookies.
On the surface, that makes sense, given manager Lloyd McClendon would like to have one everyday shortstop and that would seem to make the other expendable in a trade. But here’s something to remember on that front.
Veteran Willie Bloomquist underwent microfracture knee surgery in August and isn’t a lock to be ready for the start of the season. Bloomquist was at Nelson Cruz’s press conference on Thursday and told me he’s just begun running in the pool. He’s champing at the bit to do more, but has to follow doctor’s orders and take things step by step. And that process likely will have him on a limited schedule early in Spring Training while aiming to be full go by April when the real games begin.
Bloomquist is a very motivated worker and I certainly wouldn’t bet against him. But the Mariners will need to hedge their bets and make sure they have options in case his recovery doesn’t go as quickly as hoped. And Miller is an excellent candidate to be groomed for that kind of utility role.
Miller already was working that direction in the last two months last season after Bloomquist went down. He can play second, short and third and began doing some pregame work in the outfield as well, drawing rave reviews from outfield coach Andy Van Slyke for his natural athleticism and instincts there.
Miller surely would prefer to be the starting shortstop and my guess is he’ll be given every opportunity to win that job in Spring Training, but he does provide some interesting options if Taylor winds up the starter.
And should Bloomquist not be ready by the start of the year, Miller’s versatility may be a value of need for the Mariners. That doesn’t mean he’s off limits in trade talks, but it does add an element to his immediate worth for Seattle.
Zduriencik likes his team’s depth in the middle infield, mentioning young Ketel Marte as another up-and-coming talent. Marte, 21, was just added to the 40-man roster to keep him from being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but he has played only 19 games above the Double-A level to date and is more of a long-range prospect at this point.
Miller got off to a slow start last year, hitting .204 in the first half and opening the door for Taylor’s promotion. But Miller, 25, hit ..301 in the final two months. His OPS after the All-Star game was .794, second behind only Robinson Cano’s .808 among all Mariners regulars in that span.
That offensive potential is what makes Miller attractive on the trade front. But combined with his defensive versatility, it also will make the Mariners think twice about dealing him even if they feel Taylor is better suited at shortstop, particularly given the uncertainty of Bloomquist’s health.