General manager Jack Zduriencik made it clear from Day One this offseason that the Mariners top priority was a big right-handed bat to put behind Robinson Cano in Seattle’s lineup and the club appears to have filled that need with a reported agreement with free agent slugger Nelson Cruz.
Multiple news sources have confirmed an initial report by Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes that the 34-year-old Cruz has agreed to a four-year, $57 million contract. The Mariners have not confirmed the deal, which would need to be finalized with a physical exam and official signing.
The Mariners have been interested in Cruz for the past two years, engaging in talks last offseason that never came to fruition before the Dominican native signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles late in Spring Training. Cruz went on to lead the American League with 40 home runs while putting up a .271/.333/.525 slash line with 108 RBIs.
The Mariners sorely need some right-handed balance to their lineup and Cruz would slot in between left-handers Cano and Kyle Seager, who is expected to finalize a seven-year, $100 million extension of his own this week.
Cruz played 89 games at designated hitter and 70 in the outfield last season for the Orioles. Seattle’s designated hitters had the worst production in the AL last season with Corey Hart and Kendrys Morales getting most of the at-bats.
Cruz has spent eight of his 10 Major League seasons in the AL West with the Rangers and is a career .268 hitter who has averaged 29 home runs a season over the past six years.
Cruz also had a strong postseason for the Orioles last year, hitting .357 with two home runs and eight RBIs in seven games. The Orioles wanted to retain the player who was voted the “Most Valuable Oriole” by the Baltimore chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, but apparently wereunwilling to go beyond a three-year offer.
The Orioles extended a qualifying offer to Cruz, so Seattle will lose its first-round Draft pick, which currently is the 21st selection.
The Mariners finished 87-75 in 2014, coming one win shy of tying for a Wild Card berth, with a club that led the AL in ERA, but was tied for 11th in runs and last in the league in OPS.
The Mariners have yet to sign a free agent this offseason, but they are on the verge of wrapping up another one of their own stars for the next seven years as third baseman Kyle Seager is close to agreement on a seven-year, $100 million deal that would keep him in Seattle through 2021.
Seager, 27, earned his first American League All-Star and Rawlings Gold Glove awards last season while hitting .268/.334/.454 with a team-leading 25 home runs and 96 RBIs in 159 games.
Seager is just entering his first arbitration season and isn’t eligible for free agency until 2018, so the deal will buy out his three arbitration years as well as the first four years of free agency, with an additional eighth-year club option that could go as high as $20 million with incentive clauses.
The agreement was first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports and since confirmed by MLB.com. The Mariners have not confirmed the agreement and had no comment on Monday. Club policy is to not comment on pending deals until after a physical exam is completed and a contract is officially signed, which likely won’t be until next week at the earliest.
The Mariners have been working on extending Seager’s contract over the past few months, wanting to wrap up a player who has emerged as one of their cornerstones since his arrival in 2011.
Seager, who made $540,000 last year, would become the third-highest paid Mariner behind second baseman Robinson Cano and ace Felix Hernandez. Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million deal in free agency last year, while Hernandez has five years remaining on a seven-year, $175 million extension he agreed to in 2013.
Seager was a third round Draft pick by the Mariners in 2009 out of North Carolina and moved up quickly through Seattle’s Minor League system. He joined the Major League club midway through the 2011 season and has put up a .262/.328/.429 slash line in 3 ½ seasons.
Seager has proven durable as well as dependable, sitting out just 12 games over the past three years while averaging 22 home runs and 84 RBIs. He took a big step forward defensively as well this past season, setting a club record .981 fielding percentage and winning his first Gold Glove.
Once the deal is culminated, Seager will be the fourth Major Leaguer to sign a $100 million deal in their first season of arbitration eligibility, joining Mike Trout, Buster Posey and Freddie Freeman.
Neither player has reached the Major Leagues yet nor was on their team’s 40-man roster at the time of the deal, though the Cardinals immediately put Kelly on their 40-man to protect him from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
Gaviglio, 24, went 5-12 with a 4.28 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) for Double-A Springfield last season with 126 strikeouts in 136 2/3 innings. He posted a 2.90 ERA in 11 games, including 10 starts, during the second half of the season after a 5.42 ERA in 14 first-half starts.
The 6-foot-2 Gaviglio is a native of Ashland, Ore., and was drafted in the fifth round out of Oregon State in 2011.
Kelly, 26, was acquired by the Mariners in midseason in 2013 from the Orioles in exchange for outfielder Eric Thames. He hit .263/.381/.412 with 15 home runs and 80 RBIs in 134 games for Tacoma last season while splitting time between second, third and the outfield.
Kelly would have been exposed to the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 11 since he wasn’t protected by Seattle, but the Mariners chose to move him in exchange for a right-hander who will add some starting pitching depth to the organization.
The Mariners added three of their top Minor League prospects – reliever Mayckol Guaipe, catcher John Hicks and infielder Ketel Marte — to their 40-man roster on Thursday to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
Players who signed their first professional contract at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons.
Like all clubs, the Mariners moved to protect eligible prospects they felt might be coveted by other teams prior to Thursday’s 9 p.m. PT deadline. The Rule 5 Draft will be held Dec. 11 on the final day of the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
With the Mariners also claiming left-hander Edgar Olmos off waivers from the Marlins on Thursday, their 40-man roster now stands at 39. Here is the current 40-man roster.
Guaipe, 24, was 1-3 with 12 saves and a 2.89 ERA in 40 appearances for Double-A Jackson last season. He had 56 strikeouts in 56 innings and posted the lowest WHIP (0.964) among Mariners full-season Minor Leaguers. Guaipe is having a strong showing in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason as well.
Hicks, 25, split last season between Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma, batting .290 with five home runs and 47 RBIs in 81 games. The young catcher has thrown out 47.6 percent of attempted base-stealers during his four Minor League seasons. The former Virginia standout hit .304 in 13 games with Surprise in the Arizona Fall League that wrapped up last week.
Marte, 21, hit .304 with 79 runs, 32 doubles, six triples, four home runs, 29 stolen bases and 55 RBIs in 128 games with Jackson and Tacoma. He was a Southern League All-Star while batting .302 in 109 games with Jackson before being promoted to Tacoma on Aug. 10.
As one of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League, Marte batted .313 in 19 games with Tacoma.
Among the Rule 5 eligible players not protected by the Mariners were outfielder Jabari Blash, first baseman/outfielder Jordy Lara and pitchers Stephen Landazuri and Jordan Pries.
Olmos, 24, went 3-3 with three saves and a 4.06 ERA in 51 appearances while splitting last season between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans. Opponents hit .248 against the 6-foot-4 southpaw and he totaled 60 strikeouts and 30 walks in 77 2/3 innings.
He has one Minor League option remaining.
Olmos just finished up in the Arizona Fall League, where he went 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in 11 innings over nine games with the Salt River Rafters.
Olmos pitched five games in the Majors with the Marlins in 2013, posting an 0-1 record and 7.20 ERA in five innings. He was drafted by the Marlins in the third round in 2008 out of Birmingham High School in Los Angeles and began his career as a starter. In seven Minor League seasons, he’s 15-37 with a 4.50 ERA in 179 games, including 71 starts.
The addition of Olmos puts the Mariners 40-man roster at 36, with more roster moves likely before Thursday’s 9 p.m. PT deadline to protect players from being exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.
The Mariners’ Refuse to Abuse campaign against domestic violence has earned the franchise its first Commissioner Award for Philanthropic Excellence, a prestigious honor that was announced Thursday at the Major League Baseball Owners Meetings in Kansas City.
The CAPE Award was started by Commissioner Bud Selig in 2010 to recognize extraordinary charitable and philanthropic efforts by MLB clubs. Previous winners were the Red Sox in 2010, White Sox in 2011, Blue Jays in 2012 and Tigers in 2013.
The Mariners received the 2014 award for their public service campaign against domestic violence, which last year featured ace pitcher Felix Hernandez, outfielder Michael Saunders and manager Lloyd McClendon in television, radio and print advertisements.
Mariners Care will receive a $10,000 grant from Major League Baseball Charities as part of the recognition.
“I am very proud of the Seattle Mariners and Mariners Care for taking a leading role in educating fans and other members of their community on the importance of respectful relationships,” Selig said. “This is a vital societal issue that impacts the lives of individuals and families in harrowing ways.
“Having communicated with many experts, we continue to work diligently toward a comprehensive policy that reflects the gravity of domestic violence and how to best serve the interests of victims and their families,” said Selig. “The efforts of the Mariners, who encourage fans to take a public stance against domestic violence, are exemplary. I thank the Mariners and all of our clubs for their year-round efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
The Refuse to Abuse program was first implemented in 1997 as a spinoff of the popular “Refuse to Lose” motto of the 1995 club. Working with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the club began promoting an educational campaign conveying the need for respect at home as well as on the field.
“When we were approached by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence with an opportunity to support this difficult and serious issue, we recognized it as a unique way to use our brand to send the message that domestic violence is not okay,” said Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln. “It is a great honor to be recognized by Commissioner Selig for the work we have done over the years with our partners at the Coalition.”
For the last three years, the Coalition and Mariners have sponsored a 5K run/walk at Safeco Field to raise money for the Coalition’s prevention work and allow fans to join the effort to end domestic violence. The Refuse to Abuse 5K, which takes place in and around Safeco Field, encourages participants to start conversations about healthy relationships, and gives them concrete tools to do so.
The Refuse To Abuse campaign ads reach millions of Mariners fans each year and more than 1,300 people attended the 5K run/walk in July. The 5K has raised more than $200,000 for the Coalition over the last three years.
“Pat has a great deal of experience, as a Major League player and as a Minor League coach and manager,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We are looking forward to having him work with our young players.”
Listach, 47, played with the Brewers and Astros from 1992-97 and was the American League Rookie of the Year for Milwaukee in ’92 when he hit .290 and stole 54 bases. He wound up batting .251 in 503 career games and was in camp with the Mariners in Spring Training of ’98, but was released and finished that year in the Minors before retiring.
The Louisiana native went into coaching in 2000 in the Cubs Minor League system and was Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2008 with Triple-A Iowa afer an 83-59 season, then hired on as the Nationals third base coach from 2009-10. He has a career Minor League managerial mark of 256-217 (.541).
Listach was bench coach for the Cubs in 2011 and their third base coach in ’12, became a Minor League infield coordinator with the Dodgers in ’13 and then worked last year as the Astros infield coach and third base coach under Bo Porter in his hometown of Houston.
“Pat is passionate about teaching, and has a great track record and experience, both as a player and as a coach,” Mariners Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn said. “He’s a very good fit for our organization, and for the Rainiers.”
Roy Howell filled in as Tacoma’s manager last year when he was promoted from Double-A Jackson’s hitting coach just prior to the start of the season. Rich Donnelly originally was slated to manage the Rainiers last year, but he joined the Mariners during Spring Training as third base coach after John Stearns was forced to step down due to health issues. Donnelly is expected to remain in that position in 2015 as Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon has indicated his entire staff is returning.
Howell, who led the Rainiers to a 74-70 record, will remain in the Mariners organization, likely returning to Jackson’s staff as hitting instructor.
Misael Siverio, a 25-year-old left-hander from Cuba, has signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners.
Siverio pitched last season in Mexico after defecting from Cuba, taking something of a similar path to Roenis Elias, who had a breakout season for the Mariners last year as a 25-year-old rookie southpaw following three seasons in Seattle’s Minor League system after going from Cuba to Mexico.
“This is a proud moment for me, to be able to join the Seattle Mariners, who have various Cubans in the organization that are my compatriots,” Siverio said in a statement on the team’s blog, which also includes photos and a video. “I feel very happy because of the way that I have been treated here in Seattle and now the only thing left to do is to do my part, work hard and reach the Major Leagues.”
Siverio took a physical exam with the Mariners in Seattle earlier this month and toured the team’s facilities. He will take part in the Mariners’ Minor League mini-camp in Peoria, Ariz., in mid-February, which is designed for prospects who aren’t part of the Major League camp.
The 5-foot-9 Siverio pitched 153 games (75 starts) with a 3.24 ERA from 2007-12 with Villa Clara in Cuba’s National Series, the country’s primary amateur league, then had a 2.45 ERA for Aguilas de Mexicali in the Mexican Pacific League last winter with a 3-1 record, 36 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29 1/3 innings over six starts.
Siverio defected from the Cuban National team in 2013 when the squad was in the United States playing against a college All-Star team in Des Moines, Iowa.
Siverio pitched in front of scouts for about 10 Major League teams at a showcase tryout in June and is one of several Cuban players who’ve drawn interest this offseason.
The biggest name among the Cuban prospects is outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who is drawing high interest from a number of clubs, including the Mariners.
Not a great morning for the Major League Baseball team in Tokyo on Saturday as Robinson Cano broke his toe on a pitch off his right foot and the MLB club wound up getting no hit by four Japanese pitchers in a 4-0 loss in the third game of the Japan series.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has confirmed the initial report out of Tokyo by MLB.com reporter Anthony DiComo that x-rays showed Cano’s right pinkie toe was fractured and the six-time All-Star will be sidelined from baseball activities for 3-4 weeks.
The Mariners say Cano will resume full workouts in mid-December and should have no issues with being ready for the start of Spring Training, with Mariners position players due to report to Peoria, Ariz. on Feb. 24.
The injury will not require a cast or treatment, just rest. Mariners trainer Rick Griffin has talked with Cano, who reported no pain.
Cano will miss the rest of the Japan Series, which the MLB team now trails 3-0 with two series games, plus an exhibition, still remaining. Cano went 2-for-10 in three games in Japan.
“It’s part of the game, getting hurt,” Cano told DiComo before leaving the Tokyo Dome and learning of his fracture. “I’ll be fine.”
Cano is one of two Mariners competing against a Japanese All-Star team. Hisashi Iwakuma pitched the second game of the series on Friday and gave up 10 hits and five runs in four innings.
Here’s video of the pitch that injured Cano.
Robinson Cano finished fifth in the American League MVP voting announced Thursday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the top finish by a Mariners player since Ichiro Suzuki won the award in 2001.
Seattle ace Felix Hernandez was 10th in the balloting, the highest MVP finish of his career. Hernandez finished one spot ahead of Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, who edged him for the AL Cy Young Award on Wednesday.
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager got one 10th place vote in the balloting to finish 20th. Two baseball writers in each AL city – 30 overall – vote for 10 finalists for the award, which was won by Angels center fielder Mike Trout.
Trout was the unanimous first-place winner on all 30 ballots, with Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez finishing second, following by Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Cano. Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays initially was listed ahead of Cano, but the BBWAA later corrected the voting totals and flip-flopped those two. Here’s the full breakdown on the voting.
Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers became the first pitcher to win the National League MVP in 46 years when he beat out Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton for that honor.
The Mariners had previously had only four Top 10 MVP finishers in the 12 seasons since Ichiro won the award in 2001 and three of those went to Ichiro, who finished ninth in 2009, eighth in 2007 and seventh in 2004. Bret Boone was 10th in 2003.
Cano has never won an MVP award, but he’s now finished in the top six in AL voting for five straight years. The 30-year-old second baseman finished third in 2010, sixth in 2011, fourth in 2012 and fifth in 2013 while with the Yankees.
Cano received one second-place vote, from ESPN.com’s Tim Kurkjian, and was named somewhere in the top 10 on 23 of the 30 ballots.
After signing a 10-year, $240 million deal with Seattle, Cano put up a .314/.382/.454 line with 37 doubles, 14 home runs and 82 RBIs while batting third for a Mariners team that improved by 16 wins to 87-75 in 2014. Cano also was a top-three finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove at second base.
Hernandez narrowly missed winning his second AL Cy Young, finishing just behind Kluber in the balloting after going 15-6 with an AL-leading 2.14 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. While pitchers often don’t fare well among some MVP voters, Hernandez was named second on two ballots – by Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and David Brown of Yahoo Sports — and was listed somewhere in the Top 10 by nine of the 30 writers.
Seager had a breakout season, landing his first AL All-Star berth and Gold Glove Award while leading the Mariners with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs. His one 10th place vote came courtesy of Paul White of USA Today.