Hisashi Iwakuma has been tabbed to start the second game of the Japan Series on Friday in the Tokyo Dome, with the Mariners right-hander throwing for the MLB squad against a Japanese All-Star team from Nippon Professional Baseball.
Iwakuma and Robinson Cano are the two Mariners on the 29-man MLB squad, which will play two exhibition games in Japan – the first on Tuesday and the last on Thursday, Nov. 20 – sandwiched around a five-game series against Japan’s All-Stars.
Iwakuma told reporters in Japan that he’s excited to be playing against his country mates.
“This is the very first [Japan All-Star Series] in eight years, and I’m participating in this event as a representative of Major League Baseball, so I feel very honored,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “I was really looking forward to coming back here as an American representative, so I’m very happy for that.”
It’s a bit challenging for pitchers to stay geared up over the offseason, which is why there are 14 hurlers on the MLB squad and specific rules to keep them from being overused. Pitchers will not be allowed to throw more than 80 pitches in any game, though they are allowed to finish at at-bat if it starts below the 80 mark.
If a pitcher throws more than 30 pitches in any one outing or appears in two consecutive games, he must have a day of rest before pitching again, though that rule does not apply for either of the exhibition games.
The games will be televised live on MLB Network at 6 p.m. Japanese time, which is 1 a.m. PT. The five official Japan Series games will also be replayed on tape delay at 6 p.m. PT on the MLB Network, or are available on demand to MLB.TV subscribers.
MLB.com writer Anthony DiComo is in Japan and doing a great job keeping tabs on things. His preview today leads with Cano talking about how much he’s looking forward to the games. You can read that here.
Rating defensive prowess is always an interesting challenge in baseball and we see some of the difference of opinion there with Wednesday’s release of the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year.
Wilson picked its nine best position players in the Majors based on a formula using defensive metrics Range Factor, Defensive Runs Saved, Inside Edge Ratings, UZR and fielding percentage. And its selections differed a great deal from the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards issued Tuesday, with Rawlings going 75 percent to the vote of managers and coaches and 25 percent to defensive metrics.
The Wilson Team:
First base – Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers)
Second base – Ian Kinsler (Tigers)
Shortstop – Andrelton Simmons (Braves)
Third base – Juan Uribe (Dodgers)
Left field – Alex Gordon (Royals)
Center field – Lorenzo Cain (Royals)
Right field – Jason Heyward (Braves)
Catcher – Russell Martin (Pirates)
Pitcher – Johnny Cueto (Reds)
Interestingly, five of those players didn’t win 2014 Gold Gloves, even though Gold Gloves are awarded in each league, while Wilson chose just one player from all of MLB at each position.
Kinsler, Uribe, Cain, Martin and Cueto were the non-Gold Glovers selected first by Wilson’s rating system. So let the debate continue. From my perspective, there’s plenty of room for both awards and it’s nice to have two differing viewpoints as defense indeed is hard to quantify.
Rawlings continues to rely more heavily on the eyeball test and opinion of coaches and managers, though it has added in some defensive metrics in the past two years. Here are this year’s Gold Glove winners. Wilson goes straight by the numbers, which continue to get more advanced as we go.
Wilson also selected the Cincinnati Reds as the best defensive team in baseball, while Heyward earned the Defensive Player of the Year honor.
The Mariners didn’t land anyone on the Wilson team, but Kyle Seager earned his first Rawlings Gold Glove on Tuesday and Seattle’s third baseman was relishing that honor when he spoke with reporters in a conference call on Wednesday from North Carolina. If you haven’t read my story, Seager had some great things to say and you can see it here.
Kyle Seager has been one of the Mariners top hitters since his arrival in the Major Leagues in 2011, but the young third baseman took a big step forward defensively this past season as well and was rewarded with his first Rawlings American League Gold Glove on Tuesday.
Seager, who turned 27 on Monday, is Seattle’s first Gold Glove winner since outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez in 2010 and just the second Mariners third baseman ever honored, joining Adrian Beltre (2007 and ’08).
Beltre, a four-time winner, and Josh Donaldson of the A’s were the other two finalists for the AL third base award.
Pitcher Felix Hernandez and second baseman Robinson Cano were also top-three finalists for AL Gold Gloves, but Dallas Keuchel of the Astros won the pitching honor, while Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox took the second base award for the fourth time in his career.
Cano claimed the AL Gold Glove at second base in 2010 and 2012 for the Yankees, while Pedroia has now won in 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2014.
Seager hadn’t been in the Gold Glove conversation until this year, when he rose to the fore in a season when 2013 winner Manny Machado of the Orioles missed considerable time with injuries.
“It is an honor to just be up for the award with all the great third basemen, let alone win the Gold Glove,” said Seager. “I really owe a lot to my coaches, especially Chris Woodward. He helped me tremendously.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon sung Seager’s praises all season, noting the progress made in the field under the tutelage of Woodward, who was in his first year as Seattle’s infield coach.
“He worked extremely hard,” McClendon said. “Woody has done a great job with him as far as his preparation. His awareness of guys in the league and what they’re capable of doing, his positioning is a lot better. And I think his feet are a lot better than they were in the past.”
Seager’s defensive metrics weren’t particularly impressive in the past, but he took a giant leap this year in leading all AL third baseman with a plus-24 rating in runs saved, according to Baseball-Reference.com, three ahead of Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. Seager also had the top “good throws” rating among AL third baseman by The Fielding Bible.
Seager led all Major League third baseman with his .981 fielding percentage, breaking Jeff Cirillo’s club record .973 set in 2002 and the 10th-best percentage by any AL third baseman since 1948. He ranked second among MLB third basemen in assists with 327, double plays with 37 and innings at 1,402.
“I think he has taken the next step,” McClendon said. “I think he’s one of the top third basemen in the league. And rightfully so. He played extremely well on both sides of the ball. And I think he’s only going to get better.”
Seager’s selection snapped a three-year dry spell for the Mariners in the Gold Glove competition. Prior to getting blanked in 2011, the Mariners had at least one Gold Glove winner for 24 straight years, thanks in part to 10 consecutive awards by Ken Griffey Jr. from 1990-99 and then 10 more for Ichiro from 2001-10.
Seager becomes the 12th Gold Glove winner in Mariners history. In addition to Griffey and Ichiro, past Seattle winners are second basemen Harold Reynolds and Bret Boone (three each), first baseman John Olerud (three), pitcher Mark Langston (two), outfielder Mike Cameron (two), Beltre (two), shortstop Omar Vizquel (one) and outfielders Jay Buhner and Gutierrez (one each).
The rest of the AL team named Tuesday included three Royals — left fielder Alex Gordon, first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvador Perez as well as three Orioles in shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.
Felix Hernandez, coming off the best season in his 10-year career, was named one of three finalists for the 2014 American League Cy Young Award on Tuesday, joined by Corey Kluber of the Indians and Chris Sale of the White Sox.
Hernandez is the lone Mariners representative as a finalist for the four major Baseball Writers’ Association of America Awards for MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year or Rookie of the Year. Those honors will be presented next week on MLB Network broadcasts, with the Cy Young presentation set for Wednesday, Nov. 12, from 3-4 p.m. PT.
Hernandez won the 2010 AL Cy Young and has a chance now to become the first two-time winner in Mariners history. Randy Johnson earned the honor in 1995, the only other Seattle pitcher ever selected.
“To be a finalist for the Cy Young Award is great,” Hernandez said. “That’s what we work for every year, to be one of the best. This recognition is a testament to the hard work that I put in during the offseason and it is great to be mentioned as one of the best pitchers in the American League.”
Hernandez was selected Monday as the AL’s Outstanding Pitcher in the Players Choice Awards, which are voted on by fellow players. The Cy Young is decided by members of the BBWAA, with two writers from each of the AL’s 15 cities voting at the end of the regular season.
The Mariners ace went 15-6 with an AL-leading 2.14 ERA and career-best 248 strikeouts in 236 innings over 34 starts. He also led the league in WHIP at 0.915 and set a Major League record with 16 consecutive midseason starts of seven or more innings with two or less runs allowed.
Hernandez’s ERA was the fourth-lowest by an AL pitcher in a season of 230 or more innings since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973 and his WHIP was the lowest by an AL pitcher since Petro Martinez’s 0.737 in 2000.
Hernandez, 28, notched his sixth straight season with 200-plus strikeouts and innings, tied for the third-longest streak in MLB history behind the nine of Tom Seaver (1968-76) and seven of Roger Clemens (1987-92) and Walter Johnson (1910-16).
Kluber and Sale had strong seasons as well. Sale finished second behind Hernandez in ERA at 2.17, while Kluber was third at 2.44. Sale was also second to Hernandez in WHIP at 0.97, with Kluber sixth in the league at 1.09.
Sale missed some time to injury early in the season with the White Sox, but finished 12-4 in 174 innings over 26 starts with 208 strikeouts.
Kluber was 18-9 for the Indians and led the AL with 269 strikeouts in 235 2/3 innings over 34 starts.
Opposing batters put up a .200/.243/.303 line against Hernandez, compared to .205/.262/.305 against Sale and .233/.279/.345 vs. Kluber.
Despite Seattle’s 16-win improvement to 87-75, Mariners first-year skipper Lloyd McClendon was not one of the three finalists for the AL Manager of the Year. That award will go to either Mike Scioscia of the Angels, Buck Showalter of the Orioles or Ned Yost of the Royals. Though postseason results aren’t a factor since votes were taken at the end of the regular season, all three finalists did get their teams into the postseason.
AL Rookie of the Year finalists are White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Yankees reliever Dellin Betances and Angels starter Matt Shoemaker.
The AL MVP finalists are Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Indians outfielder Michael Brantley and Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was voted the American League’s Outstanding Pitcher and teammate Chris Young was voted the league’s Comeback Player by their peers as the 2014 Players Choice Awards were presented Monday night on the MLB Network.
Hernandez topped fellow finalists Corey Kluber of the Indians and Chris Sale of the White Sox in what could be a precursor of the AL Cy Young Award voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that will be announced Nov. 12.
In the 20 previous years since the Players Choice Awards began, the AL’s Outstanding Pitcher went on to win the Cy Young in 18 of those seasons. Hernandez was one of the exceptions when he won the 2010 Cy Young after David Price of the Rays was voted the Players Choice winner. In 1994, the first year of the Players Choice Awards, Jimmy Key of the Yankees won AL Outstanding Pitcher honors, but Kansas City’s David Cone took home the Cy Young.
The Cy Young vote has already taken place as two baseball writers from each AL city voted at the end of the regular season. Players Choice voting also took place during the regular season, with players polled on Sept. 16 in balloting supervised by the accounting firm KPMG.
These were the first Players Choice Awards for a Mariners player since Ichiro Suzuki was selected as the AL Outstanding Player in 2004.
“It is an honor to be selected by the players. It’s an amazing feeling,” Hernandez said. “There are a lot of great pitchers out there and to be selected as the outstanding pitcher in the American League means a lot to me.”
Hernandez put together his best season yet in the Majors as the 10-year veteran went 15-6 with a league-leading 2.14 ERA and a career-best 248 strikeouts in 236 innings over 34 starts. Hernandez led the AL in WHIP at 0.915 and set a Major League record with 16 straight midseason starts of seven or more innings with two or less runs allowed.
“My mentality is always to go out there and do my thing and go deep in the game,” Hernandez said. “Every time I go out there, I’m just trying to win every game.”
Young earned his second Comeback Player of the Year honor, having already been named The Sporting News winner in the same category. He’ll have a chance for a clean sweep when Major League Baseball presents its own Comeback Player Award this Friday.
Young beat out fellow Comeback finalists J.D Martinez and Victor Martinez of the Tigers for his award, with players recognizing his big bounceback season. After not pitching in the Majors in 2013 and being released by the Nationals just a few days before the start of the regular season, the 35-year-old Young signed with Seattle and went 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 30 games (29 starts) and helped further solidify a pitching staff that led the AL in ERA.
“As Major League players, we all understand how hard this game is and what we go through to play,” Young said. “Certainly to experience injuries and have to battle that, the game is hard enough when you’re healthy, much less when you’re not. So to have the respect of my peers and be voted, there’s so many worthy candidates, I’m extremely humbled and honored.”
The Major League Baseball Players Trust donates $20,000 grants to the charity of choice for each winner. Hernandez selected Make-A-Wish as his charity, while Young designated Seattle-based programs on DonorsChoose.org, a national group funding public school projects and technology. The Mariners will also make donations to Make-A-Wish and DonorsChoose.org in Hernandez and Young’s names.
“I think it’s great to give back to the city in which I played as a thank you to the fans, the community and the organization for the opportunity they gave me,” said Young, a Princeton graduate who is now a free agent after playing last season on a one-year deal with Seattle.
The other AL awards went to Angels outfielder Mike Trout (Outstanding Player) and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (Outstanding Rookie).
NL winners were Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom (Outstanding Rookie), Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (Outstanding Pitcher), Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee (Comeback Player) and Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (Outstanding Player).
Kershaw also won the two honors that are open to players from both leagues — the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award and 2014 Player of the Year.
Monday was the deadline for Major League teams to extend $15.3 million qualifying offers to their own free agent players and, as expected, the Mariners declined to make any such offers to their own seven pending free agents.
But that does not mean that Monday’s decisions didn’t impact the Mariners.
Twelve players in MLB were given qualifying offers and the biggest surprise was the Rockies making that move with outfielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer, who seemed exactly like the type of player Seattle would be interested in on the free-agent market.
But much as with Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew last year, Cuddyer is a player most teams – including Seattle, presumably – won’t likely be willing to sacrifice the high draft pick compensation that goes with signing a player who has been given a qualifying offer.
In Seattle’s case, their first-round pick next June currently would be the 21st overall selection and they will forfeit that pick if they sign any of the 12 qualified free agents.
Those chosen 12 are: starting pitchers Max Scherzer of the Tigers, James Shields of the Royals, Ervin Santana of the Braves and Francisco Liriano of the Pirates, closer David Robertson of the Yankees, catcher Russell Martin of the Pirates, shortstop Hanley Ramirez of the Dodgers, third baseman Pablo Sandoval of the Giants, outfielders Nelson Cruz of the Orioles, Melky Cabrera of the Blue Jays and Cuddyer of the Rockies, and designated hitter Victor Martinez of the Tigers.
Last year, the Mariners willingly parted with their highest unprotected draft pick – which turned out to be their second-round selection, the 47th pick overall – in order to sign Robinson Cano. In that scenario, their first-round pick (sixth overall) was protected because it was in the top 10.
But the Mariners are slated to pick 21st in the first round this year and thus will lose that pick if they do sign one of the Big 12. And that makes a player like Cuddyer less attractive, given he’s a 35-year-old who played just 49 games last year due to a broken left shoulder socket and hamstring issues.
That’s unfortunate for the Mariners and other teams who likely would have bid for Cuddyer, based on the fact he’s a quality right-handed hitter who batted .331 and .332 his past two seasons with the Rockies with an OPS of .919 and .955 when he was healthy.
Cuddyer may well become the first player in three years to accept a qualifying offer, rather than try his luck on the open market and face the situation Morales and Drew took on last year when both wound up not signing until two months into the regular season – after the draft and thus when teams no longer faced losing draft-pick compensation.
If the Mariners are going to go after a player tied to draft-pick compensation, they’d be more likely to take that plunge for a bigger impact bat like Martinez, or perhaps Cruz or Cabrera.
There’ll be plenty of speculation on all that in the coming weeks. And that picture will likely change dramatically as events and signings progress. MLBtraderumors.com already came out with its initial Top 50 free agent predictions last week and had the Mariners signing Royals DH Billy Butler and Cuddyer. That seemed like a perfectly logical projection … until the Rockies gave Cuddyer a qualifying offer. That’s how quickly scenarios can change, so we’ll see how things play out in the coming weeks and, yes, months.
Cuddyer and the other 11 qualified free agents have one week to accept or decline those offers. The rest of baseball’s free agents can begin talking with other clubs at 9:01 p.m. PT tonight. And that includes Seattle’s seven – starting pitcher Chris Young, reliever Joe Beimel, catcher Humberto Quintero, outfielders Chris Denorfia, Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez, and DH Morales.
Carlos Rivero, a 26-year-old infielder from Venezuela, was claimed by the Mariners off waivers from the Red Sox on Monday.
Rivero made his Major League debut last season and went 4-for-7 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs in four games in the final month for Boston.
Rivero hit .264 with seven home runs and 53 RBIs in 105 games in the Minors last year, splitting the year between Boston’s Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland clubs. He played 74 games with Pawtucket, batting .286 with five homers and 36 RBIs.
Rivero has spent nine seasons in the Minors with the Indians, Phillies, Nationals and Red Sox, with most of his action coming at shortstop (537 games) and third base (381), while he’s also played left field (28 games), first base (26), designated hitter (20) and right field (1). He played 50 games at third base last year, with 23 in left field and 20 at DH.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander is currently playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League where he is hitting .313 (20-for-64) with 11 runs, two doubles, six home runs and 11 RBIs in 17 games.
With the addition of Rivero, the Mariners 40-man roster now is at 35 players.
The 22nd annual Charity Game at the Peoria stadium will start at 1:05 p.m. MT, or 12:05 p.m. PT, as the first contest in the upgraded facility. That will be the first of four games next spring between the two teams that share the Peoria Sports Complex and proceeds will benefit several Peoria charities.
The Mariners will also host both 2014 World Series teams in Peoria, with the Royals visiting on March 26 and the Giants on March 28.
The 16-game Peoria home schedule includes three night games – March 19 vs. the Indians, March 25 vs. the Cubs and April 3 vs. the Rockies.
For the second year in a row, the Mariners will remain in the Phoenix area for their final spring games instead of playing exhibition games elsewhere prior to the start of the regular season. The club will close out Cactus League play with a pair of games against the Rockies on April 3 at Peoria and April 4 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale before flying to Seattle for its April 6 opener against the Angels at Safeco Field.
Tickets for all Mariners spring training games in Peoria will go on sale Jan. 10.
Teams have a five-day window after the end of the World Series to negotiate exclusively or make qualifying offers to their own free agents. On the sixth day, any unsigned players are able to negotiate with any of the 30 Major League clubs. That means players can sign with new teams as of 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday or 9:01 p.m. PT on Monday on the West Coast.
The Mariners free agents will be starting pitcher Chris Young (pictured), left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, catcher Humberto Quintero, first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielders Endy Chavez, Chris Denorfia and Franklin Gutierrez.
The Mariners aren’t expected to make qualifying offers to any of those players, with this year’s number at $15.3 million for a guaranteed one-year deal. Players extended a qualifying offer can reject that offer, but if they sign with another team their original club receives draft pick compensation.
Seattle’s most-marketable free agent would appear to be Young, who was named The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year after going 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 30 games in his first fully healthy season since 2007.
The Mariners are interested in adding a veteran starting pitcher to a rotation that currently includes Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias, but Young’s solid season might have changed his market value enough that he’ll be looking for more money and years now than Seattle is willing to offer in their situation.
“I would love to be back,” Young said. “This was most fulfilling and gratifying season of my career. I’d love to be part of finishing what we’ve started there. That being said, I understand it’s a business and they’ve got a lot of good, young arms and it might not be in the best interest of the Mariners or vice versa.”
Zduriencik said the Mariners have interest in all their free agents. Beimel and Chavez both made the club last year on Minor League deals and filled valuable veteran roles, while Quintero was a September callup in the same scenario.
Zduriencik said Gutierrez has indicated a desire to return to baseball after sitting out 2014 due to lingering health issues. But after spending last year on the reserve list, Gutierrez would only be of interest to the Mariners as a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal.
Denorfia was acquired at the July 31 Trade Deadline from the Padres for outfielder Abraham Almonte, but hit just .195 in 32 games with Seattle.
Morales figures to be an interesting offseason figure again as he tries to determine his market value. The veteran DH turned down Seattle’s $14.3 million qualifying offer last winter, then had to sit out the first two months of the season before landing with the Twins and eventually getting traded back to the Mariners.
But the late start hurt the 31-year-old’s timing and production and he batted .218 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 98 games, a far cry from the .277 average, 23 home runs and 80 RBIs he put up in 156 games with Seattle in 2013.
While Seattle can deal with its own free agents now, the real offseason interest figures to begin in five days when clubs can start pursuing others. Though few deals are struck immediately, that’s when the market will begin to play out for the 121 available free agents, which include Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Melky Cabrera, Michael Cuddyer, Michael Morse and Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas, as well as pitchers Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and Ervin Santana.
Former Mariners Ichiro Suzuki, Munenori Kawasaki, Joe Saunders, Aaron Harang and Asdrubral Cabrera are among this year’s free agents as well. Here’s a complete list of the players eligible to file for free agency as of Thursday.
So stay tuned. The offseason has just officially begun.
Smoak, who put up a .224/.309/.380 slash line in 566 games with Seattle, lost his starting job to Logan Morrison at midseason and didn’t appear to be part of the club’s future after batting just .202 in 80 games this past year.
The Mariners had a $3.65 million option on Smoak for next season, or could have declined that option and had him enter his final season of arbitration. Instead, they placed the former Rangers first-round Draft pick on waivers and Toronto now will have three days to exercise the same option or decide whether to enter Smoak’s final year of the arbitration process.
Smoak earned $2.63 million last season.
The move opens up a spot on Seattle’s 40-man roster as the club prepares to enter the free agency period at the conclusion of the World Series.
Smoak was acquired from the Rangers on July 9, 2010 when Seattle sent pitchers Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe to Texas in exchange for Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson.
Smoak, the 11th overall selection in the 2009 Draft out of South Carolina, hit 74 home runs and 234 RBIs in five seasons with Seattle, including a career-best 20 homers and 64 RBIs with a .238 average in 2013. But he totaled just seven homers and 30 RBIs in 248 at-bats in 2014 and lost his job to Morrison after being sidelined in June by a strained hamstring.
Morrison hit .262 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs in 99 appearances last year, including .321 with six homers, 21 RBIs and an .878 OPS over his final 51 games.