Chone Figgins, Ichiro look to improve communication

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figgins-100406.jpgThe Gnats” made their debut for the Mariners on Monday night, and Chone Figgins and Ichiro were as pesky as expected in Seattle’s 5-3 victory over Oakland.

Figgins stole second base twice, each time advancing to third on throwing errors by A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki. Ichiro stole second once, but was then thrown out at third on another attempted steal with Figgins at the plate. As Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes, the M’s want the pair to communicate better.

There was one occasion last night when Ichiro was thrown out at third trying to steal on a 3-1 pitch. Had Figgins known he was going, he could have bluffed a bunt and drawn third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff towards the plate. But Figgins had no idea, took ball four, and Kouzmanoff held his ground and was at the bag to apply the tag.

Ichiro appeared to beat it by a hair, but was called out anyway.

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said today that the pair have been working to improve communication with each other. That’s now going to be stepped up somewhat, likely through visual signals they can give each other.

The Mariners stole three bases on Monday, but were also caught twice (Milton Bradley was nabbed trying to swipe second), so their success rate is going to have to improve. With a batting order this weak, the team just can’t afford to give up base runners.

In other Mariner news, Baker also writes that Cliff Lee played catch without pain for a third straight day, and Erik Bedard is set to throw a bullpen session on Thursday. So pitching help might be on the way, but will there be enough offense?

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The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.

Marlins trade David Phelps to the Mariners for four prospects

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The Miami Marlins have sent reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Ken Rosenthal had rumors of the deal first, Jon Morosi, Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman (among others) all reported the trade at virtually the same time.

Phelps, 30, had a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64 games while striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings. He’s not been as strong this year, but he’s still been a solid setup man, posting a 3.45 ERA in 44 games while striking out 51 batters and walking 21 in 47 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and induces grounders. The Mariners could probably use rotation help more than bullpen help, but solid innings are solid innings at one point and improving your pen takes some of the pressure off of your rotation. Phelps will help Seattle with that. He’s under team control for next year too, so this is more than a rental.

The top prospect in the deal is Brayan Hernandez, a 19 year-old outfielder from Venezuela, currently playing in low-A ball. Also in the deal: righty Brandon Miller, righty Pablo Lopez and righty Lucas Schiraldi who, yes, is the son of ex-big leaguer Calvin Schiraldi. None of these guys are blue chippers, but you never know what’ll happen. It’s a volume return for the Fish.

We’ve already seen some big bullpen names move, including David Robertson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Among others who could be moved:  A.J. Ramos (Marlins); Justin Wilson (Tigers); Addison Reed (Mets); Jerry Blevins (Mets); Brad Hand (Padres); Tony Watson (Pirates); Juan Nicasio (Pirates); Brad Brach (Orioles); Drew Storen (Reds); and Raisel Iglesias (Reds).