Mariners sign reliever Chris Ray to a minor league contract

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Chris Ray was one of the youngest closers in baseball in 2006, saving 33 games for the Orioles as a 24-year-old, but his career was derailed by Tommy John elbow surgery the next season and he hasn’t been the same since, posting a 31/25 K/BB ratio in 56 innings for the Giants and Rangers in 2010.

Ray is still just 29 years old and will try to resurrect his career in Seattle, signing a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times notes that he’ll be among at least 11 non-roster invite pitchers in Mariners camp, but speculates that “Ray appears to have a decent shot of making the team.” He has a 5.27 ERA in 99 innings since going under the knife, but Ray’s average fastball clocked in at 93.9 miles per hour last season and the Mariners will be sorting through several young relievers who’re short on experience.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.