Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka will be courted by a handful of interested teams, including the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Diamondbacks, but as ESPN’s Andrew Marchand details, it may be the Mariners who emerge victorious by the January 24 deadline.
Marchand cites some reasoning laid out by Dan Szymborski also at ESPN — that Seattle has been a comfortable place for Japanese players in the past and that the team still has money to spend. Marchand adds that Seattle would be closer to Japan than any other location, and that current Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma was previously a teammate of Tanaka’s with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
The Mariners were expected to make at least one more noteworthy move after signing Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million contract, such as trading with the Rays for David Price, or signing free agents Nelson Cruz or Matt Garza, but nothing has materialized other than adding Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. Adding Tanaka would make them a legitimate threat in the AL West.
Mariners’ right-hander Felix Hernandez is looking at a 3-4 week recovery period, the team announced on Friday. Hernandez has been officially diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder after getting pulled from his last start against the Tigers on Tuesday.
It’s not the first shoulder issue the 31-year-old righty has dealt with during his career. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes that Hernandez was previously diagnosed with bursitis during a minor league stint in 2005, several weeks prior to making his major league start for Seattle. This time around, however, the injury is coupled with a few years of not-so-sharp stuff, waning velocity and career-low numbers, and while it’s certainly not a worst-case diagnosis, it seems like greater cause for concern.
Without Felix, the Mariners will keep rolling with James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo and Chase De Jong in their rotation. They’ll also keep Ben Gamel in right field, with starting right fielder Mitch Haniger expected to miss 3-4 weeks after sustaining a Grade 2 strain in his right oblique on Tuesday.
The Rays acquired minor league reliever Drew Smith from the Tigers on Friday, per a team announcement. The move will close the loop on the trade the two teams began in January for backup outfielder Mikie Mahtook.
Smith, 23, pitched his first full season in Single-A West Michigan in 2016, turning in a 2.96 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 11.5 SO/9 in 48 2/3 innings. The right-hander is still several levels away from making any impact on the Rays’ major league roster, but appears to be progressing steadily in two seasons of pro ball and has delivered two runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts in his first 11 2/3 innings at High-A Lakeland this season. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that he’ll be reassigned to the Rays’ High-A Charlotte this week.