The Mariners made the biggest news of the off-season, signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million contract. As beneficial as the signing portends to be, at least in the early going, the consensus was that the Mariners needed to a lot more to improve on last year’s 71-91 record. They were rumored to have interest in trading for Rays starter David Price, signing Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, or grabbing slugger Nelson Cruz.
Since the Cano signing, the Mariners have been quiet, bringing aboard Corey Hart and John Buck since then, hardly the type of signings that might help transform them into an AL West contender. Despite the lack of action, and despite the remaining big names still on the free agent board, GM Jack Zduriencik is content to avoid the big deal. Per MLB.com’s Greg Johns:
“We’re reaching out and are going to bring some players to Spring Training that aren’t big investments, but are veteran players that might have a chance to fill a role and take some pressure off these younger kids,” Zduriencik said. “I don’t think we’re going to jump in and invest where some of these dollars are going. It just doesn’t make sense when you take a 30-, 31-, 32-year old pitcher that wants five or six years and there is some history there of injury or inconsistencies. That’s a pretty big risk, and I think we have to look at this in the big picture.”
Johns mentions that, with Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez waiting to be signed, the Mariners have instead shown interest in Scott Baker. Baker missed all of 2012 and tossed just 15 innings last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery. The 32-year-old right-hander is trying to work his way back into a regular job, likely having to settle for a minor league deal.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.