<span class="vcard">Matthew Pouliot</span>

Chris Snelling - Bowman Chrome

Old friends in the World Baseball Classic

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Instead of complaining about the fact that Heath Bell and Willie Bloomquist are on Team USA’s provisional World Baseball Classic roster, I thought it might be more fun to highlight some ex-major leaguers dotting the rosters of other squads:

Australia

RHP Chris Oxspring (35) – Appeared in five games for Padres in 2005
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith (30) – Effective Mariner in 2008-09 before getting hurt
1B Justin Huber (30) – Former top prospect hit .224, 2 HR in 161 AB
OF Chris Snelling (31) – Talented but never healthy, hit .244/.360/.400 in 225 AB

Italy

RHP Dan Serafini (39) – 15-16 with a 6.04 ERA from 1996-2007
RHP Brian Sweeney (39) – 3.38 in 73 appearances, the last coming in 2010

Japan

INF Kazuo Matsui (37) – Hit .267/.321/.380 in 7 seasons before returning home

Korea

RHP Jae Weong Seo (35) – 28-40, 4.60 ERA from 2002-2007

Mexico

INF Edgar Gonzalez (34) – Adrian’s older brother, teammate on 2008-09 Padres
OF Karim Garcia (37) – Unknown to Pedro Martinez, hit 66 big-league homers

Puerto Rico

RHP Dicky Gonzalez (34) – Quad-A pitcher has spent last 5 years in Japan
INF Luis Figueroa (39) – 2 AB in 2001, 9 in 2006, 5 in 2007
INF Andy Gonzalez (31) – Hit .185 in 67 games for White Sox in 2008

Chinese Taipei

LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (31) – 3.73 ERA, 345 strikeouts in 292 IP

Unfortunately, Colombia (Edgar Renteria and Jolbert Cabrera) and Panama (Ramiro Mendoza and Ruben Rivera) failed to make the final 16 for the WBC, so we’ll miss out on their vets.

Mets, Bobby Parnell agree at $1.7 million

Bobby Parnell
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The Mets and Bobby Parnell avoided arbitration Thursday by agreeing to a one-year, $1.7 million contract.

The 28-year-old Parnell was eligible for arbitration for the first time after just missing out on Super-Two eligibility last year. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2015 campaign.

Parnell finished last season with a 5-4 record, five saves and a 2.49 ERA in 68 2/3 innings. He struck out 61, walked 20 and allowed four homers.

The plan is for Parnell to open this year as a setup man, with Frank Francisco getting his closing job back despite a 5.53 ERA in 42 1/3 innings last season. Still, Parnell is at least as likely as Francisco to lead the Mets in saves.

A’s find common ground with John Jaso, Seth Smith

Seth Smith
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The A’s cut their remaining arbitration cases in half Thursday by agreeing to one-year deals with newly acquired catcher John Jaso and left fielder-designated hitter Seth Smith.

Reliever Jerry Blevins and first baseman-outfielder Brandon Moss are the team’s remaining arbitration-eligible players.

Jaso, picked up from the Mariners in a three-team deal Wednesday, was eligible for arbitration for the first time. While the A’s obviously view him as pretty valuable — they gave up one of their top pitching prospects in A.J. Cole to get him — an arbitration process that rewards homers, runs batted in and at-bats probably wouldn’t have seen things the same way. He hit .276/.394/.456 with 10 homers and 50 RBI in 294 at-bats for Seattle last season.

Smith, acquired from the Rockies last winter, hit .240/.333/.420 in 383 at-bats in his first year in Oakland. He’d seem to be looking at a reduced role this year unless one of the outfielders ahead of him is traded. The 30-year-old made $2.415 million last season in his first year of arbitration. He’ll be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.

The Mariners think they’re getting better, but probably aren’t

Jason Bay
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In Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik’s defense, he did aim high, pulling off a deal for Arizona’s Justin Upton that was negated by the right fielder’s no-trade clause. However, the moves that he’s actually completed this winter to aid the offense don’t bode particularly well for the Mariners’ 2013 hopes.

– Traded OF Trayvon Robinson to the Orioles for INF Robert Andino

– Traded LHP Jason Vargas to the Angels for DH/1B Kendrys Morales

– Signed DH/LF Jason Bay to a one-year, $500,000 contract

– Signed DH/LF/1B Raul Ibanez to a one-year, $2.75 million contract

– Traded C John Jaso to the Athletics for DH/1B/LF Michael Morse in a three-team deal with the Nationals

These transactions completely contradict the defense-first strategy that made Franklin Gutierrez a prized early addition for Zduriencik and has led to Brendan Ryan’s continued employment. Ibanez and Morse are two of the game’s very worst outfielders, and Morales has played 28 games at first base since suffering his devastating leg injury in 2010.

Also an issue: none of these guys are particularly outstanding hitters. Morales is certainly pretty good and Morse did have the big 2011. However, in 2012, all of these guys finished with OPSs under .800 (Morales and Morse just barely). Jaso outhit all of them by batting .276/.394/.456 in his 294 at-bats as a platoon player last season.

It’s also worth noting that none of these guys are necessarily long-termers. Morales and Morse are both free agents next winter. Morales turns 30 in June, while Morse turns 31 in March. Neither is exactly over the hill, but the risk would outweigh the potential reward in giving either a multiyear extension.

Jaso, on the other hand, is three years away from free agency.

But this isn’t really about Jaso, who likely played over his head last year and is a pretty poor defensive catcher. It’s about the Mariners seemingly playing next season at the expense of the long haul without really improving themselves for 2013.

– With Morales, Morse, Ibanez and possibly Bay cluttering up the first base, left field and DH spots, there’s no room for Justin Smoak, Mike Carp or Eric Thames anywhere. Now, Smoak has had his chances, Carp has struggled to stay healthy and can’t help defensively and Thames probably isn’t going to hit enough to overcome his poor glove. But there’s still some upside there. Morse didn’t have his first promising half-season until 28. For Ibanez, it came at 29. Smoak, Carp and Thames are all 26 at the moment.

– The presence of those veterans also figures to put Jesus Montero back behind the plate fairly regularly, even though it’s obvious now that 2012 first-round pick Mike Zunino is the team’s catcher of the future. The Mariners are just delaying the inevitable, which is that Montero is going to end up as a first baseman or a DH. And they’re going to have a crappy defensive catcher while they’re at it. Worse, they’ll probably end up signing a non-entity like Rod Barajas to pair with Montero.

– The pitching has gotten worse with Vargas’ departure. The Mariners did manage to re-sign Hisashi Iwakuma to a club-friendly two-year deal, so they dodged that bullet. Still, he’s not an ideal No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez, and behind him are promising sophomore Erasmo Ramirez and the homer-prone Blake Beavan. None of the team’s top pitching prospects figure to be ready to make an impact early on this season. If the season started tomorrow, Hector Noesi would likely be the fifth starter.

Of course, the winter isn’t done. The Mariners could still sign Michael Bourn to replace Gutierrez (not recommended) or maybe Kyle Lohse to serve as the No. 2 starter. They could try another trade to improve the offense (Jacoby Ellsbury? David DeJesus?). As is, it’s hard to imagine them contending in an AL West with a top three that averaged 92 wins last year (the Mariners were 75-87). And if they don’t, it doesn’t seem at all likely that Zduriencik will get another chance in 2013.

Mike Napoli likely to settle for one-year deal from Red Sox

mike napoli getty
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According to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, “all signs” point to a resolution between the Red Sox and Mike Napoli in the coming days.

ESPN’s Jim Bowden reported earlier that the two sides are currently working on a one-year deal. Edes believes it will be for less than the $13 million annual salary that Napoli was set to receive as part of a three-year, $39 million deal agreed to before a physical turned up a hip problem.

If the deal is completed, Napoli figures to become Boston’s primary first baseman and cleanup hitter. That would be a very good situation for him to increase his value as he heads back into free agency next winter. But for that to happen, he’ll need to show that his hip is sound.

While Edes doesn’t mention it, I wonder if the new revised deal might not include language that prevents the Red Sox from making Napoli a qualifying offer next winter. The presence of the qualifying offer hurt the market for free agents like Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse and Adam LaRoche this winter. That Napoli didn’t get a qualifying offer from Texas made him particularly attractive to a Boston team that wanted to hold on to its second-round pick.