Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Seattle Mariners.
The Big Question: Are the Mariners finally on the right track?
Absolutely. After some bad high payroll teams a few years ago and then some trades which didn’t exactly inspire, it does now seem like the Mariners have a plan going forward.
They locked up Felix Hernandez. There is a young core which, admittedly, could go either way right now, but it is still a young core with upside: Hernandez, Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager. Tons of good arms on the farm including Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, which will either contribute in Seattle or serve as the basis for deals for offense at some point over the next couple of years.
There is a bright future in Seattle based on a lot of solid young players. It’s just not the kind of future likely to arrive earlier than expected due to none of them really being off-the-charts impact-type players. But unlike we’ve seen in the past, there are things to be hopeful for with the Mariners now. And that’s good, yes?
What else is going on?
- Has anyone gotten rich cornering the market on designated hitters? Because boy howdy do the Mariners have a lot of DH types: Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Jesus Montero and Jason Bay are all gonna break camp with this team. I mean, sure, those are all famous-to-sorta-famous baseball players, but how, exactly, is this supposed to work?
- Moving the fences in at Safeco Field — a home run to left center is now 17 feet closer than it was before — will be worth watching. It may bother the pitchers a bit, but one wonders if part of the reason for this is to get Seattle out of that rut where they can’t sign any power hitting free agents thanks to the perception that their offense will up and die. If Mike Morse suddenly goes off for 35 homers, does that not send a signal to others that Seattle — in a state with no state income tax — may be a nice place to land?
- The Mariners have also cornered the market on Saunderses. Michael and Joe Saunders, that is. Michael flashed some pop last year and could be something of a breakout candidate. He stole 21 bases too. One of those players who, because he plays in Seattle, people rarely notice. But he’s worth watching. Joe Saunders turned in his best season in years in 2012, based on a hot final couple of months. I wouldn’t bet on him carrying it all over or anything, but given all the arms the Mariners have hanging around he could be an attractive trade chit at the break if he pitches well.
- Call it a petty thing or even slam on the M’s, but there has to be some moral victory involved in not finishing in last place this year, right? I mean, no matter what happens, they’ll stay out of the cellar by virtue of the Houston Astros, yes?
So how are they gonna do?
Better. But still not enough juice to pass up Oakland, Texas or Anaheim. Fourth place, AL West. But Fourth place with a bullet.
It was announced yesterday that Tigers minor league right-hander Cesar Carrillo was suspended 100 games for violating the minor league drug prevention and treatment program. No specific drug was mentioned in the announcement, but it was later confirmed that the suspension was the result of his connection to the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic. But there’s a whole lot more where that came from.
Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez, Jhonny Peralta, Yasmani Grandal, Francisco Cervelli, Bartolo Colon, Jesus Montero and Danny Valencia are among the major leaguers who have been linked to the clinic. MLB will obviously have a tougher time putting the hammer down on that group since they are protected by the union, but it’s clear that this story is far from over. It was reported earlier this week that the Florida Department of Health has opened an investigation into Biogenesis and Dr. Anthony Bosch, a potentially important development, but it remains to be seen whether they have any interest in cooperating with MLB.
The New York Daily News reports that Mariners catcher Jesus Montero’s name appears in the Biogenesis records. Add him to Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Danny Valencia, Francisco Cervelli, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal.
The report said he was “named in records.” It does not say if there is any indicia of PED use on his part in the records. It does note that, like Melky Cabrera and others, Montero is a client of the Levinson Brothers sports agency. The Levinsons, as an agency, have been linked to Biogenesis as well.
From MLB.com beat writer Greg Johns comes word that the Mariners have reached agreement on a major league contract with catcher Kelly Shoppach. The deal is pending a physical, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning in Seattle.
Shoppach, a 32-year-old native of Fort Worth, Texas, batted .233/.309/.425 with eight homers, 14 doubles and 27 RBI over 245 plate appearances last season between the Red Sox and Mets. He will serve as an active backup in Seattle behind Jesus Montero, who is expected to continue getting regular starts at designated hitter in 2013.
There’s no word yet on the exact financial terms of Shoppach’s major league pact.
UPDATE, 7:15 PM: The one-year deal carries a $1.5 million base salary and another $500,000 worth of performance-based incentives, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.
Just when Michael Pineda will finally pitch in a regular season game with the Yankees remains uncertain, but he’s ready to take the next step in his rehab from right shoulder surgery.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Erik Boland of New York Newsday that Pineda threw his final flat-ground session today and will throw from a half-mound tomorrow for the first time. He hasn’t had any setbacks since the surgery and the hope is that he’ll be ready to return at some point in June.
Pineda, who turned 24 earlier this month, posted a 3.74 ERA and 173/55 K/BB ratio over 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners in 2011. The Yankees acquired him along with prospect right-hander Jose Campos last offseason in the deal that sent catcher/designated hitter Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi to Seattle.