Mariners content to add complementary players going into spring training

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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.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.