- The Mariners “are thought” to have some interest in Mitch Moreland and Lucas Duda as first base options this offseason, per Heyman. Seattle is currently deploying Yonder Alonso and Danny Valencia as its primary first basemen, though both are eligible for free agency at season’s end. Prospect Dan Vogelbach serves as an in-house option, though he comes with fewer than 40 plate appearances of experience in the Majors.
- While the Mariners have endured plenty of struggles in the rotation this season, club executives are pleased with the depth that comes with the additions of veteran Mike Leake and controllable young Marco Gonzales, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Gonzales has struggled in the Majors thus far, but he’s had a generally solid year in Triple-A in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Leake, meanwhile, has bounced back terrifically in Seattle following a trade from the Cardinals. General manager Jerry Dipoto explained to Dutton that Leake has been worth two or more wins above replacement on a yearly basis and hasn’t seen his skill set significantly diminish, even through a rough stretch toward the end of his Cardinals tenure. Skipper Scott Servais spoke highly of right-hander Andrew Moore as well when chatting with Dutton. Dutton notes that the trio of Leake, Gonzales and Moore will pair with Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and Ariel Hernandez to once again give the club its fair share of depth next year.
Mariners right-hander David Phelps recently underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (Twitter links). That procedure will come with a recovery time of six to eight weeks, per Divish, but he’s expected to be ready to go for Spring Training in 2018.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, there’s far more troublesome news surrounding the health of right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. Evaluations on Iwakuma’s right shoulder have revealed some form of structural damage (more Twitter links from Divish), though the extent of the injury remains unclear at this time, as Iwakuma declined to specify the precise nature of his ailment. Iwakuma hopes to continue playing, but the 36-year-old will first need to ascertain the best course of treatment for his yet-unspecified injury.
Phelps, 31 next month, was acquired from the Mariners earlier this summer in exchange for a package of four prospects headlined with outfielder Brayan Hernandez. The former Yankees swingman broke out with the Marlins in a high-leverage, late-inning role in 2016 and carried that success over into his brief tenure in the Seattle bullpen this year. Phelps worked to a 3.12 ERA with 11 strikeouts against four unintentional walks through 8 2/3 innings in the Mariners’ pen before ultimately being shut down for the year. He’s arbitration-eligible this winter, so he should be a key piece for the 2018 Mariners.
Iwakuma’s future, obviously, is far murkier. The Mariners hold a $10MM club option over former All-Star, though with structural damage in his right shoulder it seems all but certain that Iwakuma will instead be bought out for $1MM. Iwakuma has spent his entire Major League career in a Mariners uniform and returned to the team as a free agent following the 2015 season. While his first year back with the club resulted in 199 innings of solid 4.12 ERA ball, he’s been limited to just 31 innings in 2017 and hasn’t pitched since May 3.
- Mariners skipper Scott Servais discussed his team’s season in comparison to that of the division-leading Astros, as Greg Johns of MLB.com writes. Though Servais notes that he’s not focused on what the Houston organization is up to, he acknowledges that it has “set the bar” for the rest of the division. The second-year skipper believes his own ballclub needs to continue to “get more athletic and be able to defend” over the winter — though, of course, he also notes that the M’s haven’t given up on sneaking back into Wild Card position this year.
As planned, Felix Hernandez will come off the DL to start tonight for the Mariners, according to a club announcement. It’ll be King Felix’s first start for Seattle since July 31st. It’s been a tough year for the righty so far (this was his second stint on the disabled list for issues with his throwing shoulder), but he’ll have a chance to turn things around and keep the Mariners breathing in the AL Wild Card chase.
Some other injury news and updates from around MLB…
- Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright threw a bullpen session today, according to a tweet from MLB beat reporter Jenifer Langosch. At this point in the season, and with the Cards three games back in a battle for the NL Central pennant, it seems likely that the veteran will pitch out of the bullpen upon his return. Langosch also notes that reliever Seung-hwan Oh threw a bullpen session as well, while Jedd Gyorko and Dexter Fowler took practice on the field.
- Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick left Wednesday’s game with an apparent thumb injury after sliding into second base in the top of the third inning. Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle offers some thoughts on the unfortunate situation for the AL West-leading Astros, noting that the recently-acquired Cameron Maybin and rookie Derek Fisher are likely to see increases in playing time. The organization hasn’t released details on the severity of the injury, but manager A.J. Hinch offered that, “It doesn’t look good.” For reference, significant thumb injuries — such as fractures or ligament tears — frequently require absences of at least six to eight weeks. More information will likely be available sometime after Marisnick undergoes tests in Houston today.
- Veteran reliever Jim Johnson of the Atlanta Braves has been diagnosed with achilles tendinitis, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. He remained in Atlanta while the team traveled to Washington, and Braves manager Brian Snitker says he’s unlikely to pitch this weekend. Johnson is in the first year of a 2-year, $10MM deal with the Braves. It remains to be seen whether he’ll pitch again this season, but its certainly an unfortunate development for Johnson after losing the closer role to Arodys Vizcaino already this season. For Atlanta, the loss of Johnson thins out a bullpen that already has the fifth-highest ERA among all major league teams.
With just a few weeks left in the season, we have a pretty clear idea of which Rule 5 draft picks will stick with their drafting teams. At this point, having already carried the player this far and with expanded rosters easing any pressures, teams are quite likely to stay the course. Here’s how this season’s Rule 5 group has shaken out thus far:
It isn’t official yet, but these
- Miguel Diaz, RHP, kept by Padres (via Twins) from Brewers: As part of the Pads’ unusually bold Rule 5 strategy, the club kept three youngsters this year. Diaz, 22, has managed only a 6.21 ERA with a 31:22 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. But he is showing a 96 mph heater and will remain with the organization, quite likely heading back to the minors next season to continue his development.
- Luis Torrens, C, kept by Padres (via Reds) from Yankees: The youthful backstop — he’s just 21 — has struggled badly on offense in limited action. Through 133 plate appearances, he’s slashing just.169/.246/.212 — with just four extra-base hits, none of them home runs.
- Allen Cordoba, INF, kept by Padres from Cardinals: And then there’s Cordoba, who’s also just 21 years of age. He faded after a hot start at the plate, but on the whole his output — a .209/.284/.304 batting line and four home runs over 215 plate appearances — is fairly impressive given that he had never before played above Rookie ball.
- Dylan Covey, RHP, kept by White Sox from Athletics: Technically, owing to a DL stint, Covey has only compiled 83 of the minimum 90 days of active roster time required to be kept. But he’s going to make it there before the season is up, meaning that the Sox will be able to hold onto his rights and option him back to the minors in 2018. Covey, 26, has struggled to a 7.90 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 54 2/3 innings, allowing 18 long balls in that span.
- Stuart Turner, C, kept by Reds from Twins: Turner has seen minimal action, appearing in just 33 games and taking only 77 trips to the plate. And he’s hitting just .141/.184/.268 in that sporadic action. Clearly, though, the Reds have seen enough to believe he’s worth the trouble to hang onto.
Still In Limbo
- Kevin Gadea, RHP, selected by Rays from Mariners: Gadea has not pitched at any level this year owing to an elbow injury. He’ll remain with the Tampa Bay organization for the time being, but will still need to be carried on the 40-man roster over the offseason and then on the active roster for at least ninety days for his rights to permanently transfer.
- Armando Rivero, RHP, selected by Braves from Cubs: It’s the exact same situation for Rivero as for Gadea, though he has had shoulder problems.
- Josh Rutledge, INF, selected by Red Sox from Rockies: This was not your typical Rule 5 move. Boston snagged the veteran infielder after he signed a minors deal with Colorado. He ended up seeing minimal MLB time owing to injuries and his season ended recently with hip surgery. Rutledge is eligible for arbitration this fall and isn’t likely to be kept on the 40-man roster regardless.
- Anthony Santander, OF, selected by Orioles from Indians: Since he only made it off of the DL late in the summer, Santander can accrue only 45 days on the active roster. If Baltimore wants to keep him, then, it’ll need to put him on the Opening Day roster next year. Santander has seen minimal playing time thus far, recording two hits in twelve trips to the plate, though he put up impressive numbers on his rehab assignment.
Kept By Other Means
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, signed with Tigers after electing free agency upon return to Royals: This is another unusual situation. As a previous Rule 5 returnee, Stumpf was eligible to elect free agency upon being returned to his original organization. That’s just what happened when Detroit sent him back to Kansas City; the southpaw then turned around and re-signed a MLB deal with the Tigers. He has ended up turning in a rather productive year, posting 32 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at the major-league level and showing even more impressive numbers during his time at Triple-A.
- Tyler Jones, RHP, returned to Yankees by Diamondbacks: Jones has thrown rather well at Triple-A since going back to the New York organization, posting 10.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings, though he has also allowed 4.38 earned per nine.
- Caleb Smith, LHP, returned to Yankees by Brewers: Smith ended up earning a 40-man roster spot and spending some time in the majors after showing quite well as a starter in the minors. But he has been knocked around in his 18 2/3 MLB frames on the year.
- Justin Haley, RHP, returned to Red Sox by Twins (via Angels): The 26-year-old didn’t stick with Minnesota, allowing a dozen earned runs in 18 innings before being returned to Boston. But he has thrown well since landing back at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.66 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 44 innings over seven starts.
- Tyler Webb, LHP, returned to Yankees by Pirates: Webb also gained a 40-man spot with the Yankees after showing some intriguing K/BB numbers at Triple-A. He was ultimately dealt to the Brewers.
- Aneury Tavarez, OF, returned to Red Sox by Orioles: Tavarez played his way back up to Triple-A upon his return to his former organization, but has hit just .244/.292/.400 in 145 plate appearances there.
- Glenn Sparkman, RHP, returned to Royals by Blue Jays: Sparkman was bombed in his one MLB appearance and has been limited to just 30 1/3 minor-league frames due to injury.
- Hoby Milner, LHP, returned to Phillies by Indians: Another player who has risen to the majors with the organization that originally let them leave via the Rule 5, Milner has turned in 24 1/3 frames of 1.85 ERA ball in Philadelphia. Of course, he has also managed just 15 strikeouts against ten walks in that span.
- Mike Hauschild, RHP, returned to Astros by Rangers: The 27-year-old righty struggled badly in his eight MLB frames. Upon returning to the rotation for Houston’s top affiliate, Hauschild has uncharacteristically struggled with free passes (5.3 per nine).
As many as 16 teams had scouts and/or executives on hand to watch star right-hander Shohei Otani’s most recent start, reports Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times (Twitter links). Of particular note, Hernandez adds that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was among the execs on hand to scout Otani. The start was just Otani’s third of the season, as he’s been hampered by ankle and hamstring injuries throughout the calendar year that have prevented him from getting on the mound. It’s not yet certain if the two-way phenom will be posted for MLB clubs to bid on this offseason — the new CBA’s strict limits on international spending have radically limited his earning power in that scenario — but if he does, virtually every team that is not currently restricted for shattering previous bonus pools would have interest in the 23-year-old. Otani posted a 1.80 ERA with a 174-to-45 K/BB ratio in 140 innings on the mound and hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances last season. He’s hitting .346/.416/.574 with seven homers through 185 PAs as a designated hitter this year.
Mariners outfielder Jarrod Dyson will miss the remainder of the season, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports (Twitter links). He is slated to undergo surgery for “something similar to a sports hernia,” per the report.
That’s a tough blow for a Seattle organization that had leaned rather heavily on Dyson this year. The 33-year-old’s speed and glovework are of particular value when it comes time to matching up and trying to squeeze out victories late in the year, but the M’s will need to look to alternatives the rest of the way. Divish notes that Guillermo Heredia will likely take the lion’s share of the work in center, with just-claimed newcomer Jacob Hannemann also figuring into the mix.
Dyson has already passed his prior career high in plate appearances, picking up the bat 390 times this season for the Mariners. His .251/.324/.350 slash is closer to his career average than his strong 2016 season. The left-handed hitter struggling badly in limited exposure to same-handed pitching, managing just eight hits, all singles, in 63 trips to the plate.
On the positive side, Dyson did nearly double his career output by hitting five home runs. But that’s obviously not where the value lies. Dyson has continued to provide big value on the bases and in the outfield grass, ranking in the top twenty in both areas by Fangraphs’ measure (see here and here) despite not even being a full-time player. In spite of his limitations, Dyson has posted 2.0 fWAR on the year.
Seattle had shipped out righty Nate Karns to acquire Dyson over the offseason. The veteran outfielder came with just one final year of arbitration control, so he’s slated to hit the open market for the first time at season’s end. Dyson earned just $2.8MM in his last season of arb eligibility, but he’ll surely enter free agency looking for more.
The injury likely won’t hurt Dyson’s market too badly. He’s a known quantity after 661 MLB games and there’s no reason to expect the injury will drag into next year. Dyson ought to be one of the most appealing platoon/reserve outfielders available, particularly since he bats from the left side and can be used as a late-inning replacement even when he doesn’t start.
The Mariners have announced that recently-designated left-hander Zac Curtis has been claimed by the Phillies. The Mariners also announced that right-hander Ryan Weber has been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma.
Curtis, 25, is best known for being part of the package the Diamondbacks sent along with shortstop Jean Segura in order to land Taijuan Walker from the Mariners. He did not allow an earned run in 4 2/3 innings at the major-league level this year and enjoyed some success with the Mariners’ Double-A affiliate, pitching to a 10.52 K/9 and 3.33 BB/9 with a 3.51 ERA in 51 1/3 innings. With two options and plenty of team control remaining, Curtis could be a nice cog in Philadelphia’s current rebuild.
Weber was recently set to come off the 60-day DL. He’ll remain with the organization for now, but will have to work his way back to the majors. Before missing the past three months with a right biceps strain, Weber had pitched to a 0.85 ERA spanning five starts with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. Though he didn’t show a penchant for strikeouts with the Rainiers (5.40 K/9), he showed excellent ground ball-inducing skills (72.5 GB%).
- Hisashi Iwakuma and Jarrod Dyson are running out of time to make it back to the Mariners’ active roster before the end of the season, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Iwakuma, who’s missed four months with shoulder issues, is still hopeful he’ll return this season, but manager Scott Servais says Iwakuma has “still got a little work to do” after throwing 30 pitches in a simulated game Saturday. Dutton adds that the Mariners are likely to pay a $1M buyout rather than exercise Iwakuma’s $10MM option next season. Dyson, who’s out with a strained groin, still felt pain upon participating in drills on Friday. He’s a free agent after the season.
- The Mariners will welcome James Paxton and Felix Hernandez back to their rotation during the upcoming week, Greg Johns of MLB.com relays (on Twitter). Both hurlers will hover around the 50- to 60-pitch marks during their first starts back. Paxton went on the disabled list with a strained left pectoral on Aug. 11, depriving the Mariners of a burgeoning ace for a key stretch. Hernandez, who preceded Paxton as the Mariners’ top starter, landed on the DL on Aug. 5 with shoulder bursitis. The 31-year-old previously missed all of May and most of June with the same injury.