The Hot Stove League is in full swing right now, and as usual the Seattle Mariners have been active.
We woke up Wednesday morning to news that the Mariners have made a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, acquiring slugging outfielder Teoscar Hernandez in exchange for major league reliever Erik Swanson and pitching prospect Adam Macko.
Hernandez is a very good player, and is known to be a terrific clubhouse guy, but he is in the last year of his contract before reaching free agency. The fact that he has just one season of club control remaining is why the cost of the deal wasn’t too high. Hernandez, 30, batted .267 with 25 home runs and an .807 OPS last year, which was down from his stronger 2021 season (.296 with 32 home runs, .870 OPS). He provides some punch to a lineup that needs it, and his addition softens the impact in the event that they cannot come to terms with free agent Mitch Haniger.
Swanson is an established major league reliever – he’s good, we know this. Macko is a left-handed prospect who pitched well in the Arizona Fall League; Baseball America tweeted that they were going to rank Macko No. 12 in their upcoming Mariners Top 30 Prospects.
Minor league free agency has begun, and nearly all of the players who finished the 2022 season with Tacoma are now free agents. Players who have completed six full seasons in the minor leagues and are not protected on the major league 40-man roster are allowed to become free agents each November.
Here are the 2022 Rainiers players who are now free agents:
PITCHERS: Fernando Abad, Kyle Bird, Roenis Elias, Matt Koch, Chris Mazza, Tommy Milone, Nick Ramirez, Phillips Valdez, Konner Wade, Austin Warner, Patrick Weigel, Taylor Williams.
CATCHER: Josh Morgan.
INFIELDERS: Zach Green, Erick Mejia, Jonathan Villar,
OUTFIELDERS: Derek Hill, Forrest Wall, Marcus Wilson.
That’s 19 players from our season-ending roster who are now free agents!
Tacoma may not have as many older players in 2023. The Mariners could chose to promote a wave of players who played at Double-A Arkansas in 2022, although it’s not for certain that they will decide to do this: they have a lot of homegrown position players who have spent considerable time at the Double-A level (a full season or more), but haven’t yet put up big numbers. They could push some of these guys up a notch to Tacoma next season. Alternately, they may send them back to Arkansas, sign a bunch of older minor league free agents for Tacoma, and see how it plays out.
I think we’ll probably have a blend of promoted position players and mostly free agent pitchers in Tacoma next year. One thing is for certain: we know Jerry Dipoto loves to load up on free agents and waiver claims to stash in the Triple-A bullpen, so we can count on that happening. There is a decent chance that not a single member of the Rainiers 2023 opening day bullpen is in the Mariners organization today.
Sometimes the Mariners re-sign their own minor league free agents. Last winter catcher Brian O’Keefe was a free agent, and he re-signed and spent the season with Tacoma before making his major league debut on the final weekend of the season, and he holds a spot on the 40-man roster at the moment. At the Double-A level, infielder Joe Rizzo was a minor league free agent who re-signed last winter and had a solid season for Arkansas. We could see a couple of the free agents brought back for next year.
One homegrown player who hit his way out of Arkansas is outfielder Cade Marlowe, who was promoted to Tacoma for the final two weeks of the 2022 season, and whom we expect to see in the Rainiers lineup on opening day. Marlowe was one of four players that the Mariners just added to the 40-man roster, in order to protect him from being selected by another team in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
The other three players added to the Mariners 40-man roster: reliever Isaiah Campbell, starter Prelander Berroa, and outfielder Jonathan Clase. Both Campbell and Berroa were promoted from Class-A Everett to Double-A Arkansas during the season, while Clase spent the entire season at Low-A Modesto. We could see the pitchers in Tacoma at some point in 2023 if they perform well.
- We’ll start with the news story on the Teoscar Hernandez trade, from the Seattle Times.
- ESPN.com graded the trade.
- Here’s the complete list of minor league free agents from all 30 teams, as listed by Baseball America.
- Fangraphs has a brief article on the Mariners pitching development, which includes a bit on likely 2023 Rainiers starter Taylor Dollard.
- The Mariners are hiring for several entry-level baseball operations positions.
- Oh, yeah, almost forgot: Julio Rodriguez won the AL Rookie of the Year award.
- In the minors, the owners of the Round Rock Express teamed up with a laundry list of notable local investors to purchase the wayward Double-A San Antonio team, which desperately needs a new ballpark. San Antonio played one season in the PCL at the Triple-A level, in 2019, and I’m here to tell you that ballpark needs a wrecking ball and a fleet of bulldozers. Hopefully localized ownership can get a new stadium built.