The offseason is officially upon us, with the World Series complete (boooooo Astros!) and the General Manager’s Meetings underway right now. Seems like it’s a good time for a post catching up on some leftover items from the end of the 2022 season, and a look ahead at what’s to come.
Let’s start with the Mariners. They ended the 20-year playoff drought, won the wild card series entirely on the road, and then were swept in a close series by the eventual World Series champions. Seattle hosted its first home playoff game since 2001 and it was a legendary, albeit somewhat annoying, instant classic – maybe you got to attend. I chose to get tickets for Game Four (whoops!) so ended up watching at home, and will hope to attend playoff games next year.
Yes, next year. The Mariners are well-positioned to improve upon their 2022 season, and the club is already starting to figure out what personnel changes will help make that happen. The MLB General Managers Meetings, happening this week in Las Vegas, is where groundwork gets laid for making trades and signing free agents (all of the player agents are there too).
The Mariners role in these meetings is much bigger this year, so the Seattle Times sent their writer Ryan Divish to cover the meetings and see what he can dig up. Here are some stories so far:
- Five 2022 Mariners players are now major league free agents. While they bring any of them back?
- One of the free agents is Mitch Haniger. The Mariners are actively trying to re-sign him.
- Despite needing middle infield help in a robust free agent market, the Mariners remain committed to J.P. Crawford at shortstop.
- Here’s a primer on upcoming important dates in the Mariners offseason, including award announcements, salary arbitration information, and Rule 5 Draft preparations.
The Tacoma Rainiers roster is also starting it’s annual changeover. We had a veteran team in 2022, and many of our players are allowed to become minor league free agents now.
Three of the Rainiers regular players from last season have already been listed as free agents: pitchers Roenis Elias and Matt Koch, and outfielder Marcus Wilson. There will be many more in the coming days, and I’ll put together a new post when the final list of minor league free agents becomes available in the next week or two.
Seattle made one move a few days ago, claiming veteran reliever Luke Weaver off waivers from the Kansas City Royals. To make room on the 40-man roster, outfielder Derek Hill was outrighted to Tacoma. Because of his years of experience (his pro career started in 2014), Hill is allowed to become a free agent if he wants.
Yesterday the Mariners made some waiver claims. Pitchers Easton McGee and Gabe Speier were acquired from Boston and Kansas City, respectively, and each lands on the Mariners 40-man roster but has minor league options remaining.
McGee has spent 99% of his career in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, making his major league debut with one appearance last year. He’s a strike-throwing pitch-to-contact starter who spent most of last season with the Triple-A Champion Durham Bulls, and he’ll compete for a spot in the Rainiers starting rotation this spring.
Speier is a lefty reliever who has spent the last four seasons going back-and-forth between the Kansas City Royals and Triple-A Omaha. Gabe is a nephew of longtime major league player and coach Chris Speier, who spent time in the visitor’s dugout at Cheney Stadium while managing Tucson in 1998 and 1999.
After a long wait the MLB office finally announced the minor league award winners, as voted by league managers and broadcasters. Tacoma got shut out in the PCL awards this season.
Pacific Coast League Awards
Most Valuable Player: David Villar, Sacramento
Pitcher of the Year: Hunter Brown, Sugar Land
Top Prospect: Miguel Vargas, Oklahoma City
Manager of the Year: Gil Velazquez, Reno
PCL Post-Season All-Star Team
C- Shea Langeliers, Las Vegas
1B- Matt Davidson, Reno/Las Vegas
2B- Eguy Rosario, El Paso
3B- David Villar, Sacramento
SS- David Hensley, Sugar Land
OF- Jason Martin, Oklahoma City
OF- Stone Garrett, Reno
OF- Wynton Bernard, Albuquerque
DH- Sean Bouchard, Albuquerque
RH Starter- Hunter Brown, Sugar Land
LH Starter- Jake Kalish, Salt Lake
Reliever- Enoli Paredes, Sugar Land
Minor league Gold Glove Awards will be announced soon and I do think that Tacoma has a candidate there in shortstop Mason McCoy.
In other leagues, and potentially impacting the Rainiers in 2023, Seattle Mariners prospect Taylor Dollard won the Pitcher of the Year award in the Texas League.
Dollard, 23, spent the entire season with Double-A Arkansas, going 16-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 27 starts. He pitched 144 innings and struck out 131 batters with only 31 walks.
The Mariners could have promoted Dollard to Tacoma at any point after the all-star break but chose not to, instead deciding to leave him with one team for the season. There isn’t any reason to hold him back now, though, and I have him penciled in as a member of the Rainiers starting rotation in April (provided he’s not traded – surely he’s a prospect of interest to other clubs).
The Arizona Fall League is progressing, and a few days ago they had their all-star game and a home run derby. Mariners prospect Robert Perez Jr. won the home run derby, beating Orioles prospect Heston Kjerstad in the final round.
Rainiers fans may remember Perez from early in the 2019 season. Tacoma was short position players for a stretch, so they brought in the then 18-year-old Perez from extended spring training to fill in. Manager Daren Brown had no choice but to stick this very green – but very large – kid in the lineup, and Perez made the most of it. He connected for a homer right away, had another big hit the next day, and once the roster got healthy he ended up sticking around getting the occasional at-bat until the short-season league he was scheduled to play in started up. All told he homered three times and had eight RBI in 69 Triple-A at-bats, and became a player to watch for the future.
Fast forward to 2022 and Perez won the Mariners Ken Griffey Jr. Minor League Hitter of the Year award for his work at Low-A Modesto and Advanced-A Everett, batting a combined .288 with 27 home runs and 114 RBI between the two clubs. It’s still too early in his development to pencil him into the Tacoma lineup for this coming April, but if he has another good season 2024 is realistic.
Locally here in town, the Tacoma Rainiers front office is already deep into the planning stages for the 2023 season. Game times are being set, season tickets are renewed, promotions are being finalized, uniform combos are getting worked out and approved by MLB, team flights are being booked, the team store is getting stocked for the holidays. This is when all of the behind-the-scenes stuff happens for a minor league baseball team.
Links – some of these are kind of old now, but I left them in:
- After finishing the season with Tacoma, outfielder Cade Marlowe joined the Mariners traveling party for the playoffs, on the taxi squad.
- Here are the Top Ten Moments of the Mariners 2022 regular season.
- For the broadcasting aficionados, Matt Calkins caught up with Rick Rizzs after his call of Cal Raleigh’s playoff-clinching home run.
- Good stuff from Adam Jude on Mariners ace Luis Castillo and his relationships with Pedro Martinez and catcher Curt Casali.
- In the PCL, there was a story in the Las Vegas newspaper about what happens to the Aviators if the Oakland A’s move to Vegas.
- Albuquerque Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer was promoted to the Colorado Rockies coaching staff.
- Lou Marson, manager of the Salt Lake Bees since 2019, will not be back in 2023.