Curto, Tacoma Rainiers

Old League Name, New Players To Know As Opening Day Draws Closer

We got some good news – great news, actually – this week when it was announced that the minor leagues are returning to their original names. That means that the Pacific Coast League is back, and we are no longer playing in something called “Triple-A West.”

I guess if anyone was going to object to the return of the classic league name, it would be us. After all, the Tacoma Rainiers are the one and only Triple-A West champions.

But it is so much better to have the old league name back, and put an end to any questions about our current place in league history. The PCL has been around since 1903, and retroactively the 2021 season will be classified as a PCL season for record-keeping purposes.

We also got a cool new league logo. The Tacoma Rainiers were asked to design it, and submitted the original ideas to the league. You can read more about the process and design in the linked article, which includes input from Rainiers president Aaron Artman.

The return of the league name is just a start – things are really ramping up around here, as we approach opening day on April 5.

Seattle has made a number of player moves that are going to impact the Tacoma Rainiers. We’ve lost a couple guys on waiver claims, and signed some new players on minor league contracts. Adding to that, the M’s made a big trade that involved at least one potential Rainiers player.

Let’s start in the majors. The Mariners pulled off a whopper with the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds, acquiring major leaguers Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez for Jake Fraley, Justin Dunn, and pitching prospect Brandon Williamson.

Williamson is a Top 100 prospect, the M’s second round pick in 2019, and I had him penciled in as a likely member of the Rainiers starting rotation at some point this season. Both Fraley and Dunn were going to battle for major league opening day spots, but neither were a lock to make the Mariners and could have ended up with us. These guys are all out of the picture now, the cost of making the major league starting lineup a lot better.

Also out of the picture are left-handed reliever Aaron Fletcher (claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates), and catcher Jose Godoy (claimed off waivers by San Francisco, and subsequently moved to the Minnesota Twins). Both were key members of Tacoma’s 2021 championship squad and we wish them the best this season.

The Mariners have added several players with Triple-A and MLB experience to boost our club, unless they play their way onto the big league roster during spring training.

Everett product Steven Souza Jr. is an outfielder who has played all or parts of seven seasons in the majors, including a short stint with the Dodgers in 2021. He was drafted out of Cascade High School back in 2007, and is 32-years-old. If he suits up for Tacoma, he’ll probably hit: he had 12 homers and a .949 OPS in 186 at-bats for Triple-A Oklahoma City last year.

Catcher Chance Sisco was the Baltimore Orioles second round pick in 2013, out of a high school in Lake Elsinore, CA. He’s played a lot in MLB the last five years, and will compete for a spot on the Mariners opening day roster, but is also a candidate to open the season with Tacoma. The Tacoma catching mix right now is returnee Brian O’Keefe, Sisco, and I suppose either Cal Raleigh or Luis Torrens could get optioned if spring training doesn’t go well (or if Sisco beats one of them out for a big league spot).

Mike Ford was signed as a minor league free agent. He’s a first baseman/designated hitter who has been in the Yankees organization, reaching the majors in each of the last three seasons. He could really mash in the PCL, if he breaks camp with Tacoma. This is the Mariners second dalliance with Mike Ford: they selected him in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft, but he did not make Seattle’s opening day roster and thus was required to be returned to the Yankees.

Former Colorado Rockies first round draft pick Forrest Wall is now in camp, on a minor league deal. The 26-year-old outfielder played for Triple-A Buffalo last season, making his biggest impact on the basepaths: he went 35-for-39 stealing bases, ranking third in Triple-A East the International League.

The signings of Souza, Sisco, and Ford all came in the past five days. That shows that the Mariners are still looking for depth players to fill out Tacoma’s roster.

These players are all participants in training camp right now, in Peoria, Arizona. I’ll be heading down there next week to see it in person, and the plan is to have several new posts reporting on what’s happening. If I don’t run into any travel delays, I should be able to see the Triple-A camp game on Tuesday against the Royals/Omaha. Look for a recap of that here on Wednesday.

Notes and Links:

  • Minor League Baseball is calling it the return of “historical” league names. I’m glad they are all back.
  • The Mariners announced the revised regular season schedule, with the make-up dates for the first week’s worth of games that were postponed because of the owner’s lockout.
  • New Mariners slugger Eugenio Suarez is, by all accounts, a happy guy.
  • One of the most crucial questions regarding the 2022 Mariners is if Jarred Kelenic will be a quality contributor. Larry Stone has a column on how he looks in camp.

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