The GM's Office: Seattle Mariners

Five potential trades for Justin Upton 

December, 15, 2014
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UptonScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith just one year remaining on his contract, Justin Upton has been the subject of recent trade talks.
When the offseason began, many insiders believed a trio of power-hitting outfielders would be dealt, including former Dodger Matt Kemp, former Red Sox left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and the Braves' Justin Upton. Kemp already has been traded (to the Padres), as has Cespedes (to the Tigers) … now we wait to see where the Braves trade Upton.

At age 27, Upton is just entering his prime years after another solid season (.270/.342/.491, 34 doubles, 29 home runs, 102 RBIs). The Braves would love to sign him long term, but with the recent signing of Giancarlo Stanton and the Braves' own signing of Freddie Freeman, the market has quickly inflated in terms of both years and dollars, which lessens the Braves' chances of retaining him. Atlanta also has Evan Gattis, who can play catcher and left field (albeit below average) and whom they control for five more seasons. If the Braves are unable to extend Upton, the smart business decision would be to trade Gattis as well. The team would take a step back in 2015, but the Braves would be building a squad that is ready to win when their new ballpark opens in 2017.

The Braves are ideally looking for young starting pitching and a second base upgrade in return for Upton, but like any other trade scenario, they're more concerned about the overall talent, affordability and controllability coming back in this type of transaction.

There are at least five clubs that remain interested in Upton, and here's an idea of what the return would look like with each of those teams:

1. San Diego Padres

Padres rookie GM A.J. Preller is focused on improving the Padres' lineup for 2015 and is off to a great start in landing Kemp.

10 bold predictions for this offseason 

November, 20, 2014
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Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, complete with 13-year contracts, a trade including a Gold Glover and a good, young pitcher, and a key free-agent signing or two. But that's just the beginning of this wild and wooly offseason.

With that, here are 10 bold predictions I see happening in the weeks ahead:

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1. Jon Lester re-signs with the Boston Red Sox

Most analysts think Lester has pitched his last game for the Red Sox. … I'm not one of them. I think the Chicago Cubs will offer the most years (six) and dollars, but a return to Boston for fewer years (five) and less money is my prediction. The Red Sox desperately need a top-of-rotation starter and won't be a legitimate contender unless they get one. Lester was happy in Boston, and unless the Cubs blow the Sox's offer away, I think that's where he lands.


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2. Marlins sign James Shields

The Marlins shocked the baseball world with the signing of Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year deal, and they'll do it again by landing a top-of-rotation starter.

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Robinson Cano Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsBowden's spoiler alert: GM Jack Zduriencik, Robinson Cano and Co. will make the playoffs in 2015.
The Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians and New York Mets fell short of the playoffs this season. In fact, the Mets fell well short.

But I predict all three of these teams will make the playoffs in 2015.

Granted, these early predictions are based on the assumption that all three organizations will add the necessary two to three pieces they need this offseason, because all three are that close to playing October baseball, just as the Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles were at this time a year ago, when I predicted all three would make the playoffs (which they did).

The Mariners, Indians and Mets have more in common than you might realize. First of all, they all have the starting rotations in place to win next year without having to make a single move this winter. Second, they all need more offense in the middle of their lineups and have the trade weapons and/or cash to make these necessary acquisitions. Third, they all have enough in their farm systems to withstand in-season injuries or to trade to fill their needs.

So let's examine what went wrong for these three teams this year and why they should eclipse their 2014 performances in 2015:


Seattle Mariners

The Mariners made huge strides in 2014, finishing with a record of 87-75, only one game out of the second wild-card spot and just two games behind the eventual AL pennant winner Royals.

The Mariners' pitching staff led the American League in ERA and opponents' batting average-against while also finishing in the top five in WHIP, saves and strikeouts.

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Possible pennant race X factors 

September, 5, 2014
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    Jarrod DysonAP Photo
    It's coming down to the wire, and every game counts in the pennant race. With several teams still clinging to postseason hopes, even the slightest developments -- an injury, a surprise performance, an emerging rookie -- can make the difference. These X factors can decide whether a team is playing October baseball or going home.

    Here are 14 American and National League players or managers who could be X factors for their teams as they march to the postseason.

    American League

    Kansas City Royals | Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore | OFs

    The Royals have the best two-speed weapons in the pennant race. Dyson and Gore, along with the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, are considered two of the fastest players in baseball right now. Dyson, 30, has stolen 33 bases this year and been caught just six times.

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Five GMs under pressure to make a deal 

July, 29, 2014
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Ruben Amaro Jr. AP Images/Matt SlocumThe Phillies must start the rebuilding process; Ruben Amaro Jr. has until 4 p.m. Thursday to begin it.
It's go time for major league general managers. This is the time they shine and broker deals that could make or break a team's season, or set in motion its offseason. But certain GMs are under more pressure to make deals than others. Who's under the most pressure? Let's take the temperature of the following GMs and see just how critical it will be for them to get something done.

1. Ruben Amaro Jr. | Philadelphia Phillies

There hasn't been a GM under this much pressure to make multiple deadline deals in a decade.


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Trade deadline objectives: AL West 

July, 24, 2014
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Billy BeaneMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesIs Billy Beane done dealing? Some believe he has one more trade in him before the deadline.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The American League West has been the busiest of the six divisions so far, with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels making the biggest trades thus far in July. The Athletics started the fireworks back on July 4, when they acquired both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs in a blockbuster deal, and the Angels answered last week when they acquired one of the game's most consistent closers in Huston Street in a six–player deal.

Everyone is now waiting for the Seattle Mariners to respond and GM Jack Zduriencik is hoping not to let people down; he has been one of the most active GMs in terms of phone calls and texts over the past couple of weeks. The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros are going to sell, and while neither one has an impact player they will be dealing, they both could still make multiple minor deals between now and the deadline.

And don't think the Athletics and Angels are done. Although neither team really has to make another move, both are still out there listening and trying to find ways to make one more deal to enhance their chances of winning this division.

Let's run through the objectives of each team

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What would it take to get Marlon Byrd? 

July, 18, 2014
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Marlon ByrdJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesMarlon Byrd would bring solid outfield defense, decent pop and a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Marlon Byrd | OF | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals


Seattle Mariners

Why? The Mariners are second in the American League in team ERA behind only the NL West-leading Oakland Athletics. However, they are last in on-base percentage and 11th in runs scored. GM Jack Zduriencik knows his team has a decent shot at reaching the postseason, but he must acquire a bat or two by the trade deadline to improve its chances. Byrd is moderately priced, with the length of his contract (two years plus a third-year option for 2016) being the only drawback. Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Byrd down the stretch, and he helped them reach the postseason. He has a strong makeup and would fit in well in the Mariners' clubhouse.

Who? For Gabriel Guerrero in a straight-up one-for-one deal.

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ViciedoAP Photo/Mark DuncanWhite Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo is on pace for 19 homers and 57 RBIs this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Dayan Viciedo | OF | Chicago White Sox

Possible destinations: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals


Seattle Mariners

Why? The Mariners are second in the American League in team ERA, behind only the Oakland Athletics, and the top of their starting rotation gives them the chance to run the table in October. So what can prevent them from even making the playoffs? Their offense, or rather the lack thereof; they are dead last in the American League in team OPS. M's GM Jack Zduriencik must make moves to improve this lineup, and without a lot of impact bats available, he might have to focus on Viciedo's 20-homer power (albeit with a low OBP).

Who? The White Sox could ask for any one of Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero or Michael Saunders to see how the Mariners truly value Viciedo.

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Josh WillinghamBrace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Josh Willingham | LF | Minnesota Twins

Possible destinations: Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners


Cincinnati Reds

Why? The Reds are already dealing with Joey Votto's quad injury, which has taken away much of his power and now has him sidelined. As such, it’s imperative that they get power from the left-field position, something starter Ryan Ludwick (five home runs) and backups Chris Heisey (two) and Skip Schumaker (one) haven't provided, and that's despite playing half their games at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

This team is blessed with Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier having All-Star-caliber seasons, but that doesn't lessen its need to lengthen the lineup by improving the left-field production. Willingham is a below-average defender, but he has a good track record for hitting home runs. Cincinnati could use Heisey as his late-inning defensive replacement. Willingham also has tremendous makeup and character and would fit nicely in the Reds' clubhouse.

Who? The Reds have good stock in their farm system thanks to the great job done by scouting director Chris Buckley and the scouting department, but they won’t be parting with Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, Jesse Winker or Phillip Ervin at the deadline. However, a deal including pitcher Jon Moscot or pitcher Sal Romano could get it done.

Will it happen?

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Jason HammelMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesJason Hammel has a career-best 4.62 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player. Note that this file was posted prior to the trade sending Hammel to the Athletics along with Jeff Samardzija in exchange for Addisson Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.

Player: Jason Hammel | RHP | Chicago Cubs
Possible destinations: New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners


New York Yankees

Why: Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has made it clear that he’s prepared to open the checkbook to acquire a starting pitcher to help the Yankees' chances of making the postseason in Derek Jeter's final season.

Michael Pineda won't return until August (at the earliest), there is no guarantee CC Sabathia will be effective when he returns later this month, and Vidal Nuno has been mediocre at best. In other words, a rotation upgrade has become a necessity.

GM Brian Cashman has been speed-dialing his peers on a daily basis trying to add a starter sooner rather than later.

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Alex RiosAP Photo/Carlos OsorioAlex Rios leads the American League with eight triples this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Alex Rios | RF | Texas Rangers
Possible destinations: Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox


Kansas City Royals

Why? The Royals are last in the AL Central in runs scored and have had very little offensive production from right fielder Norichika Aoki, who has yet to hit a home run and has a .326 OBP. Rios hasn't hit for much power either (just three homers), but he's hitting .304 and has more upside -- and a better track record -- than Aoki, who would be better off as a fourth outfielder.

Who? The Rangers should be satisfied by getting approximately $6 million off the books for the rest of the season, as well as the $1 million buyout on Rios' 2015 team option ($13.5 million).

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Rookie Rankings: Tanaka dominating 

June, 20, 2014
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 Masahiro TanakaAP Photo/Kathy WillensIt's been all thumbs up for Masahiro Tanaka this season.
As we near the halfway point in the season, a dozen rookies are having impact upon their pennant-chasing teams thus far. Let's look at my latest rankings and assess the best of the 2014 rookie class.

1. Masahiro Tanaka | RHP | New York Yankees
If the season ended today, Tanaka would win both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award. I also expect him to start the All-Star Game for the American League if he continues to pitch at this level. Tanaka has been brilliant -- his split-fingered fastball already is the best in the sport, and his late life and command is special, especially when coupled with his vastly underrated secondary pitches.

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A GM makes the top 10 picks 

May, 28, 2014
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As fans of Insider's NFL draft coverage know, Mel Kiper likes to do what he calls the "Grade A" draft, in which he puts himself in the GM's seat for every team and makes a first-round pick for each. I decided it would be fun to try something similar for the first 10 picks of the MLB draft.

The ground rules are simple: At each slot, I make a pick in the best interest of the team holding the pick. I won't pass on a player at No. 5 just because I like how he fits better at No. 7. This is not a projection. If you want that, check out Keith Law's mock draft from Tuesday.

A general manager's involvement

There is a common misconception that the GM makes the selection of a team's draft picks. In fact, with nearly every team, it's the scouting director who makes the call in consultation with the GM.

Usually, the GMs of teams picking in the top 10 will go out and see the elite prospects and settle debates at the top of the draft board. Most organizations will say their philosophy is to take the best player on the board, but very few do. For example, a team needing pitching at the major league level might move a college pitcher up on the board a few places to take him. And some teams will bypass players for financial, medical or makeup reasons. I've tried to incorporate that mindset into my picks.

These selections were based mostly on talking with more than a dozen general managers and scouting directors, but I've also watched video of a number of the top prospects. This year's draft doesn't feature a generational talent like Bryce Harper, but it is deep, and there are roughly a dozen players who will get serious consideration for picks No. 5 through 10.




1. Houston Astros | Pick: Carlos Rodon | LHP | NC State

Without a top-notch bat to debate in this spot, the Astros should take one of the top three pitchers in Rodon, Brady Aiken or Tyler Kolek.

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Jeff SamardzijaScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith Toronto desperately in need of pitching, Jeff Samardzija would fit in well.
General managers use the first two months of the season to evaluate their teams, then try to improve the team through trades or calling up top prospects in the next two months. Then they try to tweak the team with waiver deals and September call-ups in the last two months.

Given this, teams are mainly concentrating on the draft and don’t focus full-time on trades until after the draft (June 5-7). However, GMs still are talking to each other and laying the foundation for deals. This includes letting other GMs know their interest in a particular player and at least offer a fair chance to trade for that player. Many GMs are also letting other teams know exactly who’s available and who’s untouchable.

Most of the big trades happen between the All-Star Game and the July 31 trade deadline as well as in August via waiver deals. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deals in May or June, and I like to think of these deals as "appetizer" trades, with the entrees coming closer to July 31. Often, these are minor deals, like when Chris Nelson was dealt from the Colorado Rockies to the New York Yankees last May. However, we sometimes get major deals in May.

For example, it was mid-May 1998 when the Dodgers traded Mike Piazza to the Marlins, who then traded him to the Mets a week later.

With 27 of the 30 teams within four games of the playoffs coming into the weekend, it is safe to assume there will be fewer teams "selling" than normal. More likely trades will be made between contenders that match up in roster depth and weaknesses.

Here are some possible "appetizer" trades I would like to see that would fill some important needs of these contending teams:

1. Toronto Blue Jays acquire RHP Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs

OK, this is not a traditional "appetizer" deal, and is more in line with those aforementioned Piazza deals. The Blue Jays lead the AL in home runs and are third in runs scored. They might have the best lineup in the AL East. However, for the Blue Jays to contend all season, they must make a trade for a starting pitcher.

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Manny MachadoBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsManny Machado is one of several young stars Jim Bowden would lock up long term now.
As baseball’s revenues continue to break records year over year, clubs are well aware that, based on baseball history, those revenues normally get passed right down to the players.

Indeed, we’ve recently seen a flurry of six-year contract extensions by clubs for non-arbitration-eligible players in the past few months, including:

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, $144.5 million
Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians, $23 million
Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves, $32.4 million
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays, $25.5 million
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians, $52.5 million

In addition to those six-year deals, there was also Freddie Freeman's eight-year, $135 million extension, which is the longest contract in Braves history.

This proactive method benefits the team and the player. For the teams, they get to pre-emptively buy out some of the player's free-agent years, which should save them millions of dollars considering the ridiculous pace at which free-agent salaries are escalating. In exchange, the players receive lifetime security yet are still able to test the free-agent market again at a reasonably young age.

The Trout deal broke records at almost every aspect, and the Teheran and Archer deals were riskier because of pitchers’ greater chance of landing on the disabled list at some point in their six-year contract.

Gomes was the biggest gamble because he hasn’t established the track record the others did to justify committing those types of dollars. Regardless of the risk, clubs cannot ignore the opportunity to save so much money, making contracts such as these no-brainers.

When I look around the league, I see a number of other candidates for these kind of long-term deals. Here are nine pre-arbitration players I think teams would have a chance to lock up, plus four Boras Corp. clients who probably have very little chance to sign now -- Scott Boras almost always recommends his players hold out for free agency ASAP -- but should try anyway.

As always, agents will use recent deals as a framework when negotiating, and I've noted some recent deals that would provide a guideline for each player in question.

Non-arbitration-eligible players clubs should extend now

1. Manny Machado | 3B | Service time: 1+056 | Agent: MVP Sports

Note: Service time is as of Opening Day, and "1+056" means one year, 56 days.

Machado had offseason knee surgery and started the year on the disabled list, so of course the Orioles will need to make sure he is 100 percent upon his return before doing a deal. However, once he is back to full strength, they should be aggressive in getting him locked up. The time will never be better, the price and value never lower.

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