Out of Options: The Bus Stops Here

Ramon Flores celebrates after homering for the Tacoma Rainiers.  Flores, an outfielder, is out of minor league options, posing important questions to Mariner managment.
Ramon Flores celebrates after homering for the Tacoma Rainiers. Flores, an outfielder, is out of minor league options, posing important questions to Mariner management.

As the Mariners begin to assemble their 40-man roster and ultimately their big league club heading to, through and out of spring training, they will be mindful of this group of players who are out of minor league options.  By baseball’s rules they can refuse to accept a minor league assignment and become free agents. It’s an interesting list that include the following.

  • OF Ramon Flores
  • LHP Lucas Luetge
  • LHP Danny Hultzen
  • 1B/DH Jesus Montero
  • LHP Mike Montgomery
  • LHP Edgar Olmos
  • RHP Jose Ramirez

Some of these players are potentially quite valuable to the M’s, but making room for them may be difficult.

Ramon Flores-Flores is a talented outfielder, though likely a fourth outfielder on many teams. Flores came over from the Yankees in the Dustin Ackley trade, and was immediately impressive in Tacoma.  In his cup of coffee with the Yanks Flores penciled out as a plus defender.  He lacks power.  Steamer projects Flores as .261/.327/.396.  In an organization with few outfield options, Flores seems like a keeper.  Of course nothing is that easy.  Flores suffered a nasty ankle injury in August and it’s unclear if he’ll be ready for spring training.  The signing of Franklin Gutierrez to platoon with Seth Smith may suck up an the extra outfield spot, or perhaps Flores can play himself on to the roster.  Flores is a potentially valuable piece the M’s would hate to lose.

Danny HultzenThe former first round draft choice (2011) is in his second year of recovery from catastrophic shoulder surgery.  His comeback effort in 2015 was pulled after only 8 innings pitched.  It’s unclear whether Hultzen will continue with his efforts to return to the field, or how the M’s figure into his future.

Lucas Luetgewas acquired from Milwaukee in the 2011 Rule 5 draft.  Pretty much your basic LOOGY, Luetge has had difficulty staying on the major league roster after his 2012 season.  The M’s have plenty of Luetge-like minor league options in David Rollins, Rob Rasmussen and the recently acquired C.J. Riefenhofer–hopefully more effective ones.  It seems unlikely the M’s would bring him back.

Jesus Montero-Montero is a player emblematic of the Zdurencik regime.  Pitcher Michael Pineda, penciled in as a regular in the Yankees rotation was traded for Montero one of baseball’s best-rated right-handed hitting prospects.  Without delving into the minutiae of Montero’s checkered past, the former catcher had a tremendous minor league season in Tacoma in 2015, but didn’t quite put it altogether in his 116 Mariner plate appearances.  With the trade of Logan Morrison, the two most likely players to replace LoMo at first base are Mark Trumbo and his $9+ million salary, or Montero.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Montero gets one last chance to show all the early hype was justified.

Mike Montgomery-Montgomery was called up for his first major league start June 2nd, when James Paxton went on the DL.  His first seven starts were absolutely tremendous, but the league seemed to catch up with him in his remaining nine starts.  One wonders if Montgomery has a little more to work on before becoming something special, or if he is simply a AAAA pitcher.  I feel the M’s need a little more time to find out the real answer, and they just don’t have any more time. It is clear the M’s will need pitching depth, but if they are counting on Montgomery clearing waivers, I just don’t think that’s likely.

Edgar Olmos-Olmos was a 2014 waiver claim from the Marlins.  He pitched 14 innings worth of bad baseball for the Mariners, including a pair of starts August 30 and September 4th.  They weren’t good.  Olmos just isn’t a very good pitcher.  Edgar, the bus is waiting for you.

Jose Ramirez-Ramirez is the other minor leaguer that came over from the Yankees in the Ackley deal.  Amazing, two minor league players with only one year of eligibility left. Nice work Jack. In this case, Flores is the more desirable of the two.  Ramirez is a hard throwing righty wild in and out of the strike zone.  With 7.2 innings in the 2015 season split between New York and Seattle, Ramirez walked 10, allowed 15 hits and 14 earned runs.  No homers though.  Jose I think your bus is here.

It seems clear that some of these seven players the Mariners won’t miss. Others, like Flores, Montero and Montgomery will get a very long look.  The M’s clearly have needs in the rotation and in the outfield.  First base is problematic, and unless I’m way off base that position will be filled by Trumbo or Montero, as the M’s expend resources trying to get more athletic in the outfield and add pitching depth.  It will take some careful scouting and roster juggling to insure these fragile resources aren’t wasted.

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