By Shannon Drayer
Reporters and agents have descended on Indian Wells California where the General Managers Meetings got underway this morning and where you have agents, GMs and media you have rumors and speculation. Actually, not a ton of rumors, it may be a little early for that but plenty of information about what clubs are looking for and who they could make available. Great hot stove kindling.
One Tweet that was more informational than rumor stoking was this one from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
While this may be news on the national level it is something we heard later in the season when Jack Zduriencik started including Maurer's name with James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker when talking about the "Big 3." The more I talked to Zduriencik and others in the organization about Maurer (pictured between Brad Miller and Stefen Romero above) I got the feeling that he could be a dark horse candidate for the rotation next season despite the fact that he has not pitched above AA. Zduriencik told me he would be comfortable jumping a pitcher from AA straight to the big leagues so it is not out of the question.
Seeing this news come from a national reporter at the General Managers Meetings reads more like the Mariners trying to talk up a player to generate trade interest. Could be, but it doesn't mean that the Mariners still aren't high on Maurer.
So who is Brandon Maurer other than a guy whose name is very tough to pronounce? Maurer was a 23rd round draft pick out of Orange Lutheran High School in 2008. He has spent five years in the Mariners minor league system and this year was promoted to AA for the first time. He threw 137.2 innings and picked up Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher of the Year honors as voted by league managers and broadcasters. The Mariners also named him the most improved minor leaguer in the organization. What did they see and what has prompted Zduriencik to include his name with the Big 3?
They saw a pitcher with the ability to put up good numbers in a tough league. They also saw a guy who for the first time in his professional career was able to stay healthy and get through a full year as a starter. His injuries have not been major but enough to keep him off the field for significant stretches of time. This was disappointing for both Maurer and the organization and Maurer told me recently that he realized it was time to change his off season routine.
"I spent the entire off season (2011) just working out," he said. "I had never done that before."
Instead of returning home to work out on his own Maurer moved to Arizona and worked daily with the Mariners strength and conditioning staff at the spring training complex. He was very pleased with the results.
"I got to finish a lot stronger," he said. "I felt better at the end of the year than I did any time the last year. That was a plus."
Maurer also went to work on his curveball. He had good confidence in his fastball and slider but realized his curve needed much improvement and the only way it was going to get better was if he would throw it more.
"I struggled with it at the start. I threw it more and got more of a consistent armslot and the curveball came to me at the end of the year and turned into one of my better pitches," he said.
As for pitching with the rest of the Big 3, Maurer said it was a great experience.
"We are all good friends," he said. "Taijuan was my roommate, Paxton will be my roommate this off season. We had a good staff. It was fun to, "Alright, now I have got to do better than him." It was fun to try to catch up to the Big 3."
He has a chance to pass the Big 3. Zduriencik grouping him with the others may not have been an evaluation of talent ceiling, rather a comparison to where those pitchers are right now in regard to major league readiness. It would appear that Maurer is in that mix.
News and notes...
Lots of stuff from around the web...
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is at the General Managers Meetings and Tweeted this morning that Jack Zduriencik told him, "I think I'll carry around a recording: 'I am not trading Felix Hernandez'." Sounds good to me...
His September slide extinguished any chance Felix had of winning the Cy Young Award this year. Felix's name was not among the finalists who were announced today. David Price, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver made the cut. The winner will be announced 11/14 at 3 pm on the MLB Network...
According to numerous reports the Diamondbacks are now open to trading both Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer although Jesse Sanchez of mlb.com believes that the club may be floating the trade possibility to "remind the young man who is in charge & see how he responds."...
The Mets have cut ties with Jason Bay. The two sides came to an agreement to terminate his contract two years early. Financial details have not been reported as of yet. What has been reported by plenty is that the Mariners could be an interested suitor most likely for no other reason than that Bay is from the northwest. If the Mariners do indeed take a flyer on him it will be just that, a flyer. They are looking for more than a risk reward guy or reclamation project in the outfield. Just a preemptive strike there by me. No need to panic if that move is made, it will hardly be the last. Unless it is made in spring training...
Away from the meetings, the Mariners announced today that they are building a new state of the art academy in the Dominican Republic. The new academy, which is expected to be completed near the end of 2013, will be near the city of Boca Chica thirty miles east of the capital city of Santo Domingo. It will be a residential facility where the prospects will live, workout, go to school, and develop their baseball skills.
The Mariners will be one of the few MLB teams to own a facility in the Dominican as most rent. With the new rules on what can be spent on international signings this could be seen as a nice "recruiting tool."