Outfielder/first baseman Jordy Lara batted .337 this season with 26 homers and 104 RBIs in the Mariners’ farm system while splitting 135 games at High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson.
Lara also shared honors with third baseman D.J. Peterson as the organization’s co-players of the year in the minor leagues. That suggests club officials view Lara as a legitimate prospect.
This week, the Mariners face a question:
What are the odds that Lara, 23, could spend all of next season in the big leagues — with another club? Specifically, does he need to be protected from possible selection next month in the Rule 5 draft?
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The Mariners and all clubs face a Thursday deadline to add Rule 5-eligible players to their 40-man rosters. Those not added can be plucked for $50,000 in the Dec. 11 draft at the winter meetings in San Diego.
The only catch is any player selected must remain in the big leagues for all of next season. He must be offered back to his former club, for $25,000, before he can be sent to the minors.
Lara isn’t the only player likely to draw scrutiny this week for a spot on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, which currently has five openings.
Candidates could include shortstop Ketel Marte, catcher John Hicks, outfielder Jabari Blash, right-handed pitcher Jordan Pries and others.
Unprotected players are typically eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after four seasons if they were 19 or older when they signed their first contract. Those 18 and younger usually don’t require protection for five years.
Clubs are generally hesitant to add players to their 40-man roster unless they view them as big-league ready — or nearly so. Once added to the roster, a player’s service-time clock starts in terms of option years, etc.
Furthermore, a player can only be removed from the 40-man roster and sent back to to the minors by clearing waivers.
Clubs can still make roster moves after Thursday’s deadline through trades and/or free-agent signings as long as the total number doesn’t exceed 40 players — as is the case at all times.
Players can be also be designated for assignment or released. The only restriction is no Rule 5-eligible player can be added to the roster once the deadline passes until after the draft.
Selecting clubs tend to prefer pitchers or players who can bring specific skills, such as defense or speed, to reserve roles. Such players fit easier into the back of a 25-player roster while their overall skills develop.
A year ago, the Mariners added four players to their roster prior to the deadline: outfielders James Jones and Stefen Romero, first baseman Ji-Man Choi and right-handed pitcher Logan Bawcom.
Romero subsequently made the club out of spring training, although he later spent time at Triple-A Tacoma. The others all opened the season with the Rainiers, but Jones eventually logged 108 games in the big leagues.
Choi received a 50-game suspension in mid-April for failing a drug test and spent most of the season at Tacoma. Bawcom pitched with the Rainiers although he missed nearly six weeks because of an oblique injury.
How do this year’s top candidates shape up as potential Rule 5 picks?
• Lara played just 33 games above High-A, so it would be asking a lot for him to merit a roster spot for an entire year. The only issue is whether another club might judge his upside to be worth such a roster investment.
• Marte, 21, plays a premium position at shortstop. While he spent most of the season at Jackson, he also stole 29 bases. Some Mariners officials saw him as a viable late-season utility replacement for injured Willie Bloomquist. Other clubs might also view Marte as a cost-effective option.
• Hicks, 25, also spent much of last year at Jackson before ending the year at Tacoma. Catcher is also a premium position, but he’s probably not big-league ready. Clubs rarely carry three catchers for an entire year.
• Blash, 25, has the sort of raw power that turns heads, but he also missed 50 games this season because of a drug suspension. When activated he was demoted from Tacoma to Jackson, where he scuffled.
• Pries, 24, was the organization’s co-minor-league starter of the year after emerging as Tacoma’s best full-time arm. His numbers didn’t dazzle, but he’s likely to draw interest in the draft.
Can the Mariners click again with another under-the-radar Cuban left-hander like they did with Roenis Elias?
The club confirmed signing Misael Siverio, a 25-year-old who defected in July 2013, to a minor-league deal that does not include an invitation next spring to the major league camp.
Sivero, 5-feet-9 and 207 pounds, was 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in six starts last winter for Mexicali in the Mexican Pacific League. He posted a 3.24 ERA in six seasons for Villa Clara from 2007-12 in the Cuban National Series.
“This is a proud moment for me,” Sivero said, “to be able to join the Seattle Mariners, who have several Cubans in the organization that are my compatriots.
“I feel very happy because of the way that I have been treated here in Seattle, and now the only thing left to do is to do my part, work hard and reach the major leagues.”
The Mariners signed Elias, 26, on May 3, 2011. He spent three seasons in the minors before going 10-12 with a 3.85 ERA this season for the Mariners in 29 starts.
The Mariners moved up another slot in the June draft when Toronto signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin to a five-year deal Monday for $82 million.
Because Martin received a qualifying offer from Pittsburgh, the Blue Jays forfeited their first-round pick. That moves the Mariners, for now, to No. 19 overall.
The Mariners, who are looking to bolster their lineup, are linked to several players who received qualifying offers. Should they sign one, they would also forfeit their first-round pick.
Right-hander Yuki Nishi met Sunday with Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano to apologize for the pitch that broke the small toe on Cano’s right foot, according to “The Japan Times” newspaper.
Cano is expected to be fully recovered by mid-December.
“He apologized,” Cano said, “and I said it’s part of the game. There’s nothing to feel bad about.”
The injury occurred Saturday in the seventh inning of a game between a touring team of major league players and Japan’s national team at the Tokyo Dome.
Japan holds a 3-1 lead in the series, which concludes Tuesday in Sapporo.
Utilityman Carlos Rivero, whom the Mariners acquired in a Nov. 3 waiver claim from Boston, is tied for the lead in homers in the Venezuelan Winter League after hitting his seventh Sunday in Lara’s 7-1 victory at Zulia.
Rivero, 26, is batting .314 (27-for-86) in 24 games with a .390 on-base percentage and a .605 slugging percentage. He batted .264 with seven homers and 53 RBIs while splitting 105 games at Triple-A and Double-A.
• Righty reliever Emilio Pagan lowered his winter ERA to 2.08 by retiring the only two batters he faced Sunday in Carolina’s 4-1 victory over San Juan in the Puerto Rican winter league.
Pagan, 23, has allowed two runs and six hits in 82/3 innings over five outings. He was 2-3 with 16 saves and a 2.89 ERA in 42 games this season at Low-A Clinton.