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MESA, Ariz. — Major league home run leader Khris Davis would like a long-term deal from the Oakland Athletics that allows him to stay with the franchise for at least three more seasons.

Davis says desire for a multiyear contract won’t consume as he prepares to open the season in Japan next month against the Seattle Mariners. He hopes to dazzle Japanese fans by hitting at least one home run.

“Whatever works best for the organization,” Davis told The Associated Press on Sunday. “For me personally, I just want to focus on this year. I don’t like to get ahead of myself or look back in the past and play in the past. I just try to focus on the now. Whatever comes long-term is going to come. If they want me here long-term they’re going to get something done.”

Oakland general manager David Forst has said signing Davis long-term is a top priority. The team spent the offseason putting pieces around the star outfielder and designated hitter to try to build another consistent contender.

Led by Davis’ 48 home runs and career-high 123 RBI, the 97-win A’s returned to the playoffs for the first time in four years before losing the AL wild card game to the New York Yankees.

The slugger joked about the fact he has hit .247 for each of the past four seasons. He received a $6 million raise this offseason to $16.5 million.

“I’d like to be here. I hope something gets done,” Davis said. “It’s not a good thing being a free agent right now. For my security, it’s going to impact a lot. That’s the way the business is. I’m already 31 so I don’t know if I’m too old. There’s a lot of things that run through my head. Who knows. If it happens, it happens.”

Manager Bob Melvin had some encouraging things to say in Saturday’s team meeting, and Davis said “it made me feel a little more secure.”

“Shoot, I want to stay here at least three more years, but that’s a long time to be an Oakland A. But if anybody can do it, I guess it’s me, hopefully,” Davis said. “I don’t think they’ll trade me as long as we’re doing good. So we better do good so I don’t get traded.”

Melvin is counting on that, too.

“He’s been as good a fit here as some of the great players in the past here,” Melvin said. “I kind of alluded since the day he got here he seems like the perfect fit for our city, for our team, the attitude he has as a superstar that has an everyday workmanlike mentality, doesn’t want the spotlight, so that’s kind of what I was implying. I mean what I said, he’s been absolutely terrific for us.”

Davis and Jimmie Foxx from 1932-34 are the only players in Athletics history with three straight 40-homer seasons. Davis hit 85 homers in 2017 and ’18, second in than span to Giancarlo Stanton’s 86.

Davis did reflect on his 2018 accomplishments at the end of the season.

“Now I’m kind of like over it,” he said.

Davis stuck with his regular offseason routine and has determined certain numbers he would like to reach this season.

“Why would I change anything up? Come on, I’m at the top of my game right now. I wouldn’t change that up,” he said, noting of the high expectations: “It’s a great thing. I like it. I did it to myself. I’m the only one that can hit .247 for four years. I pretty much have that force field around me.”

Melvin typically steers clear of getting involved or discussing player contract situations.

“My concern would be that we’re down to the last year with him and the potential of losing him would come up next year,” Melvin said, “and I hope that’s not the case.”

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We have all heard it before. Either from a manager, front office executive, players, or even Mariners ownership. The message has remained the same for 17 years: we want to win.
And if we are being honest, I don’t think the Mariners are lying. I do believe that they want to want. However, just saying you want to win, doesn’t make it your top priority. We as people make similar claims all the time.

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For example, I want to buy a classic Mustang in my life. Does that mean it is my number one priority? Absolutely not. In fact, it doesn’t even crack the Top 50 of life goals (if I actually had a list).

So yes, I believe that Jerry Dipoto, Scott Servais, and new”ish” owner John Stanton want to win. But the real question to ask isn’t WHAT do they want. No. The real question is, ” how bad do they want it”?

And so far, the answer appears to be,” not as much as we want to be profitable”. Now, before I go on and “trash” the Mariners upper-management team, let’s make 1 thing clear: they are not cheap.

In fact, over the past several off-seasons, the franchise (under 2 different owners and General Managers) have spent on the likes of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, and Mike Leake to name a few pricey players. They even finish in the Top 10 payrolls in baseball over the past handful of seasons.

So if it isn’t about not spending money, what is it about?
Well, simply put, while the franchise is spending money on contracts mostly inherited by an old ownership group, it isn’t pushing the boundaries of what the franchise can spend. The Mariners are only pushing their payroll far enough that they can still turn a profit every season, or at the very least, minimize their losses.

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In other words, spending large amounts of money is a great facade to convince your fan base that you’re invested in winning, without actually taking any risk to your own personal wallet. On a purely business side of things, the strategy makes sense. By spending enough to put out a competitive team on a regular basis, you keep your fan base interested long enough to collect their money and turn your profit.

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Why spend $180 million on an 87 win team when you can spend $160 million on an 84 win team? This is a smart way to run a business. It is a terrible way to run a sports franchise. The sad thing is, that the Mariners need not look far for evidence that spending money now can make them more in the long run.

It was just over 20 years ago that the Seattle Seahawks were so irrelevant that it was nearly impossible to catch their home games on TV. Things got so bad, the franchise was set to move to Southern California before a last-minute save by the late Paul Allen kept the team in Seattle.

Allen knew that in order to turn the franchise around, he would need to give the fans a reason to come back to the franchise. In addition to lowering ticket prices to help sellout games (which in turn allowed fans to watch the team on TV), Allen also spent money on the product itself.
He went out and hired Mike Holmgren to be his head coach, bringing instant credibility to the franchise. He then went on to build a state of the art training facility and continued to spend more on coaches and personnel than any owner in the game.

In 2013, Allen and the Seahawks won the Superbowl, dramatically increasing the hysteria surrounding the team, bringing on thousands of new fans, which caused a sharp increase in ticket prices while also still increasing the demand. By spending money on his franchise, Allen turned the Seahawks from a local afterthought to an international brand.
So what does this all mean for us, Mariners fans? Quite simply, it is time for Stanton to either put up or shut up. Don’t tell me you want the 17 season playoff drought to end. Don’t tell me how you have empowered Dipoto to go get things done. And don’t tell me you care as much as I do. Show me.

Talk is cheap. Acquiring the sort of talent needed to uplift the dormant fan base won’t be. This franchise and this roster don’t need minor changes and tweaks. It needs momentous changes. The kind of changes that moves mountains, and puts Seattle in the center of the baseball conversation.
In the book Moneyball, then Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane describes what he calls a “f*****g A” move. Simply, a move that is so large that it makes the rest of the baseball world stand, mouth aghast at what they just heard, saw, read, etc. The Mariners need this type of move this winter.

Here is the best part Mr. Stanton: this move doesn’t even mean you need to be a player on Bryce Harper. No. In fact, trading Edwin Diaz or James Paxton can be your effing A move. The Mariners have played chicken with the line of truly competing for way too long.
Now is not the time to be safe. Now is the time to be bold. To do something so major that your fan base and the rest of baseball has no choice but to stand at attention and wonder what might happen next.

You need your defining moment. And it is time for this franchise to be bold. It is time for the Mariners to decide if they are in, or if they want to fold and start again. It is time for the franchise to stand, and in one declarative voice make a statement about who they are and what they want to be.

NEXT: Jerry Dipoto’s 5 Best Trades
The time for wandering aimlessly through the desert has passed. Be bold. Stake your claim. And if you are unwilling to do this, then the least you can do is stop lying to the fan base and kindly shut up.

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PEORIA, Ariz. — Time is quickly running short for Felix Hernandez, but the longtime Mariners ace threw aggressively on flat ground again on Saturday, and he said he’s feeling strong as he works back from the bruised forearm incurred by a line drive in his spring debut 13 days earlier.

And while James Paxton appears to be lining up as the Opening Day starter, manager Scott Servais said he hasn’t yet ruled out Hernandez pitching his 10th straight opener.

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With just 19 days now until the Mariners open the regular season on March 29 against the Indians, Hernandez extended his throwing to about 120 feet and said “it’s getting better every day” after completing his long-toss session with bullpen catcher Fleming Baez.

The hope now is Hernandez can take the mound next week for a pair of bullpen sessions and have time for at least two spring starts before the regular season begins. Servais isn’t committing either way, but it’s no coincidence that if Paxton continues pitching every fifth day, he’s set for three more Cactus League outings and then would be in line for the opener against Cleveland.

 

The more realistic plan for Hernandez, at this point, appears to be getting ready for one of the final games of the opening series, March 31 or April 1, against the Indians. The Mariners wanted to do things differently this spring with Hernandez, getting him started earlier so he could build up more Cactus League innings, but he’ll need to be on a shorter program now.

“I’ve done it before,” Hernandez said. “It’ll be fine.”

Felix leaves game with injury
Felix leaves game with injury
00:34
Feb. 26th, 2018

Servais kept a close eye on Hernandez’s throwing session on Saturday and he indicated it went well.

“As far as the timetable, he’s still got time,” Servais said. “Whether it’s that first series, Opening Day, whatever. I haven’t looked at a schedule and broke it all down. One thing Felix has always done — we didn’t want to do it in this camp, but he’s always been able to ramp it up. We’ve tried to get away from that. This one was out of our control. But he does feel good.”

So he hasn’t ruled Hernandez out for Opening Day yet?

“I have not,” Servais said.

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There are a number of ways to go about improving the Mariners pitching staff this offseason, and signing an ace is not essential. Alex Cobb would be a major step forward. Lance Lynn would help edge Seattle 3/5ths of the way to Kate’s dream of a 100% former Cardinals starting rotation. Tyler Chatwood is… debatable. If Seattle wants a surefire frontline ace to accompany James Paxton, however, there’s only one avenue they can pursue with significant control. Yu Darvish would improve the Mariners significantly next year – of that there is no debate, but his acquisition would be costly in payroll and also in long-term flexibility.

The Mariners may be priced out of Darvish’s market of course, rendering the point moot. The man starting tonight’s NLCS game has made adjustments that have unlocked a new level of production since joining the Dodgers. He will assuredly be pursued by his current team, who might as well start printing their own currency on Pantone 294 colored paper. Darvish is also expected to be sought after by his former team, whose lone star player turns 39 in April. The Yankees, Angels, and Cubs stand out as well in needs and available resources, so there will be a healthy market for Darvish. The Mariners shouldn’t be beholden to making a splash, but they would be remiss to not throw their compass-adorned hats into the ring.

The free agent market for starting pitching this year, as Ben outlined recently, has no surefire hits. Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and possibly Masahiro Tanaka are the headliners. Each has a shaky injury history, and both Arrieta and Tanaka will cost a 2nd round draft pick and $500k in international signing money. The dearth of high-ceiling talent in the Mariners system makes me loathe to see them part with draft picks. Arrieta’s dramatic loss of velocity over the last couple years is worrisome, and I’d just as soon see another team reward Scott Boras’ favorite squirrel. Darvish will be expensive, but if Seattle wants an ace, he’s the guy to woo.

Darvish will cost a lot annually. I have seen 7 years, $150 million thrown around, which is a hefty $21.4 million APY. that would fall just under Johnny Cueto’s recent contract.
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Darvish’s camp has been making the case for a deal in line with Stephen Strasburg’s 7 year/$175 million extension, which is one of the funkier distributions of money you’ll ever see in what is theoretically a $25 million APY contract. The Mariners have around $25-30 million in freed up money this offseason, plus an ambiguous “room for growth” according to John Stanton. 7/$150 million is absolutely within Seattle’s reach, but the 7 years is much more worrisome than the $150 million. Darvish would be 38 at the end of his contract, and for a guy who has already had Tommy John, that’s a recipe for disaster.

A good Darvish deal for the Mariners would have to be appropriately tied to both his own availability and the Mariners’ stars’ remaining productive years. It would resemble Johnny Cueto’s 6 year/$130 million deal. Cueto was younger, more durable, and more consistently productive than Darvish, and received an opt-out after his second season (this offseason) that would’ve allowed him another, similar look at free agency. Instead, Cueto got hurt after one and a quarter brilliant seasons, but will still hold reasonable trade value for a Giants team that saw its focus shift from contention to potential rebuild in an instant. Crucially, the opt-out flexibility meant Cueto did not recieve a no-trade clause. If the Mariners pursue Darvish, they would be wise to double down. My rough proposal would be in the range of 6/$140 million:

2018: $20 mil, opt-out after

2019: $25 mil, opt-out after

2020: $25 mil, opt-out after

2021: $23 mil, opt-out after

2022: $22 mil, opt-out after, vests on not missing 130 games w/elbow or shoulder injury, $8 mil buyout

2023: $20 mil, vests on not missing 130 games w/elbow or shoulder injury, $3 mil buyout

That means offering Darvish yearly opt-outs. That means staggering the pay of the contract to be loaded into the front and middle, where Darvish’s decline would coincide with the expected decline of Robinson Canó. That means paying more up front to ensure the ability to move Yu if Seattle finally commits to a rebuild, and adding Iwakuma/Félix-like vesting options at the end to account for Darvish’s mercurial health. It’s a rough framework, and absolutely could be blown out of the water by a more brazen team. The Mariners shouldn’t be more brazen, but they could be this brazen.

Adding an ace who, as Grant Brisbee put it for Cueto “if he pitches well enough to want to opt-out, we’ll be thrilled,” will make Seattle better if they really intend to go for it this year. Providing opt-outs mitigates their risk while giving Darvish a chance at another payday if he performs but Seattle flops, and Seattle gets the freedom to try and move Darvish if he remains productive. If he gets hurt, the Mariners are up a creek, but the vesting options would provide some relief as Seattle moves forward to the post-Canó era. Lastly, as commenter TIFO noted here, Darvish’s relationship with Shohei Ohtani could also advance the Mariners’ chances of luring him to Seattle, though that’s such an unknown that it certainly won’t be the basis for a Darvish deal.

I don’t know that this is the best allocation of resources for Seattle right now, but as a team with precious few non-MLB assets to trade for a starter, free agency is the only clear route. This would leave Seattle with only $3-8 million to plug their hole at first base, barring a boost in payroll, and would essentially preclude them from any other depth moves outside of minor upgrades. This is a lot of words to say I’m not sure about my own proposal, but that’s the truth.

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SEATTLE (AP) — Ben Gamel showed the Yankees his value as an everyday player.

Gamel, who began his career with New York, homered early, doubled and scored on Nelson Cruz’s 10th-inning single that lifted the Seattle Mariners to a 6-5 win Saturday night.

“I can’t think this organization enough for giving me an opportunity,” said Gamel, acquired from the Yankees last August. “It’s been kind of an up-and-down career so far. . Love it over here.”

Masahiro Tanaka had another shaky outing and New York trailed 4-2 before Aaron Judge hit his major league-leading 32nd home run, a sixth inning drive against Steve Cishek. Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly tied the score in the eighth, but former Yankee Robinson Cano homered against David Robertson leading off the bottom half.

“The pitch was about as good as I could throw it,” said Robertson, who returned to the Yankees this week in a trade from the Chicago White Sox. “I don’t think I could do anything better with it.”

Edwin Diaz blew a save for the fourth time in 22 chances when Didi Gregorius walked leading off the ninth, pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury stole second and Torreyes, starting because Starlin Castro’s ailing right hamstring is causing another trip to the disabled list, followed with a single.

Gamel opened the 10th with a double against Adam Warren (2-2), Cano was intentionally walked and Cruz lined a pitch to left for his AL-leading 75th RBI.

“I saw Warren yesterday and knew how he pitched me last night,” said Gamel, hitting .321 after beginning the season at Triple-A Tacoma. “I kind of had a pitch in mind and I got it.”

Tony Zych (4-2) pitched a perfect 10th, throwing called third strikes past Clint Frazier and Judge.

New York, which won the first two games of the four-game series, heads into Sunday 0-8-2 in series since sweeping Baltimore from June 9-11. The Yankees went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position and fell to 9-19 in one-run games.

Seattle Mariners’ Nelson Cruz follows through on his walk-off single that scored Ben Gamel during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Saturday, July 22, 2017, in Seattle. The Mariners won 6-5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle Mariners’ Nelson Cruz follows through on his walk-off single that scored Ben Gamel during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Saturday, July 22, 2017, in Seattle. The Mariners won 6-5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
“Some of them have been us coming back and getting close,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We had some opportunities to score that were missed today and to me that was the difference.”

Tanaka allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings, raising his ERA to 5.37.

Mike Zunino and Gamel hit solo homers in a four-run third against Tanaka, who has allowed 26 homers — one more than his previous big league high.

Danny Valencia and Mitch Haniger hit run-scoring singles in the inning.

“The third inning, obviously that wasn’t good but you just try to turn things around and just being able to put up some zeros after that inning I think that’s a positive I can take out of this outing,” Tanaka said through a translator.

Gamel, who played in six games with the Yankees last year after seven seasons in their minor league system, also prevented a run in the first. Brett Gardner walked to open. Clint Frazier followed with a drive off the left-field wall, but Gamel played the ricochet perfectly and fired a strike to second to get Frazier, who slid past the bag.

“I got a carom right back to me, so I knew I had a play at second,” Gamel said. “I was just trying to give Robbie a good hop.”

PHELPS DEBUT

RHP David Phelps, acquired from Miami on Thursday for four minor leaguers, made his Mariners debut in the seventh inning and retired all four hitters he faced.

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge rounds the bases with a solo home run during the sixth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Saturday, July 22, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge rounds the bases with a solo home run during the sixth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Saturday, July 22, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: Castro is expected to be placed on the DL on Sunday, manager Joe Girardi said. Activated off the DL on July 15, Castro reinjured his hamstring on Wednesday at Minnesota. After playing twice in Seattle, Castro had an MRI on Saturday. INF Tyler Wade was expected to be recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Ronald Torreyes started at 2B Saturday night.

Mariners: CF Jarrod Dyson crashed into the wall attempting to haul in Garrett Cooper’s triple in the fifth inning. Dyson finished the inning, but was replaced in the sixth by Guillermo Heredia. “I kind of jammed my toe a little bit, so it’s day-to-day right now,” Dyson said. “Nothing major, just day-to-day.”

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP Caleb Smith (0-1, 6.00), who made his debut in relief on Monday, was announced after Saturday’s game as the starter for Sunday. RHP Luis Cessa (0-3, 4.61) originally was scheduled to start.

Mariners: RHP Yovani Gallardo (4-7, 5.59), removed from the rotation after struggling early, makes his first start since June 17. He was 1-0 with an 0.79 ERA in four relief appearances, allowing one earned run in 11 1/3 innings. He is 2-3 with a 6.47 ERA in six starts against the Yankees.