“We’ve had multiple players in and out of town here the last couple weeks and we’ll continue to do that. We’ve talked the last couple years, we’ve been very consistent with what we’ve said and done and we’ll continue to be consistent. One of the things that has been evident this offseason is obviously bringing in that veteran presence and veteran ballplayers we feel can help our kids, but most importantly hit in the middle of the lineup or have a position on our bal lclub that can help us both on and off the field.”
“Jack and Tom McNamara have done a great job building this organization with young players through the draft. They started that before I got here and everything I’ve talked to you about from my first press conference on here the last couple years, we’ve stayed true to and we’ll continue to stay true to. I feel as confident as ever in regard to our future here in Seattle. I’m excited about the upcoming year and I think the fans should be excited about it. I know there are a lot of questions and that’s a good thing, but in regard to how we see our future and where we see ourselves at right now, we feel we’re in a very, very good place. I get questions often in regard to the timetable of us being a championship team. The only thing I can tell you is we’ll be better, we’ll continue to get better. That’s what happened the last couple years. And at some point in time sooner than later, we will be a championship team. Ultimately we’ve said all along, it’s about being a championship team and sustaining a level of championship success for years to com. That’s our vision and the path we’re on and we’ll continue to do so.”
On the starting rotation and adding any more arms: “We’d like to bring in another veteran. It’s a thin free-agent market. Jack has been tireless in regard to trade talk and conversations. All year long, every day. I’ve been fortunate that he keeps me in the loop on all that. But, hey, we’re wide open for the kids too. I look at like everybody who comes into camp has chance to make the ballclub. Some may be long shots or supreme long shots and some may have better opportunities than others, but if you come to big-league camp, you’re there to try to make the ballclub. And if you don’t you go back to the Minor Leagues and work hard to get back there.
“Obviously it starts with Felix and we have Iwakuma and you look at Beavan and Ramirez and probably Noesi. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be in that order. And you’ve got those young kids that are coming. It’s not just the big three that everybody talks about, but guys beyond that as well. It’s going to be real excited. If you look at the players we bring to camp, if you look at our camp from head to toe we’ll be as talented with our 60 players as anybody in baseball.”
On platoon options at some positions: “I don’t mind platooning a particular position if we feel that’s what best for the club, but I’m not going to limit anybody from being an everyday player either, especially young players. The last couple years we’ve had the luxury to keep pushing these kids out there to give them that experience, let them have success, go through some failures, learn from it.
But as we continue to get closer to being a championship club, those opportunities will be limited and the rope will be shorter. Because we’re closer to where we need to be and we have other options that can fill in for them in a better fashion, quite frankly, if we decide to make a change. I’m not sure if we’re done doing everything we’re going to do this offseason. If we go into spring training status quo, then we have some unbelievable competition. If you look at some of the veterans we brought in, plus the young kids, the versatility is really going to work for us, whether it be left, right, first, DH, the outfield/first base/DH or catcher/DH, we’re going to have some opportunities to make it work. I want to make sure we’re better balanced, not just with regard to young and old, but also left-right, to make it more difficult for teams to match up with us.”
On having OF/DH/1B duplicates on the roster: “I have a clear idea of how I see it playing out, but they’ll ultimately determine that. Players make decisions for you. They decide how much they’re going to play by their performance and how they act, how they handle both the good and the bad. In regard to our numbers, I look at it like a healthy thing. You’re one trade or injury away from being another injury or trade from getting thin again. We’re ok. We’ve been in a situation here where we’ve been lean from a position player standpoint, but that’s not the norm. If you’re a championship club, you start stacking it up a little bit in regard to your depth and big-league club and some of your players that look pretty good end up going to Triple-A or somewhere else. And that’s the direction we’re headed.”
On his young core of players being the key: “When you talk about our young core players, whether from position or pitching standpoint, what they can do if they figure it all out is more so than what any veteran player can do in regard to strictly performance. Now the intangibles with the veteran players is something you can’t put a limitation on that, you can’t put a value on that, because it can be through the roof. When you look at the impact a veteran player can have on younger kids and how that can parlay itself and domino through the clubhouse, it’s something that can take on a life of its own. Because as the light goes on and these kids figure it out on and off the field and handle everything that goes along with being a good Major League player and part of a championship club, that’s what it takes. Championships don’t come easy. You’ve got to have talent, toughness and players that get it. And I think we’ve got some players in here that are really going to help us in that regard.”
“You can make an argument that Raul Ibanez is as good as anybody in the game in regard to going out there and performing and playing first, because that’s why you sign him, to be a baseball player. But then beyond that, the intangibles he brings as a guy who has been part of championship clubs and really done everything in the game. It just looks to me as this guy has as much value in that role as anybody. And you look at a Morse, a guy that has been recently on a playoff team and has some ups and downs and struggles. It hasn’t come easy for him, but he hasn’t given in to it and has become a fantastic player. Morales, a middle of the lineup guy who has been part of championship clubs over there and had some adversity with injuries. And Bay, who has had fantastic years in the big leagues and a guy that managers have called and told me about the type of character and what he means to a club. I’m not looking for choir boys. I’m looking for people who can help us get better and win and that’s what these guys do.”
On having his 3-4-5 hitters inexperienced last year: “It was significant. It just wasn’t really fair to them with where they were and are in their careers. They weren’t able to be protected. They weren’t in the best possible position to succeed. But I’m an optimist. Because they had to sink or swim on their own, they’ll be tougher for it. Because they had to lean on each other, they’ll be stronger that much quicker. Even though it was painful at times, they didn’t give into the fight. They didn’t complain about it. If you look at the veterans we had in the clubhouse last year versus the veterans we have this year, it’s night and day.”
On the progress of Justin Smoak: “Stronger. He looks great. His body fat is down, up 10 pounds of muscle. For that frame, that’s a good thing. That’s one thing we wanted him to do. I have to give the kids credit. We give them directives for the offseason and it’s ultimately in their court. We stay in touch, but you’re not with them every day and either they do it or they don’t. With very few exceptions, our guys have shown the type of commitment you want them to show.”
On Montero as the every day catcher: “It’s more on the mental than the physical side of things. I don’t have any doubt he can handle it from a talent perspective, that he can handle the role fundamentally. But being so young and inexperienced, the mental grind … we ask a great deal of our catchers here. And then the physical grind that goes along with it, that’s pretty real. But he knows he’s coming here to catch. It’ll ultimately be my decision in regard to how much he does catch, but we’re going to ask him to catch as much as we feel he can to go out there and perform the way he’s capable of performing. We’ll leave it at that right now.”
On needing three catchers: “I don’t think it’ll be that necessary to have three catchers. It’s always a luxury. We definitely needed it last year with the cast of characters we had, but this year I think it might be a little different. But either way, even we only have two catchers, somebody else out there – and they don’t know it yet – is going to have to figure out how to go back there in the case of emergency. We’ll cross that bridge at some point this spring.
On his night and day comment about the veterans: “You guys know who the veterans we had last year were and you know who the veterans we have this year are. You can probably figure that out. I mentioned already the guys who are coming in. I’m not going to talk about guys that aren’t here any more, but you can look at their role and their impact or lack thereof. It is what it is. This is professional sports. This is the big leagues. This is the highest level. Either you do it or you don’t. Either you help or you don’t. If you help, you’re on board with it. If you don’t, we’re going to eliminate you. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve been very consistent with it. We’re looking for people to be a part of this. The challenge for all of you and the fans and everybody is to see how we continue to progress and look for those little victories because they end up being big victories in time. That’s why we’re going to stay on this path and make sure we keep moving forward like we’re supposed to.”
On Smoak winning the 1B job: “I’ve made it very clear I feel strong about Justin Smoak and what his abilities are. I have every anticipation that he’s going to be our first baseman this year. Now if he shows us something different, then so be it. But he’s coming in as our first baseman and I expect him to take that on and run with it. We ended up sending him out to Triple-A last year and he didn’t have a very good year by most standards and I get that. But he still hit 19 home runs. He’s not too far away from 25 home runs if he does okay. And if he’s decent, he hits 30 home runs. So you have to look at it that way. What you don’t want to do is give up a day early. You’d rather be late than early when it comes to players.”
“It rarely happens on your timetable as a player. No different than it rarely happens on my timetable. My timetable is yesterday. I want this to happen yesterday, not today or tomorrow. That’s how badly I want it. The discipline is to make sure you stick with it so you don’t get back on that merry-go-round like so many clubs and you regress.”
On being comfortable with Ackley at leadoff: “I am. I’m not going to say that’s exactly for sure where he’s going to be, but I am comfortable with him there because I believe he’s going to be a solid big league player for a number of years. He wasn’t in the leadoff spot very long last year and didn’t have a very good year by most people’s standards offensively, but he still scored 85 runs. If you play it forward and have another good month or a couple good months, whether it’s a Smoak or Ackley, where are you at? You’re at 25-30 home runs and maybe 100-110 runs scored. That’s pretty good. I’m just trying to see around the corner with these guys. I’m not going to sit here and say he’s going to be our leadoff hitter, but when I think of him, that’s what I think of first.”
More on Montero: “I’ve got to see him. He got in here late last night. Our training staff and strength coach is going to look at him, I’ll spend a lot of time here in the next couple days and we’ll see where he’s at. But we had some guys down there working with him physically as well as from a fundamental standpoint with his running. Plus we wanted him to have some getaway time. It was quite a grind for him with his first full year last year and we wanted him to come back fresh. So we’ll know more here in a couple days.
On the role for Kendrys Morales: “I see him more in a DH role. But I’m very comfortable with him playing first base. I saw enough of him playing against us last year at first base to know he can handle himself well over there. You look at the fact he can play some first base, Morse can play some first base, I told Ibanez to bring a first-baseman’s glove, I like having the versatility. That’s nothing against Justin Smoak. I just want that versatility. That’s why they’re not just going to play left field or right field, they’re going to play left and right field. That’s why Saunders will play all three. Wells will play all three. It’s just healthy to have that versatility because you just don’t know how it’s going to play out. Until we get a little further down the road and solidify people in certain positions, you’ve got to maintain your versatility with players.”
On Morse playing SS like he joked: “I might let him play third base. Just because behind Andino, depending who makes the team, we need another guy in case we pinch run Andino and he happens to be in the game and somebody else gets hurt and we need another infielder, we can move Seager or Andino or Brendan or whoever, we need to have somebody come in and play in the infield. I am going to have Seager play some shortstop this spring so we have a third behind Ryan and Andino. He’s not a guy who’ll start there, but just in case late in a ballgame when we’re maneuvering, we have the flexibility to do that.”