Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto has been a busy man in his second offseason at the helm. Let’s take a look at what he’s done so far this offseason and where that leaves the Mariners this winter.
Jerry Dipoto has been wheeling and dealing this winter, as he is wont to do, trying to get this Mariners ball club over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
There is hope that this roster will finally be the one that sends Seattle into the postseason. Last season, they finished three games out of the final Wild Card spot. They were in the hunt for most of the season and even spent 32 calendar days in first place in the AL West.
Here is a breakdown of the moves Jerry Dipoto has made to re-shape this Mariners roster, starting with the first moves of the offseason:
Jul 28, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz (51) throws a runner out at first against the Atlanta Braves in the seventh inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Nuno was a viable left-handed reliever. He appeared in 87 games over two seasons with Seattle, posting a 3.85 ERA and spot-starting in 11 games. He would never overwhelm hitters but he seemed to deliver every time the Mariners needed him in a pinch.
Affectionately known as “Chooch,” Ruiz brings veteran leadership into the clubhouse with a “been there, done that” resume. He earned a World Series ring with the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies. He has played in four league championship series in his career, with a .259 average and two home runs in those games. He also appeared in the 2009 World Series for Philadelphia, hitting .333.
He will be an excellent mentor to Mike Zunino, who should be the starting catcher come April. Ruiz has not played over 86 games since 2014. Expect him to be a day-game, “get-away day” kind of catcher when the Mariners need to spell Zunino.
For you sabermetricians out there, he has posted a positive WAR in all but one of his 11 seasons in the major leagues. He essentially takes the place of Chris Iannetta. For what it’s worth, Ruiz had a +4 defensive runs saved season in 2016 while Iannetta posted a -10 (meaning he cost the Mariners 10 runs during the season).
Sep 29, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Oakland Athletics right fielder Danny Valencia (26) hits a double against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Blackburn was the other chip in the trade that sent Mike Montgomery to the Chicago Cubs and brought in first baseman Dan Vogelbach. Blackburn, 23 years old, is yet to make his major league debut. He posted a solid 3.27 ERA in 25 starts for Double-A Tennessee and Double-A Jackson.
What They Gain
Danny Valencia is a 32 year-old vet who has seven major league seasons under his belt. He played in 130 games for Oakland last year, hitting .287 with 17 home runs while playing four different defensive positions (1st and 3rd base, right and left field).
Want your voice heard? Join the Emerald City Swagger team!
Many think he will platoon with Vogelbach at first base. He has appeared in 43 games at first base in his career, with +2 defensive runs saved. He is ultra-valuable as a utility man. The Mariners can place him all over the field. It will be like having two or three more bench players in one. He also has played 28 games at Safeco Field.
Sep 26, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura (2) hits a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
This was easily the biggest trade of the offseason for Dipoto’s Mariners. Walker was supposed to be the heir-apparent to King Felix when Felix Hernandez can no longer wear the crown. After three up-and-down seasons and struggling to keep his ERA below 4.20 the last two seasons, the Mariners pulled the plug. He has a lot of upside but the Mariners were tired of waiting.
Marte finally got to play nearly every day in 2016. The results were lukewarm. He hit .259 with one home run and struggled to get on base. He also was -2 in defensive runs saved at shortstop.
What They Gain
This trade should get M’s fans excited. Jean Segura is young (26 years old) and a former All-Star (2013). He led the National League in hits in 2016 with 203. He was one of only four players to reach the 200-hit plateau last season. He posted a .319 average and hit 20 home runs. The home runs may be an outlier but he is a lifetime .280 hitter in five seasons. He committed just one error in 23 games at shortstop last season. He has played 495 games at shortstop.
Mitch Haniger may be one of the more underrated acquisitions of the offseason. He made his major league debut last season, hitting five home runs in 34 games for Arizona. He was a Triple-A All-Star and PCL Player of the Month in 2016. He hit .321 with a .419 on-base percentage and 25 home runs in 129 games in Triple-A last season. He could very well find himself in the lineup somewhere (likely right field) come opening day.
Curtis also made his debut last season for the D-backs. He appeared in 21 games with a 6.75 ERA. The 24 year-old spent most of 2016 in Double-A, where the lefty had 30 strikeouts in 19 innings.
Oct 13, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Marc Rzepczynski (23) pitches during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Rightfully nicknamed “Scrabble,” Rzcepczynski is a reliable lefty that appeared in 70 games last season for the Oakland Athletics and Washington Nationals. He posted an impressive 2.64 ERA and only allowed one home run all season. He will try and fill the void in the bullpen left by Nuno and Mike Montgomery. He is an eight-year veteran with a World Series ring and 21 career playoff appearances.
Sep 27, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Chris Heston (53) throws a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the second inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
With the departure of Taijuan Walker, there is a big gap to fill in the rotation. Among other pitchers to come in, Chris Heston could be a good plan B. He has 32 career big league starts and is 13-12 with a 4.16 ERA. He is best known for throwing a no-hitter against the Mets in 2015. That was his lone complete season in the majors, posting a 3.95 ERA in about 178 innings. He has shown flashes of brilliance and also stretches of inability to stay healthy. If the 2015 version shows up to camp, the Mariners have some great rotation depth.
Sep 23, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitcher Yovani Gallardo (49) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Seth Smith was a good, not great, bat in the lineup that showed up everyday and did everything that was asked. He hit .249 with 16 home runs (his highest since 2010) and played a serviceable outfield. He was a good left-handed bat to stick in the lineup when needed. He played in 273 games for Seattle in two seasons.
What They Gain
Yovani Gallardo is a welcome veteran arm to an uncertain starting rotation. He had a down year last season, with a bloated 5.42 ERA in 23 starts. There is somewhat of a gamble in this acquisition. However, if he returns to his 2007-2015 self (3.66 ERA, averaging 184 strikeouts in 204 innings per year), this could be a top-half rotation in the majors this season. In a small sample size of pitching at Safeco Field, he is 2-0 with 11 1/3 shutout innings. He also has started five playoff games with a 2.32 ERA.
Sep 28, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson (1) safely steals third base before the tag of Minnesota Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar (5) in the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Karns was a bit of a disappointment in 2016. He started the year in the rotation and slowly fizzled out. After allowing four earned runs in five innings on June 25th, he never started again. He appeared in seven more games as a reliever but continued to struggle. He finished with a 5.15 ERA.
This could possibly be one of the most key acquisitions of the offseason. It is obvious Dipoto wanted this team to be faster, more athletic and better defensively. He gets all of that with Dyson. On an inside-the-park home run in 2015, he topped out at 21.5 MPH running the bases. He has stolen at least 30 bases in four of the past five seasons. He hit a modest .278 last season with a .340 on-base percentage. He was also an intricate part of getting the Royals to two straight World Series and winning the latter.
Perhaps the most impressive attribute is his fielding. He likely takes over in left field for Nori Aoki. To compare, Aoki was at -4 in defensive runs saved (DRS) last season. Dyson posted a +19 DRS last year. That is a difference of 23 runs saved for the Mariners’ outfield.
Sep 13, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Drew Smyly (33) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays in the second inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
This was an odd day in Mariners history. They just had received Mallex Smith from the Braves that day. He was one of Atlanta’s top prospects, only to be traded again an hour later to the Rays. He battled injuries in 2016 but in 2015 he hit .306 between Double and Triple-A and is considered a plus fielder.
Vargas played 62 games in Rookie ball last year, hitting .242 with 7 home runs.
Yarbrough had 25 starts for Double-A Jackson, with an impressive 2.95 ERA.
What They Gained
Smyly, much like Gallardo, has a good track record but had a bit of a hiccup last season. He went 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA in 30 starts. In the four seasons before that, he had a 3.24 ERA and averaged 96 strikeouts in 99 innings per year. For one reason or another, he has turned in only two full seasons in the big leagues but has played in five. If the dice roll in Seattle’s favor with Smyly, they will have formidable rotation that features two solid lefties in Smyly and James Paxton.
With this new roster, things are looking up once again for the Mariners. This could be a playoff roster. It is very hard to make the playoffs in the MLB. If the Mariners can stay healthy and hit on at least a few of these acquisitions, October baseball should return to Seattle.