At this time of year, you will hear many general managers speak about a desire to add left-handed pitching.
Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto is not one of those people.
The Mariners’ 40-man roster includes 11 left-handed pitchers, the most of any team in baseball, according to STATS LLC. They have even more left-handers than right-handers (nine).
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Dipoto inherited 10 lefties when he was hired in September, then added C.J. Riefenhauser in a six-player trade with Tampa Bay earlier this month.
“I don’t know if you can have too many of them,” Dipoto said of his southpaws. “At some point, we’re going to have to thin the herd.”
Five of them — Roenis Elias, Mike Montgomery, James Paxton, Vidal Nuno and Edgar Olmos — started games for the Mariners in 2015; it seems unlikely that more than two will open 2016 in the rotation. The Mariners have right-handers Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and Nathan Karns, and are trying to re-sign free agent Hisashi Iwakuma.
Meanwhile, Dipoto said he expects to carry no more than three left-handed relievers on the 25-man roster at any given time. Dipoto likes that Elias and Nuno have shown the versatility to start or relieve in the major leagues. Riefenhauser, he said, is “one of the premium minor-league performers” from the left side in recent years, with a cut fastball that’s been highly effective against left-handed batters.
Dipoto said the Mariners’ Triple-A pitching staff could include as many as seven or eight left-handers to begin the 2016 season. Of course, trades between now and April could whittle some of the surplus.
And if Dipoto is in a mood to deal, he would be wise to call new Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns. The Brewers have only two left-handers on their 40-man roster, and the last southpaw to start for them was Tom Gorzelanny — on Aug. 28, 2013.