Seattle Mariners Offseason Review

SP Taijuan Walker leaves Seattle after signing a 10-year contract with new AL West rival Vancouver Aurora. Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

News and Notes

  • After the 2020 season was over, the Seattle Front Office had their annual meeting to discuss the current roster and form plans for the future.  Everything seemed to hinge on the arbitration hearing outcomes since Seattle had 11 player cases being reviewed.  Arbiters fell heavily in favor of the players in 9 of 11 cases forcing GM Damon Macioce to make some tough decisions due to an overall payroll increase around $50m from 2020.  As a result, SP Taijuan Walker and 2B Chris Taylor were not offered contracts and were let go to free agency.  The local fan base has not been happy to say the least.  Walker had been in the Seattle starting rotation since 2014, but posting a 14-9 record, 3.15 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 4.2 WAR last season priced him out of the Mariner market.  Seattle will get compensation for losing Walker to Vancouver in the form of a 2021 supplemental 1st round draft pick.  To date Chris Taylor has yet to be signed by another club, but the Mariners seem to have moved on promoting Jorge Mateo in the fans virtual winter-fest as the team 2B.
  • Another move made to help with the budget was dealing CF Christian Yelich who was slated to make $14m this season.  Yelich was acquired in a 2016 deal with the then Florida Marlins and was a steady offensive force in the Mariner line up including a 6.0 WAR season in 2017.  The Seattle outfield depth of talent helped make this move possible, but he will be sorely missed.  In return the Mariners received two talented bullpen arms in JR Bradley and Vladimir Gutierrez, CF Mallex Smith and two prospects.   Smith and Dann Bilardello are the front runners to play CF for Seattle in 2021.  Gutierrez and Bradley will help fill the voids left by RPs Dan Quackenbush and Vinnie Pestano both of whom had terrific 2020 seasons but left for free agency.  The two prospects received in the deal were LF Eric Stewart and SS Oscar Price.  Both were very intriguing with Stewart being named Seattle’s #5 overall prospect and Price #19, but the deal also involved Seattle sending out 2020 1st Round pick SP Jesus Rodriguez who was their #3 team prospect at the time.  Overall, the deal reduced around $12m in payroll, but also helped plug some holes in the Mariner roster.
  • A deal was made early this offseason with the New York Yankees sending starters Grayson Garvin and Chase De Jong for three prospects.  Garvin was acquired from Tampa in 2017, and had served admirably as the teams’ fill-in starter when injuries arose.   De Jong was part of a February 2020 deal with the San Francisco Giants, but mostly pitched in AAA Tacoma. Ultimately freeing up 40-man roster spots before the Rule 5 draft fueled the decision to make this deal since there were several up-and-coming arms in that could also fill the 6th starter role (Jose De Leon, Rob Armstrong and Williams Mendoza).  In return, Seattle received LF Miguel Angel Lopez, SP Dave Lewis and RP Eddie Muggleston.  Lopez was recently listed as the Seattle #21 prospect and Muggleston #28. 
  • Three other minor deals were made ahead of the Rule 5 draft to help open up spots to protect prospects that were not part of the 40-man roster.  First, AAA 1B Ken Jones was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for AAA 2B Chad Robinson.  The deal worked for both teams since Seattle had excess talent at 1B while Chicago had a glut of middle infielders.  Robinson was named Seattle’s #17 overall prospect.  Second, AAA 1B Leurys Vargas was sent to the Minnesota Twins for 3B Lanny Vaughan and SP Dylan Cease.  Vargas was MLB ready, but with Ryan Zimmerman and recently re-signed Joe Mauer on the big club, Vargas was stuck in AAA.  Vaughan was not named in Seattle’s top 30 prospects by OSA, but team scouts feel he has tremendous potential.  Another aspect for dealing both Jones and Vargas was the emergence of #4 prospect 1B Dan Hollis.  Scouts identified him as a shortlisted player performing well, and a spot in AAA was needed for him to move into.  The third minor deal made this offseason was sending C John Hicks to Boston for SP Brian Gonzalez.  Hicks filled in nicely as the third catcher over the past four years, but adding C Reese McGuire at the trade deadline and C Jose Colina in Rule 5 helped make him expendable.  Gonzalez was intriguing because he added another starter in AA Jackson, but also, he had hitting potential.  He will see time as a two-way player in Jackson.
  • The Rule 5 draft saw one player added and one player lost.  Incoming was SP Trey Ball who was selected in the first round of the draft from Boston.  Key to selecting Ball was his hitting ability.  Even though he has only been pitching the past few seasons in the minors, scouts felt he could hit in the majors now.  He will most likely see a lot of time in spring training lineups showing if the scouts were right or not.  Outgoing is 21-year-old RF Clint Moore.  Word has it the Seattle front office was debating whether or not to protect Moore, or go after Ball in the Rule 5 draft.  They took the chance Moore might not be selected, but lost him to Vancouver (common theme).  Moore was originally selected in the 2016 draft, and had over-exceeded scout expectations at every level.  The Mariners hope Ball can prove to be worth losing Moore. 
  • Seattle has signed two free-agent players to the MLB roster so far this offseason.  First was the re-signing of RP Alex Claudio whom the Mariners originally acquired from Texas in 2020.  Claudio wanted to see what was out in the free agent market, but eventually accepted Seattle’s offer to return.  Claudio faired well in Texas, was decent for Seattle after getting acclimated.  The Mariners also signed a familiar name in SP James Paxton.  Paxton was dealt by the Mariners in 2016 to Toronto in GM Macioce’s first season.  Seattle is bringing Paxton into camp to see if he can compete for a rotation spot, or possibly be a long man in the pen.

Rumor Mill

  • There have been reports over the past month or so Seattle is still looking to reduce more salary.  Names like RF Johnny Moore and C Tyronne Ibarra have been mentioned in talks.  Pressure is on to not only win now but also cut salary to a more manageable level. 
  • SP Adys Portillo has fully recovered from his radial nerve decompression surgery, but he won’t automatically be given a spot in the rotation.  He will have to show he can return to his pre-surgery form in spring training though coaches do remain confident he will.  His competition will be Paxton, Armstrong, De Leon, Mendoza or possibly even Gutierrez.

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