Mariners Make More Moves, MmmKay?

I feel like there’s something going on every two minutes, so I better get this up quick.

  • Mariners trade Mark Trumbo & C.J. Riefenhauser to Baltimore for Steve Clevenger
  • Mariners signed Nori Aoki to a 1-year deal
  • Mariners signed Justin De Fratus to 1-year deal
  • Mariners claimed Andy Wilkins off waivers from Baltimore
  • Mariners designated Edgar Olmos for assignment

A lot of little deals add up to a whole lotta HUH?

Obviously, Trumbo isn’t a Jerry Dipoto Kinda Guy, that much is clear, considering this is the second time in his GM career that he’s traded Trumbo away.  He strikes out a lot, hits for a low average, plays pretty shabby defense, and all in the name of a few dingers every now and then.  To be honest, I’m not sad to see him go.  To be PERFECTLY honest, I’m not sad to see a lot of the Jackie Z disappointments go.  One would think you’d be able to get more for a guy like Trumbo – especially from a team like Baltimore, who plays in a bandbox – but he’s set to make about $9 million next year, and apparently this was nothing but a cost-cutting move.

The fact that we also had to give up C.J. Riefenhauser, all for the honor of bringing back a backup catcher in Steve Clevenger, seems to be an extra slap in the face to all concerned (except for Clevenger, I guess, who has to feel like ten million bucks right about now).  But, let’s face it, Riefenhauser is semi-expendable, considering we’ve got about a thousand lefty relievers right now.  And Trumbo was never going to be the difference between us winning and losing.  Shedding his salary, and being allowed to make other moves for potentially better players, ultimately brings this deal up to the “Not So Bad” level.

I don’t think anyone is expecting much out of Clevenger.  He’s out of options, which means he’s all but assured to be this team’s backup catcher this year.  That forces Mike Zunino down to Tacoma for continued seasoning (unless the team decides to keep three catchers and/or convert one of them to first base, which I won’t rule out).  There’s also the outside chance that the team ends up flipping Clevenger for another player, like they just did with Riefenhauser (really disappointed I’m not going to get to write out “Riefenhauser” on the reg in 2016); or an interesting, VERY outside chance that the team trades Zunino (but, I honestly can’t see them giving up on a player this young, this good defensively, and with this much promise to turn his career around at the plate).  On the plus side, Clevenger is a lefty, which means he’ll likely start against the most difficult right-handed pitchers (but, obviously not ALL of them, as Chris Iannetta is still slated to be our starter).  And, overall, this seriously improves our overall organizational catcher depth.  Iannetta and Clevenger in the Bigs, Zunino and Sucre (probably) in Tacoma, and everyone else in the lower minors slotted accordingly.  If and when there’s an injury to a Major League catcher, it’s nice to know we’ll have Zunino at the ready to come up and play immediately (especially since he knows a lot of the pitchers really well).

That’s honestly more than I thought I’d write about the acquisition of a backup catcher, but there you go.

The more interesting move of the last 24 hours is actually the reported signing of outfielder Nori Aoki.  You might remember him from playing in Kansas City in 2014 on their World Series team.  He’ll be 34 years old next year (downside), but he’s only on a 1-year deal.  His 2015 was cut short due to a concussion, but he’s apparently been cleared to play and all appears to be well on that end.  Most importantly, he solves our Right Field problem, plays solid defense, hits for a solid average, and gets on base like a fiend.  I, for one, love a guy who walks more than he strikes out; I don’t know about you.  He’s a top-of-the-order table-setter type of guy that this team has been SORELY lacking since Ichiro exited his prime.  I don’t know if he’ll bat first or second in the order, but either way, this is the best news I’ve heard all offseason.

The outfield now looks like it’s going to be a left field platoon of Seth Smith & Guti, with Leonys Martin in center, and a right field semi-platoon with Aoki and Nelson Cruz (likely with Aoki playing the majority of the games, health permitting).  Our defense is bolstered, our hitting/on-base percentage is improved … this is honestly working out just as Dipoto promised.

Normally when you see this much turnover out of a new GM, I get the feeling that he’s just trying to mark his territory, seeking change for the sake of change, while at the same time trying to make the previous GM look as silly as possible.  But, I dunno, Dipoto feels different.  He’s got a plan – which every GM has when they start a new job – and he’s actually working toward making that plan a reality.  The only move he’s made so far that somewhat challenges his vision is Leonys Martin – who is NOT a good on-base guy – but he’s still got the defensive skills and athleticism you look for out of a center fielder.  When you partner the move to bring him in with the signing of Aoki (while also making a concerted effort to reassure fans that Martin will be a bottom-of-the-order hitter) I think that smooths things out, as this team is in dire-need of more table-setters (and, quite honestly, we don’t know if Ketel Marte is one of those guys yet).

Of course, what these moves have accomplished is, while they’ve filled our most glaring outfield hole, they opened up one at first base.  With LoMo no mo’ (kill me, kill me now), and with Trumbo gone, that just leaves Jesus Montero as our only first baseman on the 40-man.  Unless you count this Andy Wilkins guy, who has all of 17 games of Major League experience.  What we’re really looking at is:  this team isn’t done.  Not by a long shot.  BUT, things are in a little clearer focus.

Outfield is set.  Catcher is probably set.  Infield is mostly set; just need a first baseman.  The bullpen probably has more tweaking to go (we also signed this Justin De Fratus guy, who was a reliever for the Phillies the last few years, had a good 2014, had a crappy 2015, you know the score).  Need to add another starter (likely Iwakuma) and we’re good to go.  Or not, you never seem to know with new GMs.

What we do know is that there’s probably not another HUGE deal on the horizon.  With so much money tied up in Felix, Cano, Cruz, and Seager, don’t expect one of the top free agents (like a Chris Davis, for instance, who does play first base) to sign here.  The last big money deal will likely go to Iwakuma, and that’s still probably going to be a 2-3 year, modestly-priced deal.  Nothing like what you’re seeing with guys like David Price and the like (set to make $31 million per season, which sounds like suicide to me, but it’s not my money).

*** UPDATE ***

Looks like the Mariners gave away Patrick Kivlehan, a promising first base prospect from Tacoma, to finish the trade to the Rangers that brought in Leonys Martin.  This displeases me greatly, as I thought he’d be a guy who might pop for us.  Hope it doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass.

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