This is the time of year where it’s easy to lose track of the Mariners’ wheelings and dealings, so I’m going to do my best to corral them in the occasional post (mostly so it’s easier for me to go back later and find them, when I do my longer Mariners-related preview posts). So, without further ado, some stuff:
- Exercised Seth Smith’s 2017 option for $7 million
- Declined Chris Iannetta’s option
- Waived Nori Aoki (picked up by Houston, ugh)
- Furbush, Clevenger, and Ryan Cook declined assignments with Tacoma, became free agents
- Claimed Dean Kiekhefer off waivers from St. Louis
- Lind, Storen, Dae-ho Lee, and Guti also granted free agency
- Trade Vidal Nuno to Dodgers for catcher Carlos Ruiz
So, mostly news about guys who probably won’t be back. I can’t imagine, with the shitstorm on Twitter, that the Mariners will work that hard to bring back Steve Clevenger. Furbush is still annihilated with injuries, so I don’t know what his deal is. I guess he’ll continue to work his way back into pitching shape and then see if he can get a deal somewhere. It’s not impossible for him to return to Seattle, but he’s going to have to prove he’s 100%, or else come back on a minor league, try-out deal. Either way, can’t afford to keep those guys on our 40-man roster; better to have the open spots. The Mariners actually need a quality left-handed reliever, not a guy who will spend the entirety of 2017 on the DL.
Speaking of left-handed relievers, Vidal Nuno is gone! I dunno, he was a guy we all liked for his versatility, but it turns out if you’re a crappy starter and a crappy reliever, the bottom line is you’re crappy. We were able to swap him for another catcher, which looks like an awesome deal from a Mariners perspective.
Mike Zunino came back to the Majors in 2016 better than he was before, but he’s still not a finished product. His defense is second to only a select few, as he was among the league leaders in defensive runs saved, while playing less than half the season in the Bigs. With Ruiz’s bat – and competent on-base abilities – I wouldn’t mind seeing an equal timeshare between the two guys. If they can stay healthy, we might be looking at not just replacement-level production out of the catcher position, but actually having it be a net-positive for this team! Either way, it’s a VAST improvement over Chris Iannetta, which is all I can ask for.
Also speaking of left-handed relievers, this Kiekhefer guy is one of those! He has all of 26 Major League appearances under his belt, all in 2016, and most of them pretty sub-par. He’s sort of like a lefty version of Steve Cishek, only not as good. He’ll destroy left-handed hitting, but he appears to struggle mightily against righties. I guess you could argue he’s still pretty young, and for the most part looked better in September than he did earlier in the year (one 4-run appearance aside), but more than anything I think you peg him to be Spring Training fodder. He’s on the 40-man roster, for now, but that’s not necessarily set in stone. Whether he has options (I would assume he still does) is another issue. If he pitches well in spring, either he makes the big league team, or he goes to Tacoma as insurance. I guess we’ll see.
I think the writing was already on the wall when it came to Smith and Aoki. The team likes Smith’s veteran leadership and steady (sometimes power) bat in the lineup over Aoki’s streakiness and slap-hittiness. Aoki’s questionable defensive ability, and his poor base running, really did him in. Nevertheless, I hate seeing him go to Houston, as I’m CONVINCED he’ll have a career year, even if he doesn’t play every day.
As for everyone else, we’ll wait and see. I can’t imagine the market is too broad for Guti, so expect him back. Dae-ho Lee might be less inclined to return, unless he’s guaranteed more playing time. I have to think we’re going to look for a more permanent fix for our first base woes. Drew Storen might be the toughest one to retain, as I can’t imagine the Mariners will want to break the bank for a right handed reliever who had a nice half-season with us, but is ultimately a hit-or-miss prospect going forward. If he wants to come back on a relatively minor deal, fine, but I don’t think I’m paying more than $2-3 million for his services.
So far, so good. The Mariners are better now than they were at the end of the 2016 season. Let’s keep doing that and everything should be fine.