Mariners bide time until trade market heats up again
SAN DIEGO -- The Winter Meetings are over, and the Mariners unsurprisingly stood pat, having addressed two significant needs earlier this offseason.
However, things should pick up now that some of the more prominent free agents are off the board, headlined by Aaron Judge’s massive payday with the Yankees. Typically, the trade market -- where the Mariners make their most impact -- doesn’t pick up steam until after.
“I can't remember a Winter Meetings in 15 years when there's that little trade activity,” Mariners GM Justin Hollander said. “ We had a GMs, presidents meeting upstairs today with the Commissioner and some of us were talking before, and nobody can remember a Winter Meetings that was this quiet, like universally, on the trade front.”
BIGGEST REMAINING NEEDS
1. Corner outfielder
The Mariners say they’re confident enough with their roster as is, but they also recognize the need for a righty hitter who can play right and left field in order to spell their many lefty bats at those positions. And with one of their targets off the board after Mitch Haniger agreed with the Giants on a three-year, $43.5 million contract, they have more clarity on the avenues to fill that need.
“We included him in that mix, but there was no certainty that Mitch was going to come back,” Hollander said. “So, yes, it's still a need for us.”
2. Corner infield depth
After Carlos Santana signed with the Pirates and Abraham Toro was traded in the Kolten Wong deal, the Mariners all of a sudden lack suitable backup options at first base and third base should Ty France and Eugenio Suárez need to be spelled. Both spent time on the injured list last season.
“With the exception of Evan White, who we are uncertain of his health situation coming into the spring, we don’t have another obvious first baseman if Ty needs a day or needs a week,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said. “That’s something we need to find, whether it’s on the depth side as you’re building in Minor League free agency or through free agency and trade.”
3. Bullpen reinforcements
Seattle signed veteran righty Trevor Gott last week to a one-year, $1.2 million deal and it is bringing back righty Casey Sadler on a Minors contract after he missed all of last year recovering from right shoulder surgery. The Mariners also selected righty Chris Clarke from the Cubs’ Triple-A roster in the Rule 5 Draft.
But teams can never have enough bullpen depth, and it would be a surprise if the club didn’t arrive at Spring Training without a few more arms competing for spots, especially after trading Erik Swanson, who, with reverse splits, was essentially the lefty specialist.
The club met with Japanese free agent Kodai Senga in Seattle before the Winter Meetings.
The Mariners signed Sadler to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training.
RULE 5 DRAFT
The Mariners addressed their bullpen depth by selecting Clarke on Wednesday. He had a 4.64 ERA with 110 strikeouts and 25 walks over 120 1/3 innings last year, split between Double-A and High-A.
In the Minor League portion of the Draft, Seattle selected infielder/outfielder Francisco Tostado from the Giants and infielder/outfielder Logan Warmoth from the Blue Jays.
While seemingly everyone else in the AL West also has gotten better this offseason, it won’t prompt Dipoto and Hollander to make reactionary or emotional moves.
“We're built on draft and develop and trade,” Dipoto said. “You've heard me say this for years. We use free agency in a way to augment our roster, not as a way to build it. And I think that's just the way championship teams are typically built. If I go back and look at baseball history, that's what they look like.
“We've done things to lay the groundwork for what I think is a fairly well-balanced and robust competitive roster that just played a very strong season and we should only get better, especially when you consider the additions of Teo Hernandez and Kolten Wong.”