Here's how Seattle might handle roster crunch

August 10th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer's Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE -- Significant roster decisions loom for the Mariners, and soon. The club is already considering how to handle the personnel crunch with center fielder Julio Rodríguez and utility man Dylan Moore returning from the 10-day injured list as soon as Wednesday. The same goes for reliever Diego Castillo.

And that doesn’t include Trade Deadline acquisitions -- reliever Matthew Boyd and backup catcher , who should return from injuries soon, too -- or outfielder , who has been raking on a Minor League rehab assignment.

That’s six players that will need to be activated, and it doesn’t include how the Mariners handle George Kirby’s rotation spot on Friday in Arlington. The rookie has been superb and almost assuredly will be starting postseason games if they make it. But by carrying six starters after acquiring Luis Castillo at the Trade Deadline, the bullpen has been an arm short.

If it sounds overwhelming, it’s also a good problem to have.

“It's the makeup of the entire roster and what those players bring,” manager Scott Servais said. “How much can they play? What matchups look like, the handedness of the players. All those things play into it when you're trying to make a final decision. You're looking at the upcoming schedule, all those things. So there's not one thing, where it's, ‘OK, if it's this checklist, and there's four things and we keep this guy over that guy.’ It doesn't really work that way.”

Here’s a look at players who could be casualties to the roster decisions:

1B/DH Carlos Santana: His situation is the most intriguing. He’s been an invaluable clubhouse leader, has had some incredibly clutch moments and the Mariners also took on his nearly $1.5 million in salary. A chunk of that is now paid though, his need at first base isn’t as significant now that Ty France is healthy and Santana is hitting just .176/.289/.370 (.659 OPS) since the June 28 trade. Because of his 11-plus years of service time, removing him from the 26-man would mean cutting him altogether.

UTIL : He’s played his way into consideration with impressive speed and instincts, the ability to play multiple positions and an offensive breakout. It’s going to be hard to send down a player who offers all that and entered the week hitting .354/.380/.604 (.984 OPS) in his past 20 games.

OF : He entered the week 2-for-21 with seven strikeouts, zero walks and one homer. Filling in for Rodríguez was a chance for Kelenic to re-prove himself, but his story has basically been the same as to the one before he was optioned in May.

OF Kyle Lewis: He’s 4-for-40 with 17 strikeouts, and has health limitations that prevent him from playing every day. He has three Minors options remaining, which makes him a strong candidate to be an odd man out.

INF/OF Jake Lamb: They just acquired him at the Trade Deadline, which doesn’t signal a guy that they’re so quickly willing to designate for assignment. The most glaring detriment to his game -- and it’s a notable one -- is that he’ll only play against righties, against whom he has a .798 OPS.

C : His clock began ticking when Casali was acquired, but Casali is on a Minors rehab assignment recovering from an oblique strain, so Torrens’ time will probably last until Casali is fully healthy since Seattle will need two catchers at all times.

The roster crunch began on Saturday when infielder and front-office favorite Abraham Toro was optioned to clear a spot for Mitch Haniger. It was the first of many dominoes, and that doesn’t even address Castillo’s return to the bullpen, which would require another reliever to go down.

“It's how he works with the group together, each individual player,” Servais said. “Does that make sense? Some guys are more versatile. They play other positions. Other guys, maybe they bring more thump with a bat off the bench. So you're trying to balance what you have that you know that isn't going anywhere versus the guys that are coming back on your roster and the ones that may have to go off.”

In this roster uncertainty, one thing is certain -- clarity will be coming sooner than later.

“They're never comfortable when we've had guys that have been big contributors here,” Servais said. “But you're trying to manage all the pieces. You want to keep depth, obviously. We have a lot of games left to play. You're going to need to lean on some guys who maybe do get optioned out and you bring them [back]. So there are a lot of those roster dynamics that are going to play into effect here as the guys get healthy.”