SEATTLE -- In “normal” times, Major League Baseball’s executives would be gathering in Dallas this week for the annual Winter Meetings, with player agents and media members circling the lobby at the Omni Hotel along with job seekers and fans just hoping for a glimpse of Dusty Baker, Scott Boras or someone they recognize from their favorite team.
But things aren’t normal this year, of course, and the 2020 Winter Meetings have been canceled due to the pandemic. So in a look back, here are the Top 5 Mariners moments from Winter Meetings past.
1) The Canó contract (Dec. 12, 2013)
This one comes with a bit of an asterisk as the official press conference announcing Robinson Canó’s signing of a 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract actually was held in Seattle on the final day of the 2013 Meetings. But all the Mariners officials and media covering the team flew back from Orlando, Fla., to take part in the biggest announcement in franchise history as then-general manager Jack Zduriencik finalized a blockbuster contract after outbidding the Yankees for the five-time All-Star second baseman.
Canó, along with his agents -- hip-hop star Jay-Z and future Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen -- were all smiles that day. So was Zduriencik, who called himself “the other J.Z.” Canó played five years for Seattle and earned three All-Star honors with the club before he was traded to Van Wagenen’s Mets in December 2018.
2) A blockbuster beginning (Dec. 10, 2008)
Shortly after being hired as Seattle’s GM to replace Bill Bavasi, Zduriencik made his presence felt with a three-team, 12-player trade during his first Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. The whopper deal brought seven new players to the Mariners, including center fielder Franklin Gutierrez and left-handed starter Jason Vargas. Gutierrez came from the Indians, while the Mets sent Vargas, outfielders Endy Chavez and Ezequiel Carrera, right-handers Aaron Heilman and Maikel Cleto and first baseman Mike Carp.
In exchange, Seattle shipped relievers J.J. Putz and Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed to the Mets and infielder Luis Valbuena to Cleveland. Gutierrez played seven seasons in the outfield for the Mariners and won an American League Gold Glove Award, Vargas was a solid piece in the rotation for four years and Chavez and Carp saw some playing time as well. Putz was an All-Star closer for the Mariners, but he struggled in one season for the Mets before becoming a free agent.
3) From the hospital bed (Dec. 13, 2018)
Jerry Dipoto’s reputation as the most prolific trader in MLB was only reinforced on the final day of the 2018 Meetings in Las Vegas when Seattle completed a trade to acquire veteran slugger Edwin Encarnación while Dipoto was in the hospital dealing with severe chest pains caused by blood clots in his lungs. Dipoto signed off on the details of the trade from his hospital bed, letting assistant GM Justin Hollander make the final calls to the participating teams.
Seattle received Encarnación and a Round B compensatory Draft pick -- which they eventually turned into current pitching prospect Isaiah Campbell -- as well as cash from Tampa Bay, and it sent first baseman Carlos Santana to Cleveland as part of a deal that also included three other players switching between the Rays and Indians. Encarnación hit 21 homers in 65 games for Seattle before he was traded to the Yankees for another promising pitching prospect in right-hander Juan Then.
4) Bringing on an MVP (Dec. 11, 1991)
General manager Woody Woodward was looking for a right-handed power bat to plug into the cleanup hole behind budding 22-year-old star Ken Griffey Jr., and he made a bold move to bring in 1989 National League MVP Award winner Kevin Mitchell from the Giants in a five-player swap that sent pitchers Bill Swift, Mike Jackson and Dave Burba to the Giants. That wound up a steep price as Swift won 21 games and was second in the NL Cy Young Award voting in ’93 for San Francisco and Jackson was a very good reliever.
Meanwhile, an overweight Mitchell reported to Seattle and hit just nine homers with 67 RBIs, and carried a .286 average in 99 games and one season at age 30, though he did bring a key piece to Seattle’s future when he was traded to the Reds for closer Norm Charlton the next year. The other player acquired in the deal was young right-hander Mike Remlinger, a 1987 first-round Draft pick who was granted free agency after two mediocre seasons in the Minors with the Mariners, but then wound up pitching 14 seasons in the Majors and earning All-Star honors for the Braves in 2002.
5) A hometown reunion (Dec. 8, 1978)
Lou Gorman, the Mariners’ first general manager, pulled off an interesting trade after the franchise’s second season when he dealt All-Star shortstop Craig Reynolds to the Astros for left-hander Floyd Bannister, who was Houston’s first-round Draft pick in 1976 out of Arizona State. Bannister grew up in the Seattle area and led Kennedy Catholic High to a state title in 1973 with a 15-0 record and 0.00 ERA.
Gorman acquired Bannister at the 1978 Winter Meetings in Orlando, and the hometown return turned out well as Bannister posted a 3.75 ERA in 118 games (117 starts) over four seasons in Seattle and led the AL in strikeouts in an All-Star season in ’82 before becoming a free agent. While his 40-50 record with the Mariners doesn’t look too shiny, it should be noted he played on four teams that finished a combined 103 games below .500.