After Smith acquisition, Mariners roster appears set
Zduriencik checks off last need after bringing aboard veteran outfielder
SEATTLE -- When Jack Zduriencik laid out his offseason plans this winter, the Mariners general manager had a pretty clear -- and relatively short -- wish list.
With almost the entire roster returning from a young club that went 87-75 and came up one win shy of tying for an American League Wild Card spot, Seattle sought a couple of accomplished hitters to bolster its lineup and one experienced starting pitcher to provide depth for its rotation.
And as the calendar turns to 2015, Zduriencik has now checked off those boxes and the Mariners appear largely set for Spring Training in six weeks after adding outfielder Seth Smith by trade from the Padres last week.
Combined with the previously acquired Justin Ruggiano from the Cubs, Smith provides Seattle another piece for its outfield puzzle and another solid hitter for a lineup that continues building around Robinson Cano.
The biggest addition to that lineup already came in early December when free agent Nelson Cruz signed a four-year, $57 million contract. Cruz led the Majors in home runs with 40 last year for the Orioles and gives Seattle its long-sought right-handed slugger to slide in behind Cano in the cleanup spot.
Zduriencik's other significant offseason move was trading outfielder Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays for southpaw starter J.A. Happ, who fills the vacancy created by Chris Young's departure.
Seattle's hope is that Cruz and the combo of Smith and Ruggiano offer enough offensive improvement to support a pitching staff that led the AL in ERA last year and can lift the club to its first postseason berth since 2001.
The Mariners designated hitters combined for an AL-worst .191 batting average and .577 OPS in 2014. Cruz is a career .268 hitter with an .829 OPS. Seattle's right fielders hit .255 with a .720 OPS last year. Smith has hit .265 with an .800 OPS in eight seasons, Ruggiano has hit .257 with a .751 OPS in six seasons. And those two have much higher numbers when used in platoon situations.
There will likely still be some small additions and roster juggling prior to pitchers and catchers reporting in Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 20. The Mariners waited until the first week of February to come to an agreement on a two-year deal with All-Star closer Fernando Rodney last year, so the door is never closed. But Zduriencik acknowledged the heavy lifting is likely done and the Mariners will now see how things shake out in spring.
"I think we're in a good spot," Zduriencik said after the deal for Smith was finalized. "When you look at adding Happ, Cruz, Ruggiano and Smith, that is starting pitching and some offensive pieces we think can really help us.
"To say we're done wouldn't be accurate. I don't think there'll be anything big like a multi-player deal or Earth-shattering free agent signing, but there are ways we can still help our club."
Non-roster invitations for veterans on Minor League deals are always a way to add depth and Seattle already has signed relievers Mark Lowe and Justin Germano and infielder Carlos Rivero in that fashion.
"We'll continue to make phone calls," Zduriencik said. "We've signed some Minor League free agents who will compete and we're having active discussions. We're not going to rest and say this is our club and we're not going to do another thing. That would be foolish. You never know what's around the corner."