Inbox: Will Lewis get MLB opportunity in 2018?

Beat reporter Greg Johns fields fans' questions

November 24th, 2017

Do you foresee any Mariners rookies making the club next season? Kyle Lewis, perhaps?

-- Darnell, New Westminster, B.C.

While Lewis is the Mariners' No. 1-ranked prospect, per, he's going to have to get his surgically repaired right knee fully healthy and climb the Minor League ladder a little further before being regarded as a possible big leaguer. The Mariners wanted to get Lewis some playing time in the Arizona Fall League, but he was shut down after just two games because of lingering issues with his knee.

Hopefully he'll be full-go by Spring Training, but it's worth remembering the 22-year-old has had just 304 at-bats in the low Minors and finished last year at Class A Advanced Modesto. Rushing hitters to the Majors hasn't been a recipe for success in the past.

If you're looking for a couple rookie candidates, reliever , who was acquired last week from the Yankees, pitched 15 2/3 innings in the big leagues in 2015 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in '16. So he's officially still a rookie and will be given a good shot to earn a roster spot next spring. Art Warren is another bullpen prospect (Mariners' No. 17) to keep an eye on following his impressive season at Modesto and in the Arizona Fall League.

:: Submit a question to the Mariners Inbox ::

Don't the Mariners have to be all-in on at least one upper-tier free-agent starting pitcher?

-- Rick P., Kalispell, Mont.

By trading for to fill the first-base hole, general manager Jerry Dipoto has given himself the chance to put his available finances toward pitching and the outfield. So yes, it certainly seems they should at least be in the conversation for some of the better free-agent arms this winter.

Any truth to the rumor that outfielder might sign with the Mariners?

-- Eric B., Portland, Ore.

The Mariners are indeed interested in Jay, but nothing appears imminent. If opts to sign elsewhere, which appears likely, Jay could be a good fit in Seattle's versatile, athletic outfield and still leave the team enough money to pursue a quality starter. Jay is a big on-base guy (.374 on-base percentage last year with the Cubs and .355 career OBP) and is a valued veteran presence, so that's a deal that would seem to make sense.

What are the chances of Dipoto making a deal for ?

-- Ryan H., Bellevue, Wash.

I would put that at very close to zero. The Mariners don't have the kind of elite prospect package the Marlins are looking for, and it wouldn't be easy for them to take on the 10-year, $295 million contract Stanton has remaining. Of course, that puts them in the same boat as most MLB teams.

Why do the Mariners keep bringing in unproven talent like Healy instead of trying to go after a proven commodity? at first base would have been dynamic.

-- Rick W., Sumner, Wash.

Hosmer is going to command a substantial free-agent contract; most estimates are in the seven-year, $160 million-plus range. Dipoto believes Healy is a potential long-term solution at first base at a much lower cost, given he's under team control for five years before hitting free agency. That move opened up Seattle to spend more in other areas of need, such as pitching and the outfield.

It's all about figuring out where to best use your resources. No team can afford $20 million-plus players at every position, so a big key to any franchise's success is having some good, younger, cost-controlled players who can contribute. Healy slugged 38 home runs in his first year and a half in the Majors, and Dipoto likes his upside as a right-handed power hitter.

Why would the Mariners waste a roster spot on ? Isn't it time to look for younger, healthier starters?

-- Lance P., Puyallup, Wash.

If Iwakuma returns, it's almost certain to be on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, which doesn't use up a roster spot unless he makes the team and is added to the 25-man roster. So there is no downside to showing some loyalty to a long-time Mariners standout and giving him a chance to show if he can indeed pitch competitively again at 36 after having arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September.

No deal has been finalized yet, but Iwakuma made it clear after his surgery that he hoped to pitch again in the Majors and told reporters in Japan last week that he has talked to the Mariners about a contract. I suspect that will indeed happen.