A pre-Winter Meetings primer on the Mariners busy offseason

Jerry and Nori


For those of you scoring along at home, here’s a guide to the moves that Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto has made so far this offseason.

He’s made six trades, including a six-player swap with the Tampa Bay Rays, signed four free agents, including Thursday’s announcement of the Nori Aoki signing, and claimed two players off waivers. No Major League GM has been more active.

Dipoto admits that these moves are all a case of the sum being greater than the parts. “We’re taking the 10,000 foot view of putting this roster together. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that viewing each trade as a stand-alone is probably not the way to view our offseason,” said Dipoto.

So what exactly is Dipoto’s plan?

Dipoto is focused on strengthening the bullpen, adding speed and defense in the outfield and contact hitters to the lineup. He’s building a roster that is deeper and more versatile, populated with athletic players whose game is built for Safeco Field.

The Trades

The first major move of the offseason was November 5, when Dipoto announced that he’d completed a six-player trade with the Rays. First baseman Logan Morrison, infielder/outfielder Brad Miller and right-handed pitcher Danny Farquhar were swapped for right-handed pitcher Nathan Karns, left-handed pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser and minor league outfielder Boog Powell.

Here’s what Dipoto said about the deal at the time:

“As I said when I was hired, we need to get more flexible, more athletic and build pitching depth. This trade allows us to do all three. Powell brings speed, defense and on-base percentage to the table and could be ready to help us as soon as 2016, while Karns and Riefenhauser give us young, but experienced, pitching options.”

Six days later, he acquired veteran reliever Juaquin Benoit from the Padres for minor leaguers Enyel De Los Santos and Nelson Ward.

A few days after that, Dipoto made a deal with the Texas Rangers for outfielder Leonys Martin and right-handed pitcher Anthony Bass in exchange for reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielder James Jones and a player to be named later (Patrick Kivlehan).

The next week, Milwaukee Brewers infielder Luis Sardiñas came to Seattle in exchange for outfielder Ramon Flores.

Wednesday, it was announced that Mark Trumbo and pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser (from the Tampa trade) were going to Baltimore in exchange for veteran catcher Steve Clevenger. This signing, along with the Chris Iannetta signing, give the Mariners sudden strength at a position that had been a weakness the last few years.

Friday, Dipoto announced that he’d traded right-handed pitcher Jose Ramirez, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Dustin Ackley trade, to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later and cash. This deal, although small, frees up a roster spot and gives Dipoto the flexibility to continue his wheeling and dealing.

The Free Agents

Nori Aoki—The left-handed hitting outfielder will free up Nelson Cruz for more DH at-bats. Aoki’s 2015 season with the Giants was hampered by injuries, but he is known for discipline at the plate and ranks among the most consistent hitters in the game. Dipoto envisions Aoki as the leadoff hitter.

Franklin Gutierrez—Coming off a terrific come-back 2015 season, Gutierrez signed a one-year deal for 2016. Guti will primarily split time at the corners in the outfield. He brings speed, athleticism and power to the lineup.

Chris Iannetta – The veteran catcher signed a one-year deal with a 2017 option. Iannetta spent the last four seasons with the Angels. He will be the Mariners primary catcher for 2016. With Clevenger now on the roster, Dipoto says Mike Zunino could spend more time at Triple A. However, he admits that a good spring from Zunino could convince him to carry three catchers.

Justin De Fratus – The right-handed reliever spent the last five seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. De Fratus is coming off a down year (Dipoto commented that a lot of Phillies had down years in 2015). Dipoto thinks that has to do with too many innings and too many outings. He sees De Fratus’s role with the Mariners as short, middle innings to take advantage of his plus-fastball and plus-slider, which give him “swing-and-miss” capability.

The Waiver Claims

Andy Wilkins – The first baseman was claimed off waivers from the Orioles. He gives the team a young player (27) with club options. He’ll likely split time at first base with Jesus Montero, whom Dipoto said would be his starting first baseman if the season started today.

Dan Robertson – An outfielder who spent last season in the Angels organization, Robertson has two stints in the Majors (with the Angels and Rangers), where he hit a combined .274 with 33 runs, 11 doubles and 28 RBI in 107 games.

Winter Meetings

With the Winter Meetings about to start, Dipoto promises that he’s not done. Although he admits that there’s a lot less to do now than there was a few weeks ago.

“We need to work at first base, we need to continue to add in our bullpen, and add a new starting pitcher, at least one starting pitcher is a priority for us. Those are three areas of need. But honestly, I’m quite happy with what we’ve done and our ability to create roster depth and flexibility this early in the offseason,” said Dipoto.

Seattle Mariners 2015 Offseason Transactions

  • October 19        Released RHP Logan Kensing
  • November 5      Traded IF Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay for RHP Nathan Karns, OF Boog Powell and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser
  • November 6      Claimed OF Daniel Robertson (LA Angels) off waivers
  • November 6      Outrighted RHP J.C. Ramirez to minor leagues
  • November 12    Acquired RHP Joaquin Benoit from San Diego in trade for minor league RHP Enyel De Los Santos and minor league IF Nelson Ward
  • November 13    Signed OF Franklin Gutierrez to one-year contract
  • November 16    Traded RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, OF James Jones and a player to be named later (Patrick Kivlehan) to Texas for OF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass
  • November 20    Designated LHP Danny Hultzen for assignment; outrighted to minor leagues (Nov. 25)
  • November 20    Traded OF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee for IF Luis Sardiñas
  • November 23    Signed free agent C Chris Iannetta
  • November 23    Designated C John Hicks for assignment; claimed by Minnesota off waivers (Dec. 2)
  • December 2       Acquired 1B Andy Wilkins off waivers from Baltimore
  • December 2       Signed free agent RHP Justin De Fratus
  • December 2       Designated LHP Edgar Olmos for assignment; claimed by Chicago-NL off waivers (Dec. 4)
  • December 2       Traded OF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser to Baltimore for C Steve Clevenger
  • December 3       Signed OF Nori Aoki to a one-year contract with mutual vesting option for 2017 season
  • December 4       Traded RHP Jose Ramirez to Atlanta for a player to be named later and cash considerations

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