The Mariners are the busiest team in Major League Baseball this offseason as they remake their roster. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel talks about the changes, including some made this week.
"It's been a whirlwind," Thiel said about the pace of the Mariners' trades. "New General Manager Jerry Dipoto has turned over this roster like I've never seen - at least in Mariner history.
"He's gotten rid of at least 20 players that former General Manager Jack Zduriencik brought to the team. And he's even gotten rid of two players he [just] acquired!
"It's been an altogether remarkable thing and I don't blame any Mariners fan for being just a little bit dizzy," Thiel said.
Thiel said the biggest departure happened this week, with Hisashi Iwakuma. The Japanese pitcher had a no-hitter last year and was with the Mariners for four years.
"He went to the Dodgers: three years and $45 million at age 35," Thiel said. "The Mariners looked at Iwakuma and said 'We could guarantee him two years but more than that is just way too risky.'
"I tend to agree with them. In Japanese baseball, the pitchers are put through a very rigorous ordeal in Japan and when they come to the U.S., there have been a lot of hard miles.
"As we saw with Iwakuma in the last couple of years, he was on the disabled list a lot," Thiel pointed out.
Three other well-known pitchers are also gone: Roenis Elias, Carson Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen.
"They also lost position players," he said. "Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Mark Trumbo, James Jones. Lots of departures."
Arrivals And Holdovers
Thiel said the best way to discuss all the new players the Mariners have acquired is to go "Around the Horn."
"Chris Iannetta, a free agent who came from the Angels, where Dipoto was previously general manager, is going to be the starting catcher," Thiel said. "Backed by Steve Clevenger, who came from Baltimore.
"Mike Zunino, the former catcher, is still going to be starting in Triple A. They're hoping to fix his swing. They haven't given up on him."
First base will be Adam Lind, also acquired this week. "He came from Milwaukee. He's going to be hitting against right-handed hitters. And they're going to platoon Jesus Montero, a holdover, against left-handed hitters," Thiel said.
"Second base, of course, Robinson Cano. Shortstop is young Ketel Marte, who impressed last half-season. Third base: Kyle Seager," he continued.
"In the outfield, Nori Aoki will play either left or right field and the other guy will be Seth Smith, a holdover from last year who was a pretty credible hitter. And in center, Leonys Martin, came in a deal from the Texas Rangers.
"I think the designated hitter [DH] again will be Franklin Gutierrez, another holdover who really hit the ball well in his recovery from a multitude of injuries and ailments," Thiel said.
He said Gutierrez will likely share DH duties with star slugger Nelson Cruz, who's also expected to fill-in in right field.
"In the starting rotation, we have two newcomers: Nathan Karns, he came from Tampa Bay, and Wade Miley, who came from the Red Sox.
"They're going to create a rotation that now includes Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and these two guys," Thiel said.
"Among the relievers, most noteworthy are Joaquin Benoit. At age 38, he'll be the new (closer) Fernando Rodney, without the arrows and the neurosis," he joked.
"Three other guys, Evan Scribner, Jonathan Aro and Anthony Bass, are probably going to figure prominently in replacing Carson Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen."
'Mostly Accomplished' Goal
"Dipoto said at the beginning of his tenure that he wanted to get a team that was more athletic, played defense better, struck out less and had greater pitching depth," Thiel said.
"I think he's mostly accomplished that. My one caveat is that I don't think Aoki or Lind are very good defenders at their position.
"But I think the most interesting number here is age. Iannetta is 32. Lind is 32. Aoki is 34 and Benoit is 38.
"This Mariner team is not for the future. This Mariner team is all about next season."