The Mariners have been the busiest team in Major League Baseball this offseason, remaking their roster in a big way. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel likes what he sees.
'Cool' To Keep Gutierrez
The Mariners have been involved in three of the six biggest trades in baseball this offseason. Thiel said one of the best moves was to re-sign Franklin Gutierrez.
"He's an outfielder with a very checkered past, given his injuries and ailments that have really compromised what many people thought would be a great Major League Baseball career.
"But he came back to play 59 games for the Mariners last year. He hit .292 with 15 home runs (including a grand slam).
"The amazing stat was his at-bats to home run ratio was 11.4, which was second in Major League Baseball last year. They see him platooning in left field with Seth Smith," Thiel said.
"The departures include Brad Miller, the outfielder/shortstop who didn't quite have a position with the Mariners, first baseman Logan Morrison, relief pitchers Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Farquhar and reserve outfielder James Jones," Thiel said.
"None of them are a critical part of the Mariners' future."
"The newcomers are starting pitcher Nathan Karns, two relievers Joaquin Benoit and Anthony Bass and outfielder Leonys Martin," Thiel continued.
"Those are the key people that are arriving that I think are going to be difference makers."
New GM's Vision: Save Runs
New Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto, who succeeded Jack Zduriencik, said in his first Seattle press conference that he wanted more athleticism, more defense and better starting pitching.
Thiel said the goal is to save runs, not necessarily produce runs.
"That's why this is such a departure from Zduriencik, who thought everything could be solved by a three-run homer. So that's a big change," he said.
Breaking Down The Roster
Thiel said Martin is going to be the regular, everyday center fielder.
"Now, he was only hitting .214 for the Texas Rangers last year but, at 27, he's got a lot of years left. The Mariners control his contract for another three years.
"He's had two good seasons in the .260s. So, given his defense, if he could just hit around .250 again, he'll be a net upgrade in that very vital position on the defense.
"Nathan Karns is going to be a starting pitcher - probably No. 3 or No. 4 in the rotation, depending on whether the Mariners resign free agent Hisashi Iwakuma.
"In the relievers, I think the most interesting guy is Joaquin Benoit, who is 38 years old.
"Perhaps we could say that he might be the second coming of Fernando Rodney, without the neurosis and without the arrow," Thiel joked.
Moving In The Right Direction
Overall, Thiel likes the moves.
"This is exactly what the Mariners have needed, which is to tailor a roster to fit the ballpark. Safeco Field is a pitcher-friendly park. It's hard to hit home runs. Pitchers tend to do well here.
"Much like Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, where the defending world-champion Kansas City Royals have dominated because they've built their roster to fit Kauffman Stadium, which is much like Seattle where it's pitcher-friendly.
"If the Mariners can learn anything from the World Series is that pitching and defense still win in baseball. If they get away from the three-run homer, they're going to do very well."