With the MLB season just a few months on the horizon, Seattle Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto has spared no time making offseason adjustments, signing a number of potential prospects, and making a few trades in the last month.
On Jan. 10, the Mariners signed two players: shortstop Tim Beckham and pitcher Cory Gearrin. Beckham, having been in the league since 2013, has a career .252 batting average in the majors. In his 2018 campaign with the Baltimore Orioles, he bat .230 over 96 games, with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs. With star Jean Segura gone, it’s likely that Beckham will be vying for the starting job at shortstop.
Gearrin, who will likely be looking to pitch from the bullpen, has been in the MLB since 2011. His career 3.54 ERA is slightly better than his 2018 campaign, where he pitched a 3.77 ERA between three teams before making it to Seattle for 2019. Relief pitching was one of Seattle’s biggest issues last year, so hopefully this is one step closer to rectifying that area.
On the subject of older acquisitions, the Mariners came across a big-time veteran in Edwin Encarnacion back in December. Having been in the League since 2005, he had only played for three different teams in the last 14 years. His career average of .264 is definitely what the team is looking for in a designated hitter, and the benefits don’t stop there. In fact, every year since 2012, Encarnacion has finished in the top 10 in the American League in home runs. In 2018, his 32 home runs were good for ninth. He’s also a three-time all star and won two team MVPs for the Toronto Blue Jays.
One of the more interesting acquisitions this year was second baseman Shed Long, who the Yankees acquired from the Reds this offseason before sending him to Seattle. Despite a brief appearance with the Reds in 2013, Long has spent a majority of his young career in the minor leagues. The Mariners might just be the team for him to grow with, as he was welcomed with open arms by Dee Gordon, an old friend of his. Having known each other for about five years now, Gordon has helped instill in Long a sense of true excitement to be in Seattle. While he is expected to start at second base in Tacoma this year, Dipoto wants to see if Long can be conditioned to play positions like third base or outfield and be a valuable utility player. His .271 batting average is far from unimpressive, but could also stand to get better over his time in the minors.
Seattle also signed a host of minor league deals on Jan. 24, headlined by the addition of former Mariners Dustin Ackley and Ichiro Suzuki. That’s right, Ichiro is back. While it is unlikely that Ichiro will play substantial time, the main goal is for him to play in the season opener against the Oakland Athletics in Japan. It reads somewhat as a promotional stunt, but Ichiro definitely seems like he wants to be playing baseball.
The biggest story of the recent offseason has to be Seattle’s signing of Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. Having signed a three-year deal with club options, Kikuchi is continuing the Mariner trend of signing Japanese talent. Now 27, Kikuchi is a three-time all star in Japan and led the league in both ERA and wins in 2017. Over the last three years, he’s posted a 42-17 record with a 2.51 ERA, and recording 497 strikeouts in 494 innings.
The Mariners made a lot of questionable offseason moves, leaving many fans confused. However, Dipoto has taken the oldest roster in the MLB and turned it into a team headlined by promising young talent, with hopes to build over the next couple years into something special. That won’t stop them though, as prospects like Mallex Smith and Justus Sheffield are here to play, wanting to surprise the League.