With under a month-and-a-half to go before MLB has scheduled pitchers and catchers to report to spring training – the date of course could change but the line from clubs and the league is they are planning for an on-time start – it is a good time to check in on where the Mariners stand in terms their 2021 roster.
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While the Mariners have not been involved in the few bigger deals made this winter, Jerry Dipoto has added both starting and relief pitching, his stated goal at the beginning of the offseason. On the Hot Stove Show this week, he indicated that we could see more additions.
“We’re still active,” he said. “We are checking in with agents, we are checking in with other teams, as possibilities present themselves we do intend to add.”
Dipoto listed another arm for the pen as the top priority while saying they were also open to adding another starter. A bat is on the list as well.
“We are even open to the idea if the right bat, part left-handed bat, fell to us,” he said. “Obviously we would need that bat to be versatile. Could be a little bit of infield, could be some left field, just find that left-handed bat, that’s what we would be shopping for.”
Dipoto’s comments would indicate that he and the Mariners are taking the approach to the offseason that the majority of baseball has taken this winter. Following the pandemic-shortened season, pocketbooks for the large part have not been opened and there has been a “wait and see what happens” approach to the market in general. Logic would dictate that has to change as teams will have to fill their rosters. The market will dictate the Mariners’ moves, but the market must first get going.
“Once you see some of what I would call the mid-range free agents, (cites Tigers signing Robbie Grossman as a positive sign) now you have the ability, some water will start to flow,” Dipoto said. “The top of the market really doesn’t break it up. The guys in the middle of the market that appeal to 30 clubs, they drive the market. I do think that we will be some form of player on the market this next month or so but when it happens, I wish I could give you that timing, I just know that when it happens, we’ll be there.”
Until then, a quick look with some notes on what we could see Opening Day 2021.
At this point, it is expected the special agreement rules for 2020 will not be in effect in 2021. This should be the first season of the 26-man roster. With the addition of the extra player came the stipulation that the pitching staff could contain no more than 13 pitchers, which ensures a four-man bench.
With the Mariners going with a six-man rotation this season, that will limit them to a seven-man bullpen if the rule stands. This will be different for the Mariners, who have run mostly with an eight-man pen in recent years. Part of the idea of going with the six-man rotation is that with the extra rest, the pitchers will have the ability to go deeper in games. Still, managing a staff with one fewer reliever could have its challenges.
If another starter is brought in, then I would expect a position battle in spring training. There is some thought that Dunn could benefit from more time in the minor leagues. Regardless, if everyone stays healthy, a spot will be on the line at some point, perhaps even early on, with Logan Gilbert likely to make his debut.
Someone who should not be battling for a spot, at least early on, is Chris Flexen, who pitched in the KBO in 2020 and was signed Dec. 18.
“Maybe the most enjoyable things we did the offseason was going and looking under the rocks for guys we really thought had a chance to be part of the long-term with us,” said Dipoto. “You don’t get a lot of opportunity to go out and access 26-year-old free agents with the ability to start who have four pitches.”
Dipoto indicated that Flexen, who at the age of 22 debuted for the Mets in 2017, jumping from Double-A to the big leagues as an injury fill-in, may have suffered from the ups and downs between the big leagues and the minors that followed.
“He never quite got the runway to do what he needed to do. It was up and down, it was start and bullpen. And ultimately they ran him out of options at 25 and sold his contract rights to the Korean Baseball Organization. He went over and roughly did everything you can do to show forward movement.”
According to Dipoto, Flexen saw a slight increase in velocity in the KBO with his fastball sitting 92-93 while touching 95, 96 mph. His 82 mph slider turned into more of a 87-89 mph cutter that missed bats and created poor contact. His high-spin/low-velo (high 60s) curveball maintained spin as he took it to the low 70s and “really developed some teeth.”
“Flex fits perfectly well in what we are doing, we think there is still upside in it,” said Dipoto. “We think he grew in Korea.”
Regardless of stuff, a huge value Flexen should provide will be in the innings department. Cheap Marco Gonzales Jersey led the Mariners with 69.2 innings thrown in 2020 with no starter in baseball throwing more than 84 innings. Protecting starters while building them back up will be a focus across baseball, the Mariners should be in position to do so with both the addition of Flexen and the utilization of the 6-man rotation.
The situation for the bullpen could get interesting if the 13-man pitching staff rule is in effect. While in the past I would assume that baring a disaster, the Rule 5 pick would be a lock for the staff, now I’m not so sure.
Ramirez, who can now be optioned to the minors, most likely is not inked into the mix as of yet either. Like the rotation, a big arm is expected to be added in season with Andres Muñoz who was acquired from the Padres in the Austin Nola trade, could return from Tommy John surgery as early as June.
“Our approach on trade, we were looking for what was the addition in this trade that gave it the opportunity to be a grand slam, Andres was the name we came up with, that if we were willing to gamble that players do come back from Tommy John,” said Dipoto noting that Muñoz topped out at 104 mph pre-surgery. “A 21 year old who throws the ball 100, with a wicked slider already with big league time, he’s made his progression, that’s what you are looking for. If we are able to tap into the upside he possesses and keep him in a healthy happy space, then we may have found an anchorman for our bullpen for years to come.”
Another addition that Dipoto is enthused about is Montero, who, if the season were to start today, would most likely fill the closer role.
“Over the last two years we feel like one of the real hidden upside guys in this league,” he said of the former Rangers closer.
Montero is a bit of a late bloomer, which Dipoto attributed to time missed due to Tommy John surgery and transitioning from starter to reliever, a role he ultimately found success in.
“The stuff was really off the charts,” said Dipoto. “97 with above average life, can really sink the ball. Outstanding secondary stuff including the changeup which you don’t see a lot from relievers. Throws strikes, misses bats and has been resilient in the pen.”
Cheap Dylan Moore Jersey has stepped away from the bench.
“Dylan deserves the right to play every day,” said Dipoto. “Second base is the spot that we have that jumps out and is the best fit for him. He’s a good defender wherever he plays. His versatility is a strength.”
The versatility is what prompted Dipoto to bring Moore into the organization, signing him to a Major League contract before he had played a day in the bigs. What he did in 2020 with the bat is what has earned him a starting role.
“Last year he came in and he had more confidence, and he was sizzling the ball,” said Dipoto noting a slight swing change that helped keep the bat in the zone longer and led to better contact.
“Dylan makes contact whether it be 2019 when he hit 200 or last year when he was one of our best offensive players, he hits the ball hard. The worst case scenario for us is we have one of the best and most versatile utility men in the league. The upside is we have a regular player who can settle in at second and be a constant force for us who we think can hit near the top of the lineup.”
Heading into the 2021 season, left field is open for a placeholder only. At some point, Jarred Kelenic will join the team and take over a full-time spot in the outfield. Until then, any number of players already in house could fill the role or Dipoto, as mentioned above, could find a left-handed outfield/corner infield-type player who could step in.
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The Mariners will look to get France everyday at bats with some coming at second and third base but the bulk coming from the DH position. The Mariners think that France’s best position is third base, although there is work to be done on defense with Perry Hill. The plan?
“We will give him everyday reps and keep him sharp enough defensively and working with Perry, working with Manny Acta, to develop his defensive skillset so when the time comes to play defense full time, he’s prepared to do it,” Dipoto said.
France has been a bat that Dipoto has been after for some time. Apparently he wasn’t the only one. On the Hot Stove Show, Dipoto revealed that in the short time between acquiring him from the Padres and the trade deadline later that day, he fielded four calls from contending teams that wanted the Mariners to spin him to them.
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