Condenscending Arrogance Thawed: A Seattle Mariners 2018 Spring Training Preview

By Stevil, February 14th, 2018


Seattle's all-volunteer dance squad preparing for MLB's version of "The Full Monty". Photo from

The 2018 MLB season will indeed happen, despite the best efforts of Scott Boras and company to hijack teams for ransom, and the Mariners, despite 16 straight seasons without a postseason appearance, still exist. In fact, they have a pretty decent squad to break that tradition with. Here's a look at some of the names vying for sunburns...

Non-roster invitees: Braden Bishop, Ian Miller, Joe DeCarlo, Jordan Cowan, Ljay Newsome, Art Warren, Matt Festa, Hisashi Iwakuma, Christian Bergman, Casey Lawrence, Gordon Beckham, Ryan Garton, Ryan Cook, Andrew Alpin, Zach Vincej, Johendi Jiminian, Joe Odom, Matt Hague, Rey Navarro, John Andreoli, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Tuffy Gosewisch. 

Update: Junior Lake has since been signed to a minor league deal and invited to spring training as well.  

Areas of competition: bullpen (Shawn Armstrong, Tony Zych, Dan Altavilla, and Nick Rumbelow), rotation (Marco Gonzales, Ariel Miranda, and Andrew Moore), and 1B (Ryon Healy, Mike Ford, and Dan Vogelbach).

Key players out of options: Marco Gonzales and Shawn Armstrong.

For the most part, the players on the field and behind the plate will be the same, with the exceptions being Dee Gordon taking over for Jarrod Dyson in center field, and Ryon Healy and Mike Ford replacing Danny Valencia and Yonder Alonso at 1st base. The rotation, without any surprise additions, will feature the same starters Seattle finished 2017 with. The bullpen now features Juan Nicasio and may include Shawn Armstrong, and possibly even Marco Gonzales, should he miss out on a spot in the rotation and doesn't wind up traded. I don't anticipated him being traded, but we all know we can expect the unexpected with Jerry.

This may not sound encouraging for fans, but starting the season with Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramírez, and even Gonzales in the rotation should represent an upgrade over Iwakuma, who had a chewed up shoulder and went out in early May last season, Miranda—MLB's leader in HR/9 among those with 150+ innings pitched—and Yovani Gallardo, who was just bad all the way around. Juan Nicasio and David Phelps in the bullpen are significant upgrades over Dillon Overton and Casey Fien, so the pitching staff as a whole looks better on paper. Another starting pitching option could go far to sooth ruffled feathers, but the right deal doesn't appear to be there. At least for now. Jerry Dipoto is promissing to buy every single fan a drink if the rotation struggles, so that should help take the edge off. This comes from Aaron Goldsmith (@heygoldy) who has offered free peanuts to complement Jerry's offer. Aaron's a known cheapskate, but he's no liar, so you can take that to the bank...hungry.

So, what are the biggest areas of concern?

Starting Pitching

The biggest acquisition over the offseason for Seattle may prove to be Dr. Lorena Martin, who may be an invaluable asset in keeping James Paxton and Félix Hernández on the mound and off the DL. While many fans seem to worry about Gonzales as the 5th starter, the 5th starter is replaceable on virtually any team, whereas your ace and number 2 or 3 starter may not be. This should be the biggest concern.

Relief Pitching

Phelps and Iwakuma both had minor surgeries. Phelps has the green light for spring and Iwakuma is expected to be ready come June. Anything he's able to contribute would likely be seen as a bonus and his contract is laced with incentives. But with Zych, Altavilla, and Rumbelow all on the 40 and with options, the Mariners look set with relievers.


The options for backup catcher are Mike Marjama and David Freitas. Marjama would seem to have the edge. Tuffy Gosewisch would represent an alternative in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Catching depth remains an area of weakness organization-wide, but Marjama and Freitas make catching less pressing for the moment.


Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Dee Gordon, and Mitch Haniger are the principle outfielders, though Heredia is likely going to be eased-in carefully. Having surgery after dislocating your shoulder multiple times warrants caution. Cameron Perkins is the only other outfielder on Seattle's 40-man roster, though Taylor Motter can handle the corners, which would make him a candidate if Heredia proves to need more recovery time. But Motter is more of an infielder, so outfield depth could prove to be a concern. Nieuwenhuis (a LHH) has MLB experience and could get the nod, but a roster spot would need to be cleared to add him into the fold. Perkins is likely seen more as emergency depth, so an additional outfielder would probably be helpful, if not necessary to start the season.


Ryon Healy was the primary DH for Oakland last season, and while his raw power is undeniable, he struggled immensely with outside breaking balls in his first full season. If he can learn to show more discipline the way Mike Zunino did last season, he should be just fine. The question is whether or not he can make those adjustments without more AAA seasoning. Mike Ford has done everything asked of him (and then some), but he was just getting his feet wet in AAA last season. He could prove to be one of the steals from the Rule 5 draft, but more minor league experience may be necessary for him as well.

Andrew Romine is penciled in as the primary utility infielder. He's a glove-first player who netted negative WAR last season due to his lack of offense. While defense should be the priority, he isn't the guy you want pinch-hitting or pinch-running, which limits his value to the team. Zach Vincej looks promising, but he likely falls behind Motter on the depth chart and would require a roster move. Jerry Dipoto is always watching the waiver wire and eager to raise the floor, so it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see an alternative at some point. The bigger concern would be 1st base if Healy and Ford don't cut it.

So, how might some of these concerns be addressed now you ask?

Anibal Sanchez was constantly making adjustments last season and never looked completely comfortable. The results were mixed, as he missed a lot of bats, but coughed up a lot of dingers. Yet he remains a notable talent that may be just one simple adjustment away from being productive again. If an incentive-laden minor league deal could be reached with him, he would represent a solid depth option for the rotation (and possibly the 'pen) along with Iwakuma. Wilmer Font is another starting pitcher that missed a lot of bats in the minor leagues last season, but like Gonzales, he's out of options. Acquiring him would likely mean Gonzales would go to the bullpen, which could allow him more time to reintroduce his cutter and ease him back into the rotation if/when needed. Font didn't exactly impress in his brief time in LA last season, but the stuff is there to be a solid back-end, or even mid-rotation starter.

Update, February 17th: Sanchez reached a deal with the Twins, my suggestion is now redundant.

Given the large supply and lack of demand for 1st basemen, rolling the dice with pre-arbitration players makes sense, as affordable alternatives should be plentiful mid-season. The same goes for outfielders, but there's one name that could potentially offer insurance for both 1B and LF: Christian Walker.

Christian Walker would likely be used principally as a pinch-hitter this season for the Diamondbacks, given the fact that Paul Goldschmidt has him blocked at 1st base. He plays adequate defense in left field as well, but Arizona has David Peralta in LF and will likely add a right fielder, perhaps Carlos Gómez, which would push Yasmany Tomas into a bench role. Jeremy Hazelbaker, unlike Walker, has options and can play both corners, so he offers more in way of versatility, which could squeeze Walker out of Arizona.

The Diamondbacks also have a need for relief pitching, specifically right-handed relievers. With Yoshihisa Hirano unproven and Jimmy Sherfy having limited experience, but with options, bringing in another RHRP would make some sense. So, maybe a Shawn Armstrong for Christian Walker swap would make sense? Arizona would have better bullpen depth and Seattle would be able to rotate pitchers in and out more easily with Tony Zych—who has options—occupying the final spot in their bullpen. Zych had a small procedure himself, but should be a full go for spring.

Bringing in Walker would allow Heredia all the time he needs to get past the shoulder surgery and/or serve as insurance for Healy, who is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks after having a bone spur removed from his hand. Adding another option-less fielder may sound problematic, but it really wouldn't be. If Walker's productive, either Heredia or Healy would become depth. Having depth is a good thing. I probably didn't need to state that. I probably didn't need state that I didn't need to state that.

Maybe another piece would be needed if Arizona holds Walker in higher value than Armstrong, but as long as they're willing to part with him, getting a deal done wouldn't likely be difficult. Seattle's lush farm of mediocre relief pitchers has to be enticing. 

And how about potential deadline moves you ask?

Iván Nova and Danny Duffy are two solid starting pitchers with affordable contracts that could stabilize a rotation. Trying to predict available starting pitching 5 months from now isn't something you bet the farm on, but with the Pirates and Royals likely conceding the 2018 season, it isn't hard to envision those two pitchers being made available, and neither should cost an arm and a leg. Whether or not Seattle would still have enough to acquire either one is questionable as well, but for now we'll assume they would be. KC might be the one team that could show interest in Dan Vogelbach, though it would obviously take considerably more than just him to net Duffy. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Much like the current situation with 1st basemen, there appears to be a significant abundance of outfielders available and many of those still seeking employment would seem likely to sign with non-contending clubs. If that's the case, there should be plenty of affordable options approaching the deadline. Perhaps Jon Jay or Carlos Gómez (if the Diamondbacks don't snag him) will be available for outfield assistance and/or a reunion with Adam Lind or Logan Morrison for 1B help will prove possible. Maybe one them would actually work out as well.

Romine isn't likely going to be replaced unless he proves to be a complete liability at the plate. Even then, an internal option, such as Motter or Vincej (or Beckham), might be more likely. In the event that they decide to seek an external alternative, maybe the Yankees would be willing to part with Tyler Wade at that point. He currently sits low on NY's depth chart and will probably be needed early in case one (or more) of their other rookie infielders struggle. But they also have Ronald Torreyes, who has a little more experience and New York would probably be more likely to add veteran help at the deadline if they were to need it. So, it's probably not a stretch to think Wade could be made available.

Wade is a LHH with plenty of speed and can cover 3B, SS, 2B, and even an outfield corner. He's not as good as Romine defensively, but he offers sufficient defense and his offensive tools could prove useful. The cost to acquire him, should he become available, shouldn't break the bank, either.

Backup catcher isn't likely to be an area of need, but injecting a promising prospect into the organization certainly wouldn't hurt and could provide some late-season relief in September, if not sooner. Toronto currently has Max Pentecost, Hagen Danner, Riley Adams, Danny Jansen, and Reese McGuire (Seattle area native) for catching prospects listed among their top prospects. That's a lot of catching prospects. They currently have Russel Martin and Luke Maile set to handle the club for 2018, with Jansen and McGuire also on the 40. It would make sense that one of Jansen/McGuire might become available at some point. Both project as backups, so relief prospects, which Seattle has plenty of, should get the job done. Jansen reached AAA last season, so he's a little further ahead and would be more likely of the two to reach the majors next season.

Seattle is set for the 2018 season with a fairly strong cast of players. We know that they're also set to open the season with a record-high payroll (just under 160 million), and though there's likely some flexibility to add salary mid-season, there probably isn't much room to add salary now, hence the focus on pre-arb players and flawed players with semi-high ceilings. Jerry Dipoto is clearly focused on trying to contend, yet get younger simultaneously in what I've referred to as a non-traditional rebuild, so the future moves we see are probably likely to follow suit with the current blue-print by design.

For now, I'm just glad to have baseball again. This has been a long, dull offseason. With spring, we have new life. With Jerry picking up the tab, we win regardless.

*Be sure to check out Harball via Hardcore's "Guide to Spring Training Clubhouse Competition" for a deeper look at inner-organizational battles here:


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