On a day full of roster moves, the Mariners made two different trades, acquiring versatile infielder/outfielders Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer from the Tampa Bay Rays and lefty reliever James Pazos from the Yankees. The team also said goodbye to reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielder/first baseman Stefen Romero and left-handed reliever David Rollins in separate roster...
Amidst the roster moves of typical offseason transactional management and Friday’s deadline to protect minor league players eligible for the Rule 5 draft, Mariners’ general manager Jerry Dipoto also addressed his team’s overall depth on the 40-man roster, completing a pair of trades on a busy day.
The Mariners acquired infielder/outfielders Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer from the Tampa Bay Rays in a five-player trade that sent minor league infielder Dalton Kelly and right-handed pitchers Andrew Kittredge and Dylan Thompson to Tampa. Later in the day, Dipoto completed a trade with the Yankees, acquiring lefty reliever James Pazos in exchange for minor league right-hander Zack Littell.
“Motter and Shaffer help us create the depth that is critical to our success,” Dipoto said. “They are two defensively versatile players who have offensive skill; Shaffer brings power and Motter brings on-base ability and speed. Their additions gives us players with Major League experience who allow us to maintain our roster flexibility throughout the season.”
Motter, 27, hit .188 (15-for-80) with three doubles, two home runs, nine RBI and 11 walks in 34 games for Tampa this season. He is able to play all four infield positions and can also play the two corner outfield spots. In 88 games with Class AAA Durham, he hit .229 with a .686 on-base plus slugging percentage, 17 doubles, 13 homers and 46 RBI in 88 games. Motter had a big season with Durham in 2015, hitting .292 with a .366 on-base percentage, 43 doubles, 14 homers and 72 RBI in 127 games.
Shaffer, 25, had three call-ups over the 2016 season, playing in 20 games. He hit .250 (12-for-48) with six doubles, a homer and four RBI. In 119 games with Durham, he hit .227 with a .695 OPS, 27 doubles, 11 homers and 48 RBI. He’s a former first-round pick in the 2012 MLB draft out of Clemson. He has played third base, first base and right field in his professional career.
Pazos has made 18 relief appearances over the past two seasons, posting a 5.40 ERA for the Yankees. In 23 appearances with Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he posted a 2-2 record with a save and 2.63 ERA. He struck 41 batters in 27 1/3 innings pitched. He will compete for a spot in the Mariners’ bullpen.
“It’s a real need and we will continue to address it,” Dipoto said. “James has a fastball that ranges from 93 to 98 mph and a swing-and-miss breaking ball. He enters spring training with a chance to make our bullpen.”
Of the four players Seattle gave up, Kittredge had progressed the most in their system, reaching Class AAA Tacoma this season. A former standout at University of Washington, he was 3-3 with seven saves and a 3.50 ERA in 37 appearances between Class AA and Class AAA this season. Kelly hit .293 (141-for-481) for Class A Clinton and reached base in 112 of 130 games. He was named to the Mid-West League Mid-Season All-Star team. Thompson pitched in three games this season because of injuries. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Minnesota. Littell posted a 13-6 record with a 2.66 ERA in 27 starts and a relief appearance with Class A Clinton and Class A Bakersfield.
The Mariners also bid goodbye to three players from the 40-man roster in separate transactions.
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen was designated for assignment in an expected move. With Wilhelmsen out of minor league options and third-year arbitration eligible, the team wasn’t going to spend the projected money of $3.8 million to bring him back for 2017. Wilhelmsen posted a 3.60 ERA in 29 appearances with Seattle after re-signing with the team in late June.
“Tom did a good job for us, particularly in the month of July when we really needed him,” Dipoto said. “One of the things we were very conscious of in 2015 and will continue to be conscious of is maintaing flexibility on our roster and particularly in our bullpen. With Nick Vincent, Arquimedes Caminero and Steve Cishek being out of options or having service time that precludes you from optioning them, we need to maintain some level of flexibility down there. It made the decision on what to do with Tom a little bit easier.”
As a free agent, Wilhelmsen could sign with the Mariners for a lesser deal, something Dipoto wouldn’t rule out.
The organization granted the unconditional release of outfielder/first baseman Stefen Romero so he can pursue opportunities to play in Japan. This is something that Romero had been considering for quite a while. With Seattle trading for first baseman/outfielder Danny Valencia, Romero was unlikely to make the opening day roster. Since he was out of minor league options, he would have been designated for assignment.
Romero, 28, was a 12th-round pick in the 2010 draft out of Oregon State. He spent much of the last two seasons with Class AAA Tacoma. This past season, he hit .304 with a .902 on-base plus slugging percentage, 24 doubles, six triples, 21 homers and 85 RBI for the Rainiers. He was named to the mid-season and postseason Pacific Coast League All-Star teams. In 351 games at the Class AAA level, Romero hit .299 with an .861 OPS. But that success never translated to the big league level. Playing in a part time role in 2014 and seeing spot call ups the next two seasons, Romero hit .195 with a .542 OPS in 95 MLB games. The opportunity to get every-day at-bats or sustained starting role never materialized for Romero despite his minor league success.
The Mariners also lost left-handed reliever David Rollins on a waivers claim by the Chicago Cubs. He rode the shuttle back and forth from the big leagues to Class AAA Tacoma in 2016 with five different call-ups. He appeared in 11 big league games, posting a 7.71 ERA. He had a solid season with the Rainiers, posting a 5-0 record with a 3.77 ERA with 32 strikeouts and just six walks in 45 1/3 innings pitched. A Rule 5 draft pick in 2015, Rollins missed part of last season with a suspension after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. He’s made 31 MLB relief appearances, posting a 1-2 record with a 7.60 ERA.
The Mariners also selected the minor league contracts of three players to protect them from being exposed in the Rule 5 draft. First baseman D.J. Peterson, hard-throwing right-handed reliever Thyago Vieira and left-handed reliever Paul Fry.
Peterson, the Mariners first-round pick in 2013, hit .264 with a .782 OPS, 28 doubles, 19 homers and 78 RBI in 119 combined games with Jackson and Tacoma.
“D.J. had a real solid bounce-back year,” Dipoto said. “Obviously, 2015 was a disappointing one for him due to underperformance and some level of injury. We sent him back to Double A and challenged him in different ways to kickstart his career as a prospect and he embraced them. We gave him the opportunity to recreate himself and to a degree he took advantage of that. We were really pleased with his progress and didn’t feel like exposing him to the Rule 5 draft was a smart thing.”
Vieira has blossomed this season with some mechanical adjustments. Blessed with a fastball that hits triple digits and reportedly touched 104 mph in the Arizona Fall League, the Mariners hope he can follow a similar path of Edwin Diaz and Dan Altavilla and go from Class AA — his likely starting point in 2017 — to the big leagues. He posted a 2.84 ERA with eight saves in 34 appearances for Class A Bakersfield this past season.
“He is the surprise, pop-up guy in this whole thing,” Dipoto said. “This was a huge breakout year for him. Most impressively with Thyago, you’ve got physical velocity. He was the hardest thrower on record in the Arizona Fall League. His average velocity was in triple digits. I’ve learned some things in my baseball career. One of those things is that if you have a 23-24 year-old right-hander that touches 103 mph, there’s a reasonable chance he’s going to be taken in the Rule 5 draft if you don’t protect him. This was a no-brainer for us.”
Fry is a needed lefty reliever on the roster with the departure of Rollins. He posted a 2.78 ERA in 48 appearances with the Rainiers this past season. He had 65 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched.
“I believe there is left on left value in addition to what we believe is a competitive makeup,” Dipoto said. “He’s really going to enhance the depth of our roster.”