The Mariners added veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo to their starting rotation.
It took perhaps a few weeks longer than expected based on his typical transactional activity, but Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has acquired an experienced starting pitcher to fill out his starting rotation.
On Friday morning, the Mariners completed a trade to bring in right-hander Yovani Gallardo from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for veteran outfielder Seth Smith.
“Gallardo gives us the veteran presence that we have been searching for,” Dipoto said in a statement. “He has a track record of durability and success as a starting pitcher. After examining the free agent and trade market, Yovani is the best fit for our club as we move forward this offseason.”
The trade was somewhat unexpected for Gallardo. But the Orioles had been in need of a left-handed hitting outfielder.
“It was a little bit of a surprise,” he said. “In this game, things can change day to day or hour to hour,” he said. “The most important thing is that I’m excited to join the Mariners and look forward to the 2017 season.”
Gallardo, who turns 31 on Feb. 27, posted a 6-8 record with a 5.42 ERA in 23 starts with Baltimore last season. In 118 innings pitched, he struck out 85 batters with 65 walks. He missed six weeks (April 23-June 18) on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis in his shoulder. It was the first time since 2008 where he didn’t make 30 starts in a season.
“It was tough,” he said. “Last year wasn’t fun for me. It was down for year for me. It didn’t start off the right way. I showed up to spring training late after signing late and I got started a little bit later than normal. That injury early in the year, it was very frustrating. I think this offseason I’ve done everything I can to prepare myself to avoid that for the rest of my career. I’m looking forward to a bounce back year.”
He admitted that the shoulder issue was a reason he had command issues for much of the season, leading to a career-high in WHIP (1.585) and walks per nine innings (4.7).
“That was the first time I’ve been on the DL with a shoulder issue,” he said. “I don’t want to make excuses or point fingers, but the No. 1 thing is being healthy. And if you aren’t healthy then the command as a starting pitcher is the first sign that something is going on. It was just frustrating. It was a little bit of everything.”
Gallardo believes the shoulder is no longer an issue. He changed up his strengthening program after the DL stint and also adjusted his offseason program as well. He hopes a more normal offseason without the unknown of his future and on-time report date will allow him to get back to his 2015 level.
“I feel great,” he said. “I started my throwing program two-three weeks ago. It’s throwing every other day or every three days. I started my normal offseason program, started working out three weeks after the season is over and trying to get stronger. I’m doing all the work I can do to prepare myself.”
Asked if he would pitch for Mexico in the WBC, Gallardo said he was unsure and would wait to make that decision. He pitched for Mexico in the previous WBC.
Gallardo had a solid 2015 season with the Rangers, posting 13-11 record with a 3.42 ERA in 33 starts. He was on the Mariners’ radar after the 2015 season as a free agent, but a qualifying offer attached to him and an over-priced free agent market made it a non-starter in signing him. It also trimmed his free agent market to just a few teams. Gallardo didn’t sign with the Orioles until a week into spring training on Feb 25. He originally agreed to a 3-year, $45 million contract with Baltimore, but concerns over his shoulder during the physical examination forced the deal to be restructured to a two-year deal with an option year.
Gallardo is owed $11 million this season and has a $13 million club option for next season with a $2 million buyout.
Dipoto made it clear following the trade of Taijuan Walker in November that the team needed to add at least another experienced starting pitcher to fill out the No. 3-4 spot in the rotation to go with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton while the No. 5 spot would be a competition with Nathan Karns, Rob Whalen, Chris Heston and Ariel Miranda all competing for it. The preferred method of trade proved to be complicated with the asking price for pitchers like right-hander Anthony Desclafani and lefties Drew Pomeranz and Drew Smyly to be higher than anticipated and the Mariners lacking in coveted prospects beyond Tyler O’Neill and Kyle Lewis to make a deal happen. The free agent market, which Dipoto often views as a last option, didn’t seem to be appealing with right-handers Doug Fister and Jason Hammel as potential targets.
The Mariners had been shopping Smith this offseason, looking to parlay the veteran into some roster depth. They exercised his $7 million club option for the 2017 season with the knowledge that trading him and using that money owed in other areas was a strong possibility. In his platoon outfield role, Smith had a solid season, hitting .249 with 15 doubles, 16 homers with 63 RBI in 137 games.