The Mariners made a few expected roster moves on Thursday to start the offseason, exercising the 2017 option for outfielder Seth Smith, while declining the option on catcher Chris Iannetta. Outfielder Nori Aoki has also moved on after being claimed off waivers by the Astros.
The Mariners continued their roster maintenance on the first day of the offseason with free agency beginning. As he indicated before the season ended, general manager Jerry Dipoto is bringing back outfielder Seth Smith for the 2017 season. The Mariners exercised their $7 million club option on the 34-year-old Smith.
In a platoon role, Smith hit .249 with 15 doubles, 16 homers and 63 RBI in 137 games this past season. The 63 RBI were a career high. He was also an effective hitter with runners in scoring position, hitting .326 with a double, eight homers and 50 RBI.
The club declined their $4.25 million option on catcher Chris Iannetta, another move that was expected. Iannetta was the opening day starting catcher, but eventually lost the job to Mike Zunino. He hit .210 with 14 doubles, seven home runs and 24 RBI in 94 games this season. Iannetta appeared in 70 of the Mariners’ 89 games before the All-Star Break, but just 24 of the final 73 games. While Iannetta would have some value as a back-up catcher, the Mariners won’t spend that kind of money when they have Jesus Sucre under club control.
Meanwhile, outfielder Norichika Aoki will also be moving on from the Mariners to an American League West foe. Aoki was claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros.
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“We appreciate all that Nori did for us this season,” Dipoto said in a statement. “Particularly in the second half, he made some key contributions to our success.”
Aoki hit .283 with 24 doubles, four triples, four homers and 28 RBI in 118 games with Seattle. He struggled early in the season and was demoted to Class AAA Tacoma. He returned and played in a largely platoon role, hitting .339 in the final 51 games of the season.
While Dipoto had some interest in bringing Aoki back for next season, it was more than likely that Seattle would allow him to go to free agency. Aoki had a vesting option for 2017 that would have paid him $6 million if he reached 480 plate appearances. He fell just short with 467. He is now arbitration eligible for the Astros.
The free agency period officially began on Monday morning with first basemen Dae-Ho Lee and Adam Lind, outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and pitcher Drew Storen all becoming free agents and removed the 40-man roster.
Following Major League Baseball rules, the Mariners also reinstated pitcher Nathan Karns from the disabled list and returned him to the 40-man roster, which now has 35 players on it.