While baseball is still being played, the Mariners are almost two weeks into their offseason and moving closer to the Oct. 31 deadline when the 2020 contracts for on-field and front office employees expire or are renewed.
In late July, the Mariners informed more than 25 scouts and members of their player-development staff that those contracts would not be renewed for 2021, ending their employment with the organization.
That turnover continued this week as multiple MLB sources confirmed that Brian DeLunas, the Mariners’ bullpen coach; Roger Hansen, a longtime Mariners employee and current special assistant to the GM; and athletic trainers Rick Griffin, Rob Nodine and Matt Toth were informed that their contracts will not be renewed for the 2021 season.
General manager Jerry Dipoto hired DeLunas to serve as bullpen coach in 2018 despite having no prior MLB coaching experience. He was running a private practice facility in St. Louis. After the 2018 season, DeLunas transitioned to director of pitching development and strategies, working with pitchers at all levels in the organization. The Mariners brought him back as bullpen coach in 2020, but due to prior serious health issues, DeLunas was one of three coaches on the Mariners’ MLB staff forced to work remotely, with Trent Blank filling in for him on the field. Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have raved about Blank, who will likely be DeLunas’ replacement.
Hansen was named special assistant to the GM in September 2011 after working for the Mariners in some capacity — mostly player development — since 2002. He served as their catching coordinator from 2003-11.
Griffin transitioned to athletic trainer emeritus before the 2018 season when Dipoto hired Lorena Martin to serve as director of performance.
Before that, he had served 35 seasons as the Mariners’ head athletic trainer. One of the lasting memories of his tenure is Griffin helping Ken Griffey Jr. off the field and cradling his broken wrist after an unbelievable catch in the Kingdome. Griffin worked more than 5,500 games in his career, including 34 postseason games.
The 2020 season was Nodine’s 14th at the MLB level and third as senior athletic trainer. He worked 11 seasons alongside Griffin as an assistant athletic trainer. He also spent 14 years in the Mariners’ minor-league system, working his way up from the Class A level.
Toth worked 15 seasons in the organization, including the last nine at the MLB level, where his focus was on assisting players rehabilitating from injuries. Like Nodine, he worked his way up the Mariners system, starting at Class-A High Desert in 2007. He also worked in the Brewers and Cubs organizations.
When the Mariners and Dipoto confirmed the reduction of the scouting and player development staff July 31, they cited expected changes to minor-league baseball, financial issues caused by the pandemic and philosophical changes within the front office as reasons for the reduction. Dipoto called the decisions “heartbreaking,” while many of those staffers who were let go shrugged off the assertion, one labeling it “crocodile tears.”
The turnover to the training staff reflect a series of changes after Martin had her contract terminated just one year into her contract. She leveled charges of gender and racial discrimination at Dipoto, Servais and director of player development Andy McKay. She filed a suit against the Mariners demanding her contract not be subject to binding arbitration.
The Mariners did not hire someone to fill Martin’s role or bring back Griffin for the 2019 season, instead opting for the staff in place. The Mariners hired Kyle Torgerson before the 2020 season to serve as head athletic trainer.