The Mariners bolstered the team speed and defense with the acquisition of outfield Jarrod Dyson.
It wasn’t that long ago — two years to be exact — where the Mariners would consistently roll out one of the worst outfield defenses in all of baseball.
That will change this season.
With his second trade on Friday, general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired ultra-fast outfielder Jarrod Dyson from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nathan Karns. Earlier on Friday, Dipoto traded outfielder Seth Smith to the Orioles in exchange for right-handed pitcher Yovani Gallardo, opening an outfield spot on the 25-man roster. He wasted little time in filling that need.
“Jarrod brings us a winning pedigree, along with elite level defense and base running,” Dipoto said. “He joins players like Leonys Martin and Jean Segura in creating a disruptive element on the bases to our offensive game, while also enhancing our ability to prevent runs on defense.”
The addition of Dyson gives Seattle five outfielders on the 40-man roster — Dyson, Martin, Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel –that can play all three outfield spots and bring a level of defense and run prevention that had been absent in the days of former general manager Jack Zduriencik.
“We feel like we have five legitimate center fielders that are going to man our three outfield positions at some point or the other this season,” Dipoto said. “The flexibility that it provides us in that they are all so versatile and three of them have minor league options, it’s a real benefit.”
Dyson, 32, hit .278 (83-for-299) with a career-high .340 on-base percentage last season, including 14 doubles, eight triples, a home run, 25 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 107 games with Kansas City last season. He has stolen at least 30 bases in four of the last five seasons (2012-16). Since 2012, he’s stolen 156 bases – sixth most in baseball over that span, despite being a part-time player much of his time with Kansas City. That speed and base stealing threat is something that manager Scott Servais didn’t have much beyond Leonys Martin last season. It’s why they tried to acquire Dyson in the early months of the offseason.
“We’ve had many conversations about Dyson specifically and what a good fit he was for our team,” Dipoto said. “He’s an elite level defender, dynamic on the bases, a fearless base stealer. The combination of Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martin and Jean Segura hitting somewhere between the bottom and top of your lineup really creates a three-player dynamic on the bases for us that is probably different than the Mariners have had in a long, long time, perhaps different than most teams in our league, particularly the American League. We like what it provides in the kind of chaos we can create on the bases.”
Dyson is a career .260 hitter with a .325 on-base percentage and has played all three outfield spots. He produced a 15.1 defensive WAR metric and 19 defensive runs saved in the outfield last season.
Dipoto hinted that the day-to-day outfield would consist of Dyson in left field, Martin in center field and Haniger in right field with Gamel and Heredia vying for the extra outfield spot.
“With Gamel and Heredia fighting it out of playing time otherwise, this allows us to continue the development of the young players while we improve our speed-defense game,” he said. “It really helps with our run prevention. With a pitching staff that is a little bit more bent toward the fly ball, we feel like the combination of those five outfielders presents us with too good of a strength to walk away from.”
The Mariners moved on from Karns after one season of un-met potential. Acquired before last season, the 29-year-old right-hander was penciled into the rotation and promptly pitched his way out of it and into the bullpen before a back injury ended his season. He went 6-2 with a 5.15 ERA in 15 starts and seven relief appearances. He struggled with efficiency in games and against hitters, struggling to get through six innings and against hitters a third time through the lineup.