As Mariners fans watch yet another MLB postseason — this one featuring an unprecedented 16 teams — without their team, do they find any solace in former Mariners getting the chance?
The sight of Mike Zunino, who enticed Seattle fans with his prodigious homers and brilliant catching skills and exasperated them with his strikeouts, has done all those things for the Rays on his way to the World Series.
A reminder: The Mariners are the only active MLB organization to never have appeared in a World Series. They reached that dubious distinction when the Nationals qualified for and won the World Series last season.
Given personnel churn and so many transactions — including 10 trades with the Rays — since general manager Jerry Dipoto took over in August 2015, trying to determine the number of players and coaches with Mariners ties in the 16-team playoffs would have been a lengthy process.
But now that it’s down to two teams — the Dodgers and Rays — it’s a little easier. Despite all the trades with Tampa, there are just four former Mariners on the Rays’ 40-player roster. And the one former Mariner on the Dodgers was part of trade that Dipoto once labeled “clearly the worst deal I’ve made” to The Seattle Times’ Matt Calkins in 2017.
Here’s a look at the former Mariners players, coaches and executives who will be three wins away from a World Series ring after Monday’s game — and how they got to their current spot.
Tampa Bay Rays
When Dipoto decided to start this rebuild in the 2018 offseason, Zunino was one of the first established players traded. He had two years of arbitration eligibility remaining and turned down a three-year, $24 million contract extension earlier that year. Seattle sent Zunino, outfielder Guillermo Heredia and minor-league pitcher Michael Plassmeyer to the Rays in exchange for outfielders Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley.
In the last two seasons with Tampa, Zunino has played in 118 games, posting a .161/.233/.323 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) with 14 doubles, a triple, 13 homers, 42 RBI with 26 walks and 135 strikeouts. This postseason, he’s appeared in 13 games, posting a .216/.231/.541 slash line with four homers in his eight homers, eight RBI and 18 strikeouts.
The first baseman achieved cult status in the Rays organization over the past few seasons, banging a garbage can after the Rays defeated Houston in the ALCS. Choi signed with the Mariners as a non-drafted free-agent catcher in 2009 out of Incheon, South Korea, showing decent bat control but minimal power in five minor-league seasons with Seattle. He was the Mariners’ minor-league offensive player of the year in 2010 after posting a .360/.440/.517 slash line with 30 RBI, 27 walks and 39 strikeouts in 50 games between the Arizona Rookie League and Low-A High Desert.
In a Cactus League game March 4, 2015, while trying to make a leaping catch on a wayward throw, Choi came down awkwardly, gruesomely fracturing his ankle. In a cold business decision, Choi was designated for assignment the next day. Because the Mariners made that move before they could place him on the 60-day injured list, Choi did not make a typical MLB salary while missing essentially the whole season. Unsurprisingly, Choi left the organization as a minor-league free agent.
After kicking around the Orioles, Angels and Yankee organizations, Choi signed as a minor-league free agent with the Brewers in 2018 and made the opening-day roster. He was traded to the Rays in June for former Mariners shortstop Brad Miller.
The young left-handed pitcher was part of three-player package and three-team trade Jan. 11, 2017, that brought left-handed starter Drew Smyly to the Mariners. A command pitcher lacking overpowering stuff, Yarbrough, 28, posted a 26-13 record with a 4.94 ERA in 57 starts and four relief appearances in parts of three seasons.
In parts of three MLB seasons, he’s appeared in 77 games with 29 starts, posting a 28-16 record and 3.94 ERA. In 344 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 289 batters with 82 walks. His best career outing came against the Mariners on Aug. 11, 2019 at T-Mobile Park, tossing 8 2/3 shutout innings, allowing three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in the Rays’ 1-0 victory.
The veteran right-hander is on the 45-day injured list after elbow discomfort ended his season in late August. His time in the Mariners’ organization was brief. He was acquired from the Rockies on Dec. 2, 2010, when then-GM Jack Zduriencik traded infielder Jose Lopez to Colorado. Roe never pitched in the big leagues for Seattle, opting for minor-league free agency and spending time in five different organizations before finding a lasting home with the Rays.
The hard-throwing right-handed reliever who grew up in Spokane and pitched for Ferris High School, Bellevue College and the University of Washington, hasn’t been on the Rays postseason roster this season. He signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2011 and made 186 appearances in the Mariners minor-league system, posting a 4.49 ERA with 364 strikeouts and 118 walks in 342 2/3 innings pitched. He was also in one of those 10 Dipoto trades with Rays.
In parts of four seasons for the Rays, Kittredge has made 93 appearances, including 11 games as an opener, posting a 4-3 record with a 4.93 ERA. He’s pitched a total of 111 1/3 innings, striking out 105 batters and walking 37.
He’s been the Rays’ first-base coach since the 2017 season and also serves as the assistant hitting coach. A Tampa native, Timmons has been with the Rays for his entire coaching career, working in player development in 2007. Of his 16 itinerant professional seasons, Timmons spent the 1999 season in the Mariners organization. He played in 26 games for the Mariners, posting a .114/.188/.227 slash line.
After the Mariners didn’t renew his contract after last season, he was hired by the Rays to serve as the outfield and baserunning coordinator for this season. Prieto had been with the Mariners organization since 2013. He managed the now-defunct Pulaski Mariners to an Appalachian League title, was promoted to the big-league staff in 2014 as the team’s quality assurance coach, served as the team’s special projects coach in 2017 and was promoted to first-base coach in 2018. He moved over to third-base coach in 2019 with Manny Acta serving as bench coach.
Los Angeles Dodgers
There was a time when the Mariners debated which prospect would be their everyday shortstop of the future: Taylor, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller or Ketel Marte. After three seasons in the system, Taylor was trending toward being the Mariners’ opening-day shortstop in 2015. Per a Mariners source at the time, the plan was for Miller to start that season in Tacoma and transition to outfield due to his fielding inconsistency. But a fastball from Brewers reliever Jim Henderson fractured Taylor’s right wrist March 13. Miller was named opening-day shortstop, and Taylor bounced back and forth between the Mariners and Tacoma.
When Dipoto took over, he named Marte the shortstop for 2016. Taylor started in Tacoma and was traded to the Dodgers for right-handed pitcher Zach Lee on June 19.
With the help of swing changes, Taylor became a valuable player for the Dodgers. In 509 games over parts of five seasons, he’s posted a .266/.340/.465 slash line with 110 doubles, 21 triples, 59 homers and 226 RBI, while totaling 11 wins above replacement (WAR).
In his first season as the Dodgers hitting coach after serving as hitting strategist for the past two seasons, Brown spent five seasons in the Mariners organization, hired by former director of player development Chris Gwynn to serve as the minor-league outfield coordinator in 2013. After three seasons in that position, he was named the minor-league offensive coordinator for the 2016-2017 seasons.
The Dodgers’ current bullpen coach spent parts of two seasons (2010-2011) with the Mariners in a backup catching role. They would be his final two seasons at the MLB level. He appeared in 65 games, posting a .212/.268/.347 slash line with 11 doubles, five homers, 21 RBI, 15 walks and 47 strikeouts.
He’s wrapping up his second season as vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager. Kingston was hired by Zduriencik in September 2009 as an assistant GM after working for nine seasons with the Padres. He specialized in contract negotiations, salary arbitration and the collective-bargaining agreement. He was promoted to vice president of baseball operations for the 2015 season and served as the interim general manager when Zduriencik was fired Aug. 28. He remained in the organization as an assistant GM when Dipoto replaced Zduriencik, overseeing player development and the analytics departments at different times.
Did you know the longtime Mariners outfielder was working in the Dodgers front office as a special assistant to president Andrew Friedman? No? Don’t feel alone. But Ibanez and Greg Maddux were hired for those roles Feb. 2, 2016. While serving as president and GM of the Rays, Friedman interviewed Ibanez for the open managerial position that eventually went to current Tampa manager Kevin Cash. When Friedman took over the Dodgers a few months later, he hired Ibanez, who has since been linked as a candidate to several managerial and coaching positions. He has yet to jump at an on-field role.