Mariners Begin To Adjust Roster

The Mariners made the first move what figures to be another busy offseason for General Manager Jerry Dipoto on Monday afternoon, trading for a veteran catcher.

The M’s sent left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuno to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for catcher Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz replaces Chris Iannetta, who left via free agency.

As it stands now, Ruiz and Mike Zunino will handle the catching duties at the major league level in 2017.

Ruiz will play next year at age 38. Ruiz was contributor to the Phillies 2008 World Series championship, though his most productive seasons came later from 2010-2012.

He’s always been a good on-base percentage player, with a career mark of .352. Ruiz also has a world of experience to draw upon, and should fill the role of “savvy veteran.”

The trade cost the Mariners one of their few left-handed relievers, and Dipoto will certainly address that this winter. The team has already made one move in that area, claiming LHP Dean Kiekhefer off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kiekhefer rode the Memphis-to-St. Louis shuttle last season, appearing in 29 Triple-A games and 26 Major League games.

He was very successful for Memphis, posting a 6-1 record with a 2.08 ERA in the PCL. Included was an appearance against Tacoma at AutoZone Park on August 12th in which he earned the win with two scoreless innings of relief.

In the majors, Kiekhefer had a 5.32 ERA in 22 innings pitched. It was his first season getting big league experience.

Kiekhefer uses deception rather than overpowering stuff to get outs. He is particularly effective against left-handed batters.

He should help the Rainiers. Whether he can make the necessary adjustments to help the Mariners remains to be seen.

We’ll take a moment to honor former Rainiers lefty Matt Thornton, who announced his retirement from baseball yesterday at age 40.

Thornton was the Mariners controversial first round draft pick in 1998, when he was selected 22nd overall out of tiny Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan. It was a surprise first round pick – Thornton was more of a basketball player in college.

He was a project from the day the M’s drafted him: a tall, hard-throwing lefty with little pitching experience. It eventually worked out (in a pretty big way), but not until he had exhausted his minor league options with the Mariners and was traded to the White Sox for Joe Borchard in spring training, 2006.

Thornton pitched in 748 major league games over 13 seasons, settling in as a flamethrowing set-up reliever. He had a career ERA of 3.41, with 642 strikeouts in 662 innings pitched. He pitched in the 2010 All-Star Game.

With Tacoma in 2003 and 2004, Thornton was still a minor league project. He was a starter in 2004, making 16 starts and going 7-5 with a 5.42 ERA. I remember some days he looked dominant, and most days he was wild. He walked 63 batters in 83 innings.

Eventually he figured out how to command his pitches, and the long big league career followed. Congratulations to Matt.

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Check back for a new post on Thursday; we’ll do another All-Star Flashback unless Dipoto does something amazing for the Rainiers, like sign Wily Mo Pena.

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