Roster Round-Up

The Mariners were very busy on Friday afternoon, making a number of moves which added depth to the 40-man roster.

The moves involved players who may make more of an impact for Tacoma than for Seattle next year – although the players acquired do have some major league experience.

First up was a trade with Tampa Bay. The Mariners sent three minor league players, including Rainiers reliever Andrew Kittredge, to the Rays in exchange for corner infielder Richie Shaffer and utility player Taylor Motter.

Shaffer was the Rays first round draft pick in 2012. He’s appeared in 51 major league games over the past two seasons, hitting .213 with five home runs in 122 at-bats. With the Triple-A Durham Bulls, Shaffer hit 19 homers in a half-season in 2015 – but tailed off in 2016, hitting .227 with 11 homers in over 400 at-bats.

Motter plays everywhere, from middle infield to third base to outfield. He even pitched in a blowout game for Tampa last year. Like Shaffer, Motter had a big season with Durham in 2015 (.292, 14 home runs, 43 doubles) but couldn’t match it in 2016 (.229 with 13 home runs, 17 doubles). He made his major league debut with Tampa last year.

Both Shaffer and Motter have minor league options remaining, and seem like candidates to be back-and-forth players between Tacoma and Seattle next year.

The Mariners lost Kittredge in this deal, the Spokane native who pitched for the University of Washington before signing with the Mariners. Kittredge had a velocity spike in 2016 and saw his numbers improve as a result – Rainiers manager Pat Listach even used him as the closer down the stretch. We wish him the best with his new organization.

The Mariners made another trade, sending breakout Class-A pitching prospect Zach Littell to the Yankees in exchange for left-handed reliever James Pazos.

Seattle is hoping that Pazos can make an impact at the big league level. He was called up by the Yankees in each of the last two seasons, but was used very sparingly. At Triple-A Scranton last year, Pazos struck out 41 batters in 27.1 innings, but he also walked 19. He’s always been tough to hit – in his minor league career, he’s allowed 159 hits in 215.1 innings.

The Mariners also signed some minor league free agents, according to Baseball America’s transactions.

They re-signed catcher Steve Baron, who was removed from the 40-man roster after the season and briefly became a free agent. Baron is a former Rainiers player, but he spent (nearly) the entire 2016 season with the Double-A club. He’s a candidate to play for Tacoma this coming season.

A pitcher who might help the Rainiers was signed: right-handed reliever Peter Tago. Tago was a supplemental first round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2010, from a high school in southern California. Last year in Double-A he struck out 78 batters in 59.2 innings, with 33 walks. Reports say he is a “throws hard, needs to improve his command” type of reliever.

They also signed Class-A right-handed pitcher Blake Perry, who was the Arizona Diamondbacks 6th round draft pick out of high school in 2010. He pitched for Visalia in the California League last year, moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen. This is likely a player GM Jerry Dipoto is familiar with from his time with the Diamondbacks.

With all of these additions, there were some losses.

Rainiers star Stefen Romero was released so that he could pursue an opportunity in Japan.

This has been in the works for a while. Romero was scouted heavily by the Japanese teams in 2016, and at one point it was possible he might make the jump during the season.

It’s a great opportunity for Romero, hopefully he makes the best of it. He’ll go down as one of the most productive hitters in Tacoma history.

The Mariners also lost left-handed reliever David Rollins, who was claimed off waivers by the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs (not a typo – that really happened, the Cubs won the World Series). Rollins pitched very well for Tacoma last year, but had an ERA of 7.68 in 34 major league innings for Seattle. Rollins was one of the Rainiers co-winners of the team community service award, and he’s a fun character to have on the team.

Finally, Seattle added three players to the 40-man roster, protecting them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Tacoma first baseman D.J. Peterson, Rainiers lefty Paul Fry, and 100-mph reliever Thyago Vieira were selected.

Peterson was the Mariners first round draft pick in 2013, and he had a nice bounce-back season in 2016 to earn a spot on the roster.

Fry was the Mariners minor league reliever of the year in 2015, but he struggled with his command during the first half of his first Triple-A season. After the all-star break last year, Fry posted a 1.17 ERA with 29 strikeouts and just 14 hits allowed in 23 innings. He’s someone who could jump to the big leagues in 2017.

Vieiera is a Brazilian who throws very, very hard. He harnessed his control in 2016 and had a breakout season, finishing the year with Advanced-A Bakersfield. We may see him in Tacoma at some point next year – or he could go the Edwin Diaz route and skip us. When a reliever throws 100+ mph, he can move up the ladder very quickly.

Whew, done. Just another busy weekend in the Dipoto-era offseason!

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Check back Wednesday for a Triple-A All-Star Flashback.

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