M’s Get Busy With Minor Moves

After an uncharacteristically quiet winter, the Mariners have made a flurry of small roster moves in the last few days. Several of these impact the Rainiers.

The team signed a pair of experienced major league pitchers with international backgrounds in Yoshihisa Hirano and Wei-Yin Chen.

Hirano pitched the last two seasons for the Arizona Diamondbacks after a dozen seasons with Orix in his native Japan. The 35-year-old reliever is on a major league deal and is expected to pitch out of the Mariners bullpen.

Chen, 34, is on a minor league contract after eight years in the majors with Baltimore and more recently Miami. Chen was impressive his first few years in Baltimore, and signed a big free agent contract with the Marlins, but he required elbow surgery and hasn’t been the same since coming back at the end of the 2017 season. A fly ball pitcher, the super-juiced MLB baseball has not been his friend these last two seasons.

If Chen pitches for Tacoma this year, the Rainiers can claim to have had the two most prominent pitchers to ever come from Taiwan. Chien-Ming Wang pitched in 11 games for the Rainiers in 2015.

When Hirano was signed, he had to be added to the 40-man roster. That meant someone had to come off it, and that someone was left-handed starting pitcher Ricardo Sanchez. Sanchez spent the 2019 season in the rotation for Double-A Arkansas and we had him penciled into the Tacoma rotation for this season. We’ll wait to see if another team claims him.

One recently designated pitcher did not clear waivers: Reggie McClain. McClain was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies, and the swingman will go to spring training in Florida this year. We wish him luck with his new club.

Tacoma may have lost another pitcher but potentially gained an outfielder in a move that was made Monday. The Mariners claimed outfield prospect Jose Siri from the Cincinnati Reds, adding him to the 40-man roster. Reliever Matt Festa was designated for assignment to make room.

Siri had a big year showing power and speed in Class-A in 2017, but he has had difficulty getting over the Double-A hump these past two seasons. He is reportedly a capable defender in center field. The Mariners will look at him in Peoria next month and decide if he needs to go to Arkansas or should be assigned to Tacoma.

Festa split the 2019 season between Seattle and Tacoma bullpens. We’ll wait and see if he clears waivers.

You never know when you designate a player for assignment if he will clear waivers or get claimed by another team, and the M’s risked three pitchers in the past week. It’s always good to bring in some reinforcements, and Mexican media has reported that lefty Manny Banuelos has signed with Seattle on a minor league contract.

The former Yankees top prospect is now 28-years-old. He spent 2019 in the majors with the Chicago White Sox, but shoulder injuries limited him to 50 innings. He has since shown he is healthy by pitching for Culiacan in the Mexican Winter League.

Banuelos pitched in the PCL for Salt Lake in 2017, and Oklahoma City in 2018. His season with Oklahoma City was quite strong and led to his major league opportunity with the White Sox last year.

Up next is the continuation of our Position Previews series, which will come on Thursday afternoon when we look at the Tacoma Rainiers middle infield candidates.

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