Seattle preps for spring believing it can contend in AL West
SEATTLE (AP) — Jerry Dipoto did not go quietly into the Seattle Mariners offseason. The entire overhaul Dipoto embarked upon after taking over as the Mariners general manager was not subtle or quiet.
It was attention-grabbing, and as Dipoto said on Thursday during the Mariners’ pre-spring training luncheon, successful.
“I think we did what we said we were going to do. And I feel very confident our game plan has been executed,” Dipoto said. “Now we’re going to find out as the season starts how good the game plan was.”
The Mariners will arrive in Arizona in about three weeks with one of the more remodeled rosters in baseball, including 17 new additions to their 40-man roster that were with other clubs a year ago. The expectation is that the majority of those new acquisitions will be on the final 25-man roster when Seattle breaks camp in early April.
That means the early part of spring training will be as much about the Mariners getting to know one another as it will be about assessing what the talent is on the field. Dipoto didn’t shy away from saying the roster he’s created should be able to post a winning record in 2016.
“I believe this club is as well-suited as anybody in the (AL) West. It’s a tough division. ... We’re going to start the season with the idea that we’re going to get into the mid-80s. We’ve built the roster with the idea of getting into the mid-80s and if you can get into that 85-, 86-win zone and then let the chips fall where they may, it’s amazing how frequently you’re going to end up winning a lot more games than that,” Dipoto said. “It’s all going to be about the culture we develop. We will make strategic mistakes, we will have injuries, every team does. What we cannot do is allow our culture to rattle.”
The crux of Dipoto’s offseason makeover was to create more athleticism and versatility for the Mariners, and to build a roster that played to the strengths of their home park, Safeco Field. That created changes in the outfield with the additions of Nori Aoki and Leonys Martin, and led to a complete rebuilding of the bullpen, with seven new additions from outside the organization likely to compete for spots as relievers.
The biggest competition may be for the final slots in Seattle’s rotation with the expectation that Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Wade Miley are assured spots. That leaves Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Nathan Karns, Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno likely competing for the fourth and fifth spots.
There are also questions about reserve spots in the infield and who may end up being the right-handed hitting complement to Adam Lind at first base. Dipoto confirmed the signing of former All-Star Gaby Sanchez to a minor league deal on Thursday. The intention is that he’s part of that competition along with Jesus Montero and Seattle could add another player to the mix before the start of spring training.
“I like the versatility, I like the athleticism. I think to win you’ve got to pitch and to have good pitching you’ve got to defend and we got a lot better there, especially in our outfield defense,” first-year manager Scott Servais said.
NOTES: Backup C Jesus Sucre will be out for six months after undergoing surgery on his right ankle this week. Sucre suffered a fractured fibula and severely sprained ankle playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. ... 2B Robinson Cano is fully recovered after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia. Cano played through the injury for the final two months of the season. “It was his wishes to play through that. I don’t think too many people could have played through what he played through,” athletic trainer Rick Griffin said.