SEATTLE – With the Houston Astros winning the World Series on Wednesday night, the Major League Baseball offseason officially began Thursday morning with the free-agency period.
The Seattle Mariners have seven players from their active roster who are free agents.
Five players’ big-league contracts expired, meaning they will be free agents: Jarrod Dyson, outfielder; Danny Valencia, first base/OF; Carlos Ruiz, catcher; Yonder Alonso, 1B; and Gordon Beckham, infielder.
Two players with club options for 2018, right-handers Yovani Gallardo and Hisashi Iwakuma, won’t be exercised for next season, the Mariners announced.
Per baseball’s collective-bargaining agreement, the Mariners can negotiate with their free agents without another team inserting itself until 2 p.m. on Monday. After that deadline, free agents are allowed to sign with any team. Seattle will consider bringing back Alonso, who was acquired in August from the Oakland A’s in a trade. General manager Jerry Dipoto mentioned as much during his postseason news conference.
“I think Yonder did a nice job for us,” Dipoto said. “First of all, I think he’s a good guy in the clubhouse, and you got to experience that. He shows up to work every day. He hits right-hand pitching. He did that for us. Maybe it was a little streakier than it had been in Oakland, but it’s, I want to say about 15 to 18 percent better than the league average. He plays a pretty solid first base. I think he gave us a presence after we got beyond the middle of our order.”
Alonso, 30, had the best season of his seven-year major-league career, hitting .266 with an .866 on-base plus slugging percentage with 22 doubles, 28 homers and 67 RBI in 142 games with Oakland and Seattle.
“Yonder is a free agent in a pretty flush class of free-agent first baseman,” Dipoto said. “Would he be a consideration to return? Absolutely. Do I think he enjoyed his time here? I think he did, got along with his teammates. And I’m sure those are conversations that we will have in the coming days while we plan roster, and then ultimately we’ll have with Yonder and his people.”
Lucas Duda (Rays/Mets), Mitch Moreland (Red Sox), Logan Morrison (Rays) are a few other outside, cheaper possibilities that the Mariners might consider on a one-year contract. The top free agent – the Royals’ Eric Hosmer – is probably out of Seattle’s price range.
“There are a lot of different options for us, and we want to make sure that we’re maximizing our potential at that position,” Dipoto said. “Whether you would consider Yonder Alonso outside of the organization, I don’t know. He’s a strong consideration. Do we think we need to address first base for 2018 and beyond? Yes. Do we feel like we have future answers in guys like Daniel Vogelbach and Evan White? Yes. Is it their time in 2018? That remains to be seen.”
Dyson, 33, will be a free agent for the first time in his career and is looking for a legitimate contract in what will be his best and possibly only opportunity to get a multiyear deal (two years with an option seems like his best chance). The Mariners would like to bring Dyson back, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding Guillermo Heredia’s offseason shoulder surgery. But they seem unlikely to overspend for an outfielder in his 30s.
Though the Mariners don’t specifically have a backup catcher, they aren’t expected to bring Ruiz back immediately. But he might be a consideration later in the offseason. Ruiz likely will try to find a team that can give him more playing time. He played sparingly with Mike Zunino’s breakout season.
The well-traveled Valencia put up decent numbers, hitting .256 with a .725 OPS, 19 doubles, 15 homers and 66 RBI, but it became apparent that he couldn’t be an everyday player. A platoon player for much of his career, the Mariners were forced to try Valencia in a full-time role after platoon partner Vogelbach flamed out in spring training. It didn’t work. Valencia posted a .693 OPS vs. right-handers with 91 strikeouts in 325 at-bats. Given his role as a platoon player, it seems unlikely the Mariners bring back Valencia.
Beckham, a veteran big-leaguer, was signed to a minor league deal and spent most of the season with
Triple-A Tacoma before being called up in September.
As for Iwakuma and Gallardo, the Mariners’ decision not to bring them back, well, that was just common baseball logic and business acumen.
Iwakuma had a $15 million club option that vested automatically if he reached 162 innings in 2017 or 324 innings combined between 2016-17. A shoulder injury limited him to six starts and 31 innings this season, and he had surgery in late September. The Mariners wisely chose not to exercise the option after it didn’t vest. They will have to pay Iwakuma a $1 million buyout.
Gallardo was acquired from the Orioles in the offseason for outfielder Seth Smith. Slated as the No. 5 starter, Gallardo was the only member of the projected rotation not to spend a stint on the disabled list. However, he was largely ineffective despite a return of his velocity, posting a 5-10 record and 5.72 ERA in 22 starts and six relief appearances.
He twice pitched himself out of the starting rotation. Gallardo has a $13 million club option for 2018, which the Mariners would not pay under any circumstance, including being forced by law. They instead will pay a $2 million buyout.
With the open spots on the 40-man roster, the Mariners reinstated pitchers Drew Smyly and David Phelps from the 60-day disabled list. The Mariners’ 40-man roster is at 34.
Seattle claimed utilityman Andrew Romine off waivers from Detroit. Romine appeared in 124 games last season for the Tigers. Most of his time was spent in the infield.