SAN DIEGO – As the first day of the Major League Baseball winter meetings wound down and the lobby bar of the Manchester Grand Hyatt began to fill with people associated with the national pastime in some way, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and first-year general manager Justin Hollander met with the local media to wrap up what was an uneventful but typical first day of the offseason gathering.
“It felt exactly like the first day of every other winter meetings I’ve ever been to,” Hollander said. “For me, it’s been 15 years. You settle in, you start making calls, people want to visit in person usually at the winter meetings, really for no other reason than because you haven’t seen that person, whether it’s an agent or someone from another club, in a while. You write up 50 ideas on the board and you erase 49 of them because they’re either bad ideas that you don’t want to do or you’re instantly told that somebody else doesn’t want to do that idea. And then you move on to the next thing.”
Nodding as Hollander spoke, Dipoto said: “Me too. Maybe it’s a bit slower because we did acquire two players that suit us very well and give us a fairly well-balanced team today.”
The mid-November trade that brought in outfielder Teoscar Hernandez and last week’s trade that netted second baseman Kolten Wong changed the Mariners agenda at the gathering and also the perception of their motivation.
“Timing is everything,” Dipoto said. “If this week we would have signed Luis Castillo as a free agent, traded for Teoscar Hernandez and Kolten Wong, you might have a fairly different opinion of how active we’ve been. We tend to act early. It is what it is.
“As much fun as the winter meetings are, through all the years we’ve been here, so often we do a lot of our work before we get to the winter meetings and then some afterward, but it’s been kind of slow.”
Because of that early work, the Mariners are operating with what Dipoto labeled a “pretty finite shopping list” with specific needs.
“In years past, especially in recent years, you come in with either (A) more needs, or (B) the notion that you’re just going to find ways to improve,” he said. “In one way or another, the core of what you see now is our team. And there’s not a lot of areas we think we can improve upon greatly.”
“We’d like to find one more bat, maybe two,” Dipoto said. “We’re open to doing it, but we’re also perfectly happy to go with what we have.”
Knowing Dipoto’s willingness to make creative moves, he likely won’t stand pat in this situation.
The Mariners would prefer to add a player who could play the corner outfield spots and another player who could play the infield corner spots, or one player who could play all four. If it’s an outfielder only, they’d prefer it to be a right-handed hitter.
Why a right-handed hitter?
The Mariners have Hernandez and Julio Rodriguez – both right-handed bats – locked into outfield spots, but the remaining outfielders on the 40-man roster – Jarred Kelenic, Taylor Trammell and Cade Marlowe – are all young, inexperienced and left-handed hitters. They do have switch-hitter Sam Haggerty, who played left field often in 2022. But they believe he’s most valuable as a utility player.
“We face a lot of lefties, particularly in our division,” Dipoto said. “We don’t want to just feed them to the lefties without some type of safety net. So finding a right-handed hitter who can protect them, I don’t want to say rotate or platoon, but allow them to not be forced into all of those at-bats and who frankly can give Teo a DH day when we can, that would be very good.”
A right-handed hitting corner outfielder?
A player that could play the corner infield spots would be an added bonus since the Mariners don’t have a longer-term replacement for Eugenio Suarez or Ty France if they were to go on the injured list. Seattle packaged Abraham Toro in the Wong deal and the upper level of the minor league system doesn’t offer much for options, particularly with Evan White continuing to deal with issues following hip and core surgeries.
White played in just 28 games for Triple-A Tacoma last season.
“Ty is a little bit exposed,” Dipoto said. “With the exception of Evan White, who we are uncertain of his health situation coming into the spring, we don’t have another obvious first baseman if Ty needs a day or needs a week. That’s something we need to find, whether it’s on the depth side as you’re building in minor league free agency, or through free agency and trade.”
Free agent Brian Anderson fits that need, having played all four corner positions for the Marlins in his career.
But the specificity hasn’t yielded any pending trades or signings.
Asked if they were inside the 5-yard line or the red zone to punctuating any deals this week, Dipoto answered in the football metaphor.
“I don’t know if we crossed midfield,” Dipoto said. “But anything is possible.”
“That things can change so fast with these meetings that I have no idea, but I think that just because you’re here doesn’t mean you have to do something,” Hollander said. “We’ve talked about different ideas and will accomplish things even if they don’t turn into actualized deals or free-agent signings. There’s no hard stop, there’s no moratorium after Rule 5 (draft) on being able to add to our team.”
Dipoto confirmed that utility player Dylan Moore will undergo surgery to repair a core injury in the coming days.
Moore went on the 10-day injured list with an oblique strain in late August. He returned after 16 games and played through some discomfort in the postseason. After experiencing pain during his offseason workouts, he decided to have it looked at by specialists at the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia, which specializes in core injuries.
Dr. William Meyers, a renowned specialist in core surgeries, who performed procedures on Robinson Cano (double hernia) and Mitch Haniger (torn adductor muscle), will handle the surgery.
The recovery from the surgery is 6-8 weeks with Moore expected to be ready to go for spring training.
Dipoto, who just recently found out that Moore needed the procedure, said he wasn’t overly concerned about the situation based on the information provided by his medical staff. He expects Moore to be ready to go by spring training.
The Mariners plan to play Moore heavily against left-handed starting pitchers at either second base or shortstop. Seattle also wants to play Moore at least once a week at shortstop to give J.P. Crawford adequate rest. The Mariners believed the fatigue and dings and dents of playing every day is a reason why Crawford struggled offensively late in the season.
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