In their upcoming offseason search for a right-handed power bat, the Seattle Mariners recognize they might already have exactly what they need within their organization.
They just believe third baseman D.J. Peterson, 22, might still need a little more seasoning in the minors.
The operative word is “might.”
Club officials will monitor Peterson closely in the Arizona Fall League, which begins next week, and are already planning to give him a long look in spring training.
“His age and experience might be working against him,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “but this is also a pretty good hitter. You don’t shut the door on it. You leave it open and see what he does.”
Peterson was the club’s first-round pick in the 2013 draft and bolstered his status as the organization’s top hitting prospect by batting .297 this season with 31 homers and 111 RBI in 123 games at Double-A Jackson and Class-A High Desert.
He also quickly allayed any fears that he might struggle to recover after suffering a season-ending injury in 2013 when he was hit in the jaw by a pitch.
“It took a little bit (of time), honestly,” Peterson admitted. “I think now, I’m completely over it. I’m good to go. I’m going to keep the flap on the helmet. But, mentally, I feel like I’m completely over it.”
Plans call for Peterson to split time at third base and first base while playing for the Surprise Saguaros in the Fall League. But he is likely to switch at some point to full-time duty at first because the Mariners already have All-Star Kyle Seager at third base.
“I played a lot of first base in college,” Peterson said. “It’s a position that I’m acquainted with. I’m very used to it. It wouldn’t be too much of an adjustment.”
It still seems likely that Peterson will open next season in the minors, perhaps at Triple-A Tacoma, but club officials acknowledge he could force his way onto the big-league roster at some point.
Maybe for the April 6 opener against the Angels at Safeco Field?
“I wouldn’t say no,” Zduriencik said. “Coming out of Double-A to the big leagues is challenging, but he’s going to be in the Fall League. There are a lot of people who’ve been around him who think this guy is the real deal.
“We’ll bring him into spring training. He’ll get a fair shot. What happens, happens.”
PLANS FOR MORRISON
Logan Morrison’s strong closing kick makes him a candidate for regular playing time next season either at first base or designated hitter. But he isn’t, at this point, likely to fill the Mariners’ need for a right fielder.
“I would say if we want to try to maximize our potential to keep him healthy,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “the outfield would not be an option.”
Morrison, 27, is eligible for arbitration this winter after making $1.75 million this season, when he batted .262 with 11 homers and 38 RBI in 99 games. He played 10 games in the outfield.
“I think he really turned it on, offensively, late in the season,” McClendon said. “You’re intrigued. You wish he could have stayed healthy all year, and you wonder what those numbers would have been.”
Morrison missed nearly two months because of a hamstring injury but batted .321 over his final 51 games with 13 doubles, six homers and 21 RBI.
SEEKING A PITCHER
The Mariners are also in the market for a starting pitcher, Zduriencik said, after patching together their rotation for much of the season because of numerous injuries.
Veteran right-hander Chris Young is a free agent, which leaves the club with a projected rotation of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Roenis Elias and Taijuan Walker.
They also have Danny Hultzen, once viewed as their top pitching prospect, returning from major shoulder surgery — although his innings will be limited after missing all of this season.
Iwakuma, Paxton, Walker and Elias also missed time this season because of injuries.
The Mariners also appear lukewarm to the idea of retaining DH/first baseman Kendrys Morales, who recently said he’d bypass the opportunity to become a free agent if he can get an acceptable multiyear contract.
Morales, 31, batted just .207 with seven homers and 24 RBI in 59 games after the Mariners reacquired him from the Minnesota Twins in a July 24 deal for minor-league reliever Stephen Pryor.
“We’ll see,” Zduriencik said. “Whenever you talk about any player on your club, the answer is always, ‘What are your options?’ We’re going to be open to everything.”
PLAYERS CHOICE AWARDS
Young and Felix Hernandez are finalists in separate categories for the Players Choice Awards, which are presented annually by the players’ association.
Hernandez is a candidate for the American League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher along with Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber and Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale.
Young joins two Detroit Tigers players — J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez — as finalists for the AL’s Comeback Player of the year award.
The winners will be announced Nov. 3 on the MLB Network.