The Seattle Mariners set their 40-man roster on Friday, which was the deadline to protect players in advance of the upcoming Rule 5 draft, but not before they made two trades, promoted three players and said goodbye to pitchers Tom Wilhelmsen and David Rollins and outfielder Stefen Romero.
Busy day indeed. A look at the moves:
▪ Filling a need for a hard-throwing, left-handed pitcher, the Mariners acquired James Pazos from the New York Yankees for minor league right-hander Zack Littell, who went 13-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 2016 between Single-A Clinton and High-A Bakersfield.
▪ The Mariners made a five-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, which netted Seattle two versatile infielder/outfielders in Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer. The cost was three minor leaguers: infielder Dalton Kelly and right-handed pitchers Andrew Kittredge and Dylan Thompson.
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▪ The Mariners lost Rollins to a waiver claim by the Chicago Cubs, released Romero so he could pursue opportunities in Japan, and designated Wilhelmsen for assignment.
▪ And they added left-handed pitcher Paul Fry, right-hander Thyago Vieira and infielder D.J. Peterson to the 40-man roster, which is full.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto stressed that the acquisitions fit in with the team’s need for versatility, and sounded excited about the potential of Pazos, 25, to be a contender for a bullpen role in the spring. He said Pazos throws between 93-98 mph and has a swing-and-miss breaking ball.
“We feel like he’s on the doorstep of cutting his teeth on the major league level,” Dipoto said on a conference call with reporters.
Pazos had brief appearances with the Yankees in the last two seasons. In 18 games, he’s got a 1-0 record and a 5.40 ERA. Over five seasons and 155 minor league games, Pazos went 12-9 with 2.38 ERA, averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He walked 99 batters in 234 innings, but Dipoto did not seem overly concerned.
“He’s performed quite well at the minor league levels,” Dipoto said. “Obviously he’s had his ups and downs in terms of strike-throwing, but overall his collective minor league work suggests that’s not going to be a huge hurdle.”
Motter and Shaffer have some major league experience.
Motter, 27, made his debut last season. He hit .188 in 34 games with Tampa Bay while appearing at every position but center field and catcher. And, yes, he even pitched in one game. In parts of six seasons in the Rays’ minor league system, Motter hit .272 with 56 home runs in 553 games.
Dipoto praised Motter’s defense, on-base and base-running ability. “He fits very well for us,” the general manager said.
Shaffer played in 20 major league games and hit .250 in 2016, and played in 31 games and batted .189 in 2015. Overall, the former first-round pick hit .213 with five home runs in 122 major league at-bats while playing first base, third base and both corner outfield spots.
Shaffer, 25, struggled in Triple-A in 2016 (.227, 11 homers, 135 strikeouts in 119 games). Dipoto stressed that Shaffer’s got raw power and that “his upside is still very good.”
Wilhelmsen was traded by the Mariners last offseason, but was re-signed after a disastrous stint with the Texas Rangers (10.55 ERA). The 32-year-old regained his form back in Seattle, posting a 3.60 ERA and a save in 25 innings that were mostly low-leverage situations.