Add Jody Gerut And Nate Robertson To The Big Heaping NRI List

I've openly expressed my fondness of guys signed to minor league contracts on more than one occasion, and the Mariners are just the team that won't stop giving. The latest additions: Jody Gerut and Nate Robertson, who make the 18th and 19th guys coming to camp as non-roster invitees.

Gerut had a big rookie season back in 2003 for Eric Wedge and the Indians, so the connection is there. He then fell off the map for a while before coming back in a big way for the Padres in 2008, and then he fell off the map once again. He's been kind of hit-or-miss. But if you just look at his career numbers, he's been an okay player overall, and this is a guy with solid power who's capable of playing all three outfield positions.

Gerut, then, is interesting. What's difficult to figure out is how he could fit. He's left-handed, so there's a lot of overlap with Michael Saunders and Ryan Langerhans. If he were a righty, I'd figure he was being brought in as a Milton Bradley replacement, but I just don't know. Maybe it's simply about getting as many interesting pieces in camp as possible and seeing what works. Gerut will give Saunders a push, and come Opening Day he could be the Mariners' starting LF, the Mariners' fourth outfielder, a starter for the Rainiers, or a free agent. It's hard for me to say.

Robertson, meanwhile, is what happens when you want to add some starting rotation depth but you don't have very much money. Robertson was all right for his first few years, tricked the Tigers into giving him a $21.25m, three-year contract, and started getting worse from 2007-onward. A comparison:

Pre-contract: 4.56 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
Post-contract: 5.61 ERA, 5.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9

For some reason, he started allowing more fly balls, too. So things haven't been trending real well for Nate Robertson. But then, it's important to recognize that even though he's gotten worse, the veteran lefty isn't out-and-out bad. His peripherals are manageable, and he certainly knows how to eat a few innings. His big weakness - righties - could be less of a weakness in Safeco, to the point at which he's a passable back-of-the-rotation starter.

And I think that's the idea. The M's have wanted to bring in a starter for much of the offseason. However, they probably didn't want to bring in a starter they couldn't bump out of the way for Erik Bedard or Michael Pineda. So Robertson will join guys like David Pauley and Luke French in the group of arms that could round out the rotation if one or both of the higher-profile starters isn't ready by the start. Robertson may not end up with a job, but he's exactly the sort of guy I figured would get a chance.

If Robertson doesn't break camp with the team, he could report to Tacoma as depth, but guys like this usually have a clause in their contracts declaring that they become free agents if they aren't in the bigs by a certain date, so I'm not sure whether Robertson could serve as possible depth all year. There's also the slight possibility that he's being brought in as a reliever, rather than a starter, but I'd be surprised.

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