I regret to inform you that is is both Monday and another Mariners player will miss the beginning of the season. The injury bug has struck again.
Ben Gamel has been diagnosed with an oblique strain. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. #Mariners— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 5, 2018
Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cooooooooool, cool.
So, what the options here? The Mariners could decide to make a move and sign someone like Melky Cabrera, Jon Jay, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Coghlan, Seth Smith, Brandon Moss, or even (dramatic pause) Ichiro.
A free agent signing would certainly make a lot of fans feel better (myself included), but is the team willing to pay a decent chunk of money for basically a month of outfield coverage before Gamel comes back? Pretty much all of the options listed above would not be okay with playing in Tacoma for any long stretch of the season, I’m sure. As far as we know, the team has thus far this offseason been banking on Gamel as the starting left fielder with Guillermo Heredia as a backup or potential platoon partner if Gamel struggles. I would personally be surprised if they paid for a free agent in this situation, especially with the starting pitching rotation still fretfully thin on depth. A trade might be more likely, but it hurts my brain to think who the team would have to give up.
In the meantime, this injury probably means we’ll get even more Spring Training looks at 40-man member Cameron Perkins, as well as veterans Kirk Nieuwenhuis (currently out with a hamstring strain), Junior Lake, and John Andreoli. Unfortunately, only Nieuwenhuis is a left-handed hitter. Among the prospects, Braden Bishop is a righty and hasn’t hit above AA, while lefties Ian Miller and Andrew Aplin would need to show significant offensive improvement to make a strong claim. The team floated the idea of working Mike Ford in at a corner outfield spot to improve his versatility when he was first acquired, but that’s not the kind of thing that should be Plan A, B, or even C for Opening Day. Fringe-y outfielders assemble!
This also means that it’s very possible that both Andrew Romine and Taylor Motter make the Opening Day roster so the team has some left field depth beyond Heredia.