So far this off-season has moved at...I was going to say a snail’s pace, but that feels insulting to snails. Suffice it to say, things have been slow. We’ve actually been lucky in these parts; the Mariners haven’t exactly been A.J. Preller Supermarket Sweeping through the league adding players like they’re ten-pound hams, or the Mets figuring out One Weird Old Trick To Make The Fanbase Like You Again (just trade for a generational talent! So easy!), but there’s been some movement on our relatively calm seas, which is better than no movement.
Underneath the surface, though, the Mariners have made a few dozen minor-league moves, and while several are the standard Break Glass In Case of Emergency pitchers or long-tenured MiLB utility players, there are a few intriguing names to take note of, especially if you like post-hype prospects or injury bounceback candidates. And who knows, maybe we’ll even get to go to Tacoma to watch some of them play at some point this year.
We’ll keep this list updated as the off-season stretches on; as of 2/9/21, here are the names listed on MLB’s transaction page for the Mariners:
( “*” = player has been with the Mariners organization before)
RHP Paul Sewald
The Mariners love pitchers out of the Mets organization (see: Chasen Bradford, Ashton Goudeau) and Sewald, who has been with the Mets for his whole career, fits right into that mold. Here is a lengthy breakdown on Sewald from FanGraphs with all kinds of fun charts and gifs that will probably make you more interested than you should be in a minor-league signing, but the tl;dr version is Sewald has a lot of characteristics to his pitches the Mariners like (high spin on his fastball despite lower velocity, a heavy sweeping slider, a changeup with fade) and it will be interesting to see if the Mariners’ pitch design staff can help him maximize his arsenal.
LHP Roenis Elias*
The 2019 World Series Champion Elias comes back to Seattle for his third stint with the Mariners, hopefully with that gorgeous curveball in tow. Elias sat out 2020 so ideally his arm is nice and fresh, even as the 32-year-old is a familiar face both to Seattle fans and the league as a whole.
RHP Kevin Munson*
Munson was a long-term Diamondbacks farmhand the Mariners signed in July of 2016, and then re-signed him in 2020, but he never pitched due to the cancellation of the minor-league season. Munson’s command can be erratic, and his strikeout numbers have declined as he’s aged from the mid-90s he could hit when drafted all the way back in 2010.
RHP Alejandro Requena
The second-youngest player on this list (currently) at one month past his 24th birthday, Requena has nonetheless been in pro ball since the Rockies signed him out of Venezuela back in 2014. Colorado sent him to Philly in the 2017 Pat Neshek deal, along with powerfully-named pitcher J.D. Hammer, who debuted for Philly in 2020, and Jose Gomez. Gomez was the only one of the trio ranked in Colorado’s top 30 at the time, but Requena has been a quiet performer throughout the minors, going deep into games with minimal damage. He doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, with an average to fringe-average fastball, but he locates it well and pairs it with a curveball that keeps batters off-balance. Requena most recently pitched for the Cardenales de Lara from the LVBP this off-season.
RHP Drew Steckenrider
Steckenrider is another mint-condition one-owner slightly used pitcher, having spent the entirety of his career up to this point with the Marlins, who drafted him in the 8th round in 2012. The 6’4” righty has enough MLB time to have earned an official MLB nickname (“Steckasaurus,” adorable!) and saw most of his big-league action in 2018 after the Marlins gave him the bum’s rush through the minors (High-A to Double-A to Triple-A all in 2016; Triple-A to the majors in 2017; full-time in the majors by 2018), when he posted .5 WAR out of Miami’s bullpen and collected five saves. Unfortunately, the injury monster came for Steckasaurus in 2019 when he struggled first with right elbow inflammation and then was held out of the 2020 shortened season with right triceps tendonitis. The Mariners will take a chance on Steckenrider returning to his healthy form, when his fastball sat in the 94-95 mph range. They might also have him dial back up a slider that in 2018 had an 18.3% swinging strike rate that Steckenrider mostly ditched in 2019 in favor of his heavy, hard curveball.
RHP Matt Magill*
A career Quad-A guy making his fifth stop with a team in Seattle, Magill was a strong contributor to the Mariners’ 2019 bullpen, posting a 24% K-BB%.and racking up half a win in just 22 innings after coming over from the Twins mid-season. Whether it be the shortened season or something more sinister, Magill was not able to repeat his success in 2020, with the walk issue that’s plagued him at the big-league level creeping back to the surface. Magill will start in Tacoma but is a strong contender to compete for a spot in the big-league pen if he shows a return to form.
RHP Brady Lail*
The Mariners were Lail’s second free agency stop after seven long years in the Yankees’ system; the Mariners snatched Lail up on waivers when the White Sox DFA’d him early in August, and Lail has decided to return to the Seattle organization for another go-round. Lail’s numbers look bad but are skewed by two back-to-back bad outings—one against the Giants in a game that was dreadful from start to finish, where he gave up four runs, followed by another appearance against Oakland where he labored for four innings, giving up three runs. But Lail had bright spots; he held down the Astros for three innings, allowing no hits, and he struck out the side against the Angels in late August. Lail’s fastball has bottom-quartile velocity but top-quartile spin, and he’s able to use it effectively with his other pitches, including a whiff-inducing changeup; he’s a candidate to sneak back into the bullpen from Tacoma, especially if the Mariners, on a regular season schedule and with a player their PD department now knows better, are able to help him streamline his deep but inconsistent pitch repertoire.
RHP Vinny Nittoli*
Nittoli was originally drafted by the Mariners in the 25th round back in 2014, made it to High-A, then pitched a couple of years in the Mexican League and indy ball after being released in 2016. He was signed by the D-Backs in 2019 and when he was released from their Triple-A squad he was picked up by the Blue Jays, where he pitched well in a much less terrifying offensive environment. He was reportedly up to 94 mph on the fastball while in indy ball and will likely return to his old foe the PCL with the Rainiers.
RHP Moises Gomez
Gomez just edges out Requena as the youngest player here, one month shy of his 24th birthday at the time of this writing. (There is also a Top-15 Rays prospect named Moises Gomez who is a position player; this Moises Gomez came up in the Twins organization, and is a pitcher.) Gomez is strictly a reliever whose upper-90s fastball has resulted in some big strikeout numbers—38.4% at A ball in 2019, with no significant downtick when he was promoted to High-A—but struggles to command it. He’s assigned to High-A for now.
RHP Nick Duron*
The Mariners picked up Duron out of indy ball in 2019 after the Red Sox released him and sent him to High-A, where pitching coach Rob Marcello helped Duron almost double his career strikeout rate thanks in part to a fastball that can flirt with triple digits. Command is an issue for Duron and the thing he’ll need to figure out in order to keep climbing the ladder. Duron is also a local kid who went to Tigard HS in Oregon and played for Clark College in Vancouver.
LHP Ian McKinney*
The Mariners picked up McKinney for the 2019 season after the Cardinals released him after an underwhelming performance at Double-A (which, since the Cardinals park plays very small, makes sense). Seattle returned McKinney to High-A and had him work with pitching coach Rob Marcello, under whose tutelage he blossomed into one of the best pitchers in the Cal League. McKinney will likely start the year in Double-A, attempting to quash his demons at the level for good and continue moving up through the system.
RHP Gerson Bautista*
Bautista came over in the Dunn/Kelenic trade with the Mets back in 2018 but hasn’t been able to pitch for the Mariners due to a pectoral strain that held him out in 2019 and a UCL sprain that held him out in 2020. Bautista looked good in some brief looks in Spring Training last season before the elbow issue flared up, with his formerly wayward command much improved, and will be a sleeper candidate to move from Tacoma’s bullpen to the back end of Seattle’s if he can finally remain healthy.
RHP Jaime Schultz
Schultz is a short king (5’10”) reliever with 35 MLB innings between the Rays and the Dodgers. Schultz has posted excellent strikeout rates through the minors thanks to a Billy Wagner-esque mid-90s fastball that can touch 99 paired with a power curve, but his command has been wanton and neither Tampa Bay nor LA, two teams with excellent pitching development, have been able to help him out there.
RHP Taylor Guerrieri
Dipoto adds another of his favorite types of acquisitions in the former first-round pick (2011, Tampa Bay), who had most recently been with Texas, a favorite organization for the Mariners to scoop pitchers from. Once a prospect darling for his fastball, which could touch 98, paired with a hammer curve, “Googy”’s career hit a rough patch when he had TJ surgery in 2013, followed by a 50-game suspension in 2014 for a drug of abuse. Guerrieri has had brief appearances at the MLB level, with Toronto and Texas, but not seen much success there despite a curveball with elite spin (97th percentile) and significant drop, as his other primary pitch is a meh sinker (92-94) that got hit hard in 2019.
RHP J.T. Chargois
A long-time Twins farmhand who made his big league debut with Minnesota, Chargois (“Sha-Gwah”, nickname “Shaggy”) was claimed by the Dodgers on waivers in 2018, who were able to unlock career-high strikeout numbers from the Sulphur, LA native thanks to heavier use of his nasty slider. Maybe a team not as pitching-rich as the Dodgers sticks with Chargois after some inconsistencies at the big-league level, but LA released Chargois after the 2019 season so that he was able to pursue an opportunity to play with the Rakuten Eagles in Japan in 2020, a decision that looks wise on both parties’ ends looking back at last season.
SS David Masters
A career Nationals minor-leaguer drafted in the 14th round in 2013, Masters was probably swayed to join the Mariners organization by the promise they wouldn’t assign him to High-A, where he was marooned not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, but five times in his Nationals career. The Cubs selected Masters in the minor-league phase of the 2019 Rule 5 draft, but he never played with the organization due to the cancellation of the minor league season, so it’s not just the Mariners who see a potential hidden gem submerged for years in the Potomac.
3B Jantzen Witte
A light-hitting, career minor-leaguer for the Red Sox, Witte’s larger impact might be felt in the clubhouse; his former teammates rave about his ability to teach younger players the ropes of being a pro, something that would carry extra value for Seattle’s young prospects on the precipice of making the majors.
3B Mike Ahmed*
A light-hitting utility infielder, Ahmed spent 2019 with the Arkansas Travelers, usually playing 3B to Donnie Walton’s SS but also spelling players all over the diamond. He’ll likely head to Tacoma to hold down the hot corner there and provide infield depth.
1B/OF Sam Travis
A former second-round pick who has struggled to bring his plus power consistently at the upper levels, Travis spent his career up to this point playing for the Red Sox, seeing action in parts of the 2017, ‘18, and ‘19 seasons, although he was in Texas’s player pool in 2020 after the Red Sox traded him to the Rangers for pitcher Jeffrey Springs. He’ll fill the Evan White-sized space in Tacoma for now, but can play a corner outfield spot, specifically left field, and there’s a non-zero chance that’s what he’s doing on Opening Day for the Mariners in 2021.
UTIL Jack Reinheimer*
Reinheimer returns for his second stint with the organization; in 2013 he was a fifth-round pick for the Mariners out of East Carolina. Reinheimer made it to the bigs with Arizona (he was part of the Mark Trumbo trade) and most recently the Mets, who spent 2018 slingshotting Reinheimer between New York and Las Vegas. He then had the distinction of being That One Guy Who Is Constantly Claimed and Waived in an off-season, going from Texas to the Orioles without playing a game for either before landing with Minnesota in 2019 and 2020. Reinheimer is the classic light-hitting infielder, but earns distinction as a true superutility who can play anywhere on the diamond.
OF Dillon Thomas
The Mariners are picking up the same shirt in different colors with Travis (RHH) and Thomas (LHH), a former fourth-round pick and long-tenured member of the Rockies organization, although Thomas is the better defensive outfielder, and will likely slot into the outfield, primarily. Thomas’s best two offensive seasons came after he left the Rockies organization and went to the Brewers, so hopefully Seattle can keep him on that upward trend.
CF Luis Liberato*
One of the longest-standing members of the Mariners system, there are some who still consider Libby a prospect despite not making it to Seattle before he became eligible to be a minor league free agent. Given that it’s been injuries consistently limiting his opportunities rather than poor play, I am willing to extend prospect consideration towards Libby a while longer, especially considering the thump in his bat and the fact that he is probably still the best defensive center fielder in the Mariners minors, or at least the best and most seasoned.
OF Connor Lien*
A long-time Braves farmhand who signed with the Mariners as a minor league free agent prior to the 2020 season but never got to play for the team, Lien doesn’t have a ton of experience at the Triple-A level and will need to prove his bat can hold up against more advanced stuff if he wants a shot at the majors, although he did perform well when repeating Double-A in 2019.
Scott has been with three organizations—the Dodgers, Angels, and Mariners—and we approve of his commitment to that west coast life. Scott was with the Mariners in 2017-18, in Modesto and Arkansas, before skipping over to the Angels’ organization in 2019. He’s a defense-first catcher who will likely start at Tacoma before it’s Cal Raleigh time there.
Godoy has been with the Cardinals since signing out of Venezuela back in 2012, and was even part of their player pool this summer, so it’s a little surprising to see him land with the Mariners as a free agent. Godoy is a lefty hitter who controls the zone well, walking close to 10% of the time while striking out at or under 15%, and recently started showing a little power, to boot.
The Mariners sure like their former Cardinals catching prospects. Seattle took O’Keefe in the minors portion of the 2019 Rule 5 draft (they also signed Joe Hudson, another former Cardinals prospect), and kept him in the player pool this summer, although they never called him up. O’Keefe is more of a bat-first than a glove-first catcher, and will keep Cal Raleigh’s spot warm in Tacoma.
Interesting player alert! Morgan is among the youngest players here, just 25—barely even out of being considered a prospect territory. He’s been with Texas since they drafted him in the third round in 2014, and was the Rangers’ #15 prospect as recently as 2017. Originally a shortstop, Morgan converted to catcher, where his plus athleticism—he was a two-sport standout in football and baseball at powerhouse Orange Lutheran in California—helped him make the transition to behind the dish. It’s unclear whether the Mariners will keep Morgan as a catcher full-time or go the Austin Nola route of moving him around the infield as a true super-utility. He’ll likely start with the Travelers in the familiar surroundings of the Texas League, but will hopefully earn an invitation to major-league camp so we can get a sneak peek of him.