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Mariners make first batch of roster moves of 2023 season, claim two pitchers, allow two more to hit free agency

Mariners start work on the pitching pile early this year

Arizona Diamondbacks v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Mariners have officially opened their 2023 off-season in typical Mariners shuffle, by juggling around some fringe pitchers. All hail the pitching pile! As a reminder, we’ll track all the Mariners off-season moves for you here at LL, the (hopefully) big ones as well as the smaller ones. Just check the pinned story stream “Mariners 2023 off-season moves” on the homepage for the latest news.

Jerry Dipoto and co. actually made their first move of the off-season on October 26, claiming Luke Weaver off waivers from the Royals. After being drafted by the Cardinals in the first round in 2014, Weaver was part of an exciting group of young starters in St. Louis that also included Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes, and future Mariner Marco Gonzales. After a promising start in some brief tastes of big-league action, Weaver’s first full year with St. Louis in 2018 was a disappointment, as big-league batters weren’t bamboozled by his putaway pitch changeup, and he was shipped off to the Diamondbacks in the Paul Goldschmidt trade. After struggling with injury (forearm strain, rotator cuff strain, flexor pronator strain) and being moved from the rotation to the bullpen, Weaver was shipped to the Royals, who DFA’d him in late October, at which point the Mariners pounced.

Weaver checks a lot of boxes the Mariners like: former Cardinals pitching prospect, former top prospect, injury bounceback candidate, throws a fastball up in the zone, and solid peripherals but underperformance for whatever reason. The Mariners have a track record for optimizing pitcher arsenals, and Weaver comes with a good one. The changeup, Weaver’s best pitch, is plug and play. The fastball is mostly there, as it already sits at 95 with plus spin and is spotted where the Mariners like their pitchers to throw, up in the zone; Weaver has lost some active spin on the pitch over the past few seasons, falling from 98% to 92% between 2020 and 2022, so that could be an area to target for improvement. But man cannot live by changeup alone, and Weaver needs a third pitch to unlock the swing-and-miss potential of his arsenal. Arizona tried to help him solve that problem with a slider-cutter combo pitch; he was still working on it when he got to Kansas City, at which point the movement changed enough that Statcast started picking it up a slider rather than a cutter. Whatever it’s called, the pitch didn’t solve Weaver’s woes, and so that’s what he’ll work on in Seattle, Land of the Cutters. To make space for Weaver, the Mariners DFA’d OF Derek Hill, who was solid for the Rainiers after being claimed on waivers from the Tigers in August.

The Mariners’ next roster moves were announced today, November 9, as the team acquired two pitchers: RHP Easton McGee, from the Red Sox, and LHP Gabe Speier, another former Royal. McGee, acquired from Boston for cold hard cash, is just 24; he was snapped up by the Red Sox after the Rays, the team that drafted McGee out of a Kentucky high school in the fourth round in 2016, DFA’d him just days after calling him up to the bigs. McGee doesn’t strike anyone out, but he’s a ground ball/weak contact wizard. He’s also got all his options, so Seattle can stash him in Tacoma as depth.

The Mariners also went back to the Royals’ castoff pile again, this time fishing out LHP Gabe Speier. Speier is only a little older than McGee, at 27, but as another prep draftee (way back in 2013), he has a significant minor league resume; the Mariners will be his fifth organization. Even with multiple years in the minors and a few cups of coffee in the bigs, he still has an option remaining. Speier is a short king (5’11”) pitcher, for those of you who love those, and like Weaver, can spot 95 at the top of the zone; he can also tunnel that pitch well with his hard slider. Despite the stuff and a strong record of punching batters out in the minors, the strikeouts haven’t really come for Speier at the big league level, so hopefully that’s something the Mariners pitching staff can help him unlock.

Oh, and he can do this, too:

In corresponding moves, the Mariners waived LHP Ryan Borucki and RHP Casey Sadler. Borucki, as you’ll remember, contributed to Seattle’s sweep over Toronto in June before being placed on the IL with an arm strain that kept him out for the remainder of the season. Sadler missed the entire 2022 season with a shoulder injury, but was a key member of 2021’s above-average bullpen. Sadler and his family make their home in the area, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return on a minor-league deal if the 32-year-old doesn’t receive a big-league offer.