With a week left in spring training, questions that Seattle Mariners fans have been asking have been answered. Two position battles have left fans curious as to who is going to be chosen. The Mariners were in need of a fifth starting pitcher, as well as a right-handed hitting first baseman.
New general manager Jerry DiPoto brought in what seems like thousands of new players to the Mariners organization. Thirty one of the 60 players in Mariner’s spring training were new to the organization. DiPoto was on a mission to retool the roster in a way he saw fit.
The fifth spot in the Seattle Mariners pitching rotation came down to James Paxton and Nathan Karns. Paxton has been a part of the Mariners organization, but has never lived up to his potential. Paxton has worn a Mariners uniform in three seasons, but those seasons have been broken. Paxton has never pitched more than 75 big league innings.
I considered the fifth starting pitcher job to be Paxton’s to lose, which he did. Paxton boasted a 10.80 earned run average, which is never great when attempting to win a job on a major league roster.
Nate Karns was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Karns completed his first major league season in 2015 with the Rays, pitching 147 innings, striking out 145 batters and only walking 56. Manager Scott Servais has said that the Mariners want to control strike zone both offensively and defensively. Karns did that last year, striking out 89 more batters than he walked.
Karns has posted a 6.75 earned run average in the spring of 2016. There’s virtually no difference between a 6.75 ERA, and a 10.80 ERA. If a pitcher on your favorite team has either of those ERA’s, your favorite team loses.
The other position battle that had fans intrigued took place on the infield. DiPoto traded for first baseman Adam Lind. Lind is a proven, left-handed-hitting first baseman. The team needed a right-handed bat to possible platoon or be the designated hitter while facing left-handed pitching. The battle came down to three players. Those players were Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero and the free agent signing Dae-Ho Lee.
Romero has spent his career as an outfielder, however he was added to the first base mix as a guy with versatility. Romero had a hot spring, batting .357 while learning a new position. Romero had a minor league option, making him the odd man out, and the easiest to send down to triple A Tacoma.
Jesus Montero sent Mariners fans on a roller coast throughout his career with the Mariners.
Montero was brought over in a trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees. Troubles with performance enhancing drugs as well as his weight fluctuation kept Montero from the major leagues. Montero batted an incredible .355 with 18 doubles and 18 home runs in triple A Tacoma in 2015. However that success did not carry over to the spring of 2016 as Montero hit a poor .237 in 38 at-bats. Having no minor league options forced the Mariners to place Montero on waivers. Montero was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays a day later.
That leaves Dae-Ho Lee, the mystery man from South Korea. Lee was a superstar in Japanese and Korean leagues. Lee was the Korean Baseball Organization’s MVP in 2010, a three-time batting champion and a two-time home run king. Lee hasn’t played much better than Montero, registering a .239 batting average with just one home run. So why did Karns and Lee win jobs with the new-look Mariners roster?
Karns and Lee were both hand -picked by Jerry DiPoto. Neither of those players truly beat out those who they were competing with. DiPoto has chosen to ride with the guys he brought in himself. The only remnants of former general manager Jack Zduriencik are players the new GM would be an absolute fool to give up. It makes you wonder if these so called ‘battles’ were ever really that to begin with. Fans, it’s no surprise that players who were chosen by Jerry DiPoto have made the opening day roster.