Springtime Mariners nametags

Yeah, come on, it’s spring. All things are possible. This is the year, man, it’s gonna happen…

Twenty guys?

Exactly half the forty-man Spring Training roster has never dirtied their cleats in a Mariner big-league uniform. Here’s a list of every guy looking to make his future with your Seattle Mariners this year. Even some of our twenty returnees will have you (and their teammates) scratching your head going, “wait, who?”

First, the guys you know you’ve heard about…

Robinson Cano  The perennial all-star has finished in the top ten in MVP voting six times, hit a career-high 39 homers last year, and is ready to take the team to the postseason. Of all the hope and promise of Spring, Robbie embodies the peak.

Steve Cishek Yeah, he’s still there. Steve was cruising along with 25 saves at midseason before struggling, and more than one fan was heard to rename him Shit Shack, which is pretty sucky because it turns out he was battling injuries and he’s now recovering from offseason surgery and Trader Jerry thought enough of him to keep him around, so how about we get behind this lanky-limbed reliever. Could be another awesome season for him.

Nelson Cruz The big fella turns 37 this year, but he’s hit 40 or more homers in the last three seasons so he’s not showing his age. Yet. But the Ms better get at this playoff thing now if they want him to be a part of it. 

Edwin Diaz  This guy showed up from the Ms’ farm system as a 22-year-old rookie in June, throwing 101mph heat, and by the time the season ended he’d logged 11 holds, a promotion to closer, and 18 saves down the stretch. He wasn’t perfect but man what promise he has.

Felix Hernandez The King had a down year, no doubt. Just two seasons out from leading the league in ERA, WHIP, and games started, Felix was injured, threw only 153 innings, and recorded his highest ERA in nine years. A return to dominance could be just what this crew needs.

Yo Felix, that looks awesome and everything, but work on the fastball, ok?

Hisashi Iwakuma There’s something about bears with this guy. Hat giveaways, nicknames, it’s all puzzling. Like last season was puzzling. Kuma posted his highest career win total (16), but his ERA (4.12) was the highest of his career too. That’s awesome run support, which you can’t always count on. Let’s  hope he gets the run count down again and doesn’t have to depend on top-notch offense to bail him out.

Leonys Martin He looks like he’s here to stay, this fine centerfielder we got from the Rangers last year for James Jones and Tom Wilhelmsen. (As a side note, much as we loved Jones, his speed, his entertainment value, and his Griffeyesque smile, he spent the entire 2016 season in the minors. And Wilhelmsen ended up back in Seattle at midseason… so this one came out pretty good.) Off the field, we hope Leonys gets some relief in his legal struggles with his agent – a case that reveals a dark and seldom-discussed side of the meat market that is baseball’s constant shipment of bodies from country to country, town to town, and owner to owner.

Ariel Miranda We almost put Ariel on the “huh? who?” list, but you remember him. He went 5-2 down the stretch in 2016 after coming over from the Orioles for Wade Miley. Yeah, the same Miley who went 2-5 down the stretch for the Orioles. Looks like we did good here.

Shawn O’Malley You gotta give the guy credit for perseverance, but you gotta wonder what Trader Jerry’s thinking here. O’Malley’s 29 years old, eleven seasons in pro ball, just parts of the last three years in the majors, and he went .229 for the big club last year. His .317 in the minors? It was against minor league pitching. This could be the make or break year for Shawn.

James Paxton The sole survivor of the cheesily-nicknamed Big Three, with Taijuan Walker gone and Danny Hultzen’s future hanging on a thread. More than one thread… lots of threads of shoulder tissues and all those stitches after two surgeries. But Paxton, who’s had his own injury issues in the past, looks to make the rotation.

Kyle Seager The rock of the infield and the batting order. Here’s an odd fact about the “kid” who turns 30 this year… six seasons in the majors and his average has been between .258 and .278 every year, for a .266 career average. The guy just goes out and makes it happen.

Nick Vincent  With sixty innings in sixty game appearances in 2016, the man was a model of consistency. And with Miley gone, we’re down to just one Civil War General beard. So stick around, buddy.

Mike Zunino Here he comes, Mariner fans. With his .195 career average in four seasons, and he still has his fans making noise about his glorious prospects.   The interviews are amazing. The attitude, the no-quit outlook. But somewhere, as Marshall Tucker once sang, you got to draw the line. Marshall was inspired by a cheatin,’ boozin’ woman. Mike is a fine young man who’s likely never heard of Marshall Tucker. But still…

…and here are the rest of the twenty returnees. Yeah these guys played for the Ms last year. Dig deep, pull that memory back…

Dan Altavilla  Dan’s major league debut was August 27, then he threw 12.1 innings in 15 game appearances, with a 0.73 ERA. Yeah let’s keep him.

Mike Freeman Not bad for a guy we picked up off waivers from the D-backs in August, Mike went 5-for-13 in the late going. Remember that stat when we talk Vogelbach.

Ben Gamel From the Yankees on August 31, we got this guy for Juan DePaula and Jio Orosco, no we’ve never heard of ’em either, and he saw action in 27 games in September. He hit .200 on the nose. Seemed like Rick Rizzsz loved the guy. Can’t remember why. Might be this International League (AAA) MVP… which was announced the day before he was traded to the Mariners. Cool.

Guillermo Heredia This young man made his major league debut in July 2016 after being signed earlier the same year to a free agent contract. It was his first pro contract outside of Cuba, at age 25. He went .250 with the big club, splitting time at Tacoma, Jackson, and Seattle. We’re rooting for him, ‘cuz after all… Here at Playin’ in the Dirt, we’re just fans of anyone called Guillermo.

Evan Scribner We got this guy from the A’s in 2015. He toiled on the farm until the 2016 September callup, when he… pay attention now… pitched 14 innings in 12 game appearances. Gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, 0 runs, for a 0.500 WHIP and a 0.00 ERA. Now what? How the hell do you top that?

Dan Vogelbach We may have mentioned this vision in another post somewhere, but it just keeps coming back. Mid-2016, Jerry DiPoto in a major hurry to get his power hitting dialed in before the trade deadline, calls Theo Epstein at the Cubs, and the conversation goes like this…
JDP: Theo, my man. I’ve got this guy, Montgomery, he’s going to fit in that little hole you’ve got in your bullpen, y’know I’m just in a bind here, need some hitting, got too much talent in the pen.
TE: [tap tap on the keyboard, already has eyes on Montgomery’s stats before he speaks] Hmmm, I dunno, Jerry, can’t do much for ya there, I need all these guys. Who’d ya have in mind? [points at the screen, glances at Joe Maddon who’s whispering “oh hell yes” and pumping his fist for Montgomery]
JDP: [draws a total blank on the guy’s name but remembers he came out of nowhere to knock the hell out of the ball in the 2015 postseason] Well hey Theo, it’s that squatty guy, all muscle, like six feet, two fifty, German name. Y’know?
TE: [scribbles “watch this” to Maddon on his note pad] You mean Vogelbach?
JDP: [something doesn’t sound right; he hears muffled giggling from Chi-town, but time’s a wasting] Yeah, Vogelbach.
TE: Yer killing me here, Jer. You drive a tough deal, but y’know, you’re right. I hate to give the big fella up, but I do need that, what’s his name, in the pen.
JDP: Montgomery. So, deal?
TE: Deal.
JDP: See you in October, bitch.
TE: [slams the phone down, shouts at Maddon] You gotta be kidding me!
…and the rest is history. While Vogelbach came to Seattle and went .083 at the plate, Montgomery saved game seven and got himself a ring. And Schwarber, the man Jerry D forgot? Nothing much. He just took the whole season on the DL before picking up seven clutch hits and three walks for a .500 OBP in the World Series.
Yeah, we have our doubts about Danny V here at Playin’ in the Dirt. But he could surprise us, and we’d love it. Like Donald Trump could surprise us and turn out not to be a douche we mean, like that amazing Husky women’s hoops team could take down Connecticut, yeah, that’s what we mean.

Tony Zych Tony spent the last two seasons working out of the Ms’ pen and riding the bus between there and Tacoma. He threw 13.2 innings in 12 game appearances last year.


And now… the “HELLO. My name is…” nametag portion of your Mariners 40-man roster.

Zac Curtis  The young pitcher came over from the D-backs with Segura and Haniger. His rookie season in AZ netted 13.1 innings and a 6.75 ERA.

Jarrod Dyson We always wonder about a guy whose amazing “athleticism” is his biggest attribute. As in, that’s great but can he hit? But Dyson is coming off his best year hitting, with 30 stolen bases and 11 outfield assists in only 107 games played. Trader Jerry sent Nate Karns to KC for Dyson. Intriguing. Exciting.

Casey Fien The It’s been a long road to Seattle for this pitcher. He’s been cut (released, waived, granted free agency) SEVEN, count ’em, seven times since 2010. And still he keeps coming.

Paul Fry A real Mariner Farmbaby, Paul was drafted in 2013 and most recently put up a 2.78 ERA in 55 innings down the road in Tacoma. Home Grown goodness.

Yovani Gallardo This is the pitcher we got in return for giving up all the lithp jokes when Theth Thmith left for Baltimore. Pronounced Ga-YARD-o, we hope his downturn after ten years in the majors doesn’t make him Go-yard-o.

Tuffy Gosewisch Ummm… scuse us, we’re just picturing the stuck-on “Hello. My name is Tuffy.” as he goes about his Spring Training routine hoping someone takes him seriously. There’s got to be more than that to this guy. That and his .199 lifetime BA. But if that’s actually his name… what do you call him for a nickname? Does his Twitter handle  @santiagosewisch lend a clue? What did the Mariners see, that made them pick him up after the D-backs, then the Braves, both waived him in the same month?  How about this – think about this. Last year our backup-backup catcher was Jesus. This year it’s Tuffy. Seriously. Think about that.

Mitch Haniger Remember, this is one of the guys we got when we gave up Marte and Walker. Remember, his entire major league career consists of a .229 average in 34 games with the D-backs in 2016. Remember he’s expected to do amazing athletic things in the outfield along with Dyson and make a huge leap forward from Smith and Aoki. Remember all that? Remember what happens when expectations are overinflated? Some wither, some step up. Let’s count on the step-up. Meanwhile remember it was Segura, Jean the Hittin’ Machine, we were after. That’s soothing.

No, not that Heston.

Chris Heston This Heston — nickname Hesto Presto? Come on, think of something else — started 31 games for the Giants in 2015 before struggling last year, getting sent to AAA, and fighting an oblique injury all season. He was sent to the Ms in December for a player to be named. And there’s a glimmer of hope here. Being a pitcher in the National League, he batted .196. So good news is, if pitching doesn’t work out, he has a solid future as a Mariners catcher.

Taylor Motter First impression: dude’s got some hair, yo. Second: you gotta know his nickname is Wotza. And because of that you want to root for him. Him and his .188 average.

Dillon Overton He makes seven appearances with the As in 2016, posts an  ERA over 11, and we take him in exchange for a minor leaguer. Just wondering, why is he in the big league camp? Is this getting tiresome yet? We want to be optimistic and whatnot here at Playin’ in the Dirt.

James Pazos We got him from the Yankees, gave up a minor leaguer. Pazos has 18 big league appearances for the Pinstripes over two seasons. Hey, it’s not like we sent them, y’know, Dustin Ackley. That poor guy is a whole other story.

D.J. Peterson Another Mariner Farmbaby! This one was drafted with all kinds of hype in 2013. You spend four years as a top prospect, four years, and at some point the world just looks you in the eye and says, well, what ya gonna do about it, man? This is DJ’s time. He’s still waiting for that MLB debut. First base? Peterson? Vogelbach? Valencia? Buehler? Anybody? Better compete, fellas.

Carlos Ruiz The Panamanian catcher’s nickname is Chooch. Like Cheech, but past tense. Like, he’s 38 years old. Really. Should be calling him Crash, the veteran coming to town to teach the rookie. Except, Zunino’s no rookie. After ten and a half seasons in Philly, Crash got sent to the Dodgers, then traded to the Ms for Vidal Nuno in November. He may be on his way out, and Seattle may be his last stop before we see him hanging on with the Ross Eversoles, but he brings a career .266 average. Dude may bring some hope behind the plate.

Marc Rzepczynski Whoever named this guy “Scrabble” was brilliant. And Trader Jerry’s going to look that way when Scrabble turns out to be just what the bullpen needs. You wonder why the Nationals cut him after he put up a 1.54 last September, and you wonder why the As had to pay the Nationals to take him in exchange for a minor leaguer last August. At 31, he’s seen action with six different major league teams over eight seasons. Trader Jerry picked him up as a free agent and gave him a two-year contract for twice as much salary as he’s ever made. He’s a traveling man. Whose ship has just come in. Let’s see what happens when he climbs aboard.

Jean Segura The Hittin’ Machine was the big offseason move.

We loved us some Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte in this town, really we did, with the energy and emotion they both brought to the field, which makes us hope they both kill it in Arizona. Where it’s warm all season, and they close the damn roof when it’s too hot. But the guy we got is the one we’re watching now. High expectations abound for this .280 career hitter who went .319 with Arizona last year and led the NL in hits.

Shae Simmons The righty turns 27 this year, and he’s got 33 MLB appearances in the books since he got drafted by the Braves in 2012. Trader Jerry saw enough in him to send a couple minor leaguers down south to get him. Likely another arm headed to Tacoma, but… you never know.

Drew Smyly  During one game last year, Mariners vs. Devil Rays, it was Miley vs. Smyly. Just thought we’d point that out. Smyly lost, but Miley’s gone and now we’ve got Smyly, Smyly and his 7-12 record and his 4.88 ERA from 2016, and we got all that for a few minor leaguers, and, well, even though it was a different transaction, it’s still relevant that Jesus now plays for the Devil Rays.

Danny Valencia  Why would the As trade a 32-year-old utility man, a guy who appeared in 130 games and sported a .287 average in over 500 plate appearances, to the Mariners for a minor leaguer? Did Trader Jerry miss something? Or is this a straight up steal? Was it the fight with Billy Butler, over a pair of shoes? Is he some kinda diva? A guy with those numbers should have the edge on either Vogelbach or Peterson for the everyday first base job. But a fight over shoes? Hope Scott Servais is decisive enough to cut out the clubhouse cancer, if that’s the problem.

Thyago Vieira Farmbaby Thyago is so new there’s no pronunciation assistance on baseball-reference.com. Get it together people. But check it out, he throws 103. You read that right, 103, and word is he finally found the strike zone in 2016. That was in Bakersfield, but it’s still big news, and even if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, still you gotta just get antsy waiting to see this guy in a major league uniform.

Robert Whalen The Ms swapped a few minor leaguers with the Braves over the winter, but this one actually has a month of big league experience. It didn’t go well. Atlanta chucked him right into the rotation last August on his MLB debut day, and he proceeded to put up a 6.75 ERA in five starts before they said oops. He’s a long shot to make the ‘pen for this year’s Mariners, but Trader Jerry saw something. So let’s wait and see.

There you have it, Altavilla to Zych and everyone in between. Let’s play some ball!

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