Seattle manager Scott Servais will need to use nametags for the second straight year to kick off spring training.
Another flurry of offseason moves have left the Mariners a significantly remodeled club headed to Arizona, but more in the manner of what Jerry Dipoto envisioned when he took over as Seattle’s general manager in September 2015.
The stars are still there. Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez remain the foundation. It’s the pieces around them that have changed significantly with the goal of getting younger and becoming more athletic.
There are only eight players remaining from the 40-man roster that Dipoto inherited.
“Last year we had the oldest position player club in baseball and that’s an irrefutable fact,” Dipoto said. “Effectively, what we’ve done is we’ve tried to incorporate a couple of younger players and fold them in without burdening them too much with having to be the centerpiece to what we’re doing.”
Seattle’s biggest offseason splash was acquiring Jean Segura from Arizona, hoping he can replicate last season when he led the National League with 203 hits and successfully make the move back to shortstop after spending most of last season at second base.
“To bring Jean Segura in here to stabilize shortstop was too good to pass up especially with the offensive year he had last year,” Servais said.
Here are some more things to watch when the Mariners report to Peoria:
For the second straight offseason, most of Seattle’s roster has undergone a makeover. The biggest acquisitions were Segura, outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger, pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly and infielder Danny Valencia. Segura, Dyson and Haniger are expected to be opening day starters, Valencia could join them if there is a lefty on the mound, and Gallardo and Smyly will be the biggest keys to whether Seattle has a deep enough rotation to contend.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Haniger and Ben Gamel will have plenty of eyes on them during spring training looking at whether they can be a capable outfield duo as part of a four- or five-man rotation that could be among the better defensive outfield units in baseball. While Haniger and Gamel are top prospects, both will need to show they can hit and bring more than just their defense.
Also watch out for what Tyler O’Neill does in spring training. Seattle’s top minor-league prospect is likely to begin the season in Triple-A, but a big spring could set the stage for an appearance in Seattle a bit earlier during the regular season than expected.
Seattle’s infield and its starting rotation both appear set. Cano (second base), Segura (shortstop) and Seager (third base) are locks, with Daniel Vogelbach and Valencia splitting time at first base, and Mike Zunino and Carlos Ruiz splitting time behind the plate.
On the mound, Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Smyly and Gallardo — in some order — are the five Seattle wants to go into the season with. Still to be determined is whether Ariel Miranda goes to the bullpen or the minors.
Every spot in the bullpen — other than closer Edwin Diaz — is a bit of a question. The Mariners would like to see Marc Rzepczynski as their left-handed specialist, with Nick Vincent, Dan Altavilla and Shae Simmons part of the group that gets the ball to Diaz. The few competitions during spring training will focus on the other couple of spots surrounding those.
Seattle will lose a handful of its stars to the World Baseball Classic for a chunk of March. That’ll give some of the younger prospects a chance to make an impression with the likes of Cano, Cruz and Hernandez away. When the WBC players return in late March, the Mariners believe they’ll be putting the finishing touches on a team ready to contend in the AL West.