Drayer: Mariners ‘feel good’ about team after trades, and more could be coming

Jan 5, 2024, 5:49 PM | Updated: 6:00 pm

Seattle Mariners Mitch Haniger...

Mitch Haniger hits an RBI single for the Mariners against the Angels on Wednesday. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Hot Stove season is all about speculating, and when it comes to the Seattle Mariners and trades, chances are most speculation will be wrong.

Seattle Mariners trade Ray to Giants for Haniger, DeSclafani; get Raley from Rays

The best answer to the question, “Who might we see Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander bring in via trade?” is almost always “expect the unexpected.”

Friday morning, the unexpected did indeed happen.

Unexpected on one hand, but upon further review somewhat familiar on the other with the trades with the Giants and Rays covering most of the standard hits of Dipoto trades.

Club control? Check.

Positional flexibility? Check.

Former Mariner? Check.

Familiar trade partners? Check.

Former offseason player of interest? Check.

And the new payroll flexibility? Check. This indeed was a day.

Mitch Haniger, Anthony DeSclafani and $6 million come to the Mariners from the Giants in exchange for Robbie Ray. The Mariners also pick up outfielder Luke Raley from the Rays for Jose Caballero. Deals best summed up by the man who made them as “positive moves,” leading to a more complete roster.

“I feel like today is the first time all season that we can say if we were playing an opening day game tomorrow, we feel good about the team that we have,” said Jerry Dipoto on a video call with the media. “It’s a complete team. There’s experience, there’s upside, there’s youth, I feel like there’s depth, better depth than we’ve had in in recent memory, really.”

Trading Robbie Ray, who the Seattle Mariners valued highly for what he did both on and off the field as a team leader, for Mitch Haniger could not have been on Dipoto’s bingo card at the start of the offseason, but he has had to make adjustments due to budget constraints.

His job now is to make the best of a painful situation, and Friday he did just that.

Haniger has been told he will play right field “as frequently as he can play.” Raley, a much-needed lefty, will play primarily against righties, who he slashed .247/.337/.497 (.834 OPS) against last year with the Rays.

DeSclafani will slot into a swing role if the rotation remains intact. Entering the day, Dom Canzone and one of Cade Marlowe or Taylor Trammell were starting outfielders. Now, Scott Servais has options, including two hitters who have significant experience hitting in the 3-6 spots in the order. And there could be more.

“I don’t think we’re done,” said Dipoto. “We still have the desire to find ways to get better. And we certainly have the, I guess, the flexibility from a roster standpoint to go do that.”

Flexibility on all fronts. The dollars balance out in 2024 with the Haniger-Ray deal as the Giants are reportedly sending $6 million. The deal with the Rays is an exchange of two players earning the minimum. The farm system has remained untouched this winter as well.

Dipoto hasn’t taken the big swing this winter in trades, but the possibility remains, although it does not sound likely another starter will be involved as the desire from the getgo was to keep the rotation that ended the season together.

“The fact that we were able to go out and put together deals, be it free agency or trade, that we feel like we built a complete team without tapping into those young members of our rotation, I want to say it’s a bit of an offseason achievement for us. I didn’t know if it was going to be possible,” Dipoto said, noting the groundwork for possibly trading a young starter was done.

“We never liked the way it looked. We are a team that we have developed, a lot of those players we’re emotionally tied to and invested in. The more we’ve wrapped our arms around the idea of just leaning into what we do best, which is we pitch. And this is still a fairly young team that can do a lot of interesting things. And it will always be central to that pitching staff, which, obviously, there hadn’t been a lot of change to the thirteen. We’re really glad that that same group is here and really anticipate that that will be what it looks like when the season begins.”

The pitching staff and the rest of the roster appear close. but not quite inked in with five weeks to go until pitchers and catchers report. After the moves Friday, however, they are in a much better place than they have been most of this winter.

“We’re a pretty complete club,” said Dipoto. “And now it’s just finding the way that you can get better. Is it a fun addition in the bullpen? Is it an upgrade somewhere on the field that we don’t really have? Sometimes things just appear and you didn’t anticipate that that was possible until it shows up and we’re open to that happening, but I don’t feel like we have to do anything. If we do something, it’s because we wanted to.”

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Drayer: Mariners ‘feel good’ about team after trades, and more could be coming