Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto: Adding Danny Valencia makes right-handed hitter no longer a critical need

Nov 12, 2016, 3:15 PM | Updated: 4:32 pm

The Mariners made a significant add Saturday afternoon in picking up Danny Valencia from the Oakland A’s in exchange for Paul Blackburn. Valencia’s versatility in the field gives the Mariners flexibility not just in season, but now as well as general manager Jerry Dipoto continues to add to the roster.

“This makes right-handed hitting not a critical need,” he said. “We don’t have to go out and focus on a right-handed hitting outfielder just because we have one.”

Dipoto said that Valencia would be an everyday – or near everyday – player at a variety of positions. His main job will be to share time at first base with lefty swinging Daniel Vogelbach. With the platoon (or time share, as Dipoto preferred to call it) at first base set, it appears that we would see a minimum of two platoon positions next seasons. Still, Dipoto said this roster should be different than in 2016.

“I don’t know that I would really define that we are platooning anywhere other than first base,” he said. “The way we are looking at the rest of the club, there is more likely to be everyday roles around the club. There’s a likelihood that Danny will be in the lineup more frequently then we saw last year with some of the right-handed hitting hitters. We are not set on platooning anywhere. We are trying to create more flexibility and solve the platoons, if you will.”

Solving the platoons may involve easing a rookie into one of the corner outfield positions. Dipoto indicated there was a possibility we could see Ben Gamel in a more regular role if he makes the team.

“We feel he has the ability to go out there and grow into more of a neutral platoon guy,” said Dipoto. “Like Vogelbach, we have got to give him the opportunity to get the at-bats and find out how prepared he is to face both (left-handed and right-handed pitchers). Now, with Danny Valencia and others in the fold, we have the ability to give him some relief if he struggles, which is not uncommon.”

Dipoto added that Guillermo Heredia could be another right-handed option in that fold.

For his part, Valencia is ready for anything. While he hasn’t played a lot of first base in the big leagues, he did play a season there at the University of Miami when Ryan Braun was the third baseman.

“I feel comfortable there,” Valencia said. “It works out well because (during the offseason) I am able to work out with a couple of good first basemen, Yonder Alonso and Eric Hosmer. We are all friends and hang out so I think it will be a good thing for me.”

Valencia takes moving on to his seventh team in eight seasons in stride, valuing the experience he picked up in other organizations while still being excited about what he could see in Seattle.

“Obviously it seems like Oakland is going through a rebuild and Seattle, we are on the verge of the playoffs so that’s what really caught my attention: to be able to play in the playoffs. That’s the most important goal and I am really looking forward to that,” he said.

Valencia will have a big opportunity to contribute. While he will play multiple positions, his bat will be in the order on an almost daily basis. This gives the Mariners one more everyday hitter than they had in 2016, and one more item Dipoto can cross off his offseason to-do list.

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Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto: Adding Danny Valencia makes right-handed hitter no longer a critical need