Mariners make trades with Rays, Yankees amid flurry of moves

Nov 18, 2016, 3:54 PM | Updated: 7:59 pm
New Mariners acquisition Richie Shaffer is a former Rays first-round draft pick. (AP)...
New Mariners acquisition Richie Shaffer is a former Rays first-round draft pick. (AP)

With the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft protection Friday afternoon, a number of roster moves were expected Friday. There was a twist, however, as the first move involved a player leaving with reliever David Rollins being claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs. The next was the release of outfielder Stefen Romero, who will pursue playing in Japan. Then, a multi-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, which looks like this:

Taylor Motter, INF/OF, acquired from Tampa Bay.
Richie Shaffer, INF/OF, acquired from Tampa Bay.
Dalton Kelly, INF, traded to Tampa Bay.
Andrew Kittredge, RHP, traded to Tampa Bay.
Dylan Thompson, RHP, traded to Tampa Bay.

Motter, 27, hit .188 in 34 games playing shortstop, left field, second base and right field for Tampa Bay last season. He has posted a career .272/.349/.428 line in the minor leagues. He brings huge versatility in that he can play every position but pitcher and catcher.

Shaffer, a 2012 first-round draft pick, went 12 for 48 in 20 games for the Rays in 2016, playing first and third base. He hit .246/.333/.437 with 71 home runs in five minor league seasons and was rated by Baseball America to have the best infield arm in the Rays organization in 2016. He is a power threat at the plate who can play all four corner positions.

“I feel like his upside is still very, very good,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said of Shaffer, comparing his skillset to another new Mariners acquisition, Danny Valencia. “There is a good chance he is going to spend time on our Major League roster and we feel like at some point Richie Shaffer is going to wind up hitting a three-run homer that wins us a game. We feel like at his age, with his upside, this gives us a chance to tap into something with some sustainability.”

In addition to picking up Motter and Shaffer, Dipoto also acquired left-handed reliever James Pazos from the Yankees in exchange for minor leaguer Zack Littell. Pazos, who made seven appearances with the Yankees last year, put up a 1.27 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015 while walking 15 and striking out 49. He followed up with a 2.32 ERA in Triple-A in 2016 with 20 walks and 47 strikeouts.

A power lefty for the bullpen is one of the items on Dipoto’s offseason wishlist. Pazos has the stuff to fit the bill.

“It’s a big arm,” Dipoto said. “James is 93 to 98 mph, he’s got a swing and miss breaking ball. Obviously he had his ups and downs in strike throwing last year, but the overall of his collective minor league work suggest that is not going to be a huge hurdle. We feel he is on the doorstep of cutting his teeth at the major league level. He certainly enters spring training as a guy we think has a chance to make our club.”

All three players who were acquired Friday have two minor league options remaining.

As for the expected moves, shortly after the Pazos trade the Mariners announced they had purchased the contracts of D.J. Peterson, Paul Fry and Thyago Vieira. The three are now on the 40-man roster and protected in the Rule 5 Draft.

Peterson, a former first-round pick of the Mariners, has been slowed on his path to the bigs in part because of injuries. He finished last year on the DL but advanced to Triple-A and made notable progress.

“D.J. had a real solid bounce-back year,” said Dipoto. “We gave him an opportunity to recreate himself and to a degree he took advantage of that. We were really encouraged by the progress he made this year and didn’t feel like exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft was a smart thing so we added him to the 40-man roster. He will come to spring training with a chance to compete for a spot.”

Peterson’s primary position will be first base, but we could see him some in the corner outfield positions as well.

Dipoto believes Fry can provide depth in the bullpen as a left-on-left option. As for Vieira, who you can hear more about in the Hot Stove Podcast coming out Saturday morning, it is clear that he needed to be protected.

“Vieira, I think he is the surprise pop-up guy in this thing,” said Dipoto. “This was a huge breakout year for him. He showed multiple pitches, both a dominant fastball and an out pitch, but most impressive with Thyago, you have got physical velocity. He was the hardest throwing in the Fall League, he averaged in the triple digits. That was not the high, that was the average. His velocity throughout the summer was 94 to 103. This was kind of a no-brainer for us.”

The Mariners needed an additional roster spot to accommodate all of the moves, and to create the space Tom Wilhelmsen was designated for assignment. Wilhelmsen is arbitration eligible and projected to earn $3.8 million in 2017. That figure no doubt was one factor in the move and another was the number pitchers already being penciled into the 2017 pen who are out of minor league options.

Nick Vincent and Arquimedes Caminero are out of options, and Steve Cishek cannot be sent down because of MLB service time. There is still a chance that Wilhelmsen could re-sign with the team however as a free agent.

“We need to maintain some kind of flexibility down there,” Dipoto said of the bullpen. “This actually allows us to keep somewhat of an open door if something arises and we would look to bring him back.”

With Friday’s moves the Mariners’ 40-man is full.

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