Mariners notebook: Servais speaks, and what’s with the Haniger buzz?

Dec 10, 2019, 7:37 PM

Mariners manager Scott Servais...

Mariners manager Scott Servais discussed Shed Long, Evan White and more Tuesday. (Getty)


One of the few scheduled media events each year at the MLB Winter Meetings is the one session each manager has with reporters. On Tuesday evening, Mariners skipper Scott Servais had his turn and was asked about a number of topics about his club. Let’s look at some items of interest and further thoughts.

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Evan White will be given every chance to win the job at first base in spring training, and Servais expects he will be ready to break camp with the big club.

• Shed Long will see a lot of time at second base next season.

“We are going to give him a ton of opportunities to play at second base; I think that’s his position,” Servais said of Long, who hit .263 with a .787 OPS and five home runs in 42 games with the Mariners in 2019. “Like the bat, like what he brings, he’s got a little power in there too and he’s not intimidated by the league or situation. He showed very well.”

What does this mean for Dee Gordon?

“It is something we talk about as we go forward, what’s the best way to utilize all the pieces on the roster,” Servais said. “Certainly those are two guys at different points of their career. Dee was that young guy coming up at one point. Conversations you have to have with players, be honest with them, know what to expect coming in.”

This obviously would not be ideal for the player – and in turn the team – as Gordon sees himself as a second baseman. It is far more likely Gordon is traded and we don’t actually see this happen.

• While the plan is to have Justus Sheffield in the rotation coming out of spring training, it’s not quite a given that Justin Dunn will have a spot. He’s going to have to show that he’s ready.

“The command of the fastball will be huge for him,” Servais said of Dunn. “He’s got a really good slider, he’s got to use his changeup. We’re going to know a lot in spring training.”

• The prime competition in spring will be in the bullpen.

“I really liked what (Taylor) Guilbeau showed, thought (Matt) Magill threw the ball really well toward the end (of the season),” Servais said. “We’ve also got guys coming up form the minor leagues. I think you guys are going to be pretty impressed when you see them in spring training. They might not break with us, but they are going to pitch for us at some point this year.”

Names to look for: Sam Delaplane, Joey Gerber, Aaron Fletcher, Jack Anderson and Wyatt Mills.

• With rosters expanding to 26 next season, a reporter asked how Servais believes most clubs will utilize that extra player (for most clubs it will be a position player as pitching staffs will be limited to 13).

“It probably affords you the opportunity to platoon one other spot on the field, which is a good thing,” Servais said. “Put guys in better position to have success and hopefully reduce the workload for some other guys. I think it is a good thing. Playing with a consistent roster in September is a good thing also.”

Servais was alluding to expanded September rosters, which will now be capped at 28 players.

• Mitch Haniger was in town last week for the Mariners leadership meetings, and according to Servais is now fully healthy and starting to resume baseball activities in preparation for next year after missing most of the second half of the 2019 season with a ruptured testicle and then a back issue.

There was a bit of a buzz Tuesday morning around Haniger as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic linked the Mariners outfielder to his former club, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Servais was not asked directly about the rumors but talked about Haniger’s fit on the current team.

“He’s a really key piece to what we are doing. As much excitement as young players bring, there needs to be a balance. We’ve got some veteran players, you need those guys. Mitch goes out, he prepares as good as anyone we have got, he performs really well when he’s healthy. You need those guys to lead and stay out ahead. Show these young guys how it is done.”

So why is Haniger’s name out there as a trade target? As a still young-ish outfielder with an All-Star season under his belt and three years of club control remaining, there is interest. While last season appeared to be a lost year for Haniger numbers-wise, an industry source says he is still valued as a good right-handed bat in the outfield. Is it the ideal time for the Mariners to move him? I don’t believe so, but if a team is willing to pay the right price then perhaps this could turn into what Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has been to call an “opportunity” type deal.

• Speaking of opportunity, is the window opening? The Astros, who have already let Gerrit Cole walk, have roster needs, and their current projected payroll is over the luxury tax threshold. It would appear, at some point, someone has to go.

• And last but not least, it looks like there will be a state of the baseball address tomorrow.

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Mariners notebook: Servais speaks, and what’s with the Haniger buzz?