Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto knew that acquiring a shortstop upgrade like Jean Segura would come at a high cost. That’s why he had to deal 24-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker, a key member of the team’s rotation just a season ago, in order to net Segura and two prospects from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Now, Dipoto is setting his eyes on finding Walker’s replacement – something the executive knows is paramount to catching the Rangers and Astros in the AL West. In an interview Sunday with MLB Network Radio, Dipoto openly stated his “focus is on the pitching,” and added he’d like to find one more arm for the rotation.
Without a ton of internal options, Dipoto’s going to have to go outside the organization to find the last piece of this puzzle. Here are four starters the Mariners should target for their rotation opening:
Reunited and it feels so good? Fister struggled in Houston last year, posting a career-high 4.64 ERA and just 115 strikeouts over 32 starts. Perhaps a return to Seattle, where he pitched from 2009-11, would benefit both sides. For Fister, the familiar pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field might do wonders for his numbers after a few years of mediocrity. On Seattle’s side, the team might be able to get the 32-year-old on a cheaper deal, and he’ll eat innings – something that could be critical for the Mariners in 2017 considering Hisashi Iwakuma’s injury history and the miles on Felix Hernandez’s arm.
If the Mariners want to spend a little bit more, perhaps Volquez is the veteran worthy of those dollars. The 33-year-old didn’t have a great 2016 in Kansas City, but from 2014-15 he was a solid member of two rotations that made the postseason; he’s also got plenty of October credentials from the Royals’ 2015 run to the World Series. Like Fister, Volquez is another veteran who could benefit from Safeco Field, where he’s held opponents to a .197 average in three career starts. Volquez won’t cost anything more than money, and if he can repeat his magic from a few years ago his presence could be a big help to the Mariners’ rotation.
The oft-injured Anderson only pitched four games for the Dodgers in 2016, and put up an ERA over 11 in the process. But he’s still just 28 years old, and when he’s been healthy he’s been a decent rotation piece: In 2015, his last full season, Anderson posted a 3.69 ERA and a career-best 66 percent ground-ball rate in 31 starts for the Dodgers. Though there’s never any guarantees with his health, Anderson might be a decent one-year option for the Mariners to plug into the rotation and see what they get in 2017. If the right guy shows up, it could pay huge dividends for Seattle.
Dipoto could always try to swing another trade if he doesn’t like the available free agents, and Odorizzi is one possible target. But he’d cost a lot, and the Mariners might not have a ton of pitching prospects to satisfy the Rays, if that’s what they’re after. Instead, a deal would likely involve a good number of their position player prospects, and might even cost them one of either 2016 first-rounder Kyle Lewis or powerful outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill. If the Mariners are serious about contending in 2017, though, digging into the prospect pool to grab someone like Odorizzi for the open spot might be a necessity.