Since being hired on September 28, Jerry Dipoto has been busier than any General Manager in baseball this offseason. He opened the offseason by trading fan-favorite and up-and-coming star Brad Miller along with Logan Morrison and Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay for Nathan Karns and others, and shortly after acquired Joaquin Benoit from San Diego while trading experienced bullpen arm Tom Wilhelmsen to Texas for Leonys Martin. Dipoto, alongside new manager Scott Servais, have stated that his goal is to make this Mariners team more athletic and more reliant on seasoned veterans, which may be why they keep returning to players which whom he is familiar.
The Mariners undoubtedly needed to improve their offense behind home plate as the none of catchers used last year are capable of hitting Major League pitching. Mike Zunino, the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 draft, hit just .174 before being sent to Triple-A Tacoma last season while his backup, Jesus Sucre hit just .157. Last week, Dipoto signed former Angel Chris Iannetta to a one-year, $4.25 million contract. Iannetta struggled mightily last season but had a great 2014 in which he posted a .252/.373/.392 slash line and 126 wRC+. Iannetta is also a tremendous defensive catcher that will help the Mariners young pitching staff and undeveloped bullpen.
Dipoto continued to bolster the Mariners depth chart on Wednesday as he agreed to a deal to send 2015 mid-year acquisition Mark Trumbo to the Orioles alongside C.J. Riefenhauser for Catcher/First Baseman Steve Clevenger. Clevenger is coming off of his best year in which he hit .297 in 30 games but is currently out of options. This marks the second time in the last three years that Dipoto has traded Trumbo, as he traded him in 2013 from Los Angeles to Arizona for Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago.
The Mariners most significant signing of the offseason came in Nori Aoki, whom they signed to a one-year deal with an option for 2017. Aoki is the perfect low K-rate, high on-base leadoff hitting corner outfielder that the Mariners needed. Aoki, who turns 34 next month, posted a .287/.353/.380 slash line last year to go along with 5 home runs and 14 stolen bases, all before missing time in September with a concussion. This move also allows the Mariners to use Nelson Cruz or Seth Smith, both defensive liabilities, at Designated Hitter.
Finally, the Mariners continued to add pieces to their bullpen as they signed former Phillie Justin De Fratus to a one-year/$750K contract. De Fratus was often misused in 2015 and posted an unusually high ERA of 5.51 in 80 innings. In 52.2 innings in 2014, De Fratus posted a career-low ERA of 2.39. This signing is another example of a low risk, high reward signing that could ultimately pay huge dividends for a depleted Mariners bullpen.