Seattle Mariners

Mariners have found their ‘middle-of-the-field stabilizer’ in former No. 1 pick

Baltimore Orioles’ Tim Beckham, right, high-fives teammates in the dugout after scoring on Jace Peterson’s double in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore Orioles’ Tim Beckham, right, high-fives teammates in the dugout after scoring on Jace Peterson’s double in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) AP

Jerry Dipoto laid out the Seattle Mariners’ remaining offseason checklist before they officially begin their 2019 step back season. It’s not nearly as drastic as trading away more than half his roster, like he’s already accomplished in the past three months, but here’s how he explained what’s left to do:

More relievers. The Mariners’ next closer might still be somewhere in the free-agent market.

“A middle-of-the-field stabilizer,” as Dipoto put it.

Check and check.

The Mariners have signed shortstop and former No. 1 overall draft pick Tim Beckham to a one-year contract. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted that they agreed to a $1.75 million contract with $250,000 in incentives.

The Mariners also agreed to a one-year deal with 32-year-old right-hander Cory Gearrin. Gearrin appread in 62 games for the Giants, Rangers and A’s, going 2-1 with a save and a 3.77 ERA.

To get both players onto the 40-man roster, the Mariners designated outfielder John Andreoli for assignment. The Mariners had claimed Andreoli from the Orioles on Oct. 31.

Nightengale later reported that the Mariners had also reached an arbitration agreement for $1.95 million with outfielder Domingo Santana, the 26-year-old outfielder the Mariners acquired from the Brewers on Dec. 21 for Ben Gamel and a minor league pitcher. Santana became arbitration eligible this offseason and is under club control until 2022.

Beckham, who turns 29 this month, was the Rays’ top pick in 2008 out of Griffin High School in Georgia. Dipoto is not shy about searching for former first-round draft picks, even if their careers have not warranted the early expectations.

He’s stockpiled former first rounders this offseason, mostly in the form of prospects with shortstop J.P. Crawford from the Phillies, outfielder Jarred Kelenic from the Mets, and pitchers Justus Sheffield from the Yankees and Justin Dunn from the Mets.

That’s not including some other veteran former first-round picks in outfielder Jay Bruce from the Mets and infielder Kaleb Cowart from the Angels, who the Mariners are inviting to big-league spring training to work out as a two-way player – pitcher and hitter.

It certainly worked out last year when the Mariners signed left-hander Wade LeBlanc, a former first-round pick out of Alabama, just before the start of the season. Same goes for right-hander Mike Leake, left-hander Marco Gonzales and outfielder Mitch Haniger.

“If they are struggling in some area, at some point some team thought enough of that player to pick them in the first two rounds,” DIpoto has said. “I’ve used that guidance so many times.”

So why Beckham?

He provides a bridge for Crawford, who is a former top-20 overall prospect in baseball with the Phillies but struggled in the big leagues last season, hitting .214/.319/.393 over 49 games after making his big-league debut as a 22-year-old in 2017. He turns 24 on Friday.

Beckham hit .230/.287/.374 in 98 games last season for the Orioles, after the Rays traded him midway through 2017 for a prospect. But Beckham did bat .298 over the final month of the season. He has been twice suspended in his career for testing positive for a drug of abuse and is three years removed from a torn ACL.

“Tim Beckham is a very talented player who is one year removed from being one of the more productive shortstops in the American League,” Dipoto said in a statement released by the team. “He is a real offensive threat with multi-position defensive versatility that fits our team very well.”

Gearrin has a 3.54 ERA in 270 career appearances with five teams. He gives the Mariners another reliever for a depleted bullpen. He has five career saves, which is one less than right-hander Anthony Swarzak has over his career. The only other reliever who has saved a game is right-hander Shawn Armstrong.

And their 12 combined career saves comes nowhere close to 57 saves Edwin Diaz had in 2018 alone before he was traded to the Mets with Robinson Cano. Dipoto has said he expects their closer situation to likely be a committee approach in 2019.

“Cory Gearrin brings much needed veteran experience and stability to the back of our bullpen. He has been a solid under the radar performer, particularly over the past two seasons.” Dipoto said in a statement.

TJ Cotterill is the Seattle Mariners and MLB writer for The News Tribune. He started covering MLB full-time in 2018, but before that covered Ken Griffey Jr.’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and spent seven years writing about high schools, including four as TNT’s prep sports coordinator. Born and raised in Washington.