How’s this for the start of the Mariners’ much-anticipated roster makeover under new general manager Jerry Dipoto? A six-player deal with Tampa Bay that nets a promising young starting pitcher and a future leadoff hitter.
The Mariners acquired right-handed pitcher Nate Karns in a Thursday swap that sent utilityman Brad Miller, first baseman Logan Morrison and reliever Danny Farquhar to the Rays.
Karns, 27, went 7-5 with a 3.67 ERA last season as a rookie in 26 starts. He allowed two or fewer runs in 19 of his starts, although he didn’t pitch after Sept. 8 because of a strained forearm.
The Mariners also got minor-league outfielder Boog Powell, who projects as their future leadoff hitter, and lefty reliever C.J. Riefenhauser. Powell could be in the lineup by opening day.
“It was a good baseball trade,” Dipoto said in characterizing his first major deal. “They addressed needs. We addressed needs, and everybody walks away happy.”
Dipoto said Karns will move immediately into the rotation, while Powell, 22, will get a chance to win a job next spring after compiling a .385 on-base percentage in 117 games at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.
Riefenhauser, 25, will battle for a bullpen role after logging a 5.52 ERA last season in 17 outings over four big-league tours.
Karns admitted he was surprised by the trade.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s one of those things that just happened so it really hasn’t hit me yet. I look at it as the team felt that they needed to make moves and the way they felt best was to trade me away.
“At the end of the day it’s a business, and this is part of it. … I’m excited to go on to the next chapter and see what happens.”
Dipoto said acquiring Karns doesn’t affect the Mariners’ efforts to retain free-agent Hisashi Iwakuma.
“I don’t think we had a complete starting rotation to begin with,” Dipoto said. This was addressing a need, but it doesn’t change anything in our desire to bring Kuma back.”
Dipoto said “it’s very likely that we will” tender a qualifying offer — a one-year deal for $15.8 million — prior to Friday’s deadline to do so.
While Iwakuma is expected to reject the offer, the two sides can continue to negotiate. The offer also provides protection: The Mariners would receive a compensatory draft pick next June if Iwakuma signs elsewhere.
Dipoto said discussions with Tampa Bay began shortly after the season ended and the deal, he contends, addresses the plan he outlined at his introductory news conference in late September.
“Plan A,” he said, “was to go out and make the pitching staff deeper, the starting rotation longer and to add speed and athleticism — and just a quicker style of play with some on-base ability.
“I think this trade addresses all three of those areas of need.”
Miller projects as the key piece in the deal for Tampa Bay, which plans to return him to full-time duty as a shortstop. He surrendered that job over the closing months last season to rookie Ketel Marte.
“Brad has been an attractive player for the other 29 teams in the league for a number of years,” Dipoto said. “He’s been a trade target. He’s been a guy whom others have come after.
“Obviously, with the emergence of Ketel Marte, and how well he played for the final couple of months of the season, it gave us the ability to put Brad in play to answer other needs. It’s as simple as that.”
Dipoto dismissed concerns regarding Karns’ late-season injury.
“He’s a big durable guy,” Dipoto said, “but we’ve gone through a full medical, and we’re very comfortable with where he was. We’re not winging it here. … He appears to be 100 percent healthy and ready to roll.”
Trading Morrison, 28, reduces the Mariners’ logjam at first base and designated hitter. He also is just one year away from qualifying for free agency after batting .225 with 17 homers and 54 RBIs in 146 games.
“With Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo and Nelson Cruz and LoMo and Jesus Montero,” Dipoto reeled off, “we did have an area of surplus … that matched up with some of Tampa’s needs.”
Farquhar, 28, became expendable after a rocky season in which he went 1-8 with a 5.32 ERA in 43 games and shuttling to Triple-A Tacoma for long stretches.
Dipoto projects Powell as a long-term fit atop the Mariners’ lineup — whenever he proves ready for that duty.
“The thing that appeals to us most about Boog,” Dipoto said, “is his top-of-the-lineup skill set. The patience, the hittability and the speed are really attractive to us, as well as the athleticism in the outfield.
“He’s checked all of the boxes. He controls the strike zone. He’s hit everywhere he’s gone. He runs the bases. He plays defense. And he’s polished in what he does.
“He’ll come to spring training with the opportunity to win a spot but nothing is etched in stone. If he wins one, great. If not, he’s right there in Tacoma, ready to go get when we need him.”
The Seattle Mariners, in what amounts to a paper transaction, reinstated lefty reliever Charlie Furbush on Thursday from the 60-day disabled list.
Furbush, 29, didn’t pitch after July 7 because of what was initially diagnosed as biceps tendinitis. A subsequent examination revealed a slight tear in his rotator cuff.
The Mariners placed Furbush on the 60-day list Sept. 8.
Players on the 60-day list, who are not eligible for free agency, must be reinstated to the 40-man roster within five days of the conclusion of the World Series.
Furbush posted a 2.08 ERA in 33 appearances prior to his injury and stranded all 16 of his inherited runners.
The move leaves the Mariners with 38 players on their 40-man roster.
All teams face a 2 p.m. Pacific time deadline Friday (Nov. 6) to extend qualifying offers to their free agents in order to receive a compensatory draft pick if the player eventually signs elsewhere.
The Mariners are likely to make such an offer to Iwakuma but are not expected to do so with their two other free agents: outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and lefty reliever Joe Beimel.
All qualifying offers are one-year guaranteed contracts for $15.8 million. The amount is determined by averaging the salaries of the 125 highest-paid players. (The qualifying offers a year ago were $15.3 million.)
Players have until 2 p.m. Pacific time on Nov. 13 to accept or reject the offer. Rejecting an offer does not prevent a player from continuing to negotiate with his former club.
No player has ever accepted a qualifying offer. Clubs lose exclusive negotiating rights with their former players at 9 p.m. Pacific time. Thereafter, players are permitted to sign with new clubs.
TWINS’ HUNTER SAYS GOODBYE TO PLAYING
Torii Hunter said goodbye to baseball, but only the active playing part, Thursday at a Target Field in Minneapolis.
Hunter closes his career with a .277 lifetime average, 353 home runs and 1,391 RBIs, nine gold gloves and five All-Star appearances. He’s among the top 10 in most Twins career offensive categories, and played in the postseason eight times. He never won a World Championship, however, nor made it to the World Series.
Hunter said he doesn’t know yet what retirement will bring; he’s been contacted about broadcasting, and general manager Terry Ryan said the team had discussed in an abstract way some role for the veteran in the organization. Mostly, Hunter said he wants to spend time with his wife Katrina.
The Kansas City Royals exercised an $8 million option on closer Wade Davis and a $5.25 million option on shortstop Alcides Escobar. They also declined an option on outfielder Jonny Gomes. ... Kirk Gibson has emerged as a candidate to become the Los Angeles Dodgers manager. ... Matt Harvey is the 2015 National League Comeback Player of the Year, as voted on by MLB.com reports and sanctioned by MLB. The right-hander went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts this season, and helped the Mets to their first World Series appearance in 15 years. ... The Nationals on Wednesday hired Davey Lopes to serve as first base coach and Mike Maddux as pitching coach.
The Associated Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Newsday and Hackensack, N.J. Record contributed to this report.