It didn’t take long for the Mariners to acquire the right-handed corner bat they prioritized this off-season. On Saturday, they obtained Danny Valencia from Oakland in a trade for minor-league pitcher Paul Blackburn.
Valencia, 32, has a .271 career average, including .321 against left-handed pitchers, over seven seasons with six major-league clubs. He can play first base, third base, left field and right field.
"Danny’s skill set is a good fit for our club," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "He’s been a very productive offensive player, especially against left-handed pitching.
"In addition, his ability to handle all four corner positions presents (manager) Scott (Servais) with a welcome level of flexibility when creating lineups."
Acquiring Valencia potentially fills the Mariners’ dual needs for a right-handed hitter for two platoon situations: at first base with rookie Dan Vogelbach; and (to a lesser extent) in the outfield with veteran Seth Smith.
"I think my role is to play first base, probably some right field," Valencia agreed. "I don’t know how much time Kyle (Seager) gets off at third, but (I can play there) on an occasional day off for him."
Dipoto acknowledged the trade effectively means the Mariners are no longer interested in retaining free-agent first baseman Dae-Ho Lee and are less likely to pursue a new deal with free-agent outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.
"There’s very little likelihood that both (Valencia and Lee) will fit on the same roster," Dipoto said. "I (also) don’t think we have to go out and focus on getting a right-handed-hitting outfielder just to have one."
Dipoto said rookie outfielder Ben Gamel is in line for a full-time starting job and that, as the roster now stands, Smith will split time in the other outfield corner with Valencia, Nelson Cruz and perhaps Guillermo Heredia.
"As we go through the rest of this off-season," Dipoto said, "we’re going to be open-minded. If we see a good fit, or the ability to go acquire a player who makes us better, we’re not going to hesitate. Valencia’s flexibility allows that."
In Blackburn, the Mariners surrendered a 22-year-old pitcher they obtained July 20 with Vogelbach from the Chicago Cubs in a trade for left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery.
Blackburn was a combined 9-5 with a 3.27 ERA in 27 games in Double-A at Tennessee (in the Cubs’ system) and Jackson. He projected to open next season at Triple-A Tacoma.
The trade leaves the Mariners with three openings on their 40-man roster as they approach the Nov. 18 deadline for adding Rule 5-eligible players to their roster. Those left unprotected are eligible for selection in the Dec. 8 draft.
While Valencia logged time at multiple positions throughout his career, he’s made 447 of his 537 defensive starts at third base. His resume shows only 43 games, including 22 starts, at first base.
"I feel good over there (at first base)," he insisted. "It’s funny. One of the years I was at the University of Miami, Ryan Braun was our third baseman. I played first that whole year. I have experience playing there.
"It works out well because down here (in Florida), I’m able to work with a couple of really good defensive first basemen — Yonder Alonso and Eric Hosmer. We’re all friends, and we all hang out. I think it will be a good thing for me."
The trade to acquire Valencia, at least initially, represents a short-term patch because he is tracking to become a free agent after next season.
For now, though, Valencia is eligible for salary arbitration after making $3.15 million while batting .287 with a .346 on-base percentage for the Athletics in 130 games. He had 17 home runs and 51 RBIs.
"Hopefully, Seattle is a place I get to play long-term," he said. "I’ve always enjoyed my time there. I’m sure you’ve heard it a ton, but I idolized Ken Griffey Jr. as a player when I was growing up.
"I always thought about myself wearing the Seattle Mariners’ jersey."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners