SEATTLE — Say this for new Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto: He promised a busy off-season, and he wasn’t kidding.
The calendar hasn’t yet hit Thanksgiving and, already, the Mariners have added 11 players to their 40-man roster through trades, signings and waiver claims.
And they’re not done.
"We’d like to get deeper in terms of our pitching," Dipoto said. "That is likely to happen at this point in addressing bullpen needs. As we get into the month of December, we’ll determine whether that’s going to be via trade or free agency."
On Monday, in discussing the signing of free-agent catcher Chris Iannetta, Dipoto cited the ongoing efforts to retain free-agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma as the "obvious" focus.
But Dipoto said the Nov. 5 trade that netted right-hander Nathan Karns from Tampa Bay eased the urgency in addressing the rotation and seemed to suggest the bullpen as a rising priority.
That unit will already have a new look.
The Mariners acquired veteran Joaquin Benoit, lefty C.J. Riefenhauser and righty Anthony Bass in various trades while dispatching Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Farquhar.
Further, the club jettisoned Logan Kensing and JC Ramirez off their 40-man roster.
Since Wilhelmsen ended the season as the Mariners’ closer, the question arises: Does Dipoto believe he has a replacement on the current roster? He hedged in responding.
"Those are confidence roles," he said, "and we’ll see where that goes. Carson Smith is on our roster and had some small level of experience in pitching the ninth inning. He had an outstanding year as a set-up man.
"Joaquin Benoit has had closing experience in the past on two different occasions and has done an excellent job when been asked to do that. He’s also been an excellent set-up man.
"Between the two, I feel like we do have options in-house and there is a lot of off-season yet to go. So it’s TBD on who will pitch the ninth inning on opening day."
Regarding Iwakuma, the general view within the industry remains unchanged: the Mariners will eventually reach a deal because competitors will shy away from topping their bid and surrendering a high draft pick.
Even so, several clubs have been linked in possible interest, including the Tigers, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants.
One top official from a rival club said: "Iwakuma could probably get three years on the open market at $40-45 million. I hear the Mariners only want to go two years.
"If they stick to two years, another team might top a two-year offer and give up the draft pick. Maybe. Maybe not. But I think that’s the only way they lose him."Iwakuma threw a no-hitter on Aug. 12 against Baltimore.
Dipoto appears willing to let the situation play out a while longer.
"Part of the appeal of acquiring Nate Karns so early in the offseason," he said, "is that among Taijuan Walker and James Paxton and Nate Karns and (Roenis) Elias and (Vidal) Nuno, it gave us a modicum of depth behind Felix (Hernandez) that we didn’t have to panic.
"We knew we could go out there and throw innings. Now all we need to do is focus on guys who get a little bit closer to the top of the rotation. Obviously, (with) Kuma, we’d love to have him back.
More details surfaced Tuesday on Iannetta’s contract, which provides the opportunity for him to earn far more than his one-year guarantee for $4.25 million.
The deal includes $1.75 million in performance bonuses along with a club option for $4.25 million in 2017. The option can vest into a guaranteed year at $6 million based on the number of games that Iannetta starts in 2016.
RULE 5 RISK
The Mariners chose to expose Blash to the Dec. 10 draft when they didn’t add him to their 40-man roster prior to last Friday’s deadline.
Blash, 26, batted .271 last year in 116 games at Double-A Jackson (60) and Tacoma (56) with 32 home runs and 81 RBIs. He was available, but went unselected, in last year’s draft.Blash in action in spring training.
"Blash doesn’t run as well as he did a few years ago," Baseball America reported, "but he has prototypical right field tools and now he has upper-level minor league production as well."
Players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if not placed on a club’s 40-man roster after four or five pro seasons. (Four years for players 19 or older when they signed their first contract; five years for those who were younger.)
Robinson Cano’s RC22 Foundation opened its first Dream School — a Montessori School — on Tuesday in his hometown: San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.
The school will serve 100 youth, ranging in age from three to eight, and offer holistic community and employment training programs for residents.
The RC22 Foundation seeks to "expand opportunities for improved outcomes in the areas of youth development and community healthcare."
Former Mariners outfielder Eric Thames, 29, was picked as the Most Valuable Player in the Korean Baseball Organization after batting .381 with 47 home runs and 140 RBIs in 142 games for the NC Dinos.
Thames, who now plays first base, also had 40 steals in becoming the first 40-40 (home runs/stolen bases) player in KBO history.
Further, he won the slash triple crown (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) at .381/.497/.790.
The Mariners acquired Thames from Toronto in a June 30, 2012 trade for pitcher Steve Delabar. Thames batted .220 in 40 games over the remainder of the season with six homers and 14 RBIs.
Thames batted .295 in 57 games for Triple-A Tacoma in 2013 with seven homers and 33 RBIs before a June 30 trade sent him to Baltimore for utilityman Ty Kelly.
It was 31 years ago Tuesday — Nov. 24, 1984 — that first baseman Alvin Davis became the first Mariners player to win a BBWAA award when selected as the American League Rookie of the Year.
Davis garnered 25 of the 28 first-place votes.
His teammate, left-handed pitcher Mark Langston, got the other three first-place votes and finished second.
The 1984 AL rookie class also included Minnesota outfielder Kirby Puckett (who finished third) and Boston right-hander Roger Clemens (who finished sixth).