Mariners’ rotation taking shape

On Sunday night, the Seattle Mariners lost out in their pursuit of Hisashi Iwakuma to the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Monday, the M’s acquired Wade Miley from the Boston Red Sox to possibly complete their starting rotation for 2016. After acquiring Nate Karns early this offseason, the M’s needed one more quality starter to fill the rotation along with Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.

Jerry Dipoto has been moving quickly all offseason to assemble a team he thinks can compete for a title. While acquiring Miley and Karns didn’t break the bank, it did take some major league talent to get them. Carson Smith and Roenis Elias were sent to the Red Sox to acquire Miley and Jonathan Aro.

Miley comes to the Emerald City after spending only a year in Boston following an offseason trade last season. He had spent his entire career in the National League with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The lefty ended 2015 with a 4.46 ERA going 11-11 in 193.2 innings. He did post a 2.6 WAR in 2015, his highest since 2012 (4.1). Like most of the Dipoto acquistions, Miley has two years left on a club friendly contract with a team option for 2018. He is an innings-eater averaging 197.6 innings in his four seasons. Miley is a career 48.7 percent ground ball pitcher while averaging seven strikeouts per nine innings. While helping solidify the rotation, questions remain outside of him and King Felix.

Taijuan Walker should enter the season as the number two or three starter for Seattle. Walker is coming off an up and down 2015 in which he logged 169.2 innings, his most as a professional. While he showed flashes of being the next ace, he also had growing pains. Control in the big leagues has been a problem at times but he improved throughout 2015. In his first 10 games in 2015, he had a 47/23  strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51 innings and in his final ten games he had a 53/13 SO/BB in 63 innings. The 23-year-old should continue to improve and be a top-tier starter for many years to come.

James Paxton burst onto the Seattle scene with a bang in 2013 going 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four starts. The past two seasons, Paxton has battled injuries and only managed 26 starts over that time. In 2015, he was only able to throw 67 innings after battling a finger issue all season. After missing all of June, July and August, he started three games in September and continued pitching in the Arizona Fall League to try and build his innings for 2016. All of this leads to a big question mark in the rotation for the upcoming season. If he can stay healthy, it’ll be a huge boost toward a possible playoff run, but if not, the Mariners will need to start finding other options for 2016 and beyond.

Rounding out the starting five (as of now) for the M’s is Nate Karns. Karns was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in the first major trade Jerry Dipoto made as the M’s general manager. I wrote in-depth about Karns after the trade happened. He should be a solid fourth or fifth starter but only threw 147 innings a season ago. If Karns can get around 175 innings or more this year, it will be a really good acquisition for Seattle.

After the starting five the only in-house options with major league experience are Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno. Montgomery started 16 games in 2015 for the Mariners. In his first seven starts at the big league level he had a 1.62 ERA but the final nine starts netted a 8.33 ERA.

Nuno is 28 years old and has started 41 games over three seasons with the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Mariners. Nuno came to the Mariners with Mark Trumbo in the Welington Castillo trade in June of last year. He appeared in 32 games making 10 starts and finished with a 4.10 ERA.

The M’s don’t have a lot of depth in their rotation and I’d expect Dipoto to continue to look to add, but it won’t be a big name or major signing. Some free agent starting pitchers that might come fairly cheap are Henderson Alvarez, who was non-tendered by the Miami Marlins, Tim Lincecum and Brandon Morrow. Any further starting pitching additions would more than likely have to pitch their way onto to the team in Spring Training.

One thing we know about Jerry Dipoto, it won’t be long until we have another move to discuss.


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