Mariners trade Seth Smith to the Orioles for Yovani Gallardo

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We interrupt this slow news week with an actual trade. Of major leaguers, each of which play for teams with at least plausible cases for contention!

Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that the Seattle Mariners have traded outfielder Seth Smith to the Baltimore Orioles for right handed starter Yovani Gallardo. There is also some cash going from Baltimore to Seattle in the deal.

Gallardo, who will turn 31 before the season, started 23 games for Baltimore in 2016, going 6-8 with a 5.42 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 85/61 in 118 innings. It was easily the worst season he’s had in the majors and came after a 2015-16 offseason in which Baltimore expressed concern about his shoulder. He missed some time in the middle of the season with tendinitis in that shoulder. He is entering the second year of a two-year contract on which he will be plaid $11 million this season. There is a club option for 2018 at $13 million with a $2 million buyout. When he first signed with the O’s it was for three years but Baltimore restructured it into a two-year deal after encountering some concerns in his physical so, yeah, a lot of red flags here about the health of that shoulder.

Smith, a lefty who is 34, put up a pretty typical Seth Smith season in 2016, hitting 249/.342/.415 with 16 homers and 63 RBI, with almost all of his damage and work coming against right handed pitchers. Smith is on a club option for 2017, exercised by the Mariners in November, which will pay him $7 million, after which he is a free agent.

For the Mariners, it’s some pitching depth and the hope for a bounceback year for Gallardo, who was excellent in 2015 with the Rangers. For the O’s, one half of a platoon that can serve as Mark Trumbo insurance, I suppose, as their free agent corner outfielder/DH is likely going to walk in free agency.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.