It’s been a busy offseason for the Mariners, who began restructuring their infield and outfield platoons last weekend after they acquired Danny Valencia from the Athletics. On Friday night, they confirmed a five-player deal with the Rays that sent infielder/outfielders Richie Shaffer and Taylor Motter to Seattle and first baseman Dalton Kelly and right-handers Dylan Thompson and Andrew Kittredge to Tampa Bay.
Neither Shaffer nor Motter have extensive major league experience, but Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto appeared grateful for the depth and flexibility the pair will bring to the 2017 roster. Over two seasons with the Rays, Shaffer primarily operated as a backup first and third baseman during the second half, batting a cumulative .213/.310/.410 in 142 PA that looked nothing like the 30-homer, .243/.338/.445 output he generated in two seasons and 778 PA with Triple-A Durham. Motter was another recent call-up for the Rays in 2016, and batted a dismal .188/.290/.300 in May and June before getting demoted to Triple-A for the remainder of the season. Despite his struggles on the major league stage, his experience at nearly every position (except for center field) will lend the Mariners more versatility heading into the 2017 season.
The Rays, meanwhile, will receive three minor league prospects from the Mariners in return. Right-hander Dylan Thompson heads the group as the Mariners’ fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft and No. 22 overall among the club’s 2016 prospect pool. Injuries kept him out of the minor league circuit in 2016, though he made a brief late season comeback in the Arizona Fall League.
Tampa Bay will also see 26-year-old righty Andrew Kittredge, who split his season between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma in 2016, pitching to a 3.50 ERA and 10.5 K/9 rate in 72.0 innings with the two clubs. Rounding out the group is Dalton Kelly, a first baseman/right fielder who destroyed Midwest League pitching in 2016 with a .293/.384/.416 batting line in 564 PA for Single-A Clinton. Unlike Shaffer and Motter, none of the Rays’ newly-acquired prospects appear to be major league ready just yet, though they should give the club some extra padding in the farm system.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.
The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.
In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.
The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.
We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.