Who will be the Mariners’ utility player in 2016?
Seattle Mariners’ new general manager Jerry Dipoto has done well at improving his team under some difficult circumstances. He was given limited funds, with most of the team’s money invested into just four players, a low-ranking farm system (meaning no viable prospects) and the task to turn the team into “win now” contenders in the American League.
He turned over more than 40% of the team’s roster in his attempt to successfully complete his task. He’s also done so without making too many positions overcrowded. There will be a question of who will platoon with the Adam Lind at first base between Jesus Montero, Dae-Ho Lee and Gaby Sanchez. However that question has already answered itself as Montero is out of options, while Lee and Sanchez can still be moved between Triple-A and the big league club.
The more interesting battle for a spot on the Mariners’ Opening Day 25-man roster will be for, oddly enough, the role as the team’s utility player. Both Dipoto and his handpicked rookie manager Scott Servais have expressed wanting a utility man with proven shortstop skills, in the event that Ketel Marte, who played well as a rookie last season, happens into a sophomore slump.
The team’s best two options who can play multiple infield positions including shortstop are Chris Taylor and Luis Sardinas. Neither have very much big league experience but both have proven that they can successfully play shortstop at the major league level. You don’t often see a two-player battle, or much of a battle at all, for the utility position.
Most big-league clubs’ utility players are experienced veterans with a certain set of skills, or lack of skills, who already know the role they will play with their club. The other option is a club signing a super-utility man, like the Chicago Cubs did with Ben Zobrist this offseason. It will be interesting to see which young, inexperienced player is chosen for the final 25-man roster, Taylor or Sardinas.
I’ve made a case for both of these youngsters to make the Mariners’ final 25-man roster in my column on Today’s Knuckleball which you can find by clicking the link below: