Some NRIs Announced, Maybe More to Come
A funny thing happened last Saturday. I’m not referring to my trip to a bar long after the game, where I think I saw a patron attempt to pay with a photograph of Russell Wilson (that did happen). No, rather, during the game I was at work and my boss had the national radio feed configured and I heard Dave Sims, calling the game with a chipperness I have not recognized in recent seasons. Later, switching to my own radio in the car, I picked up a reference by the announcers to Russell Wilson’s baseball career, noting that the last play looked like a ball flip that might be made by the second baseman to initiate a double play. Baseball was suddenly an impending thing again. My mind latched on to it and now I’m recollecting and wondering about various bits of roster minutae, both good (“hey, Nick Franklin rebounded in September sort of”) and not universally good but it’s still baseball (“oh right, Willie Bloomquist.”)
We also, this morning, got another sign of the coming spring with the announcement of NRIs, with more NRIs to come, one figures. A lot of this could have been inferred already, as we figured that RHPs Matt Palmer and Ramon Ramirez would be on the list, Humberto Quintero would be part of that backstop corps, and Cole Gillespie would probably get an invite for the outfield because why not?
Beyond that basic bit of bookkeeping, there are a few points of intrigue on the list. Sure, a lot of the invites fall under the “paid your dues” header (hey there, southpaws), but I can’t recall another year where internally developed players figured so prominently. Almost three-quarters of the NRIs were drafted and signed by the M’s and a few more were with the org last year. It could be that Tanaka has somehow managed to freeze the minor league FA market as well, but it looks more like the Mariners are trying to maintain the feeling of internal development even after the Cano signing.
Moving down the list, there are other things to note. Steve Baron is not part of this year’s backstop corps, and while he may end up joining later for split squads and travel days, he also might not with guys like Tyler Marlette around. The infield has a couple of 40-man also-rans in the bat-first Nate Tenbrink and Ty Kelly (walk-first, in his case) added to perennial gloveman in Gabriel Noriega and Chris Taylor, who hopefully can hit and field. D.J. Peterson is a noted absence, particularly when high picks often have NRI invites worked into their contracts, but it could be that they’re still trying to hold him back after that surgery on his jaw. Gillespie is also the only outfielder on the roster at the moment. No Travis Witherspoon. No Burt Reynolds and the opportunity for competitively-obscure Burt Reynolds references. Mind you, there are nine listed OFs on the 40-man already which does not include Morrison or Hart, so there may not be a need.
Probably the thing to watch as we get into March is what happens among the right-handed pitching NRIs. Dominic Leone and Carson Smith both got invites to compete and both are of the “hard-throwers of varying polish” group that has later seen mid-season jobs for guys like Stephen Pryor, Mark Lowe, Carter Capps, and Shawn Kelley. There’s also Stephen Kohlscheen to consider, a guy who has less stuff than either Leone or Smith, but has had great K numbers the past two seasons and was talked about as a potential Rule 5 selection during the winter meetings. Appearances by any of those three could be looked on as a preview of coming attractions. And this is a preview of that preview, which has now reached its conclusion. Think more on it, or don’t until you absolutely have to.