Inbox: How does Montero fit into 2014 plans?
Beat reporter Greg Johns answers offseason questions from Mariners fans
Has Jesus Montero served his 50-game suspension? Or do those have to be Major League games? He's still on the 40-man roster, but no one seems to mention him as a part of the plans anymore.
-- Tom J., Spokane, Wash.
Montero has completely fulfilled his 50-game suspension from his involvement in the Biogenesis case. Even though he was in the Minor Leagues at the time, Montero served his suspension from Aug. 5-Sept. 26. He could have been added to the Mariners' roster for the final three games after Sept. 26, but they chose not to do that.
The 24-year-old will start fresh this spring as the club gives the former catcher a look at first base and designated hitter, but he has much to prove after a disappointing 2013 both on and off the field. General manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledges that he can't count on Montero as part of next season's plan but will wait to see how he performs at a new position, with a new manager and coaching staff.
Why did Dustin Ackley get so much playing time in center field last year? In my view, Michael Saunders is the better outfielder.
-- Mark H., Portland, Ore.
Saunders certainly is the more experienced outfielder and a very good defender. But Ackley got a lot of his initial playing time in center when Saunders wasn't in the lineup, and former manager Eric Wedge then tried to keep Ackley primarily in one spot as he transitioned from second base.
Additionally, Ackley doesn't have the strongest throwing arm, so right field isn't a very good option, as that spot requires long throws to third. And Raul Ibanez was handling most of the left-field duties, so in that combination, Ackley fit best in center with Saunders in right.
My hunch is Ackley will be targeted more for left field this spring, with Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez handling center-field duties and Gutierrez, Abraham Almonte and newcomers Corey Hart and Logan Morrison competing for time in right. Then again, a lot of things can happen between now and April, and new skipper Lloyd McClendon has all spring to sort things out on the field, so all the speculation now is strictly guesswork.
One thing we do know: Ackley won't be playing second base anymore, with Robinson Cano's arrival. But I think it actually might be good for Ackley to focus on one position, and now he knows that as long as he's in Seattle, he'll be an outfielder.
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Do you think a trade for Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton for Kyle Seager plus Brad Miller or Nick Franklin would make sense? The Marlins are seeking a third baseman, and the Mariners need more of a reliable outfielder.
-- Pogi B., Port Orchard, Wash.
It's time for everyone to stop thinking up scenarios where the Mariners -- or any other team -- will trade for Stanton. A very knowledgeable source told me recently that the Marlins have no interest in trading Stanton, despite frequent inquires from other clubs, as Miami is looking to build around the young slugger and 21-year-old pitching star Jose Fernandez.
Stanton won't be a free agent until 2017 and is just starting the salary-arbitration process, so he's relatively cheap, and there's no motivation for the Marlins to deal him unless some team gets silly in what it's willing to offer. So put that one to rest.
Because the Mariners travel farther than any other MLB team, do they do anything to make the long flights easier on the players? Do they have their own aircraft? Charter a custom jet? Or do they fly on a regular commercial airliner?
-- Charles S., Portland, Ore.
Like all Major League teams, the Mariners fly private charters, which means no sitting around at airports or going through normal security lines or dealing with flight delays, for the most part. As you note, Seattle's remoteness requires the Mariners to fly more than most teams -- they flew more than 52,000 miles last season, which is double what some teams based in the Midwest fly because of their centralized location.
Players who come to the Mariners say that it does require an adjustment, but the chartered flights do eliminate typical travel hassles, so it's mostly a time issue. The writers who cover the team travel on their own, so I've only flown on the Mariners' charter once -- when they went to Japan two years ago -- and it was definitely nice.
Are there any upgrades or additions planned for Safeco Field this offseason?
-- Joe V., Shoreline, Wash.
After a couple of major renovations last year -- with the giant new videoboard in center field, the fences being moved in and the addition of Edgar's Cantina down the left-field line -- things are a lot quieter this winter with no big projects underway at the yard.
Will the Mariners still host a 5K run at Safeco this year? The Wedges were involved in it before, so I was wondering about its status …
-- Lindsay Z., Seattle
There are plans for a third-annual Refuse to Abuse 5K at Safeco Field to benefit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence on Saturday, July 19, while the team is on the road in Anaheim. Eric Wedge and his wife, Kate, were honorary co-chairs the past two years, but the show will go on. And it's a great event, having raised more than $93,000 in its first two years.
Ty Kelly made an amazing first impression for the Tacoma Rainiers after being acquired by the Orioles last season. Aren't the Mariners in need of hitters? I feel he is too talented for the Minors.
-- Dani B., Tacoma, Wash.
Kelly indeed hit an impressive .320 with a .456 on-base percentage in 54 games after coming to the Mariners in a July trade for Eric Thames, and anyone posting those numbers is worth keeping an eye on. But the 25-year-old had never played above Double-A ball until getting to Tacoma, and he has played mostly second and third base in the Minors. And the Mariners just signed Cano to play second and have Seager at third.
Having Kelly as a utility guy might be an option, but that wouldn't allow him to keep developing much at the plate, and Seattle just signed Willie Bloomquist to fill that role. It's also worth noting that Kelly could have been claimed in the Rule 5 Draft last month, but every team passed. So he still has some work to do to convince Major League teams that he's a legit prospect.