SEATTLE -- With the start of Spring Training now just a week away, we're running a series of stories previewing what to expect at Mariners camp in Peoria, Ariz.
In Part 2, we look at the new guys on the club after an interesting winter for general manager Jack Zduriencik, as Seattle looked to fill some very specific holes on a team that came one win shy of an American League Wild Card spot.
DH Nelson Cruz: The big designated hitter stands as the plum of the offseason pickups, with Seattle forking out $57 million in a four-year deal to acquire last year's Major League home run leader. Playing half his games in Safeco Field, Cruz might not duplicate the 40 bombs and 108 RBIs he racked up for the Orioles last year, but he certainly will provide a big upgrade at DH and the needed right-handed power threat to slide into the cleanup spot behind Robinson Cano. The 34-year-old slugger has played in the postseason four of the past five years -- including two World Series with Texas -- and the Mariners hope he's the man to help push them into that playoff promised land this season.
LHP J.A. Happ: The 32-year-old lefty, acquired via trade from Toronto for Michael Saunders, gives Seattle another needed veteran in a rotation topped by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Happ went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 30 games (26 starts) for the Blue Jays last season, including a 3.56 ERA in his final 13 starts as his fastball velocity increased. Happ thinks he can build on that success and the Mariners believe he'll be a good fit at Safeco Field after pitching his first eight seasons in the Majors at hitter-friendly parks in Philadelphia, Houston and Toronto.
OF Seth Smith: Looking to add another proven, productive hitter to the lineup, the Mariners acquired the 32-year-old corner outfielder from the Padres in exchange for young reliever Brandon Maurer. The left-hander batted .266 with 31 doubles, 12 home runs and an .807 OPS in 136 games last year as one of the Padres' most-consistent hitters. With a career .277 average and .839 OPS against right-handed pitchers (compared with .205 and .605 vs. lefties), Smith is a logical platoon candidate in right field.
OF Justin Ruggiano: While manager Lloyd McClendon isn't committing himself to a platoon scenario, Ruggiano appears a likely right-handed-hitting complement to Smith in right field. Acquired from the Cubs for Double-A reliever Matt Brazis, the 32-year-old hit .281 with a .766 OPS in 81 games last season and has previously filled part-time roles with the Marlins and Rays in six seasons in the Majors. The Texas native has a career OPS of .836 against lefties compared with .704 against right-handers and is a versatile defender who can play all three positions, and thus figures to add helpful depth across the board.
LHP David Rollins: The southpaw reliever has been on the Mariners' radar for a while, having been drafted -- but not signed -- by the club in both 2009 and '10 while in college. This time Seattle nabbed him in the Rule 5 Draft from the Astros and will give him a shot to compete for a bullpen spot. Rollins was 3-4 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 games (12 starts) with Double-A Corpus Christi last year. As a Rule 5 selection, he'll need to earn a spot on the 25-man roster for the full season or be offered back to the Astros.
LHP Edgar Olmos: The 24-year-old Californian is another candidate for a lefty relief role after being picked up off waivers from the Marlins in November. Olmos is a former third-round Draft choice with five games of Major League experience (0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in five innings for Miami in 2013). The 6-foot-4 southpaw split last year between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans, posting a 3.86 ERA in 51 1/3 innings over 33 outings at the higher level. He has one Minor League option remaining.
LHP Mike Kickham: Another candidate for a lefty role, the 26-year-old pitched 14 games, including three starts, for the Giants over the past two seasons. That experience didn't go particularly well (0-3, 10.98 ERA in 30 1/3 innings), but Kickham has one Minor League option remaining and provides potential starting depth in Tacoma after going 8-8 with a 4.43 ERA in 27 starts for Triple-A Fresno. Or he could be in the mix as a left-hander in the 'pen with Seattle if he has a strong spring.
C John Baker: Of the 18 players headed to camp as non-roster invitees, Baker might have the best chance to land a spot on the Major League roster at this point. The 34-year-old brings seven years of Major League experience to a young catching crew and figures to compete with Jesus Sucre for the backup job behind Mike Zunino. Baker hit just .192 last year in 68 games with the Cubs, but carries a career .247 average and has filled backup duties with the Marlins, Padres and Cubs since breaking into the big leagues in 2008 at age 27.
2B Rickie Weeks: This one isn't official yet, as the longtime Brewer needs to pass a physical before the Mariners confirm his acquisition. But a one-year, $2 million deal is in place to bring the one-time National League All-Star in to add depth and a right-handed bat. Weeks balked at playing other positions in Milwaukee, but would presumably be looked at as a utility option who could back up at first, second, third and the corner outfield spots with a club that already has Cano at second base. Weeks hit .274 with eight home runs in a limited role last year while platooning at second base.