Mariners looking to fill needs at GM Meetings

Corner outfielder, first-base help are high on Dipoto's list

Mariners looking to fill needs at GM Meetings

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Mariners were one of the most active teams in baseball last offseason, employing a strategy that general manager Jerry Dipoto described as "heavy lifting and effectively recreating the way we played."

This offseason, Dipoto is focused on building on that plan.

"I would imagine our volume is going to be taken down a couple of notches, but we still have a fair number of issues to address," Dipoto said on Tuesday at the General Managers Meetings. "We do have some holes on our Major League roster that we do have to address."

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The Mariners are in the market for a corner outfielder -- Norichika Aoki was claimed off waivers by the Astros last week -- along with a right-handed-hitting first-base option to complement Daniel Vogelbach. Both Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee are free agents.

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The club did add a piece on Monday when it acquired veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz, 37, from the Dodgers in exchange for left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuno. Ruiz will serve as the backup to Mike Zunino.

"We feel very confident that Carlos Ruiz both provides a good backup and provides someone that in the instance that someone goes down for a period of time, he can step in," Dipoto said. "We feel like between Mike and Carlos, we have two start-worthy type of guys, which is uncommon in today's game."

Add in Jesus Sucre, Tyler Marlette and Marcus Littlewood, along with a possible catching addition at Triple-A, and Dipoto said his club feels good about the organization's depth behind the plate.

"Those five guys constitute our catching depth," Dipoto said. "[Marlette] made a lot of progress this year in both the batter's box and behind the plate. Tyler has really created a niche for himself in the Fall League. He's stepped out and had a very good Fall League, particularly swinging the bat. And as you find out, the more you swing the bat, the more people think you can catch. He's done enough to promote himself. [Littlewood] has had a nice and very quiet coming-out party as a catcher."

A left-handed reliever is also on the Mariners' wish list. And yes, Dipoto is aware Nuno was a lefty out of the bullpen.

"We do feel like that is an area of the free-agent market that's more robust than others," Dipoto said. "In losing Vidal Nuno, we felt we lost a situational arm for us, but more of a 12th guy. A multi-inning reliever and a backup starter, we didn't really use Nuno as a situational lefty for a reason. We thought his strengths were in other areas."

Returning starters Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Ariel Miranda and Nathan Karns provide a position of strength in the rotation. It also gives Dipoto a potential trade chip to acquire a position player or two.

Dipoto's phone has been ringing.

"We do have some upper-level impact [pitching] on the way and we got some guys in the Fall League that are really thriving as well," he said. "It's been a really positive year for us starting pitching-wise and I'm not entirely sure we have the ability to upgrade. And as a matter of fact, as I think it relates to the other 29 clubs, the depth is probably a little bit more than most and we probably receive more calls on who we might be willing to move."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.