One can make the argument there are more questions surrounding the Seattle Mariners’ 25-man roster four weeks into Cactus League play than when camp opened six weeks ago.

  • We still don’t know for sure whether or not the club will carry a right-handed first-base platoon. Gaby Sanchez was released, Ed Lucas appeared to never have much of a chance and sources told Prospect Insider Saturday that the club had made a move with Jesus Montero. Montero, who is out of options, reportedly had cleaned out his locker at Peoria Sports Complex, suggesting he either was traded, claimed off waivers and headed to his new team or cleared waivers and was outrighted to the minor leagues. This leaves Dae-Ho Lee for the gig. But the club has another option; don’t carry such a player on the roster. Instead, carry a player that actually can manage his way around the bases and manage at position off of first base. You know, add value to the club without robbing it of roster flexibility and versatility. That player is Stefen Romero, even over Shawn O’Malley. Romero profiles as a bat that eventually will hit left-handed pitching, is athletic enough to develop acceptable defensive at first and while he isn’t especially good in a corner outfield spot, he’s passable in short stints.  This is the toughest roster spot to project, but after Sunday we’ll know a lot more since Lee’s opt-out decision will come by the end of business. If he opts out, Romero probably gets the gig (or O’Malley or a player acquired in trade). If Lee does not opt out it’s not a guarantee he wins a spot on the roster as he could accept a minor league assignment, but it may be a sign he’s making the club.
  • Both O’Malley and Luis Sardinas have shown the club they handle multiple positions, but judging by how each player has been used the past 10 days or so, Sardinas clearly is the favorite to make the club out of spring training and serve as the utility infielder. Sardinas, markedly more capable at shortstop than is O’Malley over the long haul. also serves as roster insurance in case second-year player Ketel Marte struggles to bring consistent value to the club as the everyday answer at short. Chris Taylor needs someone to help him fix his swing; too flat, too long, lots of wasted motion, all leading to struggles making consistent contact and trouble with even 93 mph fastballs, which are commonplace in MLB. I wrote about the Mariners’ shortstop situation here.
  • Since the original roster projection, the Mariners added Rob Brantly to the catcher mix and by ability and spring production he and Steve Clevenger are in a dead heat. Clevenger is an overwhelming favorite to be the backup to Chris Iannetta based on a more consistent bat. Brantly may actually be a slightly better defensive player overall, but scouts see him as the least likely to contribute consistently. The No. 2 catcher likely gets 60 starts or so in 2016, but the Mariners won’t necessarily need Clevenger to make all of those. Mike Zunino could make himself available this summer — in September, if not forcing his way back to the big leagues sooner. Brantly is out of options, but so is Clevenger.
  • Since Cactus League play started four weeks back, the club has seen three projected opening-day relievers fall into the ‘won’t-be-ready-for-opening-day’ category — Evan Scribner,  Ryan Cook and Charlie Furbush. Justin De Fratus was DFA’d to clear a roster spot and won’t start the year in the majors due to a loss of arm strength the club expects to return early in the year. So, Aside from Steve Cishek, Joquin Benoit, Vidal Nuno and Tony Zych, there is some uncertainty in the bullpen. So much that GM Jerry Dipoto reportedly is looking for an arm to help in the back end. It will be interesting to see whether or not Donn Roach’s ability to throw strikes earns him a spot, and if the club holds onto Mike Montgomery in a long and middle role, knowing he’s capable of starting and throwing strikes if the need arises. Furbush’s injury situation doesn’t necessarily impact Montgomery’s status, but it doesn’t hurt his chances. Nuno will start the year as the main left-on-left option. Joel Peralta may have pitched himself into a job to start the season with the injuries piling up, though I’ve been told by scouts that Casey Coleman is a viable middle-relief option in the short term, thanks to a 55-grade breaking ball. I’m not convinced, but we’ll see. Blake Parker has the best numbers — 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 4 H, 8 IP — but don’t bet on the M’s standing pat here.
  • As for the starting rotation, I believe it’s set, though understandably Dipoto, Scott Servais and company will not say so publicly. Neither James Paxton nor Nate Karns has shown well in March, but Karns, clearly, is the better bet to find some level of consistency and settle in as the No. 4 or 5 starter. Paxton can be optioned to Tacoma to get right and eventually give the club another option when they need one down the road. And no, I do not believe Paxton needs to be banished to the bullpen. His inability to throw strikes consistently isn’t necessarily mitigated by shorter stints. In fact, Paxton has a history of pitching better after 20-30 pitches in terms of control and command. Limiting him to 1-2 innings seems to exacerbate his problems — control, command caused by inconsistent mechanics — not hide them. He could very well be a terrific reliever at some point, but not until his issues are addressed successfully, and if that happens, why not start him?

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Projected 25-Man Roster: Starting-to-shape-up-sorta-but-not-really Edition
Pos. Player
SP Felix Hernandez R/R
SP Hisashi Iwakuma
SP Wade Miley L/L
SP Taijuan Walker R/R
SP Nate Karns R/R
RP Mike Montgomery R/R
RP Donn Roach R/R
RP Vidal Nuno
RP Tony Zych
RP Joel Peralta L/L
RP Joaquin Benoit R/R
RP Steve Cishek
1B Adam Lind
2B Robinson Cano L/R
3B Kyle Seager L/R
SS Ketel Marte
C Chris Iannetta R/R
DH Nelson Cruz R/R
OF Nori Aoki
OF Leonys Martin L/R
OF Seth Smith
C Steve Clevenger L/R
IF Luis Sardinas S/R
OF Franklin Gutierrez R/R
1B/OF Stefen Romero R/R

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 and spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio. He now serves as the Executive Copy Editor at Data Skrive, a tech company that manipulates data to provide automated content to clients including the AP, BetMGM, USA Today, and ESPN. Find Jason's baseball podcast, Baseball Things, right here.

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