Adding some interesting pieces to the puzzle
While outfielder Ryan Langerhans is the familiar name among four players signed by the Mariners on Tuesday to Minor League contracts with an invite to the Major League camp, there are a couple interesting prospects in the group.
The signing of catcher Chris Gimenez, for instance, could go a long way toward explaining why the club decided it was safe to designate Rob Johnson for assignment on Monday.
If Johnson isn’t traded in the next nine days, he could accept a similar non-roster Minor League offer. But if not, Gimenez is a guy new manager Eric Wedge is familiar with from the Cleveland system.
At 27, he’s only had a couple cups of coffee in the big leagues at this point and hasn’t hit a lick in his minimal chances. But he was a well-regarded prospect with Cleveland and is a versatile athlete who was only converted to catcher in ’06.
He’s capable of playing the outfield — and appeared there in two games for the Indians last year — as well as the corner infield spots. At one point, he was regarded as a third baseman coming out of the University of Nevada, so the guy is fairly athletic.
Thus the Mariners essentially have swapped Gimenez for Johnson, who was destined for Tacoma already barring injuries to either Miguel Olivo or Adam Moore in camp. And Gimenez has put up some pretty decent numbers offensively in the minors, so there could be some upside there.
The Mariners also brought in a couple relievers with Major League experience in hard-throwing righty Denny Bautista and situational lefty Royce Ring.
As I wrote in my headline story on the website, Bautista is an interesting fellow as a guy who brings mid-90s heat — and a history of not always being able to harness it. He put up some intriguing numbers with San Francisco last year, holding batters to a .205 average and striking out 44 in 33 2/3 innings.
But he also walked 27 and struggled in tense situations, which is why the Giants eventually let him go in early August down the stretch.
At 30, Bautista has bounced among six franchises over the last seven seasons. Obviously he can tempt teams with his power arm and the Mariners will see if he fits in this spring. His contract allows him to request his release if he’s not on the 40-man roster by March 25, so the club might have to make a decision on him if he’s throwing well in Peoria.
Ring, 29, was a first-round pick of the White Sox in ’02, the 18th overall selection, and has spent parts of five Major League seasons with the Mets, Padres, Braves and Yankees. He’s primarily a lefty specialist, which is something the Mariners are shy on with Garrett Olson the only southpaw at this point in the ‘pen.
Then there’s Langerhans, who provides outfield insurance as a solid glove man who hasn’t hit much with Seattle but has a good approach, draws lots of walks and obviously is a known commodity to the Mariners’ brass.
Interesting group for a collection of Minor League contracts as Jack Zduriencik goes about his business of creating more competitive situations for this spring.
(Photo of Chris Gimenez taken by Jeff Gross of Getty Images)