The Mariners Thursday exercised their 2017 option on OF Steve Smith but declined to pick up same on C Chris Iannetta, making him a free agent. With OF Franklin Gutierrez, 1B/DH Dae-Ho Lee, 1B/DH Adam Lind and RHP Drew Storen also officially becoming free agents Thursday, Seattle’s 40-man roster now includes 35 players.
In unrelated developments, the Houston Astros claimed OF Nori Aoki off waivers, and the Mariners reinstated RHP Nathan Karns from the 60-day disabled list.
“We appreciate all that Nori did for us this season,” said Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto. “Particularly in the second half, he made some key contributions to our success.”
Smith, 34, hit .249 with 62 runs, 15 doubles, 16 home runs and 63 RBIs in 137 games last season. His 63 RBIs was a career high and his 16 home runs were the second-most of his career. Smith also hit .326 with runners in scoring position, 12th best in the American League.
In parts of 10 MLB seasons with Colorado (2007-11), Oakland (2012-13), San Diego (2014) and Seattle (2015-c), Smith is a career .261 hitter with 113 home runs and 426 RBIs in 1,138 games.
Iannetta, 33, hit .210 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 94 games. He appeared in 70 of the Mariners’ 89 games before the All-Star Break, but in 24 of Seattle’s 73 games following the break after the club recalled Mike Zunino from AAA Tacoma.
Iannetta signed with Seattle as a free agent Nov. 23. In parts of 11 MLB seasons, he has hit .229 with 107 home runs and 402 RBIs in 946 games with Colorado, Los Angeles-AL and Seattle.
Aoki hit .283 last season with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 118 games. Aoki hit .339 in 51 second-half games and also appeared in 24 games with AAA Tacoma, where he hit .323. Aoki signed with Seattle as a free agent Dec. 3.
Karns, 28, went 6-2 with a 5.15 ERA in 22 games (15 starts). He was placed on the 15-day DL with a low back strain July 30 and transferred to the 60-day DL Sept. 1.
Aoki was almost certainly the team’s leading hitter the last two months of the season. Not great fielder. But he was the best sparkplug in the leadoff spot and the only capable leadoff hitter they had all year. Not sure they have someone in the system that can replace him in April.
Not terribly surprised at the release of Aoki since he was going back and forth between the M’s and Tacoma all season. It’s interesting though to see him go out this way when the club had shown strong interest in him the two seasons prior before acquiring him. I thought at the very least he and Smith could platoon one another in left. I agree with Kevin that there isn’t a capable leadoff hitter on the 40 man roster right now. Also a bit surprised at Iannetta’s departure. I’m assuming Clevenger will not be retained so the club must have a lot of confidence in Zunino and IMO that’s a bit early right now. To call batting .207 a marked improvement, which it is for Zunino, is troubling for the catcher position for the M’s.
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