Mariners infielder Josh Wilson fighting for a roster spot
Mariners infielder Josh Wilson signed a $725,000 contract in December but that's no guarantee he'll make the Mariners' roster for opening day.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — Josh Wilson wasn't spending a dime after the biggest payday of his major-league career.
For a journeyman celebrating his 30th birthday on Saturday, with a dozen years as a professional ballplayer, the $725,000 contract Wilson signed with the Mariners in December seemed his best bet yet at easing his job concerns in spring training. But there was the tiny little detail about the deal being non-guaranteed, which is routine with all contracts for arbitration-eligible players, and wisely made Wilson stop and think.
"I haven't gotten the money yet," Wilson said with a chuckle this week. "I'm not going to go out and spend the money when I'm not guaranteed of getting it."
And now, with the Mariners facing a plethora of roster decisions, Wilson is back on all-too-familiar ground. The Mariners traded for shortstop Brendan Ryan and signed infielder Adam Kennedy to a minor-league deal soon after signing Wilson.
And now, Wilson could again be the odd man out.
The big difference this spring is that Wilson is actually on Seattle's 40-man roster, something that can work in a player's favor. A year ago, Wilson began the season in Class AAA and Matt Tuiasosopo was kept as a backup infielder, largely because he was already on the roster and did not need a spot cleared.
But even having the roster protection he lacked last spring might not help Wilson now.
The Mariners would like to keep nonroster invite Kennedy as their primary backup infielder. And with the Mariners planning to add as many as five non-roster players, they must decide who to bump in order to make room.
They did some of that Friday by returning Rule 5 draft pick Jose Flores to Cleveland, leaving two roster spots open. They can place injured reliever Mauricio Robles on the 60-day disabled list to free up another, but still need two more — meaning they could lose a minor-league prospect or two.
Or, the team could spare one of the prospects and take Wilson off the roster. That would expose him to waivers and the possibility of being claimed by another team.
It could also result in Wilson heading to the minors, minus his December deal. Wilson could also be traded if the Mariners feel they can bolster the roster that way.
"That's just part of the game," Wilson said with a shrug. "I'm not going to sit here and worry about it. If another team claims me, I'm going to go to that team and do all I can. If they keep me here, I'm going to do my best to stick with this team."
Wilson went right up to the final days of spring training last year before being demoted in a roster crunch. He was eventually added by the Mariners in-season, hitting .227 with a .572 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in a career-high 108 games.
But despite that lofty games total, which helped him qualify for arbitration for the first time, he's just as in-the-dark this spring about his future.
"I never go into any spring training thinking I have a job," Wilson said. "There's always competition and things that can happen. So, even with the contract, it never felt any different. I knew it wasn't guaranteed and I knew when I signed it that they'd probably be getting other guys, especially after we lost 100 games last year."
The team could keep Wilson as a second backup infielder, though much depends on what happens next with Franklin Gutierrez likely bound for the disabled list. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said Friday one more test was being done on Gutierrez's ailing stomach and that the center fielder would go on the DL if he can't play this weekend.
The Mariners are expected to keep Michael Saunders and Ryan Langerhans for opening day if Gutierrez can't make it. So, Wilson's fate might depend on whether the team feels it needs another emergency outfielder.
Wilson's main competition is Tuiasosopo, viewed as a corner infielder and left fielder.
Wilson plays shortstop, and occasionally second and third, though he lacks the bigger bat of a typical corner guy and has never played outfield in the majors. The Mariners played Wilson in three games at first base last season and he says it's where he feels most improved.
"Obviously, any time you play a position at the major league-level, it's something you're going to feel more comfortable doing," he said.
All that remains is figuring out whether the Mariners are still comfortable with Wilson. Or, whether they'd rather sacrifice his roster spot and keep someone else.
• In Peoria Friday night, LHP Erik Bedard had another strong start, allowing just three hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 5-1/3 scoreless innings of a split-squad 6-0 win over the Dodgers. Bedard (3-0) lowered his Cactus League earned-run average to 1.13. Matt Tuiasosopo went 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBI and Miguel Olivo hit a two-run single for Seattle.
• In Mesa, a split-squad Mariners team lost 6-3 to the Cubs. Justin Smoak doubled twice and Jack Cust and Adam Moore hit RBI singles for Seattle. LHP Aaron Laffey, competing for a spot in the bullpen, allowed three hits and a run in four innings.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com.
CUBS 6, MARINERS (SS) 3
|Ja.Wilson 2b||3||1||0||0||Je.Baker 2b||2||0||0||0|
|Ryan ss||3||0||1||0||DeWitt 2b||2||2||2||1|
|Cust dh||4||1||1||1||S.Castro ss||4||0||1||3|
|Smoak 1b||4||1||2||1||K.Hill c||0||0||0||0|
|Langerhns cf||3||0||0||0||Byrd cf||3||1||1||0|
|D.Almonte cf||1||0||0||0||Grabow p||0||0||0||0|
|L.Rodrigz 3b||2||0||0||0||Mateo p||0||0||0||0|
|K.Seager 3b||1||0||0||0||Ar.Ramirz 3b||3||1||1||0|
|A.Moore c||4||0||1||1||R.Jhnsn ph-cf||1||0||1||1|
|C.Gimenez lf||3||0||0||0||Soto c||1||0||0||0|
|M.Wilson rf||3||0||0||0||Ridling ph-1b||0||0||0||0|
|Seattle (ss)||200 100 000||—||3|
|Chicago||000 110 40x||—||6|
|C.Jimenez L, 2-1||2/3||4||4||4||2||0|
|Marshall W, 1-2||1||0||0||0||0||1|
MARINERS (SS) 6, DODGERS (SS) 0
|Furcal ss||3||0||0||0||Ichiro rf||4||0||0||0|
|Ju.Castro ss||0||0||0||0||Figgins 3b||4||1||1||0|
|I.De Jesus 2b||4||0||1||0||Bradley lf||3||1||1||0|
|Uribe 3b||2||0||2||0||A.Kenndy 2b||3||1||1||0|
|E.Herrera 3b||1||0||0||0||Olivo c||3||1||1||2|
|Kemp cf||3||0||0||0||S.Baron c||1||0||0||0|
|S.Caseres 1b||1||0||0||0||M.Saundrs cf||3||1||2||0|
|Thames lf||3||0||0||0||Tuiasospo 1b||3||1||2||3|
|K.Russell rf||1||0||1||0||Jo.Wilson ss||2||0||0||1|
|Kapler rf-cf||4||0||1||0||J.Bard dh||3||0||0||0|
|Los Angeles (ss)||000 000 000||—||0|
|Seattle (ss)||402 000 00x||—||6|
|Ely L, 2-2||4||8||6||6||2||3|
|Bedard W, 3-0||5 1/3||3||0||0||2||4|
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.