The Mariners announced several roster moves Friday, including reassigning star outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic to minor league camp. The decision means he won’t make the Mariners’ Opening Day roster. The team also reassigned fellow outfielder Julio Rodriguez and righties Brady Lail and Paul Sewald. Additionally, righty Ljay Newsome, lefty Aaron Fletcher and outfielder Braden Bishop were optioned.
This move is particularly notable in the wake of comments made by former Mariners CEO Kevin Mather, who resigned in February after suggesting the team would manipulate Kelenic’s service time. Mather made it clear that the Mariners would keep him out of the majors for the first month of the season in order to gain an extra year of team control.
“Probably Triple-A Tacoma for a month, and then he will likely be in left field at T-Mobile Park for the next six or seven years,” he said.
Kelenic went on to miss some time this spring with a Grade 2 knee strain, but he looked worthy of a major league roster spot upon his return. The 21-year-old came back to slash.333/.478/.778 with two home runs, albeit over just 18 at-bats. Kelenic has also been highly productive in the minors, where he most recently batted .253/.315/.542 with six homers during a 21-game, 92-PA Double-A debut in 2019. The former sixth overall pick – whom the Mariners acquired in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz blockbuster with the Mets in December 2018 – currently ranks as a consensus top prospect, with MLB.com placing him fourth overall. Rodriguez ranks fifth, though he’s not quite as close to the bigs as Kelenic.
With Kelenic out of the Opening Day picture, the Mariners could begin with Taylor Trammell as the starting left fielder alongside center fielder and reigning AL Rookie of the Kyle Lewis and right fielder Mitch Haniger. Jake Fraley and Jose Marmolejos are also outfield options on the 40-man roster.