The Mariners announced a number of non-roster Spring Training invitees this afternoon. Among those in camp are reliever Taylor Williams and catcher Brian O’Keefe, meaning both have signed minor league deals to return to the organization.
Williams has 97 MLB appearances to his name, splitting that over four clubs. The right-hander broke into the big leagues with Milwaukee and landed with Seattle for the 2020 campaign. He struck out 19 in 13 2/3 innings through the first month-plus of the shortened season. With Seattle out of playoff contention, they flipped him to the Padres in a deal that netted then-prospect Matt Brash. It proved a coup for Seattle, as Brash quickly blossomed into a highly-regarded talent and now looks a key piece of the Seattle relief corps moving forward.
San Diego got just five outings from Williams, as he lost most of the 2021 season battling a knee injury. The Friars waived him in September 2021, and he had brief stints in the Marlins’ and Giants’ organizations before returning to the Mariners via minor league deal last summer. The 31-year-old posted a 1.14 ERA over 23 2/3 innings for Triple-A Tacoma, racking up grounders at an incredible 60% clip. With the Mariners overloaded with bullpen depth, he never got an MLB look but impressed the front office enough to get another crack this spring.
Seattle still has an excellent relief corps. The offseason trade of Erik Swanson in the Teoscar Hernández deal subtracted one player from the mix, but Seattle added the out-of-options Trevor Gott on a free agent contract. He joins Paul Sewald, Andrés Muñoz, Diego Castillo, Penn Murfee and Brash as virtual locks for the season-opening group. Matt Festa is out of options himself and probably cracks the roster, while one of Marco Gonzales or Chris Flexen could take a long relief role if not traded before Opening Day given Seattle’s rotation depth. The M’s also have offseason trade acquisition Justin Topa and nabbed Tayler Saucedo off waivers from the Mets today.
That’s a deep collection of arms, meaning Williams and other non-roster invitees like Casey Sadler, Nick Margevicius, Ryder Ryan and Riley O’Brien could have an uphill battle to the roster. Most of that group is likely to start the season with the Rainiers. Williams is out of options himself, so if he cracks the MLB roster at any point, he’d have to stick in the majors or be made available to other clubs via trade or waivers.
O’Keefe is a 29-year-old backstop who played in two games for the M’s last year. He picked up a hit and a walk in his first four MLB plate appearances. The righty-swinging catcher had a decent .253/.330/.449 line with 13 homers over 352 trips to the dish with Tacoma last year. He joins Jacob Nottingham as non-roster catchers with previous big league experience. Seattle has Cal Raleigh and Tom Murphy as their catching duo but no additional depth on the 40-man at the moment.