SEATTLE — It had been three weeks Friday since the Seattle Mariners made a move involving their 40-man roster. That sort of offseason inactivity couldn’t last — could it? — under general manager Jerry Dipoto.
Then boom. And boom. The Mariners pulled off two trades in a span of a few hours that swapped one outfielder and starting pitcher for another outfielder and starting pitcher.
First, they obtained right-hander Yovani Gallardo from Baltimore in a morning deal for outfielder Seth Smith.
That trade provided the necessary rotation inventory for an afternoon deal that netted outfielder Jarrod Dyson from Kansas City in exchange for right-hander Nathan Karns.
“We had talked multiple times with the Royals about Dyson through the course of this offseason,” Dipoto said, “and were unable to reach paydirt.
“Once we brought Gallardo onboard, we felt a little more confident in our ability to move Nate, and that was the piece that was going to get Jarrod done.”
The Mariners had searched for a veteran starter since a Nov. 23 trade sent right-hander Taijuan Walker to Arizona along with shortstop Ketel Marte in a deal for shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger and lefty reliever Zac Curtis.
Friday’s moves seemingly still leave the Mariners in need of a starting pitcher, but Dipoto said in-house candidates provide a sufficient pool to determine a fifth starter behind Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma and Gallardo.
Dipoto cited Ariel Miranda and Chris Heston and Rob Whalen as possibilities along with “rising young players” such as Max Povse, Andrew Moore and Ryan Yarbrough.
“I don’t envision adding a Cy Young contender,” Dipoto said, “but we always looking for ways to get deeper and a little more versatile.”
In contrast, Dipoto noted: “I can say with some degree of certainty, the likelihood of us doing anything more on the offensive side is remote.”
The Mariners are betting Gallardo, 30, will bounce back from an injury-interrupted season that saw him go 6-8 for the Orioles with a 5.42 ERA in 23 starts.
Gallardo missed nearly two months — April 23 to June 18 — because of tendinitis in the biceps of his right shoulder after making at least 30 starts in each of his six previous seasons.
“Last year wasn’t fun for me,” he said. “It didn’t start off the right way. Showing up for spring training late after signing late. Getting started a little bit later than normal, then having that injury.”
Gallardo was a free agent last year who didn’t sign with the Orioles until Feb. 25 — after rejecting a qualifying offer from Texas — and he suggested the late start led to his injury and his disappointing season.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” he said, “but the No. 1 thing is being healthy. When you’re not healthy, command is the first thing (affected). It was just frustrating.”
Gallardo is a 10-year veteran who is 108-83 with a 3.79 ERA in 270 career games, including 267 starts.
“Last year,” Dipoto said, “he went through his worst year as a big leaguer (after) coming off a string of not missing a start dating back to 2007. This guy was good for 190-plus innings, 12 or 13 wins and a 3.50 or better ERA like clockwork.
“The ballpark should be a better fit for him … Yovani has transitioned into more of a fly-ball than ground-ball guy, and I feel our outfield defense can certainly enhance him as well.”
Dyson, 32, adds to that outfield defense. He is a left-handed hitter who set career highs last season by batting .278 with a .340 on-base percentage. He also stole 30 bases in 107 games.
“He’s an elite-level defender,” Dipoto said. “He’s dynamic on the bases. A fearless base-stealer. The combination of Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martin and Jean Segura … it’s a very athletic group.
“On average, those guys bring in about 100 stolen bases.”
Dyson had a plus-24 rating over the last two years in runs saved above average, but speed is his defining quality. After scoring from third base early in his career on a pop-up to the infield, he shrugged and said: “That’s what speed do.”
It became his catchphrase.
Now, Dyson is looking to bring that speed to the Northwest — along with a championship mindset. He played on two pennant-winning clubs in Kansas City, including the 2015 World Series champions.
“I’m pretty pumped about it,” he said in an interview on SiriusXM. “I’m ready to take on a new challenge in my life and become a Seattle Mariner. Just go out there and continue to play the game the way I’ve been taught to play it.
“I’ve got one goal in mind: To win a championship.”
The Mariners also received cash from the Orioles to help bridge the difference in salaries. Gallardo will make $11 million this season, and his contract contains a club option for 2018 at $13 million with a $2 million buyout clause.
Smith will make $7 million this season before becoming a free agent. He batted .249 last season with 16 homers and a career-high 63 RBI in 137 games but, increasingly, the Mariners saw him as a defensive liability.
Even so, Smith’s departure created the need for a veteran outfielder to counter the youth in a group likely to include three rookies — Mitch Haniger, Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia — in addition to Martin.
“Jarrod and Leonys Martin will play some combination of left and center,” Dipoto said. “We intend for Mitch Haniger to get regular reps, likely, in right field with Gamel and Heredia fighting it out for playing time otherwise.
“This allows us to continue the development of the young players while we improved our speed/defense game. It really helps with our run-prevention.”
Dyson could be a short-term addition; he will be eligible for free agency after next season, which is one reason the Royals were willing to part with him. Karns has at least four more years of club control.
But the Mariners deemed Karns, 29, to be expendable after he went 6-2 with a 5.15 ERA in 22 games before suffering a season-ending back injury in late July.
Karns opened last season in the rotation but shifted to the bullpen in late June after a series of inconsistent outings. The Mariners had planned to return Karns to the rotation in spring training.