The Mariners Monday signed veteran free agent INF Danny Espinosa to a major league contract to take the roster spot vacated by INF Taylor Motter, optioned to AAA Tacoma Monday. Espinosa, 30, designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels July 16 and released four days later, was available Monday night when Seattle began a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field.
In a separate move Monday, the Mariners transferred RHP Hishashi Iwakuma to the 60-day disabled list with continued inflammation in his right shoulder.
The Angels acquired Espinosa from the Washington Nationals in December in an attempt to fill a hole at second base. Espinosa played strong defense but couldn’t hit, batting .162/.237/.276 with six homers in 254 plate appearances. As Espinosa struggled, he lost playing time to Cliff Pennington and former Mariner Nick Franklin (2013-14), finally becoming expendable.
A third-round pick by the Nationals in 2008, Espinosa played seven seasons in Washington before he was traded. The native of Santa Ana, CA., is a career .221 hitter, but has 98 home runs 856 games and twice (2011, 2015) hit more than 20 in a season. Espinosa hit a career-high .247 in 2012, but also led the National League that year by whiffing 189 times.
Given that the Mariners have Robinson Cano at second and Jean Segura at short, Espinosa won’t get regular playing time. If he finds the swing that deserted him in LA, he can help as a pinch-hitter as well as fill in at third, first and in left field.
Manager Scott Servais said before the game that Motter will get regular playing time in Tacoma that hopefully would help him get his swing back.
Iwakuma, 36, went on the 10-day disabled list May 10. He made a rehab start with A Modesto June 14 and one with Tacoma June 19. But the shoulder didn’t respond well after either outing. He is 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA in six starts with the Mariners this season.
Servais said the move was procedural since Iwakuma had already been on the DL more than 60 days. Iwakuma is throwing on flat ground, but no timetable was given for a return. in 2016, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder went 16-12 with a 4.12 ERA in 33 starts. The Tokyo native has spent his six-year MLB career with Seattle.