Mariners News: Seattle Inks INF Benji Gonzalez to a Minor-League Deal


The Mariners have added another name to the crowed group of players competing for a backup infield job in 2016

The Seattle Mariners have reached an agreement with Benji Gonzalez on a minor-league deal. The 25-year-old infielder will likely serve as organizational depth for the Mariners in 2016.

Originally selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 7th round of the 2008 draft, Gonzalez has had a painfully slow climb through the minor-leagues. He reached the A level as a 19-year-old in 2009, but failed to impress. Gonzalez only appeared in three games with the West Virginia Power, hitting .250.

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Gonzalez spent the entire 2010 season with the Power, and he struggled mightily in the South Atlantic League. He posted a .236/.300/.278 slash line with 1 home run, 35 RBI and 18 stolen bases.

Despite Gonzalez’s lackluster production in West Virginia, the Pirates opted to place him with their A+ affiliate in Bradenton during the 2011 season. His struggles at the dish continued to plague him as he hit a meager .222 with 1 home run, 34 RBI and 19 steals across 120 games.

The Puerto Rico product would repeat with the Bradenton Pirates in 2012 and 2013. Gonzalez posted a combined .249/.322/.314 slash line in 775 plate appearances. He clubbed a pair of home runs, drove in 45 runs and swiped 35 bags.

Gonzalez joined the San Diego Padres organization for the 2014 season, and he seemed to find his stroke with the Lake Elsinore Storm. He had his best season as a pro in the California League, hitting .306 with 3 home runs, 41 RBI and 13 stolen bases.

Gonzalez played at four different levels this past season, but the bulk of the year was split between the San Antonio Missions and the El Paso Chihuahuas. He had mixed results during his first taste of AA ball with the Missions, hitting .246 with 1 home run, 13 RBI and 2 stolen bases. Oddly, his fortunes improved dramatically following his promotion to AAA. Gonzalez slashed .315/.362/.500 across 17 games with the Chihuahuas.

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Primarily a shortstop during his minor-league career, Gonzalez also has found success playing a utility role. He has seen time at second base, third base and all three outfield spots. Gonzalez is a decent defender, but he is unlikely to challenge for a Gold Glove anytime soon.

The Mariners currently have a log jam of talent in the infield blocking Gonzalez’s path to Seattle. Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Ketel Marte are locked in as starters on opening day. Luis Sardinas, Chris Taylor and Shawn O’Malley are expected to get an opportunity to compete for the utility infielder job this spring in Peoria.

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The odds are long for Benji Gonzalez to make an impact for the Mariners in 2016. However, his defensive versatility works in his favour. I expect Gonzalez to open the season with the M’s AA affiliate in Jackson or with the Tacoma Rainiers in AAA. There is a chance Gonzalez could make his big league debut at some point next season in the Emerald City.