Photo: Shari Sommerfeld
Benajmin Joseph Gamel
Height: 5'11" Weight: 187
Bats/Throws: Left / Left
Born: 05/17/1992 in Neptune Beach, Florida
Acquired: In trade from the New York Yankees, for Juan De Paula and Jio Orozco (08/31/2016)
MLB Debut: 05/06/2016
Free Agent after: 2022 season
The trade that brought Ben Gamel to Seattle was a bit of a head-scratcher. Why would the Yankees, those bastions of greed and avarice, part with the just-named MVP of the International League (Triple-A) for two guys with marginal potential in the low-low-low minors? Was Jerry Dipoto just that good a negotiator? Did the Yankees know something we didn't about Gamel? What was the catch? Apparently, there wasn't any. New York had a logjam in their outfield and needed to free up a spot on their 40-man roster and Dipoto gave them a way to do it. Call it seizing an opportunity—Dipoto knew the Yankees' situation and used it to his advantage.
The result was a steal of a deal for the Mariners. Gamel didn't show much in a few September at-bats after the trade and didn't make the big-league team out of camp in '17, but when Mitch Haniger went down with an oblique strain a few weeks into the season, Gamel came up to take his place and raked. After two weeks he was batting .373/.475/.588, and by the time Haniger returned there was no getting Gamel out of the lineup. Of course, he didn't sustain those stratospheric numbers; the league began to figure him out and he fell back to Earth in the second half. August was especially tough for him, as he seemed to lose his plate discipline and generate a lot of weak groundballs on the way to a .161 average for the month. He recovered somewhat in September, but it remains to be seen if Gamel and the league have reached an equilibrium or if he's just a streaky hitter equally prone to red-hot tears and ice-cold slumps.
Early in spring training, Gamel suffered a similar injury to the one that befell Haniger last April. The strained oblique will keep Gamel out of action for the first several weeks of the season, allowing more playing time to go to Guillermo Heredia and Ichiro Suzuki.