So Let's Clear Up This Waiving Garko Thing

Late to get to this, but Matthew and I were recording this week's podcast and we don't check news while we're talking. Which, incidentally, means that there's a fairly important bit of news missing from this week's podcast.

So as you've heard by now from one of countless people, the Mariners have elected to waive Ryan Garko. Garko, of course, has options left, meaning he didn't have to be waived, but the M's went down that path anyway in fulfilling expectation by adding Mike Sweeney to the team.

This is not what any of us expected to happen, so it comes as a surprise. The consolation all along has been that, if Sweeney made the team, Garko at least wouldn't be too far away. There would be ML-ready depth within the organization in the event that something went wrong.

But instead, Garko's gone. Or probably gone, anyway, unless he goes unclaimed, which would come as a surprise given that the Rangers have been looking for a righty first baseman for a while and Garko would keep them from having to trade for Mike Lowell. Garko could slip through waivers, but the odds are probably low.

Clearly, Garko was waived instead of optioned for a reason. What could that reason be? Listed here are the three four most probable, with the truth being any one or a combination thereof (or something else entirely!):

1) They needed the roster spot. The Mariners had a full 40-man roster and nobody eligible to go on the 60-day DL (including Erik Bedard, who they think could return sooner). To make room for Sweeney, they had to cut someone else, and there's not a lot to cut. Comes down to, what, Garko, Garrett Olson, Ryan Feierabend, and Ricky Orta? I'm not here to defend Ryan Feierabend or anything, but it's not like Garko stands out as being the best or most irreplaceable of that group. He's not a special player.

2) They hated his spring. Generally speaking, I hate the idea of making roster decisions in camp, but Ryan Garko is a pretty bad defensive first baseman, and maybe the M's just needed to see that for themselves. A lot of people remember a throw he couldn't catch a few weeks ago, and while that's one play, it seems representative of his entire month. We've heard from several people that the M's weren't impressed, and it's not like Garko was wowing anyone with his bat (.220, one homer).

3) They wanted to save some money. If Garko gets claimed, the claiming team will take on his contract. That would only save the M's about half a million dollars, but that's money that could be put towards a midseason improvement. It's not hard to see how this could be a team that could use a midseason improvement.

Update, mentioned in comments 4) Handshake agreement. Veteran players will very frequently arrive at agreements with their employers stipulating that, if they don't make the roster out of camp, they will be granted their release to look for another opportunity. Don't know if that's the case here, but it wouldn't be surprising.

Don't get me wrong - I don't like this move. Either part of it. I don't like it, because I think the evidence is that Garko's a better fit for the team, and even if he can't play first base very well, at least he can play it without putting himself at risk to get hurt. It's flexibility. But while this is a move I wouldn't have made, its timing also makes it a move to which people will overreact. The truth is, it doesn't make a huge difference. People, of course, will ask what happens if Sweeney gets hurt or sucks real bad, but righty bats aren't hard to find, and even Tommy Everidge could probably step in without completely embarrassing himself for a little while. Being without a stable, dependable righty 1B/DH is not a crippling, unsolvable problem. It's among the more solvable problems a roster can have.

Many have claimed that Sweeney was winning himself a roster spot with his red-hot spring. but this is as much about Garko looking bad as Sweeney looking good. Again, no, I wouldn't have done it. No, I'm not looking forward to relying on an ancient DH platoon again in 2010 after it underperformed in 2009. The statistical consequences here, though, aren't enormous, and this simply isn't worth getting all hot and bothered about. The M's have their reasons for doing what they do, and in a situation like this one, where the players are sufficiently comparable, it would be presumptuous of me to assume that my own analysis is superior to theirs.

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