Over the weekend, the Mariners decided that Jeremy Bonderman was a big league pitcher. They did this based on his comeback attempt in Tacoma that produced a 4.52 ERA/4.49 FIP to accompany his terrible 4.66 K/9. Maybe the organization just wanted to give him a shot because they felt he earned it after all his hard work, local boy completes comeback attempt. Bonderman's from Kennewick, and while he's just 30 years old, he hasn't been an effective major league pitcher in seven seasons. He wasn't effective in AAA either, and yet this still earned him a start. Jeremy Bonderman is bad, and there isn't much room for debate.
All of this would have been simply annoying if it didn't come at a cost. Not only did Bonderman get torched yesterday, but his promotion came at the expense of 24 year old Vinnie Catricala, who was once a rising prospect in the Mariners organization in 2011. Catricala, a 10th round pick out of Hawaii in 2009, put together a .347/.420/.632 line in AA Jackson in 2011. While his defense across corner infield and corner outfield spots was a work in progress (read: terrible), his bat was impressive. When Catricala hit AAA in 2012, it all fell apart, and he only posted a .229/.292/.348 line. His struggles forced him to start 2013 back in Jackson, where after a brutal April, his bat finally started to show some of the life it once had, posting a .325/.429/.909 line over the last four weeks.
Just as Catricala began to hit his stride, the Mariners chose to designate him for assignment for Bonderman. Meanwhile, Erasmo Ramirez made his 2nd rehab start in AAA Tacoma, giving up 2 runs over 5 2/3 innings while striking out 4. As Bonderman prepares for his next start, Erasmo will make his 3rd rehab start, and there seems to be little doubt that he will take Bonderman's rotation spot as soon as he's ready, which could be as soon as next week.
Bringing up Jeremy Bonderman may cost this team Vinnie Catricala, and it might not. The isn't about what comes of this immediately, it's about making a poor decision that they didn't have to make. When the Mariners have pitchers in their organization who can be equally ineffective for two or three starts (Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi), there is no need to promote a player who simply hasn't earned the spot he's been given. While the organization didn't need to DFA anybody at this point, they certainly didn't need to DFA Catricala when other options are available.
After the news broke that Jesus Montero would be out 4-6 weeks, some discussed moving him to the 60-day DL, as the timeline for a meniscus injury like that seems optimistic at best. In order to do so, the team would first have to transfer him to the MLB roster, then put him on the 60-day, which would free up a spot on the 40 man roster. But this raised several concerns. Montero would be the third person on the 60-day DL to go along with Josh Kinney and Stephen Pryor, only creating a further roster crunch as they all return from injuries. Additionally, Montero would make an MLB salary for his time on the disabled list as opposed to his AAA salary, and it would cost the Mariners thousands as they paid for his rehab. While that's probably not a deal breaker, it had to have been a consideration.
The other option would have been to cut ties with Lucas Luetge, who hasn't been a remotely effective MLB pitcher in nearly a year. Luetge allowed a .877 OPS against in the 2nd half of 2012, and a .949 OPS against in 2013. He's a situational lefty who gets shelled by right-handers, and the Mariners already have lefties Charlie Furbush and Oliver Perez, who have both held lefties to an OPS under .600 this season. Still, Luetge is more likely to get claimed than Catricala, given the constant need for bullpen arms around the league.
After the fatally flawed decision to call up Bonderman, it seems that the Mariners weighed their options and felt Catricala was less likely to be claimed than Luetge, despite his May surge. I would agree, but then again Francisco Martinez was acquired by the Tigers after his DFA, and he had a .496 OPS/.233 wOBA in AA. Anything's possible, and you never know what organization will take a liking to a player who's been cast off, and somebody may think Catricala still has potential.
This is a lot of words about a move that probably won't matter in the long run. Catricala may clear waivers, Bonderman may get lit up again, and the Mariners may have lost all the games that Hector Noesi or Blake Beavan started instead of him. The Mariners may lose Catricala, and he may never figure out how to hit pitching above AA. It's the classic example of bad process/questionable results, and even though this move is likely not to make a great impact on this team, it could - and eventually those decisions can lead to serious regret. This is a weird game, one where Mike Morse becomes an offensive threat and a key contributor. One where Matt Tuiasosopo becomes a powerful bench bat. One where Jeff Clement bahaha sorry.
For the sake of all of us, let's hope this isn't one of those bad, seemingly insignificant decisions that could have easily been avoided.