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40 in 40: Yovani Gallardo

Spectacular? Exciting? But there’s reason to be optimistic with Yovani Gallardo.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, the Mariners made the move we’d been bracing for since November by trading Seth Smith. Sure, he wasn’t anything special, but there was reason to expect something semi-valuable back in return, right? He’s a useful outfield platoon bat on a reasonable one-year deal. At the very least, we could probably recoup a bullpen arm, or a decent AA prospect or two.

Instead, we got a big steaming mess in the form of Yovani Gallardo.

Less than a year after signing him to a two-year deal with a team option for a third season, the Orioles jumped ship, giving Gallardo up after he posted career-worst numbers. Wanna see them?

No, you really don’t. But here they are anyway:

  • ERA: 5.42. Previous career-worst: 4.18.
  • FIP: 5.04. Previous career-worst: 4.00.
  • fWAR: 0.6. Previous career-worst: 2.0.

Even when you get into some nitty-gritty numbers, things are ugly. 4.65 walks per nine innings is awful, and 1.22 HR/9 suggest he was quite prone to the longball as well. He let hitters tee off, allowing 42.9% of contact to the pull side, and all of this happened with fairly normal velocity.

So, in a word, yikes. Is there anything left in the tank here?

Fifth starters are supposed to be unexciting. I mean, shoot, even “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” doesn’t go past the #2 spot in the rotation. And after the rotation injuries the M’s suffered last season, it seems pretty clear that Jerry Dipoto decided to prioritize something that Gallardo has in spades: durability.

Before his 23 starts last season, Gallardo had made at least 30 starts in every season since 2009. While with Milwaukee, though short of spectacular, Gallardo put up solid numbers, with just one year short of a 105 ERA+ and a FIP below 4.00 every season that he spent as a full-time starter.

Dipoto’s bet is on a bounce-back season from Gallardo. And should the 30-year-old fail to produce, Dipoto & Co. have worked to bolster the team’s pitching depth, with guys like Chris Heston and Rob Whalen able to cover in a pinch. It’s not pretty, and there’s really not that much reason to expect a huge year from Gallardo - you basically have to convince yourself that his shoulder injury derailed his ‘16 campaign. Which, well, you don’t like talking yourself into a pitcher having a shoulder injury.

But we’re not that far removed from the likes of Erasmo Ramirez, Aaron Harang, and Joe Saunders getting a bunch of starts. (Side note: Harang made 22 starts in 2013! His ERA+ was 64! I mean, holy crap!) Compared to that motley crew, things are certainly better in 2017.

So, yes, the case can be made that the M’s should’ve signed Jason Hammel to man the fifth spot. Yes, Yovani Gallardo starts have the potential to be quite ugly this year. But things could be, and have been, worse.

I’ve decided to like Yovani. I’m embracing him. He might not be Mariners Dad, but he sure seems to be a pretty good dad even so.