The offseason was a long one.
With the Mariners fresh off of a long campaign that saw them unable to overcome severe pitching woes, the offseason game plan seemed simple: go get a starting pitcher capable of being a sturdy force in the middle of the rotation. Given Jerry Dipoto’s love for trades, a move getting pulled off by mid-December or earlier seemed inevitable. Everything was fine. All was well.
Weeks went by and no solution appeared. Depth pieces, such as Rob Whalen and Chris Heston, were brought in. Intriguing pitching prospect Max Povse came over in a trade. Innings eater Yovani Gallardo was brought in from Baltimore. Plenty of moves had been made, and yet, it was early January and the Mariners were still without that mid-rotation piece. If people were squirming before, they were now running with pitchforks and demanding answers. A rotation of Hernandez-Paxton-Iwakuma-Gallardo-(Insert Pile Member) was scary in all the wrong ways.
Then, finally, on January 11th, the Mariners sent LHP Ryan Yarbrough, SS Carlos Vargas, and CF Mallex Smith to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for LHP Drew Smyly. It wasn’t the perfect solution–Smyly comes to Seattle with his fair share of faults–but given all of the realistic options that appeared to be on the table, the Mariners could’ve done a lot worse.
Smyly’s ceiling isn’t what it once was, but he still managed to put up a 2.0 fWAR in what seemed to be a down year for the southpaw: his HR/9 shot up to 1.64 while his ground-ball (31.3%) and Left on Base (67.7%) percentages were both career-lows. It all resulted in a 4.49 FIP and 4.51 xFIP, both the worst marks of his career by a significant margin.
And once again, despite all of the struggles, his fWAR would’ve ranked third on the Mariners a year ago, behind only James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma. If he manages to regress to the mean in the slightest manner in 2017, he could very well be the second or third-most valuable starting pitcher on the staff.
His ability to limit free passes is still there and the swing-and-miss potential was evident despite the small drop in velocity he experienced across the board. If Safeco Field works out for Smyly the way Dipoto and Co. envision, they could have a significant piece here:
“That’s one of the first things Jerry told me when I got the call was we’re gonna have a great defense. ‘We think this ballpark is built for a pitcher like yourself,’ and that’s exciting to hear,” Smyly said.
The offseason has been long, but it is just about over. The Mariners emerge from it all with a roster that could be perhaps their best shot at a winner in the current window. Trade deadline action withstanding, Drew Smyly represents the final piece to a puzzle sixteen years in the making. May he fit effortlessly and spectacularly.
(Note: if you’re interested in a couple in-depth pieces on Smyly, Jake Mailhot took a look at his home run issue back in mid-January and JJ Keller put up this FanPost on Smyly nearly a month before the Mariners traded for the lefty)