A day after being held to just one run for the fourth consecutive game—over which Seattle is being outscored 36-4—Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has struck again, sending the Houston Astros a PTBNL or cash in exchange for outfielder Andrew Aplin, who had been enjoying a league average offensive season at Triple-A this season.
Aplin, 26, bats and throws left-handed, and has been used mostly as a center fielder this season. Googling “Andrew Aplin Catch” turned up a couple of blurry, fun highlights, including this:
A peek at the Arizona State University product’s Fangraphs page reveals one semi-exciting skill in his ability to steal bases—he’s had 20+ each of his five professional seasons—and one less exciting skill that no doubt played a role in him winding up a Seattle Mariners farmhand, his ability to take a walk. Coming in to this season, Aplin had posted a BB% no lower than 12.0% in any season except for an uncharacteristic (but still above average) rate of 9.4% in 2016. In 30 games so far this season, he’s seen that rate bounce back closer to his career norms, posting a mark of 15.2% while running a perfectly average strikeout rate of 20.0%, which is actually quite high for him given his minor league track record. Aplin’s skillset is actually pretty similar to that of Ben Gamel, who the M’s GM has made a habit of gushing over any time he’s in front of a microphone. Both guys are left-handed hitting and throwing outfielders who have a proven track record at the upper levels of the minors, an ability to walk and swipe bags, and little power to speak of.
The move comes as a bit of a surprise considering there’s already a glut of outfielders, not to mention the incumbent return of Mitch Haniger, at the major league level, as well as more a clogged Triple-A outfield. Additionally, both Ian Miller and Chuck Taylor are putting together strong seasons in Double-A Arkansas (139 wRC+ and 173 wRC+ respectively) and seemed in line for a promotion prior to this deal. Give those circumstances, it would stand to reason that this deal is the precursor to another transaction, perhaps shipping OF Jarrod Dyson to a contending team in need of some speed and defense off the bench. Such a move would make sense, as it would allow the organization to add to the depleted farm system and/or bullpen without inhibiting contention in 2018, particularly due to the emergence of Haniger, Heredia, and Gamel who have all proven they belong at the big league level. Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times often seems to have a good idea of what Jerry has up his sleeve, and mentioned that he expects this is a precursor to another move as well. Stay tuned this afternoon to see if another deal is announced.
In order to make room for Aplin on the 40-man roster, the Mariners DFA’d right-handed pitcher Chris Heston, who allowed 11 base runners in three innings back on Sunday. Meanwhile, right-handed reliever Ryne Harper has posted a FIP of 3.26 and 11.37 K/9 rate in 30 games down in Tacoma and seemingly hasn’t had a crack at the big league bullpen only because he isn’t on the 40-man roster. You’d think a team starved for dependable arms out of the pen would been willing to DFA Heston to add someone who could fill an obvious and immediate need; however, it’s looking like they’ll go a different route to fill that void.
Pagan was the lone bright spot of yesterday’s suckfest of a game, hurling 4 innings in which he allowed just one hit and struck out 4. His stuff looked filthy yesterday as he was able to spot his pitches all over the zone, inducing a ton of whiffs and pop-ups, but since he basically pitched half of a game yesterday, that tanks his availability for a while in a pen that’s looking to be stretched pretty thin. He’ll head to Tacoma as Rob Whalen, who offers the ability to make a spot start or eat multiple innings, comes up in his place.