Somehow, August is just a few days from slipping away, which means it’s almost time for rosters to expand from 25 to 40 on Friday. As they say, the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, and as such, it would be logical to look back to how the M’s managed their roster last September to deduce how things might be handled this weekend when roster expand. Here’s a list of the transactions involving players who were recalled or activated off the disabled list in the month of September in 2016, and a quick summary of their usage:
2016 Roster Expansion
Evan Scribner (activated from 60-day DL):
Scribner was a September call-up of the less exciting fashion, in that he was a veteran activated off the disabled list, as opposed to, say, a young exciting prospect getting his first crack at the bigs. After spending almost the entire season on the disabled list for a right lat strain, Scribner came back and stepped right into playing a pivotal role in the Mariners bullpen down the stretch. Of his 12 appearances, five of them were considered “medium” or “high” leverage situations according to the Fangraphs leverage index. You may remember that Scribner ended the season with 14.0 innings pitched, and he didn’t allow a single earned run.
Jesus Sucre (recalled from Triple-A Tacoma):
Sucre was called up to provide a little further catching depth. This is pretty typical for a team to do once rosters expand. Sucre played sparingly — he appeared in five games the entire month — and posted a slash line of .647/.667/.941 for the month (17 at-bats).
David Rollins (recalled from Triple-A Tacoma):
Rollins ping ponged back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle frequently throughout 2016. Rollins appeared in only two games in September--separated by two weeks--both times appearing in extremely low leverage situations.
Drew Storen (activated from 15-day DL):
Storen was simply another veteran bullpen arm activated of the disabled list. His usage was pretty similar to Scribner’s. He appeared in nine games, three of which were medium/high leverage situations.
Nori Aoki (recalled from Triple-A Tacoma):
Aoki was brought in to fill the long Ichiro-shaped void as the leadoff man and sparkplug of the offense in 2016, and he did exactly that. Well, after he was recalled from a late June demotion to Triple-A Tacoma. Aoki was featured regularly in the lineup as the season wound down, and his contributions to the playoff push are no doubt overlooked by many. His 183 wRC+ in September/October and September slash line of .369/.423/.600 apparently weren’t enough to keep him around for 2017, however, as he was waived and claimed by the Astros in the offseason.
Tom Wilhelmsen (activated from 15-day DL):
See Scribner, Evan and Storen, Drew above. Seven games. Two high leverage situations.
Once Tacoma’s season ended:
Dan Vogelbach (recalled from Triple-A Tacoma):
After coming over in the Mike Montgomery trade from the Cubs, Vogelbach struggled a bit in adjusting to life as a Seattle Mariners farmhand. Regardless, he was brought up upon completion of the Rainiers season. Thanks in large part to Adam Lind suddenly rediscovering his ability to get on base and wRC+ing 131 over September and October, Big Dan was used sparingly, starting only three games, which is non-ideal circumstances for a prospect making their big league debut to get the bat going.
Cody Martin (recalled from Triple-A Tacoma):
Cody Martin, who was used as a starter in the Rainiers’ playoff series, came out of the bullpen for his lone appearance — 3.2 innings of mop up duty — for the Mariners in September.
Mike Freeman (recalled from Triple-A Tacoma):
I was shocked to see Freeman apparently started only one game--the last one--for the Mariners in September/October last year because I swear there was a month long stretch where he was our everyday shortstop...
It’s worth noting here that last season, the Rainiers made the playoffs. With Vogelbach, Martin, and Freeman all playing key roles for the Triple-A squad, they were kept for the Rainiers short playoff run, and recalled once the team was eliminated. Tacoma has already been eliminated from playoff contention for this season, and as such, any players deemed worth of a September call-up should be added to the roster as soon as the season wraps up one week from today.
2017 40-Man Roster Call-Up Possibilities
Zac Curtis: Curtis is the only candidate on this list that is a left-handed pitcher. For that reason alone, he will more than likely be brought back up to the big league roster. That said, Curtis has actually had a harder time with left-handed hitters this season than their right-handed counterparts. Still, I’d expect him to be used primarily to get them out in low leverage situations the rest of the way.
Chase De Jong: De Jong is the winner of the “Most Likely To Be Used In 2016 Cody Martin’s Role” Award. After a rough go of things in his admittedly premature debut season, De Jong was demoted to Tacoma, and then again to Double-A Arkansas, where his struggles have continued. As such, I’d expect him to be recalled simply in order to be surrounded by the major league players and coaching staff, but would expect to see him only in a blowout game with the M’s on the wrong side of it.
Ryan Garton: After getting picked up from Tampa Bay (who else?) earlier this month, Garton’s introduction to the PCL has been a little rocky to say the least. In a small sample size of just 8.2 IP, Garton’s running an xFIP of 6.00, and has allowed eight hits and eight walks. Being that he’s 27 years old, currently on the 40-man, and had an okay-ish debut major league season with the Rays last year, I’d expect him to be added to the roster, barring revelation of an injury.
Sam Gaviglio: Well, it’s been a little over two weeks since the Mariners have lost a starting pitcher to the DL, so it seems like that should happen again any day now. In all seriousness though, any future appearances for Gaviglio in the bigs will likely be in low-leverage relief situations.
Andrew Moore: I’m hoping that Andrew Moore: Relief Pitcher was a one and done thing, and that we don’t see him coming out of the bullpen for a long long time. As a pitcher with a pretty specific pre-start regimen, suddenly asking him to appear out of the ‘pen isn’t doing anybody any favors. Moore has thrown exactly 4.0 innings in each of his five starts since returning to Tacoma, seemingly indicating the organization is in the process of winding him down for the year. I wouldn’t be all that shocked if we don’t see him again this season, despite his status on the 40-man.
Max Povse: I’m still not done gushing over Povse and his strong spring almost six months ago, so I was excited to see him starting — and succeeding mind you — again in his last two outings. With Tacoma going with 1-2 bullpen days per week, it’s a little unclear if Povse is simply the “reliever” being chosen to start the bullpen games, or if the organization has decided to stretch him back out as a starter. His last two outings have been his longest since the beginning of May, and he’s been pretty effective, striking out 11 over 8.2 while allowing just three earned runs, three hits, and three walks. If he’s able to make another start in Tacoma and work 5+ solid innings, I’d love to see him make a start at the big league level to round out the year.
Thyago Vieira: It was a bit of a shock to most when Thyago was called up to the bigs a couple weeks ago, with most projected him for a September call-up at the earliest. His strikeouts have essentially disappeared since his big league promotion, but so have his walks, so make of that what you will. He’s already racked up the most innings he’s pitched since 2013, and with a plethora of other options, I wouldn’t think it’s 100% given that he’s back before season’s end.
Shawn O’Malley: Snake-bitten doesn’t begin to describe the 2017 season for Mr. O’Malley. He came down with appendicitis during spring training, and then underwent shoulder surgery in early May. He finally made his way back to Tacoma in August, only to trip over the pitching mound and suffer a concussion. Given that he has barely played recently, his September call-up chances seem fairly slim, especially given Taylor Motter’s “emergence” as a utility guy. But if he’s able to get back to full health, he would certainly be a useful piece for the M’s.
Daniel Vogelbach: Vogey has hit a robust .289/.388/.459 in 120 games in Tacoma this season, and since he’s already accumulated a few weeks of major league service time, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to keep him down to manipulate his arbitration clock. Expect to see him in Seattle starting September 1 as a useful pinch-hitting option off the bench, though the acquisition of Yonder Alonso will obviously keep him from regular at-bats.
As of this writing, the Mariners have two open spots on the 40-man roster, the second of which opened up when the M’s designated Leonys Martin for assignment (and subsequently sent him down to Tacoma). Those spots could be used to add somebody from the 60-day DL, a player from another organization via waivers, or someone currently in the organization but not on the 40-man roster.
UPDATE: Earlier this morning, Bob Dutton reported that Christian Bergman has been added to the roster, and thus he’s taking up one of the 40-man spots. So now there’s only one open slot!
Since Martin’s DFA came when Seattle already had an open spot on the 40-man, it seems likely that Jerry Dipoto is planning on using both spots to add players. Let’s run down the options:
60-Day DL Options
Hisashi Iwakuma: Bob Dutton reported that Iwakuma threw a bullpen session last Monday, but Scott Servais didn’t exactly describe it in glowing terms, pointing out that Iwakuma is “running out of time” to return this season. Reading between the tea leaves doesn’t exactly leave me optimistic, but there’s a chance we could see Kuma make a few starts in late September.
Evan Scribner: Scrib threw a scoreless inning in his rehab debut on Saturday, but since he hasn’t pitched since April, it seems likely it’ll take more than a few more appearances before the M’s will feel comfortable running him out in September. This one, like Kuma’s, really depends on his progress in rehab.
Shae Simmons: Simmons has been pitching in Tacoma for much of the past month, though he had a brief setback in late July. If his arm can recover enough, his 2.54 ERA and 8.3 K/9 in 33 career MLB appearances seem to indicate he’ll find a home in the Mariner ‘pen. So, if healthy, expect to see Shae pitch in September, even in higher-leverage situations.
Drew Smyly: :(
Ryan Weber: The last RotoWire update on Ryan Weber is that he hoped to play catch in late July. That doesn’t bode well for a return in 2017.
Non-40 man Options
Ian Miller: Miller has had a nice breakout season this year, posting a career high 130 wRC+ over 83 games in Double-A before moving up to Tacoma. His bat has cooled upon his promotion, but he’s swiping bags as often as ever, and that skill in particular might just be his ticket to the majors this season. If you haven’t noticed, many of the team’s best bats aren’t particularly excellent baserunners, and for a team right in the thick of a seven team race for the second wild card spot, an 80 grade baserunner is a nice weapon to have off the bench.
Ernesto Frieri: A 32 year old reliever with a 37 save season in his past is always a good bet for promotion. That said, Frieri has had a pretty significant walks problem since joining Tacoma, and that might just keep him from making his way back to the big leagues.
Jonathan Aro: Aro, who was part of the return in the deal that sent Roenis Elias and Carson Smith to Boston, has had a fairly unimpressive August after an excellent July in which he fanned 21 in 13.2 innings. Nothing jumps off the page to make Aro a better candidate than just about any other reliever on this list, so don’t be shocked if the organization decides he’s not worth devoting any big league innings to.
Jeanmar Gomez: Gomez’s story looks a lot like Frieri’s, although the results have been a bit different since joining the Rainiers. Gomez racked up 37 saves last year for the Phillies before getting lit up in 22.1 innings for them this year. He’s racked up another 15.0 innings in the minors this season, and while he hasn’t been overpowering (7.8 K/9), he’s been effective, and could find himself pitching some not completely insignificant innings out of the Mariners bullpen before season’s end.
Mike Marjama: If last year was any indication, we can expect to see a third catcher with the team when rosters expand. Marjama, 28, hasn’t necessarily been setting the world on fire with Tacoma, but he’s six years younger than alternative option Tuffy Gosewisch, and with the seemingly inevitable depature of current backup Carlos Ruiz upon conclusion of this season, a short audition for the role of “2017 Backup Catcher” would seem to make sense.
Gordon Beckham: Considering he’d been traveling with the team last week just in case his services were needed, it seems pretty safe to assume Beckham his ahead of Shawn O’Malley in line for backup utility infielder duties. He’s been swinging a hot bat this half--.307/.371/.471--and has at least one solid major league season under his belt. I’d expect to see him filling the type of role that Mike Freeman played last season, backing up at 2B/3B/SS.
Now that we’ve written over 2,300 words, some predictions as to the final spot: It seems more than likely that Mike Marjama will claim it as a third catcher. The next best option, in my (Grant) opinion, is Shae Simmons — or, really, any of the pitchers currently on the 60-day DL, depending on who gets healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bergman or another player DFA’d to create an open spot. I think Ian Miller has the best shot of anybody not currently on the 40-man roster or 60-day DL, but his offensive shortcomings seem to limit him to a pinch-running role, which isn’t as essential as a third catcher or another reliever.