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Mariners Exit Interviews 2018: The Middle Agers (29-30)

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Baseball life comes at you fast

Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Every year, after the dust has settled from the regular season, we at LL like to look back at the year that was, and what that suggests about the year that will be. In past years, we’ve divided this up by position group; this year, we’ll be trying something new: examining the contributions of each player by age. The Mariners have a rep as being one of the oldest teams in MLB, thanks to an eternally-dry farm system and several top-heavy contracts. But who produces how much value, and at what age?

A note: throughout this series, we’ll be basing our calculations off FanGraphs for both Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) and the prediction system ZiPS.

We began with the youngest members of the system, ages 26 and younger, who accounted for 7 of the Mariners’ total 35 fWAR, or 20%. (Thanks, Edwin!) Next came the players in their “primes”, with 9.6 fWAR coming from those aged 26-28. That was 27% of the team’s total 35.0 fWAR, and today we’ll look to those just a shade longer in the tooth.

The Middle Agers (29-30)

James Paxton (29)

Projected fWAR: 3.7

Actual fWAR: 3.8

This number would be even higher if Pax hadn’t missed time after being struck by a Jed Lowrie comebacker in August, inspiring one of my favorite Twitter hashtags ever from his fans in the Maple Grove: #IHopeJedLowrie...followed by wishing a series of minor inconveniences on the A’s slugger. Still, Pax ticked a lot off his list this year: he set a career-high in innings pitched (160.1), recorded a career-best K/BB ratio, tallied 500 career strikeouts...and oh yeah, he threw a no-hitter. All signs are pointing upward for the lefty from Ladner, who is reportedly working on a changeup in the off-season...which could make for a very exciting 2019, indeed. -Kate Preusser

Ariel Miranda (29)

Projected fWAR: 0.4

Actual fWAR: 0.1

El Miro seemed destined to spend 2019 filling in the spots in Seattle’s rotation, but the emergence of Wade LeBlanc left Miranda increasingly on the outside looking north from Tacoma. With Seattle’s blessing, the Cuban lefty took a different tack, signing a deal with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the NPB. Perhaps one day Miranda will return to the US, but for now a successful debut campaign in Japan will have to be his consolation. -John Trupin

Justin Grimm (30 during 2018 season)

Projected fWAR: 0.2

Actual fWAR: -0.5 (2 teams)

Grimm pitched in five games for the Mariners in September. I do not recall a single pitch he threw. After showing flashes of real ability as a Ranger and Cub the past several seasons, he made sixteen brutal appearances for Kansas City, walking nearly twice as many as he struck out. Although his biggest contribution to the M’s may have been when he gave up a go-ahead home run to Kyle Seager on April 11th, Grimm pitched well in his brief time in Seattle, allowing just a run over 4.2 innings without walking anybody. Rian Watt at FanGraphs wrote up a nice piece detailing the changes he made during September, featuring insightful quotes from both Grimm and bullpen coach Brian DeLunas.

At age 30 and coming off a lost 2018, Grimm is all but guaranteed to be non-tendered, though the club could easily bring him back as a minor league signee. He was lights-out in eleven innings with Tacoma, putting up a 1.75 FIP, and should he be given the opportunity to continue the changes he’s made, it’s not out of the question that he could be a useful arm to have around. -CD

Erik Goeddel (29)

Projected fWAR: -0.4

Actual fWAR: 0.3

Plucked from the scrap heap towards the end of spring training, Erik Goeddel was called up in early May to bolster a stretched bullpen. He pitched in five games for the Mariners—three of those appearances were multi-inning affairs—and allowed just a single run. And then, just like that, he was gone. He was caught up in the roster machinations in the aftermath of the Robinson Canó suspension. After pitching two innings in the marathon, extra-innings win against the Rangers the day after Canó was suspended, he was designated for assignment so that the Mariners could call up a fresh reliever (Christian Bergman). Goeddel was claimed by the Dodgers on waivers and appeared 26 times for them before succumbing to an elbow injury in August. -JM

David Freitas (29)

Projected fWAR: .2

Actual fWAR: 0

Freitas found himself on the short end of the catching platoon once Zunino and Herrmann were both healthy, mostly because Mike Leake hasn’t designated him as his personal catcher. Freitas has solid plate discipline and is a fine defensive catcher and would be solid insurance at Tacoma, where he could also mentor recently-converted catching prospect Joe DeCarlo. -KP

Roenis Elías (30)

Projected fWAR: .2

Actual fWAR: .9

Elías was un-traded from the Red Sox in late April and sent to Tacoma until June 1st, when he was recalled to act as a swingman/long relief in the M’s pen, at which point he set his sights on pitching Erasmo Ramírez out of a job. In shorter outings, Elías was able to get his fastball up to the mid-90s, and someone in the Boston system must have taught him how to throw a better changeup, because it’s suddenly an effective pitch for him. Once Elías started mixing his bread-and-butter curveball back in, it became clear why the Mariners were willing to let Ariel Miranda and his splitter fly off to Japan. Elías is doing a better job at limiting his walks and keeping the ball in the yard than his first go-round as a Mariner, and his FIP of 3.08 is over a full run lower, although in significantly fewer innings (just over 50). Elías is about to enter his first year of arbitration, which MLBTR estimates at $1M--a value price over the last lefty bullpen piece the Mariners bought [coughs, Scrabble tiles fall out]. And this one goes multiple innings! -KP

Álex Colomé (29)

Projected fWAR: .6

Actual fWAR: 1.0 (0.4 with Seattle)

If players were graded by menacing stares, Colomé would receive top marks. As it is, Colomé was roughly as advertised following his mid season acquisition. A mechanical struggle guided rough results at times, but Colomé ultimately spent much of his time feeding messy scoreless innings to Edwin Díaz. Colomé has one year remaining on his contract, likely to see a slight boost in his final arbitration season. -JT

Adam Warren (30 during 2018 season)

Projected fWAR: .9

Actual fWAR: .3 (two teams)

The best thing about Adam Warren’s tenure as a Mariner is that it’s over. The second-best thing about Adam Warren’s tenure as a Mariners is that the Mariners didn’t surrender anything other than bonus pool money to acquire Warren, whose FIP ballooned to almost two runs higher the instant he buttoned up his Mariners jersey. The third-best thing about Adam Warren’s tenure as a Mariner is that it’s over. Did I say that already? Who cares, it’s worth saying again. -KP

Kyle Seager (30)

Projected fWAR: 4.2

Actual fWAR: 1.6

Darkness lurks in the heart of man, particularly the man who crafted Kyle Seager’s career arc thus far. Emerging from the primordial ooze of 2009-2013 like a balding reptilian hero, Seager’s worst season as a pro was a perfect storm of defensive shifting, a broken toe, and all manner of misapplied tinkering. -JT

Mike Leake (30)

Projected fWAR: 2.7

Actual fWAR: 2.3

After starting his Mariners career with five brilliant starts in September 2017, Mike Leake’s first full season in Seattle was mostly as advertised. While his strikeout rate took a step back, Leake’s ground ball and quick-working ways continued in 2018, and he led the team in innings by a sizable margin. There were a few rough patches here and there, but Leake delighted in several outings, none more so than shutting out the A’s for eight innings on August 15th. He filled the Doug Fister/Jason Vargas-sized hole in my heart wonderfully, and should be a reliable, steady presence in the rotation for the next two years - all for the price of Rayder Ascanio and salary relief. Well done, Jerry. -Connor Donovan

Chris Herrmann (30)

Projected fWAR: 0.2

Actual fWAR: 0.6

A catcher who can take a walk? Say it ain’t so! Of the three backup catchers the Mariners used throughout the season, Herrmann was definitely the best of the bunch. At the plate, he posted an offensive line 7% better than league average, something a Mariners catcher has done just three times in the past 10 years. Behind the plate, he was perfectly acceptable as a receiver and the pitching staff enjoyed working with him. By the end of the year, he was practically Mike Leake’s personal catcher. Assuming he sticks with the team—he’s entering his third arbitration year in 2019—he should be the primary backup to Mike Zunino next year. -Jake Mailhot

Dee Gordon (30)

Projected fWAR: 2.1

Actual fWAR: 0.0

It couldn’t have gone much worse, ultimately, for Dee Gordon. After averaging 4.0 fWAR over his last three full seasons (and being on pace for roughly 2.0 in his one half season shortened by suspension), Gordon fell off a cliff in his first year with Seattle. His transition to center field showed promise, but was never given a chance to fully blossom between the suspension of Canó and the broken toe he suffered. A scuffle with Jean Segura capped a frustrating season for Dee, who ultimately ended 2018 in a far-better suited role near the bottom of the lineup. Will he be a super-Utility player next season? A starting CF or 2B? Or with another team? All are on the table. -JT

Christian Bergman (30)

Projected fWAR: 0.9

Actual fWAR: -0.2

I look forward to the day I won’t have to think about writing another article about Christian Bergman. I almost forgot he made two starts for the Mariners in 2018. At this point it’s clear getting away from Coors Field was never going to solve his home run problem. If he’s still part of the Mariners rotation depth in 2019, something very, very wrong has occurred. -JM

Casey Lawrence (30)

Projected fWAR: .9

Actual fWAR: -.1

As Jake will be glad to no longer be required to write about Christian Bergman, I look forward to the last word I pen about Casey Lawrence. It’s nothing personal, Casey. It’s not you, it’s me. I love your absurdly tiny hometown and extremely triangular face. But I’ve mined every interesting detail I can. It’s time for you to fly free, to some other bloggy pastures. -KP

Total fWAR: 10.1 (percentage of total team fWAR: 28.9%)

This isn’t a terrible showing considering how many part-time players are on this list. Unfortunately, a few of the names above were everyday guys, and therefore everyday underperformers (glances askance at Dee & Kyle). Moreover, while it’s not represented as harshly by fWAR as it is by WPA, some of those guys received an inordinate number of high-leverage plate appearances, only to deliver catastrophically bad results (glances askancer at Dee & Kyle). Three of the bottom 40 (out of 140 qualified batters) in WPA were Mariners, including Dee (15th-worst), Kyle (39th-worst), and Ryon Healy (40th-worst). Hopefully they can mellow with age.