Of the players currently listed on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, nine were acquired between the end of last season and the beginning of this season. Among those nine, eight have contributed in some way to the 2018 Seattle Mariners.
As with any set of transactions, some of have been good, some have been not so good, and others have been entirely forgettable. We’re a little over a month into the season now, allowing for some perspective on the flurry of deals and how they might affect the team moving forward, both in the long and short term.
While some of the new guys have been asked to carry a larger load than others, and some have rarely been seen at all, each one represents a glimpse into the mind of Jerry Dipoto. Here’s how Dipoto’s dudes – listed in order of their addition – have fared in the early stages of their respective Mariner careers.
David Freitas: Selected off waivers October 27, 2017 from the Atlanta Braves
I knew absolutely nothing about David Freitas prior to this season, and paid zero attention to this acquisition when it happened. A waiver claim for a guy who, at the time, projected to be the third catcher, did not cross my radar.
Considering the six total MLB games Freitas had played before becoming a Mariner, his numbers should be filed firmly under the “pleasant surprise” category. A .235/.316/.353 slash line certainly doesn’t jump off the page, but his 10.3% walk rate ranks fourth among Seattle players with at least 39 plate appearances.
Freitas was the beneficiary of right place, right time luck when Mike Zunino’s oblique flared up, and has also been the beneficiary of some batted ball luck (.348 BABIP). In outperforming Mike Marjama to secure the backup catcher job, though, Freitas proved that his value extends beyond luck. In the 12 games in which he’s recorded a plate appearance, Freitas has reached base in 11 of them. Half of his hits have gone for extra bases, he’s making hard or medium contact 95.6% of the time, and he’s proven to be a surprisingly positive baserunner. After a grueling eight-year, 672-game minor league odyssey, there’s few Mariners I’m rooting for more than David Freitas.
Also, for what it’s worth, I liked bearded Freitas better.
Andrew Romine: Selected off waivers November 2, 2017 from the Detroit Tigers
Here is everything Andrew Romine has done in 2018.
0-for-14 (.000), .067 OBP, .000 slugging percentage, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, -80 wRC+
Listen, I get that Romine hasn’t been given many opportunities. Still, it’s not out of the question to expect at least one hit by this point. His best contribution to the team thus far is a rollicking high five with Dee Gordon after pinch-running and scoring a crucial ninth-inning run against the Rangers.
The brightest possible timeline for the Mariners does not include much Andrew Romine. He’s the quintessential 25th man, and a backup to regulars at a lot of positions that hopefully won’t need many days off.
He’s like Taylor Motter with a haircut or Willie Bloomquist without the cult following.
He’s like my dentist, in that I’m happiest when I don’t have to see him.
Ryon Healy: Acquired November 15, 2017 for Emilio Pagan and Alexander Campos
In the itty-bitty sample size of the last four games, Healy is mashing .353 with a 1.471 OPS and four home runs. For a bottom of the lineup presence, Healy contains scary power. His coming out party in Cleveland felt like the day when the new kid finally endears themselves to the rest of the class. Hopefully those good feelings can continue all year.
In other news…
With Anderson coming up to start tonight, reliever Emilio Pagán sent down to @nashvillesounds.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 2, 2018
Nick Rumbelow: Acquired November 18, 2017 for JP Sears and Juan Then
Rumbelow was picked up in a “my apples and carrots for your cookies” lunchroom swap. While it probably makes sense to hang on to the fruits and vegetables, the tantalizing upside of cookies is hard to turn down.
In 40.1 innings last year with the Yankees’ AA and AAA teams, Rumbelow flashed a tasty 1.12 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 10.0 K/9. His walk rate experienced a slight uptick after jumping from AA to AAA and facing better hitters. But in over twice as many innings at the higher level, he posted a worm-burning 60.0% ground ball rate, a sharp increase from 39.1% at AA.
Nerve problems in his neck have kept the 26-year-old from pitching at any level this year, but Rumbelow could still undoubtedly become a useful part of a Mariner bullpen in the near future. As always, giving up young prospects can come back to bite, but Rumbelow is much closer to being big league ready – and contributing to a team in playoff position – than the youngins he was exchanged for.
JP Sears has admittedly shown promise (as much as one can in 11 innings of A ball). He’s piled up 14 strikeouts to just one walk and has a 1.64 ERA, but again, these are the low levels of the minor leagues. Even if he never dons a Mariner jersey this year, Rumbelow is much more valuable to the M’s in a win-now window than Sears is. Juan Then was literally born in the year 2000 and is ticketed to start the season soon with the Pulaski Yankees of the Appalachian League. Let’s not worry about him until he’s at least of legal drinking age.
Dee Gordon: Acquired December 7, 2017 for Robert Dugger, Nick Niedert, Chris Torres
~Mariners also received international slot money in the deal
I’ve written about Dee on two separate occasions already, as he has the inside track on grabbing the “Most Fun Mariner to Watch” crown. Except for a brief 2-for-21 slump in late April that torpedoed his batting average from .325 to .277, the newly-minted Mariner leadoff hitter has been an absolute ray of sunshine.
In shaking off the cobwebs – and the haters – over the past five games, Dee has his average back up to .342. Everything we were promised about Gordon’s abilities (stolen bases, bunt base hits, elite GIFs), has been delivered. While the international slot money didn’t ultimately help the Mariners land Shohei Ohtani, sweet Dee is already outpacing him in WAR, and lapping him in Swag Above Replacement.
Juan Nicasio: Signed December 20, 2017 as a free agent (2 years, $17 million)
The Juan Nicasio experience has already been somewhat exhausting. Two poor performances in the team’s first four games shot his ERA up to 9.00, a number that he’s been fighting to bring down with every subsequent trip to the mound.
Since giving up a long ball to Stephen Piscotty on April 14, Nicasio has mostly won that fight. Here are the righty’s numbers since that day.
Eight innings, two earned runs, eight strike outs, no walks, four hits, one homer, .148 BAA
Things were going real swell until last night’s implosion against the A’s, but such is the nature of relief pitchers. They giveth, they taketh away, and they alloweth back-breaking home runs to Jed Lowrie. I am of the belief that Nicasio can still be a helpful link in the bullpen chain. Overreacting to one bad inning isn’t a very pragmatic approach, but I wouldn’t be mad if Scott Servais started playing the matchups a little more in the eighth inning rather than blindly handing the ball to Nicasio every time.
Chasen Bradford: Selected off waivers January 19, 2018 from New York Mets
Bradford has a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched. He has a 61.3% groundball rate and has yet to allow a home run. The Mariners did not give anything up to sign him.
Ichiro: Signed March 7, 2018 as free agent (1 year, $750 thousand)
What do you want me to say? 99 percent of us understand that Guillermo Heredia is presently a better Major League Baseball player than Ichiro, no matter what the 2004 version of us would have said. At this point, I’m cool with whatever order of operations the Mariners take in handling this situation, so long as they do it quickly. Dragging this throughout the season not only creates a headache for the fans, coaches, and PR staff, it points to a troubling lack of institutional communication.
We’ll have more updates from John Howie Steak later.
Wade LeBlanc: Signed March 25, 2018 as free agent (1 year, $650 thousand)
LeBlanc has tossed 13.2 innings of exclusively mop up duty this year. According to Baseball-Reference and its Inning/Score Appearance Matrix, the soft-tossing lefty has not pitched a single time with the Mariners in the lead. He hasn’t even pitched with the Mariners down one run. The only times LeBlanc has entered a 2018 game, the men in Northwest Green have had deficits of two, four, or greater.
There is undeniable value to munching innings, especially in blowouts where the top shelf relievers are rendered superfluous.
Each LeBlanc showing this season has gone at least two innings, and he issues walks less than a grumpy dog owner. In tonight’s spot start, if he can stick mostly to the script from his April 23 performance in Chicago (4.2 innings, six hits, two earned runs, six strikeouts, no walks), the Mariner offense should be in good shape to bring home a W.