Aside from the smoking crater in the bullpen, the holes Jerry Dipoto punched through the 2019 roster have mostly been filled in, and today the Mariners checked a big item off the to-do list:
The Seattle #Mariners sign free-agent infielder Tim Beckham to a one-year, $1.75 million deal with $250K in incentives.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 10, 2019
Beckham was dreadful for the Orioles last year, posting a -.5 fWAR. Thanks to a raft of fielding errors, he also posted the worst WPA (Win Probability Added) at -2.47, slotting in just ahead of luminaries of disasterpiece theatre Alcides Escobar and teammate Chris Davis. Unsurprisingly, Beckham (and his $4.3M salary) were non-tendered in October, making him a free agent and an appealing buy for the Mariners at about half of his original salary.
Nightmarish 2018 aside, there are encouraging aspects to Beckham. A former first overall pick, Beckham was edged out of his preferred position as the Orioles allowed Manny Machado to move back to shortstop. A groin strain that had apparently been bothering him since Spring Training eventually knocked him out for two months, and then when he returned, he was forced to play games for the 2018 Baltimore Orioles, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention. True, Beckham’s hard contact has fallen well off, and he’s no threat on the bases; his career-high in stolen bases was in his magical 2017 season, when he stole six and posted a 3.4 fWAR. And despite his bizarre error-laden 2018, defensive metrics liked Beckham in 2016 and 2017.
Tim Beckham: the savior of the Os. pic.twitter.com/OiHaGQdgaj— Ranting Oriole Bird (@RantingOriole) August 6, 2017
And while Beckham doesn’t bring speed on the bases, he has surprising pop in his 6’1” righty bat; he mustered 12 home runs last year despite his offensive struggles and injury, and 22 in 2017. [Standard disclaimer about playing in the AL East, but still: every year except last year that he’s played in the majors, Beckham has posted an ISO of .175+]
At worst, Beckham will hold down shortstop while allowing the Mariners to season youngster J.P. Crawford in the minors [note: there’s a piece to be written later exploring the career parallels between Beckham and Crawford, as there are some interesting correspondences there—perhaps the Mariners will be working on a development strategy with Beckham to replicate with Crawford?]. At best, he experiences another burst of production after a change of scenery—as he did after arriving in Baltimore, posting a .306/.348/.523 in his first 50 games as an Oriole—allowing the Mariners to flip him at the trade deadline. Beckham has spoken about his desire to be an everyday shortstop, and he’ll get that opportunity in Seattle. Maybe, in the best-best case scenario, with regular reps and a lower-pressure (but not Geneva Convention-inducing) environment, Beckham will be able to unlock the potential so many saw a decade ago.
Update - 10:50 AM PT
Because I’ll be damned if we provide the pileiest of pile relievers with his own blurb, the Mariners have also signed RHP Cory Gearrin. Gearrin may ring a bell for Mariners fans as a 2018 pickup by the Rangers from the Giants, who parlayed 21.1 solid innings into a minor trade to the Athletics during their short-lived playoff run. Now he’s a free agent, or, rather, he was a free agent until this morning.
Sources confirm Mariners are signing infielder Tim Beckham and they are also signing reliever Cory Gearrin — both to one-year contracts.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) January 10, 2019
A one-year MLB deal for Gearrin isn’t likely to cost much more than Beckham, if at all. The 32-year-old RHP works a sinker-slider mix, blending in a changeup mostly to LHHs. The sinker averages around 91-92, but his out pitch is a sharp slider with a hearty 46.4% whiff rate in 2017 and 39.7% in 2018. His changeup took a step forward in 2018 as well, becoming an almost equally devastating offering to lefties. It’s an important distinction, because Gearrin’s somewhat unique motion delivers a sidearm-like angle that gives his “slider” a very cutter-like movement.
Here’s a video of the two newest Mariners delivering a play neither will quite be thrilled with:
This move means a 40-man roster move is impending. Someone will likely be DFA’d - recent 40 in 40 target Kristopher Negrón and twice-claimed OF John Andreoli are the likeliest cuts, though we’ll find out when an official announcement comes.