As a general rule, I typically feel more confident in my abilities when they’re being applied to low-pressure situations. The burden of expectation sometimes yields unfortunate results for me, which is one of two or three reasons why I never became a professional athlete. The same thing is true when confronted by people who are clearly better at something than me. Glaring reminders of my own shortcomings—especially in settings where others are counting on me, or expecting me to excel—creates a feeling that I usually do everything in my power to avoid.
Nick Margevicius, a mostly under-the-radar pickup by the Mariners this offseason, should have a textbook opportunity to cash in on a low-pressure situation. Should the former Padre secure an Opening Day roster spot (already a pretty chill ask), he satisfies the wishes of those around him. If he pitches well, or ends up cracking the MLB rotation, it’s a delicious scoop of gravy on the Mariners’ varied and oddly-composed plate, one that they filled at the world’s strangest buffet. If he bricks it all season, well, that’s not exactly out of the question for a waiver claim that was probably rushed through the minors to begin with.
As John Trupin pointed out when the Mariners acquired Margevicius, the 6’5” lefty’s mere inclusion in San Diego’s pitching staff was surprising. Buoyed by a tremendous Spring Training in 2019, Margevicius essentially gave the Padres no chance but to see what he could do in the real games. He responded by completing at least four innings in each of his first nine big league starts, including an impressive five-inning, five-strikeout, no-walk debut. Sadly, Margevicius then fell victim to the same treachery that’s felled countless NL West pitchers before him: Coors Field.
On June 16, the final egg in his first dozen starts, Margevicius took the ball in Denver against the Rockies. The Padres had only recently recalled him from Double-A, and decided a date with Blackmon, Story, Arenado and ungodly offensive conditions would be a nice welcome back gift. He gave up nine runs on eleven hits, recorded just four outs, and earned another trip to Double-A, where he would remain until late August.
Again, the expectations were never for him to rise to the top of the baseball world, but for a Padres team that pushed their chips to the middle of the table while also touting a stacked farm system, the demise of Margevicius did not exactly align with their vision. Rather than wait for the 23-year-old to find his groove, the Padres designated Margevicius for assignment in January, opening the door for other teams with not a whole lot to lose.
Enter the Mariners and Jerry Dipoto, who never met a reclamation project he didn’t like. Knowing full well that his team’s long-promised glow up is still years away, Dipoto slid Margevicius into Reggie McClain’s spot on the 40-man roster, essentially choosing youth and the starry-eyed dreams of potential over the 27-year-old McClain.
Margevicius is very tall but does not throw very hard; he’s the personification of a changeup. By relying on his off-speed and breaking stuff nearly half of the time, Margevicius will remind Mariner fans of Tommy Milone, who Baseball Savant compares his velocity and movement profile to.
As is to be expected with January waiver claims from another bad team, this is not a particularly exciting move. Taking a flyer on Margevicius certainly makes sense though given the current state of Seattle’s roster and the risks that it affords. The most likely scenario for Margevicius probably involves a deep familiarity with the stretch of I-5 between Tacoma and Seattle, which is fine! Again, the man is 23 years old and playing for an organization that’s relying much more on pitchers like Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Yusei Kikuchi, and eventually, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, and Brandon Williamson.
For now, pencil Margevicius into the “Let’s see what he’s got in Spring Training” pile and go from there. I think most of us would agree that a Gonzales-Kikuchi-Graveman-Sheffield-Dunn rotation to begin the season is both preferable and likely, but if Margevicius forces his way in there with a strong Cactus League showing, that only gives the Mariners another interesting piece to build the 2021-22 puzzle with.