Today we heard from Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto on a few issues, most notably that the club has closed their facilities in Arizona and the Dominican Republic, though minor leaguers without safe home alternatives are continuing to be housed and fed. While the fallout and response to the coronavirus obviously is at the forefront of, well, everything, one note from Dipoto was intriguing with regard to how the team might look once baseball does hopefully/eventually resume.
If/when baseball does come back, Dipoto said they will not risk the health of any of their pitchers by ramping them up too soon. He said they go three inning starts or a 10-man rotation if they had to, to make sure pitchers stay healthy.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 19, 2020
Longtime readers will note 10 is twice as many starting pitchers as teams have typically used for decades. The Mariners were expecting to enter 2020 with a rotation set; Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, Kendall Graveman, and Taijuan Walker all locked up roles before spring began, or the moment they inked their contract. In all likelihood, those five should be in the rotation once the season eventually gets underway, ideally in May or June. But readiness is a tricky thing to manifest when the timeline can change by the hour, much less the day or week. League-wide, there is significant consideration that once there is an all-clear (or at least a partial-clear) to resume activities, the emphasis will be to get games going as quickly as possible, which may make it tricky to have pitchers at full strength on day one.
While a three-week spring training could be a reasonable guess, possible it could be even less to get in as many games as they can. Ideas are being floated to expand rosters — possibly to include 15 plus pitchers — if starters are only built back up to, say, 4 innings or so.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 19, 2020
Seattle is no better or worse equipped to go deep in its rotation than any other club, as the goal of the team is not contention this year whether they play 60 or 162 games. But the rotation, should rosters be extended, would look mighty different with 10 guys taking the ball, or some form of consistent piggy-backing as is common in late spring. As of now, the rotation depth situation looks something like this:
SP1 - Marco Gonzales
SP2 - Yusei Kikuchi
SP3 - Justus Sheffield
SP4 - Kendall Graveman
SP5 - Taijuan Walker
SP6 - Justin Dunn
SP7 - Nestor Cortes Jr.
SP8 - Nick Margevicius
SP9 - Anthony Misiewicz*(?)
SP10 - Ljay Newsome* (?)
*not on 40-man roster
The current depth is not disinteresting, but the 40-man roster has “only” eight players with starting profiles at the moment. Erik Swanson could be stretched back out, but the club has stated they want to work him in the bullpen exclusively. Several options dot the high minors as alternatives, including minor league free agents like Wei-Yin Chen, Cody Anderson, and Manny Banuelos, as well as internal non-roster invitees like Misiewicz, Newsome, Penn Murfee, Darren McCaughan, Ian McKinney, and even Logan Gilbert.
Most likely, rudely, the club would prioritize scattering innings (and service time, and 40-man roster spots that would require subsequent DFA’s) among lower-priority prospects and signings, instead of moving straight to prospects like Gilbert. The innings have to come from somewhere, however, and either by piggy-back pairings or lengthy initial rotations, we should expect MLB’s return to the field to look wackier than usual.