Brandon Maurer, Meet Tacoma
Update: And there you go – Maurer is being optioned to Tacoma, though it’s Alex Liddi, not Franklin Gutierrez, who is replacing him. Liddi is probably only up for a few days.
With both Justin Smoak and Michael Morse unable to play at the moment, the Mariners need to add a position player to the roster, especially headed into an NL park where they will need to pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot. The most likely call-up would be Franklin Gutierrez, who has been playing everyday down in Tacoma without breaking himself. His rehab assignment could theoretically last another week, but with the M’s in need of an outfielder while Morse is more unable to run than usual, I would expect Guti to join the team sooner than later.
And, really, there’s a pretty easy swap for the M’s to make today. Since they’re short on position players for the next few days, they could add Gutierrez to the roster without getting rid of a hitter by optioning Brandon Maurer to Tacoma. Since his turn in the rotation doesn’t come up again until Sunday and he shouldn’t be the one making that start, he doesn’t really need to be on the roster right now.
For all the talk of Maurer learning on the job, there’s just no real evidence that he’s actually improving in a meaningful way.
Brandon Maurer, April: 128 batters faced, .299/.359/.521, .380 wOBA, 5.15 FIP, 4.97 xFIP
Brandon Maurer, May: 93 batters faced, .369/.435/.646, .458 wOBA, 6.32 FIP, 4.60 xFIP
Back on May 1st, I wrote about Maurer’s problems with left-handed batters, as they hit .359/.424/.717 against him in April. In May, he’s introduced more curveballs to try and combat lefties, but they’ve hit .335/.410/.542 against him this month. That’s improvement of the “it had nowhere to go but up” kind, and shows that he still can’t get big league left-handers out on a regular basis.
Maurer simply isn’t ready for the Major Leagues. The Mariners rushed him because they got overexcited about spring training performance — stop me if you’ve heard this before — and the in-house alternatives weren’t particularly good. He’s never pitched in Triple-A before, and there was no real reason to expect him to be good enough to skip a level and compete against Major League hitters without the necessary weapons. Despite all the talk about how he “has the stuff”, Maurer is not currently a big league starting pitcher. He is against right-handers, and he could have success in a relief role similar to Carter Capps, but he’s not cut out for starting right now. His secondary pitches need work. His command needs work. He needs time to develop.
It’s in his best interests, and the organization’s best interests, to let Maurer develop at a natural pace rather than let him get his brains beat in by left-handers he’s not ready to get out yet. Send him to Tacoma, and use the roster spot to get another position player on the team for the next few days. When Maurer’s spot in the rotation comes up on Sunday, they can create a roster spot for the new 5th starter by either DL’ing an injured player or putting Chavez through waivers. As much as I don’t think he’s ever going to amount to anything, I’d probably give the roster spot to Blake Beavan. Jeremy Bonderman hasn’t shown anything to earn a 40 man spot, and Beavan or Noesi can fill-in for Maurer and give a similar performance without harming the long term development of one of the team’s young arms.
The M’s need a roster spot. Maurer needs time in Tacoma. This shouldn’t be too hard.