Mid-December Back-of-the-Roster Moves

marc w · December 13, 2017 at 12:16 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

It’s the middle of December, the Winter Meetings are in full swing, and Shohei Otani – and his slightly dinged-up elbow ligaments – is officially an Angel. What’s a GM to do? Well, depends on the GM, of course, but if there’s one thing we know about Jerry Dipoto, it’s that he believes it’s *always* a good time to work on roster spots 35-40.

In the past few days, the M’s have added several players through MiLB free agency, waiver claims and, of course, trade. It’s somewhat likely that none of them will play an inning for the Seattle Mariners, but you never know, and in the absence of larger moves to talk about, there’s no harm in recapping the newest members of the M’s organization

1: Perhaps the most interesting, at least to me, is ex-Cubs farmhand John Andreoli. Andreoli’s a stocky CF with serious in-game speed; he stole 55 bags in the Florida State League years ago, and while he’ll play next year at 28, he’s still a plus runner. A college teammate of Astros’ CF George Springer, Andreoli’s game was based on slapping at the ball and utilizing his speed. In his draft year at UConn, Andreoli had an ISO of just .031; that’s a grand total of 7 extra-base hits (and zero HRs) in 254 at-bats.

That basic MO carried over into the pro ranks, where he knocked 5 HRs in his first 1,000 or so pro plate appearances, where he supplemented his so-so contact skills with an improved walk rate. Without any power, that was about the best he could hope for – a high OBP, solid defense and baserunning path to 5th OF or pinch runner at the big league level. Somewhere around 2014, though, Andreoli made some pretty big changes to his swing. His ground ball rate dropped, and his fly ball rate surged by about 6 percentage points. This shift in approach had some consequences, and all of them were negative: without power to turn those fly balls into HRs, his BABIP tumbled, and so did his slash line. 2014 was the worst year of Andreoli’s career. Perhaps shockingly, he was undeterred.

Andreoli came back in 2015 and pushed his GB% below 40%, and had the first inklings of in-game power. He knocked 5 HRs that year, which isn’t any good in the PCL, but was as many as he’d had in his entire pro AND collegiate career combined. A high BABIP helped keep his batting average acceptable, and thus he was a fairly productive player, albeit with some warning signs. Andreoli went all-in at this point, and while his average dipped in 2016 thanks to a climbing K rate, he was still a productive player. His speed helped his BABIP, and he swiped 40+ bases to go with an unthinkable-for-Andreoli 12 HRs. He’s no one’s idea of a power hitter, but again, this is quite remarkable considering his own baseline. In 2017, Andreoli carried these swing changes to or nearly to their logical limit. His GB% tanked to below 29%, sending his fly ball rate above 50%. Andreoli’s batted ball profile looks like Trevor Story’s, or a slightly more restrained version of fly ball maven Ryan Schimpf.

Schimpf, despite his tiny size, always showed power through the minors thanks to his approach, and it helped him post a very good season with the Padres in 2016. But his low average (and thus OBP) led the Pads to demote him in 2017, and he’s just moved to the Rays. Schimpf is famous for this approach, but it’s not clear it’s worked for him. Andreoli may be similar – with a K% over 27% in AAA and 14 HRs in a hitting-friendly league, Andreoli and his new approach seems like he’d struggle in the majors. Andreoli’s production surged vs. lefties (Andreoli’s a righty) last year for the first time, and if THAT kept up, you’d at least have a bench-bat/platoon role for him. We’ll see. But it’s an absolutely fascinating transformation, and if he can pair it with improved discipline, you could have something. Even in the meantime, he figures to push Andrew Aplin for Tacoma’s starting CF job, and it may be fun to watch him in the PCL. As a minor league free agent, Andreoli is NOT currently on the M’s 40-man.

2: A more traditional Dipoto-style OF, the M’s grabbed Cam Perkins from the Phillies this past Monday. Perkins came up a corner IF, then moved to the OF corners, but has recently seen some time in center field as well, so you’d figure him as a Ben Gamel-style OF. His strengths/weaknesses look similar to Gamel’s as well. Perkins has generally run good contact rates, and while he doesn’t walk a whole lot, putting the ball in play is a decent way to end up with a good average/OBP (especially in the minors). A righty, Perkins’ limited power means he’s got the same issues as Gamel: not quite enough power for an OF corner, and not quite enough speed/D to play CF. Perkins cup of coffee in Philadelphia this year went about as well as Gamel’s did in Seattle in 2016.

Perkins’ walk rate and power both improved markedly this year, so maybe the M’s think they can coax a bit more out of the 27 year old. A pull-happy hitter with a penchant for infield pop-ups, he reminds me a bit of Taylor Motter, especially when Motter was in the minors, though Motter was better at the plate and offered more defensive flexibility. Still, Perkins is a perfectly cromulent AAA OF, and will help Tacoma in 2017 (if he sticks around). Perkins was on Philadelphia’s 40-man, and as a waiver claim, he’s on the M’s 40-man roster now as well.

3: One question fans have had since the M’s lost out on Shohei Otani was: what are the M’s going to do with their newly-acquired international bonus pool funds? There are a few high profile FAs still around, though teams like the Rangers – who have plenty of $$$ and more of a history in the international market – may be tough competition. Well, today we got a partial answer: they’ll trade it. The M’s took my concept of roster churn somewhat literally and RE-acquired lefty Anthony Misiewicz from Tampa in exchange for a few hundred thousand in…what, it’s not actual money – we’ll call it spending authority. The M’s got Misiewicz back after a few months in the Rays org is exchange for Tampa being allowed to spend more of its own money on international players.

The Rays needed to, because they had a deal worked out with highly regarded prospect Jelfre Marte for more money than the Rays were legally allowed to spend. Marte signed a $3 million + deal with Minnesota this summer, but it was voided shortly thereafter when the Twins detected some sort of vision problem in Marte. The Rays will sign him for $800,000. Somewhat different circumstances, but it reminds me of Christopher Torres having a handshake deal with the Yankees for millions, and, when the Yankees backed out of it, the M’s swooped in and signed him for a fraction of that amount. Anyway, Misiewicz was a late round draft pick out of Michigan State who’s risen to AA thanks to solid control. After an up and down start in the Cal League, Misiewicz had a few great starts for Arkansas, then hit a rough patch, but was solid for the Rays’ southern league affiliate, Montgomery. Misiewicz was drafted in 2015, so is under M’s club control and is not on the 40-man.

I know some wanted the M’s to scoop up more of the ex-Braves prospects that hit the market again after MLB voided their contracts, and Cuban OF Julio Pablo Martinez, so this kind of move may be a bit of a downer. On the plus side, the M’s still have plenty more, and should be able to make very competitive offers to Martinez or whoever else is still available. Marte’s deal with Tampa shows that we’re getting towards the end of the 2017-18 signing period, though – guys who’ve had deals voided due to issues in their physicals, or, in the case of the Braves, by MLB. The best of the Braves haul have already re-signed elsewhere, so while the cupboard isn’t exactly bare, it’s trending that way.

4: Drew Smyly signed a 2-year deal with the Cubs for $10 million ($3m this year, when he’ll mostly be rehabbing from TJ surgery, and $7m the next), with incentives pushing the max value to near $17m. The M’s apparently offered him a 2-year deal, but he’ll head to Chicago.

5: The best name of the newly-acquired M’s goes to RHP Johendi Jiminian, late of the Colorado Rockies org. Jiminian had a forgettable 2017 in AA and AAA, but has a decent fastball and a good change-up.

6: 1B Matt Hague comes to the M’s from the Minnesota Twins system, where he played at the AAA level in 2017. Hague’s from Bellevue originally, so seemed pretty excited about coming to the M’s. Hague’s an extreme contact hitter, with very low strikeout rates and very good walk rates; he’d be the Control the Zone champion of this round of roster moves. He’s had short stints in the big leagues with Pittsburgh and Toronto, but is on a minor league deal with Seattle. The trade off to the elite contact skills is a relative dearth of power, which is an issue for a 1B. His minor league career ISO is just .132, but he also has a career .375 OBP.

7: Returning to the M’s minor league system (non-40-man) are Casey Lawrence, the pitcher the M’s acquired from Toronto and who made several appearances for Seattle, and 2B/IF Gordon Beckham, the one-time White Sox phenom who parlayed a decent season in Tacoma into a September call-up with the M’s. Both players were on the 40-man at some point last year, but both are non-roster players now.


6 Responses to “Mid-December Back-of-the-Roster Moves”

  1. HighBrie on December 13th, 2017 3:47 pm

    Marc, thank you for this. A few quick questions: 1, Do you have any insights into the hidden virtues of Lawrence, Misiewicz, Armstrong, Nicasio, or Jiminian? Armstrong, it seems, has a very high spin rate. Not sure the others. 2,How do you see players like Perkins, Andreoli, Filia, or Bishop fitting in to Mariner plans in 2018? AAA insurance, or players that are a hitting adjustment away from contributing at MLB level? 3, Do you think the Mariners are nearly done for the 2017-18 offseason? If they were to pick up a pitcher, who is the most Dipoto player available (e.g., have you targeted any of the FA pitchers with something amounting to a unicorn feature to their pitching repertoire that the M’s would covet?)? Thanks.

  2. marc w on December 14th, 2017 12:08 am

    No real insights into most of the pitchers named, but I will say that Armstrong is remarkably similar to Nick Vincent before the M’s acquired him from San Diego: high spin FB, very effective cutter, similar pitch movement, both out of options. I get what the M’s are going for here, though Armstrong needs some tweaks.

  3. stevemotivateir on December 14th, 2017 1:43 pm

    So, Mike Ford’s the Rule 5 pick. Many are speculating that he’s unlikely to make the team, but wouldn’t having another LHH on the bench who could spot Healy and pinch hit make sense? I think it does. They still have their 4 outfielders and Romine to cover the infield.

    The bigger question is how they deal with their relievers. If they have to cut back to a 7-man bullpen, a trade would seem likely.

  4. TumwaterMike on December 14th, 2017 4:17 pm

    Looking at their start of the season schedule the M’s could probably get by with 4 starters until around April 13th. With that in mind I see the following opening day line-up (barring any further transactions): SP: LP Paxton, RP Hernandez, RP Leake, RP Rameriz. CL: Diaz, RPS: LP Pazos, RP Phelps, LP Rzepczynski, RP Vincent, RP Armstrong, LP Albers (long relief) RP Nicasio.

    Catchers: Zunino and Marjama (though I would like a veteran back-up)

    INF: Cano, Segura, Seager, Ford and Healy

    UTILITY: Romine

    OF: Gamel, Gordon, Haniger and Heredia

    DH: Cruz

    Around the 13th they could move Albers to 5th starter or use Miranda and make a roster move then.

  5. stevemotivateir on December 14th, 2017 4:35 pm

    ^Gonzales is out of options; Albers isn’t.

  6. TumwaterMike on December 14th, 2017 4:40 pm

    Maybe Gonzales then.

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