Game 62, Mariners at Rays – Everything Must Go!

marc w · June 7, 2018 at 3:45 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. Ryne Stanek / Austin Pruitt, 4:10pm

A few weeks ago, the M’s traded for Denard Span and Alex Colome in exchange for Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. To me, the deal doesn’t really hinge on what you think Span has left in the tank or your projections for Moore’s ceiling. Rather, the most important factor seemed to be that Span was the Rays most expensive player this year, and Colome ranked 6th. The Rays aren’t bad; they’re currently 3rd in the AL East, albeit several miles behind the Red Sox/Yankees. But because of how the early season’s shaking out, they’re pretty clearly not interested in trying to make a run at the second wild card. It’s not just that they have no real shot at catching up to whoever comes in 2nd in their own division – it’s that the M’s, and to a much lesser extent the Angels – have made competing for the SECOND wild card look like a fantasy. That’s the context for today’s Rays move, DFA’ing former Mariner Brad Miller and bringing up 1B prospect Jake Bauers.

There’s been a lot of talk about the compensation consequences of the Rays’ new “opener” strategy, of using a reliever for an inning and then handing the ball to someone who pitches a starter’s workload (that’s the plan for today’s game, for example). Letting Span go and then DFA’ing Miller seems to suggest that they’re not only looking for longer term payroll flexibility, but *current year* savings. To me, that’s even grosser. It’s true – the Rays aren’t getting the wild card. We’ve anticipated a Chris Archer trade for the past 18 months or so. But if they trade Wilson Ramos and Archer, and if another team picks up Miller, it’s essentially letting the Rays hide behind an opening day payroll they had no intention of actually paying out. There’s nothing illegal about that, and again, you can kind of understand the baseball thinking behind some of these moves, but it means the entire operating starts to look more like a way to profit from baseball’s revenue sharing. Stay in MLB’s good graces for taking on Span’s salary and signing Ramos, then start trading players when they hit arbitration and paying a few million to make the balance of your short term contracts go away. I don’t hate the “opener” gambit, and if it was any other team, I don’t think I’d worry that it was just a ploy to reduce a pitcher’s arb award. This isn’t any other team.

Today’s, uh, “opener” is Ryne Stanek, one-time Mariner draftee, who spurned the M’s and went to Arkansas where he became the presumptive #1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. But an inconsistent junior year saw his stock fall, and the Rays nabbed him with the 29th pick. He moved to the bullpen a few years after that, and made his MLB debut last year, sitting at 98-99 out of the pen, but getting hit far harder than anyone sitting at 98-99 should. Of particular note, he’s got pronounced reverse splits, which is odd given that his big pitch coming out of college was a slider. Instead, his best pitch now appears to be a split-change, thrown at around 89-90 with similar horizontal movement to his fastball, but which dives downward. It’s too soon to know how effective he can be with it, or to know what to make of a righty reliever with a career FIP against righties over 8, but that splitter’s the key to why the Rays may be trying this.

The first “opener” the Rays used was the famous ROOGY Sergio Romo. Romo’s a classic righty-killer, a guy who threw a sweeping slider against righties and basically just tried to keep the ball in the park against lefties. Playing an Angels line-up that included big righties at the top like Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons, Romo cleared the way for a lefty like Ryan Yarbrough to miss some high-stress PAs against tough righties. Like Romo, Stanek’s a righty reliever, but the M’s line-up starts with Dee Gordon, and they’ve often swapped Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger depending on the handedness of the starter. The M’s aren’t biting this time. Haniger’s hits 3rd, so the M’s will have a fairly right-handed slate of hitters face Stanek, hopefully neutralizing the impact of Stanek’s best pitch.

After that, it’s Austin Pruitt again, the guy who “Started” after Romo “opened” in the series opener back in Seattle. In that one, Pruitt pitched 5 good innings after Romo threw 1 1/3, staying in through Haniger in the 5 hole. We’ll see if the Rays do something similar, letting Stanek face Seager before giving way to Pruitt, who incidentally doesn’t have huge platoon splits either way.

1: Gordon, 2B
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Healy, 1B
7: Span, LF
8: Heredia, CF
9: Freitas, C
SP: Leake

Levi Weaver concluded his 3-part series for the Athletic on Driveline Baseball and its founder, Kyle Boddy, today. As LL’s Tim Cantu noted on twitter, there are some disconcerting references to an “AL West” team that broke off a planned partnership – a team that’s almost certainly the M’s. With that deal smoldering, Boddy is pursuing…some kind of arrangement with Texas; Weaver notes Boddy was in the Rangers draft war room this week. None of this is to say that any team that hires him has an advantage, or that the M’s were stupid not to move forward with whatever it was they had planned with Driveline. I don’t know anything about pitcher development. I just would love to see the M’s stick with SOME kind of development program for their pitchers. The recent improvement from Marco Gonzales is the cause for some optimism, no doubt, but at the time THAT deal was made, the M’s made a point to say how much Gonzales had changed after coming back from TJ. That is, how much he’d changed in the Cardinals org that drafted him and got him to the majors. None of that’s to downplay the job that Mel Stottlemeyer Jr.’s done this year – he seemed embattled at the end of 2017, but his charges are doing extremely well, with notable improvements from Gonzales, Edwin Diaz, and Wade LeBlanc.

Good article from Jeff Sullivan on how we may be on the down slope from peak HR. HR rates league wide are down, even as batters have hit more and more fly balls. Certainly, there’s far fewer GBs this year than last, the year of the fly ball revolution. It’s just that fly balls aren’t getting rewarded the way they were, and as I’ve talked about, the same exit velocity and launch angle is less likely to turn into a HR this year compared to 2017. Has the ball changed back again? Maybe looking to get more of a handle on year-to-year differences, MLB purchased ball manufacturer Rawlings this week for $395 million.

Lindsay Caughel faces off with Cardinals prospect Dakota Hudson and the Memphis Redbirds tonight. Chase de Jong starts for Arkansas, who host Tulsa, and Darren McCaughen takes the mound for Modesto as they host Visalia. Nick Wells starts for Clinton, who are in Burlington to face the Bees. In last night’s games, Tacoma lost 2-1 despite a strong start from Christian Bergman. Former Rainier Tyler O’Neill went 1-2 with 2 BBs. Max Povse continued a run of strong starts, beating Tulsa 5-3, and K’ing 9 in 6 IP. That’s 19 strikeouts in his last two starts, covering 12 IP. Former Rainier reliever Brian Moran pitched in that one for the Drillers.

Still, if it’s ex-Rainiers you want, check out the Durham Bulls – the team Jake Bauers played for until today. They’ve got Andrew Moore, who pitched for Tacoma in 2017-18, Andrew Kittredge (2015-16), Ryan Weber (2017), Forrest Snow (2011-2015), and catching them all is Adam Moore (2009-10, 2012). They have also seen appearances from Vidal Nuno (2015) and Zach Lee (2016).


2 Responses to “Game 62, Mariners at Rays – Everything Must Go!”

  1. Stevemotivateir on June 7th, 2018 6:26 pm

    I was just taking a peak to see how bad Miller was defensively by the numbers. The answer: as bad as Healy, though Miller was worth positive WAR.

    Leake has now strung together 4 solid starts, 5 out of his last 6.

    Go former Cardinals’ starters!

  2. LongDistance on June 7th, 2018 10:23 pm

    I’m OK if the M’s took a pass on Boddy. Driveline has that us-or-die approach to sales that could lead to an organization feeling it was joined at the hip to a program which, mixing metaphorically with total abandon, smacks of buying junk bonds from Scott Boris. I’m not sure Driveline has any particular development strategy that no one else knows. What’s sold is the glossy covered focus. A development program with a serious dose of patience (as the M’s claim they’ve revived as a word in their vocabulary) would, in my opinion, go a long way.

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