The Mariners announced this afternoon they’ve designated first baseman Mike Ford for assignment. The move clears a 40-man roster spot for catcher Luis Torrens, who has been reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list.
Seattle selected Ford when Torrens first went on the IL last Tuesday. Players on the COVID IL don’t count against the 40-man, so the M’s could bring Ford up to the majors. Evidently, Seattle wasn’t permitted to designate Ford as a “COVID substitute,” however. Therefore, they’ve had to designate him for assignment to open a 40-man spot for Torrens.
Under the 2022 health and safety protocols, the commissioner’s office has the sole discretion to determine whether a team has been sufficiently impacted by COVID to call up “substitute” players. If granted permission — as the A’s were earlier this season — the team can then return those substitutes back to Triple-A (and, if the substitute was not previously on the 40-man, off the roster entirely) without utilizing a minor league option or passing the player through waivers. If the commissioner’s office doesn’t feel the team is sufficiently affected by the virus to warrant designated substitutes, the team can still select new players onto the 40-man roster, but they’d have to be designated for assignment like everyone else in order to be taken off.
Ford will now be traded or placed on waivers within the next week. He didn’t get into an MLB game with Seattle, but he’d been off to a scorching .317/.404/.488 start over 11 appearances with their top affiliate in Tacoma. Presumably, the M’s will try to run him through waivers to outright him back to the Rainiers. Ford, who signed a minor league deal over the offseason, is a .199/.301/.422 hitter in 319 MLB plate appearances.
Torrens has started the season 3-13. He hit at a roughly league average level (.243/.299/.431 with 15 homers in 378 plate appearances) last season but didn’t rate favorably behind the dish. The M’s also have Cal Raleigh and Tom Murphy on the roster, and Torrens can serve as an occasional catcher, designated hitter and pinch-hitting option off the bench.