June 2: Ford’s selection is now official with the Mariners announcing the move today.
June 1: The Mariners are selecting the contract of first baseman Mike Ford, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (Twitter links). He adds that the move won’t be official until tomorrow but outfielder Taylor Trammell has already been optioned as the corresponding move. The club already had a 40-man roster vacancy and won’t require another move to open a spot there. Ford had triggered an opt-out in his minor league deal earlier today, giving the club 48 hours to add him to the roster or else lose him to free agency, though they’ve quickly taken the former route.
Ford, 30, gets back to the majors thanks to a torrid stretch on the farm to start this year. He signed a minor league deal with the Mariners in the winter and has 13 home runs through 49 Triple-A games so far. He’s been playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League but his .302/.427/.605 batting line still amounts to a 143 wRC+, indicating he’s been 43% better than league average at the plate overall. He has a 16.1% walk rate and a strikeout rate of just 14.2%.
The lefty-swinger has posted strong results in the minors before, having hit .263/.363/.493 over 365 Triple-A games for his career. But his attempts to handle major league pitching haven’t gone as well, as he’s hit .201/.301/.387 in 468 plate appearances dating back to 2019. He’s never really been given a lengthy chance, however, as he’s yet to get into more than 50 games in a big league season.
The Mariners will see if he can provided a needed jolt to their offense. The club is collectively hitting .228/.308/.381 for a wRC+ of 97. The designated hitter slot has been especially disappointing, with the club getting a collective .148/.248/.295 line out of that position. That translates to a wRC+ of 56, the worst such mark in the majors. There hasn’t been any set player in that role, as the club has largely used it to give more at-bats to their many outfielders, with Julio Rodríguez, Jarred Kelenic, Teoscar Hernández, AJ Pollock and Taylor Trammell all getting some time there. Since Ford is only really capable of playing first base and the M’s have Ty France there, Ford could take some plate appearances away from that outfield group.
Of course, the one who is most obviously squeezed out of playing time is Trammell, as he’s now headed down to the farm. He’s somewhat similar to Ford in the sense that he’s always struggled in the majors despite crushing in the minors. He’s hitting .133/.278/.333 for Seattle this year and has a .168/.269/.370 line in his big league career, striking out in 37% of his plate appearances. In Triple-A, however, he’s hit .285/.377/.495 across three different seasons. He’ll now head back there to try to get into a good groove.
The transaction is potentially significant for Trammell as he has just one option season remaining. Once he spends 20 days in the minors, that means he will officially burn that final option here in 2023 and will be out of options in 2024.