The Mariners are expected to sign Tommy Milone to a minor league contract, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (Twitter link). The veteran left-hander will presumably open the year with Triple-A Tacoma.
Milone is a familiar face to Mariners fans, as he spent the 2019 campaign in Seattle. That season, he tossed 111 2/3 innings as a swingman, pitching to a 4.76 ERA. The M’s are one of nine different teams for which the 35-year-old has suited up at the big league level. The USC product has bounced around the league in true journeyman fashion, but he’s continued to earn big league looks along the way. Milone has pitched in the majors in each of the past eleven seasons, although his 14 frames with the Blue Jays last year marked a personal low.
One of the softer throwers in the game, Milone has never been known for his bat-missing prowess. Bizarrely, he did punch out an above-average 26.2% of opposing hitters on a strong 12.4% swinging strike rate last season despite averaging a career-low 84.2 MPH on his fastball. That’s probably little more than a sample size blip, as his 16.4% strikeout percentage in Triple-A more closely aligned with his career track record.
Without overpowering stuff, Milone has gotten by on excellent control. He’s never walked more than 7.1% of batters faced in a given season, and he’s doled out free passes at just a 5.6% clip for his career. (Last year’s league average walk percentage for starters, for reference, checked in at 7.8%). That strike-throwing reliability has made Milone a frequently-used depth option throughout his career. He has started 146 of his 189 MLB appearances, posting a 4.59 cumulative ERA.
The Mariners look likely to open the year with a top four of Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert. Top prospects Matt Brash and George Kirby look the likely options for the final spot, with Brash seemingly having the upper hand by virtue of last season’s late selection onto the 40-man roster. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic wrote yesterday that Seattle brass would prefer to add another starter to that group, but it’s not clear that’s possible at this stage of the offseason. Regardless of whether the M’s make another rotation move in the next week, Milone figures to begin the season in Tacoma and remain on hand in the event injuries necessitate a midseason call-up.