- The Mariners announced a slew of roster moves ahead of today’s game. Dylan Moore has been reinstated from the 10-day injured list, and Yohan Ramirez has been recalled from Triple-A. On the way out, Dillon Thomas and Donovan Walton were optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. Catcher Jacob Nottingham has also been outrighted to Triple-A.
The Mariners announced the activation of Kendall Graveman and Justin Dunn from the injured list. In corresponding moves, Keynan Middleton was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, while Yacksel Ríos was designated for assignment.
Graveman went on the COVID-19 IL on May 23. That halted what has been a brilliant 2021 season for the right-hander. Graveman has pitched 16 2/3 scoreless innings out of the Seattle bullpen over his first 14 appearances. He’s averaging a career-high 96.9 MPH on his sinker, backed up by a slider that has been one of the game’s best swing-and-miss offerings. Graveman has punched out a very strong 29.3% of opponents against a tiny 5.2% walk rate.
It’s a big season for Graveman, who is slated to hit free agency this winter for the first time. If he can continue to perform at something approaching this level down the stretch, he’ll position himself as one of the top relievers on the market. That impending free agency also makes him one of the sport’s more interesting trade candidates in advance of this summer’s July 30 deadline. At 31-33, the Mariners have fallen into fourth place in the AL West, five games back in the race for the second wild card. There’s still time to make up ground, but the Mariners have the AL’s second-worst run differential (-58), so they’ll need to play at a significantly better level if they’re to hang around the postseason picture.
Dunn went on the 10-day IL on June 1 with right shoulder inflammation. The injury was never expected to be particularly serious, and he’ll indeed return after a minimal IL stint. Dunn, who has a 3.18 ERA/5.08 SIERA across 45 1/3 frames this season, will start tonight’s game against the Indians.
Seattle just acquired Ríos in a minor deal with the Rays last week. The 27-year-old had pitched to a 0.66 ERA with a fantastic 34.7% strikeout rate with Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate, piquing the interest of the Mariners front office. He’s given up three runs in as many innings since the trade, with a pair of strikeouts and walks apiece. The Mariners will have a week to trade Ríos or place him on outright waivers. Having previously been outrighted in his career, Ríos would have the right to elect free agency if he passes through the wire unclaimed.
The Indians announced this morning that they’ve traded first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers to the Mariners in exchange for a player to be named later. Cleveland designated Bauers for assignment over the weekend, clearing an avenue for Bobby Bradley to get an opportunity at first base. The Mariners designated infielder Jack Mayfield for assignment in order to open a roster spot for Bauers, according to a press release of their own.
Bauers, 25, has spent parts of three seasons at the MLB level but has yet to produce much in the big leagues. He was ranked as one of the game’s top 75 or so prospects prior to both the 2017 and 2018 seasons at Baseball America, FanGraphs and MLB.com, but the above-average raw power and hit tool that contributed to those rankings has yet to really manifest. He’s logged 924 plate appearances between the Indians and the Rays but managed only a tepid .211/.309/.365 slash. Bauers does walk at a hearty 12 percent clip and can be deployed at any of first base, left field or right field.
It probably feels to many like Bauers should be older than 25, given the fact that his MLB debut came at the age of 22. But he’s still a relatively youthful option for the Mariners to try to catch some lightning in a bottle. He’s out of minor league options, so he’ll need to stick on the Major League roster or else be once again designated for assignment. However, with the mounting injuries the Mariners are facing at first base and in the outfield, it’s not a surprise to see them bring in another option.
The Mariners are without center fielder Kyle Lewis indefinitely after the 2020 Rookie of the Year sustained another knee injury late last month. First baseman Evan White struggled again to begin the season and has now spent nearly a month on the IL with a strained hip flexor. Infield/outfield options Sam Haggerty (shoulder inflammation) and Dylan Moore (calf strain) are both on the shelf at the moment as well, with Haggerty in particular out of the picture after being shifted to the 60-day IL. Meanwhile, uber-prospect Jarred Kelenic fell into a nightmarish slump after cracking a couple of early homers to begin his MLB career. Seattle optioned him back to Triple-A Tacoma this week.
This is the third trade and fourth organization for Bauers, a 2013 seventh-round pick who has the distinction of having been involved in a pair of notable three-team swaps. He went from the Padres to the Rays in the 2014 Wil Myers/Trea Turner deal. After debuting in the Majors with the Rays in 2018, he was flipped to Cleveland in the trade in a trade that, coincidentally enough, also involved the Mariners. That deal sent Edwin Encarnacion and a Competitive Balance draft pick from Cleveland to Seattle, with the Indians netting Carlos Santana and trading Yandy Diaz and Cole Sulser to Tampa Bay.
As for the 30-year-old Mayfield, he’s now been designated for assignment by a trio of AL West teams in the past year. The Astros, who signed Mayfield as an undrafted free agent in 2013, placed him on waivers last November, and he’s since bounced to the Braves, then the Angels and then the Mariners.
Mayfield is the quintessential light-hitting utility infielder. He’s a more-than-capable defender at any of shortstop, second base or third base but has struggled considerably to handle big league pitching. He’s had 150 turns at the plate in the past three seasons combined but put together a dismal .168/.195/.259 output in that time. Mayfield does carry a much more impressive .269/.325/.475 batting line in parts of five Triple-A seasons, however, and he can be optioned both this year and next. The Mariners will have a week to trade him or attempt to pass him through outright waivers.
The Mariners announced Tuesday that they have once again designated catcher Jacob Nottingham for assignment. His spot on the 40-man roster goes to outfielder Dillon Thomas, whose promotion to the big leagues was reported earlier this morning.
It’s the latest in a staggering series of transactions for Nottingham, who has spent the past several seasons with the Brewers organization and recently begun to be ping-ponged back and forth between Seattle and Milwaukee. A quick rundown of Nottingham’s bizarre timeline leading up to today’s DFA:
- April 22: Brewers designate Nottingham for assignment
- April 28: Mariners claim Nottingham of waivers
- May 1: Mariners designate Nottingham for assignment
- May 2: Brewers reacquire Nottingham in exchange for cash
- May 20: Mariners re-claim Nottingham off waivers
It remains to be seen if the Brewers will take another run at Nottingham, if he’ll land with another club or, perhaps, if he might finally clear waivers. The Mariners will have a week to gauge trade interest in the catcher or once again attempt to pass him through outright waivers. He’s out of minor league options, so any team that claims or acquires Nottingham will have to carry him on its MLB roster.
On the one hand, Nottingham is surely grateful to be in demand by at least these two teams. He gets Major League service time and Major League pay for any time spent in DFA limbo, so he’s at least being well compensated for the increasingly ridiculous tug-of-war the two teams are playing over him. On the other hand, it’s difficult for any player to bounce back and forth this much. Family considerations, housing, Covid protocols and myriad other factors come into play every time he changes teams.
Nottingham was once a catching prospect of some note, although he’s yet to receive any sort of regular playing time in the Majors. (Clearly, this year’s sequence isn’t helping.) He’s a career .250/.326/.421 hitter in 528 Triple-A plate appearances but has managed a more tepid .184/.277/.421 slash in a small sample of 130 plate appearances in the Majors. He homered twice in his 2021 debut with the Brewers and has also connected on a long ball in Seattle, but Nottingham’s 45 plate appearances in this strange season have resulted in a .150/.222/.400 output.
The Mariners will select the contract of outfielder Dillon Thomas from Triple-A Tacoma prior to today’s game, reports Robert Murray of FanSided (via Twitter). It’ll be the 28-year-old’s first call to the big leagues.
Thomas, a fourth-round pick by the 2011 Rockies, spent six years in Colorado’s system and another pair of seasons in the Cubs organization before joining the Mariners on a minor league pact over the winter. He’s made a good impression in his first look with Tacoma, raking at a .338/.459/.625 pace with six homers, five doubles, four steals (in five tries) and a hearty 12.2 percent walk rate through his first 98 plate appearances.
Outside of three games at first base with the Rockies’ Double-A club back in 2016, Thomas has worked exclusively as an outfielder in his minor league career. He’ll join Jake Fraley and Taylor Trammell as left-handed outfield options alongside right-handed-hitting veteran Mitch Haniger. The Mariners, of course, are without Kyle Lewis for the foreseeable future owing to a knee injury and just yesterday optioned top prospect Jarred Kelenic back to Tacoma after several weeks of struggles against big league pitching.
Trammell laid waste to Triple-A pitching in his brief demotion to Tacoma, and given his own widely agreed-upon status as one of the game’s top outfield prospects, he ought to be in line for regular reps in center again. Haniger is a fixture in right field, save for the occasional day at designated hitter. That leaves Fraley, Thomas and perhaps utilityman Donovan Walton as the Mariners’ top options for work in left field at the moment.
The Mariners announced that they have reinstated infielder Shed Long from the 60-day injured list, optioned outfielder Jarred Kelenic to Triple-A Tacoma and transferred infielder/outfielder Sam Haggerty to the 60-day IL with right shoulder inflammation.
Kelenic, one of the game’s most touted prospects, reached the majors for the first time in the middle of May. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old could only produce an .096/.185/.193 line over his first 92 plate appearances in the bigs, punching out at a 28.3 percent clip along the way. Kelenic drew walks at a solid 8.7 percent clip, connected on a pair of homers and went 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts, but it was still far from the debut most hoped to see.
Of course, it’s easy to forget that even the most-hyped prospects in the sport don’t hit the ground running all the time. Kelenic in particular was rather aggressively pushed through the minors, perhaps in part due to former Mariners president Kevin Mather rather blatantly broadcasting the organization’s plans to hold him in the minors for service time purposes, regardless of performance in Spring Training or early in the season.
Kelenic played just 21 Double-A games in 2019, and while he was with the club’s alternate site in 2020, he didn’t actually play in competitive games against other organizations last year. The delayed start to the minor league season meant more of the same intra-squad action for Kelenic to begin the 2021 campaign, and while that certainly carries some developmental value, it’s not the same as actual competition against other clubs. He utterly destroyed Triple-A pitching when the minor league season finally got underway in May, but he only played in six games before being summoned to the Majors.
The service time issue raised by Mather shined a spotlight on Kelenic’s ascension to the Majors, so it’s worth looking at just how a return to Triple-A will now impact his service clock. Kelenic was already guaranteed to finish the season shy of one year of service, so it’s unlikely his path to free agency will be further delayed by this demotion. He was always going to finish this year with between zero and one year of service, finish the 2022 season between one and two years, the 2023 season between two and three years, and so on, up until the completion of the 2027 season.
Kelenic accrued 26 days of Major League service time in his first run through the big leagues. In order for that free-agent calculus to change, he’d need to spend fewer than 146 days in the Majors between 2021 and 2022 combined. That seems decidedly unlikely, barring an untimely major injury or injuries sustained while playing at the minor league level. What today’s demotion could do, however, is impact whether Kelenic eventually qualifies as a Super Two player who’d be eligible for arbitration four times (assuming the arbitration system as we know it remains intact in the next collective bargaining agreement, which isn’t a given).
Super Two designation is awarded to the top 22 percent of players (in terms of service time) who have between two and three years of service in a given season. Generally speaking, prospects who are called up in mid-to-late June and stick in the big leagues end up falling just shy of Super Two status. Kelenic’s early-May promotion had him on track for Super Two status, but if he were to spend another four to six weeks in the minors, he could fall into a more traditional arbitration schedule.
There’s obviously no indication as to how long the club plans to keep him down for at the moment, and he’ll probably control his own fate to some extent. If he immediately takes the Pacific Coast League by storm and continues hitting near the .370/.414/.630 pace he did in his brief Triple-A showing earlier this year, his stay in the minors could prove brief. If Kelenic’s struggles persist in Tacoma, however, it’s feasible that the early struggles could cost him one trip through arbitration.
With Kelenic now back in Tacoma and Kyle Lewis facing a prolonged absence due to another knee injury, the Mariners’ promising young outfield has a much different look. Fellow top prospect Taylor Trammell is back for a second look after dominating Triple-A himself (the exact path the Mariners no doubt hope Kelenic will travel in the coming weeks). He’ll handle center field. Mitch Haniger has been excellent in right field all season and should remain the primary option there, though he’s also a logical trade candidate, particularly if the Mariners slip further below .500. (They’re currently 30-31.) Seattle also recently got 26-year-old Jake Fraley back from a notable hamstring strain, so he could step into Kelenic’s spot in left. Utilityman Donovan Walton could see some occasional time there, and Long has logged time in left field in the past as well.
Speaking of the now-25-year-old Long, he’s now set for his 2021 debut after spending months working back from the surgery he underwent on his right tibia last September. The former Reds prospect impressed in his first major league action in 2019, when he batted .263/.333/.454 with five home runs and three stolen bases in 168 plate appearances, but he was unable to build on that in 2020 as he attempted to play through a stress fracture that eventually led to that September surgery.
Long took 128 plate appearances last summer but posted a disastrous .171/.242/.291 with three homers and four steals before landing on the injured list. It’s admirable that he tried to gut things out, but the injury was clearly hindering him at the plate. He’ll now get a fresh chance, presumably at full health, to prove he’s more the 2019 version of himself than the 2020 version.
- Mariners left-hander Yusei Kikuchi left last night’s start against the Angels in the fifth inning after being struck on the right knee by a David Fletcher line drive. The team announced he’s been diagnosed with a knee contusion/bone bruise. Kikuchi, who had to be helped off the field, was able to put some weight on his leg after the game manager Scott Servais told reporters (including Corey Brock of the Athletic). Servais suggested he didn’t believe there was any sort of fracture, and Kikuchi’s feeling “better than expected” today (via Brock), although it’s still possible he’ll need an IL stint. Kikuchi has been the Mariners best starter this year, tossing 66 2/3 innings of 3.92 ERA/3.64 SIERA ball.
- Brewers righty Freddy Peralta has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. The 25-year-old is among the league’s top fifteen hurlers in ERA (2.25), SIERA (3.11), and strikeout/walk rate differential (26.1 percentage points). Will Sammon of the Athletic looks back at the December 2015 trade that sent Peralta, then a low minors pitching prospect, from the Mariners to the Brewers as part of the return for first baseman Adam Lind. Matt Kleine, now the Brewers vice president of baseball operations, initially spotted Peralta on the Mariners back fields in 2013. Intrigued by his fastball shape and athleticism, Kleine pushed the Milwaukee higher-ups to bring in Peralta via trade, and the opportunity presented itself when the Mariners expressed interest in Lind. Sammon breaks down Peralta’s continued progression and evolution (including the development of a slider and changeup to diversify his once fastball-heavy repertoire) in a piece that’ll be of interest to Brewers fans.
The Mariners announced a number of roster moves today. Following yesterday’s trade for Yacksel Rios, the Mariners have selected his contract and added the right-hander to the active roster. The hard-throwing 28-year-old will have a chance to make an impression in the Mariners’ injury-depleted bullpen.
Drew Steckenrider will join Rios in the pen. Steckenrider has been reinstated from the injured list. The 30-year-old right-hander has been out since May 21st as part of the COVID-19 protocols. Prior to landing on the IL, the former Marlin had appeared 14 times and logged 18 1/3 innings with a 2.45 ERA/2.32 FIP.
To make room for Rios and Steckenrider, Robert Dugger and Daniel Zamora have been optioned to Triple-A. Dugger started yesterday’s game in an Opener capacity, tossing 2 1/3 innings and yielding a pair of earned runs. Zamora, 28, has made four appearances on the year, tossing 4 1/3 innings and giving up three earned runs.
The Mariners announced Friday that they have acquired right-hander Yacksel Rios from the Rays in exchange for cash. He’s not currently on the 40-man roster, having inked a minor league pact with Tampa Bay over the winter.
Of course, that lack of a 40-man roster spot may change quickly. The Mariners have a pair of open spots on their roster, and Rios has been lights-out in Triple-A Durham thus far in 2021. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Rios had a June 1 opt-out date in his contract, so this trade quite likely boils down to a matter of the Rays not feeling there’s a spot for him in their current bullpen and helping him land in a situation with a quick and straightforward path to the big leagues.
Rios, who’ll turn 28 later this month, doesn’t have much of a track record in the Majors but has ripped through Triple-A lineups so far in 2021. He’s tossed 13 2/3 innings with Tampa Bay’s top affiliate and yielded just one run on eight hits and two walks with 17 strikeouts, complementing those numbers with a terrific 56.7 percent grounder rate.
Rios has just a 6.36 ERA in 69 1/3 big league innings, so those eye-popping numbers in Triple-A should be taken with a grain of salt. But the hard-throwing righty averages just shy of 96 mph on his heater and has generated a solid 11.9 percent swinging-strike rate during his 66 big league appearances, so it’s certainly possible he has more in the tank. The Mariners entered the season with a fluid bullpen mix in the first place and are currently without Kendall Graveman, Erik Swanson, Casey Sadler, Andres Munoz and Drew Steckenrider, so there should be opportunity for Rios in the near future.
June 3: Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto didn’t paint a particularly optimistic picture in an appearance on 710 ESPN in this morning (Twitter link via 710’s Maura Dooley). “I’m hopeful we’ll see him again this year, but I don’t think it’s going to be quick,” Dipoto said of Lewis’ outlook. The GM added (via 710’s Brandon Gustafson) that the team will be “hypersensitive” with Lewis’ injury, which isn’t surprising given his prior knee problems.
The Mariners have yet to issue a concrete timeline on Lewis’ recovery or provide much in the way of detail on next steps in his rehab process.
June 2: Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis will go for a second opinion on his injured right knee, manager Scott Servais told reporters (including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times and Corey Brock of the Athletic). It certainly seems he’s looking at a potential extended absence, as Servais noted Lewis is “really down” about the original prognosis. The Mariners placed Lewis on the 10-day injured list with a meniscus tear and sent him for an MRI yesterday, and Daniel Kramer of MLB.com noted at the time that surgery was a possible option.
If Lewis is indeed forced to go under the knife, it’d be a brutal development for the 25-year-old. Lewis has been plagued by issues with that knee for much of his professional career. He tore his ACL shortly after being drafted in 2016, and it continue to bother him intermittently over the next few seasons. Lewis finally returned to peak form in 2019, and he shined during his first extended big league run last season. The former first-round pick hit .262/.364/.437 last year en route to the AL Rookie of the Year award.
He began the 2021 season on the IL after suffering a bone bruise in the same knee during Spring Training. Following a three-week absence, Lewis returned and got off to a solid .246/.333/.392 start before suffering this latest injury. Taylor Trammell was recalled in his place yesterday and seems likely to get extended run alongside Mitch Haniger and Jarred Kelenic while Lewis is out.