Nearly four and a half years ago, the Mariners traded Cliff Lee, then one of the best pitchers in the game, to the Texas Rangers in exchange for a war chest of prospects: Justin Smoak headlined the deal, but it also included minor leaguers Josh Leuke, Matt Wilson, and Texas’ 2007 first round selection Blake Beavan.
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Yesterday, the M’s finally cut ties with the last of those disappointments (as reported by SB Nation), as Beavan chose free agency over remaining with Seattle, and there can be no way for Jack Zduriencik or his eventual successors to bring him back.
Beavan joined a franchise that had taken a major step back from the previous year, and after finishing above .500 in 2009 they ended 2010 with 101 losses. The decline in starting pitching quality forced him into the rotation in mid-season, where he put up a very ordinary 4.27 ERA in 15 starts. Flashes of brilliance (most notably his 8.0 scoreless innings against the team that drafted him on September 16) were too few and far between, but there was hope that he could at least hold a rotation spot long-term when Michael Pineda was dealt to New York in the offseason.
2012 began very well for Beavan, and his four April starts indicated that he had turned the corner and could be a part of Jack Zduriencik’s envisioned future, but six appearances later his ERA was back near 6.00. That lack of consistency, along with the presence of both Kevin Millwood and Hector Noesi in the rotation, was far from the greatest flaw on a team that was still deep in rebuilding mode. As the season progressed and the games became more meaningless, Beavan could be counted on to do just well enough to keep his place, and he lasted 26 starts, winning 11 times and throwing 152.1 innings.
But in 2013, the emergence of Hisashi Iwakuma to number two starter combined with the surprise debut of Brandon Maurer and the signing of Joe Saunders made Beavan’s place on the 25-man roster much more precarious. And indeed, after two horrendous starts, he was moved to the bullpen, where he lasted until only the end of the month before being sent to Tacoma.
March 3, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Blake Beavan (49) throws a pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
He returned in June as a long reliever, and in his first appearance shocked the organization by going 6.1 innings of one-hit ball in relief of Aaron Harang. But that was his last scoreless outing of the season, and as the hype surrounding Taijuan Walker and James Paxton came to fruition with their September debuts, Beavan became an afterthought.
2014 was Beavan’s last chance to earn a major league spot, but to do so he would need to finish transitioning to a full-time bullpen role. No longer would he be in consideration for a permanent starting role, even as injuries to Iwakuma and Paxton threatened what was once again a top-tier rotation.
However, he began the season neither with the M’s nor in the bullpen, and he only sniffed the majors once, pitching four innings in April against the Rangers. A shoulder injury derailed the rest of his first half of the year, and by then the bullpen had established itself as a well-oiled machine. Beavan’s major league career in Seattle was over.
It is no real surprise then that the once-touted prospect will take his marginal talents elsewhere. Perhaps, like his former rotation-mate Noesi, with a change of scenery he can have a bit of a renaissance. Or maybe we will read a blip on the news radar in a year or two announcing his retirement. Only time will tell, though most Mariners fans have long since stopped caring.
But Blake Beavan need not be forgotten in Seattle, and his name need not be met with complete disdain. The memory of him is one of a time not that long past: a time of failure, disappointment, and the seemingly unescapable pit of mediocrity. But what he brought to the organization and fans is perspective. He, along with Smoak and the rest of the underachievers from the past decade who have since departed, gave us more than a taste of how bad it can get, which makes the achievements of last year and the promise of future success that much sweeter.