Sam Tuivailala clears waivers, Mariners decision still odd

Seattle Mariners social media was thrown through a loop last week when the team placed Sam Tuivailala on outright release waivers. We still can’t figure out why.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Sam Tuivailala had cleared waivers and was officially named a free agent. This came just days after the Mariners and GM Jerry Dipoto decided to place the right-handed pitcher on outright release waivers, a move that was surprising, to say the least.

But despite the time that has elapsed, we are still no closer to understanding the perplexing move. Tuivailala was the team’s best and most consistent reliever in 2020. He missed about half the year rehabbing from a torn Achilles tendon. But despite appearing in just 23 games, Tuivailala produced a 0.8 bWAR, and impressive number for a full season from a reliever.

Tuivailala also produced a 2.35 ERA, a 3.13 FIP, a 188 ERA+, and a career-high 10.6 K/9 rate. Some believed Tuivailala could have become the teams closer in 2020 and with 3-years of club control, he could have been a key cog in the next winning Mariners team.

Instead, Tuivailala will be looking for work in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak and we aren’t sure why. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported that the reliever appeared in a B game about a week before the shutdown and the fastball that usually sat 92-95 was closer to 85-88, leading some to assume he was hurt.

But Tuivailala would later tweet that he was, in fact, healthy. And even if he wasn’t there was no reason to release him when there is no deadline to get to the 26-man roster and the team didn’t need the 40-man spot anytime soon.

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With injury ruled out and the clear value Tuivailala could have provided for Seattle, we can only speculate about why the sudden divorce came to be. Tuivailala is not irreplaceable and Seattle has plenty of in-house options to consider, so this isn’t a massive blow. But the relative strangeness of this decision will keep us interested in the rationale for a good, long while.

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