Back during the 2020/21 offseason, the Mariners were looking far and wide for starting pitchers to add to their rotation. They made a call to former Mariners stud James Paxton to fill one spot. Then, they took a look at the KBO and Chris Flexen.
Flexen had pitched for the Mets to varying levels of disappointment. A 7.88, 12.79, and a 6.59 ERA in each of his first three seasons. He would sign for 2020 with the Doosan Bears, and turn in a spectacular season for them. Once the year was over, he decided to take another shot at pitching in the MLB.
The Mariners struck gold in signing Chris Flexen
It ended up being one of the highest valued signings of the entire free agent class, regardless of team. The Mariners and Chris Flexen agreed to a 2-4.75 million deal, with a player option in 2023 that starts at $4 million, and can escalate to $8 million if flex reaches one of a handful of innings exceptions that are included in the deal. If he reaches 300 IP in 2021+2022, or 150 IP in 2022, then it becomes $8 million. Then, making it awkward, he would be ARB 3 in 2024.
With how Flexen has thrown so far this season, it has been a steal of a deal. With the numbers he is putting up, Mariners fans would be happy if the team was paying him $16 million a year. Take a look at what he has done this season, and where it ranks in all of baseball for qualified pitchers.
- Salary – $1.7 million (103rd)
- IP – 162.1 (29th) – just 28 starts though, so he slides up to ~21st with his next start
- ERA – 3.66 (25th)
- FIP – 3.83 (28th)
- WHIP – 1.26 (33rd)
- HR allowed – 16 (8th)
- Quality starts – 14 (26th)
Are these numbers Ace worthy? No, they aren’t. That’s not the point of the article though. What they are representative of is a massive steal for the Mariners. For #4 starter money, they are getting borderline top of the rotation stats. A solid #2 for your starting pitching.
Flexen is a great innings eater, and he’s just 27-years-old. You could argue he’s a lot younger than that experience-wise, having thrown just 230.1 MLB innings. There could be another level to his stuff and production, something we often see from pitchers as they approach 30. He averages 5.8 innings per outing, and can more often than not get you into the latter third of the game, which is what you hope for from your starters.
With just two weeks left in the season, the Mariners are on the edge of the playoffs looking in. A large part of that success is due to the emergence of Chris Flexen, and the amazing find the Mariners were able to obtain when they signed him.