The Seattle Mariners have done a good job of building their future pitching staff with some great young talent in the minor leagues. They have also done a good job of filling out their big league rotation by adding Chris Flexen and Robbie Ray the last two years. They have only four reliable starting pitchers as of today, and they need to add one more to fill out the rotation. They could go for an under-the-radar option in Zach Davies, who has been reliable before.
Davies has had a decent 7-year career to this point where he spent most of his time in Milwaukee and then spent one year with the Padres and Cubs. Now at 29 years old, he is a free agent. He has had some quality years and some very mediocre years. In 2016 and 2017, he was worth 2.5 and 2.7 WAR and pitched 354.2 innings over the two years. He has also had other years where he hasn’t gone over 100 innings, with less production.
Zach Davies would be a nice low-cost addition to the Mariners rotation
Last year was the only year of Davies career where he had over 100 innings and was not worth 1.5 WAR. He pitched 148.1 innings last year and was worth only 0.1 WAR on a Cubs team that had an awful second half. At only 29 years old, it is hard to say that he is now bad based on last year. He struggled last year because he gave up more home runs and walked more batters. His BB/9 went up by about 2 from his career norms and his HR/9 jumped too.
Davies has a four-pitch mix with a sinker around 89 mph, a changeup, a curveball, and a cutter. He throws his sinker the most, about 53% of the time. From his heat maps on Baseball Savant, he got his sinker too high in the zone too often and the hitters were able to hit over .300 against it last year. His changeup is pretty good, and he uses it about 33% of the time. He splits the other 14% of his pitches evenly between his cutter and curveball.
If the Mariners were to sign Davies, he would ideally be able to have the Mariners give him a quick fix or a way to keep his sinker down so that hitters don’t see it so well. If they can get him to be a 150 inning starting pitcher, then they could easily see him be a quality starting pitcher again. The big question is health, but if he can stay healthy then he could give the Mariners 150-180 innings and about a 3.50-4.00 ERA, and that is pretty dang good.
If he is Chris Flexen lite next year, then that would be a great addition for the Mariners. Flexen had almost 180 innings, a 3.61 ERA, 3.89 FIP, and was worth 3.0 WAR. Davies has had two years very similar to this in 2016 and 2017, so he can get there again. If Davies pitched 160 innings, a 3.80 ERA, and a 4.00 FIP and is a 2 WAR pitcher, that is very good for the Mariners and gives them a quality number 5 starter.
If the Mariners do not go for a big name in a trade like Sean Manaea or Luis Castillo and go for a much cheaper option, then they should look at signing Zach Davies. He has been a quality pitcher before and could be this offseason’s Chris Flexen. If he gets hurt after a month or two, then he has provided a bridge to the young pitchers like Matt Brash or George Kirby. Giving Zach Davies a short-term deal seems like a very sensitive situation that does not hinder their future at all.