Manager Scott Servais has done an admirable job cobbling the late-inning work with both Andres Munoz and Penn Murfee on the shelf. The bullpen (minus Juan Then) has performed at a high level all season, ranking in the Top 5 in many critical categories (holds, Strikeouts, GB rate). Tayler Saucedo, Gabe Speier, Trevor Gott, and Justin Topa have all provided immense value combining for 2.1 WAR. However, the relief corps is about to get a shot, or in this case, a couple of shots in the arm later this week.
Murfee isn’t too far behind and thinks he will join the team on the upcoming road trip. With two key arms inches away from the big-league club, what does Servais do with his reliever lineup? Who will head to Tacoma? For this exercise, let’s consider the following relievers are locks to stay on the roster: Paul Sewald, Matt Brash, Trevor Gott, Justin Topa, Tayler Saucedo, and Gabe Speier.
It is safe to say the 22-year-old Then will be one of the team’s choices as he has had an uneven performance thus far (5.00 ERA). However, the team still needs to free up another roster spot. Could the odd man out be Chris Flexen? He was at the center of some trade speculation this past off season.
The 28-year-old righthander has a contract option that he can exercise on June 1st, which allows him to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Flexen was a solid starter on this team for two years, but with Bryce Miller’s emergence and Marco Gonzales back to his old self, there aren’t any innings for him. Not to mention, flamethrowing righthander Bryan Woo is also knocking on the door.
Flexen’s option, if he chooses it, allows him to become a free agent, or the team can designate him for assignment. If the team does DFA him, then the choice is either go to Tacoma and continue to get paid at the salary we are paying you ($8M) or become a free agent and probably get the veteran minimum somewhere, which comes out to a little over $1M. So from a financial standpoint, you’d think Flexen would accept the assignment to Tacoma with the thought that he might be able to help the team later this season.
Either way, it’s a catch-22, strengthen the team’s relief corps with the addition of Munoz and Murfee but part ways with a well-liked and versatile arm. Or keep Flexen and option one of the overachieving relievers, such as Saucedo, Speier, or Topa. Then again, you never know with the Mariners; maybe a trade in the works includes Flexen. He has a track record of being a more than capable starter who can eat innings. Contenders need these types of pitchers to get their staff through the dog days of August.
Oh, the beauty of baseball in the summer months; hang on, it will be a wild ride. Not as wild as the Fernando Rodney Experience, but pretty close.