The Seattle Mariners knew they were soon going to be getting center fielder Austin Jackson back from the disabled list. What they didn’t know was how they were going to make room for him. Now the roster has been shuffled and the moves have been made. Jackson is back, and the guy he’s displacing might surprise you.
Danny Farquhar, former closer and by all accounts one of baseball’s best relievers in 2013/2014, has been optioned to AAA Tacoma in order to make room for the M’s starting CF. It’s a little shocking, given how good Farquhar has been the last few seasons. But perhaps the bigger surprise is that it leaves the M’s with a six-man bullpen, something the team has been averse to in recent seasons.
Jackson will take over a center field position that has mostly been manned by Dustin Ackley and Justin Ruggiano, though Brad Miller spent some exciting time there as well. He’s been hitting well while on a rehab assignment, and the hope is that he can carry that over. If it carries over, great. If it doesn’t, Jackson will go down as another notoriously busted Mariner.
After falling apart in the second half with Seattle a season ago, Jackson is slashing .242/.294/.326 through his first 103 plate appearances on the year. That’s a 78 wRC+, which is actually worse than the 85 he finished at in 2014 (though higher than the terrible 51 he put up with Seattle in the second half). Jackson’s a free agent at season’s end, and without strong play the rest of the way he’s going to be something like a reclamation project. Oh yeah, and the M’s will have gone a year with crappy production in center. That seems significant as well.
Farquhar has a 6.46 ERA and a better-but-still-bad 4.24 FIP through 23.2 innings, and this is a move the team is probably not thrilled to make. Farquhar should be better than this, but he’s rather inexplicably seen a huge decrease in the number of strikeouts he’s generating. After posting a 12.77 K/9 in 2013, he was down to 10.27 per nine a year ago. That’s still a strong number, but now he’s all the way down to 7.61. That’s not terrible, but it’s concerning given where he’s been at.
Perhaps Farquhar’s struggles are mechanical, and perhaps a stint in the minors is exactly what he needs to get straightened out. His walk rate has been in line with his career marks, but he’s allowing way more homers than ever and is running an abnormally high BABIP as well. Clearly there are things to be worked through, and apparently the M’s must feel okay with shorting their bullpen in order to give their should-be best reliever back on track.
So for now the six are Fernando Rodney, Carson Smith, Charlie Furbush, Joe Beimel, Mark Lowe, and Tom Wilhelmsen. Roenis Elias threw six strong innings today, meaning the M’s only had to use half of their now-current bullpen. It seems a risky proposition, especially since there is no looming Thursday off day to give the guys some rest. And what’s worse is that even when Farquhar is eligible to return in ten days, there’s no obvious spot for him.
Unless, of course, someone’s getting cut. Which could be the case! Rickie Weeks might not be worth a roster spot anymore. Same for Willie Bloomquist, but you’d think his ability to play every position will keep him around longer than Weeks. Those are the only two obvious choices, and neither is a move you necessarily want to make.
Or the M’s could try to trade Dustin Ackley. That would be the unexpected option, though mostly because it seems unlikely anyone would want him at this point, or that the team would want to trade him while his value was so close to zero. It’s getting pretty clear that Ack is playing himself out of Seattle, following in a rich tradition of top prospects and high draft choices who forced the team’s hand with their unbelievably poor play.
Maybe the M’s juggle the rotation to get Taijuan Walker to Tacoma and go with a four-man unit for a while. Maybe they dump one of the dead weight offensive players. Or maybe they roll with the six-man bullpen for a while! That would be fun. Bullpens are so big these days. Whatever they end up doing, they’ll need to get creative. But not for another week or so.
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