Despite the chill still hanging in the air and winter not taking a hint on when to leave, Opening Day is now a mere four days way. For the Seattle Mariners, the season will open on the road as they take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. We all know on Monday, March 31st, that Felix Hernandez will once again take the hill as the Opening Day starter for Seattle. What happens after that? Well, at this point, your guess is as good as mine.
Injuries have ravaged the Mariners’ rotation here in the early Spring. Hisashi Iwakuma and top prospect Taijuan Walker will both miss the start of the season. Because of that, it was speculation that the Mariners would open the season with veterans Scott Baker and Randy Wolf in the rotation. Well, not only will they not be in the rotation, neither veteran starter is with the team. On Monday, Seattle released Scott Baker, per the veteran’s request. Baker ended up in Texas, another team ravaged with injuries to their starting pitching in the early going of the season. Since Baker asked for his release, I assume he was not going to make the rotation.
This was not the case with Randy Wolf. Wolf was told he had made the rotation, but he was asked to agree to a 45-day advance-consent release. In layman’s terms, it means the Mariners could have released him within 45 days and not been on the hook for Wolf’s contract for the entire season. And, with Iwakuma and Walker expected to be back within that 45 day window, Wolf might have been looking at a release. The veteran chose security and took his release from the Mariners.
I hate this move. After opening their purses to improve in signing Cano and Rodney, the Mariners put a noose over Wolf with the 45-day release making it look like he would be discarded after the team no longer needed him at the end of April. If he pitched well enough in the Spring to make the rotation, and it is reported he did, then this is a bush league move. Is Wolf the missing link to a playoff run? Probably not, but the Mariners need Wolf in April more than Wolf needed the Mariners. Fourteen of Seattle’s first nineteen games are on the road. By the time Sunday April 27th hits, the Mariners will have played twenty-two games in the division. A veteran arm would have been a useful tool for a young team playing an important stretch of games in April. Instead, the Mariners will roll the dice on youth.
Depending on what the Mariners do with Chris Young, who they signed after being released by the Nationals today, the Mariners are looking at basically four rookies behind Hernandez. The rotation, as listed today on ESPN.com, goes Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, Blake Beavan, and Roenis Elias. I like what Ramirez showed at the end of last season and in the Spring, but he has twenty-one career starts. Beavan has forty-three career starts, but he only made two last season going 0-2 with a 6.13 ERA. Paxton, like Ramirez, looked strong at the end of 2013 has four career starts. Elias, who may be replaced by Young or Brandon Maurer, has zero starts. The rotation is green, and Seattle will play their first sixteen games against the three teams ahead of them in the A.L. West: the Angels, A’s, and Rangers. Forcing Wolf into a situation where he left wasn’t the right play.