Mariners Twitter threw a bit of a fit last week when the team surprisingly DFA’d reliever Sam Delaplane instead of simply transferring him to the 60-day IL. The prevailing theory is that the team didn’t transfer Delaplane because then they’d be required to pay him the full MLB minimum contract for 2021. In short, the Mariners were so cheap, they didn’t want to keep a promising reliever around for the MLB equivalent of pocket change.
But what the angry mob failed to consider are the actual baseball reasons for the designation of Delaplane. As a quick refresher, Delaplane is a minor league reliever who the Mariners added to their 40-man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Delaplane was thought likely to make his big league debut in 2021, but he couldn’t crack the Opening Day Roster and after spending time at the alternate training site, it was revealed that he was headed for Tommy John Surgery. The 26-year-old reliever held a place inside the teams Top 30 prospect lists on most outlets, thanks to prodigious strikeout rates in the minor leagues.
However, the shock from Mariners fans about his release has gone above and beyond what is reasonable. Delaplane is out for 2021 and the likelihood that he’ll be an effective reliever in 2022 is slim. Delaplane will also turn 27-years-old next March and doesn’t profile as a high-leverage reliever. Do you remember how bad the bullpen was for Seattle in 2020? And yet, Delaplane was never able to crack it, even when the team knew they were adding him to the 40-man roster the following month.
For what its worth, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN has noted that Delaplane struggled with his command last summer and this spring before he went under the knife. So the Mariners decided not to wait 12-18 months on a 27-year-old middle reliever with no MLB experience and a slim chance to develop into a high leverage option. That is reasonable. Especially when you consider where the team hopes to be in 2022.
Finding a replacement for Delaplane isn’t going to be an issue. The team has a plethora of other options who would likely surpass Delaplane as he rehabs and Jerry Dipoto has shown that he can build a bullpen on the fly. So why stick a player on the 60-day IL and guarantee his salary when the overwhelming odds point to you simply releasing him shortly after the world series? To be nice? No, the real reason for such a move would have PR related.
After all, being called cheap isn’t good for a billion dollar entity. And after the off-season John Stanton and Kevin Mather forced upon the fans, it’s hard to reason with people who think the team is cheap. Because, as their actions have shown the past 6 months, that 100% justified. So what am I actually trying to say? Let’s put it in bold so the handful of people skimming this blog post don’t miss it:
The Seattle Mariners had legitimate reasons and rationale to not guarantee the salary of a player they were likely releasing in 5 months BUT they deserve the criticism being levied at them.
Trust is earned. And until you earn it, nobody is going to give you the benefit of the doubt. John Stanton hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt. And if he doesn’t invest in his roster this winter, it’ll be almost impossible to earn that benefit. But the baseball ops has done the work to earn that benefit. And when it comes to the baseball side of the business, I will continue to give them that benefit. I’m not letting myself get worked up about a middle reliever who won’t see the field for at least a year. It’s not going to happen. But for the people who want to use Delaplane as a martyr to advance their anger with this ownership group, just know that I’m not hear to stop you. I just won’t be joining you.