The Mariners announced this afternoon that they have claimed right-handers Adrian Samson Disclaimers from the Cubs. They also selected outfielders Steven Souza Jr. to the big leagues Jarred Kelenic, who was elected to Triple-A Tacoma. Seattle was also reinstated Sergio Romo from the 10-day casualty list, optional Danny Young and designated Stuart Fairchild and Yohan Ramirez for the job of clearing the 40-strong roster spot for Sampson and Souza.
Kelenic’s demotion is the most notable of Seattle’s moves. Kelenic, a former sixth overall and top prospect, has yet to hold his own against the big league pitchers. He fought his way to a .181/.265/.350 line in his first 377 MLB plate appearances last season and hit on 28.1% of his trips while hitting just .216 on balls in play. The M’s were certainly hoping to see more of the left-handed outfielder earlier this season, but that hasn’t happened yet.
In 30 games, Kelenic only owns a mark of .140/.219/.291. The youngster has gone down on shots 36 times while only making contact on 67.8% of his swings. That’s the 12th-lowest contact rate among 192 batters with at least 90 plate appearances, and the M’s have decided it’s time for a reset against Triple-A weapons. It’s the second time in as many years that Kelenic has been given an option after a struggle with MLB pitching, but he responded well during a month-long stint in the minors last summer.
The timing of Kelenic’s latest option is quite ironic, as the Ms head to Queens for a weekend series with the Mets. New York, of course, originally drafted him and included him in the controversies Robinson gun/Edwin Diaz To deceive. Given Kelenic’s prospective pedigree, that seemed like a coup for Seattle, but he obviously needs to perform better if the M’s take him back to the big leagues. He has enough time for that, because he won’t be 23 until July. Due to the canceled minor league season in 2020, the Wisconsin native has still only played 51 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Aside from an exceptionally long stint, the demotion doesn’t appear to affect his free-hand path after the 2027 season. Kelenic started the year with 105 days in the Big League; Players are credited with a full year of service for spending 172 days on an MLB roster or injury list. He’s racked up about 36 more days this year, meaning he needs about a month left in the majors to cross the one-year mark in 2022. How long that stint in Tacoma lasts will no doubt be determined in large part by Kelenic’s performance there, but it’s hard to imagine the Ms keeping him down through September barring some major struggles against the Triple-A pitching.
Meanwhile, Seattle turns to veteran Souza Julio Rodriguez, jess winker and Dylan Moore as outfield options. The 33-year-old has had sporadic MLB time with the Cubs and Dodgers in recent years, but he hasn’t played a full season with the majors since 2017. Souza signed a minor-league contract with the Rainiers in spring training, a great start. He’s hit .267/.417/.533 with five homers and a massive 19.8% walk rate in 22 games. The 14-18 M’s will see if he can transfer that production against the big league arms to breathe some life into an underpowered outfield.
Fairchild was part of that outfield mix for a very short time. The 26-year-old was acquired by the Diamondbacks for cash in late April and appeared in three games, being unsuccessful in a trio of plate appearances. The Seattle native Fairchild was a second-round pick for the Reds in 2017 and was traded twice in his young career. The M’s have a week to treat him again or try to put him through total waivers.
The same goes for Ramirez, who has played in the bigs for the past three seasons. The right-hander owns a 3.97 ERA in 56 2/3 career innings and is beating a strong 28.6% of opponents. However, he has also managed 15.2% of batters faced walks, and he has been flagged for three homers in his first seven outings this year. The Mariners have opted to continue but he’s working in his mid-90s and has two minor league option years left so it’s possible another club could take a chance on him.
In his place, they will bring on board a multi-inning option from the Cubs. Sampson started in five of his 10 appearances for Chicago last season, throwing 35 1/3 frames from a 2.80 ERA ball. That came with a staggering 19.3% strikeout rate and an alarming 2.04 homers allowed per nine innings, but he hammered the strike zone and induced a whole lot of groundballs. Chicago re-signed the right-hander to a minor-league deal over the winter. He was voted into the big leagues on Sunday, set up in one game and then designated for action.