OAKLAND – When a team that is expected to contend for the postseason gets off to a 7-12 start, there are consequences. Those consequences came down Sunday morning as Mariners center fielder Leonys Martin, who was hitting .111 and showing few signs of being able to break out of his slump, was designated for assignment.
“We had to make a decision with Leonys Martin, which is not easy,” manager Scott Servais said before the Mariners’ series finale against the A’s. “Those decisions are hard. I really like Leonys. He’s a big part of what we are doing here and, unfortunately, he really hadn’t gotten going offensively. It dates back to the second half of last season. He struggled through spring training, then getting off to the rocky start here and we really want to let some other guys play. Guillermo (Heredia), some other guys we have, I think have an opportunity to do more than what Leonys was doing offensively.”
The move is a tough one for Servais on two fronts. First, Martin was incredibly popular in the clubhouse, where he was the No. 1 bringer of energy – something Servais valued so much that he kept Martin traveling with the team last year while the outfielder was on the disabled list. On a personal level, the move was also tough for Servais. The skipper was the Rangers’ farm director the day Martin began his professional career in the United States after leaving Cuba.
“It’s hard to see anyone struggle, especially guys you are close to … I’ve known Leonys for a long time,” said Servais, who gave Martin the news Saturday night.
The move is reflective not only of Martin’s struggles but also those of the majority of the Mariners’ offense.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the do-good league,” Servais said. “Expectations are very high, as they should have been. I thought we were ready for it. We haven’t played that well on the road particularly, and we have got to pick it up.”
The Mariners’ clubhouse, as expected following such news, was quiet Sunday morning. It was a far cry from just over a month ago in Peoria when the clubhouse was loud and lively thanks to the mariachi band that was hired to follow Martin around on his birthday. To the players, Martin’s DFA should ring as loud as any band.
“There’s a little bit of shock. ‘Holy cow, this can happen,'” Servais said. “Sometimes that is a good thing.”
The Mariners have three other outfielders on their roster that can play center field. Daniel Vogelbach will take Martin’s place on the 25-man roster, called up for the offensive boost he could provide. Vogelbach will get the starting spot over the better defender, Danny Valencia, who is hitting just .145.
“It’s the bat we are looking for,” Servais said of Voglebach, who hit .309 with a .882 OPS in Tacoma. “He has been swinging the bat well in Tacoma, doing what he does, controlling the zone.”
Jarrod Dyson will shift to center and Valencia will see his everyday job come to an end. Another move will have to be made Tuesday, with shortstop Jean Segura expected to return from the DL.
The hope is that Martin will clear waivers and stay in the organization. He clearly needs time to find his swing and get his confidence back. Triple-A would be the best place to do that. However, there are a few teams looking for outfielders, with the Pirates being one after losing Starling Marte to a PED suspension, meaning there is a decent chance Martin is claimed off waivers.
We will know in 10 days, if not sooner.