Mariners decide Daniel Vogelbach needs more time, option rookie 1B to Triple-A Tacoma
PEORIA, Ariz. – The move to option Daniel Vogelbach to Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday afternoon was not entirely surprising. The timing of it, however, was.
With 10 days to go before the Mariners break camp, the decision was made that Vogelbach is not quite ready to begin the season in the majors.
“It’s been a tough 10-day stretch for him,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “I just felt that at this point with where he is both offensively and defensively, that the best thing for him is to go back and he will start the season in Tacoma. That doesn’t mean he is going to finish the season in Tacoma.”
Since acquiring Vogelbach from the Cubs last summer in the trade that sent Mike Montgomery to Chicago, the word from the Mariners has always been that as a hitter Vogelbach was ready to take it to the next level. There was work that had to be put in on his defense, though. Over the winter he was touted as part of a platoon at first base, and as spring approached, manager Scott Servais stressed that Vogelbach would have to show that he could play Major League-average first base, at minimum.
Both Dipoto and Servais agree that Vogelbach has taken huge steps forward defensively, but that he is still “a tick below Major League-average.” That may have been enough if the bat was there, but recently he has struggled at the plate, striking out 10 times in his last 28 plate appearances.
“At some point there has to be that kind of carrying ability – what is going to get you on the field,” Dipoto said. “You are willing to live with the shortcoming because something else is carrying the other, and we weren’t seeing it.”
Vogelbach told me Wednesday that spring struggles are nothing new for him.
“I’ve always been a slow starter in the spring. I wish it wasn’t like this, but it is just continuing to see pitches, going deep into counts and not chasing, that’s the biggest thing,” he said, adding that over the last few days he was feeling much better at the plate. “It’s just staying with the process, and staying through the middle of the field and not panicking when I am down in the count.”
When informed of the move, Vogelbach was told that the Mariners were doing something very similar with him to what they did with James Paxton and Mike Zunino last year. Both players had changes that needed to be made and were given the opportunity to do so away from the big league club, where the stakes for everyone are much higher.
“He will help us this year,” Servais said. “It’s not quite ready at this point, and we think our team is ready to win and we are going to put the best players out there that are ready to compete at the Major League level.”
The move is both for now and fir the future, according to Dipoto.
“We do need to make sure he is as complete a player as we can manage by the time he gets here, and right now we have enough depth around the club to allow us to do this and hopefully get Vogey back on the right track where he needs to be and this turns out to be more of a short-term thing,” Dipoto said. “But he will determine that.”
Danny Valencia provides that depth, as he will take over as the everyday first baseman with Taylor Motter as his backup. The move makes it more likely that we will see Guillermo Heredia on the 25-man roster, as well, giving the Mariners another right-handed bat. How long we see Valencia at first remains to be seen. The goal is to get a ready Vogelbach back as soon as possible.
“We wanted to give every opportunity to Daniel Vogelbach to make the team and I certainly believe we did that,” Servais said. “But timing is not right. There’s very few guys that come to the big leagues and stay there for 10 years-plus. Sometimes it takes the younger player the up and down a little bit to settle in and have the right fit. Again, this is about doing the right thing for Daniel Vogelbach.”