Would a six-man rotation benefit the Mariners?
By Shannon Drayer
After Blake Beavan’s latest struggle a fair question was asked of Eric Wedge in his postgame media session. Would Beavan remain in the starting rotation?
“There’s nothing going on with anything right now,” Wedge answered. “We don’t make any rash decisions like that. He is a young pitcher. He has had some success up here. He’s a guy who knows what he needs to do to be successful. He’s proven that will work up here but he has got to get back to doing that.”
Despite these words many have wondered just how long Beavan – and to a lesser extent Hector Noesi – would have to show that they can get outs on a consistent basis at this level. There are others knocking on the door and only so many rotation spots. One would have to think that we would soon see Erasmo Ramirez again as well as Danny Hultzen. Ramirez has been stretched out and has put up good numbers in Triple-A while Hultzen has blown away the competition at Double-A. I suspect we could see one, possibly Hultzen, as soon as the next road trip but it might not necessarily be at the expense of someone in the rotation right now. There is another option: a six-man rotation.
A six-man rotation would give the Mariners the opportunity to do a couple of things they would like to do, and in some cases perhaps need to do. If they would like to see Hultzen and Ramirez – and perhaps James Paxton when healthy and past command issues – at the big-league level this season they don’t necessarily need to wait until a rotation spot is created. We don’t know what is going to happen regarding trades. Last year they wanted to move Jason Vargas and couldn’t. Will there be interest this year? Will they want to trade Vargas or will they believe that he will be of more value to them next year when they very well could have three new, very young starters?
How much interest will Kevin Millwood draw? Do you give him up for just a lower-tier prospect or do you want to see if he can get you a much needed win or two now? The trade deadline will be tricky for Jack Zduriencik. Wins are more important than ever, especially with a young club. I don’t see him going after help for this team but I don’t see him kicking the legs out from under them either. That could be a blow for a young team that is starting to click. This team needs to continue to learn how to win and try and find some sort of momentum in the second half to carry into next year. I am not saying trades would be a bad idea but I think you have to weigh the value of what you are getting back versus what that player could give you now, even if that player is not a part of the future. In other words, I wouldn’t give up guys who are helping this team win for nothing. There is value in those wins for those who are here now and will be here in the future.
In addition to giving the Mariners opportunity to see more of their young arms, it also would take innings off of some of their not-so-young arms. Felix Hernandez has averaged just over 240 innings per year the last three years and has seen a decline in his velocity. It might be time to let up on him a little but that has proven to be easier said than done in recent years. He is on pace to throw around 230 innings this season. If they were to go to a six-man rotation in the next two weeks, three to five starts, 20-30 innings depending on how the All-Star break and end of the season are managed, could be erased from his total. He very well could get those innings back in a year where they mean more.
Less starts could benefit Vargas, who is coming off a career-high innings total as well. As for Hultzen and the others who could come up from the minor leagues, they no doubt will have innings totals they will need to stay below but that will be more manageable. Hultzen is on pace for around 180 innings in about 30 starts. In a conventional five-man rotation, he would most likely be shut down at the end of August to keep him below that. With a six-man rotation you could pitch him deeper into the season and introduce him to the month of September. Not a bad thing.
The six-man rotation will put more stress on the bullpen, a bullpen that most likely will lose Brandon League at some point. They would have to go with one less pitcher, most likely Stephen Pryor if this were to happen tomorrow, but they would be left with good versatility in guys who can go long. The schedule could help benefit the pen as well. After the All-Star break there is another 20-games-in-20-days stretch, but after that most weeks include a day off. Much different from the first half.
The six-man rotation is not something you would want to go with for the long term but the situation here with the mix of very young arms – and arms that perhaps could benefit from a lesser workload – make it worth considering.