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SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Jeanmar Gomez to a minor-league contract. [8/12]

For two beautiful heart palpitation-inducing weeks this season, Gomez was a closer. He barely rated the job as the Phillies’ finisher to begin with, despite 37 saves the year before, but hey, they’re the Phillies and rebuilding, so who really cared? Still, his initial ineffectiveness persisted, his velocity cratered, and eventually he was kicked to the curb DFA-style. But every cloud has a silver lining, and Jeanmar caught on with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate, where he pitched OK in a fistful of appearances.

The way the Brew Crew was leading the NL Central and hustling toward a playoff berth—despite having a weak bullpen—perhaps could’ve meant that Gomez would find a way into a major-league ‘pen and even a bit of playoff baseball. Or not. The Brewers didn’t call him up, fell out of the NL Central lead, and Gomez now has decided to pack up, opt out, and find another contender to lurk around. As of Sunday afternoon, the Mariners were just a game out of the second Wild Card and had an 18 percent chance of making the playoffs according to our playoff odds.

So Gomez will take his worm-burning ways and his iffy recent performance to Triple-A Tacoma, and there’s a non-zero chance that he’ll pop up in the sixth inning of a mission-critical Mariners game this September. There’s no doubt that today he stands more of a chance of influencing a playoff race than he did on Monday with the Brewers, and in April with the Phillies. Despite all of those runs he’s given up (7.25 ERA this season, 5.44 ERA since last season) and the closer job lost, maybe Gomez is better off now than he was at the start of the season.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed 1B-L Ryan Howard to a minor-league contract. [8/12]

I’m not certain there’s a single reason that Howard should make the big-league club when Ryan McMahon exists, but hey, sometimes teams would rather see a left-handed power hitter with a past rather than a left-handed power hitter with a future. The stats from Howard’s 11-game sojourn with the Braves' Triple-A affiliate painted the picture of a finished major-league career, but there’s enough history of the big lefty turning around a mistake fastball to think that a pinch-hitting appearance or two in October could be magic.

At the same time, any desire to see Howard play regularly at the big-league level is likely built on nostalgia, and not because any team is keen on adding a power-only bat who can’t hit lefties at all and is among the worst-fielding first basemen in the game. Part of me is rooting for Howard to never crack the bigs with Colorado for one admittedly silly reason: Howard is one of five players in MLB history to play for only one team and only play one position in the field, while also amassing 6,000 plate appearances.

The other part of me is rooting for Howard to make the majors, play at least one game for the Rockies, and take his leave from baseball after hitting one of those monstrous, moon-raking homers for which he was once famous. The idea of “Ryan Howard, Colorado Rockie” is one that would’ve been damn compelling at the turn of the decade, and I’d have no compunction about cheering for that outcome even now.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Acquired INF-S Neil Walker from New York Mets in exchange for a player to be named later. [8/12]

A steady switch-hitter whose skill set exceeds the sum of its parts, Walker is the latest in the Mets' series of low-cost sell-offs—and this time the Brewers are the beneficiaries. They’re acquiring a solid, if unspectacular second baseman (and occasional third baseman) who has made a career being a reliable rock in the infield, and you can take that comparison two ways.

First, he’s consistent. After an unbelievable eight seasons of steadily increasing his yearly WARP total, 2017 was finally the year in which Walker’s performance trajectory took a nosedive. The easiest culprit to identify is injury; after missing some of last season following back surgery, Walker dealt with leg injuries that kept him out of the lineup sometimes and likely hurt his performance when he did take the field. But interestingly, his batting line to this point in the season (.269/.339/.442) only really seems like a disappointment when compared to his 2016 numbers (.282/.347/.476); it's almost identical to his career slash line of .272/.339/.437.

Second, he’s not all that agile defensively. The biggest reason why Walker isn’t earning the same all-around value that he has in the past is due to our FRAA metric wagging its finger at his defensive performance. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to give too much credence to defensive numbers in single-season samples, but there’s a long history of inadequate defensive performance on Walker’s resumé. He’s steady (there’s that word again!) with his hands, but his range is limited and he'll likely pick up more time at first base as his career churns on.

It looks as if the Brewers will use Walker in something of a “utility” role, playing some third base and first base in addition to his natural home up the middle. (In his Brew Crew debut, Walker slid neatly into Travis Shaw’s normal place, playing third base and batting cleanup.) The way Eric Sogard has been playing recently—you know, like the Eric Sogard who existed before his unnatural Brewers breakout—you’d imagine that Walker will get the brunt of the playing time at second base.

It also stands to reason that he will be spelled often enough by Sogard and Jonathan Villar that his leg and back issues may not be quite the performance-killers they were earlier in the season. Given that there seems to be a limited cost to his acquisition, the Brewers are getting a starting-quality infielder without hurting their current roster or farm system. It may not be the most exciting move of the offseason, but it sure is … solid.

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prs130
8/14
Howard is 18 short of 400 homers... if he got a full year in a platoon, it might be doable. Especially at Coors. I know I would be pulling for him.
jfranco77
8/15
The Mark Reynolds/Ryan Howard platoon would be legendary