Unlike last offseason, when they made several high-profiled transactions, the Seattle Mariners have stayed on the sidelines for the most part this winter. The signing of Manny Delcarmen does nothing to change that fact since it reads like a typical non-roster invite. While Delcarmen to the M’s is not a noteworthy move, the reported opportunities he passed to join Seattle are worth mentioning.
The Colorado Rockies acquired Delcarmen from the Boston Red Sox last year, but they did not tender him an offer for arbitration this offseason. As a free agent, several teams displayed varying interest on the right-hander. According to reports, Delcarmen’s final choice came down to the Tampa Bay Rays and the Seattle Mariners. Both teams have slots in the bullpen, but he ultimately chose Seattle.
Perhaps it was just too soon for the Massachusetts native join a rival club or perhaps Delcarmen wisely picked a softer landing in hopes of rebuilding his value. In choosing Seattle, Delcarmen gets the added benefit of pitching in spacious Safeco Field. While Tropicana Field is also pitcher friendly, the lineups in the American League East are not. For a relief pitcher looking to re-establish himself as key bullpen cog the Safeco/AL West option is a decent way to go.
On the other hand, Seattle and Tampa Bay were not Delcarmen’s only options. According to WEEI.com, he left a major league offer from one National League club sitting on the table. In perhaps the most interesting twist Delcarmen also had the opportunity to become a starting pitcher for a “mystery team” in the NL.
Despite all of 298 of his major league appearances coming in relief, the 28-year-old began his professional career as a member of the rotation. He made 53 starts from 2001-2004, spanning his time from rookie ball up to the Advanced-A level. From Double-A and above, he has been exclusively used in relief. Although he hasn’t started a game with merit – started one game in 2010 lasting one inning - in six years, he does have some qualities that are useful as a starter.
While his role as a reliever doesn’t command an expanded repertoire of pitches, he throws three offerings with regularity. In addition to his fastball, he throws a curveball and changeup as secondary offerings. According to pitch values, all three held positive values at one time or another during his career. In terms of swing and miss ability, his curveball and changeup especially have racked up a quite a few whiffs.
In addition to options in pitch selection, Delcarmen’s career numbers are lacking extreme platoon splits. In fact, his career OPS is actually more favorable against lefties (.651) than it is against righties (.738). Even his 3.74 FIP against lefties bests his 4.25 against righties, although xFIP suggests that has come with some fortuitous home run rates.
The one area of complete unknown is durability. Delcarmen has logged at least 44 games in each of his full seasons as a reliever, but has thrown over 60 innings just one time in a major league season. His career high as a starter was 136.0, but that came as a 20-year-old in the South Atlantic League way back in 2002.
Career numbers alone don’t quite explain Delcarmen since he has experienced varying degrees of success as a major leaguer. From 2005-2008, he appeared in 177 contests for the Red Sox compiling a pitching triple-slash line (ERA/FIP/xFIP) of 3.49/3.38/3.87. In the past two seasons each of those numbers is around 5.00.
Since 2009, he has put up a trifecta of red flags: declining strikeout rate, increasing walk rate, decrease of fastball velocity. Immediately that triggers off the injury alarm; he has, however, appeared in at least 57 games in each of the past two years. Jeff Sullivan makes a compelling case that the recent struggles may be mechanical related.
Similar to Alfredo Aceves, the case of Manny Delcarmen – the starter – is an intriguing idea, especially considering the cost would have been relatively low for a starting pitcher. Alas, in the end Delcarmen chose to battle for a spot in the back end of the Mariners’ bullpen instead of one at the back end of an unknown rotation.