It’s a very disappointing development for the Mariners, who acquired the 28-year-old from the Tampa Bay Rays last January for a package consisting of Mallex Smith, Ryan Yarbrough and Carlos Vargas. After sending Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks earlier in the offseason, Smyly was intended to help anchor a new-look rotation in Seattle along with fellow trade acquisition Yovani Gallardo.
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At the time it seemed like a fair gamble for the M’s to take. Although Smyly struggled in general last year to a 4.88 ERA over 30 starts, he appeared to improve as the season went on. After a string of poor outings, he managed a 3.73 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his last 12 starts (70 IP).
Smyly had also put up strong numbers in 2014 and 2015 for the Tigers and Rays, though he was limited to just 12 outings in ’15 due to shoulder issues. He pitched to a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 3.39 K/BB ratio in a combined 219.2 innings between the two campaigns. The Mariners bet that, if healthy, this could be a young lefty on the rise.
They never got much of a chance to see him before an injury problem indeed cropped up. Smyly pitched for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, away from the Mariners’ watchful eyes, where he impressed, tossing 4.2 innings with one unearned run and eight strikeouts. However, he was scratched from a scheduled Spring Training start upon his return and later diagnosed with a left flexor strain. Smyly had been trying to work his way back until this latest, season-ending setback.
The surgery recovery is expected to keep Smyly out of action for 12 to 15 months, meaning he likely won’t be ready until the second half of next season. That’s a tough pill for the M’s to swallow; they thought they were getting two years of control of Smyly, and now they’re probably looking at just a few months. Of course, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them choose not to tender him a contract for 2018.
Seattle’s offseason pitching decisions haven’t been looking too great recently. Aside from the bad news about Smyly, Gallardo was moved to the bullpen after sputtering to a 6.30 ERA in 14 starts. In spite of it all, the club remains just two games out of a Wild Card spot at 39-40. But if they want to compete down the stretch, the Mariners rotation will need to offer better than its current 4.82 ERA (25th in MLB).