This move shouldn’t be considered too surprising given how poorly the 31-year-old has pitched this season. However, with his switch to the bullpen being official, it brings back the questions that came with the initial deal for the Mariners.
Coming into the offseason, the Mariners knew that they needed to add to their rotation, especially after they traded away a high-upside arm in Taijuan Walker in a deal that netted them quite the shortstop in Jean Segura.
As spring training crept closer and closer, the Mariners front office, which had been trade-happy for most of the offseason, felt they needed to swing a deal for another starter.
The Baltimore Orioles, who had six pitchers in their prospective rotation thanks to the money that was being handed out to the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and Gallardo. Ultimately, the O’s dealt Gallardo for outfielder Seth Smith, which seemed pretty lopsided at the time, even with the addition of Mitch Haniger to the Mariners outfield.
Gallardo’s struggles this year have’t come out of nowhere. After suffering a velocity decrease from 2014 to 2015, his heater has continued to taper off in 2016. His average velocity has spiked back up to 92 mph, according to FanGraphs, but the rest of his profile hasn’t recovered.
Prior to the decision, Gallardo had produced an ERA of 6.30 in 14 starts after finishing last season with an earned run average of 5.42. His walk rate had also sat in the 3.3-4.5 BB/9 range during the last three years. Above-average command was something that Gallardo relied on during his prime years in Milwaukee. Now he’s clearly more susceptible to allowing free passes.
Without his control, Gallardo is a pitcher that has 11 years of big league tread on his tires and was clearly falling off in terms of how well hitters were seeing and squaring up his arsenal. In fact, Gallardo finished last year with his highest fly ball percentage since 2008, which really explains why he allowed more than one home run per nine innings in 2016 and is on that same pace this season.
Looking back on this trade shows how crucial making a move early to fortify a need really is. There is inherit value in settling your team before spring training is about to kick off. If not, you can get in a “panic” mode and decide that a player who’s obviously on the decline like Gallardo could make your team better.
This method has hurt the Mariners so far, especially with the number of injuries that the team has had to deal with in the starting rotation.
The Mariners had no choice, but to make this move, it just would have been nice if they decided against acquiring a pitcher because of what he was, rather than recognizing the player that you’re getting now.