The Mariners announced this afternoon that they have claimed the right-hander Adrian Sampson on waivers from the Cubs. They also selected the outfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the big leagues instead of Jarred Kelenic, which was optioned on Triple-A Tacoma. Seattle also reinstated Sergio Romo 10-day disabled list, optional Danny Young and designated Stuart Fairchild and Yohan Ramirez for an assignment to clear 40-man space for Sampson and Souza.
Kelenic’s demotion is the most notable in Seattle’s move streak. A former sixth overall pick and top prospect, Kelenic is yet to produce against major league pitchers. He struggled to hit a .181 / .265 / .350 line in his first 377 MLB plate appearances last season, hitting in 28.1% of his trips while hitting just .216 on balls in play. The Ms were surely hoping to see more of the left-handed outfielder early in the season, but that hasn’t happened yet.
In 30 games, Kelenic only has a mark of .140/.219/.291. The youngster landed 36 strikes while only making contact on 67.8% of his swings. It’s the 12th-lowest contact rate among 192 batters with at least 90 plate appearances, and the Ms decided it was time to reset the Triple-A weapons. It’s the second time in as many years Kelenic has been selected after battling the MLB pitcher, but he responded well for a month in the minors last summer.
The timing of Kelenic’s latest option comes rather ironically as the M’s head to Queens for a weekend streak with the Mets. New York, of course, originally drafted it and included it in the controversial Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz to exchange. It seemed like a coup for Seattle given Kelenic’s prospect pedigree, but he’ll obviously have to perform better every time the Ms bring him back to the big leagues. He has plenty of time to do it, because he won’t be 23 until July. Due to the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season, the Wisconsin native has still only played 51 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Barring an exceptionally long stint, the demotion doesn’t seem likely to affect his path to free agency after the 2027 season. Kelenic entered the year with 105 days of major league service; players are credited with a full year of service for spending 172 days on an MLB roster or injured list. He’s racked up about 36 more days this year, which means he needs to be in the majors for about a month more to pass the one-year mark in 2022. The length of that time in Tacoma will no doubt be largely determined by Kelenic’s performance. there, but it’s hard to imagine the Ms holding him until September barring some major struggles against Triple-A pitchers.
In the meantime, Seattle will look to veteran Souza with Julio Rodriguez, jesse winker and Dylan Moore as outfield options. The 33-year-old has had sporadic time in MLB with the Cubs and Dodgers for the past two years, but hasn’t played a full season at the majors since 2017. Signed to a minor league deal in Spring Training, Souza got off to a great start with the Rainiers. He’s hitting .267/.417/.533 with five homers and a whopping 19.8 percent walk rate in 22 games. The 14-18 M will see if he can continue that production against the major league arms to breathe some life into a disappointed outfield.
Fairchild was part of that outfield mix very briefly. The 26-year-old was acquired from the Diamondbacks for cash in late April and appeared in three games, hitless in a trio of plate appearances. A native of Seattle, Fairchild was a second-round pick for the Reds in 2017 and has been traded twice during his young career. The Ms will have a week to deal with it again or try to put it through outright waivers.
That’s also true for Ramirez, who has been pitching big the past three seasons. The right-hander boasts a 3.97 ERA in 56 career 2/3 innings, knocking out 28.6 percent of opponents. However, he also walked 15.2% of batters faced and had been homered for three home runs in his first seven outings this year. The Mariners have opted to move on, but he’s working in the mid-’90s and has two option years left in the minor leagues, so it’s possible another club will try their luck with him.
In its place, they’ll bring a Cubs multi-inning option on board. Sampson started five of his ten appearances for Chicago last season, throwing 35 1/3 ball frames 2.80 ERA. That came with a disappointing 19.3% strikeout rate and an alarming 2.04 homers allowed per nine innings, but he pounded the strike zone and induced a fair amount of ground balls . Chicago re-signed the right-hander to a minor league contract over the winter. He was selected to the major leagues on Sunday, pitched a game, then was designated for an assignment.
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