For the fifth straight offseason, the Mariners have acquired a left-handed pitcher with hopes that he will be a productive starter.
In 2009, the M's sent Aaron Heilman to Baltimore (again) for Garrett Olson. Before 2010, the Mariners surprised everyone by getting Cliff Lee from Philadelphia and in 2011, they got Aaron Laffey from Cleveland.
Hopefully this time, the Mariners got it right. Ramirez, Olson and to some extent Bedard have been awful while Lee was a fleeting joy, gone all too soon.
Olson and Bedard are the only two pitchers still with the team. Olson will likely get cut before the season and it would be a miracle if Bedard pitched more than five games.
The newest lefty, Laffey, came for the modest price of Matt Lawson who the Mariners acquired as a throw-in when they traded the stud Lee to the Texas Rangers.
The price is so slim that it is easy to write Laffey off as a guy who will not ever throw a pitch at Safeco, but there is one reason he was so cheap to trade for; the Cleveland Indians were going to have to cut (or trade) somebody off their 40-man roster to make room for Chad Durbin.
So, instead of releasing Laffey, they swapped him for the first offer, even if it was a player who only hit .293 in Class AA in his second season.
Laffey has pitched a total 320.1 innings in his four-year career in 79 games, 49 of which are starts.
His stats are rather mediocre, he hits 88 mph with his fastball and mixes in a slider; the pitch he throws most often at 38 percent and a changeup which is often about 6 mph slower than his fastball.
His career ERA is 4.41, which is pretty run of the mill for a fifth-starter candidate. Laffey really doesn't strike many guys out, only 4.35/9.
In his career, he has made two trips to the hill in Safeco Field (obviously against the Mariners). The most recent, in July 2009, was a seven-inning gem. Laffey only allowed three hits, he struck out seven while walking three.
He won, the M's he struck out included Ichiro and the usual suspects for 2009: Hannahan, Branyan, Langerhans, Cedeno and even Chris Shelton.
His other appearance, in 2009, was not so smooth. He got chased from the hill after surrendering eight runs, five unearned in just 3.2 innings.
Hopefully, we can see more performances like his most recent one.
However, Laffey will not be helped by Safeco Field as much as some pitchers are because of the high percentage of ground balls he throws.
Laffey has an option left so if he doesn't win the fifth starter job or a bullpen spot, he can slide back down to Tacoma without the M's having to release him.
However, I imagine that Laffey will start the fifth Mariners game solely for one reason; so that they can keep star prospect Michael Pineda from being a "super two" player, which makes Pineda vastly more expensive.
I expect that Laffey will be decent, probably a little better than former Mariner Ryan Rowland-Smith. Laffey very well could be bumped to the bullpen though, in favor of either Bedard or Pineda at the outset of the season.
Unless he pitches well, he will likely be the guy who loses his job when Pineda is ready for the show, assuming Pineda starts the season at Tacoma.
Laffey profiles well in the 'pen, though, because he handles left-handed hitters very well.
He K's left-handed batters at almost double the rate than he does right-handed hitters, so if he does end up in the bullpen he could be above average.
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