Perhaps the decision came about 10 days too late. But Major League Baseball teams always move slower than fans want them to when it comes to decisions that might lead to losing a player.
Instead of designating Daniel Vogelbach for assignment before embarking on the previous three-city road trip, the Mariners gave him one last chance to keep himself on the roster and in the organization.
It didn’t happen.
A homer in Texas in the first game of the trip was the lone bright spot and one of his two hits in six games. When Tim Lopes replaced him as a pinch-hitter with the Mariners trailing by a run and a runner in scoring position late in Tuesday’s game, the end was obvious.
On Wednesday, the Mariners designated Vogelbach for assignment in a series of roster moves before opening a five-game homestand.
The Mariners have 10 days to trade, place Vogelbach on outright waivers or release him. He will be placed on waivers and open for teams to claim him. If Vogelbach isn’t claimed, the Mariners could send him to the alternate training site in Tacoma. But given his lack of a position other than designated hitter and the way the roster sets up, the Mariners could just release him. Their quest for a roster that has athleticism, run prevention and positional flexibility doesn’t really fit a platoon DH whom you’d prefer to use only against right-handed pitching.
An All-Star a year ago, largely because of his production in the first three months of the season and the requirement that every team has a representative, Vogelbach has been in a prolonged slump since July 1 of last season. But it worsened in this shortened 2020 season. A middling spring-training showing was interrupted by a 3½-month shutdown and an abysmal summer camp performance where Vogelbach arrived with 20 extra pounds on his frame and his swing looking slow and out of sync due to inactivity.
“Vogey had a tremendous first half of the season last year, and we all got on the Vogey train, so to speak,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Wednesday via Zoom. “We all love Vogey — great personality. He’s a guy you want to spend time with and be around. He’s a really good teammate, and he was doing some great things for us early in the season last year.”
Indeed, Vogelbach slashed .244/.379/.519 with 11 doubles, 20 homers and 48 RBI over the first three months of last season (79 games played) with a minor slump in May.
But he couldn’t sustain it.
From July 1 to the end of the season (65 games played), he posted a .162/.290/.338 line with six doubles, 10 homers, 28 RBI, 36 walks and 78 strikeouts. The strikeout numbers were alarming.
“In the second half, it certainly took another turn and he really struggled,” Servais said. “At that point, we were exposing him to a lot of left-handed pitching and really giving an opportunity to go out there and get over 500 plate appearances last year, which is great. He earned it. As we got going into this season, we didn’t see much adjustments. It certainly wasn’t from lack of work on his end. He’s trying to figure it out mechanically but just didn’t come together.”
He came into Wednesday with a .094/.250/.226 slash line in 18 games and 64 plate appearances. He had just five hits — two homers, a double and three singles in 53 at-bats — with four RBI, 11 walks and 13 strikeouts. With Evan White the first baseman of the future and Vogelbach’s defensive limitations at first base and against left-handing pitching, he was essentially a part-time designated hitter who wasn’t hitting. That doesn’t work even with a 30-man roster on a rebuilding team.
“Vogey is kind of locked in (to one spot),” Servais said. “We tried to play him some at first base last year, not his strength. His strength is in the batter’s box and hopefully hitting it over the fence. He doesn’t bring a whole lot other than the bat. When the bat’s your big carrying tool, you have to hit. It’s a do-good league. Where we are at right now, we’re just going to give some of those at-bats and opportunities to some other players.”
This wasn’t an enjoyable decision for Servais. He and the bombastic Vogelbach were close and liked to harass each other before, during and after games.
“It’s always difficult when you’re talking to player that you have a tie with,” Servais said. “I was one of the biggest Vogey-backers out there. I love what he brings to a clubhouse and a team. He truly does care about the team. He’s never been one of those guys it’s been all about him. He has a team guy through and through. So, those conversations are really hard. You do get emotionally tied to players. That’s one of the reasons I love the job so much because you have a chance to impact young guys and help them along the way. But with all the good conversations you get to have, there’s there’s a few tough ones, and today was a tough one.”
“It’s just a handful of teams anymore that just have the designated DH, like Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion,” Servais said. “They’re just they’re few and far between. It really does lock your roster up a little bit if that guy doesn’t really have the ability to go out in the field. You really have to be productive and facing both the lefties and righties.”
The other moves included:
- Braden Bishop, OF, recalled from alternate training site
- Sam Haggerty, INF, recalled from alternate training site.
- Art Warren, RHP, optioned to alternate training site (postgame 8/18).
- Bryan Shaw, RHP, outrighted to alternate training site; will report on Aug. 20.
Bishop (No. 5) and Haggerty (No. 28) were in the starting lineup for Wednesday night’s game vs. the Dodgers. The right-handed hitting Bishop and the switch-hitting Haggerty are expected to play a lot with the Mariners facing left-handed starting pitchers in four of the next five games.
Bishop, who turns 27 in three days, made his MLB debut on March 21, 2019, against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo. But his season was derailed after he suffered a ruptured spleen on a fastball to his ribs while playing with Tacoma on May 31. The severity of the injury went unnoticed as he was called up to the Mariners three days later. But in his first game June 3, he began to feel ill and was removed from the game. He needed emergency surgery the next day.
Haggerty, 26, has played in 11 MLB games with the Mets. He can play almost any position on the field and is a plus runner with base-stealing capabilities.
“When you get an opportunity sometimes the window is only open for so long and hopefully a few of these guys, jump in and take advantage of them,” Servais said.
Warren, 27, was called up before Tuesday’s game and didn’t pitch in it.
Shaw, 32, was designated for assignment a few days ago and cleared waivers. He had struggled this season with an 18.00 ERA in six appearances.
The Mariners also made a minor league acquisition, trading for right-handed pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis of the Padres in exchange for cash. Yacabonis, 28, will be added to the Mariners 60-player pool and report to the alternate training site in Tacoma.
Yacabonis has made 55 MLB appearances over the past three seasons with the Orioles. He posted a 1-2 record with a 6.80 ERA. He struck out 33 batters and walked 24 in 41 innings pitched.