Smyly missed all of 2017 and was expected to miss most of 2018 with elbow issues that required surgery. Simmons made just nine appearances and missed most of the 2017 season with arm issues.
Two talented, but oft-injured pitchers expected to help the Mariners make the postseason in 2017 won’t be back in 2018.
On Thursday afternoon about 30 minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline, the Mariners announced that they had tendered (offered) contracts to 27 un-signed players on their 40-man roster. Those 27 players were under club control as pre-arbitration or arbitration eligible players.
But two of the arbitration eligible players from Seattle’s 40-man roster — left-handed starting pitcher Drew Smyly and right-handed reliever Shae Simmons — were “non-tendered” (not offered contracts). The Mariners now have 35 players on their 40-man roster.
The decision to non-tender Smyly seemed like a given. Since he’s recovering from elbow surgery and not expected to be ready by August at the earliest, it made little sense for Seattle to give Smyly a contract since he will be a free agent after the 2018 season. Smyly made $6.85 million last season. Per the collective bargaining agreement, he could only make 20 percent less than that figure in 2018. The Mariners weren’t going to pay that much for the chance of having Smyly for a month or two.
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Sources said Seattle was open to signing Smyly to a two-year extension for a lesser sum of money per year. But an agreement wasn’t reached.
The lefty never threw a meaningful pitch for the organization after being acquired in the offseason in a trade with the Rays. Slated to be the team’s No. 3 starter for 2017 and this season, Smyly seemed poised for a big season. However, a start in the World Baseball Classic led to serious elbow issues that would eventually acquire season-ending surgery, crushing the Mariners’ rotation.
After pitching twice in spring training, Smyly joined the U.S. team in the WBC. He made one brilliant start for the U.S. on on March 15 against Venezuela, pitching 4 2/3 innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits with eight strikeouts. In that game, he was hitting 94 mph with his fastball, which was unusually high for him. He downplayed the spike in velocity, attributing it to adrenaline and extended rest.
When he returned from the WBC, he made two middling starts. He gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts in four innings pitched of “B” game against the Padres Class AAA affiliate on March 21. He returned to Cactus League action on March 26, pitching four innings against the Reds, allowing five runs on six hits with four walks, a strikeout and three homers allowed. Three days later after his bullpen, he notified the Mariners of the discomfort in his elbow. He was scratched from his final start of the spring and met with Mariners’ team orthopedist Dr. Edward Khlafayan to have his arm checked.
Smyly spent the first three months of the season rehabbing his elbow in hopes of a return after the All-Star break. But after a simulated inning in late June, Smyly felt more pain in the elbow during a bullpen session and was shut down. He was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He underwent surgery on July 6. The recovery is expected to last 12 to 15 months.
While Smyly’s non-tender was expected from Seattle, the decision to non-tender Simmons was not.
The hard-throwing right-hander seemed to be slated for a spot in the Mariners’ 2018 bullpen after missing almost all of last season with injuries. Simmons suffered an elbow strain in spring training and dealt with setbacks in his recovery. He was activated from the disabled on Sept. 1 and called up with roster expansion. He appeared in nine games, posting a 7.04 ERA with eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings pitched. Armed with a high 90s fastball and plus slider, Simmons oozed potential. But his inability to remain healthy — something that dated back to his time with the Braves — likely led to his non-tender.
The decision to non-tender Smyly and Simmons leaves a negative result to a flurry of trade activity from last offseason. On Jan. 11, general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired Simmons and outfielder Mallex Smith from the Braves for top pitching prospect Luis Gohara and minor league pitcher Thomas Burrows. Hours later, Dipoto traded Smith, minor league pitcher Ryan Yarbrough and infielder Carlos Vargas to the Rays for Smyly.
Talented, but troubled off the field, Gohara seemed to figure life out with the Braves and rose from Class A to appearing in the big leagues this season, making his big league debut in September. He’s a possibility for the Braves rotation in 2018.
The Mariners also avoided arbitration with utility player Andrew Romine. Multiple outlets reported that Romine agreed to a one-year, $1.05 million contract with incentives. He was projected to make around $1.9 million after making $1.8 million last season.
Seattle claimed Romine off waivers from the Tigers on Nov. 2. He hit .233 (74 for 318) with 45 runs scored, 17 doubles, two triples, four home runs, 25 RBI, 22 walks and six stolen bases in 124 games.