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I’ve been more or less dogging this move ever since it happened, so I’m going to try to take a different approach to discussing Yovani Gallardo. It’s no secret I’m not high on the guy. This goes beyond the fact that he was a turd sandwich in 2016 in Baltimore; he’s been on a downward trajectory more or less since the 2012 season ended. A notable exception is the 2015 season he had in Texas, when he made 33 starts and had the best WAR of his career. Nevertheless, his velocity is way down compared to his peak, and I don’t know if he’s got the tools to become the kind of complete pitcher someone like Felix Hernandez evolved into when he lost his overpowering velo.
After reading about his 2016 season, though, I’m starting to come down on my hardline stance. The game of baseball is such a mental high-wire act that disrupting any small part of someone’s life can have drastic effects. Heading into 2016, Gallardo got stuck with the Qualifying Offer from Texas, which has to be in the Top 5 dumbest rules in all of sports. Considering he was getting up there in age, and the fact that he’d logged a lot of miles on his arm over the years, teams were reluctant to give away a first round draft pick just to sign him. Which makes sense, because come on Major League Baseball! Quit being dumb! He finally got signed by Baltimore, albeit late in the off-season, and struggled to get caught up in time for the regular season. This resulted in him having shoulder issues, which saw him land on the DL, and from there he was never really the same.
This year, he’s under contract, the trade to the Mariners gave him sufficient time to prepare, and he was able to work on strengthening his shoulder to prepare for the new season. Say what you will about his 2016, but in the 7 seasons prior, he made at least 30 starts, pitched at least 180 innings, and was good for a WAR of 2 or more in 5 of those 7 seasons. If we can get that: 30 starts, 180 innings, 2.0 WAR, I’m not gonna lie to you, I will sign up for that RIGHT NOW.
And, honestly, that’s very do-able. Some combination of his 2014 and 2015 seasons is probably where his effectiveness lies. It’s not great; he’s more of an Iwakuma than a Felix, but over the course of a full season, you’ll gladly take it. If Gallardo isn’t the problem in this rotation, it’s ideal, because you know SOMEONE is going to be a problem. Probably multiple someones, but as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s nigh on impossible to get the same 5 starters to stay healthy and effective for a full season. Gallardo going for a full 30+ starts means we can pull the ripcord on the Ariel Miranda parachute when someone else goes down or implodes.
Yovani Gallardo isn’t an exciting move. It isn’t a sexy move. It isn’t really even that interesting of a move. But, if it pans out in one magical, playoff-bound season, it’s a move you look back on while nodding knowingly. Yeah, that makes sense. That’s the kind of move a playoff team makes. It flips a lumbering, corner outfielder in Seth Smith for a #5 starter who provides the value of a #3 or #4 starter. Lots of guys have MUCH higher potential to break out, or otherwise lead the Mariners to glory. But, those same guys have the potential to regress, or otherwise fall on their faces. Gallardo feels like a cheap way to extract some extra value out of a guy nobody expects to do anything. In that sense, he might be one of the BEST moves Dipoto made all offseason.