The Mariners Had To Cut Chris Flexen

He was a great pitcher to root for, until all of a sudden he wasn’t.

It’s rare to get a 100% success rate out of a free agent. Sometimes they come in and suck right away. Sometimes their sucking comes on randomly, and without warning. And sometimes they’re better than you could’ve possibly hoped for, only to trail off at the very end before quietly being DFA’d so you can call up a reliever from the IL.

My point is, there’s only one Nelson Cruz, but that’s not who I’m writing about today.

Chris Flexen was a steal for the Mariners. We plucked him from relative obscurity – as he played ball in 2020 in the KBO – after a ragged start to his Major League career with the Mets. He’d finally figured out how to put it all together, and we were on it enough to sign him to a 2-year contract with an option for a third. Even though it wasn’t a ton of money, I think a lot of us were confused why this nobody was getting such a guarantee. But, he quickly put those questions to bed, as he was one of our best and steadiest starters in 2021.

His 2022 wasn’t quite as good, but the results were still mostly there. He played about 2/3 of the year in the rotation before we traded for Luis Castillo and there was an undeniable numbers crunch in the rotation. It came down to either Flexen or Marco, with Flexen going to the bullpen as a long man. Fortunately for us, the Mariners were good enough that he wasn’t needed a whole lot during the final couple months.

Flexen proved useful enough as a reliever to keep around for 2023 as insurance. Of course, we were on the hook for a massive pay increase – based on his performance the previous two seasons – but it felt nice having that kind of insurance. Someone with starting experience who we could stash in the bullpen. It seemed all the more lucky to have him once Robbie Ray went on the IL after his first start, as there was no way the M’s were going to have the same kind of rotational injury luck as they did in 2022.

But, there’s no other way to describe it: Flexen has been terrible this season. He took a loss in every one of his four starts before Bryce Miller was called up to replace him. The final nail in the coffin was the fact that he wasn’t any better in relief. He had a string of five scoreless outings after going back into the bullpen, but then followed that up with seven appearances where he gave up at least one run, with the last five seeing him giving up multiple runs.

Flexen had sub-4 ERAs his first two years here, but in 2023 that jumped to 7.71. He kinda looks done, but maybe he just needs a change of scenery.

There’s a tendency to see something like this as a microcosm for the Mariners’ season. Was he just lucky the last two years, and now he’s seeing that luck swing the other way? Was he good the last two years, and now he’s trash? That’s the big question, isn’t it? On the very same day that Flexen was let go, the Mariners suffered one of their worst, most inexcusable losses of the season. One thing doesn’t correlate to the other, necessarily, though it was Trevor Gott who got the call up to replace Flexen (who also took the L in this 11th inning defeat). But, Gott shouldn’t have been in there in the first place. We should’ve won it in the 10th when we had the bases loaded with nobody out and our 3-4-5 hitters coming to the plate.

Sure, Flexen has had a crappy 2023 season. But, so has Julio. So has Suarez. So has Cal and Ty and Teoscar. So has Wong and Pollock and Murphy. So has Moore and Haggerty. So has Brash and Sewald (who have 7 blown saves between them, including one apiece last night). The numbers might look good for the bullpen, but they haven’t gotten the job done either.

This is a collective face-plant. If this was a video game, we would’ve reset the season ages ago and started over. But, this is real life, and we’re stuck with what we’ve got. At least Flexen gets to leave. He does get to start over. Hopefully it goes better for him at his next stop.

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