In a somewhat surprising move, the Seattle Mariners optioned one of their top prospects, 1B Dan Vogelbach, to triple-A Tacoma on Thursday before their spring training game against the San Francisco Giants.
Vogelbach, 24, hit well at the start of spring but at the time of his demotion was hitting .228/.313/.333 in 57 at bats and he struggled at times on defense.
Acquired from the Chicago Cubs for lefty reliever Mike Montgomery in July, Vogelbach came advertised as “MLB ready” with little to prove at the AAA level, where he hit .292/.417/.505 last season with 23 homers and 96 RBIs between Tacoma and the Cubs’ AAA affiliate in Iowa. He’s still the team’s future at the position, but sending him down now does several things for the M’s.
First off, it will allow Vogelbach time to get back in a groove at the plate instead of fighting it at the big league level. It will also let him work on specific defensive adjustments the team is trying to get him to improve in.
Lastly, if he does continue to struggle at the plate it would allow the team to keep him in the minors long enough to keep his service time down this season and gain an extra year on the back end of his arbitration eligibility.
What it means for the time being is that journeyman Danny Valencia becomes the everyday starter with Tyler Motter pressed into even more duty as the all-over backup. With Shawn O’Malley out two to three weeks with an appendectomy, Motter was going to be busy enough, since the M’s seem destined to carry eight relievers at the start of the season.
Valencia hasn’t hit well at all this spring (.196/.288/.327) but he did hit .287/.346/.446 with 17 homers in 130 games with Oakland last season. GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters in Arizona that he “has a proven track record,” and alluded to the idea that the move with Vogelbach is similar to what the club did with James Paxton and Mike Zunino getting extra seasoning in the minors.
The Mariners have 43 players still in big league camp – 34 included on the 40-man roster and nine non-roster invitees.
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