Quick Hits: Muñoz, Sadler, Vavra


Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto spoke with the media this week, including Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN, in advance of the start of Spring Training. During those talks, Dipoto provided an update on reliever Andrés Muñoz.

Muñoz, 24, had a tremendous breakout last year, posting a 2.49 earned run average over 64 appearances. That ERA probably shortchanges Munoz a bit, who struck out 38.7% of batters faced while walking just 6% of them and got ground balls at a 52.6% clip. ERA estimators all thought he actually deserved better, including a 2.04 FIP, 1.84 xERA and 1.74 SIERA. After the club was eliminated from the postseason in October, he underwent foot surgery, but he’s already out of a walking boot and began a throwing program two weeks ago.

The fireballer has emerged as a key piece of the club’s bullpen, something they seemingly anticipated when they extended him after the 2021 season. The righty had just returned from Tommy John surgery and made a single appearance that year, but the M’s had enough faith to sign him to a four-year, $7.5MM extension with three club options. That could keep him as a fixture of the club’s relief corps through the 2028 season, and his current health is surely a good sign for the club going into 2023.

Other notes from around the league…

  • Dipoto also provided an update on another reliever in 32-year-old Casey Sadler, who is coming off a season lost to shoulder surgery but is going to be ready to go for Spring Training this year. In 2021, Sadler made 42 appearances for the M’s with a ridiculous 0.67 ERA. That level of run prevention was in no way sustainable, with Sadler benefitting from a .188 batting average on balls in play and 90.9% strand rate. But his 25.5% strikeout rate, 6.9% walk rate and 62.9% ground ball rate all point to an excellent campaign nonetheless, with Sadler pegged for a 2.48 FIP, 2.41 xERA and 3.06 SIERA. Unfortunately, he required the surgery on his shoulder in March of 2022, which kept him out for all of that year. The Mariners outrighted him off the roster in November but re-signed him to a minor league deal. “If we get that ’21 version of Casey Sadler with the bullpen group we currently have, that just takes us to a different level,” Dipoto said. Despite trading Erik Swanson to the Blue Jays in the Teoscar Hernández deal, the M’s bullpen is still pretty packed. Munoz should be joined by Paul Sewald, Diego Castillo, Matt Brash, Penn Murfee, Matt Festa and Trevor Gott, as well as Rule 5 draftee Chris Clarke. If the rotation is fully healthy, Chris Flexen should be in the bullpen as well as a long reliever. Sadler was so good in 2021 that he could force his way into the picture if he looks like he’s back on track. Despite the crowding, pitcher injuries are fairly inevitable and this pile of depth should serve Seattle well as the season progress.
  • Orioles utility player Terrin Vavra, 26 in May, cracked the majors last year and managed fairly well by hitting .258/.340/.337 in his first 103 plate appearances. That production was just barely below league average, with his wRC+ coming in at 97, though he hit a much sturdier .324/.435/.451 in Triple-A. Between the two levels, he played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions, making him a usefully versatile piece of the club’s roster. It seems he’s not satisfied with that level of versatility and has been working to add first base to his repertoire this offseason. “I don’t think until I really play a game over there, I’ll truly feel the most comfortable, but that’s what spring training’s for,” Vavra tells Nathan Ruiz of The Baltimore Sun. “I think I’ll get some opportunities to showcase that and showcase other talents and try and make my case. I want to be able to show that I can do that, and I want the coaching staff to be confident if they had to send me out there, Day 1 of spring training even.” The O’s have been looking to find left-handed bats to complement right-hander Ryan Mountcastle in the first base mix, acquiring Lewin Díaz and Ryan O’Hearn this offseason, as well as signing Franchy Cordero, Josh Lester and Nomar Mazara to minor league deals. But Vavra, who also hits left-handed, could have a leg up on that group since none of them are on the 40-man but Vavra is. On the other hand, Vavra has option years remaining and could be ticketed for some more time in the minors if he gets squeezed off the active roster.

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