This is not Chone Figgins
If I were to tell you that Shawn Kelley has only pitched 128 career innings you may not believe me. Kelley has been on the Mariners roster since 2009, a longer tenure than any other current Mariners reliever. In his time on the team he proved to be a cheap and decent, if not great, middle relief pitcher. Kelley’s strikeout-to-walk ratio for his career is over 3:1, his career SO/9 is 8.58, and his career xFIP of 4.23, while not outstanding, is certainly solid enough to justify the $950,000 he is being paid next season.
However, Eric Wedge has never been a fan of Kelley, and as such he has been kind of an odd man out in regards to bullpen usage over the last two seasons. Tom Wilhelmson and Charlie Furbush were clearly better than Kelley last season, and that put him in competition with guys like Josh Kinney, Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor, and Carter Capps for lower-leverage relief pitching opportunities. While Kelley was arguably better peripherally than his competition last season, it also happened to be his age 28 season. This will be Kelley’s age 29 season, Capps and Pryor are entering their age 22 and 23 seasons respectively. The Mariners have high expectations for those two, and as such Kelley would not have been higher than fifth on the Mariners relief pitching depth chart heading into the 2013 season. Despite Kelley’s tenure on the roster and his relative value for the price of his contract, the Mariners decided he was an unnecessary commodity to hold on to, and as a result DFA’d him to make room for Kelly Shoppach on the 40-man roster.
The Yankees, needing relief pitching depth, saw a better-than-replacement level relief pitcher that they could acquire for basically nothing, and offered the Mariners basically nothing for him. The Mariners accepted.
I’m sure Abraham Almonte is a great guy. He was born in the Dominican Republic, has been in the Yankees minor league system since 2006, and is entering his age 24 season. Unfortunately, there is nothing in Almonte’s career to suggest that he will even crack AAA, much less a major league roster. First off, he is only 5 feet 9 inches tall. Now, I’m not “heightest” (is that a word? I don’t think that’s a word), but when Ichiro Suzuki is listed as 5 feet, 11 inches (and we all know there is zero percent chance that is true), we know we are dealing with a very small guy in Almonte. Last season with the AA Trenton Thunder, at age 23, Almonte posted a .338 wOBA and a 106 wRC+ in 359 plate appearances. In a vacuum, those numbers seem good, maybe even very good. Dig deeper, though, and you will find 7 other players on the Trenton Thunder last season with a wRC+ greater than Almonte’s over 350 plate appearances. Unless the 2012 Trenton Thunder are the AA version of the 1927 Yankees, that doesn’t suggest to me that Almonte is much of a hitter.
Almonte’s biggest offensive advantage is his speed. Last season, he swiped 30 bases in 35 attempts, an 85.7% success ratio which can’t be classified as anything but stellar. We also don’t know nearly enough about Almonte’s defensive ability to make a completely accurately conclusion about him. If Almonte winds up as the next Franklin Gutierrez in the field, then he may be a 4th or 5th outfielder on a major league team. At the end of the day, though, Almonte projects as a speed guy with no power who will probably never make the train ride from Tacoma to Seattle.