Mariners Option George Kirby To Triple-A, Select Jacob Barnes

In addition to the six roster moves announced earlier today, the Mariners have also made two more transactions.  Right-hander George Kirby has been optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, while righty Jacob Barnes’ contract has been selected.

As noted by The Athletic’s Corey Brock and other reporters, Kirby’s demotion isn’t about performance, but rather the Mariners’ plans to manage his workload.  Between Seattle’s off-day Monday and then the July 18-21 All-Star break, Kirby’s next big league outing likely isn’t coming until late July, though he’ll probably get a couple of brief outings at Triple-A to stay warm.

This will actually be Kirby’s first time at Triple-A ball, as the M’s promoted him straight from Double-A in early May.  Between the majors and minors this season, Kirby has tossed 89 total innings — already the most he has tossed over four pro seasons.  While some pundits disagree about the old “Verducci Effect” rule of thumb about the dangers of a big inning increase for young arms, Kirby’s previous season high was 67 2/3 frames in 2021, and of course Kirby didn’t pitch in any official games at all in 2020 due to the canceled minor league season.

With a 14-3 record over their last 17 games, the Mariners have gotten back over the .500 mark and back into the hunt for a wild card berth.  Surely the team hopes Kirby can continue to be a big part of Seattle’s push to finally end its drought of postseason baseball, and that means picking and choosing when Kirby pitches in order to keep him as fresh as possible for big games in September (or, the M’s hope, even into October).

Some service-time elements could also be in play, in regards to Kirby’s future Super Two status.  The Mariners didn’t select Kirby to the MLB roster until May 8, so if he spends two weeks in Triple-A, that could put him on the borderline for future Super Two consideration if a future cutoff point is on the higher side.  Missing on a fourth arbitration-eligible year would cost Kirby some serious money, though he will be getting some bonus this year under the new collective bargaining agreement’s performance bonus program for pre-arb players.  As well, Kirby would automatically lock in a full year of service time and even more bonus money if he scores a top-two finish in AL Rookie Of The Year voting, though several other impressive AL rookies (including teammate Julio Rodriguez) seem favored for higher finishes in the balloting.

Kirby has looked good in his first taste of the big leagues, posting a 3.78 ERA/3.45 SIERA over 64 1/3 innings for Seattle.  The 20th overall pick of the 2019 draft has allowed a lot of hard contact and his Statcast numbers aren’t overly impressive, but Kirby has an elite 3.3% walk rate that ranks in the 99th percentile of all pitchers.

Barnes posted a 6.10 ERA over 20 2/3 innings with the Tigers this season before Detroit cut him loose in June, and the Mariners inked Barnes to a new minor league contract.  He has yet to pitch for the M’s at the big league level.  A solid relief arm with the Brewers in 2016-18, Barnes has been trying to recapture that form ever since, posting a 6.48 ERA over an even 100 innings with six different clubs over the last three-plus years.

Published at Sun, 10 Jul 2022 00:34:03 +0000

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