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Sweeney Doing Garko a Favor

Ryan Garko
Consensus seems to be that Mike Sweeney's killer spring has earned him a roster spot. That should mean that Ryan Garko does not have a roster spot. Since Garko has options, he would presumably be sent down to AAA Tacoma. It would be a little odd, given that he signed as a major-league free agent. But, Ryan was signed for close to the minimum with incentives, and from the beginning the acquisition had a "sure, why not?" kind of vibe.

At the major league level, we are talking about the player most likely to get some ABs at DH against left-handers, and maybe an occasional start at first base. I don't think the team is much different, personnel-wise, with Sweeney instead of Garko.

Tacoma looks different with Garko around though.

Tommy Everidge, Mike Carp, and Brad Nelson are already ticketed for AAA.  They are all primarily first baseman, though Nelson and Carp can probably play some outfield. However, even with a couple guys splitting time in the outfield, and rotating players through DH too, is there really room for FOUR first baseman?

No, there is not.

The Mariners could cut someone to free up the logjam, or stash someone down in AA for a spell. Brad Nelson would likely be the odd man out in either case. I won't be heartbroken if the M's take this path, because Nelson isn't exactly the type of player you pave a path to the major leagues for.

However, I think there is a much better solution. It wasn't too long ago that Cleveland switched Garko to first base, from catcher. The switch had as much to do with Victor Martinez as it had to do with Ryan Garko's abilities. Check out this article to see what people were saying back when the switch was a work in progress.

At first base, Ryan Garko is a blah defender at best with a blah bat at best by first base standards. He is destined to become a nomad that finds his way on to major league rosters here and there. If he gets hot with the right team at the right time, perhaps he develops a reputation as a solid pinch-hitter.

What if Garko can still catch? His bat is pretty nice by catcher standards. If he can handle a pitching staff well, he could easily be a valued reserve for many more years, if not an option some teams would consider as a starter. As far as the Mariners are concerned, the switch could transform Garko from a marginal, redundant luxury into a depth-building asset.

It makes all the sense in the world for everyone involved to stick Garko behind the plate, if/when he is optioned to Tacoma. There are good reasons to think Garko could make the switch, and the upside is obvious, both for Garko and the Mariners.

Mike Sweeney could be an impact signing after all.