Christopher John Flexen
Height: 6'3" Weight: 225
Bats/Throws: Right / Right
Born: 07/01/1994 in Newark, California
Acquired: Signed as a free agent (12/18/2020)
MLB Debut: 07/27/2017
Free Agent after: 2023 season
What to make of Chris Flexen? The 26-year-old Californian was signed to a two-year contract with an option for a third on the strength of a 2020 campaign in the Korean Baseball Organization, a league that is considered on the whole to be a step below Triple-A on the talent meter. In 21 starts for the Doosan Bears in Seoul, Flexen did post numbers that would be quite good in the Major Leagues—8-4 record, 3.01 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, 30 walks and 132 strikeouts—but the KBO is not the Major Leagues. It's not even NBP, Japan's professional league. Flexen does have some Major League time—parts of three seasons as a New York Met after initially skipping the high minors—but did poorly. So why the faith of a two-plus year deal? “You look at video from when he was with the Mets, and then you start looking at some video on how he was doing over in Korea, it was two different pitchers,” said manager Scott Servais early in spring training. True, Flexen is 50 pounds trimmer than he was as a Met, learned a curveball, and pitched with a lot more confidence in Korea. He was all set to return to Seoul when Jerry Dipoto came calling with an offer from the Mariners.
Mariner scouts had no games to watch or players to evaluate stateside for much of 2020, so they watched a lot of video from the Asian leagues. Clearly, Flexen impressed them, and it would be a great story if he has success in the big leagues after finding himself in Korea. But the tall right-hander has been getting creamed in spring training, looking like little more than a batting-practice pitcher in his first few Cactus League games. Spring performances don't often mean much, but in this case it is a curious detail. Will Flexen turn things on when the bell rings and the games count? Was the Korean success due to nothing more than the lesser competition in the KBO? We'll find out soon enough.