Russell Wilson Signed His Contract Extension

So, now we can all relax a little bit.  You know, until we get more rumors and conjecture about Bobby Wagner’s negotiations.  Or until the next guy threatens to hold out or otherwise demands a new contract.  Or until we start hearing about guys in the locker room being disgruntled about the deals other people are getting around them.

It’s 4 years, $87.6 million.  It’s a good thing because it’s a fair deal for both sides, it sets up Wilson to be this team’s quarterback for the bulk of his career, and it also sets him up to be in a position in 2020 to get a spiffy new deal.  Other than that, I don’t really care about how the contract breaks down.  It sounds like Wilson’s getting a lot of that guaranteed, but when you think about it, as long as he stays relatively healthy, the whole fucking thing is going to be guaranteed.  Russell Wilson isn’t going anywhere.  He’ll see every dime of that $87.6 million and then some.  He’s going to be a very wealthy man for the rest of his life.

The greatest thing about this is that it’s finally over.  We don’t have to talk about Russell Wilson’s contract again for another 3-4 years.  We won’t have this looming over the entire season (I honestly don’t know how the people of Baltimore survived that contract season for Joe Flacco; I guess winning the Super Bowl probably helps).  Really, after the excitement of this morning, that’ll be it.  We’ll be on to the issues at hand:  Training Camp, and the upcoming 2015 NFL season.

I like Wilson.  I like having him around.  I think he’s going to be a good one for the duration of his career.  I’m glad his contract isn’t going to hamstring the organization capwise, and I’m glad that he’s probably happy making just a tick under Aaron Rodgers.  I won’t argue with which quarterback deserves the most money or whathaveyou, but it sort of feels right that Rodgers is still the highest-paid QB in the NFL.  Mostly, I’m just glad this deal got done before Andrew Luck did his extension.  I’d hate to see that pissing contest, I’ll tell you that much.

Free At Last: Dustin Ackley Has Been Traded

I don’t know who Ramon Flores is, nor do I know who Jose Ramirez is.  I just know they’re not Dustin Ackley, and therefore I like them already.

As I’ve belabored endlessly, Dustin Ackley has been the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history.  It’s not even really all that close.  We used a #2 overall draft pick to select the first hitter of the 2009 draft and ended up with a useless nothing.  He was supposed to be a guy with a good amount of athleticism – to the point where we pretty much just needed to find a place for him to field and let him go to work – who could hit in his sleep.  He was never going to be a masher, but he was supposed to be a line drive machine who’d hit for a high average, get on base with regularity, and hit enough doubles and triples to make up for a lack of homers.  Still, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect somewhere in the realm of 10 homers per year, maybe 30 doubles, a handful of triples, and a .300+ batting average with an on-base percentage approaching .375 or .400.

What we got was a guy who was called up mid-season in 2011 – during yet another losing campaign in an endless string of playoff-less years – who showed some promise, but eventually turned into yet another shining reminder of this organization’s proclivity to be snakebitten in the drafting and player-development realm of professional baseball.

In his two full seasons with the Mariners (2012 & 2014; he was shuttled between Seattle & Tacoma for much of 2013; and 2011 & 2015 were both half-seasons), he was essentially this guy:

  • .235 batting average, .294 on-base percentage, 13 homers, 24 doubles

He’s always been sort of a second-half dandy (punctuated by his call-up year of 2011, and his heroic second half in 2014 when he pretty much staved off execution for another half year), but this first half was such a disaster that we couldn’t hold out hope anymore for a possible turnaround.  .215/.270/.366, while slowly seeing his starts get taken away from the likes of Trumbo and Guti.  He has two more years of arbitration, and quite frankly you’d be hard-pressed to see why the Mariners should keep giving him chances.  He’s already making $2.6 million now and he’s not even worth a fraction of that!  To give him a raise for all the nothing he’s produced in his career would be a crime against humanity.

So, now he’s the Yankees’ problem.  Whatever.  With that ballpark, he’ll probably be a productive hitter and somewhat turn his career around.  From a Mariners perspective, he’s the second disappointing tentpole to be playing elsewhere, with Smoak’s signing in Toronto last offseason.  Now, all that’s left of the Jackie Z era’s three major disappointments is Jesus Montero, who – SURPRISE – is the guy coming up to take Ackley’s roster spot!

I don’t care about who we got in return.  Apparently, it’s an outfielder and a reliever.  Both will be starting their careers in this organization in Tacoma.  Maybe one day one or both will be called up and we’ll all be reminded that – OH YEAH – those were the guys we got for Ackley.  Until then, I’m going to try to not waste the braincells.

Where In The Fudge Do The Mariners Go From Here?

The following players are under contract for 2016:

  • Felix Hernandez (signed thru 2019)
  • Robinson Cano (signed thru 2023)
  • Kyle Seager (signed thru 2021, w/ option for 2022)
  • Nelson Cruz (signed thru 2018)
  • Seth Smith (signed thru 2016, w/ option for 2017)

Of course, the team has other players under team control, but for the most part those players are part of The Problem.  The above-referenced players are the good ones.  You like to think you can count on Felix, Cano, Seager, Cruz, and Smith; these are professional players who are going to give you professional performances for the most part.  A starting pitcher, a second baseman, a third baseman, a DH, and a platoon corner outfielder.  That’s what the Mariners have going for them in 2016.

So, what are they going to do about the 20 other spots on this roster?

Well, here’s a breakdown of the players who will most certainly be playing elsewhere in 2016, because their contracts run out after this year and either they won’t want to return or we won’t want them to return:

  • Austin Jackson
  • Hisashi Iwakuma
  • Fernando Rodney
  • J.A. Happ
  • Joe Beimel

So, in theory, the Mariners will be looking to fill two starting pitcher roles, a closer role, a lefty specialist role, and a center field role.  I already don’t like where 2016 is headed.

Here’s a list of players with 1 more year of arbitration eligibility before they become full blown free agents:

  • Mark Trumbo
  • Logan Morrison

Oh goodie!  Two underperforming first basemen – one from each side of the plate – who have no business being in the outfield!  Mark Trumbo is probably the more offensively-gifted of the two, but he’s also the absolute God damn worst in the field.  LoMo has some defensive value at first base, but he’s proven without a shadow of a doubt that he’s not an everyday player.  We all wondered what he could be if he actually managed to stay healthy for a full season.  WELP, look no further than his 2015 output!

Trumbo earned $6.9 million in 2015, so figure he’ll get somewhere in the $8-$9 million range in 2016 (if we decide to keep him and not just cut him loose set him free).  LoMo earned a shade under $3 mil in 2015; maybe he gets in the $4-$5 million range in 2016 (again, if we decide to keep him, which I’m pretty against).  If we dumped these two guys, we’d need to get a whole new first baseman/DH combo, which probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Next up, we’ve got the guys with 2 more years of arbitration eligibility before they become full blown free agents:

  • Dustin Ackley
  • Charlie Furbush
  • Tom Wilhelmsen

Did you know that Dustin Ackley has earned over $12 million in his professional baseball career?  That’s over $12 million for the single most disappointing draft pick in Mariners franchise history.  He earned $2.6 million in 2015, which you gotta figure gets bumped up to the $4 million range in 2016, and probably somewhere around $6 million in 2017.  GET RID OF HIM NOW!!!  I don’t care what you have to do, but Dustin Ackley needs to be gone; he’s had every possible chance you can give a prospect, and he’s proven his worth (his worth is zero).  Nothing in the next two years is going to turn him into what we need him to be.

Furbush is a guy I probably wouldn’t mind keeping around.  His pay rate is pretty reasonable, and I wouldn’t expect the raises he gets will break the bank.  Wilhelmsen might be a guy I give another year to, but he’s obviously not someone you’d want to extend long term, and probably not someone you’d want to keep after his final arbitration year.

Finally, here’s a list of all the younger guys with extensive Major League experience, who we’ve got tons of team control for:

  • Brad Miller
  • Mike Zunino
  • Taijuan Walker
  • Carson Smith
  • Jesus Sucre
  • Chris Taylor
  • Vidal Nuno
  • Mike Montgomery
  • James Paxton
  • Roenis Elias
  • Danny Farquhar
  • Lucas Luetge
  • James Jones
  • Jesus Montero

Just brutal.  There are simply too many fucking holes to count.  I mean, look, I guess you can feel pretty good about Brad Miller if you want.  But, he’s still wildly inconsistent.  Or, I guess that’s wrong:  he’s pretty much been consistently bad at the plate since he was first called up here.  And, Chris Taylor is no better, so there’s that.  With Ketel Marte recently being converted to the outfield, there’s yet another short stop prospect gone by the wayside.  Like him or lump him, but Brad Miller is your Opening Day 2016 starting short stop.

Mike Zunino, there’s another.  His rotting carcass has been dragging down this offense for the better part of two years.  But, what are you going to do?  He’s still young enough to where he could theoretically put it all together, but at this point I think it’s foolish to expect him to be the All Star we all hoped he’d be.  So, what we’ve got is Just Another Guy behind the plate.  Great.

Walker, Paxton, Montgomery, and Elias are all young, up & coming starters, but you’re going to run into the same questions going into next year that we had going into this year.  Are they too young?  Will there be more growing pains?  And, most importantly, can they ever stay fucking healthy?  Say what you will about the 2015 Mariners, but I think it will ultimately go down as a good thing for Walker, should he stay healthy the rest of the way.  This year of experience – God willing – will help him be a better pitcher in 2016 and going forward.  One can only hope.  As for Paxton, I won’t put him in Danny Hultzen territory, but I don’t think you can ever count on Paxton staying healthy for a full season.  And, if that’s the case, I really don’t think you can count on him as a starter out of Spring Training.  He might ultimately prove to be a bullpen guy for that very reason.  Montgomery is getting an extended look this year in hopes that we can plug him in for the full season next year.  Should he keep pumping out quality starts, his is a spot in the rotation we might not have to worry about.  But, should he start to get knocked around the more the American League gets used to his repertoire, then that’s yet another hole we’d need to plug.  A hole that might be too big even for Elias, who has seemingly taken something of a step back in his second season in the Majors/upper minors.  None of these guys could be considered safe bets for 2016, but then again, what does that even mean?  We all thought Hisashi Iwakuma was a safe bet for 2015, and look at what we’ve gotten.

The bullpen guys – Carson Smith, Danny Farquhar, Vidal Nuno, and Lucas Luetge – are all pretty iffy in their own rights.  Carson Smith looked to be the second coming of Jeff Nelson until very recently, when he’s been bashed around (possibly to over-use?  He is still fairly young in his career).  I’ll be looking for Smith to ramp it back up the rest of this year.  Nuno has looked okay and will likely be the reason why we don’t see a third year out of Joe Beimel.  Luetge probably continues to get stashed in Tacoma (along with David Rollins, should he manage to stick the rest of this year).  And, that leaves Farquhar, who’s probably good AAA insurance as long as he still has options, which I would assume he does.

The rest – Sucre, Jones, and Montero – aren’t much to write home about.  I have to believe the Mariners will find another backup catcher to allow us to keep Sucre in Tacoma where he belongs.  Jones doesn’t strike me as a guy who’s ever going to hit enough to be anything more than a 4th or 5th outfielder on a team with 3 good starting outfielders (which the Mariners most certainly are not).  Montero is a bit of a wild card, but can you really go into 2016 with him as your starting first baseman?  Or, even as a platoon first baseman?  It would be nice if the Mariners managed to pull their heads out of their asses long enough to call him up for good in 2015 and let us see what the newly-skinny Montero can do over the last two months of the season.  But, that might be asking too much of an incompetent organization looking at wholesale changes in the coming offseason.

The last guy – Mark Lowe – who I didn’t list above, will be a free agent I have to imagine the Mariners will want to re-sign, at least for a year or two.  So, let’s hope that gets done, I guess.

***

That just leaves us with the “Where Do We Go From Here?” bit referenced in the title.  Do the Mariners opt to keep most of the roster intact?  Do they just keep the top five guys under contract and wash away the rest?  Do they completely blow it up, putting anyone and everyone up for auction?

At this point, I’m so disgusted with the whole organization, if I had my druthers, the Mariners would only keep Felix and Seager.  I think if you have a team willing to put in significant coin to take over the remainder of Cano’s contract, I think you jump at the opportunity.  Should he manage to turn things around sufficiently in this second half to make the first half seem like an anomaly, the Mariners could probably trade Cano for a couple of quality pieces (especially when you consider the team he’d end up going to will have a much friendlier stadium to hit in).  Maybe the Mariners kick in $7 million per year the rest of the way, for the right to dump Cano and pick up a couple of quality prospects; wouldn’t that make sense?

Same thing goes for Cruz, though I don’t think the Mariners would have to kick in as much – or any – money to get some good pieces from him.  He’s been a dominant force offensively for the last two years and is only costing $14 million per year.  That’s NOT bad.

Do I think that’ll happen though?  Probably not.  I have to imagine teams are going to stay away from Cano’s contract until they can take him from us for pennies on the dollar.  Nevertheless, there’s something to be said for the Miami Marlins way of doing things:  when you know you’re fucked, dump & run!

Odds are, whoever the next GM is will consider Felix, Seager, Cano, & Cruz as “the core” and will look to build around them.  I can’t imagine Seth Smith, Miller, Zunino, Walker, Carson Smith, Furbush, or Nuno are going anywhere either.  Barring some sort of blockbuster trade, I think these are the guys you’re looking at as the safest bets to return in 2016:

  • Felix – starting pitcher
  • Walker – starting pitcher
  • Carson – reliever
  • Furbush – reliever
  • Nuno – reliever
  • Seager – third base
  • Cano – second base
  • Miller – short stop
  • Cruz – DH/right field
  • Seth – OF platoon
  • Zunino – Catcher

All told, you’ve got 11 of your 25-man roster right there.  How do you feel as that for your “core” players for 2016?  We just need 3 more starters, 4 more relievers, pretty much an entire outfield, a first baseman, and a bench.  I’ve never been more depressed.

Taking a look at the pitching staff, it’s pretty obvious that as long as they’re still here, Paxton, Montgomery, and Elias will get looks in Spring Training.  But, you’re still going to want to bring in a veteran and maybe two.  I’d hope that the Mariners will go hard after a top-end of the rotation guy, and stop trying to make it through seasons with J.A. Happ/Chris Young/Kevin Millwood types.  I mean, if you feel it’s necessary, pick up an innings eater to throw onto the Spring Training pile, but this team absolutely needs another ace-type pitcher, like Iwakuma was before he completely broke down.

For the bullpen, I like Mark Lowe being back.  I don’t even totally mind having Wilhelmsen around, since he’s good to eat up some innings, but I wouldn’t consider him as one of your Late Innings With A Small Lead type of guys.  Assuming Farquhar won’t ever be returning to form, I think this team would be well served in picking up another veteran reliever with a proven track record.  You know, someone like Rodney two years ago, only less volatile.  Lowe, Smith, and Proven Hard-Throwing Righty, combined with Nuno, Furbush, and innings-eating Wilhelmsen could be a nice little unit.  Save that seventh spot for someone off the scrap heap, or a young up & comer with some heat and I think that’d be okay.

So far, my Plan For 2016 involves spending relatively big on a starter and a reliever, while at the same time plucking a cheaper starter and reliever from the scrap heap.

On the hitting side of things, let’s start with first base.  I feel like whatever you do with the rest of the offense hinges on what you do at first base.  The Mariners can afford to keep LoMo or Trumbo, but I don’t think they can afford to keep them both (and I really wouldn’t mind seeing them get rid of both).  If you’re going to skimp on first base (like, say for instance, there just aren’t any quality first basemen available in free agency or via trade), then either you go whole hog with Trumbo as your everyday starting first baseman and cut LoMo loose, or you let Trumbo go, save a few mil, and put LoMo in a platoon with Montero.  Neither of these options are all that enticing, but that’s the world we’re living in.  You can’t afford to completely fill all the holes on this team via free agency, that’s just not how it works.  There aren’t enough good players out there, and the organization won’t be willing to spend all the money in the world just to try to make this team a winner.  We’ve already got major deals going out to five guys in 2016 – the aforementioned guys at the top of the post – those five guys account for almost $79 million in salary next season.  When you account for the 2015 Mariners spending over $126 million on this turd stew, it realistically puts this team with $47 million to spend (minus all the smaller amounts of money going to guys under team control, and minus the arbitration guys we opt to keep).  Honestly?  Not a whole lot of wiggle room.

Of the three options at first base, obviously I’m in favor of Door #3 – the free agent.  But, I’m a realistic man, so I’m putting our chances pretty low at that becoming a reality (especially considering this team has arguably bigger fish to fry in the outfield).  Of the remaining options, I like the idea of Trumbo getting the job outright, because that gives us another spot on the bench a platoon would otherwise take up.  I have to believe that Trumbo is going to give us better offensive output than a combo of LoMo & Montero, but I have to admit the platoon is intriguing (I guess they usually are).  In this instance, Montero would face all lefties and the occasional righty.  This would still give LoMo the majority of the starts, but hopefully the days off would keep him fresh, so he wouldn’t hit so many offensive lulls.  Then, figure LoMo would also come in during the later innings of games he doesn’t start as a defensive replacement, I think this could work in a pinch.  But, as I said before, under no circumstances should the team opt to keep both LoMo AND Trumbo.

With the rest of the infield pretty well accounted for, that leaves the outfield, and a huge gaping hole in center.  No way Austin Jackson returns.  He could be the dumbest man on the planet, but even then he’d still be too smart to want to stay in Safeco.  He’s had a decent bounce-back year in 2015, and I think he parlays that into a nice little 3-4 year deal somewhere a little more hitter-friendly.  And, since the Mariners have exactly no one in the minors ready to ascend in center field (and since the Angels aren’t looking to trade Mike Trout away anytime soon), they’re going to have to make finding a new center fielder one of their highest priorities (if not THE highest).  I don’t know who’s going to be out there in free agency, but this strikes me as something that might have to get done via trade.  We should just assume that we’re not going to find a miracle offensive center fielder, so I wouldn’t mind going the other way:  find the very best defensive center fielder you can possibly find and give HIM the job.  I long for the days of awe-inspiring catches being run down at the wall; I want those days to return, even if it means we have to suffer some more at the plate!  Let’s face it, as long as this team keeps drafting terribly, and as long as they play in Safeco, this team is going to be offensively challenged.  Might as well go the other way and get as strong defensively as you possibly can.

That goes double when you see what we’ve got in the corner outfield.  You’re just not going to keep Nelson Cruz from playing right field half the time.  It’s just the way it is.  Until he severely destroys his knees, he’s going to be a part of this defense.  And, say what you will about Seth Smith, but he’s no defensive wunderkind.  And besides all of that, you still need a right-handed platoon partner for Smith, as well as another solid all-around outfielder beyond that.  If the team was smart, they’d play Cruz in the outfield exclusively in National League parks and against left-handed starters and make Cruz Seth Smith’s platoon partner.  That’d give Smith about 2/3 of the starts, which is about what he should be getting, and it would still give Cruz enough starts in the outfield to feel like he’s giving us more than just his bat.  But, again, that’s if the team was smart.  In that instance, they’d only need to find TWO everyday outfielders instead of three or four in various timeshare situations.  Whatever happens, Ackley needs to go, and Trumbo needs to not be part of that outfield mix.

From there, fill out the bench as best as you can.  Find another catcher, I don’t care whose dick you have to suck.  Chris Taylor is an adequate bench player who can cover you in all the infield positions if need be; the new generation’s Willie Bloomquist.  Fill out the outfield bench spots with speed; maybe finally decide to keep Jones up here for the duration to be a base-stealing and defensive specialist.  Good teams DO have those guys, you know.

If it’s up to me, the roster looks something like this:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Good, Veteran Starter
  3. Taijuan Walker
  4. Mike Montgomery/Roenis Elias
  5. James Paxton/Innings-Eating Veteran Starter
  • Good, Veteran Closer/Reliever
  • Carson Smith
  • Mark Lowe
  • Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Vidal Nuno
  • Charlie Furbush
  • Other Veteran Righty Reliever/Young Righty Fireballer
  1. Mike Zunino – Catcher
  2. Trumbo OR LoMo/Montero – First Base
  3. Robinson Cano – Second Base
  4. Brad Miller – Short Stop
  5. Kyle Seager – Third Base
  6. Good, Veteran Corner Outfielder
  7. Good Defensive Center Fielder
  8. Smith/Cruz – Right Field
  9. Cruz/Whoever – Designated Hitter
  • Backup Catcher Who’s Not Sucre
  • Chris Taylor – Infielder
  • Backup First Baseman
  • Backup Outfielder

For the pitchers, it’s a one or the other scenario.  You’d have Felix and Walker pretty well locked in there, as well as whoever we bring in to be our #2.  Then, you’d want approximately four guys competing for those final two spots.  Paxton, if he’s healthy, probably gets the nod.  And, ideally, you’d only have Montgomery or Elias, but not both, as they’re pretty close to the same pitcher.  Innings-Eating Veteran needs to look reasonably good, but will very well have the advantage over both Montgomery & Elias, as he’s not likely to have any options left.

The bullpen is pretty self-explanatory.

If we go platoon at first base, then obviously the other half of that platoon becomes “Backup First Baseman”.  If we go Trumbo at first, then either Montero gets a chance to be on our bench, or we go out and get someone, but again, I don’t think LoMo should be that guy.  With Cruz & Smith, you’re still looking for three new outfielders (again, assuming the organization has any brains and opts to keep Trumbo away from the outfield entirely), and I wouldn’t mind the bench guy being someone like James Jones.  Either way, Jones can’t be the everyday center fielder, so that needs to come from elsewhere.  And, as I’ve stated repeatedly, they need to get rid of Ackley and go somewhere else for the left field spot too.

If this team wants to try to hang onto the core and keep building around it, I don’t see any way they get that done with fewer than six new players – two starters, two relievers, and at least two fielders/hitters.  The first base situation is a quagmire that we’re probably stuck with, but the outfield situation needs to be a complete breath of fresh air from head to toe.

I don’t know how they’re going to do it, and after this abortion of a season, I honestly don’t much care.  Just get it done and quit wasting Felix’s prime!

Are The Seahawks Building The Right Way?

The 2013 Seahawks were something of a unicorn, the likes of which come around maybe once in a generation.  The sheer volume of talent, the number of superstars on their first contracts, the way we were able to stockpile depth on top of depth; the 2013 Seahawks could’ve had an outbreak of smallpox and still come away with enough talent to do some real playoff damage.

Since then, we’ve seen 9 guys get paid, with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner next on the list.  While there was certainly a challenge in getting the talent level to where it was and where it currently is, the REAL challenge begins now:  how do we keep producing a winner when we’re forced to pay our top tier quarterback like a top tier quarterback?

It’s going to happen.  Maybe this year, maybe next year, maybe the year after that, but EVENTUALLY, we’re going to give Wilson the contract he deserves.  And, with Wagner possibly commanding upwards of $10 million per season on average, we have a good idea of who the Haves are in reference to the Have Nots on this team.  In essence, we know how this team is being built.

It obviously starts with the quarterback.  Elsewhere, we’ve got a large chunk of money going to Marshawn Lynch for as long as he wants to remain a Seahawk.  Jimmy Graham – while he won’t cost us a cent in dead money if we cut him – still counts an average of $9 million per year against our cap in base salary.  The other major expense is Russell Okung on the final year of his deal.  One would think if you’re going to pay ANYONE on the offensive line, it would be your Pro Bowl left tackle.  But, with the way this team is constructed, Okung might be too rich for our blood.

For, you see, the defense is really taking the lion’s share of the cap space.  Richard Sherman is our top cap hit until Wilson signs.  Avril, Bennett, and Thomas all make bank; Chancellor and Wright are more reasonable chunks of money.  And, Mebane is on the final year that sees him making $5.5 million.  When Wagner ultimately gets his, it’s going to mean a lot of changes in 2016 and beyond.

For starters, you have to imagine Bruce Irvin is gone after 2015.  The Seahawks can ill afford to make the same mistake they made under Holmgren, by overpaying for all three linebacker spots.  Wagner’s a stud, obviously you lock him down for the long haul.  But, as far as I’m concerned, you can go replacement level on the other two linebacker spots and get by just fine.  Wright is a luxury who’s not killing us in the cap, but he also might want to watch his back in a year or two, especially if the injury bug strikes again.

To be honest, though, I don’t really have a problem with any of the high-contract guys we’ve got right now.  I like pouring money into the secondary and pass rush.  I like the idea of replacement guys along the interior of the line, while continuing to develop younger guys on the outside.  And on offense, as you can see from the last three years, if you have a truly mobile quarterback who’s also accurate and looking more to throw the ball than tuck & run, you can get by while skimping on the offensive line.  What the Cowboys are doing with their O-Line is great and everything, but it tends to all fall apart once the injury bug hits (which it inevitably always does).  I’d rather do what the Seahawks do:  find value late in the draft, and cheap among free agents, then train them at multiple positions so you have a contingency when guys get hurt.

Beyond that, while I wouldn’t normally be crazy about making the running back one of your biggest cap hits, Marshawn Lynch isn’t just any running back.  When he leaves, I think the Seahawks would be better served going with a committee of young, cheap backs.  But, as long as Lynch is around, you pay that man until he can’t carry this offense on his back anymore.  Separately, I think too much is made of having elite, #1-type receivers.  If you go back the last 10 years and look at all the Super Bowl winners, who are the truly elite receivers on those teams?  I would argue even with the Packers, Colts, and Saints when they won, it was more about their Hall of Fame quarterbacks than it was about any of the receivers they were throwing to (would the likes of Marvin Harrison, Jordy Nelson, or Marques Colston be as great as we think they are if Kyle Orton was throwing to them?).  The bottom line is:  if your quarterback is good enough, he should be able to make the receivers around him better than they are.  I think Russell Wilson is that type of guy.  Hell, he’s helped make the careers of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Ricardo Lockette, and he almost single-handedly made Chris Matthews the MVP of the Super Bowl had we ended up winning!

***

So, what should the Seahawks do going forward?

Well, I don’t have as great of a grasp on the cap as others, so I’ll stick with the broad strokes.  For starters, pay Russell Wilson his money.  I want quarterback locked down for the duration.  Keep paying Marshawn Lynch as long as he’s in his prime, then make the tough cut if it looks like he’s done.  Same thing goes for Jimmy Graham; keep him until he breaks down.  Of the entire veteran wide receiver group, I think Doug Baldwin is the only indispensable one, but at the same time I need him to want to be here on modest contracts.  I can’t justify paying Baldwin anywhere near Calvin Johnson money, so if he’s looking to get the type of touches someone requires to show he’s worth #1 receiver money, then he better sign on with the Packers or some other pass-wacky team.  But, Baldwin’s leadership and rapport with Wilson is something you just can’t quantify on the stat sheet.  If he’s willing, keep him around and keep bringing in undrafted receivers for him to mold in his own image.

Or, keep drafting guys like Tyler Lockett, because I think he’s going to be the stud of studs.

Along the O-Line, as long as Tom Cable is here, I think you try to skimp as much as you can.  ((as a quick aside, I really think they need to keep Cable here long term, even if it means guaranteeing him the head coaching job when Pete Carroll eventually retires or moves on)).  I’m not against Okung coming back, but his deal better be incentive-based, because he’s ALWAYS missing games!  At this point, I’d almost rather the team extend Sweezy with Okung’s future money, because I think when it’s all said and done, Sweezy will be one of the better right guards we’ve ever had.  As far as tight end goes, I don’t mind giving your top dog a good-sized contract – if he truly is a top dog.  After that, I think you can skimp on your 2nd & 3rd tight ends and get by just fine.

Defensively, if you can hack it, give at least two pass rushers good-sized contracts.  Michael Bennett is as good as it gets.  Cliff Avril is a solid number 2.  What’s interesting here is what Bruce Irvin does in his contract year.  I wonder if he’s going to ball-out in hopes of getting a big-money deal.  Part of me hopes he does, even though I’m already on record as saying this team can’t afford to pay all three linebackers.  See, there’s an outside chance that if the team wants to extend Irvin, they’d have to get rid of Avril – who can be cut without any serious penalty if they drop him within the first few days of the offseason.  I’m of the opinion that as long as Irvin really wants it, he can be one of the greats, and his prime is still a few years away yet.  We’ve only seen Irvin in years 1-3; I could see his best years being years 5-8 (again, if he really wants to be great; I think it’s all mental with him at this point, because he’s got the physical gifts).  Let’s face it, Avril will be 30 next year; will his skillset age all that well?  I’m willing to go out on a limb and say Irvin will be vastly more valuable in the next four years.

For the interior, I think the Seahawks need to make a better effort in drafting Mebane’s replacement next year.  I don’t mind bringing in veterans on smallish deals to plug & play, and I don’t mind these young projects we’ve got at tackle.  But, I think we really need to go after a young stud in the draft very soon to keep our run-stuffing continuity going.

At linebacker, play it out.  Wagner deserves to be here for the rest of his career.  Wright should never break the bank.  Irvin’s spot should be filled by a younger player (especially if Irvin moves back to LEO end should he be extended).

In the secondary, do what you’ve been doing.  The L.O.B. is Earl, Kam, and Sherm.  Plug that opposite cornerback spot with a modestly-priced veteran or a toolsy draft choice.  Let the coaching staff do what it’s been brought here to do and mold young players into starters.

And finally, whatever you do, don’t skimp on your special team specialists.  Everyone thinks punter is a great way to shave off some cap space, until you land on an inexperienced guy who keeps giving away huge chunks of field position.  Same goes for kicker:  Oh, just bring in anybody, it’s fine!  Yeah, and then you lose a few heartbreakers because your kicker can’t handle the pressure, then you’re bringing in guys mid-season to compete, and ultimately it costs you come playoff time.  I’ve seen it a thousand times.

Mariners Tidbit 63: Hey There, Guti-Boy, Flying Through The Air So Fancy Free

I found an old blog post that immediately goes into the running for Most Wrong I’ve Ever Been In A Blog Post!

Franklin Gutierrez was called up in late June.  It was met with relatively little fanfare because, come on, it’s Guti!  He’ll be injured within a week and on the DL within the fortnight.  You may have been so bold as to expect one great game out of him, maybe two; just enough to entice you into thinking that he might be the spark this team needs to get over the hump, only to have Guti ripped away from us just as suddenly.

And, here we are, in the last week of July.  Not only has Guti played somewhat regularly (in a not-quite platoon situation in left field), but he’s remained healthy as far as I can tell, and he’s actually produced!  Two games, in particular, jump out as probable losses were it not for Guti’s presence in Seattle.

First, on July 21st in Detroit, Guti walked up to the plate in the top of the 8th inning, with the Mariners down 8-7, bases loaded, and two outs.  He proceeded to smash a ball out to right center for the go-ahead Grand Slam in a game the Mariners would end up winning 11-9.

Second, on July 26th at home against Toronto, Guti walked up to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning, with the game tied, no one on base, and one out.  He crushed a ball out to dead center for the game-winning home run to win the game 6-5.

Of course, Guti isn’t all game-winning heroics, but he is putting up solid numbers (compared to some of the turds we’ve got on this team), .255/.308/.489 with 5 extra base hits and 7 RBI.  It’s not an MVP stretch, but it’s better than the nothing we’ve been getting out of the likes of Ackley and Co.

Mostly, it’s one of the rare feel-good stories of the 2015 Mariners season.  At this point, it’s all about appreciating the little things, since obviously we have no playoffs to look forward to.  If we can just get through the rest of the year with Guti staying off the DL, I’d take that moral victory.

Of course, now that I’ve written all of this, we might as well change his name to Robert Durst, because he’s just been jinxed!

Mariners Tidbit 62: Five Days Until The Trade Deadline

Since the All Star Break, the Mariners have gone … 5-5.  If you’re keeping track like I am, it’s really not surprising, as the Mariners are essentially a .500 team except for one terrible homestand in late May/early June where they went 2-9.  There are now three home games against the Diamondbacks, followed by the start of a 4-game series in Minnesota before the deadline.

Somehow, the Mariners have leapfrogged a couple teams in the Wild Card chase since the last time I looked.  Now there are only SEVEN teams the Mariners have to pass to get into the play-in game (6.5 games back).  As the Angels appear to be running away with the division (with the Astros only a game back), putting the Mariners 9.5 games out of the division lead, it would appear if anyone is hoping for a miracle turnaround, the Wild Card is the better bet.

In the last ten games, have we seen anything that would lead us to believe in such a turnaround?  Well, you could make the argument that the bullpen in this span has cost us as many games as they’ve saved us:  Beimel giving up the go-ahead homer to A-Rod of all people in the first Yankee game; Rodney giving up the go-ahead homer in the third Yankee game – with an asterisk denoting the offense only generated a single run; Lowe – after being remarkably great for the entire season – giving up a lead with a 2-run homer in the 8th to cost us one in Detroit; and finally, Fernando Rodney & Carson Smith combining for a collosal 4-run meltdown on Saturday against Toronto.  You can counter those instances of utter collapse with brilliant outings:  3.1 innings of 1-run ball to save our lone win against the Yankees; 5 innings of shutout ball to win in extras in Detroit; 2 near-perfect innings to lock down Felix’s 12th win of the season, against Toronto; and 4 innings of 1-run ball to help us take the Toronto series in extra innings yesterday afternoon.  The last one might have been the most impressive, considering Saturday was shot through the heart by J.A. Happ’s incompetence.

Obviously, a bullpen getting the job done only half of the time isn’t going to cut it.  But, aside from a couple pieces, the bullpen isn’t worthless either.

Fernando Rodney absolutely has to fucking go.  He had a long stretch of being terrible in May and early June (giving up runs in 10 of 14 appearances), then seemed to turn it around once his closer’s role was taken away (9 straight appearances giving up 0 runs), and since then he’s fallen apart (giving up runs in 6 of 8 appearances, blowing 2 saves and losing another).  Any potential trade value we could’ve gotten out of him has all been lost, and it doesn’t look like there’s anyone in Tacoma to take his place.  So, I don’t know how they’re going to get rid of him, but they need to figure it out.

Also, David Rollins doesn’t appear to be as good as he looked in Spring Training.  Maybe it’s the suspension and the long lay-off of real live pitching; maybe he’s just not ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues.  Either way, the team has a decision to make.  Fortunately for Rollins, there really isn’t anyone busting down the door from Tacoma demanding a spot in our bullpen.  But, if the team – for some reason – feels like it’s still got a chance to make a run at a playoff spot, Rollins could be the odd man out and sent back to the Astros.  If I’m him, I’m probably considering that to be a good thing, given the trajectory of these two organizations, so I guess either way he can’t really lose.

As for the starters since the Break, Felix has been Felix.  Iwakuma has been shockingly effective in his last few starts.  Walker has completely lost it again (of course).  Happ couldn’t get out of the second inning in his most recent start (and has been underwhelming for the most part since the end of April).  And, also of course, Montgomery has been a disaster just as soon as the team sent Roenis Elias back to Tacoma.  So, LMC can rag on the bullpen all he wants (to deflect from criticism of the offense), but the non-Felix part of the rotation hasn’t been so hot either.

Actually, if you want to look for hope, you can look toward the offense.  The Mariners are averaging 4.16 runs per game in the 31 games since Edgar Martinez took over as hitting coach.  The two may not be related, I have no idea, but the Mariners were averaging 3.38 runs per game in the 68 games pre-Edgar, so that’s almost a run per game improvement over that other guy (whoever that guy was).  Key components like Cano, Trumbo, and Zunino have all improved in the last month, which is promising.

So, we’ll see what happens this week.  Part of me wouldn’t mind it if the Mariners maximized the trade value of some of our expendable pieces (while at the same time knowing they aren’t all that valuable & likely won’t generate much of a return).  The rest of me wouldn’t mind the Mariners just standing pat and wallowing in their own poor roster construction; if for no other reason than to ensure Jackie Z is gone by this time next year.

It’s Not Looking Good For An NHL Expansion Franchise In Seattle

At least, not right now.  Maybe not ever, I dunno.

I don’t necessarily have my finger on the pulse of this situation, but I know this much:  no group from the greater Seattle area (aka:  please include Tukwila & Bellevue) submitted a bid for an expansion franchise by the deadline earlier this week.  Part of it probably has to do with the $10 million fee that was involved (all but $2 million would be returned if you didn’t win a new franchise), but most of it probably has to do with the $500 million charge to BUY that God-foresaken franchise, which doesn’t even take into account all that needs to be done to build a proper arena.

It kinda feels like Seattle is fucked in this situation, and everyone is at fault.  An owner can’t simply buy a new stadium with his own money, because the leagues (NHL & NBA) won’t allow that precedent to happen (because they’re money-hungry monsters who need to suckle at the public teet while giving back relatively little in the way of monetary compensation).  The Seattle city government is at fault because they’re bumbling boobs and apparently the whole world knows about how much our local government sucks.  The public at large is at fault because they allow these morons to stay in power; it’s a wonder how Seattle EVER managed to get professional sports franchises to come here!

This is what I think I know:

  • The NBA isn’t expanding anytime soon (i.e. in the next decade, probably more)
  • Seattle isn’t getting its SoDo arena without a tenant
  • The NHL could be that tenant, but we would have to change the MOU
  • The Seattle city government probably won’t change the MOU
  • If they did, the hockey owners would have to pony up on some of the risk
  • The hockey owners probably don’t want to pony up more risk
  • If we don’t find a tenant soon, the MOU will expire and the whole process would have to start all over again
  • Hockey could figure out a way to get an arena done in Tukwila or Bellevue
  • For obvious reasons, having an NHL franchise in Tukwila or Bellevue is less ideal than in Seattle
  • We probably won’t be getting the Sonics back if we can’t find a way for them to play in Seattle
  • The best way to get the NBA back would be if the NHL was already here and the arena is already built
  • But, again, see all the previous bullet points for why this is unlikely to happen

It would be great if we could just get everyone on the same page, but I guess that’s asking too much.  It sounds like Seattle is lacking in that financial big whale (a la Steve Ballmer) who’s willing to be the backbone of an NHL franchise.  Not shocking, since Seattle isn’t really a hockey town to begin with, so it’s not like we have this great history.  Seattle has plenty of millionaires, but again, not hockey fans.  So, if we’re to get a franchise, it’s going to be with out-of-town money.  And, these guys don’t know the area, don’t have ties to the area, don’t know how things work politically.  These guys just see a chance to own an NHL franchise and see a market with tons of growth potential.  An IDEAL scenario would have all these prospective NHL buyers conglomerate under one ownership group, under one arena plan (preferably in SoDo), and do whatever it takes to get us a team.

With the NHL in place, we get the arena going.  With the arena in place, maybe we can FINALLY hope for the NBA to get its shit together and give us what’s rightfully ours.  Of course, the catch 22 in all this is that Seattle might be less enticing of a market with the NHL already entrenched here.  I’d like to think 40 years of NBA history, combined with the ever-growing hotbed of prep talent would be enough to make Seattle viable, but I’m probably living in a dream world.

In a lot of ways, I’m addicted to sports and would have a tough time adjusting to life without them.  But, on the flipside, they can also be the bane of my existence.  Speaking of which, I’m going to be taking a break from writing about the Mariners on here.  I just, like, can’t even right now.

Mariners Tidbit 61: Where It All Went Wrong

Did you know that aside from a single 11-game homestand, the Mariners are a .500 ballclub?  Remarkably, it’s true.  I know we’re all mildly amused at the month of July so far – the Mariners have gone WLWLWLWLWLWL in the 12 games leading up to the All Star Break – but that .500 play extends all the way back to June 9th.  And, in case we all forgot, on May 27th – when the Mariners finished sweeping the Rays to wrap up a 6-3 road trip – they were an even 23-23.

Except, picture a Mariners logo instead ...

Except, picture a Mariners logo instead …

The homestand in question:  4 games vs. Cleveland, 3 games vs. the Yankees, 4 games vs. Tampa.  The result of that homestand:  2-9 record, with a single win against the Indians and a single win against the Rays.  It was, I assure you, beyond pathetic.  It helped usher in the Mark Trumbo trade, it led to me writing only one post in a 9-day period, and when I came back, it was decided that the Mariners need to fire their GM and let someone else make the decisions going forward.

The Mariners scored 21 runs in those 11 games, while giving up 38.  In that stretch, we lost Paxton to injury, Felix was blown up by the Yankees, we blew two games in extra innings, and the cherry on top was the Rays series which looked like this:

  • Loss 2-1
  • Loss 1-0
  • Win 2-1
  • Loss 3-1

There are no words, except there are countless words.  There are words dating back to 2010 about how truly awful the Mariners have been at scoring runs.  At hitting with runners in scoring position.  At getting guys in from third base with less than two outs.  This is the team we root for, and it’s a God damn crime to all the senses!

The Mariners are currently 41-48 and start the second half tonight.  There are 73 games left to go.  Without even thinking, you could make a prediction that the Mariners will go .500 the rest of the way and probably not be too far off.  If all goes accordingly – and we’re confronted with that lone 2-9 homestand as the defining stretch of the season – then we’re looking at somewhere between 77 and 78 wins at season’s end.  With 84-85 losses, depending.  That is pretty much in line with the records the Mariners had in 2012 and 2013, which more or less feels like the talent-level we’re looking at.  In other words, it’s an apt comparison.  This is most likely a sub-80 win team, even if it goes .500 the rest of the way.

If we have hopes of being anything but, the stretch of quality baseball better start immediately.  There is A TON of ground to make up.  Starting tonight, we’re looking at 20 games in 20 days.  No one said it would be easy.

Betting On Yourself: A Quick Thought On Russell Wilson’s Contract Negotiations

I’m certainly not the first person to come to this conclusion, but then again I don’t see it as a thought that’s readily expressed in most articles on the subject, so I’m going to put it down here.

I’ve had other thoughts on this matter, which you can read here.  And perhaps here.  And today’s thoughts probably won’t be my final thoughts – especially as we’re hearing today that if he doesn’t get a deal done by the start of Training Camp, the matter will be set aside until next offseason.  That’s pretty standard protocol; at this point it’s up to both sides:  Do I want to be comfortable and secure that a deal is in place?  Or, am I okay with letting this hang over everything for the next year.

I’m pretty damn sure that this negotiation is going to bleed into next year.  I just can’t see either side coming so far off of their current stance to meet anywhere in the middle.  I hope I’m wrong (and luckily for everyone, I frequently am), but this just screams to me to be a Joe Flacco situation.

Which probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  If Russell Wilson playing out his rookie deal means the Seahawks go all the way and win the Super Bowl, I would GLADLY watch the Seahawks give him the richest quarterback contract in NFL history.  Wouldn’t you?  Yeah, it’ll mean some lean times ahead; we’ll have to let some starters go we otherwise wouldn’t mind keeping around.  And the Seahawks will CERTAINLY have to start drafting more productive players than we’ve seen in the last few drafts (since 2013, the only productive players – aside from Justin Britt – have been backups & reserves:  Luke Willson, Jordan Hill, Tharold Simon, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Christine Michael).  Russell Wilson earning the maximum will create a hardship that might very well mean a dip in our future success, but what are you going to do?  Let a 2x NFL champion and 3x NFC champion quarterback walk in free agency?  Or trade him for 50 cents on the dollar?

I dunno, maybe that’s what a lot of fans want to see.  They like having the top defense, they like the powerful running game, and they believe the hype – that this type of team can win with an average quarterback.  I’m sure there’s a lot out there who believe that.  I think it’s insane, for many reasons.  First of all, these legendary defenses get old pretty quickly.  If you cling to a unit, you’re bound to be one of the oldest and slowest teams in the NFL within a few years.  Plus, injuries are a way of life in the NFL.  Even though most of our defense is right in their peak physically, you can’t account for freak injuries.  See how prepared we were for life without Jeremy Lane in the Super Bowl once he went out.  Tack on the fact that nearly everyone else in the secondary was playing through SOMETHING, and it’s pretty easy to see how the Patriots were able to carve us up so well in the second half.  Then, you’ve got to take into account the sheer number of games this team has played in since 2012.  Players wear down quicker when you’ve got so many post-season miles on your legs.  Factor in how Marshawn Lynch could retire at any moment, and it’s just not practical to throw away a franchise quarterback and try to build around someone inferior.

Quarterback is the most difficult position to fill, and the most difficult position to get right.  You don’t let franchise quarterbacks go; and make no mistake, that’s exactly what Russell Wilson is (a point made ever more clear should he lead this team to another championship in 2015).  This team would not be where it’s been had Tarvaris Jackson been starting for us.  That’s a fact, and all of you doubters have to realize that.  Having the league’s best defense and one of its most formidable running games isn’t enough to steamroll over the entire league.

Think about that game in Chicago in 2012:  no way we win that without Russell.  There are at least four games in 2013 – wins over Carolina, Houston, St. Louis, and Tampa – that very well would have been losses with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm.  And even if he does somehow lead us into the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers that year, does he do what Wilson did?  Does he make that throw to Kearse on 4th down to score the go-ahead touchdown?  I highly doubt it.  Then, if you look at last season, the NFC Championship Game probably looks a lot different without Wilson throwing all those interceptions; but at the same time, I don’t think anyone but Wilson is able to bring this team back from the dead.  And, with Tarvar in the Super Bowl, I don’t see him making ANY of the downfield throws Wilson made; I bet Super Bowl XLIX would’ve been a soul-crushing blowout loss instead of a soul-crushing near-win.

If you believe in a lesser quarterback like Tarvaris so much, I want you to go back to 2011 and take a REAL hard look at some of those games.  Maybe with some more weapons around him, he would’ve been able to do more.  But, just remember, Wilson hasn’t really had the weapons either, and look at how he’s made it work.  Furthermore, look at that offensive line!  Remember Tarvaris holding the ball too long?  Taking sacks he shouldn’t have been taking?  If the Seahawks let Wilson go, they absolutely CANNOT replace him with someone as immobile as Tarvar.  That guy will be killed faster than you can say David Carr’s NFL Career!  Sometimes, you need a guy to elude a rush.  Sometimes, you need a guy to lead you to a come-from-behind victory.  Defense and running game doesn’t do it all.  Sometimes, you need big plays out of your quarterback.  That’s where Russell Wilson comes in.  So, don’t bring your weak-ass argument in here about Russell Wilson not being a franchise quarterback.

***

You know what?  I got so off track with that rant that I completely neglected the original point of this post.  This was supposed to be a QUICK thought, dammit!

Anyway, I just had this notion.  One of the perceived sticking points in the whole negotiation that’s been bandied about in the media is this issue of Guaranteed Money.  One of the rumors goes so far as to suggest Russell Wilson’s side is demanding the entire contract – or at least a prohibitive percentage of that contract – be fully guaranteed.  Who knows is this is true or not?  Seems to me, certain media members noticed Wilson’s agent is a baseball agent, they connected the dots to how baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, and put two & two together with the fact that this agent doesn’t have any other football player clients, so it doesn’t matter if he burns bridges with NFL executives.  When you combine that with Russell Wilson’s “Why Not Us” attitude, and how he wants to achieve the impossible, or prove all the doubters wrong, or whatever, it seems like a reasonable argument.

If that IS true, then I would counter with this:  Russell Wilson is a guy who’s totally willing to bet on himself in order to get what he wants.  That’s a given.  And that’s why these negotiations are going to continue into next year.  The threat of playing on a fourth year of sub-standard wages is not an issue.  He’s got enough money to get by with endorsements and he’s got a big, fat insurance policy to make sure he never goes to bed hungry.  Likewise, the threat of being Franchise Tagged isn’t even a threat either.  For starters, he’ll finally be making some motherfucking money, and it’ll just give him another year to prove to everyone that he’s worth all the money he’s asking for.

But, demanding a fully guaranteed contract just doesn’t seem to be keeping with his personality.  It’s a little too greedy and a little too nefarious.  If he’s willing to bet on himself to the point where this thing will go to the absolute last possible moment – whether it’s this year, or next year, or the year after that when we’re looking at a crazy second franchise tag – then he shouldn’t have any problem betting on himself when it comes to a non-guaranteed deal.

You figure, the average franchise quarterback’s deal has a hefty signing bonus, and maybe the first two years’ worth of salary fully guaranteed.  It’s going to put him somewhere around 60-75% of the contract guaranteed anyway; so what’s the big deal if those last two years aren’t fully guaranteed, as long as they represent an average per-year salary commensurate with other franchise quarterbacks of his ilk?  Joe Flacco’s deal was for 6 years and $120 million, with whatever smaller amount guaranteed.  But, if he keeps winning, and he stays healthy, he’s not only going to see every last dime of that deal – making it, for all intents and purposes a fully guaranteed deal anyway – but he’s going to get another contract extension probably before the end of the deal that will see him make even MORE money.

Why wouldn’t Russell Wilson bet on himself staying healthy for the full 4 years of his impending deal?  It just seems too obvious.  If he thought he was ever going to get injured beyond repair, he would’ve agreed to a deal by now!  So, why should a fully guaranteed contract be a sticking point for him?

If it is, then he’s truly not as good of a guy as you’d like to think.  Let’s be real here, I understand the “plight” of the NFL player in this world of non-guaranteed contracts, and I understand how they have to “get theirs” while the getting’s good.  But, at the same time, I think fully guaranteed contracts in ANY sport are a ridiculous concept.  The Mariners are going to have Robinson Cano under contract for 8 more years after this year.  If he really is on the downslope of his career, that means we’re going to be paying $24 million a year for a guy who isn’t even worth a tenth of that salary.  That’s what’s wrong with baseball in a nutshell, and it’s the last thing I want to see happen to the NFL.

Mariners Tidbit 60: The Only Mariners Worthy Of Praise In 2015

My initial impulse was to just leave the body of this post entirely blank.

With the Mariners, you have to adjust expectations.  If I had my druthers, the only hitter I’d put on this list who’s worthy of praise is Nelson Cruz.  But, to do that would leave off Kyle Seager and Seth Smith, who’d qualify for “Meets Expectations” on any survey you’d run for this team.  And, if you really want to scrape the bottom of the barrel, Brad Miller is probably worthy of some praise as well.

For real tho, most of the praise-worthy players are pitchers.  You gotta like what Felix has done, following his runner-up status for last year’s Cy Young.  He’s not quite as sharp as he was last year – thanks to a couple of real stinky outings – but he’s still the dominating ace we all know and love.  I’d like to heap some partial praise on Taijuan Walker for overcoming an awful start to the season.  Roenis Elias gets honorable mention for being a professional and not letting our starting rotation sag too much with Paxton and Iwakuma injured.  Mike Montgomery deserves generous praise for being amazing since his call-up.

And, for as bad as the bullpen has been at times, guys like Carson Smith, Mark Lowe, Charlie Furbush, and Joe Beimel have kept the flicker of hope alive in what has otherwise been a lost season.

So, let’s rank all the praise-worthy players on this team.  Because what better way to spend your Tuesday?

1.  Felix Hernandez

11-5 record makes him only one of two starters with a winning record (tied for first in wins in the A.L.).  2.84 ERA is tops among qualified starters on the team (and 11th in the A.L.).  He’s got 13 quality starts out of 18, and he’s got 9 Felix Quality Starts (I suppose the definition varies depending on who you ask, but in this case, he has 9 starts where he’s gone at least 7 innings while giving up 1 run or fewer).  Oddly enough, he’s actually managed to go 9-0 in those starts (who says the Mariners don’t provide run support???).  Felix is Felix, and he’s still the best thing going for this team, no matter how many over-paid hitters we attract.

2.  Nelson Cruz

Speaking of, I present to you our other All Star.  Cruz is no longer a contender for the Triple Crown, but his .308 batting average is good for 7th in the A.L., his 21 homers are good for 5th, and his 53 RBI are good for 14th.  The only problem with his season – as far as I can tell – is his dumpster fire of a June.  In that calendar month, he produced the following:  .239 batting average, 1 homer, 3 doubles, and 8 RBI.  In all other months, he produced the following:  .333 batting average, 20 homers, 10 doubles, and 45 RBI.  In other words, his June (and probably his defense) prevented him from being #1 on my list.

3.  Carson Smith

He’s not perfect, but I’ll be God damned if he’s not impressive almost every time out.  Even if he gets hit, he’s still nasty!  1.73 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 36.1 innings, 6 saves & 12 holds in 19 overall opportunities.  Most importantly, he’s held the opponent scoreless in 32 of 38 appearances, which is very good.  He picked us up when Fernando Rodney went off the rails.  And now that Rodney is sort of back, he’s a nice reserve option to have as part of this closer’s committee we’ve got going.  I fully anticipate to see Smith as the #1 closer starting next year (if not by the end of this year), and for the next decade to come.

4.  Mark Lowe

He has ALMOST been perfect since being called up in early May.  As a guy who was an afterthought in Spring Training, he’s become our best reliever in almost no time at all.  0.64 ERA, 37 strikeouts in 28 innings, 10 holds in 11 opportunities (most of those coming in June & July, as the team brought him along with less stressful situations in his first month back).  He’s given up runs in only 3 of his 28 appearances, which is insane.  Nice to have him back.

5.  Kyle Seager

Seager being Seager.  His 2015 is nearly a carbon copy of his 2014, which is nearly a carbon copy of every single year he’s been in the Majors.  .269 batting average, 12 homers & 19 doubles, 39 RBI, and fairly solid defense (with a slight uptick in errors, as he has 8 already, while he had 8 all of last year).  He’s the organization’s Golden Boy and Jackie Z’s finest draft pick.  Too bad Z will have to watch him from afar after this year.

6.  Mike Montgomery

Mike Montgomery has been nothing short of phenomenal since being called up.  When you think about it, he was 7th on the depth chart for starting pitchers.  This was a big concern coming into the season – considering Iwakuma’s recent struggles, Happ’s career-long struggles, and how young & injury-prone Paxton & Walker have been in their brief careers – what would happen if 2 or more starters went down at the same time?  Well, we had Roenis Elias marinating in Tacoma, so that wasn’t too bad.  He had a full year’s experience in the Majors, so you figure there wouldn’t be too big of a drop-off there.  But, how often do you get through a full season with only six starters?  Of course we’d need a seventh eventually!  In years past, we’ve been stuck with the likes of Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez.  Suffice it to say, Montgomery has been a HUGE upgrade.

7.  Charlie Furbush

I tend to give Furbush a hard time, but he’s been mostly solid since converting to a reliever a few years ago.  His mistakes tend to look worse than they are because not only is he a reliever (so every blow-up is magnified), but he’s also a lefty specialist, which means he tends to be only used against left-handed hitters when the game is on the line.  So, his small sample is even smaller than most regular relievers.  But, this year he’s REALLY been a strength for this team.  It helps when someone like Wilhelmsen is taking the mantle of 2015 Mariners Reliever Who Gives Up The Most Inherited Runs, which I’m pretty sure Furbush owned in 2014.

8.  Brad Miller

His defense has improved and his offense is slowly starting to get better.  He’s still far from consistent – which I think is what bugs a lot of Mariners fans.  He’s GOT the tools; he SHOULD be a superstar!  Instead, he’s only been a couple steps above Ackley, which is not the company you want to keep.  Nevertheless, the future remains bright for Miller, and it will remain in the future until he figures out how to put it all together.

9.  Seth Smith

Sometimes, doing exactly what you’re asked to do is all that we need.  Sometimes, just playing to the back of your baseball card makes you one of the more beloved new players on a team.  Seth Smith has 218 at bats against righties; 17 at bats against lefties.  While his numbers against lefties look good, remember that’s about as small a sample as you can get from a guy who plays ALMOST everyday.  Still, he’s been a godsend in his role and I wouldn’t mind seeing that role continue beyond this season.

10.  Taijuan Walker

He had back-to-back crappy starts to lead into the All Star Break, but before that, he was as good as it gets for 7 starts in a row.  Those 7 starts are the reason why he’s on this list, because for the better part of the first two months of the season, he was mostly garbage and well on his way down to Tacoma.  I won’t sit here and expect perfection out of a rookie starter, but steady improvement would be a big help.  I’ve seen enough improvement out of Walker to be pleased with what he’s done.  And, the fact that he’s remained healthy is a definite plus.

11.  Joe Beimel

We thought we could get through this season without a Joe Beimel.  We still had Furbush, Tyler Olson was the talk of Spring Training, David Rollins was a Rule 5 reliever we plucked away from the Astros … there just wasn’t any room for an aging lefty specialist.  Beimel kicked around a couple camps, was let go by everyone, and took a chance on returning with the Mariners.  We ended up bringing him back up to Seattle in early May – when it was clear Olson wasn’t adjusting well to Major League life after Spring Training – and he’s been our rock ever since.  He can get you out of a jam and he can eat up innings in a lost cause.  Glad to have him back.

12.  Roenis Elias

I always thought Elias kind of got a raw deal in Spring Training.  Seemed to me he was just written off, even though he was a fine back-end starter for us in 2014.  He started off in Tacoma – as our reserve 6th starter – and was called up when Iwakuma went down.  He proceeded to rattle off 9 quality starts out of 13 total, and would still be up here if it weren’t for Mike Montgomery blowing the roof off the stadium.  Either way, if he makes it through the rest of 2015 healthy, I would expect him to make a great case as our fifth starter next year.