It’s a Mariners fire sale, and everything must go!
Well, not really. It WAS a Mariners fire sale, and in the end a couple more guys went.
Neither was a surprise. Mark Lowe maybe a little bit, but when you consider how good he’s been, and how he’s on a small contract that expires at season’s end, you have to figure you’re getting some good value. Maybe the best value of the three guys the Mariners sent away. In return from the Blue Jays, the Mariners received three players: Rob Rasmussen (lefty reliever the Mariners just called up to the Majors), Nick Wells (another lefty pitcher who has started and relieved, placed in the low minors), and Jake Brentz (yet another lefty pitcher who has started and relieved, placed in the low minors). Rasmussen is obviously the major part of this trade – with the other two as long-term prospects – and we’ll see how he does. I believe he’ll be in Seattle until Charlie Furbush returns from the DL, as he’s only made a grand total of 11 Major League appearances in the last two years. He’s only 26 years old, with lots of team control, so hopefully he pans out. And, if Mark Lowe should want to re-sign with the Mariners at the end of the season (considering he was looking to get a house in the northwest), this trade might even be a win-win.
A little later on in the day (obviously, both of these trades went down on Friday the 31st), we were mercifully rid of J.A. Happ, who was shipped off to Pittsburgh for Adrian Sampson, a 23 year old right-handed pitcher born in Redmond, WA, who went to high school at Skyline. He made the jump to AAA last year and has already made a start for the Tacoma Rainiers over the weekend, going 8 innings and giving up 3 runs. If he pitches well this month, he might be a guy the Mariners want to give a call-up to in September to get an up-close look at their new prospect.
Getting rid of Happ was a no-brainer; I’m just a little surprised the Mariners found a taker. And as useful of a piece as this Sampson guy to boot! If nothing else, he represents a little more depth at the upper-minors level, with the possibility of being yet another candidate to fight for a starting rotation job in 2016.
All in all, you have to be at least a little impressed with what the Mariners did last week. They recognized this was a team going nowhere (a VERY difficult thing, as I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how much better this team was last year, with a lot of the same personnel) and they made the tough decision of going public with that knowledge in the form of three deadline deals. Ackley had to go, for reasons I’ve gone over already, primarily because who could justify going through arbitration with him for the next two years and giving him raises for accomplishing nothing? Happ had to go because he’s on the last year of his deal and he’s not someone you’d want to extend long term. And while Lowe didn’t necessarily have to go, there’s not really much point in keeping him. Even if we want to try to bring him back next year, I don’t see why we couldn’t still do that just because he spends a couple months playing in Toronto.
In return, we received the above-referenced four pitching prospects (ranging from the A-level, all the way to the upper minors & fringe Majors), as well as the two upper-level prospects we got from the Yankees in right-handed reliever Jose Ramirez and outfielder Ramon Flores. That’s six prospects of varying talent levels (though, obviously, not super-highly ranked, given the scraps we gave up) for three guys who aren’t helping us much now and don’t factor much in our future (with the possible exception of Lowe, who may or may not come back as a quality middle reliever with past injury issues). I figure if one of these guys pans out as a useful Major Leaguer at some point (or can be used as trade bait to eventually bring in a useful Major Leaguer), that’s a victory.
All that remains now is to wonder whether or not the Mariners shake things up organizationally at the end of the season. Was Jackie Z allowed to make these deals because we’re going to give him one more year to try to do this thing? Or, were these deals the final nail in the GM coffin; a directive to cut as much fat as we can prior to blowing everything up?
I still have to believe the Mariners are going to make a change, but I’m not nearly as confident as I was two weeks ago. As annoying as it is to say, there really was a lot right with how this team was set up this year. Obviously, that doesn’t apply to what we had planned defensively (especially in the outfield), but offensively, and pitchingwise, the Mariners should have been better. The bummer of 2015, and how this season will ultimately be defined, is that nearly everything that could have gone wrong DID go wrong. When it wasn’t our offense letting us down, it was our bullpen blowing saves. When it wasn’t our bullpen blowing saves, it was our starting pitching getting rocked around. Even Felix hasn’t been immune, as he obviously is well off of his near-Cy Young pace of 2014. Between Felix being a little less Felixy, Paxton getting injured yet again, Iwakuma being injured and inconsistent, Walker just being inconsistent, and Happ being good for a bit and then a complete disaster, this rotation isn’t immune from criticism. I know the fans have been all over the offense, and the organization has been down on the bullpen, but I would argue that every part of this team ended up failing, from the top of the organization (Trumbo trade) on down to the 25th man (Jesus Sucre) and through the minors (many of our prospects taking big steps back).
What I will say – as this might be the last chance I get – is that I think Lloyd McClendon has taken a big step forward in his managing style this year. He’s been able to recognize where the problems are and he’s been remarkably efficient in eliminating these problems. It didn’t take long to remove Fernando Rodney from the closer’s role. It REALLY didn’t take him long to see the negative regression in guys like Yoervis Medina, Danny Farquhar, and Dominic Leone. I think his bullpen usage overall has been about as good as can be expected given how many of our guys have struggled. And, furthermore, his everyday lineups have started to resemble the kind of outside-the-box thinking this team has DESPERATELY needed for the majority of the last decade. Say what you will about lineup construction, but shifting Seager to the 2-hole, Cruz to the 3-hole, and Cano to cleanup (to take advantage of the lefty-righty-lefty dynamic that tends to pay dividends in the other teams’ bullpen usage) not only sets us up better as a lineup, but it also puts our best hitters closer to the top, where they belong. Cruz is obviously this team’s MVP, so why not bump him up from 4 to 3 in the lineup? Seager is one of our all-around best hitters, and he’s been MADE for the 2-hole since he came up here. Why keep Seager down in the 5-hole where he’s going to receive fewer at-bats over the course of the season? It took a while for LMC to get there (mainly because he had misguided affection for our lesser hitters like Ackley, LoMo, and Miller for most of the season), but he’s there now, and it’s been interesting to see his maturation as a field manager.