The Mariners Lost The Blue Jays Series Because We Can’t Have Nice Things

Oh .500, how we hardly knew ye …

Coming off of Friday’s impressive win, I actually allowed myself to have some high hopes.  Ariel Miranda on Saturday, James Paxton on Sunday:  our two best pitchers going up against what should be an uninspiring Blue Jays lineup.

So, yeah, of course the Mariners lost both games.  Of course.  Of.  Course.

For the second consecutive start since coming off the DL, Paxton stunk.  Last time, it didn’t really matter, because the Mariners put up 12 runs, so it was okay for Paxton to leave after five, giving up the 3 runs.  But, yesterday he went 4, giving up 4, and didn’t really look all that sharp ever.  This is somewhat understandable, considering how long he was on the shelf, but the Mariners are going to need him to return to form pretty soon here.

A couple of roster moves made their impressions felt in this one.  For starters, Mitch Haniger returned from the DL (forcing Boog Powell back down to Tacoma).  Haniger went 0 for 4 with a walk, but he got his hacks in there, and hopefully he’ll also quickly return to form.

Following Paxton’s brief outing, we saw the return of Emilio Pagan, who was brought back up in favor of Tyler Cloyd.  Pagan went 4 innings of his own, giving up 0 runs, 0 hits, and walking just 1.  This is on the heels of his last Major League appearance, where he also went 4 shutout innings of relief.  Here’s to hoping he doesn’t get immediately rewarded with a Tacoma demotion, because he’s seriously looking like a guy we can count upon in this role going forward.

As for the offense, what can you say?  0 for 10 with RISP.  J.A. Happ got to be everything he WASN’T when he was in a Mariners uniform, again.  And Josh Donaldson got to make us his bitch.

The Blue Jays dominated the crowds this weekend just like they dominated this series.  I’m glad we don’t have to play them again for the rest of the season.

The Mariners hit the road with a 4-spot in Minnesota starting tonight.  Then, it’s on to Texas this weekend, before it’s right back here again, where hopefully the stands will have more Mariners fans than not.

Mariners Return Home, Hoping For A Miracle

Well, some good news and some bad news out of yesterday afternoon’s drubbing of the Astros, 12-4.  We won!  That’s always good.  Staved off execution for one more day, gotta like that.  We put pressure on our rivals, as their games didn’t start until later in the day.  And, let’s be serious, I’m taking GREAT pleasure in knowing we have all but officially knocked the Astros out of the playoffs (they are 3.5 games out of the second wild card with 3 games to go and would need to win out while Baltimore would need to lose their final 4 games and the other teams ahead of them would need to stumble greatly as well).  The Astros may have had our number for most of the year, but we put the final nail in their coffin!

The bad news, of course, is that Baltimore came back in the 9th inning to beat the Blue Jays, and Detroit won a rained out game against Cleveland.  So, we remain 1 game behind the Tigers and 2 games behind the Orioles, with 4 games to go for each of us.

I got to listen to some of the game on the radio yesterday, and it sounds like the offense would not be denied.  Smart move.  James Paxton had okay stuff, but could only muster 5 innings against that Astros offense.  Evan Scribner was the real hero of the day, getting us out of a major jam in the 6th and going 2 full innings of relief.  Where has THAT guy been all season?  Oh, right, injured.  Man, if he’d been healthy and pitching like this all year, we’d be in a MUCH different position right now

On the flipside, Doug Fister couldn’t get out of the 2nd inning, as the Astros – with their backs to the wall – went with the quick hook.  They were able to make it as close as 7-4 after six innings of play, but the Mariners were able to pour it on.

Cano hit his 36th homer of the season and Seager hit 30 for the first time in his career, giving the Mariners three guys with 30+ homers for the first time since 1997!  Cano and Seager each had 3 RBI apiece to bring them up to 97 and 99 respectively.  With Cruz already at 102, we’re damn near three guys with 100+ RBI for the first time since – I wanna say – 2001.  I could be having my years mixed up, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I gleaned from Twitter the last few days.

So, here’s where we stand, heading into Thursday:

  • Cleveland at Detroit at 10am.  I’ve heard there’s more rain on the horizon, and they might not even be able to get this game in today.  If they can’t, and it needs to be made up, they’d have to do that on Monday, which will throw a lot of things out of whack.
  • Detroit then heads to Atlanta for a 3-game series.  The Braves are 65-92 and in last place in the National League, so that’s not too encouraging.  On the plus side, no DH, so Victor Martinez will be relegated to pinch hit duty in their most important series of the year.  Of course, given Atlanta’s ineptitude, it’s not likely he’ll be needed, and they’ll have just given him 3 days to rest ahead of the playoffs.
  • Baltimore at Toronto at 4pm.  The Orioles sit 1 game behind the Blue Jays for the top wild card spot.  If they win today, they’ll be tied and – assuming we beat the A’s – we’ll be exactly 2 games behind both of them.  Which, if that’s the case, means Toronto’s back in play.
  • Baltimore then heads to New York for a 3-game series against the Yankees.  Tanaka is one of the scheduled starters, so you’d think Baltimore would at least lose that one for us, but who can be sure anymore?
  • If Toronto loses today, as I noted, they’re back in play.  That means their three game series in Boston, against the division winners, could be HUGE.  Toronto will have Happ and Aaron Sanchez going that series, which makes things difficult.  But, the Red Sox will have David Price and 22-game winner Rick Porcello going to counter.  I don’t know if that means anything – it’s very likely Boston will be VERY careful with their starters’ pitch counts, since they have a guaranteed spot in the ALDS – but it’s some small slice of hope to cling to.

Obviously, it all means nothing if we can’t beat the A’s.  Aside from not having Paxton, we have as ideal of a rotation as possible.  I think the worst part is we don’t have a day off before this series.  The bullpen is expanded, but there have been a lot of pressure innings to pitch through recently.  It’d be nice to give them a breather.  More importantly than that, though, is I’d REALLY like to give Nelson Cruz a day off to rest that wrist.  He’s been as game as anyone in playing through all that pain, but I worry we’re getting diminishing returns the more consecutive days he plays, reaggravating it with every swing, unable to take bullpens before games.

All I ask is that the Mariners sweep this series and keep the pressure on the other teams ahead of us.  At that point, it’ll be in the hands of the sports gods.  KEEP YOUR CHINS UP!!!

A Little Something On The Mariners (because I refuse to write about ANOTHER FUCKING LOSS to the Rams)

Well, the writing was on the wall coming into this weekend.  The Mariners were riding high on an 8-game winning streak, they’d achieved the height of their 2016 success – 10 games over .500 – for a third time, and like the two times before, they’d fail to get to 11 games over .500.

Frankly, I was expecting the Astros to sweep us.  So, to wake up from my rage blackout Sunday afternoon and find the Mariners had actually taken one back from those Houston turds was as welcome a surprise as I ever could’ve imagined.

Friday was the infamous dud of a Felix start, where the offense also failed to show up, resulting in a 6-0 shutout.  Saturday’s game was somehow even more infuriating, considering Paxton was perfect through 5 innings, then gave up two runs in the 6th, which turned out to be the deciding two runs in a 2-1 defeat.  Friday was what it was, but this thing turned bad on Saturday when the offense failed to show up for a second consecutive day.  In a way, Friday’s lack of offensive oomph made sense, since Collin McHugh has made us his bitch since he entered the league; but Saturday?  Against Mike Fiers?  Who has been average at best this season?  Going 6 shutout innings?  Have I asked enough questions to show how incredulous all of this makes me?

With those two games out of the way, it all hinged on Sunday afternoon’s game, featuring Ariel Miranda against Doug Fister.  You may recall we’ve lost the last two times we’ve faced Fister, as he had done just enough to keep them in the game while their otherworldly offense took care of the rest.  Miranda has been on a nice little run this month, but is still shaky, is still young, and is still prone to getting knocked around, particularly the third time through the lineup.

Which is what made his performance yesterday so impressive.  7 innings of 2-run ball with 8 strikeouts!  When you compare his numbers with us to what Wade Miley has done since going over to Baltimore, this trade looks like the steal of the century (at least in the early going).

On top of Miranda’s solid outing, the offense finally got its shit together, knocking Fister out in the 4th inning.  All told, it added up to a 7-3 victory, with the Mariners salvaging a 1-game lead over the Astros in the Wild Card hunt.

Probably the best thing to come out of this weekend is that the rest of the wild card contenders also have been struggling.  So, really, we somehow didn’t lose all that much ground (if any).  Right now, the Orioles have the first spot (thankfully, the Red Sox are starting to pull away, which is what needs to happen for us to have a shot), and the Blue Jays have the second spot.  The Blue Jays, not for nothing, come to town for a 3-game series starting tonight.  We are tied with the Tigers, two games behind the Blue Jays.  We can essentially write our own ticket (or, if you like, control our own destiny) by sweeping them out of the playoffs.  We can also greatly improve our chances if we simply win the series the old fashioned way; a 2-1 win will still pull us to within a game of the last wild card spot with a little over a week to go.

Losing this series absolutely can’t happen.  Getting swept is assured destruction.  So, of course, it figures we have to face J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez in this series, two guys absolutely fucking killing it this season.  Hope the bats stay out of hibernation this week, because we’re going to need ’em!

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back In Toronto

The pitching was halfway decent this weekend!  James Paxton went a strong 7 innings on Friday, only giving up 1 run.  Iwakuma & LeBlanc combined to not shit the bed when given 14 runs of support on Saturday.  And even Wade Miley came away with a Miley Quality Start, which is a lot like a regular quality start (6 innings, 2 runs), but should’ve probably been a lot better since he started to falter around pitch 70 and struggled to get through that 6th inning (and, not for nothing, but left the game at 89 pitches, yet had to be pulled before the 7th, because Miley).

All told, it added up to a series win, though fell short of a series sweep, because J.A. Happ has been a fucking machine ever since he left Seattle, because that makes sense.  Because soft-tossing lefties like him – with all that space out there in Safeco Field – should be terrible in Seattle and BETTER everywhere else he’s called home.  Yeah.  That’s just fucking great.  If Happ had been this version of Happ when he was with us, he’d likely still be in Seattle, and we wouldn’t have to suffer Miley’s mediocrity on a regular basis!

I don’t know what you can say about Sunday’s 1-hit effort, aside from it just being one of those days.  Funny though, it seems like Sunday is ALWAYS one of those days, as the Mariners are a whopping 4-12 on The Lord’s Day.  I don’t know what it says about the Mariners that they’re 8-8 on Shomer Shabbos; I think I’ll leave that for the comments section.

I’d like to point out that I’m pretty thrilled with what James Paxton was able to do, against a potent Blue Jays lineup.  Part of me still believes we have something special in this kid, and should make every effort to keep him around.  But, there’s another part of me who wouldn’t mind seeing Chris Sale in a Mariners uniform, and believes Paxton might be the centerpiece of a nice little trade package.  Throw in D.J. Peterson, Vidal Nuno, maybe a couple of lower-level minor leaguers, I think that gets it done!  Come on, we’ll take your prima donna off your hands!

In other news, Hisashi Iwakuma has 11 wins and an ERA under 4 for the first time in forever.  Don’t look now, but he’s in a nice little groove.

Looking ahead, the Mariners have two off-days this week, which is insane when you look into August and see the Mariners will be on a streak – starting this weekend – where they play 33 games in 34 days.  23 of those games happen on the West Coast, so at least that’s something.  But, I just hope everyone has a lot of fun today and Thursday, because those are the last easy days for a while.

2-game series in Pittsburgh starting tomorrow.  Those should be fun.  Then, a 3-game series against the Cubbies that I’m going to miss because I’ll be camping all weekend.

Felix, Zunino, and Aoki Return Today

Down goes David Rollins, Jesus Sucre, and Dan Robertson.

We all knew Felix was coming back, we just didn’t know whose spot he was going to take.  As far as roster spots go, the odd man out is David Rollins, left-handed bullpen relief.  In taking a look at the upcoming pitching probables, one name is conspicuously missing:  Mike Montgomery.  Which means Wade LeBlanc holds onto his rotation spot a little bit longer, and Wade Miley somehow still has a job period.  Maybe they can pick J.A. Happ’s brain this weekend, to find out what alien species inhabited his body the minute he left Seattle last year, causing him to pitch lights out ever since.

Zunino takes over as backup catcher for Jesus Sucre, because duh.  Because Sucre at the plate is the equivalent of having a pitcher bat.  Because there is no future with Sucre in it, aside from being AAA fodder and an occasional injury-replacement backup.  With today’s move, we return to the original plan:  seeing what Zunino has as a Major League hitter, and whether he is, indeed, the future at the catcher position for the Seattle Mariners.

Aoki returns, having done quite a bit of damage down in Tacoma.  He replaces Dan Robertson, who isn’t really anything.  We all know what Aoki is at this point, and his time away has proven without a shadow of a doubt that he is, indeed, this organization’s top 4th outfielder.  You figure he’ll slot back into a regular playing role against right-handed pitchers, whenever we’re not trying to squeeze Lind and Lee into the same lineup.

The moves make the Mariners better, there’s no question about that.  But, will they make the Mariners good enough to return to the form they displayed in the first two months of the season?  I tend to have my doubts.

Felix is obviously a huge plus for the rotation, but I’d say a good 3/5 of that rotation is completely untrustworthy, with Iwakuma as a 50/50 wildcard of good days & bad days.  Montgomery unquestionably makes the bullpen better (for me, he’s probably the second-best reliever on the team behind Diaz), but is that to the detriment of the starting rotation?  Would Montgomery be better used starting?  With LeBlanc or Miley dumped into the bullpen?  I think so.

But, why quibble?  There are too many pitching issues to even deal right now.  With how baseball churns through hitting coaches like they’re nothing, I’ve gotta wonder why you don’t see a similar churn with pitching coaches.  Why does Mel Stottlemyre Jr. get a pass?  Because he’s got a famous and more-successful dad?  Because the average fan probably doesn’t know the difference between the two?

Stottlemyre has had over four months with these pitchers, if you count Spring Training.  Tell me, who has improved in that time?  Is ANYONE getting better under his tutelage?  I mean, shit, there are pitching coaches out there who can make J.A. Fucking Happ into a quality starter; there’s GOT to be hope for Miley!  Obviously, whatever that fix is, Stottlemyre isn’t equipped to diagnose it and cure it.  So, in that sense, he deserves to be on the hot seat in his first year with the team.

The Mariners Won More Than They Lost Against The Yankees

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to talk about the weekend that was.

The M’s won an impressive one on Friday, 7-1, scoring in each of the final six innings to put it away.  Cruz and Cano had big games, we got a lot out of the DH combo of Smith & Guti, Adam Lind had something of a breakout game with a couple of hits, and Iannetta continued his torrid start to the season, which has been the most welcome of surprises.  Most everyone got in on the action offensively, except of course for poor Kyle Seager, who can’t buy a hit (but has plenty of Double Play foodstamps to throw around – THANKS OBAMA!).

Nathan Karns had a very Nathan Karns type of outing:  5 innings, 5 hits, 4 walks, 1 run, 7 strikeouts.  He got himself into and out of trouble in almost every inning, which is just something we should all get used to seeing, because that’s going to be the norm with this guy.  His inability to consistently pound the strikezone and get guys to hit into our defense is going to mean high pitch counts, low innings counts, and potentially a lot of crooked numbers.  In games like on Friday, where he was able to wiggle off the hook time and time again, he’ll resemble a bulldog like Erik Bedard.  You take the good with the bad with a guy like Bedard/Karns.  A tendency to Five & Dive, but at the same time (ideally) someone who can give you a QUALITY five innings.  Which, compared to some of the 5th starters we’ve seen in years past (weak-throwing flyball pitchers like Beavan and such), this might be a welcome change.  But, if Karns starts getting beat up more often than not (BECAUSE he’s putting so many people on base early in innings), then you’ll likely see him replaced by Paxton sooner rather than later.  It’ll be an interesting first few weeks of his Mariners career.

As the Mariners played add-on, the bullpen locked it down for the final four innings, including Peralta, who had been savaged in recent games by the long ball.

The Mariners won again on Saturday, 3-2, in a very Mariners-like performance, where the team scored three runs in the fifth inning, and no runs in any other inning.  Felix got the start, and for a while, this looked like the prototypical Hard Luck Felix Game.  C.C. Sabathia was working his magic through the first four innings, and it looked like a return to form for the erstwhile ace.  Felix, meanwhile, struggled in Karns-like fashion each and every inning, as he too was limited to five innings on the day.  It was a really weird day, if I’m being honest.  Felix had some of the most unhittable stuff I’ve ever seen out of him, but the downside was that he had pretty much no control over anything.  He threw about 80% offspeed stuff, and that shit was flying every which way but inside the strikezone.  As such, he only gave up 5 hits, but he gave up 6 walks.  When you add Saturday’s performance to his opening day start, there might be cause for concern.  I, however, choose to believe in the King, and like to see that he’s got such strong movement this early into the season.  He’ll harness everything, and get control over his command, and once he does, we could see a nice long run of dominance out of him this season.  As it is, he’s only got a 1.00 ERA, so the Felix Haters can eat all the dicks.

When Felix left the game, he had a 3-1 lead, and you sure as shit know none of us Mariners fans thought that lead was REMOTELY safe.  Vidal Nuno came in on his second consecutive day to throw shutout ball for an inning; he’s going to be a HUGE piece to this bullpen when it’s all said and done.  In the 7th, Nick Vincent gave up a solo homer to make it 3-2, and it was Hold Your Nuts time from there on out.  Benoit returned from his shoulder soreness to throw an uneventful scoreless inning, and Cishek came in for the 9th, gave up a couple hits, but ultimately got the job done for his first save of the year.  Last year, that game is a loss 11 times out of 10 games, so good on the bullpen to snap back after a rough homestand.

Yesterday, the Mariners lost 4-3, in a game that necessitated a dominant starting pitching performance, and ultimately didn’t see one.  Masahiro Tanaka was going for the Yankees, and he’s always been a tough cookie against the Mariners.  Quite frankly, seeing the Mariners get even 3 runs was laudable, as more often than not you’re lucky to get more than a single run against the guy.  Ultimately, when you get three runs off of a team’s ace, you need to find a way to win that game, and the Mariners just couldn’t hack it.

Hisashi Iwakuma is one of the more infuriating pitchers I’ve seen in a good, long while.  Not the same kind of infuriating as guys like J.A. Happ, or Carlos Silva, or even Jeff Weaver.  Unlike those guys, we’ve SEEN Iwakuma do really well in a Mariners uniform.  We KNOW he has greatness in him.  In the last two seasons, he’s had decent, if injury-plagued years, and in 2013 he had near-Cy Young quality stuff over 33 games.  When we all think of Iwakuma, we think of him in that 2013 context, where he solidified his reputation as a legitimate #2 starter on this team.  But, the truth is, even in 2013, he’s prone to these dumpy runs of mediocrity.  THAT’S what makes him so infuriating!  It’s not like he runs into a bad game here and there; even Felix has a bad game every now and again.  But, Iwakuma tends to string his bad games, or his so-so games, all in a row, before he has these prolonged stretches of quality starts.

Here are some of the stretches to which I’m referring (not counting his first year in the Bigs, as he was still getting over some shoulder issues):

  • 2013 – a five-game run where he gave up at least 4 runs per game
  • 2014 – a six-game run where he couldn’t get through the 6th inning in 5 of 6 games (and, more often than not, couldn’t even get through the 5th inning)
  • 2015 – a four-game run to start the season where he gave up at least 4 runs per game

I don’t know if it’s fair to saddle him with this run of three games to start the 2016 season as it being one of his bad runs, but he hasn’t been great by any stretch.  In 18 innings, he’s given up 22 hits and another 6 walks.  While he’s only given up the one homer (to A-Rod yesterday, ugh), teams are stringing their hits and walks together just enough to force him into this 0-2 start.  I wouldn’t say it’s dire straits yet with Kuma, but it would be really nice to see him overwhelm one of these teams soon with a dominant performance.

All in all, as I said before, a commendable hitting performance out of the M’s yesterday.  We were able to tie it in the fifth, but Kuma went right out in the bottom of the inning and gave up the fourth run of the day for the Yankees.  Even though Kuma was able to go 7 innings, and let the bullpen relax a little bit, those four runs proved to be too much.  Tanaka was also able to go 7 innings, and once the Yankees have a lead going into the 8th inning, you might as well forget it.  Dellin Betances is a fucking beast, and Andrew Miller is rock solid.  Can you even imagine what that bullpen is going to look like when Aroldis Chapman returns from suspension?  You better pile your runs up early, because you’re not budging that bullpen an inch in the late innings!

I do have to say something about Kyle Seager, though, because he’s been an absolute mess through two weeks.  He’s down to a line of .119/.245/.238, he was benched on Saturday to give him a day off to mentally unwind, and he’s just been a machine at grounding out to the right side of the infield (into the shift, which I have to believe is in his head more than anyone wants to let on).  I have confidence in his ability to turn it around, as I’ve seen these slow starts out of him almost every year of his career, but if this team wants to avoid digging a hole impossible to get out of, it’ll need Seager to start pulling his weight.

I like what I’ve seen out of Cruz and Iannetta.  Smith and Guti have had truly professional starts to the season.  Aoki’s been on a nice little run, and Martin has showed better power than I would’ve given him credit for prior to the season.  Dae-ho Lee has brought exactly what I expected to the table.  It’s really only a matter of time before Cano goes on a hot streak to get his numbers back to career norms.  Sardinas has brought what you like to see out of a guy off the bench.  Marte has had a rough go of it, but he’s young, and he has a knack for getting on base and using his speed to his advantage.  Lind’s rough start can’t be sugar-coated, but at least he looks like a guy who can hit it to all fields, so he’ll find some of those balls dropping in for hits sooner or later.  That just leaves Seager, who is bringing up the rear like a maniac.

When you think of a lineup, you’re going to see lots of peaks and valleys out of guys.  For instance, Iannetta is having a tremendous start to his Mariners career.  But, that other shoe is going to drop in a minute, and it would be NICE to see someone else hit one of his peaks at the same time as Iannetta’s inevitable valley, so the offense doesn’t go completely in the tank.  Iannetta is giving us Seager-like production right now, but that won’t last forever (if it even lasts much longer than these first two weeks); we’re going to need Seager to step it up just to maintain the status quo we’ve got going on right now!  That’s a scary thought, especially if it takes him much longer to pull out of this nosedive he’s been in.

The Official 2016 Mariners Preview

I got into a bunch of stuff last week, if you missed it.

So, without further ado, why not kick this post off by talking about the hitters and fielders?

I’ve been on record for a while now as being pretty impressed by the collection of hitters the Mariners have amassed this year.  I think we’re across-the-board better than we were last year, and better than we’ve been in I can’t remember how many years.  Adam Lind should be an improvement over the streaky LoMo.  I’m not really all that high on Brad Miller (again, streaky), so I think we’ll get more consistency out of Ketel Marte.  Chris Iannetta should be leaps & bounds better than the black hole that was Mike Zunino.  Nori Aoki should be a HUGE upgrade over Dustin Ackley.  And, considering there was absolutely nothing special about Austin Jackson, that means we’re not taking much of a hit offensively with Leonys Martin, while at the same time getting a bigtime player defensively in center.

When you tack that onto Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz still in their primes, the improved health of Robinson Cano leading to a dramatic return to form, and the steady presence of Seth Smith and Franklin Gutierrez in a platoon situation, I think we’re going to see this team be quite competitive offensively, compared to in years past where most of the time we were struggling just to score a run or two.

In fact, I’ll take it one step further.  I think we’re going to see a high number of shootouts, where the Mariners are scoring 7+ runs, while at the same time giving up 7+ runs.  While the obvious home run numbers won’t be there, I think this COULD prove to be the best offense we’ve had since 2001.

Which is a shame, because usually it’s the pitching I have the most confidence in.  This year, terms like “potential” and “cautiously optimistic” have been uttered by me when talking about the collection of starters and relievers we’ve got on the roster.  It’s less than ideal.  You can make the case for and against just about every one of these guys.

I’m like 85-90% sure Felix Hernandez is going to continue being great.  But, while I won’t damn him for the so-called poor finish to his season last year, I will say there were a disturbing number of appearances where he got absolutely annihilated.  8 runs against Houston, where he only got 1 out.  7 runs each against the Yankees and Diamondbacks.  10 runs in 2.1 innings against Boston.  I’m not used to seeing my guy struggle like he did in these games.  I mean, I didn’t think I’d EVER see a time where he couldn’t get out of the first inning!  It’s not cause to be alarmed, but it’s cause to be on alert.  King Felix is still performing at a high level for the most part, but winter is coming.

On any given day, I’m 50/50 as to whether we’ll see Good Iwakuma or Crap Iwakuma.  He had that 2013 season where he was amazing (and amazingly healthy), but he’s followed it up with two so-so years.  While he finished pretty consistently strong, he had a run from late 2014 through early 2015 where he was giving up homers at an insane rate.  Even in his best year, he was giving up almost a homer a game, so that’s not entirely a negative issue with him.  But, keeping guys off base and keeping the ball from looking like a juicy piece of meat for opposing batters to mash will always be the key.

Wade Miley is more or less an effective innings eater, but he reminds me of every soft-tossing lefty starter we’ve had here in the last 8 years or so.  Vargas, Saunders, Elias, Happ, Washburn, Rowland-Smith, and I’m sure I’m forgetting countless others.  Vargas was probably the best of the bunch, but he didn’t come as a finished product and had his share of growing pains along the way.  Does Miley have an effective out pitch?  If he doesn’t have an awesome splitter or change up or something, I don’t have high hopes for him being very good.

Taijuan Walker seems to have the most promise among players taking a big leap forward.  But, at the same time, he could just be who he is.  When his command is on, he’ll be tough, but ultimately falling short of that elite, Ace status.

Then, there’s what’s sure to be a revolving door of sorts at the bottom of the rotation.  Karns is young, and I don’t really know what he has.  Paxton is down in Tacoma, waiting for either Karns to slip up, or someone else to get injured.  Neither one of them inspire too much confidence (I mean, our main injury insurance in Paxton is himself injury-prone!).

Ultimately, this is going to be the highest variance season we’ve seen out of the Mariners since 2007.  You know how, in every Preview post I’ve ever written about the Mariners, I talk about the Best Case Scenario?  Well, usually my scenarios are based in far-off delusions (Ackley/Smoak/Montero/Miller/Zunino will hopefully be ready to take the next step into being a productive and elite member of baseball society).  But, the actual variance in possibilities isn’t usually that great.  A normal range of outcomes is usually anywhere from 70-80 wins.  But, this year?  I could see this team winning anywhere from 65 games to 90 games and not have it be totally crazy.

What does a 65-win Mariners team look like?  Well, probably injury-riddled at its core.  One would think that team will have to face significant time with King Felix on the shelf, and at least one of the big three (Cano/Cruz/Seager).  As this team doesn’t really have a ton of depth, nor a ton of talent coming up through the pipeline, it just won’t be able to overcome significant health issues at its premium positions.

What does a 75-win Mariners team look like?  Well, tbh, a lot like last year’s team.  The bullpen struggles, the starters are somewhat effective, but have their own peaks & valleys to deal with, and the hitters aren’t as good as we thought going in.  That means Iannetta is just as black of a hole as Zunino; Lind isn’t much of an upgrade over LoMo, as he struggles to adjust to Safeco Field; Ketel Marte is drastically worse than the low bar Brad Miller had set for us; Nori Aoki looks more like Austin Jackson than we care to admit; and Leonys Martin looks more like James Jones than we care to admit.  That team also has one of the big three (let’s say Cruz, for shits and giggles, since he would appear to be due for some regression towards the mean) unexpectedly struggling a lot more than they did last year, due to nagging health issues or simply advanced age.

What does an 85-win Mariners team look like?  Well, for starters, the hitters match my expectations of being the strength of this team.  The pitching likely struggles at spots, and maybe Iwakuma or Karns miss a month or two due to injury (probably at different points in the season, giving us a lot more of Paxton than we expected).  The bullpen goes through hot periods and extra cold periods, but the offense is just clutch enough to give us a Kansas City Royals-esque spate of walk-off wins.  This team stays relevant throughout the season – giving Seattle fans lots to talk about all summer – and might even break that streak of seasons without a postseason appearance, depending on how things shake out in the rest of the American League.  Ultimately, this team probably disappoints in the playoffs (if it does get there), but it gives fans a ton of hope going into the 2017 season.

What does a 90-win (or 90+ win) Mariners team look like?  Well, here’s your Best Case Scenario.  Here’s where absolutely everything that needed to break right DOES break right.  Felix is in the Cy Young conversation.  Iwakuma is back to his 2013 tricks.  Wade Miley comes better than advertised and not only eats up innings, but figures out how to be an effective #2 or #3 starter.  Taijuan Walker goes thermonuclear.  And, the duo of Karns/Paxton are pleasant surprises whose ability to pitch finally catches up to their raw stuff.  This team gets strong seasons out of its primary 8th & 9th inning bullpen guys, and gets enough out of the rest of the bullpen to make it one of the top five units in the league.  And the hitting is not only as good as I think it’s going to be, but it still manages to come through on that clutchness factor, where we’re winning a vast majority of 1-run games (what some would say is an unsustainable rate of winning in those types of close games).  This team probably catches some luck among the rest of the A.L. West and takes the division, and cruises right into the ALCS.  Felix gets to show the world what it’s been missing by not having him in the playoffs, as he blows away the field in his post-season starts, and this team makes its first-ever World Series appearance (where it goes on to lose in five games, because this is Seattle, and we can’t have nice things).

So, where do I have my money?

In Tahoe, there was a Futures bet.  The over/under for the Mariners was 82 wins.  Now, considering I had 1 good betting day out of 4 when I was down there, you can take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.  If I still had money on the last day there, I would’ve bet everything I had on the Mariners winning under 82 games.  What does that mean?  Well, my gambling prowess notwithstanding, I believe there is a greater than 50% chance that the shit hits the fan with this team (either with injuries, or a struggling bullpen, or the hitters just not being as good as we expected) and the Mariners struggle to remain competitive.  You know me, I hate a team that doesn’t pitch well.  Even if the key guys stay healthy, I still think this team – at the end of the day – will look a lot like it did last year, at least in the win/loss column.

That having been said, there’s a part of me that believes in this team more than last year’s team.  I wonder if that’s just because it looks so different (13 of the 25 players we have going into Opening Day will be playing their first games as Mariners).  I mean, different = better, right?  Well, at least different = more exciting, for the first few weeks anyway.

My hunch is that the offense will ultimately be one of the better ones we’ve seen in recent history, but it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see this offense get off to yet ANOTHER slow start in the month of April.  All the better to make me look foolish in my predictions (because everything in the world revolves around me and what I think).  Conversely, the pitching will probably start out on fire, and this team will be a couple games under .500 going into May.  It’ll tread water – as the Mariners like to do – through the All Star Break, and then on that road trip at the end of July the Mariners will go something like 1-7 and play themselves right out of contention (and a season-saving deadline deal).  From there, it’ll just be a matter of playing out the string of yet another losing season.  I think the record will be 77-85.

I like this team, but I’ve been burned too many times in the past.  I’ll go into this year expecting the worst, because why shouldn’t I?  We’ve got national morons predicting the Mariners will shock the world – like we read about just about every single year – but what are they basing it on?  The same things I’m basing my prediction on:  the high variance nature of this roster.  When has that ever worked out in our favor to spell out a post-season appearance?  Not bloody often.

The Mariners Can’t Stop Trading, Also Won’t Stop

Yeah, so this time it’s Roenis Elias & Carson Smith to the Red Sox for Wade Miley & Jonathan Aro.

From what I understand, the main pieces in this deal are Smith for Miley; the Red Sox needed a dominant, late-inning reliever, and the Mariners needed a mediocre, left-handed innings eater.  That may be oversimplifying things a bit, but not all that much.  I feel like Aro was thrown in to help mitigate the sting of giving away our best reliever; he looks like a guy on the cusp of competing for a Major League roster spot.  And, I feel like Elias was thrown in … because the Red Sox were asking for the moon and the stars and the Mariners decided to oblige?

A lot of Mariners fans hate this deal, so Welcome To Seattle, Jerry Dipoto!  Mariners fans are probably going to hate A LOT of your deals, because as Seattle sports fans, we’ve had a lot of experience getting shafted by inept general managers.  This just sounds like a lot to give up, to get so little in return.

Carson Smith, many believe (I among them) will be a dominant pitching force for years to come.  He’s already great now, just think of how awesome he’ll be with five more years of experience!  This has shades of trading away Jeff Nelson back in December of 1995; he went to the Yankees and won a bunch of championships with Tino Martinez and the gang.  So, that right there is bad enough.  When you throw in Elias – another young guy who should only improve with experience, and who’s already had the better part of two seasons in the Major Leagues as it is – it’s hard to feel, as a Mariners fan, like we haven’t just been bent over and taken to town with a 12-inch strap-on dildo.

For what?  Wade Miley and a prospect?  Wade Miley, the second coming of J.A. Happ’s miserable half-season with the Mariners before he miraged his way through the National League into an insane contract with the Blue Jays this offseason?  What did we do to deserve THIS?

Well, for starters, blame the rest of the fucking league for paying through their asses for some of these pitchers.  I mean, seriously, over $30 million per year for Zack Greinke and David Price?  Get the fuck right out of here!  I know these guys are great pitchers, but no one is WORTH that much!  Enjoy your albatross contracts when they inevitably get injured and start to decline.

Anyway, as a result of that, and with a specific nod to the Dodgers for prying Iwakuma away to the tune of 3 years & $45 million, the Mariners had to do something in this pitching-crazy market.  That something, apparently, was to trade for a lefty starter with mediocre numbers, whose greatest attribute has been his health.  Because if there’s ever a curse that comes with having mediocre players on your baseball team, it’s the curse of everlasting health.

For what it’s worth, I am glad the Mariners didn’t go to a third year with Iwakuma.  I like Kuma as much as the next guy, but he can’t stay healthy to save his life.  It sucks having to count on him, only to see him miss two months every year.  Which brings up the interesting question:  would you rather have four months of a quality, ace-lite starting pitcher, or a full season with a 4th/5th starter who will be great one week, and then can’t get out of the second inning the next?  I’m torn on the subject.

The one variable we have yet to discover is how Miley will be affected by pitching in Safeco.  I know, we went through this same thing with Happ just last year, but if Miley can turn into a Jason Vargas-like pitcher for us, while continuing to eat up innings, this deal might be palatable.

When you look at the big picture, you can see why the Mariners went this way.  We preserve our 11th overall draft pick by not signing a free agent pitcher with a qualifying offer.  We also save some money by not paying those extravagant free agency prices, as Miley is set to earn just under $15 million combined over the next two years (with a $12 million option on the third year, if we’d like to keep him).  In this context, it’s pretty apparent that the team is in no position to increase salary this year.  I’m not necessarily saying this is good or bad, but it appears to be a fact.  Right now, counting just the players under a Major League contract (not counting arbitration guys, or younger guys under team control), we’ve got $102,250,000 tied up in 11 players.  When you pad that out with the rest of the guys on the 40-man, you’re looking at a team that’s RIGHT around its payroll limit.  There might be a moderate increase for a lower-tier first baseman (potential platoon option with Jesus Montero, should he show continued signs of life in Spring Training), but other than that, some flyers on veteran pitchers, and maybe another bullpen arm or two, what you see is what you’re going to get.

As for the rotation itself, as noted above, Miley is a considerable step down in talent from Iwakuma.  That’s going to put some pressure on some other guys to step up.  With Iwakuma in the fold, the Mariners had a natural #2 type pitcher to slot in behind Felix.  Now?  Someone is going to have to step into that role.  Is that pitcher Taijuan Walker?  I sure as shit hope he’s ready to make the leap, because if he’s not ready, we’re looking at a lot of 4/5-type starters in this rotation behind The King.  Karns is young & unproven.  Paxton is also young & unproven, plus he’s an injury waiting to happen and our most likely trade chip.  Montgomery is unproven and another likely trade chip.  Nuno is probably better suited as a bullpen guy/long reliever/spot starter; but, I’m starting to get the feeling that he’ll have a very real opportunity to lock down the 5th starter’s job, especially if Paxton is dealt for a first baseman and/or turns up injured again.

I’m pretty sure I read a quote somewhere from our GM about the Miley trade, saying that he wanted to bring in a proven guy who will take the ball every fifth day, to help compensate for the fact that we’re relying on so many younger guys to fill out our rotation.  I think that was something of a shot at Elias (indirectly, of course), as he, along with our other fringe starters, have been anything but consistent.  But, I’ll tell you what, if those younger guys don’t develop in a hurry, we could be looking at another long season.

As for Elias, it really stinks that he was a throw-in to this deal.  He was an excellent security blanket to be able to stash in AAA in the likely event of injury.  I mean, how often are you able to bring up a guy with significant Major League experience to either spot start for you or flat out slot into your rotation for a few months?  Elias wasn’t the greatest, but I thought he battled out there like a pro.  Give him another year or two, and I think he’ll be a rock-solid starter for years to come.  Maybe not an All Star, but could he really be THAT much worse than Wade Miley?

**UPDATE**

Now hearing about a trade bringing in Adam Lind from the Brewers.  Plays first base, gets on base a lot.  GIVE US A BREAK!!!!

A Pre-Thanksgiving Look At The Changes To The Mariners’ Roster

There’s not much going on this week, is there?  The Husky basketball team has a major tournament in the Bahamas (and is playing Gonzaga for the first time since 2006); the Apple Cup lands on Black Friday once again; the Seahawks are playing for the opportunity to be over .500 for the first time in 2015; and, of course, there’s that major national holiday where we celebrate how we screwed over all the Native Americans celebrate “giving thanks” or some bullshit like that.

Anyway, fuck all that, because I’m writing about the Mariners.  We’ve seen a lot of change in a very short time, which got me to wondering how our team shapes up compared to last year’s disappointment.  So, let’s go down the line, starting with the everyday nine:

Catcher:  2016 – Iannetta, 2015 – Zunino
First Base:  2016 – Trumbo, 2015 – Morrison
Second Base:  Cano
Third Base:  Seager
Short Stop:  2016 – Marte, 2015 – Miller / Taylor / Marte
Left Field:  2016 – Smith/Guti?, 2015 – Ackley
Center Field:  2016 – Martin, 2015 – Jackson
Right Field:  2016 – TBD / Trumbo / Cruz, 2015 – Smith, Cruz
Designated Hitter:  2016 – Cruz, 2015 – Cruz / Various

The only three “guaranteed” holdovers (I put that in quotes, because you never really know what a new GM will do in these first few months of total power, before it’s slowly stripped away from him by management as his mistakes pile up) figure to be Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  Cruz figures to get the majority of his playing time at DH (God willing), but you can’t completely rule out him playing some right field.  Nevertheless, this team is in desperate need of an everyday solution to our right field problem (or at least a rock-solid left-handed platoon option who isn’t named Boog Powell).

Iannetta looks to be a step up from Zunino.  Trumbo figures to be a lateral move compared to LoMo (worse on defense, probably more consistent at the plate).  A Seth Smith/Franklin Gutierrez platoon in left would be a HUGE upgrade over Ackley, should they both manage to stay healthy.  Leonys Martin figures to be better defensively than A-Jax, as well as a better baserunner (how many times did we watch Jackson try to steal and get tagged out by a million miles?), but the jury is seriously out as to whether or not Martin can hit in Safeco.  It looked like Jackson was starting to get the hang of it in 2015, but I feel like Martin brings more upside and is an all-around improvement at the position.  Finally, we’ll see what we get out of a full season of Ketel Marte at short stop.  He might be a step down initially, but hopefully he’ll blossom into a quality starter in time.

Now, onto the starting rotation, where things are still a little up in the air:

1.  Felix Hernandez
2.  2016 – Iwakuma?, 2015 – Iwakuma
3.  Taijuan Walker
4.  2016 – Karns, 2015 – Happ / Elias
5.  2016 – Paxton / Elias, 2015 – Paxton / Montgomery / Nuno

Felix and Taijuan are the primary holdovers; they’re not going anywhere, for obvious reasons.  Hisashi Iwakuma turned down the Mariners’ qualifying offer of $15.8 million for next year in hopes of getting a longer-term deal.  There’s still a very good chance he signs with the Mariners; the qualifying offer was more of a way to discourage any other teams from signing him (as they would lose their first unprotected draft pick).  For what it’s worth, the GM sounds really eager to bring him back.  I’m a little lukewarm on the deal, but I don’t see a whole lotta better options out there.  Iwakuma has been good when healthy, but he’s prone to give up the long ball.  Beyond that, his most consistent attribute is getting himself injured and missing large chunks of season.  Honestly, I don’t think I want him on anything more than a 2-year deal, maybe with an option for a third year if he reaches certain Staying-Off-Of-The-DL benchmarks.

The back-end of the rotation looks like it’s going to be a zoo once again for the Mariners.  Paxton is an obvious choice, but he’s even more injury prone than Iwakuma.  Nathan Karns, our big return chip in the Brad Miller deal, looks to have a spot locked up; so if Iwakuma returns, that appears to be four spots on lockdown.  Vying for that fifth spot will be a bevy of underwhelming candidates, including Roenis Elias, Mike Montgomery, and Vidal Nuno (though I still think he’s better suited as a long relief man in the bullpen).  Since Paxton is the likeliest candidate to win the spot out of Spring Training, it’s good to know we’ve got experienced options in Elias, Montgomery, and the like.  I’m certain we’ll need them.

As for how the back-end will fare, it’s tough to say.  My initial reaction is that they couldn’t be any worse than J.A. Happ, but I could be full of shit with that statement.  I’ve never seen Karns pitch!  I’ve seen the other guys, and they weren’t all that much better than Happ.  So, who knows?  Also, you gotta figure the team will go out and look for a cheap veteran to throw onto the pile.  If said veteran does well in Spring Training, we could be looking at another underwhelming half-year of a guy who doesn’t belong in the league anymore.

Regarding the potential bullpen, I don’t REALLY even want to go there, but here’s what I’ve got at this early point in the offseason:

Closer:  2016 – Benoit, 2015 – Rodney
8th Inning:  Carson Smith
7th Inning:  2016 – Zych?, 2015 – Wilhelmsen
Lefty #1:  Charlie Furbush
Lefty #2:  2016 – Riefenhauser?, 2015 – Beimel
Long:  2016 – Nuno?, 2015 – Nuno
Misc Relief:  2016 – Bass?, 2015 – Farquhar, Lowe, Others

Joaquin Benoit doesn’t have a ton of experience closing, but he does have a ton of experience being a boss reliever.  One would think his bossness would translate quite well from the 8th to the 9th inning.  Besides, Carson Smith is still young, and was getting kind of abused in the closer’s role last year (mostly by lefties); his natural spot in the bullpen should be the primary set-up man, facing mostly right-handed hitters.  Beyond those two guys, and Charlie Furbush (assuming he gets healthy in time), the rest of the bullpen is a total crapshoot.  Tony Zych looked pretty solid in his September call-up, so I’m sure he’ll get a shot at winning a spot.  We just traded for C.J. Riefenhauser, so I’m sure he’ll get every opportunity to win that second lefty spot (but, if he fails, we’ve got about four more on the 40-man roster who could supplant him).  I want to make Vidal Nuno a lock for the long relief/spot starter role, but you never know.  And, for that 7th bullpen spot (should we keep 7 guys in the bullpen), I have no fucking idea.  The guy who gets that spot probably isn’t even on this team right now.  I just put Bass up there because he was acquired in a recent trade, so I’m sure he’s going to get every chance to wow the team in Spring.

The bench is even more pointless to try to predict right now, but I’ll give it a whirl.  Figure our starting 9 (including “TBD” in right field; and for the purposes of this exercise, making Seth Smith the “starting” left fielder), plus 5 starting pitchers, plus 7 relievers, that leaves 4 bench spots:

Catcher:  2016 – Zunino, 2015 – Sucre
Corner Outfield:  Franklin Gutierrez
Infielder:  2016 – Luis Sardinas?, 2015 – Bloomquist/Taylor
Outfield:  2016 – Powell/O’Malley?, 2015 – Weeks/Ruggiano/Others

Right off the bat, Zunino is a huge upgrade over Sucre.  Guti’s taking up a spot on the roster, which necessitates a fifth outfielder to cover us in the likely event that Guti needs some extra days of rest to deal with whatever is nagging at him.  Boog Powell appears to be ready for a shot at the bigs.  Shawn O’Malley had a cup of coffee in September and really impressed everyone with his hustle, so you gotta figure he has a shot if nothing else changes about the roster.  Either one of those guys, you gotta figure, is better than Rickie Weeks, just defensively alone!  Finally, we say goodbye to Willie Bloomquist (hopefully for the last time), and we say hello to Luis Sardinas, who the Mariners just acquired from Milwaukee for a minor leaguer.  Sardinas has experience at all the infield positions, he’s played sparingly in the Majors the last two years, and he’s VERY young (will turn 23 years old next May).  He’s going to have to prove he can hit at least a little bit at the Big League level, because he’s got Chris Taylor who can also play all the infield spots, and has a similar amount of experience (but an additional two years of age).

Pointless exercise, or a fun way to waste time?  You decide!  Or don’t, I don’t care.  Tomorrow’s Turkey Day!

Mariners Tidbit 66: What Alien Species Killed Jesus Montero, Preserved His Flesh & Innards, Inhabited His Body In A Toned & Slimmer Form, and Became The Productive Hitter We All Wrote Him Off From Being?

Yeah, so I know, small sample size.  But, what the hell else am I supposed to write about?  Yeah, Nelson Cruz is amazing.  Yeah, King Felix really stepped up yesterday to preserve a tired bullpen en route to another series win (first time winning back-to-back series since late May, and only the second time it’s happened all year).  But, come on, how many times am I going to write about how great these two guys are?

Besides, if nothing jumps out at me tomorrow, I might need to keep them in reserve.

Today, it’s all about Jesus Montero, Probable Cyborg & Unstoppable Baseball Killing Machine.

To say that I havein the past, including the very recent past – not only written Jesus Montero off, but actively attacked his appearance and character and value as a human being is putting it mildly.  The trade to bring him here was but one in a long line of failed Jackie Z moves that has left this organization in a perpetual state of spinning its tires in the mud and shit of mediocre baseball.  Probably the only reason why he’s still around is that he’s under team control (pre-arbitration) and he still has options, so we could stash him in Tacoma to forget about him under the guise of allowing him to “resurrect his baseball career”.

That was the idea, anyway.  He only got his act together in the most recent offseason, when he dropped 40 pounds and worked tirelessly on baseball fundamentals.  But, that was following three increasingly-disappointing professional seasons; no one expected him to completely turn everything around in just a few months.

Then, in Tacoma, he started raking.  The smell test didn’t quite pass – it was believed that he was simply taking advantage of fastball-heavy Triple-A pitching, and that he would revert to his old, unproductive form once he returned to the Majors and started facing a steady diet of bendy pitches.

Nevertheless, right around the All Star Break, the Mariners took advantage of Happ’s options to give Montero a brief but important look.  In five games, he went 3 for 10 with an RBI, 3 walks, and 1 strikeout.  He didn’t manage any extra-base hits, but getting on base three times and scoring a run in his final game definitely put people on notice (particularly with how much LoMo has been struggling since June 15th, when he had his batting average at a season-high .261; it has since fallen all the way down to .220).

With our deadline deals freeing up some space on the 25-man roster, Montero was one of the first guys called up.  Since July 31st, he’s played everyday, appearing in nine games, going 10 for 30 and held hitless in only one of those games (a pinch hit deal in Colorado).  In this most recent stint, he’s racked up 8 RBI, 2 homers, and 4 doubles to push his season-long slugging percentage up to .575 and his OPS up to .947, which leads all non-pitchers save Nelson Cruz, who is a golden god.

(small sample size)

We’ll get to watch Montero for the rest of this year (barring injury).  That’ll give us 2.5 months of production to try to make assumptions on going into next year.  Even 2.5 months is too small of a sample to REALLY get your hopes up too high (see:  almost every second half of a season by Dustin Ackley & Justin Smoak in a Mariners uniform), but I’ll tell you why I think this could actually be different this time.

For starters, there’s already a book out on Montero.  This isn’t some new prospect getting his first run in the Bigs like Ketel Marte; he’s been in 188 Major League games before this year, 170 in a Mariners uniform.  There are countless scouting reports to tell you how guys have gotten Montero out in the past; one would THINK those reports would still be valid, if we’re talking about Montero being the same as he ever was.

Secondly, I’m hard-pressed to find a stretch in Montero’s Mariners career where he’s been as effective and he’s looked as good as he has in these last couple weeks.  In 2011, with the Yankees, he looked every bit the stud he was projected to be, coming up through the minors.  In 2012, in his first season with the Mariners, he was pretty solid in his first full season in the Bigs, but there were large droughts with a few great spurts mixed in.  After that, he fell off the face of the Earth.

So, we’ll see.  Maybe this is just one of those hot spurts, and he’ll finish the season in a prolonged slump, and all of this will have been written for naught.  But, as far as eyeball tests go, Montero appears to be passing it with flying colors.  Not only with his production at the plate, but with some heady and athletic plays in the field at first base.  Granted, first base isn’t the most difficult position on the diamond, but he doesn’t look completely lost like we all expected.  In fact, he looks damn near on par with what LoMo has given us defensively (small sample size).

I seem to write this next part every year around this time, but the benefit to Montero panning out would be ENORMOUS.  A .300 hitter with pop who can play first base?  That’s pretty much exactly what we need heading into next year (as I’ve stated before, LoMo is nobody’s everyday player, proven by his lackluster 2015).  Montero’s presence as our starting first baseman in 2016 would allow us to focus our free agency efforts elsewhere (primarily the outfield, rotation, and bullpen).  He lets us keep Seager in the 2-hole where he belongs, giving us a heart of the order that looks like this:

2 – Seager
3 – Cruz
4 – Cano
5 – Montero

That sets a lefty/righty/lefty/righty situation where other teams can’t just bring in their best lefty and mow us down like in years past.

Montero would bump LoMo down to a bench player (where he’s better suited in his career) and really locks in our infield (with Cano at second, Seager at third, Miller/Marte at short, and Zunino at catcher).  The only trouble with this is that he forces Trumbo into being a primary corner outfielder (when one of them isn’t DHing), but we were never going to be able to re-stock the entire outfield anyway.

At some point – one would think – this team will have to get lucky with one of its hitting prospects.  Why not Montero?  Well, the longer I write this thing, the more discouraged I’m becoming, as I know I’ve written all of this before, and it’s bound to turn out to be the exact opposite of what I’m hoping for.  So, I’m going to stop here.  Since you can’t write one of these without throwing in a “small sample size” every few paragraphs, I’ll put one more in before I go:  may this small sample size extend to infinity and beyond!