Mariners Tidbit 67: Iwakuma’s No-Hitter

The first Mariners no-hitter happened on June 2, 1990, against the Detroit Tigers.  Randy Johnson walked 6 and struck out 8 in 138 pitches for the 2-0 victory.

The second Mariners no-hitter happened on April 22, 1993, against the Boston Red Sox.  Chris Bosio walked 2 and struck out 4 in 97 pitches for the 7-0 victory.

The third Mariners no-hitter happened on June 8, 2012, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmsen combined to walk 3 and strike out 9 in 114 pitches for the 1-0 victory.

The fourth Mariners no-hitter was also the first Mariners perfect game; it happened on August 15, 2012, against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Felix Hernandez struck out 12 in 113 pitches for the 1-0 victory.

The fifth Mariners no-hitter happened yesterday afternoon, against the Baltimore Orioles.  Hisashi Iwakuma walked 3 and struck out 7 in 116 pitches for the 3-0 victory.

Is it weird that all of the Mariners no-no’s have happened at home?  Is it weird that the last two happened on Wednesday matinee games?

As usual, I was at work yesterday while all of this was going on.  Furthermore, I was stuck in meetings for most of the afternoon, so I didn’t even realize that a no-hitter was officially happening until the 8th inning.  I was able to listen to Iwakuma close out the 8th before running out of work and over to Pacific Place for an impromptu happy hour.  Sitting at the bar of Gordon Biersch, I quickly ordered a Captain & Coke while the final commercials ran before the top of the 9th.

I don’t remember everything.  Obviously, this isn’t my first no-hit rodeo, but I don’t know if I’ll ever forget Kyle Seager’s basket catch in foul territory.  That was banana-nuts!  And then I want to say the next at bat, Iwakuma grooved a fastball right in the middle of the plate that the hitter thankfully fouled off.  After that, it was relatively smooth sailing getting the last two outs.

I don’t care who you are, but no-hitters are always special.  It’s SUCH a hard thing to accomplish; you see SO MANY of them lost in the final couple of at-bats.  So, my hat is off to Iwakuma and everyone else involved for getting the job done.

I’m finding it difficult to peg just where we’re at with Iwakuma.  Is this a last gasp of brilliance before he declines even further?  Is this proof that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated and premature?  And, if so, how much more does he have left in the tank?

What this no-hitter accomplishes is it gets me – and most of the fans – back in Iwakuma’s corner.  That’s a biggie.  From the last month of the 2014 season through most of this season, Iwakuma has been an unmitigated disappointment.  Since returning from two months on the DL, he’s had flashes of brilliance – 8 shutout innings against the Angels, 7 quality innings in Detroit, an almost-complete game shutout in Minnesota, 7 more quality innings against the Rangers – but he’s also had a good amount of duds:  4 homers given up to the Tigers in Safeco, just a so-so game in New Yankee Stadium, getting blown out at home against the Diamondbacks.

The back-and-forth nature of his outings the last month and a half are definitely cause for concern, but what this no-hitter does is make it okay for the team to bring him back for 2016, at least in my mind (pending what he does the rest of this season, of course).  The thing is, though, we have to temper our expectations.

I don’t know if it’s fair to count on Iwakuma to be healthy for a full season anymore.  He’s missed extensive time in all but one of his Major League seasons.  Also, I don’t know if we should expect him to be the #2 starting pitcher this team needs.  He strikes me as more of a 4 or 5 going forward; meaning this team STILL needs to bring in a high-end starter either via free agency or trade.  Also, if Iwakuma does warrant an extension, I wouldn’t go anywhere beyond 2 years; that’s a deal-breaker for me.

Anyway, this is all stuff we can hash out later, when the season’s over.  For now, let’s celebrate a truly amazing feat.  The Orioles are a good hitting team, and Iwakuma’s been serving up a steady diet of meatballs for a while now.  To hold them hitless is OUTSTANDING!

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!

Catching Up With The 2015 Seattle Mariners

It’s been about a month since I’ve written about the Mariners.  The last newsworthy item I felt compelled to write about was trading Michael Saunders for J.A. Happ.  Prior to that, it was the Nelson Cruz signing.  Prior to that, it was the Kyle Seager extension.  That’s about it for the major events in this offseason, as it pertains to the 2015 squad.

There have been some minor moves that should impact the club one way or another.  Let’s list them here!

  • December 30th:  Mariners trade Brandon Maurer to Padres for Seth Smith
  • December 17th:  Mariners trade minor league reliever to Cubs for Justin Ruggiano
  • December 11th:  Kendrys Morales signed a 2-year deal with the Royals who for some reason offered Kendrys Morales a 2-year deal

OK, so it’s not a huge list.  Some other Mariners became ex-Mariners by signing with other teams, but I don’t much care about that.  I just care that Kendrys Morales is gone and hopefully will never return.

So, where does that leave us?  Let’s look at the roster as currently constructed:

Outfield

Left – Dustin Ackley
Center – Austin Jackson
Right – Seth Smith / Justin Ruggiano

Infield

Third – Kyle Seager
Short – Brad Miller / Chris Taylor
Second – Robbie Cano
First – Logan Morrison
Catcher – Mike Zunino

DH/Outfield – Nelson Cruz

Those are the guys you’re going to see the most.  Miller and Taylor will duke it out for the starting short stop job, with the loser likely starting the season in Tacoma (with an outside chance of the loser sticking on the bench, but I wouldn’t count on it).

As for the bench, you’re looking at keeping a backup catcher (likely Jesus Sucre), a utility infielder (likely Willie Bloomquist, if he can return to good health), a fifth outfielder (a James Jones / Endy Chavez type) and possibly a backup first baseman (Jesus Montero?).  It all really depends on how many we opt to keep in the bullpen.  A 5-man bench might be too much to carry when you’re talking about a strict platoon job in right field; so, it’s very possible we don’t keep a fifth outfielder.  Bank on the 25th spot on the roster being entirely dependant upon whether or not the team feels Jesus Montero is ready to return to the Bigs.

The starting rotation looks something like this:

  • Felix Hernandez
  • Hisashi Iwakuma
  • J.A. Happ
  • James Paxton
  • Roenis Elias / Taijuan Walker

I don’t necessarily think that’ll be the exact order.  But, if you look at the rotation today, Happ’s roster spot is MUCH more secure than the three pitchers behind him.  Now, obviously, the final two spots in the rotation will come down to overall health and performance in Spring Training.  With everything being equal, and everyone healthy as a horse, I’d anticipate Paxton being this teams #3 starter.  And, I don’t care what anyone else says, until I hear otherwise I’ve got Elias ahead of Walker for the simple reason that he pitched for the Big Ballclub for almost the entire 2014 season.  Either way, don’t count on the Mariners running out a 6-man rotation, and don’t count on any of these six pitchers starting the year in the bullpen.  When push comes to shove, one of the last three guys will be starting in Tacoma until needed by Seattle at a later date.

In the bullpen, you’ve got the following fighting for anywhere from 6-8 spots (again, depending on how many bench spots we decide to keep):

  • Fernando Rodney
  • Danny Farquhar
  • Yoervis Medina
  • Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Charlie Furbush
  • Carson Smith
  • Dominic Leone
  • David Rollins / Lucas Luetge / Edgar OImos / (misc. 2nd lefty reliever)
  • Erasmo Ramirez

As you can see, even without Maurer, the Mariners have an insane surplus of relief pitching.  There is NO WAY we’re keeping all of these guys.  Rollins is a Rule 5 guy, so unless we want to work out a trade with the Astros, we either have to keep him on our Major League roster or give him back.  Now, if he stinks in Spring Training, I don’t think the team will have any problem giving him back.  But, if he shows promise, but otherwise isn’t totally ready to stick in the Bigs, then a tough decision will have to be made.

To determine who stays, let’s take a look at the locks on this team.  The Mariners have 10 regular everyday players and they’ll keep 5 starting pitchers.  That leaves 10 roster spots.  You have to keep a backup catcher, so that brings us to 9.  You have to keep a utility infielder, so there’s 8.  At this point, the Mariners will have to decide what’s more important:  an 8th reliever, or another backup first baseman/outfielder.  With a healthy Bloomquist, you can conceivably plug him in at first in a pinch.  Montero still has options, as do Jones and Romero (who would be another option as a backup outfielder).

The bullpen locks are as follows:  Rodney, Farquhar, Medina, Wilhelmsen, and Furbush.  Leone stuck with the Mariners all year last year and proved to be effective in going multiple innings.  Smith came up late, but absolutely destroyed everyone in his path.  I like Smith more than Leone, but if I had my druthers, I’d keep them both.  And, if they do, well, that’s 7 bullpen arms right there, and we haven’t even added a second lefty.

So, there you go.  The final spot will either be a second lefty reliever, Jesus Montero, a fifth outfielder, or someone else entirely, because it’s impossible to predict a 25-man roster this far out.

Before I move on, I’d like to comment on Erasmo Ramirez, as he’s an interesting case.  Ramirez is out of options.  And, by all accounts, Ramirez will NOT pass through waivers.  So, either he makes the Mariners out of Spring Training, or he’s traded at some point in Spring Training to try to recoup SOME value out of him, or he’s DFA’d at the end of Spring Training and some other team claims a perfectly good long reliever/spot starter.

For the record, I don’t think Ramirez makes the Mariners unless there’s a rash of injuries.  We’re talking about two of the above-referenced starting pitchers, or a bevy of the above-referenced relievers.  If that’s the case, I could see him sticking in a long relief role, but those are some LONG odds.

***

The world is pretty high on the Seattle Mariners in 2015.  There are reasonable odds in Vegas for this team to win it all.  There are various sabermetric arguments made that this is one of the top teams in the American League (if not THE top team).  You’re looking at a Mariners team that fell one win short of vying for a Wild Card spot, that has improved in some key areas while at the same time retained talent at other key areas.

Even with the loss of Maurer, as I mentioned above, this team is LOADED in the bullpen.  I can’t tell you how huge that is.  Of course, the bullpen could completely shit the bed and it wouldn’t be a total shocker.  But, I like the chances of a bunch of hard-throwing strikeout righties.

The rotation, if it can manage to be healthier than it was in 2014, could be quite formidable.  Felix is the best pitcher alive.  Iwakuma has proven to be a stout second banana.  The sky’s the limit for Paxton.  Happ should benefit from Safeco’s dimensions as a Vargas-type lefty.  Elias has already proven to be effective in the Bigs.  And, the sky’s also the limit for Walker if he cracks the rotation.  I believe the phrase we’re looking for is Pigs In Shit.  The Mariners are like pigs in shit with this pitching staff.

As for the everyday players, take a look at this lineup and see how it works for you:

  1. Austin Jackson – CF
  2. Dustin Ackley – LF
  3. Robbie Cano – 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz – DH
  5. Kyle Seager – 3B
  6. Logan Morrison – 1B
  7. Seth Smith (against righties) / Justin Ruggiano (against lefties) – RF
  8. Mike Zunino – C
  9. Brad Miller / Chris Taylor – SS

Huh?  How about it?  Does that season your potatoes?

Now, of course, there are concerns.  A-Jax was pretty terrible last year.  We’re either banking on him bouncing back, or we’re going to throw a worthless pile of crap out there in the leadoff spot every day for a number of months.  If A-Jax fails us, I’m not gonna lie to you, we’re KINDA screwed.  But, moving on, Ackley has proven – if nothing else in his Major League career – to be completely unreliable.  Just when you think he’s solved all his problems, he goes in the tank.  Just when you think he’s a worthless bum, he starts raking for a couple months.  So, I dunno.

The Mariners are rock solid in the middle of the order, which is more than you could say about this team in the last decade.  The only thing that knocks us out is if Cano, Cruz, or Seager suffer some injuries.

Beyond that, the bottom half of the order is interesting, and potentially terrifying.  The latest issue of concern is Logan Morrison.  He hasn’t proven to be healthy in his career, which will be a kick in the groin because we have NOBODY behind him.  Jesus Montero – while 30-35 pounds lighter than last year – is still a longshot to be even DECENT as a first baseman.  After Montero, who do you got?  D.J. Peterson is probably a year away; it would be a miracle if we bring him up this year and he succeeds.  Ji-Man Choi had a shitty 2014 coming off of a PED suspension.  The free agent market is deader than dead.  It’s bad out there for a first baseman-hungry team like the Mariners.  Just cross your fingers, pray LoMo stays healthy, and try not to think about the consequences if he doesn’t.

The Smith/Ruggiano platoon is interesting because it seems almost TOO perfect, you know?  Smith is a lefty who rakes against righties; Ruggiano is a righty who rakes against lefties.  There’s NO WAY this works out the way we planned it, is there?  Even if we stick to the platoon and don’t mess with anything, you gotta figure one or both will either suffer a massive injury and/or take a huge step back as he tries to contend with Safeco’s dimensions.  This’ll be a Believe It When I See It type of situation.

Zunino is still Zunino, which means he’ll mash over 20 homers, strike out a ton, and play solid defense.  You figure with a full year under his belt, there’s bound to be some natural progression, so hopefully he works out some of the kinks.  Then, we’ve got a short stop battle for the ages.  The offensively-challenged Taylor vs. the wild card Miller.  I like Miller for his power bat, but either way this is a GREAT problem to have.

I’m not ready to crown their asses just yet, but I’m sure the excitement for the Mariners will start building once football season ends.  February 20th:  Pitchers & Catchers report.  Spring Training kicks off the first week of March.  It’s almost here.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Pitchers, Part II

Turns out there’s A LOT more to say about the 2014 Mariners than I originally thought.  Anyway, last week I wrote about all the position players used by the Mariners throughout the season.  It turned out to be a massive, 7,000+ word monstrosity that took over four hours to write and had to be split over three days.

This one figures to be a lot somewhat shorter simply because we used a total of 24 different position players and only 20 pitchers.  Here’s to me keeping this to a modest TWO posts!

Click HERE for Part I

In case you missed it, here’s the breakdown of the hitters from last week:

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about the rest of the pitchers.

Yoervis Medina This is all you REALLY need to know about Medina’s 2014.

If only they had the Internet back when Gil Meche caught Mo Vaughn looking.

Everyone absolutely LOVES to get off on hating on Medina.  I don’t get it!  Is he the best reliever this team has?  No.  Is he the guy you ideally want to see in the 8th inning of a winning ballgame?  Probably not.  But, way more often than not, he gets the job done.  He averages over a strikeout per inning, gotta like that.  He’s a little over 2:1 strikeout-to-walk, which isn’t the greatest, but it’s far from terrible.  Opposing batters hit .229 off of him, which is very good.  His OPS against is under .650.

I mean, seriously!  What more do you want out of the guy?  He’s durable, he’s good to go pretty much whenever you need him.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard any sort of variation on the phrase, “Medina isn’t available in today’s game because he’s pitched too many days in a row.”  He’s a 2-year pro whose ERA is below three in both years.  Even by more advanced metrics, he’s not bad.  So, why all the hate?

Fuck if I know.  He does tend to be a little wild sometimes.  He’s not quite Fernando Rodney Experience levels of cardiac arrest, but he’ll certainly raise the ol’ blood pressure from time to time.

When I look at a reliever, though, I like to look at meltdowns.  Is he going to be awesome for a while and then go all Brandon League on you?  That’s not good.  If you count ’em out, though, of his 66 appearances in 2014, he gave up at least one run only 12 times.  So, in 18% of his appearances, he’s giving up a run.  Granted, when he’s going in higher leverage situations, those runs tend to mean a little more.  But, I would venture to say of those 12 games where he gave up at least one run, he wasn’t the sole reason why we lost most of those.  Relievers can give up a run here and there and not have it bite them in the ass.

For my money, he’s young, he throws hard, he strikes people out; that’s worth him getting into and out of a few jams every now and then.

Outlook for 2015:  A lot of my talk yesterday was about how the Mariners are destined to trade a reliever or two for hitting help.  I’d venture to say Medina – along with Wilhelmsen – is probably on the lower end of the rankings.  My point being:  get used to seeing his mug come out of the bullpen on the reg in 2015.  And, if I’m right about Farquhar, Maurer, and/or Leone getting shipped off, that will only strengthen LMC’s resolve on using Medina in the 8th inning.  If he stays healthy, I’d bank on him being his usual, reliable, sometimes-scary self.

Hector Noesi – I want to say Noesi was out of options and that’s why he made the Mariners out of Spring Training.  I mean, his numbers were okay, but when you compare them to the rest of his Mariners career, I don’t think any fan thought he DESERVED to be here.

On April 2nd, he pitched an inning of relief in Anaheim, giving up 2 runs in a single inning.  It was a blowout Mariners victory, so people let it slide.

Then, on April 3rd, he came into a tie game in the bottom of the 12th down in Oakland.  He threw two pitches to Coco Crisp, the second of which was a game-winning home run.  Considering we missed out on the playoffs by 1 game to those very same Oakland A’s, you COULD say Hector Noesi is the reason why we fell short.

He moved on to the Rangers and made three appearances.  In his final appearance, against the White Sox, Noesi went a single inning and gave up 7 runs.  Fuck if I know what they saw, because after the Rangers released him the following day, the White Sox would go on to pick him up and pitch him less than a week later.  Noesi eventually cracked the White Sox’s rotation (because shit went very VERY wrong for that organization in 2014) and did all right.

He even got to start against the Mariners twice.  The White Sox would win both games (1-0 over in Chicago, 2-1 in Seattle), while Noesi combined to throw 14 innings, giving up 10 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, while striking out 9 and walking only 3.

If this is the point where you kill yourself, I totes understand.

Outlook for 2015:  Who the fuck cares?  Fuck that guy!

James Paxton – Paxton made 4 starts in September of 2013 and really plowed through the competish.  With that, he factored into the battle for the starting rotation in 2014 and easily won a job.  He made two starts, winning both, and then had to be shut down with a strained lat muscle.

He was only supposed to miss a few weeks to a month, but he didn’t actually make his Major League return until August thanks to a number of setbacks.  Once he got his strength back, he was the stud we’ve all come to expect (for the most part).

Outlook for 2015:  Definite front-runner for a rotation spot once again.  Will he be able to stay healthy?  Hopefully, the organization figured out what was wrong and how to avoid it in the future.  The sky is the limit with this kid if he can stay healthy.  Best-case scenario is:  he turns into a legitimate #2 starter behind Felix one day.  The sooner that day comes, the better our chances at making the post-season.

Stephen Pryor – Pryor flashed onto the scene in the later parts of 2012 and showed a rocket arm with closer-type stuff.  He figured to be a staple of our bullpen in 2013, but got injured.  All sorts of shoulder-type stuff.  That carried over into 2014.  He made a single appearance, on July 9th, giving up an unearned run.  I think he was called up to be a warm body (kinda like Luetge) to eat a couple innings.  In the end, he was sent back down and eventually traded to the Twins for Kendrys Morales.

Outlook for 2015:  It looked like he lost quite a bit off of his fastball.  He never did make any appearances for the Twins after he was traded, so that leads me to believe he’s still working his way back in the minors.  Hope he gets his stuff back; seemed like a good enough guy.

Erasmo Ramirez – Every year, from 2012 onward, we’ve had high hopes for this kid.  Good control, nice change up.  But, he throws a very straight, hittable ball.  And, sometimes he loses that control that’s his bread & butter.  Once that happens, he’s one of the ugliest pitchers you’ll ever watch.

He made 14 starts for the Mariners in 2014 (17 appearances overall).  With Iwakuma out, Ramirez made the rotation out of Spring Training.  He proved to be unreliable and eventually lost his job to Brandon Maurer (who proved to be even worse).  He re-entered the rotation in June, when he managed to more-or-less put up zeroes, but also couldn’t go deep into games because who could trust him to?  It was all spot starts after that, whenever we wanted to push guys back or otherwise give them extra rest.

Outlook for 2015:  Fodder for Tacoma, with Emergency Starter potential.  If he makes the rotation out of Spring Training again, something has gone horribly wrong (again).

Fernando Rodney – Meet your new Single-Season Saves Leader in Franchise History!

48 baby!  Hot dog!  Only 3 blown saves!  Gee willikers!  19 out of 69 games where he gave up at least 1 run!  Actually, that’s not the best figure in the world.

They don’t call it the Fernando Rodney Experience for nothing.

10.31 K’s per 9.  He’s got that fastball that runs anywhere from 93-99 miles per hour.  He’s got that change up that runs in the low 80s.  He’s got batters in between those two speeds MOST of the time.  And, every once in a while, he has a gnarly little meltdown.

Whatever you do, don’t bring him into the 9th inning of a tie game.  You WILL be losing that shit in short order.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s signed for one more season.  Another $7 million.  If we get similar production to what we got in 2014, he’ll be worth every penny.  If he takes even a modest step back, it could be a real trainwreck for the senses.  I’m fairly confident he’ll be what we expect him to be, but I make no guarantees.

Carson Smith – Nine games, all in September.  He would’ve been here sooner, but our Major League bullpen was kicking too many asses and taking too many names.  There was a roster crunch that got even crunchier when Brandon Maurer discovered 6 extra MPH on his fastball.

What we saw out of Smith, however, shows me this is the real fucking deal.  In those 9 games, he threw 8.1 innings (in a playoff chase, I might add!  In some pretty serious moments!), gave up 0 runs, 2 hits, struck out 10, and walked only 3.  Lots of movement on his hard fastball, with a wicked slider.

Outlook for 2015:  Theoretically, he could be another one of those Trade Chip guys, but teams generally like to have proven commodities.  I mean, these were the first 9 appearances of his Major League career!  I think he stays for that reason alone.  And, he’s the reason why I wouldn’t be absolutely heartbroken if we lost a Farquhar or a Maurer.  He can easily slide right in there as a 7th or 8th inning set up guy.  Eventually?  Another future closer, if he stays healthy.

Taijuan Walker – Another guy who got a September call-up in 2013.  Another guy who looked good during his cup of coffee.  Another guy who figured to be in the rotation battle in Spring Training 2014.  And, another guy who got injured and missed a significant portion of the year.

We might thank that injury for his still being here.  As, you have to figure it sapped some of his value from around the league.  You never know, if he was healthy and dominating, maybe it’s Walker who we trade at the deadline for a super-amazing, non-Kendrys bat.

I wish I could look into some alternate dimension where Iwakuma, Paxton, and Walker were all healthy out of Spring Training and healthy for the duration of the year.  What would’ve happened to the 2014 Mariners in this universe?  Could’ve been fucking amazing, if you ask me.

Shoulder impingement.  Had him shut down in Spring Training and didn’t allow him to return to the Majors until the end of June.  He made three sporadic starts before September, but spent the majority of the year down in Tacoma.  Working on his arm strength, and later working on his control.  He returned in September and looked much better, closing out his regular season with an 8-inning, 1-run game against the Blue Jays that we ended up losing 1-0 (essentially the nail in the coffin to our season, though we did finish with four straight victories to come within a game of a play-in game to the play-in game).

Outlook for 2015:  They stuck Walker down in the Arizona Fall League to get some work in.  By all accounts, he’s looked great.  He’ll be back in Spring Training fighting for a rotation spot.  If all goes according to plan, your 2015 rotation will look like this:  Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Walker, Elias.  But, then again, when does anything ever go according to plan?  Count on the Mariners bringing in a veteran or two to fight for the final rotation spot, so nothing will be handed to Walker.  But, if he’s got his head on straight and puts in the work necessary to make it, he should be fine.

Tom Wilhelmsen – He took over as closer in 2012 for the displaced Brandon League.  He lost his job as closer in 2013, suffering from Brandon League disease.  People wondered if he’d be traded prior to 2014.  People wondered if he’d even make the Big League roster out of Spring Training.

Not only did he make it, but he earned the trust of LMC to the point that he was THE guy behind Rodney.  He rewarded that trust by having a pretty mediocre April.  Calls for his head soon followed, but you know what?  Instead of doing what these relievers normally do – totally implode until they’ve been DFA’d or traded for a bag of baseballs – he figured his shit out and had a nice little 2014 season!

Wilhelmsen was lights out from May until the very end of September (for the record, the entire bullpen was lights out from May until the very end of September, hence the reason why we lost so many games towards the end there).  He ceded his 8th inning duties to Medina & Farquhar, but he earned something a little more important:  long relief & the occasional spot start on Bullpen Days.

He was made for this role, so I’m glad it’s clicked.  There’s been chatter here and there about him converting back into a starter, but I doubt it’ll happen.

Outlook for 2015:  I think he’ll be right here, doing what he did in 2014.  It’ll be nice to have him back (never would’ve caught myself saying that at the end of 2013).

Chris Young – The Mariners signed Randy Wolf to a minor league contract heading into Spring Training.  He was given a legitimate chance to win a rotation spot thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness out of some of our younger guys (Maurer, Beavan, others).

Scott Baker was another guy the Mariners signed prior to Spring.  He was ALSO given a legitimate opportunity at cracking the starting rotation.  He ended up being pretty awful in his four starts and asked for his release (since we weren’t ready to anoint him the starter, he used an opt-out clause in his deal).  This opened the door wide open for Wolf, who wasn’t a WHOLE lot better in his five spring starts, but it beat going into the season with AAA guys.

But, here’s the rub:  the Mariners asked Wolf to sign a contract with a clause that stated if the Mariners waived him after 45 days, they wouldn’t have to pay his full $1 million salary.  Randy Wolf threw a hissy fit (over what was a pretty standard clause for guys in his position) and refused, also asking for his release.  It was so granted.

Meanwhile, Chris Young was fighting for a spot with the Washington Nationals.  Prior to the season, the Nationals traded for Doug Fister (remember him?), and thus no longer had an opening for Young.  Young was released and the Mariners signed him.

He went ahead and agreed to the contract with the 45-day clause.  He was not only rewarded with a rotation spot for almost the full season (he broke down a bit towards the end and was benched), but he very well should be the frontrunner for Comeback Player of the Year.  AND, he probably rejuvenated his career to the point that, in 2015, he’ll get a guaranteed contract (and MAYBE even a multi-year deal).

Young’s first appearance of the year was out of the bullpen.  This was to build up some innings, as he’d had a gap between his release from the Nats and his pickup by the M’s.  His next 29 appearances were all starts, as injuries and ineffectiveness reared their heads.

3.65 ERA, 12-9 record, 108 strikeouts in 165 innings, with only 143 hits and 60 walks.  All of this after many years in the baseball wilderness.  Before 2014, he hadn’t made 29 starts since 2007.  Indeed, he missed ALL of 2013.  Comeback Player of the Year?  I think so.

Outlook for 2015:  My guess is, he’ll command more money elsewhere.  It’s also my hope, because I don’t think he’s going to catch this lightning in a bottle twice.  It was nice having him here, it was nice watching him fight the regression dragon as long as humanly possible, but I’ve seen the 83 MPH fastball and the damage done.  If he’s not inducing weak infield pop-ups, he’s getting crushed.  Pity the team that overpays him in 2015.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Pitchers, Part I

Turns out there’s A LOT more to say about the 2014 Mariners than I originally thought.  Anyway, last week I wrote about all the position players used by the Mariners throughout the season.  It turned out to be a massive, 7,000+ word monstrosity that took over four hours to write and had to be split over three days.

This one figures to be a lot somewhat shorter simply because we used a total of 24 different position players and only 20 pitchers.  Here’s to me keeping this to a modest TWO posts!

(Part II tomorrow)

In case you missed it, here’s the breakdown of the hitters from last week:

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about the pitchers.

Blake Beavan – On April 15th, Blake Beavan made his one and only appearance for the Seattle Mariners in 2014.  It was a start (presumably because we lost Paxton to injury a few days earlier, and because Iwakuma was still a couple weeks away from making his debut, and because we still weren’t too confident in Maurer’s abilities – but would have to be five days later because injuries), and he lasted four innings.  In those four innings, he gave up two solo home runs and we all thought he was being pulled due to ineffectiveness.  It would later be revealed that Beavan had a shoulder injury that kept him out until July.  After that, it looks like he finished the year in relief, down in Tacoma, going no more than 2.2 innings per appearance the rest of the way.

Outlook for 2015:  I honestly have no idea.  I mean, I have some idea:  he won’t be playing for the Mariners.  Presumably, he still has options left, so I’m going to say he’ll be in Tacoma to start.  But, will he BE a starter?  Not gonna lie to you, once Beavan went on the DL, all the Beavan news sort of dried up.

Joe Beimel – One of the lesser-heralded moves made by the Mariners ahead of the 2014 season.  Beimel didn’t cost much, he won a job out of Spring Training, and he was easily the most-effective lefty out of the bullpen.  He’s a 14-year veteran who didn’t pitch in the Majors in 2012 & 2013 due to injuries and – I’m guessing – ineffectiveness.

This year, he appeared in 56 games, almost exclusively as a lefty-on-lefty specialist.  45 innings, 2.20 ERA, not a bad little year all told.  I sure as shit liked him more than the wild and erratic Charlie Furbush.

Outlook for 2015:  I could see the Mariners signing him again, but not if he’s going to cost an arm and a leg.  I don’t know how many lefty relievers the Mariners have coming up the pike, but I’m pretty certain we can find one on the cheap somewhere.  This is the same management group that found a diamond in the rough the last few years with guys like Beimel and Oliver Perez.  There’s no reason to think that won’t continue.  I’m giving him a 33.333% chance of returning.  But, he’ll certainly get a guaranteed contract from SOMEONE.

Roenis Elias – Probably the biggest feel-good story of the Mariners organization in 2014.  Cuban defector, made the leap from AA to the Bigs in one Spring Training, AND pretty much made it through the whole season!

29 starts, 163.2 innings, 143 K’s, 64 BB’s, 3.85 ERA, 10-12 record.  All good stuff.

(also, I forgot about his 5-shutout-inning start in Tacoma in August when the Mariners sent him down to limit his overall innings count)

He made his final start on September 16th, where he had to leave early with an elbow strain.  The team – in the middle of a Wild Card chase – rightly played it safe and shut him down.  The best part of his rookie season was probably how he didn’t really slump.  He’d have 2-3 bad outings in a row, but not very often; and he always found a way to bounce back.  And, while the team tried to limit his innings per start, if you discount the final game where he left injured, he failed to go five innings only three times all year.

His most obvious high point was the June 1st start at home against Detroit where he went the full nine, shutting them out on 3 hits, with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts.  He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s a lefty with good control and a wicked curve.  When he has his change up working, he’s tough to beat.  And, considering he turned 26 in August, his poise is off the charts.  No jam is too overwhelming.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s certainly earned the right to be a frontrunner for a starting rotation spot.  I’d slide him right in after Felix, Iwakuma, and Paxton as a fourth starter (though, for purposes of splitting up the lefties, you’ll probably see him in the 5-hole).  He pitched 148.1 minor league innings in 2012 and 130 more in 2013, so you have to wonder whether the Mariners will let him go hog-wild in 2015 or not.  It might be unfair to expect him to go 200+ next year, but I could easily see him in the 180-200 range.  Here’s to hoping that elbow issue is nothing and he’s right as rain from the get-go.

Danny Farquhar – Aside from a small number of bad outings, Danny Farquhar was arguably the best reliever on the team all season long.  And yet, it took LMC and Co. a while before they realized it and used him in high leverage situations.

Just another hard-throwing righty in a bullpen full of ’em.  Good movement on his fastball, great cutter, and some nice control with his offspeed stuff.  While Lloyd would interchange him, Medina, and Wilhelmsen in that 8th inning role (because, quite frankly, all three of them got the job done for the most part), it was Farqhuar who earned the role of defacto closer whenever Rodney was unable to go.  Love to see that.

Outlook for 2015:  Should be another year of lockdown relief.  I could see the bad kind of regression out of guys like Wilhelmsen, Medina, Leone, Rodney, and pretty much anyone else in that bullpen.  But, for whatever reason, I have the utmost confidence that Farquhar will be our rock.  That having been said, he could also be one of the better trade chips we have, if we decided to work out a blockbuster deal for a bat or something.  It would hurt to lose Danny, but you have to like the thought process behind such a move (the thought process being:  the Mariners have a ton of relievers that could easily step up and keep our bullpen intact and dominating).

Charlie Furbush – Furbush had the 2nd-most appearances of anyone on the pitching staff, but the 7th-most innings pitched among relievers (not counting Maurer, who only pitched around 37 innings of relief, with the rest of his innings in that ill-advised starter role).  Furbush was, like Beimel, mostly a lefty specialist.  Unlike Beimel, he was used more often because we wanted to keep Beimel’s appearances down (given his, shall we say, “advanced years”).

Furbush was also probably the least-effective reliever on the team, among the relievers who were with us the full year.  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s feast or famine with Furbush.  Which was kind of a bummer because I remember him being a lot more effective in 2013.  Of course, he wasn’t ACTUALLY “a lot” more effective last year, but perceptions can be tricky.

Furbush is who he is.  He’s got a dynamic arm angle which should make it tough on any lefty trying to hit off of him.  But, he doesn’t really have dramatic splits:

  • Vs. Lefty:  79 AB, .241 avg against, .277 OBP, .594 OPS
  • Vs. Righty:  83 AB, .253 avg against, .315 OBP, .701 OPS

That comes out to a difference of 5 more walks to righties and 2 more homers (with 1 fewer double).  His career splits are much more in line with expectations, but you have to factor in how he was a starter to begin his career.

Outlook for 2015:  He’ll almost certainly be back, and be right back in that lefty specialist role in the bullpen.  Since relievers tend to be wildly inconsistent from year to year, the odds are just as good that he’ll be super amazing or fucking terrible.  Maybe just bank on him being what he’s been the last two years as a full-time Major League reliever and keep your eyes shut during the scary parts.  I’ll tell you when you can open your eyes again.

Felix Hernandez – Our little Cy Young winner!

34 starts.  27 quality starts.  236 innings.  15-6 record.  170 hits.  248 strikeouts.  46 walks.  6.8 WAR.  0.92 WHIP.  2.14 ERA.

He led the American League in ERA and WHIP.  Second in Innings Pitched and WAR among pitchers.  Fourth in strikeouts.  Among pitchers who went 200 innings or more, he gave up BY FAR the fewest hits (next lowest was 187).  And the fifth-fewest walks.

Oh yeah, and he had those 16 consecutive starts where he went 7 or more innings AND gave up 2 runs or less, breaking the Major League all-time record.  SIXTEEN!  From May 18th through August 11th, he was by far and away the best pitcher in the American League and probably all of baseball.  That’s not to say he was dogging it those other 18 starts, but that kind of consistency is fucking amazing and deserves to be recognized.

If Felix didn’t already have that one Cy Young Award to his name, I’m sure I’d throw the biggest hissy-fit of all time if he doesn’t win it this year.  But, regardless, it’ll be a pretty sizable hissy-fit if he gets edged out.  Thankfully, the fact that he already has one is actually a good thing.  Baseball Writers who vote for these things are nothing if not sheep.  Felix is a name.  He’s understood as being one of the greats in the game today.  Moreover, he’s a good guy, who played for a good team, who came 1 game short of the playoffs.  Corey Kluber is NOT a name.  He’s a guy no one ever heard of outside of Cleveland until this year.  If he wins the Cy Young, then they should also go back and retroactively give the MVP to A-Rod over Juan Gonzalez in 1996, because that shit was some BULLshit.

Felix was pretty great in 2010 when he won, but this year he was WITHOUT QUESTION even better.  His 2014 was the best season of his career so far.  I hope everyone enjoyed it.

Outlook for 2015:  The Ace of the team.  He’s here for the duration.  He might not be a Cy Young winner, but he’ll be pretty fucking awesome and still among the best pitchers in the game.

Hisashi Iwakuma – Kuma fucked up the middle finger on his throwing hand when he got it caught in some netting while practicing a baseball drill.  As a result, he didn’t make his first start for the Mariners until May 3rd.  He was a little up and down in those first couple months, then settled down in July and August to be his usual remarkable self.  Then, he completely fell apart in September and absolutely could not be counted on to keep us in ballgames.

From August 24th onward, Kuma made seven starts.  He averaged less than five innings per start, going 32 innings total; and he averaged 4 runs per start, giving up 28 in total.  He gave up 40 hits in those innings, to go along with 9 walks, and boy did other teams take advantage of those hits & walks!

I find it hard to believe that’s a trend with him, because in 2013 his September ERA was under 1.  And that was a year where he DIDN’T miss a month of the season to injury!  My thinking is:  it’s just one of those things, and you just hope it doesn’t carry over to next year.

Overall, I still think Kuma is a rock solid #2 starter.  His 2014 was good for the most part, but considering the start and the finish, we all might be better off just forgetting it even happened.

Outlook for 2015:  The team will most definitely pick up his $7 million option.  So, that’s cool.  We get another legit #2 starter for a VERY reasonable salary.  The question going forward is:  what do we do long-term?  It looked like – after his 2012 season where he came on strong in the second half once his arm got right – he could’ve commanded quite the bounty on the open market.  The fact that we got him for essentially 3 years, $21 million, was quite the shock.  And, it still is, to tell you the truth.  I think he’s still got some good mileage left on his arm, so I wouldn’t be against another 3-year extension if the terms are right.

Dominic Leone – 16th round draft pick in the 2012 draft.  He’s been great every step of the way.

He played in Everett in 2012, then spent the duration of 2013 in the minors, going from A to AA, dominating all the way.  Then, sure as shit, he continued his ass-kicking parade in Spring Training this year, which earned him a role on the Mariners that he never gave up.

He was never really a guy the team turned to in the 8th inning of a winning ballgame, but he certainly earned higher-leverage situations as the season went along.  And, I’m looking at his numbers here, and I can only count 2, maybe 3 bad outings all year, out of 57 appearances.

By WAR, he was the second-best reliever on the team behind Wilhelmsen of all people.  He had the fourth-highest K/9 among relievers who stuck with the Mariners the full season.  And he somehow finished with an 8-2 record out of the bullpen, which is meaningless but still kinda fun.

Hard-throwing righty with good movement.  Obviously, his secondary pitches were pretty solid, if he managed to stick the full season.  Best of all, I never really felt all that nervous with him on the mound.  Considering he had this much success as a rookie tells me if he can stay healthy, he’s got a long, fruitful career ahead of him.

Outlook for 2015:  He should be back in the bullpen for the full go, but like Farquhar, he’s got a lot of value as a trade chip.  In fact, among the relievers on this team, he’s probably got the MOST value.  He’s got the full season under his belt, he was great this season, and among our Major League relievers, he’s got the most service time left.  Leone by himself could probably fetch us a semi-quality bat.  Package him with another guy or two and you could theoretically wrangle away a great hitter for the next year or two.  If I’m being honest with myself, I give it 2:1 odds that Leone is traded for someone awesome.  But, if he’s back, you could be looking at a future closing candidate when Fernando Rodney moves on.

Lucas Luetge – He made 12 appearances.  8 were in September.  The rest were sprinkled around in April and July as extra bullpen help during lean times where we had to go to the ‘pen quite a bit.

It’s hard to say Luetge was much more than a warm body, but then again he wasn’t given much of a chance.  We plucked him from Milwaukee in 2012 in the Rule 5 draft and he stuck that whole year with the club.  Since 2013, he’s been up and down from Tacoma, with middling results.  It’s tough, because he’s been more-or-less pretty good down in AAA, but it hasn’t quite carried over when he’s been called up.

Outlook for 2015:  He needs to refine his command and control.  He’ll contend for a Major League roster spot, but anything could happen.  If he’s great in Spring, he’ll most likely make it.  But, if we bring in a veteran on a small deal who also pitches well, we may opt to keep the vet & save Luetge down in the minors in the event of injury.  Either way, you WILL see him at some point in a Mariners uniform (unless, again, he’s thrown into a deal with another club, which could happen to almost any of our relievers).

Brandon Maurer – The Mariners drafted Maurer in 2008 in the 23rd round.  In 2012, he was in AA and earning comparisons to our Big 3 (Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker).  He earned so many comparisons, that we had to temporarily amend it to the Big 4 and put him in it!

In 2013, Maurer was the first of the Big 4 to break through.  Like Roenis Elias, he too made the jump from AA to the Bigs with an outstanding Spring Training.  He started for us for the first two months, generated an ERA near 7, and was demoted to Tacoma.  When he returned later that year, he was mostly used in relief and was mostly not at all good.  His 2013 in general was pretty pisspoor.

In 2014, Maurer did NOT earn a roster spot out of Spring.  But, injuries to Iwakuma, Paxton, and the aforementioned Blake Bevan left us desperate.  Maurer made his first Big League start on April 20th.  He would continue to make starts through the end of May and for the most part looked like his crappy 2013 self.

So, he was sent down to Tacoma again.

While in Tacoma, the organization decided to make him a full-time reliever.  Quite honestly, this has to go down as one of the Top 10 All Time Greatest Decisions The Seattle Mariners Have Ever Made.

Maurer returned on June 25th.  From what I recall, the Mariners didn’t necessarily NEED him at that time, but what they were getting from him in Tacoma was too good to deny.  Upon his return, he was consistently hitting the upper-90s with his fastball (whereas, he was in the mid-to-low 90s as a starter).  His slider was breaking like we haven’t seen around these parts since the heyday of Jeff Nelson.  He even found control of his change up that had eluded him throughout the duration of his time as a starter!  It’s one thing to gain some MPH on your fastball when you convert to a reliever, but how in GOD’S NAME do you mysteriously figure out your change up in the blink of an eye?

Maurer didn’t give up a run until his 11th relief appearance.  A stretch of 15 straight innings!  On the whole, his splits are blowing my mind:

  • As A Starter:  151 plate appearances over 7 games.  7.52 ERA, 1.21 strikeouts to walks, .321 avg against, .880 OPS, 4.7 K/9 innings, 1.763 WHIP
  • As A Reliever:  150 plate appearances over 31 games.  2.17 ERA, 7.60 strikeouts to walks, .217 avg against, .535 OPS, 9.2 K/9 innings, 0.964 WHIP

Are you kidding?  Those numbers aren’t just Night & Day, they’re Night & Oranges!

Outlook for 2015:  You could make the argument that Brandon Maurer was the best reliever on the team in the second half of this year (Carson Smith might have something to say about that, but we’ll get to him in due time).  Like Leone and Farquhar, you’ll find Maurer high on the Trade Chip list.  I’m telling you, at least ONE of those three WILL be traded before the 2015 season starts.  It just makes good sense.  If the Mariners are dead set on keeping Paxton and Walker, then the bullpen arms are the next-best pieces we have to move.  Or, at least, the next-most-desirable.  If he’s not traded, then he’ll be duking it out with Medina, Wilhelmsen, and whoever’s left for those coveted 8th innings.

Look for Part II tomorrow.

Random Thoughts of the Week 5 Mariners

Running out of different combinations of titles for these weekly posts …

There were five games played in the last week, thanks to a New York rainout.  The Mariners went 4-1, losing on Friday when Felix and the bullpen didn’t really have their best stuff.

Things are looking up since that 8-game losing streak.  Let me be one of many who have already brought this up, but the Mariners have gone 7-2 since that losing streak, and both losses were the Felix starts.  The Mariners kick off week 6 one game under .500.  I’ve been thinking about it and this is probably as good as it gets.  The Mariners are, as presently constructed, around a .500 team.  If they can SOMEHOW stay around .500 through the rest of the month, we’re looking at a POSSIBLE best-case-scenario type of thing.

As I’ve talked about repeatedly, this starting rotation isn’t going to do it.  The Mariners have too many long-reliever types (Maurer, Young, Ramirez) starting games for us, and zero long-reliever types in the actual bullpen where they’re needed.  This bullpen has been pretty shoddily used, but it’s also done a tremendous job given the circumstances.

Take out Felix & Roenis Elias and the rest of our starters have combined for 69.1 innings over 14 starts, which amounts to LESS than 5 innings per start.  Hell, if you throw Elias into the mix, you’re still talking about 104.1 innings over 20 starts, which is just a little over 5 innings per start.  I mean, say what you will about the bullpen, but they have been seriously overworked.  Seriously overworked WITHOUT a long reliever in the unit.

Now, obviously, Chris Young won’t be going anywhere.  If nothing else, he could be a valued long man if Paxton & Walker manage to return this season.  That’ll be nice to have, because it’ll mean Maurer and Ramirez will remain down in AAA where they belong.  And, it’ll be nice because, obviously, we’ll have Paxton & Walker back, and they should be vast improvements over the alternative.

In other news, Iwakuma returned over the weekend and did pretty well.  He pitched into the seventh inning, kept us in it, and got the win.  HUGE boost to the team; here’s to hoping that he sticks around for the rest of the season.

Robinson Cano is still a godsend.

Michael Saunders has been on quite the hot streak over the last week and change.  You still don’t want to see him in the everyday lineup long term, but it couldn’t hurt riding this out while he has the scorching bat.

Abraham Almonte was sent down after yesterday’s game.  To start the season, the good out-weighed the bad with him, but over the last 3-4 weeks, he’s been pretty much a disaster.  Considering he never really did all that much in Spring Training (yet, somehow earned daily starts in center and at the top of the lineup), I can’t imagine him returning to the Major Leagues any time soon.  I don’t know what the team saw in him to give him so many chances, but you’re not going to win too many games on “potential”.

Someone I do see some potential in is Stefen Romero.  He’s not necessarily rocking my socks off or anything, but he’s steadily gotten more playing time and is starting to look more comfortable at the plate.  In the last 7 games he’s played in, he’s 7 for 27 with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 5 runs scored and an RBI.  Again, they’re not the best numbers I’ve ever seen, but I’d like to see him get some steady playing time through the rest of this month to see what he’s got.  He passes the eyeball test as a guy who will get on base and will hit for a little pop.  At the very least, he’s not a guy the other teams will feel the need to pull a defensive shift on (words can’t describe how tired I am of the shift; why can’t these batters just hit the ball the other way once in a while?).

Charlie Furbush is terrible.  He had a good year last year, which goes to show just how wild relievers will vary from season to season.  He looks like another one of those guys who doesn’t know where the ball is going to end up when it leaves his hand.  He also throws a very flat ball, which can’t be too terribly difficult to hit.  His ERA in the month of May after two appearances is infinity.  The manager has clearly lost some confidence in him, but what can we do?  Lucas Luetge is no better.  I don’t even know who we have beyond that in our bullpen.

Someone mind telling me again why we didn’t re-sign Oliver Perez?  He ended up signing a 2-year deal for a little over $4 million TOTAL with the Diamondbacks.  You’re telling me we couldn’t have gone 2 years, $5 million?  Hell, in the month of May alone, he’s infinity better than Furbush, and Perez hasn’t really been all that good this year!

Sometimes, I get the feeling that this Mariners front office doesn’t know what the fuck it’s doing, but maybe it’s just me.

The Encouraging Small Sample Size Of The 2014 Mariners Bullpen

Six guys on the Mariners have a 0.00 ERA right now.  All of those guys have come out of the bullpen to do so (Chris Young will switch to being a starter in this weekend’s series against Oakland).  Six guys, ranging from 1-4 appearances, totalling 17.2 innings, have given up zero runs while walking 9, giving up another 7 hits, and striking out a whopping 19 batters.

The others in the bullpen aren’t too shabby either.  All told, the bullpen has given up 5 earned runs over 25.2 innings, walking 13, giving up 14 hits, and striking out 29.  But, here’s the thing:  that includes Hector Noesi’s never-should-have-been-here-in-the-first-place ass.  Take away his brutal numbers, and this has been your Mariners bullpen through the first eight games:

24.2 innings, 13 walks, 12 hits, 2 earned runs, and 27 strikeouts.

That’s a 0.73 ERA!  Again, it’s only 8 games, and the bullpen performance can change on a dime at any time, but it beats the alternative.

I still have some problems with how certain pieces are being used, but I feel that it will work itself out eventually.  Tom Wilhelmsen seems to have the 8th inning set-up role on lockdown, when really it should belong to Danny Farquhar.  Or, at the very least, go situational.  Tom Wilhelmsen should avoid pitching to left-handed bats at all costs.  And he should NEVER be brought in with runners on base.  I mean, this should be a no-brainer:  Farquhar averaged nearly 13 strikeouts per 9 innings last year!  That’s insane!  He’s on a similar clip this year, while Wilhelmsen sunk to a little under 7 strikeouts per 9 last year, and is not making much of a case that he’s regained that once-dominant out-pitch he flashed in 2011.

I think Wilhelmsen is destined to be a guy who’s on fire one night and a complete trainwreck the next.  That kind of performance deserves to be used exclusively in games where we’re already behind, or already up by a number of runs more than 2.  And it also deserves a very short leash when he starts getting himself into trouble.

I think Yoervis Medina is entirely underrated and mysteriously over-used.  With a lot of our starters struggling to go past 5 or 6 innings, Medina has usually been the first man out of the ‘pen.  Again, this role should probably belong to Wilhelmsen (I tend to waffle between saving him for a less pressure-packed role on the Mariners and sending him down to Tacoma for good, depending on how he has affected my mood that particular day), but I also find it curious that Charlie Furbush isn’t being used more.  He doesn’t throw particularly hard, and that seems to be a prerequisite to getting an abundance of playing time on this team.  Maybe it’ll work itself out over time.  Either way, if I had my druthers, I’d have the bullpen go Medina-Farquhar-Rodney (7th/8th/9th innings), with a lefty sprinkled in depending on matchups and such.

Of course, that’s my preferred rotation RIGHT NOW.  That’ll change when Fernando Rodney inevitably falls off the wagon and starts blowing saves left and right (this WILL happen, it’s only a matter of when).  Never trust a closer who has trouble with his command (and who seemingly NEEDS to be put into a jam in order to ratchet up the intensity required to start pitching effectively).

But, I’m not here to set myself up for easy “I Told You So’s” later.  Right now, I’m just enjoying the ride.  I want the good times to continue for as long as humanly possible.  And, as for the rest of the lads down there – Joe Beimel, Dominic Leone, and Lucas Luetge – we’re cool until you start fucking our shit up.  Beimel seems to be a savvy situational-lefty who should probably never EVER face a right-handed bat (unless he’s turning around a switch-hitter whose preferred side is the left side).  I certainly trust Beimel over Luetge (who seems destined to go back down to Tacoma once we call up our fifth starter for that series in Texas next week).  Dominic Leone is a rookie just getting his first taste.  He’s another hard-throwing righty and so far I dig his style.  Seems to have some good movement out of his breaking pitches, which is always a plus when you’ve got a plus-fastball like he does.

It’s early, but it’s also encouraging.  Here’s to being happy for once about the Mariners’ bullpen.  And, here’s to hoping we don’t need them tonight, with Felix mowing down the A’s.

Predicting The 25-Man Roster For The 2014 Mariners

I guess there’s always room for a surprise or two, but this year feels more established than in recent past seasons.  Which is odd, because with a 40-man roster constructed as such, you’d expect there to be openings EVERYWHERE.

But, ownership seems to like where things are going, so let’s hash it out here.

Your two catchers are Mike Zunino and John Buck.  That’s the easiest position to lock down.  Maybe they split it up 2/3 Zunino and 1/3 Buck or maybe they flip it if Zunino comes out struggling.  Either way, it would take an absolutely abysmal Spring Training for Zunino to be sent directly to Tacoma.

Your starting infield looks like this:

  • Justin Smoak – 1B
  • Robinson Cano – 2B
  • Brad Miller – SS
  • Kyle Seager – 3B

That’s set.  If they don’t end up trading Nick Franklin, he’ll get a cursory shot at short stop, but he won’t win the job and he’ll likely be sent down to Tacoma to be insurance against infield injury.  I don’t know if Smoak has any more options, but again it would take a total cratering in Spring Training for him to not make the team.  He’s seemingly going to get every single opportunity to be this team’s first baseman.

Your reserve infielder is Willie Bloomquist.  Because they didn’t give the guy a 2-year deal only to be cut in Spring Training.  I know he can technically play outfield, but let’s face it:  Bloomquist is the only guy on the team who can play every spot on the infield in a pinch, if guys need a day off or get injured.  You’re not going to put Bloomquist in left field or something so he can throw out his shoulder.

Your best set of defensive outfielders are these three guys:

  • Dustin Ackley
  • Michael Saunders
  • Franklin Gutierrez

You’ll notice I didn’t say “Your Starting Outfield”, because in all likelihood, these three guys won’t be starting too many games together.

Because you’ve got these First Base/Designated Hitter Types Who Will Be Shoe-Horned Into The Outfield:

  • Corey Hart
  • Logan Morrison
  • Nelson Cruz (?)

At this point, I’m just going to write in Nelson Cruz as a Mariner until I see he’s signed with another team.  It’s so far beyond a foregone conclusion, I’m already counting down the days until this team finally cuts him.

To be fair, I don’t know a whole lot about Hart or Morrison defensively.  I only know what I’ve heard and what I’ve read, which doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.  It sounds like Corey Hart will be our DH at least half the time, and the team will throw him into the field and have a rotating DH the other half of the time.

And, that’s it.  Those are your 13 position players.  You’ve got your nine players who will likely get the most playing time (this is also my predicted everyday – or mostly everyday – batting lineup):

  1. Brad Miller – SS
  2. Michael Saunders – CF
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Kyle Seager – 3B
  5. Nelson Cruz – RF
  6. Corey Hart – DH
  7. Logan Morrison – LF
  8. Justin Smoak – 1B
  9. Mike Zunino – C

And your bench:

  • John Buck – C
  • Dustin Ackley – OF
  • Willie Bloomquist – INF
  • Franklin Gutierrez – OF

Obviously, if the team somehow passes on Nelson Cruz, that’s going to open up a lot more playing time for Guti.  And, a week later, when he gets injured, that’ll open up a lot more playing time for Ackley.

If I have to predict a Cruz replacement among those already on the 40-man roster, I’ll pick Abraham Almonte.  But, I have a feeling, in spite of what will be a raging Spring Training out of ol’ Abe, this team will do whatever it takes to make sure he starts the season in Tacoma.  Prove me wrong, Mariners!  Prove me wrong!

***

Things will be far more interesting on the pitching side of things (if you consider the pitching side of things on an 80-win baseball team even remotely interesting).  You’ve got your top two starters locked down in Felix & Iwakuma, and your next three spots being divided up among the following pitchers:

  • Taijuan Walker
  • James Paxton
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Scott Baker
  • Blake Beavan
  • Brandon Maurer
  • Hector Noesi

So, if you’re wondering how the 2014 Seattle Mariners are going to fare, look no further than the back 3/5 of the rotation.  Will Taijuan Walker make the leap from Triple-A Stud to Bona Fide Major Leaguer?  If so, that’s a good start, but not nearly enough to guarantee contention.  Really, this team needs both Walker AND Paxton to be everything they were in the final month of 2013, plus a little extra, if it expects to be in a race for the division or a Wild Card spot.  If you’re optimistic, then good for you.  I hope that optimism takes you far in life.

As for me?  I don’t even see it as a guarantee that those two crack the rotation out of Spring Training!

They SHOULD.  They’re clearly more talented than those listed below them.  But, that’s not a guarantee.  Not with this team.  Not with the way things have gone in recent years.

If you want my prediction, here’s the starting rotation I’ve got:

  1. Felix
  2. Iwakuma
  3. Walker
  4. Paxton
  5. Baker

I always defer to the veteran on the minor league deal, because it seems like teams always defer to the veteran on the minor league deal.  Something about how he has experience or something.  Plus, I’ve spent the better part of two years talking up Erasmo Ramirez as a future starter in this league, and every year he proves me wrong by being injured or just flat-out sucking.  For the record, I can theoretically see this team contending with either one of those guys as a 5th starter (assuming, of course, that we get huge bumps out of Walker & Paxton), but obviously all the upside resides with Ramirez.

This Mariners bullpen is the fucking Wild West, but I’m going to do my best to figure things out.

Fernando Rodney will kick off the year as the team’s closer.  Good luck with that.  Keep him away from anyone with a pacemaker.

Danny Farquhar will be your set-up man.  It’s almost more appropriate to have your better reliever as your 8th inning guy, since it seems like more high-leverage situations take place in the 8th inning.

Charlie Furbush and Yoervis Medina will fill in behind Farquhar, depending on whether we need a lefty or a righty.  So, that pushes us to four relievers who I’m pretty confident will make this team out of Spring Training.

Stephen Pryor is clearly the next-best reliever, but he’s recovering from injury and likely won’t be back in pitching shape until May or June.  As such, I’m writing him off completely and hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the All Star Break.

Unless the team makes some more reliever moves between now and April, I like Tom Wilhelmsen to be a long reliever/mop-up guy in blowouts.  And, again, unless the team picks up another situational lefty off of the scrap heap, I like Lucas Luetge in that role.

Which just leaves a spot-starter/long reliever, which I like going to Blake Beavan.  I think the team has sufficiently given up on Beavan ever being a starter for this team (which is nice).  I also think that if Erasmo Ramirez doesn’t crack the starting rotation, they look to keep him starting in Tacoma, to be ready in the instance that one of our Major League starters gets injured or turns ineffective.  I also think that Brandon Maurer gets another crack at being a starter for Tacoma before eventually giving up the ghost and being the reliever we all know him to be.

And that’s that.  To recap, here’s your Starting Nine:

  1. Brad Miller – SS
  2. Michael Saunders – CF
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Kyle Seager – 3B
  5. Nelson Cruz – RF
  6. Corey Hart – DH
  7. Logan Morrison – LF
  8. Justin Smoak – 1B
  9. Mike Zunino – C

Your Bench:

  • John Buck – C
  • Dustin Ackley – OF
  • Willie Bloomquist – INF
  • Franklin Gutierrez – OF

Your Starting Rotation:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Taijuan Walker
  4. James Paxton
  5. Scott Baker

And your Bullpen:

  • Fernando Rodney
  • Danny Farquhar
  • Charlie Furbush
  • Yoervis Medina
  • Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Lucas Luetge
  • Blake Beavan

The Mariners Are Impossibly Thin, With No Depth

You want a reason for the Mariners to stand pat and not trade anybody in the next couple weeks?  This would be Reason #1.

The argument against trading people are many.  The veterans we have aren’t worth a whole helluva lot, which means we wouldn’t get anything back except for middling prospects (see:  Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, etc.).  Right now, the Mariners are going good, and do you REALLY feel like messing with that just to bring back some tryout flunky who will probably be traded or waived within two years?

I’m as realistic as I can be right now; I know the Mariners aren’t playing for anything THIS season.  At best, I’m hoping they end up at or near .500; anything over that mark would be a huge bonus.  As such, I know that anybody we bring in via trade will be someone that likely WON’T help us and won’t make us any better, either this year or in the future.  They will be organizational filler.  I’m tired of organizational filler.  We’ve got an organization FILLED (!) with organizational filler!

Yes, the Mariners are going good right now, but things won’t always be this good.  There’s another lull right around the corner (probably).  How soon that lull arrives, or how debilitating that lull is to our chances of ultimately achieving that .500 goal, all depends on what happens at the Trade Deadline, and what happens with injuries going forward.  A good way to speed up that lull will be to trade away guys like Morales, Ibanez, Joe Saunders, or even Oliver Perez.  Tired of watching this new, exciting brand of Mariners baseball?  Yearning for the duds we’ve seen the past three seasons?  Then, start clamoring for the Mariners to make ill-advised moves.  I’ll be over here, ironically pounding the podium for the status quo (ironic because I’m usually with the rest of you, demanding trades at all costs for players who won’t be around next season anyway).

Concerned about the Mariners?  Then, be concerned about the status of our everyday lineup and our pitching rotation.  This team is thin.  The bench consists of guys like Henry Blanco, Jason Bay, Endy Chavez, and Brendan Ryan.  You don’t mind playing Blanco once or twice a week (at the most) because catchers need off days.  The rest you don’t mind seeing in the occasional spot-start, or as defensive replacements in later innings; but they’re not guys you want to see playing everyday.  We’ve been there, we’ve done that, it didn’t turn out well.

Also, are you looking to shake up the starting rotation?  Well, for starters (!!), no one is going to trade you a fucking thing for Aaron Harang, so just stop it.  STOP IT!  Felix is untouchable (of course) and Iwakuma isn’t going anywhere (we’ve still got him on a cost-effective basis for next year and most likely 2015 as well, on a team option at a reasonable price).  Erasmo Ramirez is someone you hope will be part of the future, so he’s out.  That just leaves Joe Saunders.

Tired of Joe Saunders?  Want to see the team trade him while his stock is high?  OK, I’ll bite.  You know that’s going to create a huge, Grand Canyon-sized hole in the middle of this rotation, right?  Anybody we get back will likely be some triple-A hitter of little value, or a pitching prospect who is not yet ready for the Majors.  That’s what teams in contention give you for guys like Joe Saunders.  They’re not going to give you some young stud you can throw immediately into the rotation; if they had that, they’d keep him and use him instead!  Without Joe Saunders in our rotation, that leaves some pretty sad options:  Blake Beavan (the leader in the clubhouse), Hector Noesi (who, as you can plainly see, is still terrible), James Paxton (who, despite some recent success, still probably isn’t ready for anything more than a September call-up and one or two starts), and that’s about it.  Danny Hultzen is injured and keeps suffering setbacks by the week; I’m putting my Smart Money on him being finished for the season.  Taijuan Walker JUST started pitching in Tacoma a couple weeks ago and is on a strict pitch count.  Even if we bring him up, he’s going to be shut down in about 45 innings or so (he has pitched 84 innings in AA and 21 innings in AAA; reports have him at around 150 innings for 2013 before being shut down).  What is that?  5-8 starts?  Whatever it is, his number of starts is going down by the week.  I’d eat my hat if he becomes Joe Saunders’ replacement.

Yeah, so Blake Beavan for Joe Saunders; that’s what you’re looking at.  Still gung-ho about ridding ourselves of this middle-of-the-road pitcher?  For my money, Saunders is a helluva lot better and more reliable than Beavan.  I’ve seen enough of Beavan to know I never want to see him again.

As for our bullpen, word on the street is Oliver Perez’s days are numbered.  He has the highest value, he’s not our closer anymore, and he’s likely gone after this season; why not, right?

Well, it’s true, Tom Wilhelmsen has seemed to regain his former position as the team’s closer, but does he really inspire a ton of confidence right now?  We’re all still waiting for his strikeout numbers to return; I have a feeling we’ll be waiting until the end of time.  Yoervis Medina has been a pleasant surprise in 35 games thus far.  Charlie Furbush has been used appropriately and has turned out some positive results.  But, after that, it gets pretty dicey.  The aforementioned Noesi is up here because it looks like the Mariners want to stretch Beavan back out to starting.  He’s a terrible pitcher, but he can eat up innings in a blowout, so there you go.  Lucas Luetge is back, but he still can’t get out right handed batters, so he’s usually only good for a third of an inning.  Capps has been sent down to Tacoma for getting torched too often.  Farquhar – after a promising start to his Major League career – has shown why he was so available in that Ichiro trade.  Bobby LaFromboise isn’t anyone I ever want to see again.  Stephen Pryor is working his way back from the 60-day DL and who knows if he will make it back before season’s end?  The other guys are in Tacoma for a reason.

This bullpen, in short, has Perez, Medina, an iffy Wilhelmsen, an iffy Furbush, and that’s it.  If you ask me, I’d like to see Perez stay here and help us win as many games as we can.  He, like everyone else trade-able on this roster, won’t garner much in return.

Getting back to our hitters – and our toothless bench – there isn’t much help on the horizon.  Mike Morse will probably be back pretty soon.  At which point, I guess he goes into a time-share with Ibanez?  Honestly, I don’t know what we do with Morse when he returns.  Ackley seems pretty entrenched in center, Michael Saunders is probably the team’s best defensive outfielder, and Ibanez has been hitting lefties just as good as he’s been hitting righties.  Does Morse’s return spell the end for Jason Bay?  His playing time has diminished to almost nothing since our current outfield incarnation has presented itself as viable.  Does Bay bring anything to the table, aside from being slightly better defensively?

Also, what does this team do if Guti returns?  Part of me hopes he NEVER returns, because what’s the point?  We would have to waive Endy Chavez.  Granted, Chavez isn’t good, but I like what he brings in a very part-time role.  He doesn’t walk, but he gets hits (singles, mostly) and plays solid defense.  As a defensive replacement for Ibanez, you have to like him on the team.  You know, if we waive him for Guti, some contender is going to snap him up and put him on their bench.  Then, a week later, Guti will get hurt again, and where are we?  Welcoming back Carlos Peguero, apparently.

The only guy currently on the 25-man roster I won’t actually miss is Jason Bay.  This team could conceivably also get rid of Brendan Ryan, because Nick Franklin is a serviceable back-up at short stop, and Ackley can always slot back over and play second base if needed.  Other than that, there’s nothing I want to see this team do in trades, nor is there anything I want to have happen as far as health is concerned.  Let us just ride this wave to its conclusion and make whatever moves we feel like making this offseason.

Mariners Make More Moves In An Attempt To Stem The Tide Of Widespread Indifference

Nick Franklin has been called up.  Dustin Ackley has been sent down.  That’s the big story of the day.  Also, Hector Noesi is back up while Lucas Luetge has been sent down, but that’s more of an indictment of the state of our starting rotation right now (hash tag:  shambles) and how much we’ve had to rely on long work out of the bullpen.

So … there you go.  In the last week, the Mariners have sent down two of the biggest disappointments of the season – Ackley & Montero – and they’ve brought up two more soon-to-be disappointments – Triunfel & Franklin.  As far as I can tell, one of two things will happen:

  1. They will get regular starts at second base and short stop, and they will struggle.
  2. They will get regular starts at second base and short stop, they will play reasonably well, giving us all hope that maybe we’ve FINALLY found a prospect or two who will make good on their promise, we will pencil them in as everyday starters, and then like clockwork they will struggle.

Unless you’re new, let me give you a head’s up:  these are the Seattle Mariners.  Nothing ever works out long-term.  Nick Franklin and/or Carlos Triunfel could play the entire rest of this season, they could bat anywhere from .260 to .280 with solid power numbers and not-terrible defensive metrics, we will all sit back and wonder, “Could it really be possible?  Could we have FINALLY found our Middle Infield of the Future?”  Then, they’ll come back next year pencilled in as the #1 & #2 batters in our lineup, and they will suck.  Hard.  They’ll be sent back down and we’ll go through this cycle all over again as Ackley – who will surely show promise in Triple-A – is given yet another chance as we all hope for some fate that is sure to never materialize.

Enjoy it now.  Enjoy the awe and majesty of something new.  Enjoy the feeling of hope and possibility.  Hell, enjoy the increase in offensive production (because these two SURELY can’t be any worse than what we’ve just sent down to Tacoma and DFA’d entirely (Robert Andino, we hardly knew ye)).  And, after the shine has worn off, settle in.  It’s going to be a LONG fucking year where the best players on the team are all on one-year deals.  Ibanez, Morales, Morse, and Bay.  These are the guys keeping this team anywhere NEAR respectability and these are the guys who most likely won’t be on the Mariners in 2014 or 2015.

It’s almost exciting enough for me to take this day off and go to Safeco Field.  But, it’s raining and it’s supposed to continue raining and quite frankly I can’t be bothered.  It’s the end of May and the Mariners are planted firmly in fourth place in the AL West.  Sound familiar?

Then put your little hand in mine / There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb / Babe / I got you babe …