Mr. Dipoto’s Wild Ride

Jerry Dipoto was hired to be Seattle’s general manager on September 28, 2015.  His first major move was claiming Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland on October 19th.  Four days later, he hired Scott Servais to be his manager.  From there, we were off and running in the Jerry Dipoto Era.

He made a lot of moves in the ol’ transactions wire, both large and small.  I tried to pull most of the ones relevant to the 2016 Mariners’ Major League ballclub.  For the purposes of this post, I’m going to go ahead and rank his moves from most impactful to least, with commentary on each.  At the very bottom of the post, I’ll throw in a section with just the transactions in chronological order, so you can see them all lined up in a neat little pile.

Also, if you want to know my overall thoughts on Dipoto’s first year as the GM of the Mariners, you’ll find my closing arguments at the bottom (just before the chronological list of important transactions).  This post has TL;DR written all over it!

12/2/15 – Baltimore Orioles traded C Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for RF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser.

This one feels like cheating, but I’m still putting this at #1 because it’s so laughably lopsided against the Mariners, it harkens back to the Bill Bavasi glory days.  Trumbo was an All Star outfielder on a wild card team who hit 47 homers, 108 RBI, and all around had his best season ever.  Granted, the same problems were still there – a low batting average, a not-great on-base percentage, a shit-ton of strikeouts – but if you’re just talking about the right-handed half of a corner outfield platoon, making just a hair over $9 million, would you rather have his massive bat or Franklin Gutierrez making $2.5 million?  I know we love Guti and all of that, but his defense isn’t all that much better than Trumbo’s, and there’s no comparing the hitting numbers.  Even in a very minor role, Guti still had a down year by his standards.  And, of course, who can forget what we got back in return?  Aside from salary saved (that, as far as I can tell, ended up going to Joaquin Benoit, so *fart noise*), we got a left-handed backup catcher in Steve Clevenger who hardly ever played, then broke a bone in his hand, then said a bunch of racist shit on Twitter, then was suspended for the rest of the year, before ultimately (I’m assuming) being released.  On top of ALL of that, this trade had a direct impact on the standings.  The Orioles probably would’ve made a different move to acquire a power bat, but it almost certainly wouldn’t have been as good.  And, we ended up finishing 3 games behind Baltimore in the wild card.  So, we sent what would become their very best power bat and run producer to our direct rival, who snatched up the final A.L. playoff spot by just a handful of games.  Inauspicious start to say the least.

11/16/15 – Texas Rangers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass to Seattle Mariners for RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, CF James Jones and PTBNL (3B Patrick Kivlehan).

Let’s follow that turd sandwich with the opposite of that (vagina pizza?).  The Rangers ended up signing Ian Desmond on a 1-year, $8 million deal later on in the offseason (leaving me to wonder why we just didn’t fucking do that, but whatever), so I don’t totally understand why they were so keen to let Leonys Martin go, but obviously they didn’t see him in their future plans.  Martin ended up starting for us from day 1, playing a superb centerfield, and even blowing away his season high for homers with 15.  All in all, he was slightly better than we thought he’d be, with two more years of Arbitration to go.  While he’ll never be a superstar, he’s a solid offensive piece and an elite defensive talent.  The fact that we ended up getting back 2/3 of this trade for nothing later in the season is the hilarious part, along with the fact that Wilhelmsen was a dumpster fire while wearing a Rangers uniform (and sort of his usual okay self when the alleged double-agent returned to Seattle), and the fact that James Jones is who we thought he was.  We essentially gave the Rangers nothing and got a starting centerfielder for a minimum of 3 years in return.  Not too shabby.

12/18/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Hisashi Iwakuma.

We all know the story of how the Mariners got Iwakuma back in the fold, but if you don’t know, go here and read this.  What I will say is, to anyone making any sort of argument that the Mariners’ cost-cutting measures helped pave the way for Kuma’s return, you can go fuck yourself, because you’re full of shit.  Those moves were made well before we got Kuma back, and were under the assumption that he was going to go elsewhere for a higher guaranteed contract than we were willing to pay.  The owners, to their credit, opted to make room in the budget to bring him back when the opportunity presented itself, and it paid off pretty well, all things considered.  Without Kuma, things could’ve been A LOT worse (I don’t know if I made that point well enough in that linked post up there, but it’s true; the AAA starting prospects were pretty shabby).

12/14/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Cishek.

Two years, $10 million, plus incentives.  He secured 25 saves and blew 7 of them.  That’s a lot of blown saves in what amounted to a little over half a season’s worth of closing ballgames, particularly for a team that finished 3 games out of the wild card.  Overall, his numbers actually look pretty good on the season, and at times he approached the level of dominance he once had back in 2013.  But, a career-high 8 homers allowed really did him in.  He was pretty dominant against righties, but lefties hit 5 of those 8 homers, in significantly fewer plate appearances.  With him losing his job to Edwin Diaz the way he did, he projects to be an 8th inning set up man in 2017, with an outside chance of regaining his closer’s job should Diaz falter in his Sophomore season.

12/9/15 – Milwaukee Brewers traded 1B Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carlos Herrera, RHP Daniel Missaki and RHP Freddy Peralta.

Meet Adam Lind, your left-handed first baseman platoon partner.  He had a few memorable late-game hits (walk-offs and whatnot), but for the most part Lind was a huge disappointment.  His numbers took a significant dive compared to his career norms, and they never really recovered the way we all hoped.  He was essentially a replacement-level player making $8 million.  On the plus side, we likely didn’t give up anyone special to get him, but suffice it to say, first base is the hole that can never be filled.

7/31/16 – Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade Miley to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda.

12/7/15 – Boston Red Sox traded RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carson Smith and LHP Roenis Elias.

Ahh, the Miley deals.  I ranked the deal sending him away higher than the deal bringing him in for a couple reasons.  For starters, while he spent more time in Seattle doing everything he could to ruin our playoff chances, we were able to deal him to our main rival in Baltimore, where he proceeded to do everything he could to ruin their playoff chances.  We were able to dump salary (and increase theirs), while at the same time getting in return a potential future starter, at a minimum salary, with many years of club control.  On the flipside, those Red Sox really swindled us good!  Though, it had no effect on the 2016 season, as neither Smith nor Elias hardly played at all due to injuries/ineffectiveness.  The decider could be Jonathan Aro – who made all of one appearance with the big league ballclub – but I’d put my money on Carson Smith returning at some point and being a dominant late-game reliever.

11/5/15 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nathan Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and CF Boog Powell.

I downgraded this move mostly for the incomplete/unknown nature of the various players involved.  I will say that Brad Miller ended up hitting 30 homers for Tampa, and playing a decent number of games at first base, leading me to wonder what could have been had we held onto him and Trumbo and either platooned them both at first, or at various positions around the field.  Miller’s overall batting numbers are nothing to write home about, but those homers would’ve looked awfully nice in a Seattle uniform.  In return, we got about half a season out of Karns, who was mostly mediocre.  He’s still a starter with lots of club control, but now he’s injured, and I’d say no news is bad news when it comes to his injury, as it doesn’t appear he’s anywhere close to returning to action.  And, if he does, will he ever make good on his promise?  I’m starting to have my doubts.  The one saving grace might be Boog Powell, but he spent most of 2016 suspended for ‘roids or some damn thing.  Besides, at best he appears to be a 4th outfielder, so all in all, I’d say this is another major trade we got killed in.  It particularly hurts because Brad Miller is cheap, versatile, with lots of club control, and we essentially got back nothing in return.

12/3/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent LF Norichika Aoki.

Aoki signed a 2-year deal, but only 2016 was guaranteed.  His 2017 option would’ve vested at 480 plate appearances, but he only managed 467.  He ended up earning just shy of $6 million this year, but lost out on $6 million next year by 13 PA’s.  He likely would’ve had a lot less, but he ended the last two months absolutely on FIRE at the plate, and we couldn’t sit him.  Even with his finish, I’d say he was a net-negative for this team, considering his defense was pretty galling, and his base running was even worse.  The team already has Seth Smith under club control next year, so I can’t imagine we bring Aoki back unless we deal Smith first.  File this under:  Eh, It Was Worth A Shot.

3/30/16 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Nick Vincent to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.

Faced with a bevy of bullpen injuries in Spring Training, this was an underrated move just before the regular season that ended up paying off.  Until it stopped paying off, like a hot black jack table with a new dealer.  All in all, Nick Vincent was a fine reliever in 2016, but he was savagely over-used, and I can’t really blame Servais for it either, because he didn’t really have a whole lotta options in the first half of the season.  It wasn’t until Dipoto made all of his summer deals when the Mariners could finally cobble together a workable bullpen.  By that point, injuries (directly attributed to said overuse) piled up on Vincent, sending him on a DL stint.  He did return, and was okay, but by that point he was behind a number of superior relievers, which was appropriate.  Vincent should be nobody’s 8th inning guy.  Save him for the blowouts and the extra innings affairs and you’ll be in better shape.

11/23/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent C Chris Iannetta.

He started off hot in April, cooled off in May, and I contend he ended up losing his starter’s job because the team overused him (though, this time I DO blame Servais).  We brought Clevenger in here in that ill-fated Trumbo deal, so why didn’t we use him more?  Was he REALLY that terrible?  If so, why bring him in in the first place?  Seems to me they made a snap judgment in Spring Training, refused to give Clevenger a consistent chance, even though when he did start, he looked pretty okay.  Iannetta, on the other hand, proved to be a pretty big disaster defensively, and his power was drained to zero by the second half of the season.  Now, it’s neither here nor there that Clevenger ended up breaking his hand, opening the door for Mike Zunino’s triumphant return.  All I know is Iannetta is under contract at over $4 million next year, and he figures to be this team’s backup catcher.  Not ideal use of funds.

2/3/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent 1B Dae-ho Lee to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

Oh how I love Dae-ho Lee, let me count the ways!  He started the season by knocking Jesus Montero off the roster, which is always nice.  He secured the right-handed platoon of first base, and ended up by and large outplaying Adam Lind.  On top of that, some early heroics endeared him to the fanbase for all eternity.  But, he did cool off considerably as the season went along, and with that his playing opportunities dwindled.  He spent some time in Tacoma, to regain his swing, but never really made much of an impact in the stretch run.  His defense was a pleasant surprise, and his ability to go the other way kept opposing defenses honest.  Then again, his base running was predictably bad.  But, he was cheap, earning just $1 million, while being worth every penny.  Word is the team wants him back for 2017, and I don’t blame ’em!  I’d like to see him back as well!  I don’t know if he’ll ever be an everyday starter, but I’m curious to see how his game will grow now that he’s got a season’s worth of experience in the Majors.

11/11/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RF Franklin Gutierrez.

As noted above in the Trumbo section, this turned out to be less than ideal.  Complain all you want about there not being any right handed power bats on the market, but we fucking gave one away in Trumbo!  The plus side on Guti is that he’s cheaper, he’s well-liked in the clubhouse, and he doesn’t need to or even want to play everyday.  He’ll always be as prepared as can be in a pinch, so that’s not something to worry about.  But, in the end, he’s another year older, and his body has been ravaged by injuries and illnesses over the years.  His defense has taken a huge step back, and I don’t think any part of his game is ever going to get better; it can, indeed, only get worse.  Sounds like the team wants him back too, but I think that’s a mistake.

7/20/16 – Seattle Mariners traded RHP Jordan Pries and LHP Mike Montgomery to Chicago Cubs for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn.

Oh what could’ve been with Mike Montgomery.  As I’ve written about repeatedly, this was a deal made to sell high on an iffy bullpen piece, for hopefully a future starter at first base.  Montgomery proved with his ongoing stint with the Cubs that he’s here to stay, and this one might end up backfiring even more depending on how long and impressive his Major League career ends up being.  Shades of Matt Thornton, if you ask me.  In return, Dan Vogelbach, who got a cup of coffee with the Mariners, but still looks pretty raw.  He figures to get a shot in Spring Training (at least in a platoon role), but I have serious doubts.  If anything, he probably figures to be a placeholder until one of our other impressive first base prospects is ready to make the jump.  Don’t be shocked if, come June 2017, D.J. Peterson has supplanted Vogelbach (that is, assuming we don’t go out on the open market to bring in a veteran).

7/26/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Storen and cash to Seattle Mariners for RHP Joaquin Benoit.

11/12/15 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to Seattle Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos and SS Nelson Ward.

The Joaquin Benoit deals!  He cost upwards of $8 million this year, and he ended up being a total dud, first hitting the DL for a protracted injury, then being a lump of crap upon his return.  Makes you wonder how he was ever good in the first place, but then he went to Toronto and pitched lights out the rest of the year.  Hence why that deal is ranked higher.  I don’t think we gave up much of anything to get him (seemed like a cost-cutting move by the Padres, if anything), but we did end up getting back an interesting piece in Drew Storen.  One of those Change of Scenery deals that ACTUALLY works, as Storen was MUCH better as a member of the Mariners than he was in a Blue Jays uni.  Of course, this move helped/hurt both teams, as Toronto was the other wild card team that had us by 3 games by season’s end.  They got the better of us ever-so-slightly, as Benoit proved to be the healthier option than Storen, and the more important piece to their bullpen than Storen was to ours.  Both are UFA’s this year, and neither figures to make a substantial salary; I could easily see Storen returning to Seattle if the price is right.

2/9/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Joel Peralta to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

6/22/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent Tom Wilhelmsen.

12/8/15 – Oakland Athletics traded RHP Evan Scribner to Seattle Mariners for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill.

I’m going to start lumping a bunch of moves in, as I failed to anticipate how long this post would end up being.  Peralta was a longtime vet brought in on an invite to Spring Training.  He ended up winning a job in our bullpen thanks to lots of injuries ahead of him.  He was also pretty okay in March, but it would not last long.  We ended up designating him for assignment in June, after it was clear his Major League career was done.  Similarly, Tom Wilhelmsen – in on that Leonys Martin deal – had a hard luck stint with the Rangers.  They’d finally had enough of him by June, and we were more than happy to bring him back.  A veteran, making the minimum, familiar with the organization, willing to go to Tacoma to work on some things, while at the same time able to fill in on Seattle’s bullpen that was sort of in shambles at this point of the season.  Wilhelmsen ended up being who we thought he was, which is far from elite, but at the same time far from the waste of space he was for Texas.  Scribner spent the bulk of 2016 on the DL.  He returned in September and was FAR AND AWAY our best reliever in those 12 appearances, giving up 0 runs and only 5 hits in 14 innings.  Where was THAT when we needed it April through August?  He’s under club control for three more years, and if he pitches anywhere close to what he was in September, this trade with Oakland looks MUCH better than it already is.

6/22/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.

One of these days, I’d like to write a book about Wade LeBlanc’s 2016 season, because something sure as shit doesn’t add up.  We traded for him at probably our lowest point in the season (most likely for cash), and he was inserted into our rotation when most everyone else was injured.  AND HE WAS ALL RIGHT!  He didn’t turn the world on with his smile or anything, but he was somewhat competent!  He had 5 quality starts out of 8, and he looked no worse than Ariel Miranda.  Of course, there’s no point in having both Miranda and LeBlanc in your rotation at the same time, unless you’re just riddled with injuries, but who’s to say LeBlanc couldn’t have taken to a bullpen role?  He sure as shit took to it with Pittsburgh, when we dealt him to the Pirates in September!  He gave up 1 earned run in 12 innings with them!  I hope that PTBNL we get back from the Pirates is something more than just the cash we gave away to the Blue Jays in June.

8/6/16 – Pittsburgh Pirates traded RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL and Future Considerations (LHP Jake Brentz and RHP Pedro Vasquez).

10/19/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland Athletics.

Caminero came to Seattle and tore the A.L. a new asshole with his 100mph fastball.  Unfortunately, when teams started sitting dead red, and when he lost his command, they tore him a new asshole right back.  You can’t help but be intrigued by a guy like that, and hopefully our coaches are able to work with him mechanically to help him reign in some of that explosiveness.  Regardless, we’ve got 4 more years of club control on a guy with a ton of upside, so I like the move.  As for Cody Martin, I don’t know what to tell you.  He made a couple of spot starts for us, and a few more relief appearances, but other than mop up duty in extra innings games, he didn’t provide much of an impact.  He started primarily with Tacoma, and he figures to do more of the same in 2017.

3/1/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent CF Guillermo Heredia.

8/31/16 – New York Yankees traded RF Ben Gamel to Seattle Mariners for RHP Jio Orozco and RHP Juan De Paula.

I honestly have no idea where Heredia came from, what he was doing for the entirety of the 2015 calendar year, or anything other than we signed him as a free agent out of Cuba.  But, he tore through the minors and was called up to be primarily a defensive replacement in the outfield.  He figures to compete with Ben Gamel, among other guys, to be one of this team’s reserve outfielders.  Heredia bats righty and Gamel lefty, so it’s not like they’re in direct competition, but they sort of are, with Heredia on the inside track considering this organization’s lack of right handed bats.  They’re both for the most part on the same level, talent-wise, with Heredia having the higher ceiling, and Gamel more likely to be Major League-ready.  The 2017 outfield figures to be pretty jam-packed, with centerfield already on lockdown, so guys like Heredia and Gamel have a long way to go.

8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners claimed 1B Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks.

6/19/16 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Chris Taylor to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.

11/20/15 – Seattle Mariners traded CF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Luis Sardinas.

The Mariners never really figured out their reserve infielder spot.  Ultimately, Shawn O’Malley took the bull by the horns, but he’s not really much better than any of these guys listed here.  Luis Sardinas had the first crack at the job, but quickly proved to be ineffective (ultimately traded away to San Diego in August).  Chris Taylor had about the shortest opportunity I’ve ever seen, but in what I want to say was his only start with us this year, he had 2 errors and was sent away almost immediately afterward.  He ended up predictably doing nothing for the Dodgers (after his leadoff triple with them right after the trade), so no big loss.  Mike Freeman had some memorable plate appearances (particularly in that Anaheim series during Griffey weekend), and should be around to compete for the backup infielder spot next year.

3/17/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Johnson to a minor league contract.

8/6/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Pat Venditte to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (2B Tim Lopes).

11/6/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed LF Daniel Robertson off waivers from Los Angeles Angels.

1/12/16 – Los Angeles Dodgers traded RHP Joe Wieland to Seattle Mariners for SS Erick Mejia.

These last deals aren’t really even worth mentioning, but I stuck them down here at the bottom anyway.  Steve Johnson appeared in 16 games, almost exclusively as the very last man in the bullpen.  When it became readily apparent he was a waste of space, we cut him loose in mid-June.  Pat Venditte is the switch-pitcher we brought in, who got his cup of coffee with us in September, almost exclusively in blowout situations.  I don’t know if he’ll ever be much more than a novelty.  Robertson appeared in 9 games, and for the life of me, I can’t remember a thing about any of ’em.  Apparently, they took place in July.  He obviously didn’t make much of an impression, as he didn’t return in September with the rest of the call-ups.  Finally, Joe Wieland appeared in one game, making a spot start on August 12th against the A’s.  He gave up 6 runs in 5 innings, as we lost 6-3.  We ended up trading him to the Braves in September, rendering him as little more than a trivia question answer, and not even an interesting one.

***

So, all in all, how would I rate Jerry Dipoto’s first year on the job?  I’d say of all the moves I listed above, about half of them were good and half of them were bad.  I would say the trades were particularly bad (including the Trumbo, Lind, 1st Miley, and Karns deals) with only the Leonys Martin deal having a real positive impact.  He was able to find a lot of value towards the back-end of the roster, particularly the bullpen, as the season went along, and he was smart to fill the roster with veterans, considering the closing competitive windows of our aging stars.  Ultimately, the Mariners improved by 10 games in his first year, so that’s certainly a feather in his cap.  But, I think a lot of that was achieved by players already here.  Cano having a bounce-back year, Seager improving, Zunino improving, Paxton making more of an impact, and so on and so forth.

What Dipoto needs to do now is find a way to fill some of these holes that are still dogging us.  First base, short stop, corner outfield.  He needs to find cost-effective ways to bolster our pitching staff.  And, let’s face it, he needs a little luck to go his way.  This team is close.  So very close to making the post-season and breaking this streak.  But, at the same time, it’s also pretty damn close from bottoming out yet again.  Is Dipoto the man for the job?  Time will tell, but I’m going to reserve any enthusiasm I have for the man until I see some actual results on the field.

It’s playoffs or bust, Jerry!  You’ll get a “good job” out of me when I see some rings on the fingers of these players.

***

Important Mariners Transactions for the 2016 Season

  • 10/19/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland Athletics.
  • 11/5/15 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nathan Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and CF Boog Powell.
  • 11/6/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed LF Daniel Robertson off waivers from Los Angeles Angels.
  • 11/11/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RF Franklin Gutierrez.
  • 11/12/15 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to Seattle Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos and SS Nelson Ward.
  • 11/16/15 – Texas Rangers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass to Seattle Mariners for RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, CF James Jones and PTBNL (3B Patrick Kivlehan).
  • 11/20/15 – Seattle Mariners traded CF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Luis Sardinas.
  • 11/23/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent C Chris Iannetta.
  • 12/2/15 – Baltimore Orioles traded C Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for RF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser.
  • 12/2/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Justin De Fratus.
  • 12/3/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent LF Norichika Aoki.
  • 12/7/15 – Boston Red Sox traded RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carson Smith and LHP Roenis Elias.
  • 12/8/15 – Oakland Athletics traded RHP Evan Scribner to Seattle Mariners for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill.
  • 12/9/15 – Milwaukee Brewers traded 1B Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carlos Herrera, RHP Daniel Missaki and RHP Freddy Peralta.
  • 12/14/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Cishek.
  • 12/18/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • 1/7/16 – Seattle Mariners released RHP Anthony Bass.
  • 1/12/16 – Los Angeles Dodgers traded RHP Joe Wieland to Seattle Mariners for SS Erick Mejia.
  • 2/3/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent 1B Dae-Ho Lee to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • 2/9/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Joel Peralta to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • 3/1/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent CF Guillermo Heredia.
  • 3/17/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Johnson to a minor league contract.
  • 3/28/16 – Toronto Blue Jays claimed 1B Jesus Montero off waivers from Seattle Mariners.
  • 3/30/16 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Nick Vincent to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.
  • 5/29/16 – Texas Rangers traded 3B Patrick Kivlehan to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (RHP Justin De Fratus).
  • 6/2/16 – Seattle Mariners designated RHP Joel Peralta for assignment.
  • 6/17/16 – Seattle Mariners designated RHP Steve Johnson for assignment.
  • 6/19/16 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Chris Taylor to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.
  • 6/22/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.
  • 6/22/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent Tom Wilhelmsen.
  • 7/20/16 – Seattle Mariners traded RHP Jordan Pries and LHP Mike Montgomery to Chicago Cubs for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn.
  • 7/26/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Storen and cash to Seattle Mariners for RHP Joaquin Benoit.
  • 7/31/16 – Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade Miley to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda.
  • 8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners designated 3B Patrick Kivlehan for assignment.
  • 8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners claimed 1B Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • 8/6/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Pat Venditte to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (2B Tim Lopes).
  • 8/6/16 – Pittsburgh Pirates traded RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL and Future Considerations (LHP Jake Brentz and RHP Pedro Vasquez).
  • 8/15/16 – Seattle Mariners sent Daniel Robertson outright to Tacoma Rainiers.
  • 8/15/16 – Seattle Mariners traded 2B Luis Sardinas to San Diego Padres for Player To Be Named Later.
  • 8/31/16 – New York Yankees traded RF Ben Gamel to Seattle Mariners for RHP Jio Orozco and RHP Juan De Paula.
  • 9/13/16 Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Pittsburgh Pirates for PTBNL.
  • 9/14/16 Seattle Mariners traded RHP Joe Wieland to Atlanta Braves for PTBNL.

The Mariners Are Playing Well & They’re Blowing It

In the last week, the Mariners have lost two games they should have won, and if I’m being overly critical, I’d say they lost three games they should have won, because God damn are the Angels and Brewers terrible.

In the last week, the Mariners have gone 4-3, but they’ve also won 12 of their last 16 and have gone 14-6 in the month of August, either winning or tying every series, as they clawed their way back to within a single game of the 2nd Wild Card spot.

The Mariners are playing well, AND they’re fucking leaving wins on the table.

In the 4 wins this past week, the bullpen pitched 11.2 innings and gave up only 4 runs, all of which were inconsequential (though, some of them were scary, as Edwin Diaz has barely gotten his last two saves, which would make it appear that his first blown save is creeping right around the corner).

In the 3 losses this past week, the bullpen pitched 7.1 innings and gave up a whopping 11 runs, including meltdowns by Vincent, Caminero, Vincent, and Wilhelmsen.

Part of this, I guess, you could argue is on the offense not taking advantage of earlier scoring opportunities.  But, in the three losses, the Mariners are averaging over 5 runs per game.  That SHOULD be enough!

Likewise, some of this also has to do with our rotation being in shambles again.  I love what Ariel Miranda has brought to the table since the Wade Miley trade, but he has yet to throw over 86 pitches in any of his starts, and seems to turn into a pumpkin in the 6th inning.  When you combine him with Wade LeBlanc (meh) and now Cody Martin (SUPER meh), you end up putting too many games in the hand of a bullpen that has proven to be shaky at best.

Yeah, Felix and Iwakuma have been great this year!  But, it would be nice to have Paxton and Walker healthy and pitching effectively.  Maybe, oh, I dunno, have a prolonged stretch where all four of those fuckers are healthy and we are able to slot LeBlanc into the #5 role where he belongs, as opposed to the #3 role he’s been thrust into!  Could that fucking happen for one fucking month of the season, please?

There are still a lot of games with a lot of beatable turds on the schedule, so we gotta stop gagging these things away!  It would be foolish to expect a bullpen to be perfect, but it is abso-fucking-lutely acceptable to expect to save every 3-run lead in the 9th!  I’ll tell you that for one!  Tom Wilhelmsen, you save that shit for when you’re employed by the Texas Rangers!  You keep that bullshit out of our locker room!  And Leonys Martin?  Nori Aoki?  Let’s work on our defense and catch the fucking balls we’re supposed to catch, huh?  You blew that just as much as The Bartender, so don’t think you’re getting off easy.

Focus!  6 weeks to go!  I want playoff baseball and I want it right fucking now!

Mariners Did Just Good Enough, Winning Series In Oakland

On the downside, the Mariners had their 6-game winning streak snapped.  On the plus side, they won a series, as expected.

Let’s call a spade a spade here:  the Oakland Athletics are terrible this year.  To NOT win that series would’ve been a huge disappointment, and quite frankly, something the Same Ol’ Mariners would have done.  As has been noted countless times, all the rest of these games are vitally important.  There’s no screwing around anymore.  Relievers are going to be pushed a little harder, hitters are going to have to focus a little more, and starters are going to be the backbone of this whole fucking thing.

With Taijuan Walker still in Tacoma, finding himself, getting his groove back, or whatever you want to call it (4.1 innings, 4 runs, 6 hits, and 4 fucking walks on Saturday, in what we’ll go ahead and call The Disgruntled Start), the team turned to recent call-up Joe Wieland on Friday to make his first Major League start of the season.  Joe is, what can only be described as a journeyman; a 26 year old veteran of the upper minors, who has 10 career Big League starts to his name.  His numbers in Tacoma this year are less than encouraging (he was really butchered early in the season), but he’s been coming on of late, with 4 of his last 5 starts being of the Quality variety.  I was having my ass kicked by Guns N’ Roses at CenturyLink Field on Friday, so I didn’t see a second of this game, but it sounded like he mostly kept us in the game until they brought him back out there in the 6th inning and he couldn’t get an out (giving up 4 straight singles – including one with the bases loaded – before being pulled).  To be fair, his pitch count was ridiculously low, and he’d been okay after a rocky first, so it would’ve been stupid to pull him after the 5th.

With the dud out of the way, you could sense the Mariners were at a bit of a crossroads there on Saturday.  Would they rebound like champions?  Or, would they Same Ol’ Mariners it up, effectively destroying a lot of the momentum they’ve built up since the All Star Break (and particularly since the Griffey Weekend)?

Well, things were rolling right along with Iwakuma on the mound.  He had a rough 2nd inning where he threw a ton of pitches, but he limited them to 1 run, and really settled down nicely until the 6th, when he was battered around pretty good.  By that time, though, the Mariners put 4 runs on the board, and the bullpen made sure it stuck.  Vincent, Caminero, Wilhelmsen, and Diaz combined for 3.2 innings of 2-hit, 0-walk ball to secure the 4-3 victory.

That brought us to the rubber match yesterday, with Wade “Thank God We Kept The GOOD Wade” LeBlanc on the mound.  Ol’ Wadey-boy had himself a GAME, racking up 7 strikeouts, but like the two guys before him, faltered in the 6th inning.  He still got the Quality Start (making it 5 of 7 this season), as he handed a lead over to the bullpen who made it stick.  We even managed to prevent using Edwin Diaz in back-to-back games (though, to be fair, he did have to warm up in the 9th), as the Mariners won 8-4.

Seager, O’Malley, Aoki, Cruz, and Cano all had fine weekends at the plate, and the team played clean ball for the most part.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Now, we go into Anaheim for a 4-game set, with the Angels on a 10-game losing streak.  Anything less than a 3-1 record would be a REAL disappointment.  It sounds like Joe Wieland will get another chance to take the hill, so hopefully he’ll rebound from a semi-poor performance.  King Felix and Iwakuma will also make starts this series, as well as (hopefully) the return of Paxton from that line drive that hit his elbow.  Go get ’em, boys!

The Mariners Played Past Midnight, Rewarded The Insane Who Stayed Up So Late

I’m not gonna lie to you, it wasn’t looking good last night.  Wade LeBlanc just didn’t have it (certainly a byproduct of the Tigers absolutely destroying soft-tossing left-handed pitching), barely made it through 5 innings while giving up 4 runs, and the offense was sputtering.  Down 3-0, I tuned into the horror show that was the fourth inning.  Cano doubled to lead off the inning and Cruz tripled him in (any competent outfielder would’ve caught that ball for an out, but that’s neither here nor there) to get one back.  With no outs, Dae-ho Lee and Kyle Seager both proceeded to fly out to center, neither of which were deep enough to allow Cruz to tag up (apparently, although it sure seemed like he could’ve scored on Lee’s ball).  Once we officially Iannetta’d up that scoring opportunity, stranding Cruz at third base, I wouldn’t have blamed myself or any of you for changing the channel or just going to bed extra early.  Gotta get that beauty sleep for the Guns N’ Roses show on Friday!

I did, indeed, dip in and out of the game, thanks to various distractions.  I was down a mid-90s Aphex Twin worm hole on YouTube when Kyle Seager bashed his game-tying 3-run home run in the bottom of the 8th, but I was more or less glued to the TV from the 9th inning on.  Every strike out!  Every man left on base!  Every time a guy swung for the fences instead of just trying to get on base and string some hits together!  I was there!  On my couch!  Ready to drop this game like a bad habit at the first sign of danger!

The bullpen, to its credit, was phenomenal.  I can’t keep track of all the roster moves this team has made over the last couple months, so I really don’t know who’s injured, who’s in Tacoma, who’s been picked up by other teams, and apparently how many people we actually have in our bullpen at the moment!  Somewhere in there, in between the trade for Arquimedes Caminero (2 scoreless last night), and the return of Nick Vincent from the DL (1 scoreless, in his first action since June 26th), the Mariners were working with a 6-man bullpen as of yesterday.  That will surely change today – since all 6 of them pitched last night, 1-2 innings each – but all 6 of those guys need to be commended for throwing a combined 9 shutout innings.  Most remarkable of all was probably Tom Wilhelmsen in the 14th, who allowed the bases to be loaded with only 1 out, before somehow getting out of the inning unscathed.  It would be foolish to expect every single member of the bullpen to be ON in the same game, but to see him fight back and get out of trouble was a nice little boost in the 11pm hour.

I won’t lump Ariel Miranda in with the rest of the bullpen, because he was actually slotted to be Friday’s starter in Oakland.  He may still start that day anyway, as yesterday was a regular bullpen day for him, but he sure as shit wasn’t sharp last night.  It might be a coincidence that the Tigers scored all of their runs against the only left-handed pitchers we opted to use Hi Vidal Nuno!, but they seemed to blast Miranda with relative ease, leading me to think they probably hit lefties pretty well over in Detroit.  Granted, Victor Martinez – who hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the 15th – hits everyone well, from both sides of the plate.  But, the next batter had a sharp single to center, followed by 2 line outs to help Miranda get out of the inning.  The fact that Miranda gave up only the one run was probably the best case scenario.

Which brought us to the bottom of the 15th.  The Tigers, in all of that insanity, managed to preserve their closer all that way!  Francisco Rodriguez is a longtime veteran with 418 career saves.  And, by the numbers, it looks like he’s having another rock solid season this year, with 32 saves against only (now) 3 blown saves (after last night’s game).  But, SPOILER ALERT:  the Mariners apparently handle this guy pretty well (I was going to look for the exact numbers, but Baseball Reference is shitting the bed on his splits page right now).  No matter, because last night is all that I care about.  And, in the bottom of the 15th, with one out, Cruz walked, Lind dropped a single into right field (a byproduct of the outfielders playing so deep to “take away the double”), and Seager went the other way with a single-turned-double thanks to an outfield bobble.

THAT, right there, is exactly what I was looking for.  They don’t all have to be walk-off home runs!  Them shits is hard to hit!  But, get you some walks and some singles going, and now you’ve got the pitcher in trouble.  Now, you’ve got the pitcher throwing many multiple pressure pitches.  And, if you find the right guy on the right day, it’s only a matter of time before he succumbs to the pressure and gives you something good to hit.  In this scenario, of course, you have to look at that pitch to Seager – fat, juicy, right in the middle of the plate.  The fact that he went the other way with it – when everyone expects him to pull the ball at all times – was the cherry on top.

The MVP of the game probably goes to Justin Upton on that bobble of Seager’s hit.  If he doesn’t botch-toe that thing, I highly doubt Lind gets to third base.  It’s impossible to know what would’ve happened had he come up with it cleanly, but in this hypothetical scenario, it’s likely Zunino doesn’t get the game winning hit, and he’s followed by Leonys Martin who struck out a whopping 5 times in 6 official at bats (what comes after Golden Sombrero, btw?).  BUT, thanks to Upton, Lind DID get to third base, and all it took was a Zunino sac fly to center – this time, thankfully, deep enough to test the dude’s arm – to bring home the winning run and let us all go to bed early (Wednesday morning).  Shit, if it weren’t for Upton, they might still be playing baseball and I might literally be dead by my own hands!

As I noted above, today the Mariners are certain to make a move for bullpen help.  It’s also the final game in the series, with King Felix on the mound.  I’m sure he’s going to INTEND to bring his A-Game, and try to go at least 8 innings tonight, but he’s been a little dodgy since his return from the DL, so I don’t think it’s something we can depend upon.  However, if he does return to form, tonight would be the perfect time.  Save the bullpen, with an off-day/travel day tomorrow, followed by 20 games in a row.  They’re all important, they’re all must-win, but winning tonight would be extra special.

Mariners Came Up With A Huge Victory In A Game They Had No Business Winning

David Price vs. Wade LeBlanc?  On the heels of two blown saves in a row?  With someone by the name of Guillermo Heredia leading off and Luis Sardinas filling in for Ketel Marte?  Against the best hitting team in the league in the Boston Red Sox?  That game had LOSS written all over it, in giant capital letters.  So of course the Mariners won last night!

Of course, you figure with those circumstances, any plausible victory for the Mariners would have to come against the bullpen, involving some late-inning heroics.  But, you know, you’ve still got to get to those late innings within striking distance!  And here’s where I come back to dish out a little bit of praise for our starter last night.  LeBlanc is absolutely nothing special.  But, he’s had 5 starts now, and 4 of them have been Quality Starts.  He was scraping the bottom of the barrel for a quality start last night, with 3 runs in 6 innings, but that’s pretty much the baseball definition of “keeping them in the ballgame.”  THIS is what, I think, we all expected out of Wade Miley when we initially brought him in here.  And this is why I don’t give a hairy-ass fuck about dealing Miley now for peanuts on the dollar.  Wade Mileys are dimes a fucking dozen!  Wade LeBlanc is one.  Ariel Miranda – getting the start tomorrow – is likely another.

On the other end of the spectrum, Edwin Diaz got the first save of his budding career.  Now that we’ve all taken a deep sigh of relief, we can pull back from the edge of the cliff and try to enjoy this team again.  Of course, he remains the lone reliever we can count upon to do his fucking job, but let us pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  Look over here!  Diaz is closing!  Everything is awesome!

In between, we had the aforementioned late-game heroics.  Another homer by Zunino – his fourth – brings his slugging percentage up to a whopping .719.  He’s not exactly a brand new hitter or anything, but this is as promising as it gets, compared to where he was last year.  Then, three consecutive singles out of the bottom of our order knocked Price out of the game with a 2-run lead with 2 on and nobody out.  Seth Smith had a pinch hit strikeout, bringing up Robinson Cano against the normally on-point Fernando Abad.  Cano tore into his offering to give us a 5-4 lead, and the rest was history.

At issue now is the fact that the Mariners have been playing exactly .500 ball since the last week of June, with a record of 15-15 over their last 30 games.  It should go without saying that this is NOT the way to get back in the Wild Card race.  There are 57 games left in the season; at this pace, you figure the Mariners will win 28 more times, which would leave us with a year-end record of 81-81.

To have a realistic shot, 90 wins is the benchmark.  To get there, in 57 more games, the Mariners would have to go 37-20, or winning approximately 65% of our games from here on out.  It sounds daunting, but it’s absolutely do-able.  As I talked about Monday, though, the time is now.  The Mariners need to keep winning games they have no business winning, and hold onto those leads they’re supposed to keep.  Go get ’em.

Mariners Finish Trade Deadline Period By Dealing Miley

I’ve been saying all along we need to hold off until we see all the moves in context.  Well, it’s the afternoon of August 1st, and all the major moves have been made (it’s still possible to get rid of someone like Lind – who has a fat contract and doesn’t bring a ton to the table – before the end of the month, but that won’t mean much at this point, as I’ll get into later).

First, we had Montgomery for Vogelbach, and we didn’t know what to think.  That one probably sits more in the camp of The Future than Win Now, but Montgomery is more or less just a bullpen piece at this point, and Vogelbach could be called up to Seattle at any time.

Next, we had Benoit for Storen, which was an obvious Greener Pastures move for two struggling relievers.  Not much insight there (though, again, you see the Mariners go younger to bring in a guy with more upside, even if his contract expires after this year).

Now, we’ve got Wade Miley going to Baltimore for minor league starter Ariel Miranda.  I know I’ve been conducting the Hate Train on Miley pretty much since he started showing us how worthless he is, but there’s no rational way to look at this move as anything other than a sell-off.  Miley was set to earn upwards of $9 million next year, with a club option for 2018 that would’ve paid out $12 million.  At the very least, we avoid that high salary next year and the $500,000 buy-out for 2018 (the Mariners sent no money Baltimore’s way, so it’s all on them now).

I don’t know why people are so upset!  I mean, yeah, I get it, the Mariners are sellers, and not even GOOD sellers.  They sold off scraps and got back question marks.  Part of that, I’m sure, is that there weren’t any good deals out there.  But, you can’t help but see this amalgam of moves as the Mariners – once again – trying to have it both ways.  They get to be sellers without going so far as selling our most prized assets (*cough* NELSON CRUZ *cough*), but they can also say, “Look, we’re still pretty much the same team we were in the first two months, so let’s not totally close the door on this contention thing.”

And sure, I get it, Miley’s been on an upswing recently.  He’s on a run of 3 quality starts in a row, and 4 out of his last 5 starts.  Hell, his most recent outing – Saturday, against the Cubs – was his very best of the season!  But, don’t forget the rest of the starts.  Don’t forget all the bullshit outings we got out of Miley this year.  A guy who was supposed to be – AT WORST – an innings eater, couldn’t even do THAT!  What value does that guy have, who brings nothing to the table whatsoever?  He’s not going to get you some stud prospect.  He’s going to get you exactly who we got.

Ariel Miranda, with 1 career Major League appearance.  Who’s played the bulk of his career in Cuba, who just made Baltimore’s AAA club this season.  He’s a lefty starter with a good fastball (94 mph range) and a good changeup (he’s actually better against righties than lefties), but nothing much going on with his other breaking balls.

In my book, this guy is no worse than Miley RIGHT NOW.

Everyone points to Miley’s experience as the deciding factor, but what does that mean?  I take it to mean you know what you’re going to get with Miley.  That the younger pitcher will be wild and inconsistent from start to start.  Well, look at the breakdown of 29 year old Miley’s starts with the Mariners this year, from April through July:

  1. Bad Start
  2. Bad Start
  3. Really Bad Start
  4. Good Start
  5. Great Start
  6. Good Start
  7. Bad Start
  8. Good Start
  9. Bad Start
  10. Bad Start
  11. Really Bad Start
  12. Great Start
  13. Bad Start
  14. Really Bad Start
  15. Good Start
  16. Bad Start
  17. Good Start
  18. Good Start
  19. Great Start

Tell me, where’s the consistency?  For what it’s worth, a Good Start is like a regular Quality Start; a Great Start is 7 innings or more with 2 runs or less; a Bad Start is 4 runs or more (or a 3-run, 5 inning start); a Really Bad Start is anything less than 5 innings.

Miley has as many Really Bad Starts as Great Starts.  He has more Bad Starts than Good Starts.  That’s not acceptable, at all, from a veteran starter earning as much money as Miley makes.  He’s a fucking washed up joke, and it’s Baltimore’s loss.

You’re telling me Ariel Miranda can’t give us Miley-esque production as a back-end starter right now?  Because I think he can.  And if he does, then boom, the Mariners have already won that trade, because he’s making peanuts, is younger, and has more upside.  He just needs a chance.

If you ask me, the Mariners got better RIGHT NOW, just by getting rid of Miley.

What does this mean going forward though?  It means, starting tonight, the Mariners have to nut up or shut up.  Felix has to round back into his dominant form.  Paxton needs to be a stud.  Walker needs to return and stay healthy.  Iwakuma needs to continue his run of quality pitching.  And one of our 5th starters needs to emerge.  Wade LeBlanc, Ariel Miranda, or Nathan Karns (seems unlikely on the Karns one, but the other two are possibilities).

It means, starting tonight, the bullpen needs to coalesce.  Absolutely NO MORE BLOWN SAVES from Cishek.  If he blows one more game, he’s done as the closer, period.  Keep putting Diaz in there in the most pressure-packed situations and hope he continues to shine.  And the veterans – Wilhelmsen, Nuno, Storen, eventually Furbush, hopefully Vincent – need to be dialed in.

We need two months of pure excellence out of the entire pitching staff in order to get this thing done.  Anything less, and you’re going to see more of the same frustrating .500 ball that we’ve been watching of late.  Because this is it!  This is the team we have, for the final two months of the season.  No more help is walking through that door.  In fact, guys are more likely to leave, if we can find any takers for Lind, Aoki, or Seth Smith (all names I’ve heard bandied about in trade rumors).

But, even if we do find takers, don’t expect to get a lot in return.  Removing Lind, Aoki, or Smith are cost-cutting moves plain and simple.  You only get those guys off your team if you think they won’t be of any help to you reaching the playoffs, and you want to open up some roster spots for younger guys like Vogelbach, like the recently recalled Guillermo Heredia, like whoever else in Tacoma you want to see drink a cup of coffee.

My bet is that this upcoming homestand – starting tonight with 4 against the Red Sox, then 3 against the Angels over the weekend, then 3 more against the Tigers – is going to be the most important homestand of the year.  There’s one off-day this month for the Mariners, and it takes place after that Tigers series.  If you don’t see something like an 8-2 record in those ten games, I think we go into full-on Play For Next Year mode.  I think you start seeing more guys from Tacoma called up.  I think you start seeing guys like Aoki and Lind and maybe even Smith getting released or traded for peanuts.  I think you see a switch at closer, and you see even more crappy Tacoma relievers called up to show what they can do.

That’s because, after the homestand, it’s 20 games in a row, all but 6 on the road.  The Dog Days!  They’re here!  With the August 31st waivers deadline, followed by the September call-ups, if the Mariners haven’t made up a significant chunk of their 5-game deficit in the Wild Card standings, you’re going to see a whole lotta mailing it in.  How soon that starts will be dictated in the next 10 days.

Pressure’s on, Mariners.  Are you going to be like all the other shitty Mariners teams we’ve suffered through recently?  Or, are you actually going to shock the world?

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back In Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Felix, Zunino, and Aoki Return Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Lind: Real American Hero!

To be perfectly honest, yesterday was going according to plan through the first eight innings.  Mind you, it wasn’t an IDEAL plan.  But, they had Chris Sale coming off of an All Star Game start and we didn’t.  Sale threw 100 pitches and gave up 1 hit and 3 walks, while striking out 6.  In the meantime, the White Sox pushed across 3 runs off of Wade LeBlanc (who managed to go a respectable 7 innings while also striking out 6, making 3 of his 4 starts at least 6 innings, which is Cy Young material when compared to the rest of the Mariners’ starting rotation).

Thanks to traditional baseball roles, the White Sox went to their closer, David Robertson, who had only blown 2 saves coming into last night’s game.  Aside from a couple of random meltdowns, Robertson has been a quality reliever for the White Sox this year.  Hindsight being what it is, if I was a White Sox fan last night, part of me would understand going to your closer in a 3-run game.  But, as someone who is quickly growing tired of traditional baseball roles, when you see your starter rolling through 8 innings, having only thrown 100 pitches, it’s hard to fathom why he wasn’t out there to at least start the 9th inning.  I mean, OBVIOUSLY, the Mariners wouldn’t have done anything!  They hadn’t gotten anything over a single off of him all day, and that was back in the first inning!  The most trouble he was in all day was the 7th, when he hit two guys, with the middle of the order coming up.  But, Cano, Cruz, and Seager all went down no problem; threat erased.

Of course, had Sale gone out in the 9th, and given up a couple of baserunners, I’m sure everyone would have flipped out on their manager anyway.  Going to your closer is an effective way to push blame off of the manager and onto the closer who couldn’t get the job done.  But, I dunno.  Wins are precious in baseball.  And managers are paid to lead.  No guts, no glory, my main man.

Anyway, that 9th inning was a thing of beauty.  Seager at the plate, 2 on, 2 out, singled to center to make it a 3-1 game.  Adam Lind hit for Iannetta – who has been in a pretty stiff funk so far in July, so much so that Jesus Sucre of all people started in back-to-back games, which should NEVER happen EVER – who was in a very similar situation back on June 24th, against the Cardinals.  That game also featured the Mariners down 3-1, with 2 runners on in the bottom of the 9th (the only difference was that there weren’t any outs that time, so arguably there was more pressure last night), before Lind jacked the game-winning homer.

I don’t want to try to make an argument that Lind is some sort of super-clutch godhead or something.  I will say that, while his season has been a bit of a disappointment, he certainly knows how to pick his moments.

As always, you wonder if these moments are catalysts for potential hot streaks.  Well, after the June 24th game, he had a couple of multi-hit games (including a 4-hit day) to generate a temporary boost, but then he had an 0 for 13 stretch of 5 games that brought him back down to Earth, to the point where after last night’s heroics, he’s pretty much right where he was back on June 24th.  In other words, it’s probably crazy to expect a huge bounce back to being productive again, but at least we know he still has this in him.  He hasn’t totally let the sagging numbers of this season destroy him mentally.  And, while you probably don’t want to EXPECT great things in the second half, it wouldn’t shock me to see steady improvement, as he’s continued to be put into appropriate situations where he can take advantage of his excellence against right-handed pitching.

Adam Lind:  the hero the Mariners deserve.  Let’s hope for a repeat tonight.

Mariners Continue To Flush Season Down The Toilet

Watching the Mariners these days is worse than trying to get motivated to write on a Monday morning before I’ve had a chance to suck down a large coffee.  Of course, they’re not always going to look as bad as they did on Sunday, where they had 4 errors and grounded into 5 double plays and left the bases loaded twice without scoring either time and gave up a grand slam to Carlos Gomez of all people and once again let Jose Altuve beat them when the game was still somewhat in doubt and had a starter once again fail to go beyond 5 innings pitched.

If it weren’t for an incredible pitching performance on Saturday – highlighted by one of Iwakuma’s good starts, going 7 shutout – the Mariners rightly should’ve been swept yet again by the superior Astros.  It’s not even close how much better they are than the Mariners right now; luckily we don’t have to face them again until late September, when we’ll be so far out of contention it won’t even matter anyway.

Word to the wise:  if you want to preserve what little sanity you have left as a diehard Mariners fan, DON’T WATCH THE NEXT TWO GAMES!  The White Sox come to town tonight for a 3-game series, and I bet you’re thinking, “What’s he talking about?  The White Sox aren’t anything special!”  And that’s very true.

However.

They have two of the best starters in the American League right now in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.  Two pitchers who are undeniably great, and two pitchers who seem to take it to another level when they play the Mariners, especially Sale.  When you consider the Mariners have The Two Wades going (LeBlanc tonight, Miley tomorrow), just save yourself a lot of pain and anguish now and plan to be doing literally ANYTHING other than watching the Mariners the next two nights.

That way, come Wednesday afternoon, you’ll be nice and refreshed for Felix Hernandez’s glorious return!