Making Heads Or Tails Of The Mariners’ Latest Trade

Going Away:  Carlos Santana & $6 million to the Indians
Coming Here:  Edwin Encarnacion and a 2019 draft pick (77th overall) from the Indians
Coming Here:  $5 million from the Rays

Obviously, this is a 3-team deal of sorts, but I don’t care about what the Rays or Indians moved around.  Here’s what we know:  Santana is a bat-first first baseman who is guaranteed to earn $35 million over the next two years ($500,000 of that is a buy-out for 2021).  Encarnacion is a bat-first DH (who plays minimal first base) who is guaranteed $25 million over the next one year ($5 million of that is a buy-out for 2020).  So, the money part makes sense; the M’s gave away $6 million to the Indians to help mitigate the hefty cost over the next two years, in return the M’s got back from the Rays what’s essentially the 2020 buy-out.  On its face, it looks like the M’s are down a cool mil, but over the long haul, we’re actually saving … carry the denominator … I don’t know, math is hard!

The point is, for now, we don’t have an aging first baseman for the 2020 season.  Just one for the 2019 season.

Saving money and jettisoning veterans is the name of the rebuilding game.  I’m not going to go into what Encarnacion brings to the table, because quite frankly I don’t expect him to be here for very long.  Odds are, that $5 million will probably go with him in any trade for, ideally, a prospect and not another useless veteran.  I say “useless” here ironically, because Encarnacion actually does have some pop left in the tank.  But, for a team that’s trying to lose as much as possible in 2019, you don’t want even REMOTELY good players on your roster.

I guess the best part of the deal for the M’s is the extra draft pick.  That gives the Mariners 4 picks in the Top 100 in the 2019 MLB Draft.  That’s pretty sweet!  Let’s hit on all of them and have a great team by 2023!

Otherwise, the offseason prattles on.

Mariners Fire Sale! Everything Must Go!

I’ve had sort of mixed emotions about the first two big deals on this list (that I linked to, if you want to read about my feelings).  I think they were definitely necessary moves the Mariners needed to make, to shake things up and boost our farm system, but ultimately I wonder if we got enough back in return.  A starting catcher (who’s also a defensive wizard) for a centerfielder who probably won’t be here for more than a year or two before we get tired of yet another slap-hitting singles artist FEELS like pennies on the dollar.  Then, giving up a potential Ace starting pitcher for a mixed bag of minor league talent – again, while bolstering our terrible minor league teams – FEELS like yet more pennies on the dollar.  Now, of course, both of those guys (all three, if you want to include Heredia) come with their own risks.  Paxton and his injury issues, and Zunino with his woeful hitting issues, could submarine their respective new teams.  Or, they could figure it out/catch a little luck, and be superstars we gave up on too soon.

Before we get to the next slate of deals, I’ll talk about the minor moves the M’s made.  For starters, it seems odd that we’d dump Herrmann when we were already looking to trade Zunino, and the fact that the Astros made a play on him is doubly concerning.  In the end, probably no big thing, and he’s probably not a guy you’d want to guarantee a 40-man roster spot at this point in his career, so whatever.

Not going to arbitration on either Erasmo or Nick Vincent is probably a net gain.  I’m on the record as not having a whole lot of belief in Erasmo.  I think, for what he brings, he shouldn’t cost you very much in salary, so if he gets that elsewhere, more power to him.  And, while I like Vincent as much as the next guy, he was due a significant raise, and given his age and his declining abilities in 2018, that’s money poorly spent for the direction this team is going in.  I’m okay without either of them going forward, as I particularly think Vincent’s best days are behind him, and he’s going to get WAY too much money from another team.

The M’s offered Elias arbitration, and I think that’s cool, but I would’ve been cool if we didn’t as well.  I don’t think he’s in the longterm plans, but you do need to fill out a 25-man roster.  As a reliever/swing starter, there’s some value there.  He was good in 2018, and it’s just as likely he’ll be terrible in 2019, in which case that helps us on our quest to get a higher draft pick.

Finally, Casey Lawrence asked for his release so he can go pitch overseas.  I wish him the best, but again, no great loss.  He was mostly AAA fodder with occasional underwhelming call-ups.

***

Okay, now to the big deals!  Let’s start with the appetizer.

There was all this talk about the above-referenced blockbuster deal with the Mets, but before we were finished obsessing over that one, Jerry Dipoto snuck in a sneaky-good deal with the White Sox.  Alex Colome was another guy with some value who was not in our longterm plans.  He’s still got closing ability, he did pretty okay in 2018, so that value was probably not going up considerably.  Better to strike now rather than at midseason, when he could suck (or get injured) in the first half and see his value drop to zero.

On top of that, we get a starting-calibre catcher in return!  Omar “Don’t Call Me Navarez” Narvaez is a bat-first, lefty-hitting catcher who can take a walk and hit for a decent average.  He lacks Zunino’s power, but he’s improved in that area over the last year.  Where he stinks, unfortunately, is every aspect of his defense, as he rates as one of the very worst in the league.  Pitch-framing, throwing out runners, blocking pitches in the dirt, you name it, he sucks at it.  So, that’s going to be a drastic change of pace.  He’s essentially the Anti-Zunino, so if you REALLY hated Zunino, you’re REALLY gonna love this guy.

We’ll see if he can pick it up defensively, but I feel like that’s something you either have or you don’t, and you don’t really develop it if you lack it in the first place.  I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like he’s NOT the Catcher of the Future, not unless we find more pitchers who are able to miss more bats (without diving balls between and betwixt his legs).

Regardless, if you can get a starting catcher with multiple years of team control for a reliever on the final year of his contract, that’s a deal you make 10 times out of 10.

So, that solves the Zunino-sized hole at our catcher spot.

***

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s dig into the main course:  the Mets deal.

Robinson Cano has 5 years and $120 million left on his deal.  He’s old, but he’s still pretty effective; if I had to guess I’d say he has at least 2-3 more years left playing at his current level of productivity.  There’s always the chance that he’ll start his decline sooner rather than later – particularly on defense – but he’s too naturally talented to be a total black hole at the plate.  That having been said, as his legs go, it’ll end up being either singles, homers, or strikeouts, so unless he beefs up his homer totals, I can’t see him hitting a significant number of doubles from here on out.  With Nelson Cruz seemingly out of the picture, it looked like Cano was a natural to start to transition to his eventual destination as this team’s primary DH.  But, the M’s obviously had other plans.

So, what changed in a year?  Obviously, the PED suspension.  I’m trying to get a handle on if it’s a concern of a second suspension (and a yearlong ban), or if it’s just his attitude/personality and how it might clash with the new/younger direction this team is looking to make.  He’s obviously a big character on this team, and commands a lot of respect wherever he goes, and maybe the Mariners just want the players to learn from a different voice.  I mean, Cano is an All Star, so you can obviously learn a ton from a guy who built himself up from nothing.  But, there are the usual concerns about his hussle and his passion for the game.  I dunno.  I don’t know if we’ll ever get the real dirt about why the Mariners wanted out from under this deal.  I would assume the concern lies in the fact that he probably NEEDS the PEDs to keep up with his usual All Star level, and without them, his decline will start earlier.

With the $24 million per year contract, we obviously were never going to trade him by himself.  Unfortunately, the only real carrot we could dangle to get him out of here was our all-world closer Edwin Diaz.

I’ve been on record from the very beginning as saying this team should deal Diaz, and if I had it my way, we would’ve traded JUST him to the highest bidder, and gotten a REAL prospect windfall in return.  Honestly, I don’t believe he has it in him to stay at that level for very long.  I think with the way he throws the ball, he’s destined to sustain a serious arm injury, maybe even as soon as 2019.  It wouldn’t shock me in the SLIGHTEST to see him tear something and be out for a year.  I think, regardless of whether he injures his arm or not, he’s destined to lose velo on his fastball sooner rather than later – certainly well before he’s set to hit free agency – and with that I think his value as a closer will plummet.  This is, without question, Edwin Diaz at the peak of his value, and we were never going to have a better opportunity to replenish our minor leagues.

If it were up to me, and the Mariners are just hellbent on ridding this culture of Robinson Cano, then I would’ve just cut him and paid him his remaining salary, while trading Diaz for the highest bounty possible.  But, obviously, it’s not my money, so that’s easy for me to say.

That scenario just isn’t realistic.  I don’t see the harm in forcing him to exclusively DH (while maybe spot starting at second in an emergency), and riding out the remaining years of his contract.  Was he really so poisonous to this culture?  Would his presence alone have set us back so much?

Now, obviously, there’s the fringe benefit of making the Mariners worse by getting rid of him now.  Like I said, Cano can still play, and I bet he’ll be pretty solid for the Mets in 2019.  If our goal is to bottom out, then obviously you don’t want a guy in your lineup doing POSITIVE things like hitting for a high average, lots of extra-base hits, and lots of RBI.  So, that’s something.

In return, we take on some high-priced/low-performing contracts from the Mets.  Jay Bruce is set to earn $26 million over the next two years.  He’s a corner outfielder and I can’t imagine his defense is worth a damn.  Maybe he starts in left; maybe he platoons with Gamel (though, they both bat lefty, so that seems unlikely); maybe the M’s find a way to flip him to another team!  He was okay in 2017, but really had a bad 2018.  He does have some pop in his bat, and he’ll be 32 next year, so maybe we run him out as the DH?  Feels like the best way to preserve his legs and keep him away from anything related to defense.

Anthony Swarzak is on the hook for $8 million in 2019; he’s a veteran reliever who also had a good 2017, then bottomed out in 2018.

If we just talk about money, that’s $21 million for Bruce & Swarzak in 2019, and $13 for Bruce in 2020; that totals $34 million out of Cano’s remaining $120 million.  On top of that, the M’s chipped in an extra $20 million, meaning we ended up saving a total of $66 million going forward (not counting the remaining guys in the deal).  That’s not an insignificant number, especially when you hope that by the time 2021 rolls around, this team will be in a position to contend again.  That’s just the time when Cano should start to suck and Diaz should be recovering from a shoulder surgery!

As for the prospects, your guess is as good as mine.  Kelenic was the 6th overall selection in the 2018 draft.  He’s an 18-year old outfielder with all the tools; he just needs to develop them.  He would be the prize of this deal.  Again, if you can trade a reliever for a starting-calibre outfielder, you make that trade 10 times out of 10.  The question is:  do you trust this organization to develop him the right way?

Dunn is a 19th overall draft pick from 2016 and was the Mets’ highest pitching prospect.  He was in AA last year, so he appears to be on the right track.

Bautista is a reliever who can apparently throw 100 miles per hour.  Obviously, he has command problems, but we have a couple years to work out those kinks before hopefully he’ll stick in our Major League bullpen (or get flipped for still more prospects, if the ol’ rebuild hasn’t gone according to plan).

For what the Mariners were trying to do – acquire top-flight prospects while shedding some money and ridding the clubhouse of a possible cancer – this is probably as good as it gets.  If the outfielder pans out, it’s a terrific deal.  If he doesn’t, and the starter converts to relief, and the reliever flames out, then this could’ve busted SUPER HARD.

***

And, for dessert, I bring you the Jean Segura deal.

This one … REALLY makes me mad.  For starters, we traded for him prior to 2017 in what was at the time a CLEAR victory for the Mariners.  For Taijuan Walker (who doesn’t look like he’ll come close to being the ace we thought he could be), we got an All Star short stop and an All Star outfielder in the primes of their careers.  He started off strong in 2017, so we signed him MID-SEASON to a 5-year extension when we could’ve easily let him play it out through 2018 and seen what we had in him.

But, we liked him enough, so fine, 5-year extension.  He was officially part of our future.  And they didn’t realize until halfway through 2018 that he’s a headcase???  That he’s kind of soft and kind of a clubhouse cancer and we’re now bound and determined to do whatever it takes to be rid of him?

Look, I get the spirit of the rebuild, I really do!  But, this is an All Star player – particularly with the bat – on a very REASONABLE contract; he should be worth more than this!

Segura is due $14.25 million per year for the next 4 years.  In that time, he’ll almost certainly be worth that figure, if not be an outright bargain.  But, whatever, we save that money and we ostensibly get worse at the short stop position in 2019 (again, so we can tank and get that higher draft pick).  Then, there’s Juan Nicasio’s $9 million for 2019.  He, of course, sucked a fat one in 2018, but that could obviously flip entirely the very next year, because that’s how it is with relievers; randomness abounds!  Nevertheless, that’s a lot for an 8th inning reliever who may or may not be finished.  James Pazos has a nothing salary, which is most galling, because he’s both young and good!  Why couldn’t HE fetch a pretty penny on the open market?  Why the need to throw him into the mix?

Particularly when Carlos Santana is coming our way?!  He’s a first baseman (or a DH, depending on what else we do with that first base spot) who’s owed a combined $35 million over the next two years ($500,000 of that is a buyout for 2021, because you figure there’s no way in hell this team is going to pay a 35 year old first baseman another $17.5 million when they don’t have to).  Santana – like all these other useless veterans we’re getting back in these deals – was great in 2017 and stunk in 2018.  So, NOT GREAT, JERRY!

The prize in this deal, I guess, is J.P. Crawford, who will be a 24-year old glove-first/no-bat short stop in 2019.  If we can develop the bat into something halfway decent, then maybe that’s an upgrade in the end.  But, that’s obviously no guarantee.

And, that’s it.  A new short stop and a savings of another $31 million.  On the plus side, all these massive contracts expire after 2019 or 2020, so RIGHT ON TRACK FOR 2021 YOU GUYS!

As always, it’s hard to judge anything until you see the rest of the offseason moves.  But, you figure the biggest deals have been made (unless the team goes full boar and unloads Haniger for another bevy of prospects), and now it’s time for the rest of the roster moves to fill in around these guys.  But, on a surface level, it’s hard to get too excited, when so many variables are in play.

The Mariners Traded James Paxton, The Next Great Rebuild Is On

James Paxton to the Yankees
Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams to the Mariners

So, yeah, this is what we all wanted, right?  Stop pussy-footing around, trying to merely contend for a wild card spot, and start tearing things down to rebuild the foundation even stronger in the seasons to come.  Will the Mariners suck in 2019?  Absolutely.  Were they going to be worth a damn anyway, if we’d re-signed Nelson Cruz, maybe brought in a guy or two from free agency, and tried to run it back with the same core of guys?  Probably not.  The Mariners were going to suck – or at best be mediocre – for years to come; I’d rather they REALLY suck and hope to hit on some young prospects, while waiting out the Astros and A’s and whoever else who are already good now, and figure to be good for a long time.

I’ll start with this:  James Paxton had to be one of the first to go.  That guy is a walking injury waiting to happen, he’s at the peak of his value as a front-line, ace-type starter, so we had to get him out of here while his arm was still attached to his body.  Counting on him to survive a full Major League Baseball season is unrealistic, because he’s literally never been able to do it to date.  Does that mean he’ll NEVER do it?  No; I’m sure as soon as 2019 he’ll be a Cy Young contender.  But, over the long haul, he’s going to be on the DL more than his fair share of times, and it would’ve been frustrating to try and root for the guy who can never stay healthy for longer than a month or two.

There’s also the very real possibility that the Yankees figure something out about his mechanics or whatever and fix him, so he goes on to have a Randy Johnson-esque career in his 30’s.  Never rule out the ineptitude of the Mariners’ organization and its coaching staff.

As for the return?  It’s underwhelming.  It was always going to be underwhelming.

For starters, I’ll agree with what Mike Salk has said on 710 ESPN:  I also hate trading for Yankee prospects because they ARE the most over-hyped prospects in the game.  Now, part of that is due to the fact that they manage to find so many diamonds in the rough; their great teams are ALWAYS built on homegrown talent.  So, yes, they do have an eye for it, but more importantly, they keep what’s going to work best for them, and they ship off the duds.

So, yeah, Justus Sheffield might be their best prospect NOW, but Jesus Montero was once their best prospect.  It might be a down period for Yankee prospects (because so many of them have made it to the Major League level in recent seasons).  Sheffield has also been traded twice in his young career; are we sure we want to get too excited about a guy that two teams have already given up on?

Sure, he COULD be the next James Paxton, but he could also be a back-end of the rotation nothing.  He throws UP to 97 miles per hour, but how much do you want to bet he actually sits closer to 93-94?  And that doesn’t even go into how trading for ANY pitching prospect is risky business, with all the injuries that befall pitchers nowadays.

The bottom line is, scouts around the game feel he likely tops out as a #2 starter, whatever that means.  I guess it means he’s not going to be one of the top 10-15 starters in the league.  For the purposes of the Mariners’ organization, he’ll likely be our #1, but he’s a #1 starter like Freddy Garcia was once a #1.  It all depends on the rotation; someone’s gotta go on opening day.

That’s already underwhelming, and I haven’t even gotten to the throw-ins.  Erik Swanson is another pitcher who’s already been traded twice in his career.  He’s yet to actually make any Major League appearances, though (whereas Sheffield at least made it into 3 games in relief towards the end of last year).  Swanson did pretty good in AAA last year – and both of these guys figure to at least get a look in Spring Training in 2019 – but I’d bet the family farm that he starts out in Tacoma.  Swanson is projected to be a back-end of the rotation starter at best, with some guys projecting him to eventually end up in the bullpen.  In which case, whoop-dee-freaking-doo.

Then there’s Dom Thompson-Williams, an outfielder who made it all the way to the high-A level last year.  He’s young-ish, but probably should’ve made it higher than he has.  He figures to start in AA in 2019 and I guess we’ll see.  They say he plays center, but he projects more as a corner outfielder, and ultimately probably a 4th outfielder at the Major League level.  Either way, don’t expect to see him on the Mariners before 2020 or 2021.

Which, incidentally, is what Jerry Dipoto said is the target for the Mariners to start turning it back around again.  We’ll see.  That sounds pretty optimistic.

As I said up top, I’m all for trading Paxton, but I dunno.  Maybe we could’ve held off until AFTER Thanksgiving to see what we could get.  Is this really the best deal out there?  Are we sure there wasn’t another team willing to chip in just a little bit more?  Obviously, we were limited.  The teams who’d be in on Paxton are the teams who feel they’re World Series contenders RIGHT NOW.  There wouldn’t have been any rebuilding teams, or middling wild card teams in on him, because those teams would be looking for better bets on long-term health.  The Yankees are just hoping Paxton can keep it together for 1-2 years; if he has that in him, maybe they go to the World Series next year.  Or, if he lands on the DL a bunch in 2019, they can always trade him next off-season to recoup whatever they can get.

My thing is, the Mariners believe in their ability to develop players more than I believe in them.  The Mariners probably feel like they can get the most out of Sheffield, that with their coaches, they can turn him into an ace.  I’ll tell you right now, that’s not gonna happen.  Developing fringe talent into stars is probably the WORST thing the Mariners do.  Killing it on social media, engaging with the fans, having cool ballpark give-aways, celebrating their retired stars?  That’s more in their wheelhouse.  It’s fine, we all have our special talents.  Being good at baseball just isn’t one of the Mariners’.

Of course, I’m talking out of my ass, because I haven’t seen any of these guys play at all.  They could shock the world and prove Jerry Dipoto to be a genius.  Based on precedent, I have my doubts.  I’m a Mariners fan, and as such I’m destined to always root for a loser.

The Mariners Traded Away Mike Zunino

The unpleasant Mariners news freshest in our minds right now is the racism and sexism accusations by former employee Lorena Martin.  Obviously, if true, it’s fucking terrible.  Even if they’re total lies – as the team alleges – then the Mariners essentially were swindled into hiring a con artist for a made-up position within the organization that did absolutely nothing to improve the on-field success of the team in 2018 or beyond.  If that isn’t he epitome of the Seattle Mariners, I don’t know what is.

For now, this:

The Mariners sent Mike Zunino, Guillermo Heredia, and minor leaguer Michael Plassmeyer

The Rays sent Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley

So, that’s it.  Mike Zunino – drafted 3rd overall in 2012, was rushed to the Majors in June of 2013, played in 6 mostly-mediocre seasons – is now a Tampa Bay Ray.

This sucks, obviously.  It actually sucks in a lot of different ways.  For starters, Zunino goes down as yet another highly-drafted bust for the poorly-managed Seattle Mariners.  He was supposed to be our Catcher of the Future, solidifying a position of extreme need for years to come.  And, in a lot of ways, he succeeded.  He was a wizard defensively.  We haven’t had a defensive catcher this good since Dan Wilson, who last played in 2005 (and who was last worth a damn in 2002).  He also crushed a lot of dingers – 95 in his career to date, which has seen a lot of shuttling between Seattle and Tacoma – which is a huge plus when you consider the catcher position.  Really, he did everything you’d ever want from a catcher … except hit for average.

His career slash:  .207/.276/.406/.682.  If he batted .250 (like he did in 2017, when he was worth a whopping 3.3 WAR in only 124 games) he’d be an All Star.  But, more often than not, he was around .200 (or worse), and you just can’t have that black of a hole in your lineup, no matter how many dingers he mashes.

He was great with the pitchers, he was great throwing out would-be base-stealers, he was great blocking pitches in the dirt, and he was one of the best guys in the game at framing pitches and stealing extra strikes.  He did so much for this pitching staff that doesn’t show up on your traditional stat sheets.  All of that is going to be drastically worse, and most people really won’t understand why.  When Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc and the rest of those soft-tossing jokers see huge upticks in their ERAs, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

At the same time, again, you can’t have a .200 hitter in your lineup every single day.  I can see why the team made a move.  Of course, as I wrote about earlier when talking about blowing up the Mariners, you’re not going to get anything of value back, and lo and behold!

The Mariners famously once had Mallex Smith for a little over an hour before flipping him from the Braves to the Rays.  This was all a part of the Drew Smyly deal which, yeah, the less said about that the better.  So, instead of buying low on a guy we all thought was destined to be a 4th outfielder, we’ve bought considerably higher on a guy who still might be nothing more than a 4th outfielder.

Smith was a reserve in 2016 with the Braves and in 2017 with the Rays.  He became their starting centerfielder in 2018 and did this:  .296/.367/.406/.773 with a 3.5 WAR.  That’s all pretty good, I guess, but can we count on it going forward?  Or, was that as good as he’ll ever be, and he’s destined to revert to a .250 hitter going forward?  I’ll take that from my power-hitting catcher, but not from my single-slapping outfielder.

Because yeah, there’s no power coming from Mallex Smith’s bat.  2 homers last year in 141 games.  27 doubles, and I have to believe a lot of those were because of his speed.  It’s not smart to compare him to what he’s not, so I’m not going to lose my shit about this.  For what he is – if he can replicate those numbers for the duration of his deal – he looks like a fine player.

Good defense, hits for average, can take a walk, he stole 40 bases last year.  On top of those doubles, he hit 10 triples.  Every part of that is an upgrade over what we had in centerfield last year.

Which makes saying goodbye to Guillermo Heredia all that much easier.  He never developed beyond being that 4th outfielder, floundering HARD in a starting role.  Those guys are a dime a dozen and I’m sure we’ve got a ton of them already in our system.

Also, the other guy we got back – Jake Fraley – is probably another.  Fraley was drafted in 2016 and figures to start off 2018 in AA.  He’s another defense-first outfielder who will probably never hit for power and my hunch is he’ll top out as a 4th outfielder type.  Neat.

It’s always hard to say who won or lost a trade when it first happens, but I’m giving the nod to the Rays.  From what I understand, they have plenty of quality outfielders on their team, so they didn’t really need Mallex Smith.  Heredia will be a fine reserve for them, and might even find some more pop in his bat with that bandbox they play in down in Tampa.  Zunino already has the defensive bona fides, so if they can just tweak his bat a little to hit for a higher average, then they’ve got a stud for many years to come.  A stud who’s still on a cheap deal, so if he does figure it out, he could be flipped to the Yankees or someone rich for a windfall of prospects.

Meanwhile, I guess the Mariners get a top-of-the-order hitter who will probably struggle at first, before yo-yo’ing up and down between that and the bottom of the order.  At least they’re bringing in guys who fit the mold they profess to desire (as opposed to Dee Gordon, who can’t take a walk to save his life).

Speaking of which, I guess this means Dee either moves to 2nd base full time, or gets traded for more pennies on the dollar.  My bet would be on the latter.  This obviously won’t be the last move the Mariners make this offseason.  Once we get closer to the 2019 season, and we’re able to put all the puzzle pieces together, we can view this trade in the larger context of what exactly the Mariners are doing.

From just this deal, it’s impossible to see what the plan is, vis-a-vis tanking for the future vs. going for it now.  Really, it looks like almost every other Jerry Dipoto deal, trying to have it both ways.  Straddling the line, playing for the wild card, call it what you like.  In the end, it means the Mariners will continue to suck for the foreseeable future, with no hope in sight.

Looking At Some Numbers And Stuff About The 2018 Mariners

The Mariners’ season ended with a whimper over the weekend.  The M’s took 3 of 4 against the Rangers to finish 89-73.  That’s good for 14 games behind the Astros for the division and 8 games behind the Athletics for the second wild card (also, 1 game behind the Rays for the first runner up position to that second wild card, but that’s neither here nor there).

The Mariners were -34 in run differential, which comes out to a pythagorean win total of only 77.  They were 45-36 at home and 44-37 on the road.  They were 36-21 in 1-run games and a whopping 14-1 in extras!

Somehow, the Mariners had a winning record against every single team in the division:

  • 10-9 vs. Houston
  • 10-9 vs. Oakland
  • 11-8 vs. Anaheim
  • 10-9 vs. Texas

The Mariners were 23-9 against the AL Central, 19-15 against the AL East.  But, as I talked about before, the Mariners were a dreadful 6-14 against the National League (which, again, if you flip that, then we’re tied with the A’s for that second wild card spot).

Here’s the month-by-month:

  • March/April:  16-11
  • May:  18-11
  • June:  19-9
  • July:  10-13
  • August:  12-16
  • September:  14-13

And just to rub some salt in the wounds:

  • Pre July 4th:  55-31
  • July 4th onward:  34-42

I like to point to July 3rd as the high-water mark, but it was really just the beginning of the end.  The REAL high-water mark was at the conclusion of our game on June 5th, where we beat the Astros in Houston and took a 2-game lead in the A.L. West.  We, of course, lost to the eventual champs the very next day and after another week of hovering around first place, we ended up dipping below for the duration of the season.

*Sigh* those were wonderful, delightful times back in early June.  I was so young and naive in those days!

Let’s move on to some individual accolades.

  • Jean Segura is your 2018 Mariners batting champion, with a .304 average
  • Robinson Cano is your 2018 Mariners OBP leader with .374
  • Mitch Haniger is your non-suspended 2018 Mariners OBP leader with .366
  • Nelson Cruz is your slugging champ with .509
  • And Haniger is your OPS champ with .859 (narrowly besting Cruz’s .850)

Here are all the guys who had 10+ homers:

  1. Cruz – 37
  2. Haniger – 26
  3. Ryon Healy – 24
  4. Kyle Seager – 22
  5. Mike Zunino – 20
  6. Segura – 10
  7. Cano – 10

With all of that, the Mariners were just 11th in the AL in homers.

Some other individual numbers:

  • Cruz beat Haniger in RBI, 97-93
  • Haniger beat Seager in doubles, 38-36
  • Dee Gordon beat Denard Span in triples, 8-6
  • Segura edged Haniger in total hits, 178-170
  • Segura also edged Haniger in runs scored, 91-90
  • Gordon topped Segura in steals 30-20

My MVP has to go to Mitch Haniger, who was amazing this year.  He finished with a 6.1 WAR, which was easily the best on the team, and looks to be just scratching the surface of a great MLB career.

On to the pitchers:

  • Your ERA champ among qualified starters was Wade LeBlanc with 3.72
  • James Paxton led the team in strikeouts with 208
  • Mike Leake led the Mariners in innings pitched with 185.2
  • Marco Gonzales led the team in wins with 13
  • Leake led the team in quality starts with 18

Here’s your pitching section just devoted to the miracle that was Edwin Diaz:

  • (Obviously) led the Mariners in saves with 57
  • 57 is tied for 2nd all time in a season in MLB history
  • He fell 5 short of the all-time leader, Francisco Rodriguez
  • He led the team in pitching WAR with 3.2
  • Paxton was second with 2.9
  • He led the team in K/9 with 15.22
  • Only Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances had higher K/9 in the A.L.
  • Even though he’s just a reliever, and pitched fewer than half the innings of the starters, Diaz’s 124 strikeouts was still good for 5th on the team (one behind King Felix, who pitched 82 more innings)
  • The next-closest reliever in strikeouts was Nick Vincent with 56
  • He led the team in WHIP with 0.79
  • He led the team in ERA with 1.96
  • He led all pitchers in games played with 73 (Vincent was second with 62)

Without making it a whole thing, here are some props to some non-Diaz relievers who had great seasons.  Alex Colome, Roenis Elias, and James Pazos all logged in some serious innings for the Mariners and all had sub-3 ERAs.  I know that stat doesn’t mean much anymore, but I mean, those guys were dealing more often than not.

Nevertheless, Edwin Diaz is my Mariners Cy Young Award winner and it’s not even close.

Finally, let’s take a look at how some of these Mariners greats stacked up against the rest of the American League:

  • Segura was 7th in batting average, and one of 8 in the A.L. to hit over .300
  • Haniger was 9th in WAR
  • Segura was 15th in WAR (with 4.3)
  • Haniger was 10th in OPS
  • Cruz was 14th in OPS
  • Cruz was 8th in homers
  • Diaz (again, obviously) led the league in saves (2nd place had 43)

So, that’s that.  Another playoffs-less season in the books.  Do it all again in 2019?  Sure, why not?  What the hell else do I have going on in my life?  Might as well continue to root for a mediocre baseball team some more.

The Mariners Won The Season Series With The Astros, Also Who Cares?

If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season that the Mariners would be 16 games over .500, would win the season series against both the Astros (10-9) and the Angels (11-8), I would’ve locked this team into a playoff spot no doubt about it!  Hell, I probably would’ve even had visions of a divisional championship!

But, alas, the Mariners this week were officially eliminated from A.L. West contention.  Their Magic Number for the second wild card spot is apparently down to 4 games (any combo of M’s losses or A’s wins) with a whopping 10 games to go.  It’s over.  We knew that already, but it can’t be said enough, just in case you were holding out some glimmer of hope.  It could be mathematically over as soon as this weekend!

OH WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!

God, where did it all go so wrong?  The Mariners need to go just 6-4 down the stretch to be a 90-win ballclub.  Ironically, the Mariners could go 9-1 and be a 93-win ballclub; as we all know, every time the M’s win 93 games, the A’s come from out of nowhere to rip our hearts out and steal our playoff spot.  Wouldn’t THAT be a fitting end to this creature of a season?

You’d think 90 wins would be enough!  That’s because it usually is.  Here’s a list of seasons where 90 wins would’ve gotten the Mariners in the American League playoffs:

  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2010 (would’ve tied for the division lead)

It’s just so unreal.  So brutal.  A fanbase that’s had to live with this team through 17 consecutive years without a post-season, with this one being so tantalizingly close, only to have it snatched away from us yet again.  Don’t get me wrong, the M’s have been “in it” before, but not like this.  Never with a record THIS good.  Not THIS much of a sure thing.

Want an answer to that question of where it all went wrong?  I’ll tell you.  Remember how the Mariners have generally been pretty great against the National League?  Where even at our worst, we’d still rack up wins against the inferior league?  Well, this year, the M’s are 6-14 against the N.L.  If you just flipped that, and made the M’s 14-6, we’d have 92 wins right now (a full game up on the A’s) and this final week and change would actually mean something.

That’s a 1-5 record against the Rockies, a 2-2 record against the Giants, and an 0-4 record against the Padres.  Flip 8 of those losses to wins, and you’ve got something.  Sure, the Rockies are good, so let’s say we go 3-3 against them.  But, the Giants are BAD!  And the Padres are even WORSE!

That’ll be my biggest takeaway from this season.  Once again, the Mariners just couldn’t quite get it done against the teams they’re supposed to dominate.  You can look up and down their schedule for games they should’ve won.  Series they should’ve won.  But, for one reason or another (likely either the defense or the bats), they failed, like they always do.

Same ol’ Mariners, chugging on into the station.  In less than two weeks, we can put all this unpleasantness behind us.

It’s Time To Blow Up The Seattle Mariners

For real.  It’s time.

We are officially 8.5 games behind the A’s for the second wild card spot, with 18 games to go.  So, stick a fork in the Mariners everyone!

If that isn’t bad enough, we’ve fallen so far that the Tampa Bay Rays of all teams have officially caught us in the standings.  A team that really wasn’t trying to Win Now at the trade deadline – sending away some quality talent for prospects – has done so good in its second half run that the Mariners are doomed to fall two teams out of the playoffs.  Fantastic.

Here are my thoughts on what the Mariners should do this off-season.

Bye Bye Nelson Cruz

People were talking about extending Nelson Cruz throughout the year, as he’s on the final year of his deal.  Which, of course, got me to wondering what the M’s should do this off-season to try to improve.  SHOULD they extend Cruz?  Abso-fucking-lutely-fucking-not!  Dude’s hitting .260!  Sure, he’s got 34 homers, but that’s ALL he’s got!  He has a whopping 16 doubles and is easily on pace for his lowest double count in a Mariners uniform.  Dude can’t run, can’t hit for average; if he’s not swinging dingers or grabbing the occasional walk, he’s totally useless.

Let’s see Nelson Cruz for what he is:  one of the best free agent signings in Mariners history.  We got four REALLY GREAT years out of the guy.  If you asked me at the time of signing, I would’ve told you I hoped for 2 great years, 1 okay year, and 1 dreadful year.  The fact that we’ve milked that cow for all he’s worth is pretty fucking astounding.  LET’S LEAVE IT AT THAT!  Let’s remember Nelson Cruz fondly!  Let’s be able to look back and say we MAYBE got rid of him a year too early, rather than a year too late.  For what it’s worth, I think getting rid of him after this season is RIGHT ON TIME, but regardless, he’s not getting any better.

From there, that opens us up to options.  But, all I want to see is this team shedding salary and shedding talent for high-level prospects.

Trade James Paxton

He’s never going to be fully, 100% healthy in any full season ever.  He’s never going to be any better than he’s been this year.  His value has peaked.  He’s still got 2 more Arbitration years, so that contract is in great shape.  We should be able to get ELITE-level prospects for a guy like Paxton, so jump at the opportunity.

Trade Mitch Haniger

You’re not going to get any prospects of quality whatsoever for the real dregs of this team:  Seager, Cano, Felix; so we’re going to have to trade some players of actual value if we’re going to rebuild this organization.  Haniger has 4 more years left of team control and he’s already an All Star; his value will never be higher.  We should be able to get a TON of prospects for him.

Trade Edwin Diaz

Unless he’s the next Mariano Rivera, relievers don’t have a long shelf life.  Particularly ones who regularly throw in the high 90’s and have an awkward-looking arm slot.  Diaz just strikes me as a guy who’s going to have elbow and/or shoulder problems, MAYBE as early as next year.  He’s leading all of baseball in saves, he’s the best closer in the game, ergo we should make a KILLING in this trade.

Dump Robinson Cano or Put Him At DH

I’m in the camp that we’ll never be able to move Cano’s salary.  He’s making $24 million per year for the next 5 years.  If a team offered the Mariners literally ANYTHING for Cano – even if it’s a low-level PTBNL – you jump at the opportunity.  Hell, even if we have to send a bunch of millions over to make the deal work, whatever money we can save while getting out from under that contract, you do it.  You also do it because, frankly, I think Cano still has some value to a team.  I think he’s still a pretty good player.  And, for the objective of the Mariners blowing it up, we don’t WANT pretty good players on this team.  We want useless assholes who can’t hit, can’t pitch, and suck at fielding.  We’re not going to make the playoffs anyway, might as well be the very WORST team in the league.

If I’m right, and we can’t deal Cano for a bag of balls, then he’s got to slot over to DH.  That’s where he’s destined to go in his old age anyway.  If we’re going to be stuck with him for five more years, then we’re going to get the most value out of him at the DH spot.

Dump Dee Gordon or Leave Him At 2B

Dee’s another guy who’s owed a ton of money – an average of $13.5 million per year over the next 3 years – so it’s not likely we’d get anything for him.  Again, MAYBE a bag of balls, and probably only if we shell out some millions to get someone else to take him off our hands.

I’m less upset about being stuck with Dee because he’s fun.  He’s also not really that good.  Assuming he doesn’t regain his former hitting form as a .300 hitter, he should be a nice little drain on this team as we try to tank for the #1 overall draft pick the next few years.

Get Rid Of Kyle Seager

We’ve got Seager for $18-19 million per year for the next three years (his buyout in 2022 should be nominal).  So, like Cano and Dee, that’s a tough one to move.  However, I could see moving him as a more plausible objective based on the fact that he’s pretty well-liked in baseball circles.  He very well could just need a change of scenery to get his bat and his mojo going again.  Put him in a stadium with a short porch in right field and let him go to work yanking balls down the line; how are the Red Sox stocked at third base?

Either way, he’s got to go.  Unless he’s hiding some secret injury that we won’t hear about until after the season, I don’t see him turning his career around at all in Seattle.  He’s just TOO bad.

Keep Mike Zunino

He’s not any good anyway.  Plus, I just don’t see us getting anything of value back in trade, considering he’s never been able to hit and he seemingly never will.  Zunino is going to be cheap for the next 2 years anyway, so keep him, and try to develop his replacement when he’s a free agent and we let him walk.

Don’t You Touch My Felix!

He’s got one more year to go.  He’s earning $27 million next year.  No one will pick up that salary.  We’d likely have to send $20 million with him just to get rid of him for zero prospects.  Plus, I like Felix, he’s still ours, and YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM I DON’T CARE HOW BAD HE GETS!

Think of it like this, if he continues to pitch worse and worse, then that helps the Mariners tank, and maybe he retires at the end of the year and will go down as the greatest Mariners pitcher of all time who never played for any other organization.  Or, in the off chance he turns his career around and turns into a Bartolo Colon type, then great!  Maybe we can extend him at a team-friendly salary season-to-season and enjoy Felix in his overweight twilight years.

Only Trade Segura If There’s Good Value

For who he is, he’s actually got a pretty friendly contract all the way through 2023.  Even though he’s been dinged up with minor aches & pains recently, he’s still hitting over .300.  If another team offers the M’s a nice package of prospects, then absolutely jump on it!  But, don’t make him a straight up salary drop; wait for the teams to come to us and maybe start a bidding war if possible.

Here’s the deal:  Jeff Passan brought up a good point yesterday on Brock & Salk; when asked if the M’s should just blow it up, he asked if we’re ready to be terrible for the next 5 years.  And, as Salk mentioned, we’ve been pretty fucking terrible for the last 17, so what’s 5 more?

The Astros aren’t going away.  The A’s are young and solid.  The Angels are never going to stop trying to build around Trout and they’ve proven to be willing to over-spend on superstars.  The Rangers are already in the midst of their rebuild, so they’ve got a head start on us.  I don’t want to just contend for Wild Cards every year!  I don’t want to go dumpster diving for veterans on 1-year prove-it deals to try to make this fucked up nucleus work!  I don’t want to watch Nelson Cruz get booed and look shitty at the plate.  And I don’t really want to see what Robinson Cano looks like in the final couple years of his deal.

I want a total and complete rebuild, with high-level prospects.  I want the organization to stick to its philosophy of Controlling The Zone and defense and all that, and I want them to bring in guys who FIT that philosophy!

I’m just tired of losing all the fucking time … so let’s lose A WHOLE LOT for a few years, then hopefully be great for a while after that.

And yeah, I get it, the Astros’ model is no guarantee.  If we draft the wrong guys, if we don’t develop them properly, if we get unlucky with injuries, then it can all still go to shit and we can be right back where we started.  In a perpetual loop of utter fucking incompetence.  But, at least it’s trying something different.

I’m already numb to the Mariners sucking.  They’ve been doing it all my life.  Even when they were good, they still sucked when it counted!  The M’s falling apart this second half has hardly hit me at all.  Oh sure, I’ve been mad a few times, but more than anything I’m just resigned to my fate.  It’s never going to get good until we let it get really fucking bad.

So, blow it up, Mariners.  Do the right thing.  Let the Astros and A’s run their course and by the time they’re old and crappy, maybe we’ll be in a position to be the NEW Astros.

Gotta have hope, after all.  And, with the roster as it’s currently constructed, there is none.

Taking A Look At What The Mariners Need To Do To Surpass The Athletics For The Wild Card

Alternate Title:  The Mariners Couldn’t Sweep The Season Series Against The Orioles.

It’s funny how the last two months of losing makes it so we can’t even enjoy the times when the Mariners actually WIN a series.  Yeah, we took 2/3 from the very-good Arizona Diamondbacks, but we dropped that finale!  Yeah, we took 2/3 from the very-bad Baltimore Orioles, but we didn’t sweep their asses!

This is what it’s come to.  We’re in the home stretch of this thing.  One and a half more homestands, and one more long road trip and that’s it.  22 more games.  22 games to gain 5.5 on the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card spot, and we only play them three more times.

It’s asking a lot, is what I’m getting at.  And losing ANY game from here on out just destroys our chances.

Somehow, in the next 15 games, the M’s need to pick up 2 games on the A’s.  We need to break it down like this, because what’s going to have to happen that final week of the season is we’d need to sweep the A’s in that 3-game series, and then REALLY kick some fucking ass against the Rangers in the final 4.

So, let’s get into the weeds on this, because who gives a fuck about that Orioles series?

Over the next 15 games, the Mariners host the Yankees for 3, have a day off, then host the Padres for 2.  We go to L.A. next week for 4 against the Angels, followed by 3 in Houston.  We have an off-day on the 20th, then 3 more against the Rangers before returning home to face the A’s in that showdown.

The Yankees are obviously pretty great, and they just destroyed us over in the Bronx earlier this season (as well as in Seattle LAST season, when they arguably weren’t as good and we were arguably better than we are right now), but fuck it, the Mariners are just going to have to suck it up and find a way.  That means the hitters need to fucking do their fucking jobs!  We’ve got Paxton, followed by a rejuvinated Felix, followed by an Erasmo Ramirez who looks to have figured some things out over his last few starts.  Need to find a way to win this series, and ideally sweep it.

Then, after plenty of rest, we have a 2-spot against the Padres.  I don’t fucking care how it’s done, but this needs to be a sweep as well.  NO MORE FUCKING AROUND, MARINERS!

The Angels must be in the area of giving up at this point, but I’m sure they’d love nothing more than to ruin our playoff chances.  We need to stomp on their throats.  Again, this is a series we MUST win, and also ideally a sweep.  That takes us to Houston, which is another really good team, but we still need to find a way to win the series.  And, I’m sorry, but if we can’t figure out a way to sweep a trash team like the Rangers, then we don’t fucking deserve to break this post-season curse.

In terms of numbers, you’d like the Mariners to go 13-2 in these games.  That sounds like I’m asking too much, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and it’s not like this is an impossible task!  It just requires guys to stop sucking and start doing their fucking jobs and playing like we’re accustomed to seeing them play!  (of course, a cynic could say we HAVE been seeing them play like we’re accustomed to … Same Ol’ Mariners Losing Baseball).

The A’s also play 15 games between now and the time they come to Seattle (where that half-game comes into play is the A’s get an off-day between Seattle and their final series, down in L.A. against the Angels, which is just a 3-gamer; while we get no off-day and ours is a 4-gamer against the Rangers).  So, any way we can get it, we just need to pick up 2 games on them before a miracle final week.  If we go 8-7 in the next 15, they need to fall apart and go 6-9.  I went with 13-2 because the A’s are really good and they’re not likely to fall apart; 11-4 seems like a reasonable figure for them.

The A’s host Texas this weekend, then they go to Baltimore to kick off a little mini-road trip on Tuesday.  That’s unfortunate, as the A’s should be favored to win all 6 of those games; let’s hope they find a way to lose at least 1.  It gets a little tougher when they go to Tampa to play the Rays, who have been on a real hot streak of late.  We need the Rays to take 2 of those games at the very least.

Then, the A’s return home for 3 against the Angels and 3 against the Twins.  Neither team is very good, but let’s hope the Angels have a little magic up their sleeves in one of those games to get the A’s that 4th loss.

If it goes according to plan – 13-2 for the M’s, 11-4 for the A’s – then we’ll be 91-64 and the A’s will be 95-61 when we meet on September 24th.  At that point, the Mariners would HAVE to sweep, which would make us 94-64 and the A’s 95-64.  From there, we’d control our own destiny:  if we sweep the 4-game set against the Rangers, even if the A’s swept the Angels in their final three, we’d both be 98-64 and have a 1-game play-in game to get to the 1-game Wild Card game against the Yankees.

Of course, for this particular scenario to work, it would require the Mariners to go 20-2 down the stretch, which would PROBABLY be the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever seen in the history of Major League Baseball.

But, like I said before, it can be any combination of things.  Break it down like this, for the TL;DR crowd:

  1. The Mariners need to pick up just 2 games over the Athletics over the next 15 games
  2. The M’s need to sweep the 3-game series against the A’s in the final week
  3. The M’s need to pick up the final half-game on the A’s over the final weekend (meaning the M’s need to win just 1 more game than the A’s in their respective final series; the M’s play 4, the A’s play 3, so it could be as simple as both teams sweeping)

It’s far from an ideal situation, but it’s managable.  The Mariners just need to go out and fucking do it.

Jesus Christ, Mariners. Just … Jesus Christ

The Mariners followed up their first series win in forever down in Arizona with a 2-game set against the last place Padres.  The Mariners got swept.

Down 5.5 games to the A’s with a 4-game series in Oakland, it was Do Or Die Weekend.  If the M’s had won all 4, maybe I could allow myself to start getting excited again.  Winning 3 of 4 was absolutely necessary.  Anything less than that was a tie for Worst Case Scenario, because it means without a doubt no playoffs for the Mariners.

Well, the M’s and A’s split, so that’s it.  We’re still 5.5 games behind the A’s (8 games behind the Astros for the division) with 25 games to go.  Close, but no cigar, once again.

I’m not recapping all the games, because who cares?  It’s over, football season is starting, so it’s time to stop giving so much of a shit about the Mariners.  It was a good run, but we’re not a good team.  You can only hold off the run differential beast for so long before it catches up with you.

I’m planning on treating this September like I treat every September for the Mariners:  watch occasionally, root like hell for Felix to do good, maybe go to a couple more games for shits n’ giggs and call it a season.

I Dunno, Mariners. I Just Don’t Know

The Mariners took 2 of 3 from the Diamondbacks; that’s good news, right?  But, of course, the Mariners still managed to lose ground to both the A’s and Astros; that’s … less good.

The Friday game happened opposite the Seahawks’ third pre-season game, so while I had it on a smaller TV, it largely went unnoticed.  I guess Erasmo Ramirez had a pretty good game, and the bullpen was lockdown.  The M’s managed a 4-run rally in the 3rd inning, and played add-on with a couple solo homers after that to keep the Diamondbacks at bay.  6-3 win to kick things off.

The Saturday game happened opposite a pretty raging marathon of the card game spades; quite honestly I forgot the game was even on!  Wade LeBlanc bounced back with a solid effort, the bullpen was a little shaky, but we were able to come from behind in the 9th with a Kyle Seager 2-run double to send it into extras, where we won it in the 10th on a Denard Span homer.  This was the one where Edwin Diaz got his 50th save, so I guess Scott Servais gets a free haircut or something.

The Sunday game was on, but I opted for a Kingsman movie marathon instead; I tried following along with the action on Twitter, but wasn’t too invested.  With a chance to sweep away Arizona, Mike Leake just didn’t have it.  He gave up a 5-spot in the 3rd and that was that; the M’s lost 5-2.  Of course, what hurts about this one is that we loaded the bases in the 9th (after scoring that 2nd run) with no outs, but Haniger ripped a line drive to the third baseman and Cano bounced into a double play.  Just a crusher.

Yesterday, the M’s got to enjoy their second off-day in less than a week.  Today we have a 2-game set in San Diego before 4 games in Oakland.  So, a pretty big week.

But, like I said before, I dunno.  Feels like this week is doomed to go sour in a hurry, which should effectively end the season for the Mariners.  17 seasons in a row – from 2002-2018 – with no playoffs.  Still no appearance in a World Series (to say nothing of having zero titles).  The farm system is among the worst in all of baseball.  We’re paying a ton of money to just a few guys who aren’t really helping a whole lot, and we’re set to give away truckloads more to a guy who can only DH and is certainly not getting any better from here on out.

It’s bleak.  I’d say it couldn’t get much bleaker, but talk to me again in a week.