The Mariners’ Non-Julio Outfielders Scare The Bejesus Out Of Me

When I talk about the Mariners having holes (multiple), part of what I’m talking about is this. Look no further than the non-Julio components of the Mariners’ outfield.

As I’ve talked about, a Julio playing at an MVP level would compensate for a lot of struggling on this team. But, the fact that we can have this conversation of someone with his level of talent going above and beyond – and STILL only end up right around 83-88 wins – is really the problem with our roster construction as it’s presented today. With the pitching we have, and complementary hitters like Cal Raleigh and J.P. Crawford giving us their best, you’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to fill out this roster and go chase a championship. But, here we are.

I know I’ve been lamenting third base, and the Mariners’ need to go out and get a Matt Chapman to help Band Aid over the lack of offensive production on this roster, but that’s not our only problem area, or questionable position group, or whathaveyou.

As things stand right now, we’re looking at Mitch Haniger being our regular Right Fielder; can’t really say “everyday” there because he’s going to require built-in off-days in order to stay healthy (in addition to the off-days already part of the schedule). And that’s only until he inevitably lands on the IL; another reason we strip him of the “everyday” moniker.

In Left Field, we have some split of Luke Raley and Dominic Canzone, though you really can’t say it’s a proper platoon, because both hit left-handed. If you want to round things out, you could probably add Dylan Moore to the mix, for more of a right-handed presence, but we’ll see where he ultimately ends up helping out most, especially considering the aforementioned quagmire that is third base.

Let’s say it’s some combination of the four: Haniger and Moore from the right side, Raley and Canzone from the left. Who’s happy with that?!

I’m already on record as having my reservations about what Haniger has left in the tank, even when healthy. I’m willing to let that go, for now (pending the start of the regular season, because if he struggles to open the year, you better believe I’ll be yapping again) and just assume Haniger will be fine. He’ll be some semblance of what he was before. What was that? I’m not talking his very peak of 2018; rather, someone who’s a little streakier, can carry an offense at times, but can also get lost at the plate. When Haniger is going good, this team should win a lot of games. When Haniger is going bad, we’ll need someone to step up and pick up the slack.

Dylan Moore is Dylan Moore. VERY occasional power, low-to-terrible batting average, so-so on-base percentage, pretty good on the basepaths (though he’s in his 30’s now, so we’ll see what that means for his stolen bases), and competent defense. The more you’re needing to play Dylan Moore, the worse your chances of winning (because that means other guys aren’t producing, and so you’re forced to start someone who’s supposed to be a utility guy).

In a lot of ways, this season hinges on one of either Raley or Canzone being above replacement-level. Otherwise, expect left field to be yet another black hole.

If we got Luke Raley to replicate his 2023 season – even if it’s just the same 118-game span – I think I would take that in a heartbeat. I don’t expect him to play the full year, just because I don’t think he’ll be good enough, and will likely spend some time benched to work on some things, so getting around the same amount of games, with that production (19 homers, 23 doubles) would be a boon for the middle of our lineup. If we get that out of him, with Haniger being great sometimes, with Ty France hopefully improved, with Polanco and Garver doing their things, that’s a lineup that can do some damage! A lot of “ifs” there, though.

Canzone would need to take a considerable step up in his development. I would say his production in 2023 – admittedly in just 59 games – was sub-replacement-level. He had glimpses of power, but his batting average and on-base numbers took a nosedive. And he never gives you enough defense to be worth the crater he is at the plate.

But, the team obviously likes him enough to ship off Kelenic, and to only bring in a guy in Raley who’s probably a platoon partner for someone (be it in the outfield, or as a timeshare with Ty France if he continues to flatline). Canzone apparently had some nagging lower body injuries last year that hampered him. We’ll see. With experience, with good health, with a vote of confidence, maybe he starts to make good on his potential.

I can’t say I’m holding my breath, though. I think this non-Julio outfield has a chance to be an unwatchable disaster. And, with all the other question marks on this team, we most likely won’t go down as one of the worst Mariners offenses of all time, but it’ll be painful to have to suffer through. Just, brace yourselves now. I know with this being Spring Training, we all want to look on the bright side and hope for the best. But it’s okay to splash our faces with a cold dose of reality.

Should The Mariners Sign Matt Chapman?

You know what? I was 100% ready to come on here and say “No, don’t even bother with Chapman. Save your money, Mariners, and maybe look to make a deal sometime mid-season, once you know where you need the most help.”

But, I’ll be honest, I don’t really know much about Matt Chapman, other than what I’ve gleaned from the way people talk about him on the radio and on the Internet. When I hear about someone having personality defects in sports, I feel like that can go any number of directions, but it seems to me, if you’re hearing it from a media personality, then that means the particular athlete in question just doesn’t like talking to the media. Now, maybe where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and bringing a Matt Chapman into your clubhouse is a recipe for inviting cancer into your body. But, my guess is, if he’s doing well, and/or the team is doing well, I’m sure he’s a fine teammate. Winning and success tend to cover a lot of warts.

I also didn’t really know that much about Matt Chapman the ballplayer. I hear he’s a good defensive third baseman. Sounds like he’s got some pop in his bat, but maybe not so hot with the batting average, and will increase your team’s strikeout rate. He’s probably good enough with getting on base, but also his best days are almost certainly behind him.

After looking at his stat sheet, that’s more or less all true. What I was expecting was to see someone who absolutely cratered in 2023, but that’s far from the case. He’s been in the league since 2017, and other than the COVID-shortened season, he’s had at least a 3.2 WAR every year (and that rookie campaign of a 3.2 WAR was limited to 84 games). We’re talking about a guy who – at his very best – was an MVP-calibre player (7.6 and 7.8 WAR in 2018 and 2019 with the A’s). But, his last three years have been pretty damn good, with no less than a 3.5 WAR between Oakland and Toronto. Indeed, he actually had his third-best career WAR season last year with 4.4!

That’s all while averaging $12.5 million per year over the last two years. Considering he’s yet to sign and Spring Training has already started, I would say his value hasn’t skyrocketed. My guess is, you could probably get him on a similar deal today if you offered it to him. And $12.5 million for a 3.5-4.4 WAR guy is kind of a bargain in this day and age!

Now, compare that to a likely platoon of Luis Urias (who, it was announced today, had shoulder inflammation at the start of camp, and had to be shut down for a couple weeks) and Josh Rojas. They combined last year for a 0.3 WAR. Neither is all that good defensively. Their best seasons were both in 2022, when they were at 3.1 and 3.2 WAR respectively. But, considering they both played at least 119 games, it’s not like you can add those two numbers together and hope for a replication of that. Also, that was kind of an outlier year for Rojas; his next-highest WAR was 0.8. Urias had a 3.3 WAR in 2021, but again, I don’t know how likely that is to be replicated in 2024, given his injury history and his performance level in 2023.

What I fear people are thinking is that the Mariners are just one player away. I think we all can agree that the Mariners have a significant problem at third base. It would be a considerable upset if things pan out at that position; my guess is – at best – we’ll get replacement-level production (with a strong likelihood that we’ll be sub-replacement-level). So, when people dismiss Chapman, the thought process becomes, “Well, with our starting pitching, and a good bullpen, the Mariners can survive one black hole at third base.” But, that’s a faulty assumption.

You can’t go into this thing thinking there will only be ONE weak spot; there’s going to be multiple. Somebody’s going to get hurt; likely multiple somebodies, given the histories of some of these guys. Somebody’s going to have a down season – a season that’s not reflective of their recent past that we’re anticipating will continue – for reasons that will mystify. And, again, probably multiple somebodies will have down seasons, or at the very least go long stretches struggling to make an impact. So, signing Matt Chapman isn’t a case of the Mariners papering over their lone blemish; it’s filling one significant hole on a team that’s practically guaranteed to have more than one. It’s a means to try to mitigate some of the damage, and put a competitive product on the field.

The Mariners have done quite a bit this offseason, given their self-imposed constraints. But, overall, they haven’t done enough. This feels like a team that’s poised to beat up on crappy teams, but get bowled over by the good ones. What does that get you? Right around .500, maybe a little over, but ultimately a few games short of the playoffs.

What does Matt Chapman get you? 3-4 wins! That MIGHT just be the difference between a wild card berth, and being a game or two out. Of course, that assumes he does actually come down to Earth on his asking price. It’s hard for me to believe that Seattle would be an attractive place to try to boost your value on a prove-it type of deal. But, if there are no other suitors, he might want to go somewhere that would surely give him an everyday role, on a promising, up-and-coming team. How many open third baseman jobs are there REALLY? I’d venture to guess not many.

I’m So Ready For Julio Rodriguez To Dominate For The Mariners

Julio Rodriguez appears to be a consensus fifth in the American League MVP race according to Vegas (behind top guy Aaron Judge, then Juan Soto, Corey Seager, and Yordan Alvarez). It’s gotta be exciting for these guys, because Shohei Ohtani is in the National League now, so somebody else can finally win for a change!

Fangraphs has Julio seventh in all of baseball for projected WAR with 5.6. ZIPS has him third in all of baseball at 5.7 WAR. Pretty much wherever you go, there’s Julio, projected right there among the very best players in baseball.

This is interesting to me, because while Julio was clearly the best player on the Mariners last year, I wouldn’t say he had a GREAT season. He was definitely hotter than the sun in July and especially August, but other than that he had long stretches where he struggled, especially in the first half, but also down the stretch in September.

Now, clearly, a struggling Julio is A LOT different than a struggling Ty France, or a struggling Taylor Trammell (which is pretty much his entire career). Even when he’s having a tough time, he’s still awesome. He’s still a presence. He’s still a guy other teams have to fear. And, of course, he’s going to give you great defense regardless. He’s still going to play hard and make some moves when he does get on base. He’s going to find ways to contribute.

But, his slash line in 2023 was down across the board compared to his 2022 rookie season, which is why his WAR fell from 6.0 to 5.3. Again, still great! He finished 4th in MVP voting last year, but no one voted him higher than 3rd.

It takes quite a special season to win the MVP award. The Mariners have had exactly two MVPs in their history: Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997, and Ichiro in 2001. Griffey that year was the leader of the most fearsome offense baseball had seen since the ’27 Yankees. And Ichiro entered the Major Leagues like a house on fire, leading the team to a 116-win season. THIS is what I would like to see from Julio. And 2024 is no better time to make that happen.

There’s a lot of hype that the Mariners have improved their offense this year. I’m still in a “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode of thinking. Regardless, I would say no one is expecting these Mariners to blow the doors off of the 2023 variety. It’s all “cautious optimism” and probably a marginal step up.

If you want to see significant improvement from this team, it has to be twofold. First, the depth has to be stronger. The bottom of the order MUST be better. I’m not saying we have to be lights out 1 through 9 in the order, but we can’t have the bottom 4-5 batters completely stinking up the joint like they did for most of last year. If we can see some competence, if we can have more professional at-bats, if we can even just make better and more productive outs, I think it’ll make a world of difference.

But, even that hinges on the second part: we need our stars to be super.

We need J.P. to continue to dominate at the top of the order. We need Cal to continue being a power machine. We need our veterans – Garver, Haniger, Polanco – to step up when they’re healthy. Ideally, we need this Driveline experience to hit the jackpot with Ty France. And, more than anything, we need Julio to play at an MVP level. Not just good with some elite stretches, but consistently great throughout the year.

Even if it’s just the veterans playing AS good as they were last year, and some semblance of improvement from the bottom of the order, I think we could really make some hay with an MVP Julio.

That’s kind of what I’m banking on here, if I have any hope whatsoever of the Mariners making it back to the playoffs. I’m expecting the starters to be great. I’m expecting them to figure it out in the bullpen. But, I’m also expecting the offense to be a dud yet again, costing us winnable games and seeing us ultimately falling short of a wild card berth.

However, if we get MVP Julio? Then, I’ll be willing to suspend my disbelief. I’ll be willing to go all in on this team with its cheapskate ownership group. I’ll be willing to hope that we can somehow put it all together for a magical playoff run.

Now is the time! He had his Rookie of the Year campaign. He had his Sophomore Slump. Now, it’s time for the MVP trophy. Now, it’s time to take that next step into the stratosphere. Be the envy of everyone, and the face of baseball, as you were destined to be!

It’s Been A While Since The Mariners Haven’t Had A Third Baseman

By and large, Mariners fans have been spoiled through the years, in this one very specific area. Third baseman is a weird spot on a team. It’s one of the few true power positions, but it also requires a level of athleticism and defensive ability to where you can’t just throw any old hulk over there. He’d get eaten alive by too many hot shot grounders. That’s what seemingly makes it one of the toughest spots on the team to fill. You need that athleticism, you need a strong arm, and you ideally would also have some semblance of extra base-hitting ability.

With second base, you can hide athletic infielders who don’t have the arm or the pop. With first base, obviously they’re almost exclusively lacking in athleticism, but they generally come with more power. A competent third baseman who has all three facets of the game is kind of a unicorn! And yet, with few exceptions, the Mariners have been pretty well stocked at the position dating back to the mid 90s (and maybe beyond).

Eugenio Suarez, Kyle Seager before him, then there was Adrian Beltre, David Bell, Russ Davis, Mike Blowers, and way back in the day, a young and fit Edgar Martinez.

The last time we didn’t really have much of anything at third base, you have to go back to 2010 and the first half of 2011. That’s when we had a year of Jose Lopez, and half a year of Chone Figgins (before Seager got the call-up and promptly took over). I don’t know if you remember those days, but they were terrible! And, unless something huge happens soon, I think 2024 is going to look a lot like those days.

I don’t care what anyone says, Luis Urias stinks! Even at his very best, in 2021, he had a 112 OPS+, which is better than average, but by no means great. Josh Rojas appears to be his platoon partner over there – at least, on paper – but he’s only valuable if he’s hitting for a high average. Neither one has extreme power numbers; Urias is probably better than Rojas in that regard, but I can’t imagine – as a righty – he’s going to have much success hitting in Seattle.

Who else are we looking at? Maybe Dylan Moore, maybe Sam Haggerty; the usual suspects of suck.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the moment the Mariners traded Suarez, they were punting on the third base spot. Not that I have tremendous confidence Suarez will bounce back in 2024, but I have WAY more confidence in that than I do the Mariners having a competent third baseman currently on their roster.

If we don’t see the third base spot hitting in the bottom third of the order, it’ll be both a surprise and probably a total breach of judgment. Just be prepared for a humongous black hole in that spot.

It’s frustrating to know this now, and it’s not even Spring Training yet. If the Mariners somehow hang around contention, they MIGHT make a deadline deal for an actual third baseman. But, they could save us a lot of headaches by just doing a deal with someone NOW! Let’s get ahead of it, before we’re all booing every single third baseman we see.

Looking At The Mariners’ Bullpen

My concern throughout this offseason is that the bullpen wasn’t being fostered as much as it should, and that it would be this team’s biggest weakness (even worse than a probably-terrible offense). Matt Brash can still be prone to blow-ups, and Andres Munoz can be pretty inconsistent at times. And how long before either has a serious arm injury knocking them out for the season?

Gregory Santos helps in that regard. Now, we appear to have a true three-headed monster at the back of the bullpen (as long as they stay healthy), which just means we have to slot the rest in behind them.

The Mariners are pretty clearly in a three-tier system with their bullpen, with the above-referenced guys in that very top tier. In the next tier down, I’m putting guys like:

  • Gabe Speier
  • Tayler Saucedo
  • Eduard Bazardo
  • Ty Adcock

They were all varying degrees of “fine” in 2023 for the Mariners. They could grow into something more, they could regress hard, or they could stay middle-of-the-road relievers, eating up innings mostly in lost causes, with the occasional bursts of usefulness in higher leverage situations (when our elite relievers are taxed and need a rest).

Then, we’ve got the total wild cards who currently reside on the 40-man roster:

  • Carlos Vargas
  • Austin Voth
  • Trent Thornton
  • Cody Bolton
  • Jackson Kowar
  • Mauricio Llovera

Llovera was claimed off waivers and seems like camp fodder. Bolton was purchased from the Pirates and looks like he had somewhat of a rough rookie season in 2023 (after pretty good numbers in the minors). Kowar came over in the Kelenic trade (who was himself flipped by the Braves after playing in the Royals’ organization) and seems like the best possibility to make good on that otherwise terrible deal for the M’s. Kowar hasn’t really been good since 2021, so we’ll see.

I’m on record as not understanding what Thornton is doing on the Mariners. Sure, his ERA looked amazing last year (2.08), but his FIP was 4.72 and that seems to be closer to his actual value. He got lucky last year; I expect that luck to run out very soon. As for Voth, I guess he has a sweeper pitch that might be something. Both of these guys are veterans, so I guess the hope is they prove capable enough to stick and be some mentors to the younger guys.

Carlos Vargas might be the most interesting prospect of the bunch (he came over in the Suarez deal). He’s still pretty raw and I’m guessing will start off the season in Tacoma. But, we need plenty of depth to hang out in AAA until they get the call up for injuries or ineffectiveness.

I’ll tell you what, though, the bottom of this bullpen could look VERY dire, unless we have a surprise or two make it big out of Spring Training. I guess I should stop doubting the Mariners’ abilities in finding diamonds in the rough, because they’ve done it every year for God knows. But, how long until the luck runs out, or the well runs dry, or whatever you want to call it?

My sentiment on bullpens for a while now is: since they’re so incredibly volatile, you might as well not pump a ton of free agency dollars into them. Especially if you’re a team like the Mariners and there’s a finite amount of those dollars to go around. I’d rather spend that money in more useful areas. But, if our ability to develop these nobodies ever falters, or if we find the wrong set of nobodies who don’t take to our partcular teachings, then there’s nothing worse than a truly terrible bullpen. The best way to win more games than you otherwise should – i.e. the best way to paper over a subpar offense – is to go above and beyond in your bullpen. But, conversely, the best way to look like the absolute fucking worst, is to blow a bunch of games you should’ve won, because your starting rotation is awesome and your hitting is sometimes competent, but your bullpen just can’t lock it down.

Which is why I don’t usually give the bullpen a ton of thought. I don’t want to know all the ins and outs. I just want to show up when the regular season starts and find out who’s great and who needs to go.

The Mariners Traded For Gregory Santos

After the last deal, for Jorge Polanco, the Mariners made a weak spot that much more flimsy by raiding from a bullpen that was already down Paul Sewald (as well as promising youngsters Isaiah Campbell, Penn Murfee, and Matt Festa, among others we’ve shipped off over the last couple seasons). The loss of Justin Topa meant that our third-best reliever (and maybe our first-most-consistent reliever) was gone. I mean, can you imagine what a bullpen would look like with Sewald, Brash, Munoz, AND Topa? Well, we had it for most of last damn year, and look at where it got us!

Well, over the weekend, the M’s made a trade with the White Sox. We gave them reliever Prelander Berroa, minor league outfielder Zach DeLoach, and a very nice 69th overall draft pick. In return, we get reliever Gregory Santos.

Berroa was a promising reliever prospect who pitched primarily in AA last year, while drinking a sip of coffee with the Mariners in two appearances. There’s some incredible stuff there, a blazing fastball, tons of strikeouts, but also a little iffy on the command. I find it extremely interesting that the Mariners – an organization prized for developing bullpen arms – would give up on a prospect like Berroa. Maybe they’re worried about his arm holding up, maybe they doubt his ability to rein in his command. Whatever it is, it feels like he was the most talented of The Pile we have on the 40-man roster today. Ultimately, the thinking is: Santos has it right now, whereas Berroa might still be another year away. And if you believe that this team is trying to win in 2024 (which I’m still not so sure they are), then obviously you like a Santos more than a Berroa.

With Santos, there’s lots of club control, and instead of being a huge maybe, the belief is that he’s a legitimate stud. My concern is his durability and his ability to generate strikeouts.

He appeared in 60 games in 2023, all with the White Sox. In 2022, he pitched in 37 games (mostly in the minors); in 2021, he pitched in 17 games (also mostly in the minors), and in 2020 he didn’t pitch at all due to COVID. So, it’s no wonder he landed on the IL late last year with arm problems; the hope is that it was just fatigue. But, the Mariners tend to be one of those teams that over-taxes their bullpen, so I don’t know if I’m jumping for joy.

As for his strikeouts, it’s not like he DOESN’T strike batters out. But, he’s not in the upper echelon of a Brash or Munoz. He averaged 9.0 stikeouts per nine innings last year; Munoz averaged 12.3 and Brash averaged a whopping 13.6! What’s interesting about Santos is that he has reverse platoon splits. As a right hander, he’s actually BETTER against lefties. It’s a sample size of one season, but still. Lower batting average, on-base, slugging. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is leaps and bounds better. While Brash and Munoz aren’t BAD against lefties, when they do struggle, it tends to be because lefties get to them. Santos might be a salve for this problem. We can mix-and-match a little more, if an opposing team has a run of lefties coming.

What sounds crazy to me is that Fangraphs or someone has projected Santos to be the best reliever in baseball in 2024. If that’s the case, then DAMN is this a good deal!

Obviously, we don’t know what Zach DeLoach is going to turn into (or Gabriel Gonzalez, for that matter, from the Polanco deal), but neither projected to be much of anything for the Mariners in 2024. DeLoach played all of last year in Tacoma, and was presumably their best and most consistent hitter, but was he ever going to crack our ever-growing chasm of Quad-A utility guys? I mean, shit, we already have Haggerty, Raley, Canzone, Marlowe, Moore, Trammell, and Clase. And that’s not even factoring in Julio and Haniger! Frankly, DeLoach going to the White Sox feels like the best thing for him. My guess is, as someone who’s already been traded multiple times, he’s not going to pan out at the Major League level. But, if he does, a place like Chicago, with low expectations and lots of opportunity for at bats, just might do the trick.

In a future post, I’m going to write about the bullpen. There’s still work to do, but I don’t know if that’s going to come from outside the organization. All those developmental coaches are going to have to earn their paychecks this spring!

The Mariners Traded For Jorge Polanco

Going to Minnesota, we have reliever Justin Topa, starter What’sHisButtFromTheGiants Anthony DeSclafani, outfield prospect Gabriel Gonzalez, and pitching prospect Darren Bowen.

Going to Seattle, we have Jorge Polanco, a 30 year old starting infielder (pegged to be our everyday second baseman) with one year left on his contract (and a club option for 2025).

DeSclafani is no big loss. I’m honestly relieved that I don’t have to watch him pitch for the Mariners. Seems like a guy better suited to be a back-of-the-rotation starter and NOT a long reliever like the M’s were going to use him as. I’m going to go out on a limb and say neither prospect will amount to much at the Major League level (because if either one of them do, then this trade absolutely murders the Mariners).

I would say the part that hurts the most is losing Justin Topa, who is going into the first of three arbitration years, and is earning just a million and a quarter dollars this season. He figured to be our third-best reliever behind Brash and Munoz, but I would argue – on the whole – he was more consistent and less blowup-prone than anyone in the pen in 2023. The Mariners were already in need of a pick-me-up or two out of the bullpen (as we’ve talked about ad nauseam, they’ve yet to even replace Paul Sewald, and now we’re talking about replacing Topa too), and now that job is even more important.

Quite frankly, the Mariners’ stance on this – that they can pick up any ol’ scrub off the scrap heap and turn them into ace relievers – is bordering on irresponsible hubris. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners’ biggest weakness in 2024 IS the bullpen (and we all know how little I think of the starting lineup, so that’s really saying something).

All that being said, it doesn’t feel like the worst deal I’ve ever seen. The money pretty much evens out (I think it was reported the M’s are sending money to the Twins to make it so). They get a couple of scratch-off lottery tickets to provide some longterm hope, and they get a valuable reliever to add to what I’m told is a strength for them. Plus, you know, the starter could be okay for them in that division (where the hitting is less fearsome than it is in the West). In turn, the Mariners get a VAST improvement over the likes of Josh Rojas, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, et al, when it comes to plugging one of their infield holes.

We already knew going into the season that second and third base would suck for this team. Now, what this deal presupposes is … maybe only one of those spots will suck?

I’m willing to go out on that limb that Jorge Polanco will be a valuable hitter for this team when he’s healthy. One guy I’ve never met on Formerly Twitter telling me so is good enough for me! But, there’s that caveat again, right? Polanco hasn’t played a full season since 2021. The last two years, it’s been knee and ankle injuries. Something like five or six stints on the IL. Sure as shit reminds me of one Mitch Haniger; how could it not? It was pretty much the first point bandied about in the analysis of this deal for the M’s.

If I choose to see the positive in this, it’s nice to see us fill a hole with a bona fide Major Leaguer, and not just another Quad-A nobody. If I choose to see the negative in this, then it’s just another coin flip with the usual questions we have when we bring in ANY new hitter:

  • Can he stay healthy?
  • Can he hit in Seattle, or will his bat be swallowed up in the marine layer?
  • Can he withstand the pressure of playing for a new team?
  • Will he enjoy living here, which is presumably very far away from wherever he considers home?
  • How close is he to falling off of an age-related production cliff?

You can plug those questions in about ANY of the guys we brought in this offseason – Mitch Garver, Luke Raley, Mitch Haniger, Luis Urias, Seby Zavala – as well as any of the guys we’ve brought in over the last few years, and get a wide variety of answers. Inevitably, some will hack it okay, some will become total garbage. And it’s not necessarily always the ones you think. I keep coming back to guys like Jesse Winker and Kolten Wong; we were supposed to be getting – at the very least – solid veterans who could give you professional at bats. What we got, was nothing.

As with all of this offseason’s moves, I’m not holding my breath. Quite frankly, I’m not moving off of my F grade for the Mariners; I still don’t think we’re any better than we were a year ago. If I’m being generous, the Polanco deal has the potential to now put this offense over the top compared to 2023. But, a shaky bullpen was made all the shakier with the loss of Topa. And now our rotation depth – which was razor thin before – is totally evaporated. Unless our top five starters manage to stay healthy for the full year – on top of key guys like Polanco and Haniger for our lineup – there’s a good chance we’re worse across the board. Hence the failing grade.

I will say that – as with all the other trades this offseason – I mostly felt relief that we didn’t actually trade any of our young starters. But, that still isn’t going to move the needle enough for me to vastly change my outlook on this offseason.

Just once, I’d like to see the Mariners make a move that is universally lauded, rather than coming with a thousand caveats. Something tells me it ain’t gonna happen.

I Don’t See How You Can Give The Mariners Anything But An F Grade For This Offseason

They were talking about this on Brock and Salk this morning, and it’s just absurd to me how they were bending over backwards to try to excuse this team for its actions this offseason.

I’ll just say, flat out, I don’t believe the 2024 Mariners are any better than the 2023 Mariners. Why anyone would believe that is ludicrous. We’ve downgraded in the outfield, we’ve downgraded at third base, we’ve maintained our same shitty level of play at second base and first base; the only spot we’ve upgraded is DH, which as I’ve said repeatedly the team doesn’t deserve credit for because all they’ve done is replace a corpse with a warm body. Literally ANY move at DH would’ve been an improvement.

On the pitching side of things, the rotation is the same. And while you can MAYBE hope for some improvement from the very youngest members of the rotation, I would also argue your depth is drastically reduced. Last year, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo were your depth. Now, they’re in the rotation, and your depth guys include that dud we got from the Giants, and whoever is sucking up innings for the Rainiers. Emerson Hancock feels like a pipe dream with his litany of injuries, and it doesn’t seem like any other highly-rated prospect is ready to make the leap to the Majors this year. As for the bullpen, we never really did anything to replace Paul Sewald, unless you count the various projects we’ve brought in who we’re hoping will develop under our system. Wish in one hand and shit in the other and let’s see how much better the Mariners’ bullpen is in 2024.

So, where is this improvement coming from? Your guess is as good as mine. They tried to argue that this isn’t like last year’s crop of crap – A.J. Pollock, Tommy La Stella, Kolten Wong – but are we sure? What’s Luis Urias supposed to give us? Competent defense? We were already getting that from Suarez, along with a significant amount of pop (pop that is 100% not there with Urias). We swapped out Kelenic for a probably-worse version of Kelenic; we swapped out Teoscar Hernandez for injury-prone Mitch Haniger. We’re still saddled with the likes of Canzone, Rojas, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, and Taylor Trammell; those guys aren’t anything. Mitch Garver is the only guy who looks plausibly decent, but would it shock anyone to see him come to Seattle and struggle to hit? Also, can he stay healthy?

Now, if you’re going to argue that at least the Mariners aren’t the A’s, then congratu-fucking-lations; you’re not the fucking Cleveland Indians from the movie Major League! Here’s your fucking prize! But, it’s clearly an apples & oranges situation. If you’re happy to not be the A’s, that’s not something that should automatically raise your grade. To me, you’re only graded on yourself, what you did and what you’re capable of doing. You don’t get compared to other teams; we’re not ranking all 30 MLB teams. I would say the Mariners AND the Athletics deserve F’s, albeit for different reasons.

I will say that – given the constraints handed down by ownership – Jerry Dipoto and Co. did okay for themselves. It’s not like they had a ton of options to improve the ballclub. But, we’re not grading them; we’re grading The Mariners. Fans don’t care about how good of a job the GM did; fans care about wins and losses. So, in that sense, maybe it’s too early to give a proper grade. Maybe we have to let the entire season play out and do it all at the end. But, with the information we have now, I can’t imagine the Mariners will be any better. In fact, I’m betting they will be considerably worse.

So, unless they prove me wrong in a big way, they get an F for this offseason. They let us all down, again, and they don’t deserve a single benefit of the doubt.

Re-Examining The Mariners’ Kelenic Trade With The Braves

When I wrote about this trade initially, there was a lot going on. Honestly, it’s a deal that requires multiple posts to really dig in and assess everything.

For instance, we have more information. We knew it was a Salary Dump, but we didn’t necessarily know why it was so. It’s also interesting to see where the players involved ended up, as two of the three Mariners we shipped off were subsequently flipped. To be fair, it really feels like everyone ended up where they were supposed to. Marco Gonzales was traded to Pittsburgh. Evan White was sent to Anaheim. And the guy with the most upside – Jarred Kelenic – remains in Atlanta.

I couldn’t tell you for a million dollars if Pittsburgh will be any good in 2024; they finished 4th in the NL Central last year. If I had to guess – based solely on reputation – I would say they’re a young team with lots of prospects getting chances to play at the Major League level, and were in need of a calm, veteran presence in their rotation to eat innings and be a guiding force for the rest of the pitching staff. I didn’t even need to look it up to know that the Braves would also be sending money to the Pirates to complete the deal, and the least surprising thing of all is that the return is a Player To Be Named Later.

This is, frankly, ideal for all involved. Pittsburgh gets a solid vet who will probably be at least a little rejuvenated by pitching in the NL again (even if the pitchers no longer hit, I think it’s safe to say most of the hitting talent resides in the American League). Marco gets a chance to be a starter, after effectively losing his rotation spot in Seattle with his injury last year. It’s low expectations, so he’ll most likely have a longer leash. And, the Mariners don’t have to worry about a potentially-disgruntled presence languishing in the bullpen and costing us games because that role is nowhere near his forte.

As for Evan White, his career could go any number of directions. He could immediately get injured again, and that will just be his destiny until his contract runs out. He could recover and be an okay player (great defensively, not so hot hitting). Or, he could come back stronger than ever, put it all together at the plate, and be an All Star for years to come. In which case, OF COURSE he’s an Angel. OF COURSE they would pick up our scraps and turn him into a weapon we have to face a dozen times a year.

The Angels can easily afford to take this project on. They just lost Ohtani, so it’s not like people are really expecting much out of this team. They can keep him in the minors for at least another year, to let White build himself back up. And I’m sure, as they continue to underwhelm in the standings, White will get a Major League opportunity sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the Braves got back a useful player while never having to try to work White into their system. And, as for the Mariners, we get to move on from another injury-riddled disappointment, without pouring good money over bad to try to make him a thing here.

The ultimate kick in the ass, though, is likely to be Jarred Kelenic. He stays with the Braves. They, obviously, took on a lot of salary to make this whole thing go, so it’s only fair for them to have the highest-upside share of this deal.

I would say it’s still fair to question Kelenic’s ceiling. The guy has obvious holes in his swing. He strikes out a ton. He has a decent eye at the plate, but that’s not going to prevent him from going chasing more than he should. He’s also a pretty big headcase, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to mature out of his personality. I’m sure if he actually achieved real, sustained success at this level, it would do wonders for his psyche. But, it’s also fair to wonder if that was ever going to happen in a Mariners uniform.

We already knew that Kelenic didn’t like the Mariners organization. They dicked around with him, waiting to call him up until after he got to a point where we’d have another season of team control. They offered him an Evan White-like contract when he was still in the minors, that he saw as a lowball slap to the face, and then effectively held him hostage by telling him he could come up to the Major Leagues sooner, only if he signed the deal. And I don’t know what he thought about his usage when he finally did get the call-up, but immediately putting him in the upper third of the lineup seemed like a mistake, putting immense pressure on him, when he would’ve been better served starting out at the bottom of the order.

If it wasn’t clear he hated the Mariners before, literally every statement and interview he’s given since the deal with the Braves has only cemented the notion.

I don’t see Kelenic as the type of player who’s going to tank his own development just to get out of an organization, but if I had to bet on it, I’d say he was never going to fully blossom with the M’s. With this fresh start, this new team, new ballpark, and new set of eyes coaching him up, I fully expect Kelenic will really take some huge leaps forward. There’s no doubt about it in my mind: the Braves are the superior baseball organization in every facet of the game. If they can’t turn Kelenic into a star, no one can.

There’s still risk, of course. I’m not saying it’s a done deal that he’s going to be an All Star with the Braves. But, the likelihood goes up tenfold with him there over him still being here.

The pressure’s completely and totally off now. He has no choice but to start out near the bottom of the order; they have one of the most stacked lineups in all of baseball. They also have their share of outfielders, so they can even afford to platoon Kelenic if need be.

On the one hand, it’s a bummer, because I did have really high hopes for Kelenic. A potential outfield with an elite Kelenic playing alongside Julio for a decade would’ve been a real treat!

But, on the other hand, I dunno, is Kelenic kind of an asshole? Or, at the very least, so intense that he’s no fun to be around? Is this a situation where, for this team at least, it’s addition by subtraction? The Mariners Roundtable on the Mitch Unfiltered Podcast made an interesting point; when were the Mariners at their very best and hottest last year? In late July and August. Between the time Kelenic went out for kicking a water cooler and the time he returned, the Mariners went 32-16; when he returned, the Mariners went 9-10 overall (5-10 in the games Kelenic appeared in). No one is necessarily saying that Kelenic is the reason we were mediocre – and the absence of Kelenic was the reason we were red-hot – but I’m also not totally ruling it out. He seems like a Dark Cloud walking around on a regular basis; who needs that kind of energy in their lives? Not even a team FULL of Eugenio Suarezes could counterbalance Kelenic’s unrelenting angst!

All that being said, though, as a Mariners fan, you’d like to think we could get more for him. You’d like to think he’s worth more than simply shedding however many millions of dollars from our current and future payrolls. In a good and decent world – where the Mariners aren’t owned by tight-fisted old misers – I would expect, at the very least, a prospect or two we could all be excited about.

There’s no “winning” this trade for the Mariners. At best, I think we have to hope everyone else loses. But, just know that I’m mentally preparing myself for the time when Kelenic becomes a legitimate star in this league. It almost seems destined at this point. And, if Evan White turns his fortunes around, you’re going to see quite a bit of the erstwhile Mariners Future out there performing for other teams, while the Actual Mariners remain in Seattle wasting all of our fucking time.

The Mariners Are Going About This All Wrong

I was scrolling through reels on Instagram a while back and every so often something Mariners-related pops up. Like a video podcast thing. I’m not in the market for more Mariners content on my For You Page, but thankfully I don’t see it a lot. Just the right amount, I would say.

Anyway, someone on this podcast made a great point; I’d love to give him credit, but I don’t remember what the page is called.

The whole thing with the Mariners cutting payroll has to do with this situation with Comcast putting Root Sports on the premium sports cable package. That comes with an increased cost for Mariners fans, which is especially prohibitive when you consider the amount of M’s fans who aren’t necessarily fans of these other sports channels that are being offered. You could put the onus on these fans to seek out alternatives to get Root Sports without the additional cost, but there are a lot of variables there. We don’t know what cable providers are available to fans. Maybe there IS no way to keep Root while keeping the cost for cable the same. And I have to imagine that there are a lot of older Mariners fans who aren’t as savvy with whatever alternatives are out there. Cable is a dying industry, and a good chunk of its subscribers are aging out right along with it, keeping cable around due to inertia.

The way I see it, there are three types of people within the cable subscription community. There are those who don’t follow sports. Considering the rationale behind Comcast doing this, I have to believe this is the majority of subscribers. Then, there are the hardcore Mariners/sports fans. If they don’t already have the premium sports cable package, then I’m sure they’ll sign up for it soon, to ensure they don’t miss a game. I have to imagine this is the extreme minority of cable subscribers.

Then, the third group is a pretty wide swath, ranging from regular Mariners fans, to fairweather fans, to the occasionally-curious Mariners observers who might tune in simply because everyone is talking about them, and they want to know what the fuss is all about. Maybe they saw a fun highlight on the evening news, maybe people at work were chatting about the team. Regardless, these are the people the Mariners are losing. These are the people who aren’t likely to pony up for the premium sports package, because while they might be fans, while they might have a passing fancy, they’re not interested enough to spend what it costs every month to keep the Mariners in their lives on a daily basis.

Where the Mariners are going about this all wrong is that they’re not even TRYING to retain these people. They’re just giving up. Maybe they know something we don’t. Maybe they’ve done the studies and found out that there’s nothing they could do that will get those middle-of-the-road Mariners fans on board with a price hike. If so, so be it.

But, I’ve seen what this area is like when the Mariners are truly great. I’ve seen fan interest in this team skyrocket. From 1995-2003, this was the hottest ticket in town, especially from 2000-2003, when we were winning 90+ games every year. Seattle buzzes when the Mariners are cooking.

It would stand to reason, then, that if we put in an effort this offseason, if we went out and made some splashy trades or free agent signings, the hype around this team would grow and grow. With that hype, we’d see an increase in subscriptions, because more of those middle-tier fans would want to get in on the excitement.

Do you think Dodgers fans are going to miss a minute of the action this year? Hell, I have no feelings towards them whatsoever and even I’m intrigued!

Instead, the Mariners have done the exact opposite. They’ve so poisoned the well with this team that they’ve dampened hope and expectations. It’s like they’re actively driving fans away! And it’s not like this team has been gutted; they should still be good for at least 80 wins, and probably hang around wild card contention into September. This isn’t a BAD collection of players. But, by giving up so thoroughly and so loudly, it’s making the great players we kept around look less exciting. Julio Rodriguez is a superstar; he should be Must See TV. But, when he’s one of only, like, three competent hitters in the lineup, what’s the point in continually seeing him stranded on the basepaths? George Kirby is one of the best up-and-coming starters in all of baseball; but, what’s the point in watching him lose 1-0 every five days?

It just feels like bad business. The Mariners are not only doing nothing to try to bring in new consumers, but they’re also pushing away the die-hards by giving us nothing to hope for. A .500 ballclub gives us a 50/50 chance of being happy on the rare occasion we go to the games in person. But, it’s nothing I’m particularly interested in watching night-in and night-out on television. You’d think for billionaires, they’d come up with better ideas on how to make money.

You know what makes a lot of money? Teams that win the World Series! Not so much teams that fall a game or two short of the playoffs every year.