Who Is A.J. Pollock?

Well, he’s a new Mariners outfielder, having just signed a 1-year, $7 million deal with incentives that can bring it to $10 million. I don’t know what those incentives are yet, but I’m guessing they’ll be relatively attainable if he just does what he’s supposed to do.

According to … statistics, he apparently crushes left-handed pitching. If we just go by last year, he was a monster against lefties, and he was pretty mediocre against righties. It should also be noted that almost exactly 1/4 of his plate appearances came against lefties, which pretty much checks out. There are lots more right handed pitchers in baseball than lefties. So, 1/4 of the time, he’s elite. 3/4 of the time he’s somewhere between 2022 Jesse Winker and Jarred Kelenic.

I think those comparisons are relevant to my overall feeling about this signing, because I remember everyone with fingers and an Internet connection telling me that Winker’s greatest attribute was his ability to mash right-handed pitching. Even if he struggled against lefties, you could platoon him and be fine. What happened? Well, for starters, the Season From Hell happened. But, he also weirdly hit much better against lefties and struggled (compared to his previous norms) against righties. I’m not saying it’s going to flip-flop with Pollock the way it did with Winker (that might actually make it a genius move, if true), but I’m just saying beware of making assumptions about guys who have had successful track records.

A.J. Pollock is 35 years old. Sure, he had a 3.1 WAR season in 2021, but last year it was 0.4 (largely due to those platoon splits). He hasn’t been an All Star since 2015 (his Major League debut was in 2012). Last year was also his first in the American League, after being a career National Leaguer; that matters, and everyone pretends it doesn’t. It’s also my understanding that he’s been injury prone of late, which is what happens to most guys in baseball in their mid-30s.

I will say this: the price isn’t outrageous (what IS outrageous is the fact that this is the highest-paid position player free agent we’ve signed in the Jerry Dipoto era; that feels insane to me, even if I’m not the biggest fan of overpaying for free agents based on past success that’s never likely to be replicated). You pay $7 million for a part-time outfielder with some upside still left in the tank. You pay for his leadership, you pay for his production to just remain level with what it’s been in the last couple years, and you cross your fingers that he stays healthy.

But, this move only SORT OF works if he does just that: plays to an expected level, or better. However, you’re still going into the season with the expectation that he’s going to have a platoon partner. How often does THAT work out? How often do both guys pull their weight?

You might like your chances if switch-hitting Sam Haggerty was his partner, except Swaggerty has even MORE stark platoon splits, and his are also in favor of going against lefties. You might settle for a Dylan Moore partnership, but we all know what Dylan Moore is at this point, so don’t make me pull the Dennis Green video again. Also, don’t even try to talk to me about Taylor Trammell or Cade Marlowe, because those are non-entities. Can a guy named Cade succeed at anything?

The expected move – at this point, barring future moves – is to pair him with Jarred Kelenic. And yeah, I get it. He’s awful against lefties. He’s significantly better against righties. But, that’s just compared to how bad he is against lefties. In reality, Kelenic is terrible against EVERYONE. Now, obviously, no one’s sitting here looking to give up on a 23 year old who was once projected to be a crown jewel in our organizational prospect rebuilding effort. But, we’ve seen a decent sample size out of him; over the last two years, it kind of adds up to one full season. Therein, you’re looking at: .168/.251/.338. You saw him look solid towards the end of his 2021 season, only to regress HARD at the start of 2022. He, again, improved towards the end of last year (ever-so-slightly), but fool me twice, you know?

This is a Mariners team coming off of their first playoff appearance in two decades. There are … expectations. We’ve seen a number of lateral moves towards our 2023 roster (Teoscar Hernandez for Mitch Haniger in right, Kolten Wong for Adam Frazier at second, some addition by subtraction in getting rid of Winker and Abraham Toro), but I don’t know if any of these are going to vastly move the needle when it comes to actual wins on the field. A.J. Pollock feels very in line with those other guys; you kind of expect him to play well, but it also wouldn’t shock you in the slightest for him to faceplant as soon as he puts on a Mariners uniform (that goes for Hernandez and Wong as well).

You don’t expect Pollock to only appear in a quarter of these games; he’s not going to be limited exclusively to facing lefties. As long as he’s healthy and productive, he should start against EVERY lefty, and enough righties to put him in a 50/50 timeshare. I think that’s the best-case scenario for him. If he’s thrust into a full-time starting role, I’m guessing we’ll see drastically diminishing returns. But, even at a 50/50-ish split, that’s putting A LOT of trust into Jarred Kelenic figuring it out in his third Major League season, when he’s looked absolutely lost at the plate for 99% of his time in the bigs thus far. For a team that’s expecting a return trip to the playoffs? A team that would ideally like to compete with the Astros for the division title? I don’t think that’s smart.

But, then again, I don’t have a lot of answers here. I’m a guy who doesn’t want to hand over the keys to 50% of the left field job to Jarred Kelenic, but I’m also a guy who doesn’t want to give up on him either. I guess I’d like him to be a guy who goes into this season as a backup outfielder, who slowly builds up his confidence at the plate over sporadic playing time, until he commands starting time through his achievements. Otherwise, this would be the third year in a row where he’s essentially handed a starting job in this lineup, without actually having to prove he’s capable in regular season, Major League baseball games. What has he done to EARN it, other than be good in the minors, and have one hot Spring Training?

I dunno. The Mariners aren’t done, and won’t be set until we get closer to April. I’m still half-expecting a big move between now and Spring Training. But, so far, I’m not exactly bursting with enthusiasm for the moves to date. I guess I’m just waiting to find out who’s set to disappoint us in the 2023 season. It’s not always the people you expect!

Gun to my head, though, I’m expecting A.J. Pollock to disappoint.

The Mariners Traded For Kolten Wong & Added A Reliever

I’m a little behind in my Hot Stove updates, but to be fair these things tend to come crashing down in waves, so this relative trickle of moves has come as a bit of a shock.

So far, we’ve brought in Teoscar Hernandez via trade, sent Kyle Lewis for some change of scenery in exchange for a utility player, and more or less declared that the top tier free agents are not going to be targets for us (which I’m more or less okay with). The Mariners have a history of being quick to act at this point in the offseason, so it’s a little surprising to see the relative inaction.

We brought in right-handed reliever Trevor Gott, who’s under team control through 2024. His numbers don’t inspire a ton of confidence, but the Mariners have worked magic with relievers in recent years, so I could see our coaching staff unlocking his full potential. I don’t want to get too high or too low about this guy until he starts showing up in regular season games, so for now I plan on forgetting all about him until next April.

We also, not for nothing, signed Casey Sadler to a minor league deal, which is exciting! He was hurt for the entirety of 2022, but he was one of our very-best relievers (in an already-elite bullpen) in 2021, so if he can get somewhere close to that, I’d be thrilled.

The big news of the last couple weeks was the trade for second baseman Kolten Wong. Like Teoscar Hernandez, Wong is signed through 2023. So, this time next year, we very well might have these two holes to re-fill yet again. But, in the short term, things look promising.

The good thing about trades like this is that they don’t really cost you a whole lot. Hernandez cost us a good reliever and a low-minors prospect. Wong cost us two Major Leaguers who we all grew tired of by season’s end: Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro.

If you’re the Brewers, I think you’re pretty happy with this deal. As I said, Wong’s only under contract for one more year. So is Jesse Winker, but Winker’s upside at the plate (especially in the friendlier confines of the National League Central) is an automatic upgrade if he can return to full health and approach the type of player he was as recently as 2021. Toro is the real prize for them though, because he’s under club control through 2026, he plays multiple positions in the infield and outfield, and he’s already accumulated a number of clutch hits in his Major League career. Consistency at the plate is what he’s lacked thus far. If they can either turn him into a hitter with fewer holes – or find a way to unlock his power potential – they’ll have a real gem on their hands. Both guys, most certainly, needed a change of scenery out of the arms race that is the A.L. West.

As with most of these types of deals, the likeliest outcome is that Winker is toast, Toro will never be anything more than a frustrating utility guy, and Wong will come to Seattle and disappoint.

I’m not as high on the return as other Mariners fans. It’s not that I think the deal isn’t fair, it’s just I’m not sure about the player. Wong is 32. His career-high in homers was 15 last year. His career batting average is only .261, and I feel like both of those numbers are going to take a severe hit in Seattle. I guess he finds a way to get on base fairly regularly, and his defense has traditionally been better than average. But, I hear injuries largely hampered his mobility last year, which seems like a clear sign of aging. Best case scenario has him as a moderately more effective player than Adam Frazier. But, there’s a good chance he’s just as bad or worse.

Where do these moves have us in relation to last year’s team? When you factor in the loss of Haniger (who signed a lovely deal with the San Francisco Giants, finally cashing in on his Major League Baseball skills), it kind of feels like a wash so far. Obviously, the moves aren’t done yet. It feels like there’s something major set to roll down the pike any time now, involving a number of highly-rated prospects for an impact Major Leaguer. But, for now, I don’t think I see this Mariners team as any better than last year’s. Last year was fun and all, but this is the time to make significant strides towards trying to win the division.

What I’d Like To See The Mariners Do This Offseason

It’s impossible to predict the fluctuation of outcomes from individual players year over year. A guy might’ve had a great 2022, then all of a sudden goes in the tank due to injuries, private personal matters, or just total randomness. Baseball can be INFURIATING in that respect.

That being said, there doesn’t appear to be quite as many holes to fill this offseason as usual. Coming off of back-to-back 90-win seasons – the latest being a playoff run into the ALDS – that’s a good problem to have. It’s also one we’re not used to experiencing, as Mariners fans. I almost don’t know what to do with myself!

The starting rotation, for instance, looks to be set, barring trades. My hunch on the order goes like this:

  • Luis Castillo (R)
  • Logan Gilbert (R)
  • Robbie Ray (L)
  • George Kirby (R)
  • Marco Gonzales (L)

Is it perfect? No. But, I think the top end is good-to-elite, and I think the two lefties are solid innings eaters. The depth beyond those five guys is a little suspect, as I don’t know if any of our upcoming minor league starters are ready to ascend (or will even be with the club, since they present as our biggest trade chips), but we at least should have Chris Flexen around as a long relief arm/injury replacement starter.

I would say the bullpen is largely set too, though of course there’s room to tinker. We’ve got the following arms under contract (among a host of others):

  • Andres Munoz
  • Paul Sewald
  • Erik Swanson
  • Matt Brash
  • Diego Castillo
  • Penn Murfee
  • Matt Festa

We probably need another left-handed reliever or two, but that’s what Spring Training is there for. We go out and find underappreciated rejects and turn them into monster relievers. I’m sure there are guys out on the scrap heap looking to turn their careers around in Seattle.

The major holes are where you’d expect: the everyday lineup.

Right off the bat, Mitch Haniger, Carlos Santana, and Adam Frazier are all free agents. That’s your starting right fielder, DH, and second baseman. Then, there’s the whole Jesse Winker fiasco, so you’re probably looking at a need to replace your left fielder.

Coming at it from the other direction, we look solid-to-great at center field (Julio), third base (Suarez), first base (France), catcher (Raleigh), and short stop or second base (Crawford).

Internal depth pieces include Kelenic, Toro, Lewis, Haggerty, Moore, Trammell, and Torrens. I don’t think we should be confident in any of those guys. I like Haggerty a lot, but I wonder if he’ll get exposed the more he plays. I like Kyle Lewis a lot, but he can’t stay healthy with his chronic knee issues that probably prevent him from playing everyday outside of DH (and, considering how bad he was at the plate this year, you have to wonder if he even has value with his bat anymore). Trammell, Toro, and Torrens all look to be Quad-A players not to be trusted with starting jobs. And Kelenic is the real wild card in all of this. Highly touted, highly regarded throughout his minor league career, but definitely stalled out at the Major League level. Is it possible for him to figure it out? Of course. But, will he do so in a Mariners uniform? That’s a huge question.

It’s frustrating to see so much of the outfield in flux, because that looked like our area of greatest strength. It was supposed to be Julio, Lewis, and Kelenic for the next 5-10 years. Now, it looks like we’ve hit on 1 out of 3.

I’d love for Mitch Haniger to stick around, but clearly he too can’t stay healthy. The smarter play feels like we should let him move on to another team. Which is a tough pill to swallow, because he’s exactly the kind of guy you want. Works hard, plays quality outfield defense, hits for good average and power when he’s healthy, great teammate. But, if he’s spending more time in the training room than out on the field, that’s not a guy you can count on.

I’m already at the point where I think Winker needs to go, but his value has taken such a sharp hit this year, I don’t know what you’d get in return. The smart play might be to get rid of him anyway, because his attitude and alleged lack of work ethic might be a bigger detriment than whatever good we might squeeze out of positive regression, but I can see why the organization might want to avoid having to replace BOTH corner outfield spots. There’s also the chance that, you know, his severe surgical injuries might have hampered him just a bit. So, maybe he’s on the short list for a bit of positive regression.

Even though the Mariners are in the best spot they’ve been in since 2001, it’s not like this is an EASY fix. Two outfielders, one middle-infielder, and one big bat to DH and maybe help out in the field on occasion.

I think the middle infielder is the key. I think we have to sign one of the big bats that hit the market in free agency to either play short stop (and move Crawford over to second) or second base. From there, I think you take a shot in free agency at a quality outfielder, but more likely will have to make a trade for that guy. Then, as for the other outfielder, I think you maybe find someone to platoon, with the other platoon partner being an internal candidate (either Kelenic, Haggerty, or Moore, whoever produces best in Spring Training). As for the DH, find some vet akin to Carlos Santana (only maybe slightly younger and more spry) who can fill in at first base in a pinch, to give France regular days off to DH in his place.

The Mariners should have a decent amount of money to play around with, so I’m hoping there’s at least one big splash. The trade candidates can be guys with 1-2 years left. Maybe we can flip Winker for someone else’s problem, in a greener pastures sort of situation.

The big story this offseason is where will Aaron Judge go. He’s going to get half a billion dollars, easy. Is that someone I’d want in a Mariners uniform? I dunno, how well did it go the last time we signed away a former Yankees superstar?

Here’s the deal: I would be thrilled if the Mariners signed Judge to play right field. As we all would. In the short term, pairing him with Julio and the other guys on our roster is only going to make them the most formidable pairing in baseball. But, there’s a reason why his numbers have been so insane with the Yankees, and that’s because he plays half his game in Yankee Stadium. Hitting homers there is as easy as breathing. If he moves to Seattle, expect a DRAMATIC downturn in his number of homers. He hit 60+ this year? You might bank on him hitting 40+ with the Mariners. I’d say the 30-40 range is more likely. And that’s assuming he stays healthy.

Of course, long term, I think that contract will be a disaster. What worries me is if it’s a disaster from the start. Think Albert Pujols when he joined the Angels. He went downhill almost immediately, and they had to endure a decade of his creaky knees.

I’d rather put that money into a short stop who’s a better long-term fit, and then trade for a value bat in the outfield. That’s easier said than done, obviously. But, I will say that now that we’ve had this success, and we’ve got a lot of our core locked up, Seattle is a more attractive place to come and play. Obviously, it’s not perfect. There’s a lot of travel involved. The home park isn’t easy, especially in the colder months. But, locating the right guys who fit our dynamic and what we’re trying to do offensively will be critical to getting over the hump.

As Napster guy said to Facebook guy in The Social Network, “The wild card isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Winning the division and getting a top two seed.”

2022 Seattle Mariners: In Memoriam

It’s fun to look back at my prediction post to see what I thought about the Mariners heading into the season. Long story short: I was right about some guys, VERY wrong about some guys, and I had this team pegged as an 84-win squad who would go on to miss the playoffs once again.

It’s funny how this season ebbed and flowed. We started out 11-6, which kind of gets lost in the shuffle in the narrative to this season, because the next stretch was so terrible. As late as June 19th, we were infamously 10 games under .500 at 29-39 (meaning in that span of almost two months, we went 18-33). Then, amazingly, we finished the year 61-33 (winning at a .649 clip), including a 14-game winning streak to close out the first half. This was a year removed from another 90-win Mariners team who had a pretty shabby record in May/June before turning it on the rest of the way. The main difference is that we had three wild card teams to go along with three divisional winners making the playoffs in each league. So, this time around, 90 wins was just enough.

There are so many fun storylines that came along this year, with the top being Julio Rodriguez. He’s a superstar! He’s the superstar we’ve been waiting for since Ken Griffey Jr. left. He hits for average (.284), he hits for power (28 homers, 25 doubles, 3 triples), he steals bases (25 against 7 caught stealing), he plays tremendous defense in center field, and he’s by all accounts a fantastic leader and teammate. He’s everything you could want in a 6-WAR player, and oh by the way, he also had an absolutely atrocious month of April before figuring out how to play at this level. Meaning he did all he did in 5 months, which is absolutely incredible. He’s your American League Rookie of the Year, and unlike the last Mariners ROY (Kyle Lewis), he figures to play at a high level for many years to come (hence the humongous mega-deal he signed during the season).

You know who else was a really cool story? Cal Raleigh! He struggled in 2021, and was off to another rough start in 2022, to the point where he was briefly sent back down to Tacoma to work on some things. He ultimately was forced to return due to catcher injuries, but this time he made the most of it. He doesn’t hit for much average, but he was among the best catchers in the game with his power (27 homers, 20 doubles, and one improbable triple) and he obviously has a great defensive game (both in handling pitchers as well as throwing runners out and pitch-framing). As far as Pleasant Surprises go, he’s way up there for me and a lot of Mariners fans.

Another guy I wasn’t expecting a ton from was Eugenio Suarez. I wondered – as did many people – if his best days weren’t behind him. Instead, he was probably the best version of what he can be: a 4-WAR player who hit 31 homers, 24 doubles, and 2 triples. He also played very good defense at third base, and is amazingly an upgrade over what we had with Kyle Seager over the last few years. His batting average isn’t stupendous, but his on-base percentage is very good.

One more pleasant surprise before we get to the guys we expected to be good, and that’s Sam Haggerty. It’s a rough go that he wasn’t able to make it to the playoffs – suffering a major injury in the final week of the regular season – but as a bench guy, he finished with 2.2 WAR. It got to the point that he forced his way into an almost-everyday role on this team (bouncing around from various outfield AND infield spots) through sheer grit and talent. I don’t know what his role is long-term, but he’s one of those guys every playoff team needs: someone who hits for average, plays amazing defense, and will steal you a money bag in a pinch.

We got Ty France and J.P. Crawford through almost a full season intact, and they produced about as well as you’d expect, with 3.0 and 2.8 WAR respectively. I think you’d still look to improve at one of the middle infield spots this offseason (potentially moving J.P. over to second), but you have to like what both of these guys give you, as far as leadership and production go. Ultimately, you wonder how both of them will handle the rigors of a full season (as nagging injuries seem to creep in and sap their effectiveness as the season wears on), but for now I have no complaints.

Finally, pour one out for Mitch Haniger and Carlos Santana. Both were on the final years of their respective deals (Santana was a trade acquisition who didn’t hit a lot, but when he did, they seemed to be in the biggest of moments). Santana is probably washed as an everyday bat, while Haniger proved once again that he can’t stay healthy for a full (or multiple) season(s). I would say Haniger was great while he was in there, but even with his 1.4 WAR across 57 games, he still went in the tank for long stretches (and didn’t really give us much in the playoffs).

As far as pitching goes, there are plenty of kudos to go around. Logan Gilbert led the squad in WAR with 3.2. He built on his impressive rookie season with an even better one, throwing 185.2 innings in 32 starts. It looks like Gilbert is going to be a workhorse for many years to come.

On Gilbert’s heels came George Kirby, who had a similar rookie year this year to Gilbert’s last year: very restricted innings, yet still impressive output. What Kirby had this year – which Gilbert never got a chance to show last year – was a phenomenal playoff run. You would expect Kirby to have a similar increase in his innings next year, followed by the training wheels coming all the way off in 2024.

Luis Castillo was our big deadline acquisition, and he showed why the cost was worth it. To the point that he earned himself a long-term extension to stick around and be this team’s ace for the foreseeable future. He’s like a harder-throwing Felix with a similarly-impressive change up.

Robbie Ray was the leader of the pitchers throughout the year, but he had a number of rough patches to endure. His start was rocky as hell, until he started incorporating his 2-seam fastball. That led to improved results, but ultimately it seemed like he struggled against better teams. I don’t know what tweaks are in his future, but he’s going to need to rein in his command if he’s going to be worth the huge wad of money the Mariners are giving him over the next few years.

The rotation was wildly healthy this year, which is pretty insane. Marco Gonzales did Marco Gonzales things, finishing pretty well in line with his career norms, throwing 183 innings across 32 starts, and being about league average as you can get. Chris Flexen also did Chris Flexen things, and earned himself a nice little bump in pay in 2023 (to be this team’s long reliever, I guess, if he’s not traded at some point).

The bullpen – for the second year in a row – was this team’s heart and soul, and they needed every bit of the talent on offer. What’s interesting is that – aside from Sewald – we got it from a gaggle of new guys. Andres Munoz was the obvious breakout star, throwing 100+, with a 90+ slider. But, Erik Swanson dramatically improved his game, Penn Murfee was a nice surprise, Matt Festa was a competent arm, Diego Castillo got better once he was dropped from the highest-leverage spots, and Matt Brash was a revelation once the team demoted him from starter to reliever. If Brash sticks with relief, I think the sky is the limit with this kid, which is great news when you figure he’ll slot alongside Munoz and Sewald for the next few years at least.

It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for the 2022 Mariners, though.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesse Winker was this team’s biggest disappointment. He came over in that first big trade with the Reds (alongside Suarez), and everyone pegged Winker as the cornerstone of that deal. For good reason, because all Winker has done is produce at the plate in his Major League career. Especially in 2021, when he played at an All Star level.

Winker’s production fell dramatically this year. He suffered the Seattle curse. At home, his slash line was .203/.331/.294; on the road, it was dramatically higher: .232/.354/.382. 10 of his 14 homers came on the road. Ironically, the book on him was that he struggled against lefties but crushed righties; however that flipped for some bizarre reason in 2022. Across the board he was better against lefties, which is crazy to me!

The final nail in the coffin appears to be his work ethic, and his chemistry in the clubhouse as a result of that (lack of) work ethic. I’ll say this: I agree with Divish, I don’t think he looks very strong or athletic whatsoever. His defense isn’t just mediocre, it’s an outright liability. Sure, his eye at the plate is pretty strong, but you can’t build a career on crap defense and walks. That’s not going to work on a team that has a razor-thin margin for error when it comes to our offensive struggles at times. This is a team with a whole lotta alpha dogs who are in it to win it. I don’t know what Winker’s vibe is exactly – he struck me as an easygoing, comedy relief type of presence, but I don’t know if that’s totally accurate given the RBF we’ve come to witness so often – but clearly it doesn’t mesh with this team. Either he gets traded, or they try to make it work with an offseason meeting of the minds. My hunch is we cut and run, though I hope there’s at least a little value, since I think his bat would play in a friendlier offensive environment.

Adam Frazier was also a pretty significant offseason acquisition that was also a major disappointment. You bring in a guy like Frazier for his high batting average and on-base percentage. Competent defense at second and in the corner outfield is a bonus, but he’s supposed to be a regular baserunner for other guys to hit in. That’s what makes his 2022 season so befuddling, because his bat SHOULD play anywhere he goes. We’re not relying on him to be a dynamic power source like Winker, we just want him standing on first base for other guys to knock him around. He only turned 30 this year, so he should still be close enough to his prime to be effective. But, regardless, he started in a pretty deep hole and could never fully get out of it, in spite of occasional hot stretches. As I mentioned, there’s room for improvement up the middle, but that was always going to be the case. Frazier was on a 1-year deal, so we were going to have to look to fill this spot either way. Between left field and second base, we need to find at least ONE bigtime bat to help prop up this offense to get closer to league-average in scoring.

I’ll just rattle off really quickly: the other major disappointments were Luis Torrens, Abraham Toro, and Jarred Kelenic.

Kelenic had a fantastic finish to his 2021 season, which gave us all hope that he’d be here to stay in 2022. Instead, he sucked hard in the early going, spent MOST of the year down in Tacoma, had a nice little blip in the last couple weeks of the regular season, but ultimately wasn’t able to continue that through the playoffs. There’s still a lot he needs to do to be a more consistent Major League presence, and I just don’t know if he’s ever going to stick in Seattle.

Toro was a deadline acquisition in 2021 who has had a number of big hits in clutch moments, but by and large he’s been atrocious. He had to play for the Mariners quite a bit this year due to injuries and ineffectiveness around the roster, but he’s a huge wad of nothing. Time to move on.

Torrens, we thought, figured out his bat in 2021, and was supposed to be a steady middle-of-the-order type of guy, either as a backup catcher, or as this team’s DH. But, once again, he fell off the map and found himself DFA’d. He passed through without anyone claiming him, so we were able to get him to Tacoma until late in the regular season, when he returned to Seattle (with Raleigh’s injury issues) and saw an uptick in his offensive production again. I couldn’t tell you what his future holds, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the Mariners need improvement at backup catcher.

I don’t have a ton of complaints about the pitching. Again, it would be nice if Robbie Ray was better against good teams, since we clearly need him if we’re going to make it back to the playoffs. It was also disconcerting to see Sewald get beaten around so much late in the year. But, other than some minor quibbles, most of the guys who sucked (Steckenrider sure didn’t last long, did he?) were jettisoned in a timely fashion.

The overarching analysis for the 2022 Mariners is a rousing success. We made the playoffs for the first time since 2001! Even if it was last year’s playoff format, we would have made it to the Wild Card play-in game, and we would have prevailed to advance to the ALDS. So, I’m not taking anything away from the Mariners. Quite frankly, it’s insane there haven’t been more playoff teams for a while now. After a 162-game season, there needs to be proper representation! There are so many good teams in baseball who deserve a shot every year, why deprive markets of fun opportunities?

This is a team that outperformed expectations. It’s also a team that can easily keep things going, barring injuries. A couple of key additions should leave us contending for the A.L. West next year. And, as long as we don’t totally strip the farm system, there should be enough studs coming up through the pipeline – especially on the pitching side – to keep us playing at a high level for years to come.

The last time the Mariners were good, we had a nice 9-year run of success. Unfortunately, in that span, we only made it to the postseason 4 times, and never advanced beyond the ALCS. That needs to change here. Hopefully, we have the talent and the scouting to make the leap. It’s time for the Mariners – the only team to never play for a world championship – to make the World Series. Will that happen in 2023? A lot would have to go right, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. Of course, the odds are super long. But, it’s just nice to have a fun baseball team to root for again. It’s been FAR too long!

The Mariners Got Back To 90 Wins

I didn’t see that coming!

What a nice little treat that was to see. It took winning 3 of 4 against the lowly Tigers to do it, but I’ll take it. The series was completely meaningless from a wild card perspective, because we ended up 2 games behind Toronto (so, even if we won all 4, it wouldn’t have mattered) and a whopping 4 games ahead of Tampa (so even if we lost all 4, it wouldn’t have mattered). As such, this series was treated as completely meaningless.

Monday was another glitchy start from George Kirby (4 innings, 4 runs), all but ensuring that – while he’ll still be on the playoff roster – he won’t be starting anytime soon. We’re all chocking it up to fatigue and moving on. This game was notable for Julio Rodriguez returning and getting right back into the swing of things with a 3-hit day (including a double, a run, and an RBI). It was also notable because it was our only loss on the season to the Tigers, so there’s that.

Tuesday was the big doubleheader. Game 1 featured the return of Chris Flexen to a starting role. He sadly could only go 4 innings, giving up 3 runs in the process, on 71 pitches. Some bullpen guys got a final tune-up, but this one ended up going extras. That brought in Luis Torrens, who pitched the 10th and limited the damage to just the ghost runner (sparing his ERA in the process). He ended up getting the victory when we won it in the bottom half! Casali and Haniger homered.

Game 2 featured the first and only Major League start for Justus Sheffield this year. Brutal campaign in Tacoma has all but eliminated him as anything of import to this organization. He managed to slug his way through 5 innings, giving up 5 runs on 99 pitches. Big fucking whoop. Penn Murfee ate up a couple of crucial innings and other guys got tune-ups, as we thankfully held on and won this in regulation. Toro had a big game, Cal Raleigh had a homer, it was cool.

Wednesday’s season closer featured a heroic Marco Gonzales start. He’s biting the bullet for the team in making that start, as he’ll be left off of the Wild Card roster (he can return for the ALDS if we make it). The plan was for him to pitch as long as he could, and he gave us 7 innings of 4-run (3 earned) ball. Fucking awesome. Couple more tune-ups closed it, as we walked it off in the bottom of the 9th.

As noted, we’re going to Toronto. Friday at 1pm, Saturday at 1pm, Sunday TBD. Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert.

We got a fighter’s chance. We need our starters to really keep us in the game from the jump, because the Blue Jays have an amazing lineup, and presumably an amazing everything else.

Of note, Sam Haggerty pulled a groin on a stolen base attempt. Also, Jesse Winker’s bum neck has cost him the rest of the year. We’re down to Jarred Kelenic in left, with maybe Dylan Moore (unless he plays second base) or Adam Frazier. I don’t know who’s going to start, but it’s not great to lose a couple of important pieces (say what you want about Winker, but he could walk with the best of ’em, and presumably he’s hitting better on the road than at home).

I’m excited! I’m nervous as hell. I can’t wait for this series to start. I’m praying like crazy that we win Game 1, because I’m VERY worried about Robbie Ray. Let’s go!

The Mariners Losing Games Isn’t So Much A Concern As Losing Players

The good teams can withstand a few injuries and still be great. The good teams can withstand players underperforming expectations, or otherwise going through prolonged slumps, because they have enough depth to fill things out and compete at a high level.

The Mariners aren’t there yet. The Mariners are on a shoestring tightrope they’re trying to walk, with pretty much zero depth and therefore zero margin for error when it comes to players getting injured. That’s why, this slew of guys either suffering severe injuries, or otherwise playing through nagging ones, is much more of a nightmare scenario than the Mariners having a sub-par road trip.

Julio Rodriguez had to be pulled from the outfield yesterday, as he’s dealing with back tightness that it sounds like will land him on the IL. Eugenio Suarez is famously already on the IL with an injured hand that might prevent him from playing third base again this season (rendering him as exclusively a DH, which really does a number on our team defensively). Mitch Haniger is playing through aches and pains. Ty France is playing through aches and pains (and has to try his glove at third base for the first time in years). J.P. Crawford missed yesterday with a leg issue or some damn thing. Cal Raleigh has an injured thumb on his glove hand.

This is forcing us into a position we’d rather not be in. Like having Carlos Santana out there every day (when he’s probably best served with regular rest days, at his advanced age). Like being forced to use Winker in spite of his struggles both at the plate and in the field. Like riding Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore, when you figure both will come with diminishing returns the more they’re exposed to MLB pitching. Like playing Toro even though he’s a nonsense man with zero bat-on-ball skills whatsoever. Like taking stabs in the dark, with Kelenic called back up even though he can’t hit Major League bendy pitches (and, from what I recall, his prowess at hitting Major League straight pitches isn’t all that elite either).

Everyone feels this need for the team to fight to the bitter end for that top wild card spot, when that’s just asinine to me. Rest everyone who needs to rest – putting them on the IL for 10 days, if need be – and let’s just back into the playoffs as Wild Card #3!

There’s no way Baltimore is catching us. They play Houston for 4, the Red Sox for 4 on the road, the Yankees for 3 on the road, and the Blue Jays for 3 to close out their season. They won’t have the wins when all is said and done. And the White Sox aren’t even on my radar; they’re too far back. I don’t give two shits about the #1 or #2 wild card slots. Just give me #3 and let’s call it a season.

Meanwhile, let’s use these remaining 2 weeks to get healthy! We need all these guys for the post-season. How we finish the regular season is irrelevant! We did it! We’re good enough with the pitching we have to coast into that third wild card slot. But, if we keep pushing guys before they’re fully healed, then it’ll all be for naught.

I only care about what happens in the playoffs, against the Guardians of Cleveland, the Yankees of New York, and whoever we might face in a potential ALCS.

So, you can panic about this Oakland series all you want. It’s not phasing me. We lost 4-1 on Tuesday after managing all of one hit. Seems like a bad luck game to me more than anything (Luis Castillo falling apart against that lineup for a second time is a bit perturbing, though). We lost 2-1 on Wednesday, but that was even crazier of a scenario, where Robbie Ray went 6 shutout innings and some poor defense behind Erik Swanson doomed us.

Sanity was restored (at least for one day) in yesterday’s 9-5 victory. Sure, Julio had to leave, but Kelenic had a couple of monster hits (has he FINALLY turned a corner? We’ll see over the next week and change), and France and Haniger seem to be waking up from their slumber. It wasn’t a good outing by Kirby, but it was nice to see the offense overcome against a team they’re supposed to beat.

One final trip – to Kansas City – and then we’re home until the playoffs. We’ve only got a half-game cushion with the Rays keeping us in that third wild card spot. We’re still 4 up on Baltimore (but really we’re 5 up, since we hold the tiebreaker).

The Mariners Were On Fire While I Was On Vacation

You hate to max out your vacation time before Labor Day, but I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of my trips this year. The past 10 days or so were no exception, and I can see that the Mariners felt the same way, as they wrapped up a 6-game undefeated road trip while I was out of town.

Apparently, we have the Cleveland Guardians’ number. When I left, we were hosting them for four games, taking three. There was a 3-1 victory where Marco Gonzales got back on the horse and all the scoring was completed in the first inning for both teams. We followed that up with a 3-2 nailbiter in 11 innings. We had our only loss to the Guardians after that, with an uncharacteristic blown outing by Andres Munoz. Still, it was a narrow 4-3 affair. But, we came right back to take the series, winning a 4-0 shutout thanks to Robbie Ray’s 7 innings of dealing.

That set us on the road for the Tigers and Guardians again. We had no trouble destroying the Tigers: 9-3, 5-3, 7-0. We got to take a load off of Kirby’s arm in the first game (giving Flexen the 4-inning save). The Return Of Abraham Toro came with a 2-run homer in the later innings to give us the lead for good in the second game. And Logan Gilbert took advantage of a lot of runs early to throw 6 relatively easy shutout innings before giving way and saving his pitch count. Great job, everyone!

Even more impressive was the 3-game sweep of the Guardians on the road, especially when you factor in how – on Sunday’s getaway game – it took over 8 hours for the game to complete thanks to huge rain delays. We beat ’em 6-1 in the opener, on the back of another strong outing by Castillo. We shut them out again 4-0 in the next Robbie Ray start on Saturday. And we finished them off in that aforementioned rain game, where Kirby was limited to 3 innings before the 4 and a half hour delay. Even though technically the bullpen gave up our 3-1 lead late, it was awesome work by those guys to keep us in it and take on the burden of the day. It gave us enough time to rally in the 11th inning, with a Crawford RBI single and a Raleigh 2-run homer. Flexen got his second save of the week, as the last pitcher available.

At the moment – with yesterday’s defeat to the White Sox, thanks to what I’m sure was a miserable late return home Sunday night/Monday morning – we’re still in a virtual tie with the Rays for the top Wild Card spot. They are, of course, charging the slumping Yankees for the division title, so things could look a lot different by month’s end. Nevertheless, even with our hot run lately, we’re still 11 games behind the Astros for the A.L. West. So, don’t even think about that.

The good news in all of this is that we’re almost a lock to make the playoffs. Our odds of making it are, like, 99% or something. This is really happening!

The Mariners Won Another Wildly Impressive Series Over The Yankees

The thing is, you can’t talk about this series victory over the Yankees without talking about the miserable 9-4 loss on Monday. Oh believe me, I don’t want to talk about it; I want to ignore it and move on! But, there’s cause for real alarm, because Logan Gilbert gave up a season-worst 7 runs in 4.0 innings of work.

That follows Gilbert’s previous-worst mark of 6 runs given up last week in New York against this very team (that was in 5.1 innings). It’s been a terrible month of August (13 runs in 9.1 innings over the two starts) and a concerning overall inflation of his numbers as the season has gone along. Now, MAYBE the Yankees just have his number; I guess we’ll see the rest of the way. But for a guy who had been the best and most consistent overall starter for the Mariners (at least, until Luis Castillo came to town), that’s not what you want to see from someone who’s slated to play an important role in this team’s playoff run. Especially when you consider he’s most likely to join the top two guys in any post-season rotation we roll out there. The Mariners need Gilbert to continue being great, is what I’m getting at.

One of the problems seems to be the fact that he’s so fastball-heavy, especially early in games and early in counts. The Yankees have jumped all over Gilbert, and I don’t see why others wouldn’t do the same.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about Monday’s game. That’s because Tuesday’s game was so thrilling, that’s ALL I want to talk about, ever again, for the rest of my life!

Round 2 of the heavyweight matchup between Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole was always going to be better and more impressive than Round 1 last week (where Cole gave up a 6-spot in the first inning, and we cruised to a 7-3 victory). But, even if you had high expectations for this one, the game exceeded it by leaps and bounds!

Cole was brilliant: 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Castillo was even better: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts.

There wasn’t anything even close to offensive output through seven innings. That’s mostly because whenever the Mariners managed to get to first base, they ran themselves out of the inning (a blunder by Frazier trying to turn a single into a double, and a caught stealing by Haggerty that wasn’t even close to succeeding). The Yanks almost served a knockout blow to Castillo in the eighth – as they had two runners on for the first time all day – but with his 110th pitch, Castillo was able to induce a ground ball to get out of the mini-jam.

Then, it was a battle of the bullpens. We got the best the Yankees could throw out there, and they got the best of what we had to offer. Andres Munoz not only struck out the side in the ninth, but he struck out the top of the order. Paul Sewald took care of the 10th (thanks to a nifty pick-off move as the ghost runner tried to steal third before he threw his pitch). Matt Festa looked a little erratic out there, but he generated a line-drive double play to second to once again eliminate the ghost runner, before allowing another line drive – this time to right field – that was caught before it hit the ground.

Enter Matt Brash – game still scoreless – for the 12th and 13th innings. In his very first at-bat, Brash snagged a groundball behind his back in some sort of miracle play that resulted in him forcing the ghost runner into a pickle (he would run himself out of the baseline for the first out), and as the batter tried to reach second base, he too ran himself out of the baseline for the double play. It was as absurd of a play as you’ll ever see, and I loved every second of it. Brash got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the 12th, it looked like we might FINALLY end this thing. With one out, Haggerty (the ghost runner) advanced to third on a ground out from France. With two outs now, Haniger and Jake Lamb walked to load the bases, with Suarez at the plate. But, he couldn’t get that elusive base hit (indeed, the Mariners hadn’t gotten a single base hit since the 8th inning at this point), striking out swinging and breaking his bat in two with his knee as he walked back towards the dugout.

That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. I should point out that at some point in extras, we pinch hit Santana for Kelenic, which necessitated the Mariners putting Haniger (the erstwhile DH) in right field. That meant we lost our DH, and Brash’s time was limited (since there’s no way you’re letting a pitcher bat in a game this important).

He was able to go back out there in the 13th inning though, and once again he worked some sort of voodoo to keep it scoreless. Right off the bat, we intentionally walked Aaron Judge, because there’s no way we’re letting that freak of nature beat us. Then, after a strikeout, Brash walked the bases loaded. Thankfully, he was able to get another strikeout, followed by a ground out, and that kept the game right where we needed it to be.

Cal Raleigh led off the 13th by singling to right; with Judge’s arm, there was no way Suarez (the ghost runner) was scoring there. With no outs, though, that’s a pretty enticing scenario! J.P. Crawford ended up tapping it back to the pitcher, but it advanced Raleigh to second. That led to an intentional walk of Sam Haggerty (the second time they’d done that to him in the extras), which brought up the Brash spot in the lineup. Luis Torrens – who has been having a God-awful season to date – pinch hit, which was risky in its own right, because he’s the only backup catcher we have right now. If he failed, that would’ve put a lot of pressure on Raleigh to stay healthy through the end of the game.

Thankfully, Torrens came through! He took strike one looking, swung at strike two (both pitches 97 miles per hour and nasty looking), and then put the third fastball into play, pushing it to right field for the game-winner. 1-0, an all-time classic. Absolutely unreal!

The M’s would be forgiven if there was a bit of a hangover on Wednesday afternoon’s getaway game. Once again, it was another amazing pitching matchup – Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Robbie Ray vs. All Star (and former Mariners reliever) Nestor Cortes – and while this one didn’t quite live up to the magic of Tuesday night, the game was still scoreless through five and a half innings.

Indeed, Cortes was spinning a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth, when Sam Haggerty jerked a line drive home run off of the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead. That would prove to be short-lived, as Ray – maxing out at 115 pitches – couldn’t quite get out of the seventh unscathed. It’s understandable – given how many relievers we had to use the night before – that Servais would try to squeeze an extra inning out of Ray (especially when he was dealing so hard through six), but he walked one too many guys, then paid the price with a 2-run homer to the Yankees’ #9 hitter.

That ended Ray’s day, but it didn’t end the Yankees’ seventh inning scoring spree. Aaron Judge (of course) saw a hanging slider from Penn Murfee, and did what he does with those pitches, depositing it to left for a solo homer and a 3-1 lead. I figured that was the ballgame, but boy was I wrong again!

In the bottom of the same inning, France reached second on a single and a passed ball; he would end up scoring on a Haniger RBI single to make the game 3-2. After a Suarez strikeout, Carlos Santana did what he does: hit go-ahead bombs. This one was jacked to right field for a 4-3 lead.

That lined us up for Diego Castillo’s return from the IL (a 1-2-3 eighth inning), followed by Sewald’s 15th save on the season. The best part: no Aaron Judge coming around in either of those innings to rain on our parade.

We have an off-day today, and boy is it well-earned! Those last two games felt like 40. It’ll be nice to go back on the road and (hopefully) beat up on the Texas Rangers some more.

Some quick bits of news that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog: Abraham Toro was sent down to Tacoma earlier this week for sucking. Kyle Lewis was sent down to Tacoma more recently, also for sucking. Chris Flexen has been put into the bullpen, because it’s impractical to run a 6-man rotation out there with only 13 pitcher spots allowed. And, it looks like Julio Rodriguez is going to return soon (possibly as early as tomorrow).

In other news, Jake Lamb sucks (and was batting in the cleanup spot in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory for some God-foresaken reason; he went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and a meaningless walk) and I don’t know why he’s here. Also, Jarred Kelenic sucks as well, and figures to get the demotion upon Julio’s return. Oh, and Jesse Winker had to leave Monday’s game with back spasms, so we’ll see how long he’s out for.

We’re so close to a lineup without any black holes, I can almost taste it!

The Trade Deadline Came In Like A Lion & Went Out Like A Lamb For The Mariners

You can’t be happy with that headline, can you? We can do better.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a relatively big fan of the Luis Castillo trade (I’ll be a bigger fan of it if he shoves against the Yankees later this morning), even if there’s a distinct possibility that we overpaid to get him here. But, at best, that only represents a solution to ONE of our problems.

As we’ve all talked about endlessly, you can’t have enough bullpen help. I like the stuff of Ken Giles, but he obviously missed all of 2021, and has had multiple setbacks/injuries in 2022 that have thus far limited him to 5 appearances. He can’t be counted on. Diego Castillo has bounced back in a big way after struggling in April, but he landed on the IL and I don’t think he’ll be the last. Ryan Borucki has had a pretty impressive turnaround in his career since joining the Mariners, but how legitimate is that?

We’ve got Paul Sewald, who I think we’re all happy with. We’ve got Andres Munoz, who has fucking electric stuff, but who can also lose the feel of his pitches at the drop of a hat and will start walking the world. Erik Swanson has been a revelation, but this is really the first year he’s put it all together; there was a time in his career not too long ago when he was used exclusively in mop-up situations when the game was out of hand one way or the other. And I guess Penn Murfee looks like the real deal, but he’s also a rookie, so there’s at least a little concern on my part.

One more ace reliever would’ve hit the spot. If this team is going to push all its chips into the middle on the strength of their starting and relief pitching, then really just going all out and making sure we’ve got the best we can possibly get is paramount.

That’s because our most glaring weakness is hitting. And yet, the company line all along centered on how we were largely standing pat with the bats.

On the one hand, I get it. Mitch Haniger returning to full strength is like getting an All Star middle-of-the-order bat with two months to go. Julio, France, and Haniger topping our lineup is something I can get behind. And, let’s not forget, Kyle Lewis was the Rookie of the Year two seasons ago. If we can just get some positive regression out of Adam Frazier and Jesse Winker – two veterans who should have figured it the fuck out by now – while continuing to get what we’ve gotten from Suarez, Crawford, Raleigh, and Santana, then that’s a good-enough lineup (with the pitching we’ve got) to roll into the playoffs and try to make some noise.

On the other hand, though, I’m in agreement with all the experts who are saying the Mariners are not obligated whatsoever to continue giving Carlos Santana everyday at bats. Also, if I never see Toro in the lineup again, it’ll be too soon. Santana should be a bench guy playing part time, and most everyone else comprising the depth on this team is just fucking atrocious.

I know what they say – the depth everywhere is bad – but it just seems like the Mariners have the worst of the worst, and there’s no good internal options.

Look at some of these guys we’ve seen this year! Future trivia answers to questions no one has any business asking. Donovan Walton, Travis Jankowski, Jack Larsen, Stuart Fairchild, Steven Souza Jr., Mike Ford, Marcus Wilson, Kevin Padlo, Andrew Knapp. And that’s not even getting into the names we’ve actually heard of (who still aren’t worth much of a damn). Justin Upton, Jarred Kelenic, the aforementioned Toro, Dylan Moore, Taylor Trammell, Luis Torrens.

So, it comes with no positivity whatsoever to announce the non-Castillo moves the Mariners made at the deadline yesterday.

  • Curt Casali (backup catcher) from the Giants
  • Matthew Boyd (lefty starter/reliever) also from the Giants
  • Jake Lamb (reserve corner infielder/outfielder) from the Dodgers

In return, we gave up some reliever no one’s ever heard of, a low-level catcher prospect (both going to the Giants), and cash (going to the Dodgers).

Casali’s just a guy. But, with the Tom Murphy injury (out for the year), and considering Torrens is giving you less than nothing, having just a guy is actually a modest improvement. Of course, we’ll see how his bat plays in Seattle. At least his defense is supposed to be good.

Boyd is a starter who figures to join our bullpen. As a starter, he’s ho-hum; as a reliever, he’s an unknown. He does not seem to be an improvement over anyone; indeed, it seems like he’s nothing more than an innings-eater.

What’s worse is that both Casali and Boyd are currently injured, so they can’t even help us out now anyway. Casali is on the mend – rehabbing at the AAA level – so we should probably see him soon. But, Boyd had arm surgery, hasn’t pitched at all in 2022, and has already had one setback. Apparently, we traded for him based on the strength of a bullpen session he threw? September seems to be the earliest he could help us, if he’s going to show up at all. On top of that, he’s on a 1-year deal, meaning he’s strictly a rental and will be a free agent at the end of the season; so it’s not even like we can stash him and hope he pans out next year!

I’ll be honest, I don’t love this deal. But, I’m also pretty confident this will ultimately be a trade that helps neither team.

The deal that I really don’t understand, though, is bringing in Jake Lamb, a 31 year old past-his-prime reserve infielder/outfielder with no pop and pretty mediocre numbers overall. His last useful season was in 2017, and he fell off a cliff after that!

What’s his role here? Clearly, as a backup. But, when is he going to see the field? Why would you play him over Sam Haggerty, for instance, who actually has done a little bit in his reserve role? Is he even better than Toro, who – say what you will – has at least had the occasional bright moment here and there?

Taken as a whole, what the Mariners did on the August 2nd trade deadline was marginal at best. At least all of them will (potentially) be gone by next year, unless we opt to re-sign them.

I’ll conclude with this: there’s a chance that this was all shrewd by Jerry Dipoto. I hate coming off as an apologist for him, because I don’t think he’s earned it. There’s a real opportunity for these 2022 Mariners to not only make the post-season, but actually make a dent. Luis Castillo was a fantastic start towards that goal. But, an impact bat really could’ve put us over the top and given us a chance to do some playoff damage (don’t talk to me about Soto, because the M’s clearly didn’t have the prospects to bring him in, unless you were willing to give up on Julio, Gilbert, and Kirby).

That being said, making a deal just to make a deal isn’t always a good thing. What if we traded for a guy and he shit the bed? Then, not only have we brought in someone who’s clogging up our everyday lineup, but we’ve given away valuable prospects to do so.

There’s reason to believe the aforementioned veterans Winker and Frazier will turn their seasons around and approach their career norms. We’re already starting to see what Frazier is capable of; after a miserable June, his rebound has been a big boost. And we’ve seen glimpses out of Winker; oddly enough, his June was really his best (and only good) month (across the board, reaching his career norms), though he’s cooled off considerably since the All Star Break.

We could’ve dumped Frazier and found a proper everyday second baseman. But, Winker was never going anywhere. He’s signed through 2023, and he was supposed to be the crown jewel of that first Reds deal this past offseason. Right now, his value is pretty minimal, so trading him would’ve been a tough ask. We just gotta hope that he gets better as he figures out American League pitching.

If those two guys step up, and we get a boost from Haniger and Lewis – all the while hanging onto Gilbert, Kirby, and the prospects we’ve got left in the organization – then Dipoto will look like a genius.

But, if we fail to make the playoffs, or if our offense totally faceplants in the post-season, then I think we can point to this deadline as a real missed opportunity.

That being said, I don’t think Dipoto is going anywhere anytime soon. I also don’t believe that we’re one big bat away from winning the World Series this year. The onus is on the upcoming offseason, and what the Mariners are able to do in the free agent market, combined with what we’re able to make in trades.

But, it’s batshit crazy to start thinking about that now, when we’ve got an exciting finish to this regular season to look forward to.

The Mariners Are About To Have A Little Bit Of A Roster Crunch

File this under: Good Problem To Have.

You always like to hear people talking about the Mariners having too many good players and not enough roster spots to keep them all. Usually, there are plenty of roster spots for all the mediocre we’ve brought in.

Now, to be fair, there’s still a lot of mediocre. Don’t let the 14-game winning streak fool you; there are still improvements that need to be made. But, regardless, there are about to be some tough decisions (unless injuries happen, which would essentially make our decisions for us).

Kyle Lewis is slated to return today. I won’t know for sure what the corresponding move is slated to be until this afternoon (unless I’m lucky enough to see something come through on Twitter while I write this), but my hunch is that we’ve seen the last of Justin Upton. I’ll be honest, until I looked last night, I forgot he was still on the team. I would say he’s been greatly overshadowed by the addition of Carlos Santana, though there’s been at least a time or two where Upton aided significantly in the Mariners winning some games. But, overall, his numbers are just nonexistent.

Going forward, though, Mitch Haniger is starting his rehab assignment this weekend. According to what I’ve read on Twitter (I think Dipoto was on the Mike Salk program talking about this), Haniger will hopefully return to the Mariners in about three weeks. That, of course, puts us beyond the Trade Deadline – so I’m assuming plenty of moves will be made in that span – but it’ll be interesting to see whose roster spot Haniger ends up taking.

The first question on my mind is: does the return of Haniger and Lewis mean the Mariners won’t be looking to add an outfielder over the next week and a half? Even with Haniger and Lewis being part-time outfielders for a bit – until they get more acclimated (though, I don’t think Lewis will ever be a full-time outfielder again, with his chronic knee issues) – there’s still obviously Julio and Winker, not to mention all the reserve outfielders we’ve got (Frazier, Moore, Haggerty, Toro).

I have to imagine – unless we end up trading Lewis and/or Haniger – the outfield is probably set as is.

There was also apparently talk on the Dipoto interview that Ty France might slide over and play some second base. That would allow Santana to play at first (when he’s not DHing), and give this team the option to DH one of those four outfielders. I don’t know how much I love that idea (though, I’m sure it would be far from an everyday thing), but if it gets all of our best bats in the lineup, maybe we can make it work. I would recommend NOT doing that on days when Marco Gonzales is pitching; save the France At Second experiment for when we have more of a strikeout guy on the mound.

There would be a further roster crunch in this scenario as well, if the Mariners end up trading for an improved second baseman. As it is – barring further injuries – it would seem to me Adam Frazier’s role on this team is going to diminish considerably. It would reduce to pretty much off the team if we trade for a quality replacement. So, maybe the Mariners are going to be on the hunt for a taker for Frazier, regardless of what we get in return.

I don’t think this is true at all, but it almost seems like the Mariners are going to stick with the offense we’ve got. Dipoto did mention that our highest priority is probably going to be adding to the pitching staff, which I agree with. But, you’re asking a lot of that pitching staff to have to continue carrying this team through the end of the season, without any improvements on offense whatsoever.

Ultimately, I’m left wondering what the future is for Toro. He’s still under control for four more years after 2022. From what I’m told, the Mariners really believe in his bat, but I can’t fathom what they’re basing that on. His track record has been underwhelming – except for a month or so after the trade to bring him in last year – and he doesn’t seem to be getting any better with increased playing time this year. He doesn’t hit for power, he sure as shit doesn’t hit for average, and his on-base percentage isn’t at all impressive. His biggest asset seems to be his team control, his inexpensiveness, and his ability to play multiple positions.

But, you know who else has all of that, and has actually produced at the plate? Sam Haggerty. You know who ELSE has all of that, and is still better than Toro (even if he’s no great shakes)? Dylan Moore.

What it’s almost certainly going to boil down to is who has minor league options left. If we can still send Toro down to Tacoma without running him through waivers, then I think that’s the ideal option for everyone involved. But, if Toro is out of options, then it’s clear you’re sending someone down who is vastly superior, which this offense can’t afford (unless, again, we trade for a significant upgrade).

A lot of this could be moot by the time we’re done with all the trades in the next week. But, put me firmly in the camp who’s over Toro, and would rather see his roster spot go to someone who has actually produced, and not someone who simply has potential.