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!

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.

What Is The Mariners’ Lineup Looking Like For 2024?

For the record, it’s impossible to try to predict how ANYONE in baseball is going to perform from year to year. There’s injuries, there’s regression, there’s age, there’s personal life matters that creep in; those are all elements that can negatively affect players. On the flipside, maybe they go to Driveline and work on their swing. Maybe they learn a new pitch. Maybe they get in “the best shape of their lives”.

Who expected J.P. Crawford or Jarred Kelenic to take their respective steps forward last year? Who expected Suarez to come to Seattle and be a hit? On the flipside, who expected Winker to come here and be a total bust? Who saw the Ty France nosedive coming? Who expected to get absolutely nothing out of Kolten Wong, A.J. Pollock, Adam Frazier, and the like? Oh wait, maybe don’t bring up those last three guys.

So, I’m willing to admit that I’m probably going to be dead wrong about a lot of these guys, one way or the other. But, for fun, let’s take a look at who we’re likely to see as our 13 position players, and how they fit in a potential lineup.

The “everyday” guys seem to be something like this:

  • Left Field – Luke Raley
  • Center Field – Julio Rodriguez
  • Right Field – Mitch Haniger
  • Third Base – Luis Urias
  • Short Stop – J.P. Crawford
  • Second Base – Josh Rojas
  • First Base – Ty France
  • Catcher – Cal Raleigh
  • Designated Hitter – Mitch Garver

The bench guys – who figure to see a good amount of platoon time – include:

  • UTIL – Dylan Moore
  • OF – Dominic Canzone
  • Catcher – Seby Zavala

The final guy is someone between Sam Haggerty, Taylor Trammell, Cade Marlowe, Zach DeLoach, or Jonatan Clase (I’m assuming one of them will have a torrid Spring Training and force his way onto the team for a couple weeks, until it’s clear his spring was an aberration).

I’ll tell you right now, that lineup is ROUGH to look at. Here’s an order, for reference:

  1. J.P. Crawford (SS)
  2. Julio Rodriguez (CF)
  3. Cal Raleigh (C)
  4. Mitch Garver (DH)
  5. Luke Raley (LF)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ty France (1B)
  8. Josh Rojas (2B)
  9. Luis Urias (3B)

As a tried and true Mariners fan, I can only allow myself to feel good about the top three guys. Everyone else has a wild range of outcomes going from Absolute Worst to Better Than Expected.

Garver should be fine, but would it shock anyone to see a middling slugger come to Seattle and hit for Warning Track Power? Raley has less of a Major League track record, so he gets a little less confidence from me. Haniger, obviously, is going to get hurt within the first two months of the season, missing more time than he’ll play for. France is working out at Driveline, so there’s hope that he follows in J.P. Crawford’s footsteps, but I’ll believe it when I see it; I’m heading into 2024 expecting nothing from France. Rojas is Just A Guy, and will almost certainly lose playing time to Dylan Moore, among others. Urias is also Just A Guy, and will almost certainly lose playing time to Dylan Moore, among others.

How many Dylan Moores do we have on the team, anyway?

I would say there’s better than a 50/50 chance that the bottom third of the lineup is as bad as it’s ever been, with probably better than a 35% chance that 5 out of our 9 hitters – on the whole – are underperforming and actively costing us ballgames.

And that’s, again, AFTER the bulk of our moves in trades and free agency. That’s ostensibly supposed to be an “improvement” over 2023. Odds are, the Mariners will be a significantly WORSE hitting and scoring team in 2024.

We pretty much decided to punt second and third base. We swapped Kelenic for Raley, which is kind of a wash. We swapped Teoscar Hernandez for Haniger, which feels like a downgrade when you consider the time Haniger is going to miss (with the very real possibility that Haniger is just cooked as a professional ballplayer). The only actual upgrade is at DH, but it’s hard to give them credit for that when they effectively punted DH last year. Getting something – when we were so consistently getting nothing – is pretty easy to do when you actually find a warm body to put there.

And don’t even try to start with me on suggesting improvement out of guys like J.P., Julio, or Cal. They are what they are, until I see otherwise. But, I am by no means banking on them being anything more than what I’ve seen. Same goes for Canzone, or any of the other Quad-A guys we’ve got on the 40-man roster that we’re forced to keep on the 26-man roster because they’re out of options. Again, I’ll believe it when I see it, and I don’t expect to see much of anything.

So, yeah, pretty bleak! Hope we find some improvement in our bullpen! Hope our starters are able to carry this team on their backs the whole year! How many 1-0 losses do we have to look forward to?

What Happens If This Is It For The Mariners?

The recent moves by the Mariners have a rationale behind them. You’ll note there that I didn’t say it was a GOOD rationale. I didn’t even say it was a rationale that I buy. But, they – the Mariners (ownership and front office) – feel they are in an economic pinch. This is in spite of 2.7 million fans coming to games in 2023, this is in spite of all the success this team has had the last two seasons, this is in spite of all the countless millions of dollars this team has generated over the years.

Where is the economic pinch coming from?

Well, local cable provider Xfinity/Comcast/Whatever The Fuck decided they would do their customers a solid by removing Root Sports from the basic cable package. That saved people, what, $10 per month? Something like that? On the one hand, it makes sense. The vast majority of people who subscribe to cable aren’t necessarily interested in sports programming, and if given the choice of saving $10 per month, or having the option to scroll past a sporting event, I’m sure most people would gladly take the ten bucks. Sports fans – and there ARE many of us – tend to forget that we’re actually a minority in this world (depending on the sport, of course, and depending on the locale; in Alabama, for instance, I’m sure football fans are in the majority; you get the idea).

What has been the gripe all along about people on the west coast generally, and in the greater Seattle area specifically, when it comes to the Pac-12? There isn’t enough fan interest – compared to the SEC and Big10 – to generate the kinds of revenues for our schools to be able to compete on a level playing field. Well, I guess for Seattle, you can extend that to Major League Baseball (Mariners), Hockey (Kraken), and the NBA (Trailblazers), among other lesser sports. We apparently don’t care enough about these teams to force Xfinity’s hand in keeping Root Sports on the basic plan. As a result, if we want to keep Root Sports – and we’re forced to go with Xfinity – we have to pony up for whatever the sports tier is, something like $18-$20 extra per month. I would bet that most fans interested in the Mariners, for example, don’t give a shit about all the other things one might get with that sports tier; they just want the M’s. So, then it comes down to a decision: do you want to pay an extra $20 per month for all the bells and whistles, just to get the one thing you want? Or do you want to say, “Fuck it, I don’t need to watch the Mariners anymore, I can listen on the radio”? Or do you find an alternative streaming option that offers Root Sports at a lower financial level, cutting the Xfinity cord for good?

That’s the pinch. What we don’t know exactly is how much this is costing the Mariners. They have a controlling ownership stake in Root Sports. This was done, in theory, to bring in extra revenue streams for the team that they didn’t have to share with the rest of Major League Baseball. This SHOULD have been making us countless millions of extra dollars every year, to ideally put us in the upper echelon of Major League teams when it comes to revenue, as a result, allowing us to spend with the big boys. But, we don’t know if that’s true or not. We don’t know if this deal has been as good for the Mariners as they intended. Maybe it has! But, as with all billionaires, it doesn’t matter what you made LAST year; it only matters what you make NEXT year. And, again, we don’t know what this is going to cost the M’s. Either it’s super dire, and the RSN model is going to collapse upon itself as more and more people cut the cable cord, or it’s just kind of annoying and is going to take some millions of dollars out of the pockets of literal billionaires.

CAN’T HAVE THAT! Losing even one dollar is an outrage to fucking billionaires, because they’re fucking psychopaths. Greedy fucking villains who we entrust with our sporting allegiance, because we have no other choice. We’re not Packers fans.

Anyway, now the Mariners have – through the trades of Suarez, Gonzales, White, and Kelenic, and through the lack of a qualifying offer to Teoscar Hernandez – saved themselves, what, $20 million for 2024? Hypothetically something close to $40 million, if Teoscar would have signed? Anyway, let’s just say $20 million; that feels like a comfortable round number to work with. We assume this is money the team is going to use towards filling out the roster, but we also assumed the Mariners would increase payroll over last year, rather than savagely cut it, so where does assuming get us?

What can you get for $20 million?

We need a right fielder, left fielder, third baseman, second baseman, and designated hitter. I think it’s safe to say we’re never going to get a legit DH under this front office group; they’d rather put whatever bullshit in there they have laying around, under the guise of giving guys “rest days” (that never actually happen, because it just ends up being Mike Ford or some bullshit). If we take DH out of the equation – and project some scrub already on the roster for that role (Canzone, Haggerty, Moore, whatever) – that’s still four starters we need. If we project Urias in that third base spot (a black hole if I’ve ever met one), and maybe Dylan Moore in that second base spot, that’s still two outfielders we need to find, and only $20 million with which to spend.

YOU CAN’T GET ANYTHING IN BASEBALL FOR UNDER $20 MILLION! Do you remember what A.J. Pollock cost last year? His broke ass was $7 million, specifically to be a platoon partner; he wasn’t even brought here to be an everyday player! Who the hell are we going to get for $20 million, to fill anywhere from 2-5 open spots in the everyday lineup? No one. No one good, anyway.

For the record, I do kind of expect the Mariners to spend this $20 million. I don’t think we’re done making moves; there will probably be a few new players coming in at some point. Remember that year when the Seahawks had some extra money to spend, and rather than sign one great offensive lineman, they spread it around on 4-5 scrubs? I think that’s what the Mariners will do. They’ll bypass all of these potentially impactful bats, wait around for the guys nobody wants, and still probably overpay a few of them into coming here, kinda like the way the Seahawks overpaid for Luke Joeckel.

When I talk about “this being it” for the Mariners, that’s what I mean. I think all of the potential impact bats are already on this roster. Julio, Cal, J.P., hopefully Ty France with a new Driveline swing.

Then, there’s everyone else: Dylan Moore, Josh Rojas, Jose Caballero, Sam Haggerty, Luis Urias, Dominic Canzone, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell. You know, all of these junk guys who are just around because they don’t have any minor league options. That’s the kind of talent we have, and that’s the kind of talent I expect the Mariners to bring in with their meagre ration of $20 million.

By my count, we have 4 spots left on the 40-man roster. I would say, if the season started today, all of the guys I just listed – plus a backup catcher, also a nobody – are the 13 position players on the 26-man active roster. Maybe we mix and match, drop a guy here and there down to the minors, depending on who we’re able to bring in via free agency or trade, but again, the talent level isn’t going to be all that different from what we’re looking at.

Pretty grim! Almost no power, almost no high batting averages, very little ability to get on base with any regularity. That seems like a lineup that’s destined to take this team absolutely nowhere. It’s significantly WORSE than it was in 2023, and again, that was a lineup that failed to push us back into the playoffs. We can only go downward from here with a lineup even closely resembling THAT.

So, where do we turn to for hope?

I think, at this point, it’s safe to say we should start thinking of the Seattle Mariners in terms of the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, and the like. I know we’ve always lamented the Mariners for being too cheap, but that hasn’t really been the case until now. They’ve always just been afraid to go the extra step. They’ve always been content with half measures. They’ve always failed to finish the job to put this team over the top. In that sense, how is this any different? We get close to where we want to go – in the playoffs for the first time in two-plus decades, then a game or two short of the playoffs a season later – but never do what needs to be done to turn this team from a fringe contender into a legitimate World Series contender.

But now? With this kind of cost cutting? With reports that it’s all but certain that the Mariners are never going to be able to extend Cal Raleigh – because he’ll cost too much, and likely because he wants to go somewhere to be on a winner – we’re not only fucking up our contention window, but now we know this window has a finite timetable to it.

We’re never going to be able to keep this young core together. That was the plan before, right? Draft and develop a spectacular young core, then fill in around the edges with quality outside veterans to push us over the top. Now, we have to pick and choose who we can keep. We have to think about a future where we can have George Kirby OR Logan Gilbert, but not both. We have to think about all of these young guys as they head into their arbitration seasons, where their salaries will skyrocket based on their high levels of performance as very young players. We’re not going to be able to extend them all early. And we’re not going to be able to afford them even DURING those arbitration years, let alone afterward when they become unrestricted free agents. That means – since, again, we’re thinking in terms of A’s, Rays, Royals, etc. – that we’re going to have to start trading some of these guys for more cost-controlled prospects and just hope and pray we can develop the guys we get in return into viable Major League pieces.

The bummer in all of this is that our next crop of homegrown prospects are another full year or two away from hitting the Major Leagues. So, not only do we have an ever-shrinking window with our current crop of young Major League talent, but there’s likely going to be a significant gap between when those players start leaving, and the next crop ascends.

How long do we have with our current crop?

Cal Raleigh is arbitration eligible in 2025-2027. Logan Gilbert is eligible in 2024-2027 (his estimated 2024 contract will be $5 million, and will only go up and up and up from there). George Kirby is eligible from 2025-2028. Luis Castillo is signed through 2027, with a vesting option for 2028. Robbie Ray is here likely through 2026 (he has a player option after 2024, but considering he’ll at best be playing half a season next year, seems unlikely he’d opt out); we’re stuck with his crazy salary unless he gets lumped in with the next round of salary dump trades. And J.P. Crawford is signed through 2026. Obviously, Julio isn’t going anywhere, so I hope he likes being our ONE good player, because I’m guessing if we haven’t won a World Series by 2026, we’re going to start moving on from most of these guys.

That’s a 2-3 year window. 2024 & 2025 for sure, MAYBE 2026, if ownership hasn’t totally panicked by then and switched to a new GM/manager combo. We can write off 2024, as the team has no prospects ready to come up. 2025 is maybe a possibility to improve from within. Leaving us with a narrow pinpoint window of 2026 as the ideal target.

By then, maybe Cole Young, Harry Ford, Colt Emerson, Michael Arroyo, Felnin Celesten, Tai Peete, and the like, will be ready to make their mark at the Major League level.

If that’s how ownership is going to treat this team – if all we have left to hope for is our prospects taking the next steps – then I think it’s time to turn our attention to the minors. Because I don’t think there’s going to be any significant help coming via free agency. Sure seems like most trades – from here on out – will be shipping off guys with less club control for guys with more club control. Then, it’s just retreads and reclamation projects as far as free agency is concerned.

Obviously, I’m not saying that 2026 is the year we win the World Series. That’s a BEST case scenario, and also the soonest we should even be thinking about that. I think the lead-up to 2026 is going to be pretty frustrating, and 2026 itself might be a total disaster for all I know.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know where I’m at with this team anymore. I feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me. Again, I don’t know why I should’ve expected any different. But, it hasn’t felt like dire straits like this for a while. It still felt like this team was on the rise, even with the pitfall that was 2023. But now? I can only see the doom and the gloom.

I don’t know how much more I can give as a fan to this team. I think as this ownership group starts pulling back its money and its effort from the talent level on the Major League roster, so will I start to pull back my interest in watching this team, in going to their games, in investing my heart and soul into the day-to-day grind. As the Mariners predictably fall short on the field, so will I fall short in giving a fuck.

There’s more to life than Mariners baseball. I know I’ve threatened leaving this team high and dry for years now. But, I also wasn’t married then. I didn’t have a family then. I didn’t have other things that would draw my attention away from this organization that CLEARLY doesn’t give two shits about this fanbase. Why bother? Why feed into their villainy? Let them run the Mariners into the ground. I’ve got my own life to live.

What The Mariners Need To Fix Heading Into 2024

Whenever you hear someone from the team talk about what went wrong with the 2023 Mariners, and what they need to do to get back to the playoffs in 2024, they make it sound like it’s just a small tweak here and there. I got into the positives of the 2023 squad, and yeah, there’s a lot of good pieces here. But, I would also say it’s not an insignificant undertaking!

I counted 12 positives, and that’s including Teoscar, who is not a guarantee to be back. He’ll likely be extended a qualifying offer, which everyone believes he will turn down. At which point, either you find a way to sign him as a free agent, or you have to go out and fill that spot in right field. Regardless, 12 is less than half of the Major League roster. Even if you add a few of those bullpen pieces to the mix, you’re still hovering around 50% of the team that could definitely use an upgrade. That’s hardly a small tweak here and there!

If we’re talking about reasons why the Mariners fell short this year, you have to start with Ty France and Eugenio Suarez. Ty has been a regular whipping boy this season, for good reason. He has drastically fallen off a cliff these last two years, to the point where he was barely above replacement level in 2023.

In 2021, I would’ve said Ty France was one of our most important players. His batting average has slipped 41 points, his on-base percentage has slipped 31 points, and his slugging has fallen a whopping 79 points. Its been a disaster, on top of which, his strikeouts are climbing. He’s doing nothing well, and even his defense – by the numbers – has fallen off. He somehow managed to avoid the IL, and he had a career high in HBP; that’s what he has to hang his hat on. He has 2 arb years remaining, and I’m not even sure we should give him that much. It might be better for everyone involved for him to just move on, except I don’t know what’s out there to fill in at that spot. It’s not like we can trust in Evan White. Free Agency sounds like a wasteland. We’ll probably have to fill that spot via trade, and so help me if we bring in another one of these Quad-A guys to try to hit in T-Mobile Park.

The only hope is that his year two arb number doesn’t increase much, and that he follows through with the program at Driveline (and it somehow manages to stick). I know they worked wonders for J.P., but I can’t imagine Ty France has been going out and doing nothing the past two offseasons; Driveline is no guarantee of future success.

Eugenio is a slightly different story. His batting average and on-base percentages year over year are pretty close to one another; it was just his power that took a bit of a dive (31 homers in 2022, 22 homers in 2023). That’s a little trickier to explain. His line drive percentage actually went up this year – which might speak to the uptick in doubles – but his fly ball percentage dropped. His pull percentage spiked, while his balls to center and right fell. His hard hit rate and ground ball percentages were both static, and his strikeout rate actually went down a tick (even though his overall strikeouts went up, mostly due to his playing in every single game). Is that just bat angle? Is that the way pitchers were throwing to him? Were they busting him up and in, and that reduced his effectiveness in getting the ball to leave the park?

He also just turned 32 years old, so we can’t necessarily rule that out. Either way, I don’t see him going anywhere. Or, let me put it this way: I don’t see both him AND France leaving (maybe one or the other). But, you can’t try to replace both of those guys plus Teoscar; that’s just too much to try to accomplish in one offseason.

There wasn’t a bigger (and better) story than Jarred Kelenic for the early part of the season. This was truly a make-or-break season for the youngster, and he seemed to take the biggest step forward of anyone in a Mariners uniform. The first couple months were outstanding! It’s too bad they were overshadowed by the rest of the team struggling as much as they did.

His first 53 games – through the end of May – saw him hit .277/.333/.513, with 14 doubles, a triple, and 10 homers. His final 52 games – June through the end of the year – saw him hit .226/.320/.316, with 11 doubles, a triple, and 1 homer.

So, what was that all about? How much did the stint on the IL for kicking a water cooler have to play into it? Well, considering he was struggling mightily leading up to it – hence his physical display of frustration – you can’t blame it ALL on the layoff. Did pitchers adjust to whatever adjustments he had made in the offseason? Probably. Was he ill-equipped to then adjust again? Sure seems like it. What does this mean for his Major League career going forward?

Well, I think it’s safe to say he salvaged some of his value, which is a plus. But, can you really go into next season with him as your everyday left fielder? Or even your most-days platoon left fielder? For what it’s worth, I don’t know if his splits necessarily dictate that he HAS to be a platoon guy. He had a slightly higher batting average and slugging percentage against lefties, and was actually luckier with BABIP against righties than lefties. So, I think he’s fine to be an everyday outfielder. I still think there’s room for him to grow as he continues getting comfortable at the Major League level. But, he goes in the tank for far too long to be considered dependable, and he doesn’t strike me as an All Star type player. He might luck into a hot half-season and get handed a spot one year. Overall, though, I think he’s destined to do whatever it is he’s going to do in another uniform. I believe this will be the offseason we package him to another team, in hopes to bring in a veteran we can count on.

The rest of the problem children include Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Kolten Wong, Dylan Moore, Dominic Canzone, A.J. Pollock, Josh Rojas, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Cooper Hummel (remember him?), Tommy La Stella, and Brian O’Keefe. I can’t possibly devote an entire paragraph or series of paragraphs to these guys, because we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, they’re all fringe Major Leaguers (at best), and were eating up WAY too many spots in our lineup for this offense to be even remotely effective. Some of them had decent stretches (Ford had 16 homers on the year, Caballero was an on-base machine for a while, Rojas and Marlowe had brief hot streaks), but on the whole, these are not the types of players you want to pin your hopes on.

On the pitching side of things, you have to begin with Robbie Ray and the fact that he only made the one start this year. Now, do we know if he would’ve been good this year? Remember how poorly the end of his 2022 season went. But, that could’ve been a fluke. The bottom line is that a guy you were expecting to eat up a significant chunk of quality innings wasn’t around for you. It accelerated the development of Miller and Woo – which in the end might’ve been a bonus – but you could see those guys start to wear down towards the end of the year. Would they have been fresher if we could’ve held them back a little longer? We’ll never know, but it sure seems likely.

Marco Gonzales only made it 10 starts this year, and continued his gradual downturn ever since 2020. We’re still stuck with him for one more year, and I find it hard to believe we’ll be able to find a trade partner for him. On the one hand, he’ll be healthy by the start of 2024, and you can’t have too much starting pitching; on the other hand, he’s useless as a member of the bullpen, and if he keeps Woo or Miller from starting for too long, it’s going to be enraging.

The biggest tragedy of this year might’ve been the injury to Emerson Hancock. We only got about two and a half starts out of him, but he looked fairly promising in his limited action. And it happened right around the time Bryan Woo was returning from his brief IL stint, when we were supposed to head into the dog days of summer with a 6-man rotation, to hopefully keep everyone fresh. How important was THAT in derailing our season? Who’s to say? It’s one more What If to throw onto a season full of ’em.

And we’ve already gone into the bullpen of it all. There were gods and clods, and the clods were pretty damn mediocre. Trading Sewald, so far, looks like a disaster. But, that’s one of those things you can’t measure in two months’ time. You have to look at it over the next 2-3 years and see where everyone lands. I’ll say this: I don’t have any confidence in Canzone or Rojas. But, I also think we’re right around the corner from Sewald turning into a pumpkin. In which case, it was all for naught, and very well might’ve been the single biggest factor in sinking our season.

So, TL;DR, what do we need to fix? Well, we need to upgrade at either 1B or 3B. We need to fill RF with either Teoscar or Other. We need a bona fide fucking DH, because this horse shit we’ve been doing isn’t going to fly.

The Mariners are so full of shit with this DH thing, by the way. It was supposedly a means to give regular guys off-days, but how often was it used for that purpose, really? Suarez played at third damn near every day. France rarely went off first. J.P. never sits. Instead, that spot went to Teoscar on occasion (which was really a means to improve our outfield defense), Cal once in a while (when Murphy was healthy and able to back him up), and people like Ford, Pollock, Haggerty, Rojas, and the like. Lots of bullshit bench guys getting DH starts and doing nothing with them! Just sign a great hitter and park him there! Enough with this experiment that you’re not even using as you say you will!

Also, we need a proper second baseman, a proper backup catcher (who can stay healthy all year), and an outfielder or three (depending on what happens with Teoscar and Kelenic). Oh, and replenish the bullpen with at least one heavy duty arm (so it’s not just Brash, Topa, and Munoz and that’s it).

So, yeah, there’s a lot to do, and only one offseason to do it.

The Mariners Are All Alone In First Place In The A.L. West, For Now (Maybe Forever)

Oh that’s just a jinx! That’s a jinx waiting to happen! That’s so much of a jinx it just burped its way through a murder confession while still on microphone!

The Mariners swept the Royals over the weekend. This series wasn’t quite as rough and tumble as the one in Kansas City last week. Not a lot of crazy back and forth. Just some solid, all-American good play by the home team.

Friday, we had Bryce Miller not giving us his best stuff; he went 4 innings and gave up 3 runs before we opted to pull him and overwhelm the Royals with bullpen arms. Thankfully, the offense came to play, scoring two in the 1st, two in the 4th, and two in the fifth. The bullpen wasn’t perfect – Matt Brash gave up a 2-run bomb (I have some real concern about his arm wearing down, based on recent comments by management in the media) – but thankfully that was the only blemish.

We had 16 hits in this one, including a very respectable 5/15 with runners in scoring position. Crawford, Suarez, and Raleigh all led the way with 3 hits each; Canzone and Julio had 2 hits each. This was a 7-5 victory that, quite frankly, we should have against a team like that, with the terrible pitching they’re saddled with.

Saturday’s 15-2 drubbing was an onslaught for the ages. Between the bottom of the third and the end of the game, we scored in every inning, with a 7-spot leading the way. The following players had two hits: J.P., Cal, Teo, Ford, and Rojas. Teo led all parties with 6 RBI, including 2 homers. Cal, Julio, Ford, Rojas, and Marlowe also homered (giving us 7 on the day). It was just pure annihilation!

To add insult to injury, Logan Gilbert made it look easy. He finished 7 innings, giving up 1 run, 2 hits, 1 walk, while striking out 7. That’s all on only 83 pitches, so he easily could’ve gone longer if need be. Luke Weaver – after a marvelous Mariners debut where he struck out 5 White Sox in 2 innings – came down to Earth with a run given up on a couple hits, but that was it.

Sunday’s 3-2 victory was the game most in jeopardy, but we managed to hold it together at the end. Luis Castillo went 7 strong, giving up zero runs on 1 hit and 1 walk, while striking out 6. We had cobbled together a 3-0 lead through that point, thanks to another Teo homer, and another Julio 2-run bomb. Gabe Speier gave them two runs right back in the 8th inning to make it tight, but Topa got us out of the jam, and Munoz sealed it with an easy 9th.

Most importantly here, as the title indicates, the Mariners have climbed all the way into first place by themselves in the A.L. West. That’s thanks to the Mariners going 9-1 in their last 10 games, while the Rangers have gone 1-9 (I shit you not), with the Astros going a mediocre 4-6. We’re 74-56, one game over Texas and Houston. We have the third-best run differential in the American League. And, even if the shit hit the fan over the next month, we’re still riding a 3.5 game lead over the Blue Jays (the first team on the outside looking in on the wild card).

But, clearly, we’re not thinking about the wild card anymore. I mean, we’d take it if we had to settle for it, but we’re 130 games into this season and we’ve got the division in our grasp!

Remember when we were 50-50? That was a thing! In the last 30 games we’ve gone 24-6, which is IN-sane!

We start a 3-game set against an already-eliminated Athletics team, before an off-day and then a lengthy 10 games in 10 days East Coast road trip. It’s going to be fun, boys and girls!

The Mariners Won Their Sixth Straight Series With A Sweep Of The Padres

In case you weren’t counting along at home, that’s 7 consecutive victories, 12 of 14, and 24 of 34 dating back to the season’s nadir: when we were 4 games under .500 after a 15-4 loss where we were booed off the field at home against the Rays back on June 30th.

The funny thing is, this is exactly the kind of winning I said we can’t depend on. There’s no way the Mariners can keep doing this year after year! At some point, we need a little more everyday consistency! Yet, here we are, with the same exact record – 62-52 – that we had last year. The standings around us are different, but otherwise we’re right there in the thick of it thanks to this stretch. Baseball is fucking weird.

This was just a 2-game series against the Padres, with off-days on either side. So, otherwise a restful week, all things considered.

On Tuesday, we saw perhaps Logan Gilbert’s best-ever performance. He went 7 innings, gave up 1 questionable hit (that very well could’ve been an error), and struck out 12 en route to a 2-0 victory. That was the nastiest, filthiest stuff I’ve ever seen from him; he was in complete command from the jump. Sure, he had some help – a few nifty catches by Julio in the outfield, including a home run robbery – but this was Logan at his finest. He’s put up great box scores before; a lot of zeroes in his relatively short history with the M’s. But, I’ve never quite seen the type of movement and mix of off-speed he was able to throw at them. It’s cool to see Logan blossom, from a long-armed fireballer with lots of run on his fastball, to a crafty pitcher who can keep other teams off-balance and guessing throughout.

The offense consisted of a bases-loaded walk by Cal on a pitch clock violation in the fifth, and a Moore triple in the sixth that scored Tom Murphy. I had kind of hoped for more when it came to the Padres going with a Bullpen Day thanks to injuries. But, it turns out, that’s all we needed, as Brash and Munoz nailed down the final two innings no problem.

I had cause for concern yesterday, as Yu Darvish was on the mound. I don’t know if this is actually true, but it feels like Darvish always dominates us, getting tons of flailing swings and misses. But, this is an older Darvish. Even though he spun some nice gold – 6 innings, 1 run, 0 earned runs – we managed to keep the pressure up, putting a man on almost every inning he was out there. In the end, though, it was 1-1 going to the bottom of the eighth, before we finally busted this one wide open.

We don’t often get to talk about the Mariners batting around, but we saw it last night. Julio led off the eighth with a walk and after a Suarez strikeout, Cal hit a massive 2-run bomb to make it 3-1. That felt like it was going to be it for us, and it also felt like all we needed. But, after Teo was hit by a pitch (on the bill of his helmet, definitely not intentional, based on the pitcher’s immediate reaction, and he fact that he had two strikes on Teo), and the next batter grounded out, the bats really came to life. Ty France doubled in Teo, Marlowe singled in Ty, Rojas reached on an error (originally ruled as his first hit in a Mariners uniform), and Moore singled in Marlowe, to give the game its final score, 6-1.

This game was notable for being Emerson Hancock’s first Major League start. I guess he most certainly IS ready for this promotion!

It started off a little rocky in the first. He walked the leadoff hitter, then pretty much ignored the guy as he stole second and third base. Hancock even ignored him as he was scoring on a fielder’s choice right back to the pitcher; granted, the likelihood of gunning down the runner at home was slim, but it was weird to see a pitcher so casual about his base runner. I’m wondering if he was told by the team to not worry about the men on base, just focus on the hitter at the plate.

In spite of that run coming around to score in the first, Hancock never looked overwhelmed. He had lots of good movement on his pitches, and was pretty willing to mix it up and not just stick to fastballs. In total, he went five innings (throwing 87 pitches), limiting the Padres to just that one run, on 2 hits and 3 walks, with 3 strikeouts. The biggest concern in that whole line is the three walks, but we can chalk that up to first-start nerves. Otherwise, I was very impressed, as that Padres lineup has the potential to be quite potent and damaging.

We brought out all the stops with the bullpen, considering we had two off-days to count on this week. We used five different guys to get through the last four innings, and as the game remained tied later and later, it felt like this one was going to go extras. We even used Brash on back-to-back days in the eighth. The only thing saving us from using Munoz again – he was warming up to come in – was the fact that we put up a 5-spot in the bottom of the eighth. That’s the second time recently that Isaiah Campbell took Munoz’s spot thanks to a late Mariners scoring spree.

You know, I hate to be this guy, but I’ve found myself to be very much more engaged with the Mariners of late, now that they’ve been winning. Oh sure, it’s bandwagony as hell, but this team was legitimately hard to watch in the first half of the season.

With everyone starting to come together and get hot at the same time, it really feels like the Mariners can do anything. That they’re capable of playing with anyone and taking this thing all the way to the World Series. I know that’s just the hot streak talking. We’ll come back to Earth and play some .500 ball again for a while. But, I’m inclined to ride this wave as long as it’ll take me. It’s fun winning so often!

One cause for concern: Suarez and Crawford collided in the field yesterday, both trying to make a play on the same ball. This resulted in J.P. getting hit in the head and later being taken out of the game. He’s being tested for a concussion right now; I hope to Christ it isn’t serious. He’s the last guy I want to lose, after all he’s done to keep this team together.

Also, quick sidebar: Paul Sewald has only appeared in two games so far with the Diamondbacks. They’ve been on a massive losing streak (0 for the month of August) and so he hasn’t had many opportunities to save games. Finally, they threw him into a 12-1 blowout just to get him some work, and he pitched a clean inning. But then, the very next day, with a 3-2 lead in the ninth, Sewald gave up two homers to lose it 5-3 in walk-off fashion. Yikes!

The Mariners Swept The Angels For Their Fifth Straight Series Win

Things are starting to get interesting for the Mariners. I don’t know how seriously I want to take this development just yet, so let’s live in the hypothetical for now. That way I don’t have to commit to believing anything might be “real” in this situation.

Hypothetically speaking, the Mariners are one of the hottest teams in baseball. You can take this one of two ways: either, “It’s About Fucking Time” and claim this is what the team has been capable of all along; they’re just finally playing up to their potential. Or, “It’s Just A Fluke” and the other shoe is about to drop anytime now, because this team has always been a .500 team, and it’s only a matter of time before they take another nosedive.

But, hypothetically though? Hypothetically it’s now or never. If this team were to ever turn their season around, it couldn’t realistically happen any later. There’s a little under two months to go. And there are still a good number of teams in our way between where we are today and a hypothetical playoff appearance.

So, hypothetically, what’s changed? Well, as we’ve said all along, it starts with Julio. He’s been much better of late, steadily getting on base, producing runs, driving them in, the whole package. I wouldn’t even say he’s gone supernova yet, which is cause for optimism. He’s been fine, but he’s also choked in some big situations. I feel like he’s got a sustained period of perfection in him that’s yet to come out.

Very close behind, I would say the resurgence of Eugenio Suarez has been paramount. He was just giving us nothing most of the year, but then set the Mariners record for consecutive games with an RBI (at 10), and a lot of these have come in huge situations. Then, there’s the power surge of Cal Raleigh. Again, these are ALL guys we’ve been clamoring for all season! This team goes where its core goes, and these three players are the most important hitters on this team.

It’s important not to discount what J.P. Crawford has done this season. I tend to overlook him because he’s been the one positive (on the hitting side) throughout the year. No real lulls! He’s dragged this offense kicking and screaming to where it is today, and we’re finally starting to see some dividends paid. He has the best average and on-base percentage among regulars, which also gives him the best OPS. He’s leading the team in WAR. And, he has 10 homers as of today, which is already a season high for him, with 50 games to go.

Beyond that, we’re getting just enough from Ty France and Teoscar Hernandez (though you hope there are hot streaks left in both of those guys before the season’s through). With real production coming from the likes of Tom Murphy, Dylan Moore, and even Cade Marlowe in limited duty!

Also, by and large, the pitching has hypothetically continued being this team’s rock. It’s not nails every single game, but for the most part, it’s giving us a chance to win. And finally, this team is hypothetically taking advantage.

The Mariners needed this sweep. Hypothetically, if we’re going to make a run at the post-season, winning a series is nice, winning a string of them is even nicer, but we’ll need to sprinkle in some sweeps if we really want to make up some games on the teams ahead of us. The Angels were one of those teams in our way; now they’re not. Hypothetically.

The extreme LEAST likely victory of this sweep happened on Thursday. It was so unlikely that I called it before the game. Ohtani vs. Woo? Bet the entire Taylor Family Farm on the Angels and don’t look back! Easy money on the horizon! -1.5 runs? Of course!

And then the game got funky. Woo matched Ohtani zero for zero. Then, Ohtani left the game after four innings (though he continued to hit as the team’s DH). The M’s took a brief 1-0 lead in the sixth off of a Geno homer, but left that inning down 2-1. For a little while, it was looking like we’d lose that bet on the half-run kicker, but then Ohtani came through with a solo homer in the bottom of the 8th to give us our farm back. With the Angels’ closer having never blown a save this year? Not quite “easy” money, but money nevertheless.

Then, Cal and France walked to lead off the ninth inning. Then, newcomer Canzone singled sharply to right to load the bases. THEN, our last great hope Teoscar struck out, leaving us with Cade Marlowe. Has a guy named Cade ever been good for anything?!

Well, this one was! He hit a high fastball pushing 100mph for a go-ahead Grand Slam! What are you even talking about? What are you saying?! Where’s the Jennifer Lawrence eating hot wings meme?!

Andres Munoz quickly got ready and locked down his fourth save of the season to preserve the 5-3 victory. Unreal.

Nothing’s ever going to top that first game, but Friday’s thrilling 9-7 victory comes close. The M’s rallied for 4 runs in the first, thanks in large part to Ty France’s 3-run bomb (literally his first home run since June 22nd, breaking a streak of 34 homerless games). With Luis Castillo on the bump, this looked like smooth sailing.

Except, Castillo shit all over his legs, giving up 7 runs in 6 innings. Luckily, the M’s played add-on, so the game was tied at that point. Dylan Moore homered in the second to make it 5-1, and Julio homered in the fourth to make it 7-5. We were tied heading into the eighth, when Geno hit an RBI single to take the lead. Cal followed that up with a solo homer in the ninth to give the game its final score. Thankfully, the bullpen was on it, with Brash taking home only his second save of the season after working himself into a little bit of a tight situation.

We closed out the series with a pair of 3-2 victories over the weekend. Kirby got the start on Saturday and was an animal. 7 innings, 1 run on 3 hits, with 5 strikeouts. Julio had a 2-run double in the third, France had the game-winning RBI single in the eighth, and Munoz gave up a relatively harmless run in the ninth. Munoz got himself into a tremendous amount of trouble with two outs, allowing two runners to reach before giving up what was luckily only a ground rule double (the game-tying run definitely would’ve scored had that ball stayed in the yard). But then, after intentionally walking the next guy to load the bases, he hammered home four upper-90s fastballs to strike out the final batter.

On Sunday, J.P. led off the game with a first-pitch homer, but we gave them a run right back in the bottom half of the inning. This was Bryce Miller’s start, who had been on a two game skid that brought into question his ability to be a starter on this team (at least from me). He ended up settling down after that, going 5 innings, limiting them to just the 1 run on 5 hits with a whopping 10 strikeouts. He induced a ton of swings and misses, which was nice to see. And, he still had life on his fastball when all was said and done.

Teoscar eventually gave us a 2-1 lead with a solo homer in the seventh, but the Angels fought right back wth a solo homer of their own in the bottom half. The game went extra, with Geno getting an RBI single to take the lead in the tenth, and Tayler Saucedo earned the win by pitching the final two scoreless innings.

We get a couple of well-earned days off this week, sandwiching a 2-game home series against the Padres. Then, it’s Felix Hall of Fame Weekend against the high-flying Orioles. I’ll be at the games Saturday and Sunday, which is going to be an absolute thrill! Should be a perfect opportunity for the pitching to be on point and for the offense to go back in the tank. It literally defined Felix’s hall of fame career!

The Mariners Won Their Fourth Straight Series

It sounds good, until you realize it means the Mariners are just four games over .500.

You can glass half full this thing or glass half empty it. On the plus side, we’re talking about an 8-4 stretch, and I’ll always take that kind of success. On the down side, we’re 2-3 in that same span in 1-run games, which means it could be even better, if we were even the slightest bit clutch.

My point is, the Mariners need to sprinkle in some sweeps. It’s nice to win series, but we have a lot of ground to cover, in a short amount of time.

Monday’s 6-2 victory was pretty enjoyable. The Red Sox scored a bullshit run in the first thanks to two fielding errors by the Mariners’ defense (a run that was mystifyingly earned for some reason); it would prove to be the only blemish in an otherwise short day for George Kirby (5 innings, 1 run, with about 90 balls fouled off). But, the M’s bounced right back in the second with a solo Cal Raleigh homer. That was it until the 7th – with the Red Sox starter cruising until then – when Raleigh homered again to make it 2-1. Then, the floodgates opened in the 8th, as we finally knocked their starter out and nipped at their bullpen a bit.

On the day we lost Paul Sewald, the rest of the Mariners’ bullpen was pretty great. It got a little hairy in the top of the 8th; Munoz came in with two outs and two runners on, and struck out the next batter to finish it. By the time the 9th rolled around, we had amassed a 5-run lead, which meant we didn’t need the 4-out save by Munoz. Isaiah Campbell gave up a relatively harmless run, but got out of his own jam without further damage.

That closed the book on July. August started out with a major whimper, losing 6-4. Bryce Miller had his second consecutive bad game, and also his second consecutive game with diminishing fastball speed as it progressed. That’s … concerning. He gave up all 6 runs in 5.2 innings; all came after a clean first three innings for him. Not ideal for someone who wants to stick in the rotation longterm. Hopefully, this is just some dead arm from a rookie who isn’t used to pitching this much.

To their credit, the hitters kept fighting, against a pretty nasty starter from the Sox. Suarez had 3 RBI, including a 2-run homer. And France, Marlowe, and newcomer Canzone all got in on the fun. But, as a team, we were 2/12 with RISP. The newly-acquired utility player Josh Rojas was 0/4 on the day, 0/3 with RISP, striking out twice. Did he single-handedly cost us this game? Who’s to say?! Kolten Wong couldn’t have been worse, though; not that I’m the biggest Kolten Wong fan in the world. I’m just saying.

I was moderately impressed with Trent Thornton stepping in and pitching 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. He’s got an interesting repertoire for someone without the hardest stuff. I’ll be interested in tracking him the rest of the year. It was also nice to finally see Devin Sweet throw a scoreless inning after being called up from AA. It’s interesting to say the least that we still have some of these questionable rookies (Sweet, Campbell) on the Major League roster, while someone like Matt Festa – who was pretty solid for us last year – is languishing in Tacoma.

The Mariners won 6-3 on get-away day. Good on Logan Gilbert – who was subjected to a lot of chatter about possibly being traded in the last week – to shut out the noise and pitch a Quality Start his first turn after the deadline. That’s a pretty good Red Sox lineup, so I’ll take 6 innings and 3 runs anytime against them. And, once again, the non-Sewald leftovers in the bullpen did their jobs: keeping the Sox scoreless the rest of the way.

Once again, Cal Raleigh was a monster, with a 2-run homer to kick off our scoring in the 6th. That was only the beginning, though, as we put up a 4-spot in the 7th to wrestle control of the game from them. Suarez and Tom Murphy had 3 hits each, Julio continued his on-base streak with a hit and eventually stole home to score our final run of the day (on a nicely-timed double-steal). Canzone had a walk and a run, and Marlowe had a pinch hit single and RBI. Lots of good stuff here.

We’re on to Anaheim starting today, and of course we start off by going up against Ohtani on the mound. He’s been in fucking overdrive lately and pretty much all season, so I’m expecting to see a lot of damage inflicted upon us in this 4-game set. I wouldn’t be surprised if we fall all the way back to .500 when it’s all said and done, destroying all the progress we’ve made over the last 12 games.

Who Will Be The Mariners’ 13th Man?

Are rosters still comprised of 26 players in Major League Baseball? Or are they cutting it back down to 25? I can’t really keep track of all these little details anymore. But, I do know there’s a limit on the number of pitchers you can carry, and that you have to have 13 position players at a minimum. Seems a LITTLE idiotic, but there’s so much to complain about when it comes to the rules of baseball, I’m not going to get bent out of shape about teams having an extra bench spot here and there.

As has been reported of late, the Mariners are pretty well set for the majority of their position player spots, becoming even more certain based on Taylor Trammell’s recent hamate bone injury that’s going to keep him out the entirety of Spring Training. He will almost certainly start the regular season down in Tacoma, giving the M’s one less guy to compete for that final active roster spot.

Catchers: Cal Raleigh, Tom Murphy.

Infield: Eugenio Suarez, J.P. Crawford, Kolten Wong, Ty France.

Outfield: Julio Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez, A.J. Pollock.

Platoon/Backups: Jarred Kelenic, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty.

There’s 12 guys right there, pretty well set. Kelenic still has an option, so if he completely shits the bed in Spring Training, maybe he starts out in Tacoma, but I think that’s a very remote possibility. That leaves one other spot, and by my calculations only three realistic guys – currently on our 40-man – to compete for it.

Moore can play every spot on the infield AND the outfield. Haggerty can backup anywhere in the outfield and – in a pinch – can go in there at first, second, or third base. So, you can go into this 13th roster spot taking the Best Player Available, in a sense. You don’t need to worry about filling a specific hole. The outfield defense is well covered, and the infield defense is covered enough to at least get you through an emergency situation (if you were to lose two or more guys).

The three guys remaining are Tommy La Stella, Cade Marlowe, and Evan White.

The simplest and easiest answer to this question is Tommy La Stella. He’s a veteran who has experience all around the infield (save short stop) and is currently listed as a designated hitter. He’s a 34 year old veteran who has the feel of a Replacement Level hitter (if all goes well) from the left side of the plate. He’s not much of a power guy, though, so you’re bringing him in for a veteran presence and his eye at the plate. Combine that with the fact that the Mariners have options for both White and Marlowe, it’s kind of a no brainer. Let them both play every day in Tacoma, get their reps up, and call them back to Seattle if/when a need arises. It’s baseball, there are 162 games, there will eventually be a need, if not sooner, then later.

But, that’s not what anybody wants. La Stella feels like camp fodder. He’s earning $720K, which is all guaranteed, but also isn’t very much money in baseball terms. I would assume the Mariners want someone else to take this spot, but given the inherent roster flexibility with the two younger players, they’re really going to have to blow the team away this spring.

Marlowe is an interesting case, because with Trammell out, he’s the de facto “competition” for Kelenic in that platoon spot in left field. Marlowe has rocketed up the minor leagues over the last two years – playing most of 2022 in AA before getting called up to AAA for 13 games – and there’s certainly a believable scenario where he beats out Kelenic in the platoon battle, given his incredible speed, base-stealing ability (he swiped 42 bags between the two minor league levels last year), and on-base ability. At that point, it would be a battle between Kelenic and La Stella for the final bench spot, and maybe Kelenic beats him out (or maybe the team wants to preserve Kelenic’s final option year, just in case).

My hunch is, the least likely person to win the final roster spot out of Spring Training is Evan White. He’s just been too banged up the last couple years, and I have to imagine the team wants him down in Tacoma playing every day (and maybe getting cross-trained at multiple positions, to increase his value to the team). That being said, assuming White is fully healthy and stays that way, I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets called up. Even if it’s not as an injury replacement, I think his bat will be desperately needed once the month of May rolls around.

That’s all I’m giving La Stella. I imagine we’ll give him every opportunity to win the final spot in Spring Training. I imagine he’ll get regular at bats as our primary DH (when we’re not rotating quasi-rest days for the other starters), and I think it’s all but guaranteed that he’s totally washed as a Major League player. After a month or so, the team will opt to move on, and if all goes according to plan, Evan White will be the first player called up to take his place. That’ll allow him and Ty France to bounce back and forth – giving France the regular DH days he needs to stay fresh throughout the year – and hopefully provide some additional pop in a lineup that could surely use it.

It’ll also be interesting to see if White gets some work in left field. I only have a tiny bit more confidence in A.J. Pollock’s abilities to succeed in a Mariners uniform, so it would be VERY interesting to me if we one day see an Evan White/Jarred Kelenic platoon in left. Two highly-regarded former prospects giving it a go to try to salvage their careers here (one who signed the early extension to buy out his Arbitration years, the other who spurned such an offer, probably costing himself untold millions of dollars in the process).