Mr. Dipoto’s Wild Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

Important Mariners Transactions for the 2016 Season

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

Mariners Keep Throwing Shit Against The Wall, Desperate For Some To Stick

There have been a TON of moves this month, as the Mariners have tried to replace struggling players, have tried to overcome an over-worked bullpen, and have been dealing with a grip of injuries.  So, where do I begin?

Triple-A short stop Chris Taylor was traded to the Dodgers for a similarly-disappointing prospect, in Triple-A starter Zach Lee.  Lee went directly to Tacoma where he’s made one start so far, going 6 innings and giving up 5 runs in about what you’d expect the Mariners would get for someone like Chris Taylor.  Taylor, on the other hand, just got called up to the Dodgers today, making his first start for them, going 1 for 4 with a triple and a run scored, because fuck me.  Fuck us.  Fuck every God damn one of us.

The Mariners made another trade last week, getting starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc from the Blue Jays for Cash or a Player To Be Named Later.  LeBlanc had been in Triple-A for Toronto, putting up some pretty solid numbers, which leads me to believe that he’s better than everyone the Mariners have in Tacoma right now.  That goes double since Adrian Sampson – who made one start for the M’s in Boston last week – injured his arm and is out for the year.  So be it.  At least LeBlanc looked good, shutting out the Cardinals over 6 innings last Friday.

I don’t know if he forces the hand of the Mariners, but right now – believe it or not – there’s actually a numbers crunch in the rotation!  Count ’em out:  Kuma, Paxton, Walker returns this week after getting skipped in the rotation to rest his leg, Miley returns this week after making a start in Everett, and Karns is still a thing that exists for now.  That makes five, with LeBlanc possibly busting down the door.  I don’t know if one quality start is enough to supplant someone like Karns, but this may be more of a case of a guy playing his way OUT of the rotation, rather than LeBlanc playing his way in.

Of course, there’s also the bullpen to think about, running an absurd 8-deep at this point (with Aoki trying to regain his stroke in Tacoma).  The usual suspects are still hanging in there – Cishek, Benoit, Montgomery, Nuno, Vincent, Diaz – with Donn Roach and David Rollins currently rounding it out.  Roach pitched twice over the weekend, once well, once not so.  Rollins is more of a lefty specialist who has two scoreless appearances to his name so far.

Jonathan Aro got a call up for about a minute, making one scoreless appearance.  Cody Martin got a call up at the beginning of the month, making two appearances and getting a win in that crazy comeback game in San Diego.  Steve Johnson was DFA’d and I have no idea what he’s up to.  Tony Zych was bumped to the 60-day DL to clear room on the 40-man (looking no closer to returning to action whatsoever).  And … who’s that making his glorious return to Seattle?

WHO’S THAT WARMING UP IN THE BULLPEN?

OH MY GOD, IT’S TOM WILHELMSEN!!!

He of the 10.55 ERA with the Texas Rangers was released and refused an assignment with their Triple-A squad, so the Mariners snapped him up and yeah, even he made an appearance last week, pitching a scoreless inning before being sent down to Tacoma to work on his shit.

For what it’s worth, in what was once a multi-person (Wilhelmsen & Kivlehan have since returned to the Mariners’ organization for nothing) trade with the Rangers for Leonys Martin, it’s now turned into a straight up James Jones for Leonys Martin swap, which is a fucking STEAL for the Mariners rn.

Anyhoo, does everyone got it?  Are all those transactions registering?  Is your head swimming like mine?  At this point, it’s WAY too early to make assumptions that any of these moves are going to work or not work.  But, I think we can all agree this shitty month of June has made the Mariners as desperate as can be.  It’d be nice if at least a COUPLE guys went right.

The M’s Made The A’s Their B’s

17 hits, 13 runs, and a big early lead led to a cruise control effort out of Iwakuma in yesterday’s 13-3 win.

You can’t talk about yesterday’s game without talking about a certain maligned first baseman.  I can’t stand these exercises, but I’m going to show you two slash lines and you tell me who they belong to:

  • Player A – .216/.246/.319/.565
  • Player B – .242/.270/.400/.670

Give up?  (don’t follow me on Twitter?)  Player A is Adam Lind, at the end of Tuesday’s game; Player B is Adam Lind, at the end of last night’s game.  That’s what going 4 for 4, with 2 homers, a double, 6 RBI, and 3 runs scored looks like.  He went from being more or less a joke, to being a decent contributor in the matter of four at bats.

Would you like to see him walk more?  Of course.  Would you like that slugging to be a bit higher?  Who WOULDN’T want that?  But, if you look at those numbers now, compared to the rest of the lineup – which we should all agree by now, is a very good hitting lineup – he’s not that far off.  He’s lumped right in there with Aoki and Lee and Seager, which isn’t bad company.

Next up, I don’t want to spend a ton of time praising him, because I still think he’s been pretty disappointing this season, but Hisashi Iwakuma did a good job doing his job.  The Mariners were up 7-1 after three innings, and from there it was just a matter of running through the rest of the game without mucking things up too badly.  Iwakuma went 7 innings, and sure, he gave up 3 runs, but he didn’t walk anybody, he was economical with his pitches, and he picked up a bullpen that had been a little over-worked over the last week.  Just going that extra inning, getting through seven, can really make all the difference.

From there, the Benoit Recovery Train muscled through another shutout inning, and Steve Johnson got some work in a low-leverage situation.  I’m particularly interested in how Benoit comes back from his DL stint, especially after that rocky first outing back on the team.  He’s a VERY important part of this bullpen, so it’ll be nice to have him back to his usual dominating self.

The lone bit of bad news was Leonys Martin – superstar from the last week, including Tuesday’s game-winning homer – pulled a hammy in an attempt to steal second base.  Martin is hopeful – with today’s off day – that he’ll only miss a couple/few days.  Obviously, it’s a problem if it continues to nag at him and requires a DL stint.  So soon after Ketel Marte’s injury, when he too was showing a lot of promise at the plate, it’s a little frustrating.  But, you’re never going to make it through the season 100% healthy.  Nevertheless, the guys you hate to lose the most are the guys playing up the middle – catcher, short stop, second base, centerfield.  Our defense takes a hit, and weirdly enough, so does our offense.  Without Marte and Martin, our baserunning is affected, and we haven’t had a defensive centerfielder this good since Guti’s prime.  So, get well soon you kids!

Props to Cruz & Cano for each hitting a homer.  Props to Aoki for two more hits.  Props to Sardinas for two hits in his return to the Bigs (in place of the overmatched Chris Taylor).  Props to Seager as well for two more hits, in his continuing climb out of the cellar.

Well-deserved day off today before a mean stretch of ballgames heading into June.  The Mariners are clinging to that 1.5 game lead over the Rangers – who simply WILL NOT slag off, even though our run differential is crushing theirs!

You want to hear something cool, almost two months into the season?  The Mariners are currently 1 game behind the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the American League.  How about THAT?  I know it’s too early to scoreboard watch, or to focus in on the standings, but you know what?  That’s all I would do as a kid when I followed sports, and I remember having a MUCH better time of it.  RIDE THOSE HIGHS, BABY!  We’re 28-18, 10 games over .500!

In the immediate future, we’ve got three games at home against the worst team in all of baseball – the Minnesota Twins (which should finally get our home record above .500 for the first time all year) – followed by four more games against the Padres, who are 10 games under .500 as we speak.  You’d REALLY like to see the Mariners pad their record over those next seven games (5-2 or better would be ideal), because then we get to a fun patch.

Once we dispose of those losers, we hit a run where we play those very pesky Texas Rangers six times in ten days.  We’re talking about a REAL opportunity to put some distance between ourselves and our most prominent divisional rival at the moment.  You see, we have these six games, and then we don’t play the Rangers again until the last three days of August (who knows?  By then, the Rangers might not even be in it anymore!).  So, it’s going to be really important to continue padding our lead while we’re playing so well.  Winter is coming The dog days are coming.  And Hell’s coming with them.

Mariners Swept Reds, Maintain First Place

Friday’s game looked like a distressing start to the season.  Iwakuma was once again just okay, in giving up 3 runs over 6 innings.  The Reds were up 3-1 by the time we got to their bullpen, at which point everything changed.

Last year, the Mariners had a pretty awful bullpen.  But, this year’s Reds team might have the worst-ever!  Save the numbers for some Reds blogger, but I’ll say they really saved our bacon on this night.

In the final three innings on Friday, we managed to turn a 3-1 deficit into an 8-3 victory.  Dae-ho Lee was the big hero, with a pinch-hit 2-run single in the 7th to give us the lead; he’d follow that up with a solo homer in the 9th, as a little icing on that cake.  Cruz also had a homer, Seager had a double, and Martin had a nice day where he got on base all four times.

Saturday’s game was a 4-0 victory for Felix Hernandez, but wasn’t nearly as dominating as the score suggests.  Felix once again had awesome stuff, moving all around the plate, and was able to go 6 innings of 4-hit ball, but he did walk 3 batters, and had a couple of scary bases-loaded situations in the 3rd & 5th innings.  Fortunately, Joey Votto has been having just a horrific season, and was the final out both times.

Martin had another fantastic game, with a homer and a couple walks.  But, it was Guti who broke the game wide open with a 3-run blast in the 4th inning.  It was an upper deck shot (official distances vary) and easily the longest home run for the Mariners this season (and likely one of the top 5 in all of baseball).

Sunday’s game, once again, felt like a real cold fish.  I feel bad automatically assuming the worst out of every Wade Miley start, but to his credit he didn’t do a whole lot to elicit any confidence out of me.  In the first inning alone, he gave up three hard hits and hit a batter, en route to putting us in a 3-0 hole.  As is his way, he quickly settled down after that, ending up with a so-so line of 6 innings and 4 earned runs, with 6 strikeouts against 1 walk.

The Mariners managed to chip away against their starter, getting 2 back in the 3rd, and the other 3 in the 5th.  Martin had the series to end all series, finishing the weekend 4 of 5 on Sunday.  He’s lifted his average from .182 on May 2nd, to .252 today.  That’s big.  He’s shown vastly unusual power numbers – compared to the rest of his career – with 8 homers so far, while his career high in ANY season has been 8, (and with 20 homers TOTAL through his career before this season), but if he can get his regular hitting numbers up to snuff, he might be the greatest pickup in an offseason full of tremendous pickups.

Couple other notes from the weekend:

Ketel Marte sprained his thumb from sliding into 2nd base, which is going to cost him a 15-day DL stint.  Chris Taylor was brought up as insurance, with Shawn O’Malley taking over the everyday short stop role until his return.  It doesn’t sound like anything serious, but this team could ill afford to play with a 24-man roster (while Marte heals up), when literally no one else on the team is qualified to play short stop, so they HAD to make the move.

As a quick aside, I wondered what the Mariners might do with Marte out, if O’Malley got hurt and the team never called up anyone to fill in as insurance.  My best guess:  the team would have to make due with Kyle Seager at short stop (I THINK he has some experience, maybe in the low minors, or in his college days), and slide Dae-ho Lee over to third base, where he has experience from playing in Korea.  THAT … would be entertaining for about an inning, and then I think I’d have my fill (sort of like when you have a position player pitch in a blowout game to save your bullpen).

My final note is on that bullpen, specifically the Mariners’.  I don’t know if it was because we were playing in a National League park, or if it was just coincidence, but every starter this weekend went exactly 6 innings, leaving the remaining 3 innings – each game – for the bullpen.  On Friday, we had Montgomery, Vincent, and Peralta each pitch a scoreless inning (Peralta getting those garbage innings, what with his recent struggles).  On Saturday, we had Nuno, Montgomery, and Peralta each pitch a scoreless inning (Montgomery looks like he’s going to take over for Peralta and start getting some of those high-leverage situations, since he’s been so rock solid this year).  On Sunday, we had Vincent, Benoit, and Cishek each pitch a scoreless inning (Vincent appears to be the right-handed option behind Benoit – and sometimes in place of Benoit – since he’s been a monster against right-handed batters).

It’s interesting how quickly things have shaken out in the bullpen.  Peralta’s usage will, hopefully, continue to go down as guys like Vincent, Montgomery, and Nuno continue to show their value.  Steve Johnson – the last man in the ‘pen – appears to be reserved for blowouts and desperate, extra innings-type situations, at least until Furbush comes back, at which point – in spite of there being three lefties in the ‘pen – we will have some semblance of a FULL bullpen.  And, I know we’re a ways off, but when Zych comes back, we might have a difficult decision to make (not so difficult in my eyes – just dump Peralta – but it might be difficult for the team/management).

At least for now, it’s nice to know the team can take a long approach with Zych, making sure he’s at full strength, before thinking about bringing him back up.  Anyway, it might be another 3-4 weeks AT LEAST before a bullpen move is made, for either Furbush or Zych.

Don’t look now, but the Mariners are smack dab in the middle of a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.  They get another home off-day this Thursday, before 17 in a row.  It’s been a remarkably friendly schedule for the Mariners so far this season – with 7 off days through the first 7 weeks (including this Thursday).  While June is a bit of a bear with a 10-game East-Coast road trip, we still have 2 off days there, and another bunch of off-days in July with the All Star Break.  But, if you take a look at late July, all the way through August, the Mariners will play 33 games in 34 days.

So, you know, good to pad our record now, while the going is still good.

Jesus Montero Is No More

The rest of this week figures to be devoted to a number of moves the Mariners have made in advance of the regular season starting next week.  Big names, like Mike Zunino and James Paxton, alongside smaller names like Boog Powell, Chris Taylor, and Stefen Romero, have all been sent down to Tacoma.  Some of those names were expected to get chopped, some of those names are a surprise.  But, I’m going to start with Jesus Montero.

If you search his name on my website, you’ll find he was very much my whipping boy for many years.  You know what I think about all the time when it comes to the Seattle Mariners?  The mind-bogglingly stupid trades our various GMs have made throughout the years.  That is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good jumping-off point.  There have been some WHOPPERS over the years, but right down there at the bottom, you’ll see the full terms of the Pineda/Montero trade.

That trade has been a rollercoaster of emotion since it happened on January 23, 2012.  I liked it at first, because we were trading from a position of depth, and we had a serious need for power hitting (or, really, hitting of ANY kind).  While he wasn’t gangbusters out of the gate, at least he didn’t miss two full seasons and most of a third due to serious arm injuries.  But, then Montero got fat and lazy and had the ice cream sandwich incident down in the minor leagues, while at the same time Pineda returned from injury and started to look solid again.  Even though Montero lost the weight and started to take his career more seriously, he ultimately never developed into much more than a fringe Quad-A type player who struggles to hit the curve ball, struggles to hit right handed pitching, and ultimately doesn’t make enough of an empact against left handed pitching to be of any value.  He’s no longer a viable catching prospect, and he’s trying his best to convert to first base, but his best position defensively is probably no position at all.

I no longer have my anger issues with the guy that I used to.  Indeed, I respect him quite a bit for turning everything around and at least putting in the effort.  That’s really all anyone can ask for.  Ultimately, though, you can’t help but feel – as a Mariners fan – at least some resentment for his Too Little, Too Late results.  What we needed was for him to put in that effort back in 2012 when we first got him; not when he was essentially poison and lost any value whatsoever to try to salvage something.

Then, when you note Hector Noesi also came over in the deal … it’s best not to think about it.  My blood pressure can’t handle it.

Jesus Montero is out of options, so he was DFA’d.  The Toronto Blue Jays picked him up, and now have him, Michael Saunders, and Justin Smoak on their roster.  As I’m sure countless people have already pointed out, they’re a Dustin Ackley away from being the most disappointing version of the Seattle Mariners we’ve seen in the last generation.  All that promise, all washed up.

What this move ultimately represents is the last of the worst of the Jack Zduriencik era being eliminated from this roster.  There are still some likely mistakes we’re dealing with – who will hopefully be improved by their time learning their craft in the minors, I’m looking at you, Zunino – but on the big league roster, we’ve only got the best of the Jackie Z era, or the little hatchlings of the Jerry Dipoto era.  Whether that’s enough to turn around this organization remains to be seen, but ultimately I’m taking a positive, Out With The Old, In With The New stance.  Fuck off, Jesus Montero, and thanks for nothing!

A Pre-Thanksgiving Look At The Changes To The Mariners’ Roster

There’s not much going on this week, is there?  The Husky basketball team has a major tournament in the Bahamas (and is playing Gonzaga for the first time since 2006); the Apple Cup lands on Black Friday once again; the Seahawks are playing for the opportunity to be over .500 for the first time in 2015; and, of course, there’s that major national holiday where we celebrate how we screwed over all the Native Americans celebrate “giving thanks” or some bullshit like that.

Anyway, fuck all that, because I’m writing about the Mariners.  We’ve seen a lot of change in a very short time, which got me to wondering how our team shapes up compared to last year’s disappointment.  So, let’s go down the line, starting with the everyday nine:

Catcher:  2016 – Iannetta, 2015 – Zunino
First Base:  2016 – Trumbo, 2015 – Morrison
Second Base:  Cano
Third Base:  Seager
Short Stop:  2016 – Marte, 2015 – Miller / Taylor / Marte
Left Field:  2016 – Smith/Guti?, 2015 – Ackley
Center Field:  2016 – Martin, 2015 – Jackson
Right Field:  2016 – TBD / Trumbo / Cruz, 2015 – Smith, Cruz
Designated Hitter:  2016 – Cruz, 2015 – Cruz / Various

The only three “guaranteed” holdovers (I put that in quotes, because you never really know what a new GM will do in these first few months of total power, before it’s slowly stripped away from him by management as his mistakes pile up) figure to be Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  Cruz figures to get the majority of his playing time at DH (God willing), but you can’t completely rule out him playing some right field.  Nevertheless, this team is in desperate need of an everyday solution to our right field problem (or at least a rock-solid left-handed platoon option who isn’t named Boog Powell).

Iannetta looks to be a step up from Zunino.  Trumbo figures to be a lateral move compared to LoMo (worse on defense, probably more consistent at the plate).  A Seth Smith/Franklin Gutierrez platoon in left would be a HUGE upgrade over Ackley, should they both manage to stay healthy.  Leonys Martin figures to be better defensively than A-Jax, as well as a better baserunner (how many times did we watch Jackson try to steal and get tagged out by a million miles?), but the jury is seriously out as to whether or not Martin can hit in Safeco.  It looked like Jackson was starting to get the hang of it in 2015, but I feel like Martin brings more upside and is an all-around improvement at the position.  Finally, we’ll see what we get out of a full season of Ketel Marte at short stop.  He might be a step down initially, but hopefully he’ll blossom into a quality starter in time.

Now, onto the starting rotation, where things are still a little up in the air:

1.  Felix Hernandez
2.  2016 – Iwakuma?, 2015 – Iwakuma
3.  Taijuan Walker
4.  2016 – Karns, 2015 – Happ / Elias
5.  2016 – Paxton / Elias, 2015 – Paxton / Montgomery / Nuno

Felix and Taijuan are the primary holdovers; they’re not going anywhere, for obvious reasons.  Hisashi Iwakuma turned down the Mariners’ qualifying offer of $15.8 million for next year in hopes of getting a longer-term deal.  There’s still a very good chance he signs with the Mariners; the qualifying offer was more of a way to discourage any other teams from signing him (as they would lose their first unprotected draft pick).  For what it’s worth, the GM sounds really eager to bring him back.  I’m a little lukewarm on the deal, but I don’t see a whole lotta better options out there.  Iwakuma has been good when healthy, but he’s prone to give up the long ball.  Beyond that, his most consistent attribute is getting himself injured and missing large chunks of season.  Honestly, I don’t think I want him on anything more than a 2-year deal, maybe with an option for a third year if he reaches certain Staying-Off-Of-The-DL benchmarks.

The back-end of the rotation looks like it’s going to be a zoo once again for the Mariners.  Paxton is an obvious choice, but he’s even more injury prone than Iwakuma.  Nathan Karns, our big return chip in the Brad Miller deal, looks to have a spot locked up; so if Iwakuma returns, that appears to be four spots on lockdown.  Vying for that fifth spot will be a bevy of underwhelming candidates, including Roenis Elias, Mike Montgomery, and Vidal Nuno (though I still think he’s better suited as a long relief man in the bullpen).  Since Paxton is the likeliest candidate to win the spot out of Spring Training, it’s good to know we’ve got experienced options in Elias, Montgomery, and the like.  I’m certain we’ll need them.

As for how the back-end will fare, it’s tough to say.  My initial reaction is that they couldn’t be any worse than J.A. Happ, but I could be full of shit with that statement.  I’ve never seen Karns pitch!  I’ve seen the other guys, and they weren’t all that much better than Happ.  So, who knows?  Also, you gotta figure the team will go out and look for a cheap veteran to throw onto the pile.  If said veteran does well in Spring Training, we could be looking at another underwhelming half-year of a guy who doesn’t belong in the league anymore.

Regarding the potential bullpen, I don’t REALLY even want to go there, but here’s what I’ve got at this early point in the offseason:

Closer:  2016 – Benoit, 2015 – Rodney
8th Inning:  Carson Smith
7th Inning:  2016 – Zych?, 2015 – Wilhelmsen
Lefty #1:  Charlie Furbush
Lefty #2:  2016 – Riefenhauser?, 2015 – Beimel
Long:  2016 – Nuno?, 2015 – Nuno
Misc Relief:  2016 – Bass?, 2015 – Farquhar, Lowe, Others

Joaquin Benoit doesn’t have a ton of experience closing, but he does have a ton of experience being a boss reliever.  One would think his bossness would translate quite well from the 8th to the 9th inning.  Besides, Carson Smith is still young, and was getting kind of abused in the closer’s role last year (mostly by lefties); his natural spot in the bullpen should be the primary set-up man, facing mostly right-handed hitters.  Beyond those two guys, and Charlie Furbush (assuming he gets healthy in time), the rest of the bullpen is a total crapshoot.  Tony Zych looked pretty solid in his September call-up, so I’m sure he’ll get a shot at winning a spot.  We just traded for C.J. Riefenhauser, so I’m sure he’ll get every opportunity to win that second lefty spot (but, if he fails, we’ve got about four more on the 40-man roster who could supplant him).  I want to make Vidal Nuno a lock for the long relief/spot starter role, but you never know.  And, for that 7th bullpen spot (should we keep 7 guys in the bullpen), I have no fucking idea.  The guy who gets that spot probably isn’t even on this team right now.  I just put Bass up there because he was acquired in a recent trade, so I’m sure he’s going to get every chance to wow the team in Spring.

The bench is even more pointless to try to predict right now, but I’ll give it a whirl.  Figure our starting 9 (including “TBD” in right field; and for the purposes of this exercise, making Seth Smith the “starting” left fielder), plus 5 starting pitchers, plus 7 relievers, that leaves 4 bench spots:

Catcher:  2016 – Zunino, 2015 – Sucre
Corner Outfield:  Franklin Gutierrez
Infielder:  2016 – Luis Sardinas?, 2015 – Bloomquist/Taylor
Outfield:  2016 – Powell/O’Malley?, 2015 – Weeks/Ruggiano/Others

Right off the bat, Zunino is a huge upgrade over Sucre.  Guti’s taking up a spot on the roster, which necessitates a fifth outfielder to cover us in the likely event that Guti needs some extra days of rest to deal with whatever is nagging at him.  Boog Powell appears to be ready for a shot at the bigs.  Shawn O’Malley had a cup of coffee in September and really impressed everyone with his hustle, so you gotta figure he has a shot if nothing else changes about the roster.  Either one of those guys, you gotta figure, is better than Rickie Weeks, just defensively alone!  Finally, we say goodbye to Willie Bloomquist (hopefully for the last time), and we say hello to Luis Sardinas, who the Mariners just acquired from Milwaukee for a minor leaguer.  Sardinas has experience at all the infield positions, he’s played sparingly in the Majors the last two years, and he’s VERY young (will turn 23 years old next May).  He’s going to have to prove he can hit at least a little bit at the Big League level, because he’s got Chris Taylor who can also play all the infield spots, and has a similar amount of experience (but an additional two years of age).

Pointless exercise, or a fun way to waste time?  You decide!  Or don’t, I don’t care.  Tomorrow’s Turkey Day!

Where In The Fudge Do The Mariners Go From Here?

The following players are under contract for 2016:

  • Felix Hernandez (signed thru 2019)
  • Robinson Cano (signed thru 2023)
  • Kyle Seager (signed thru 2021, w/ option for 2022)
  • Nelson Cruz (signed thru 2018)
  • Seth Smith (signed thru 2016, w/ option for 2017)

Of course, the team has other players under team control, but for the most part those players are part of The Problem.  The above-referenced players are the good ones.  You like to think you can count on Felix, Cano, Seager, Cruz, and Smith; these are professional players who are going to give you professional performances for the most part.  A starting pitcher, a second baseman, a third baseman, a DH, and a platoon corner outfielder.  That’s what the Mariners have going for them in 2016.

So, what are they going to do about the 20 other spots on this roster?

Well, here’s a breakdown of the players who will most certainly be playing elsewhere in 2016, because their contracts run out after this year and either they won’t want to return or we won’t want them to return:

  • Austin Jackson
  • Hisashi Iwakuma
  • Fernando Rodney
  • J.A. Happ
  • Joe Beimel

So, in theory, the Mariners will be looking to fill two starting pitcher roles, a closer role, a lefty specialist role, and a center field role.  I already don’t like where 2016 is headed.

Here’s a list of players with 1 more year of arbitration eligibility before they become full blown free agents:

  • Mark Trumbo
  • Logan Morrison

Oh goodie!  Two underperforming first basemen – one from each side of the plate – who have no business being in the outfield!  Mark Trumbo is probably the more offensively-gifted of the two, but he’s also the absolute God damn worst in the field.  LoMo has some defensive value at first base, but he’s proven without a shadow of a doubt that he’s not an everyday player.  We all wondered what he could be if he actually managed to stay healthy for a full season.  WELP, look no further than his 2015 output!

Trumbo earned $6.9 million in 2015, so figure he’ll get somewhere in the $8-$9 million range in 2016 (if we decide to keep him and not just cut him loose set him free).  LoMo earned a shade under $3 mil in 2015; maybe he gets in the $4-$5 million range in 2016 (again, if we decide to keep him, which I’m pretty against).  If we dumped these two guys, we’d need to get a whole new first baseman/DH combo, which probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Next up, we’ve got the guys with 2 more years of arbitration eligibility before they become full blown free agents:

  • Dustin Ackley
  • Charlie Furbush
  • Tom Wilhelmsen

Did you know that Dustin Ackley has earned over $12 million in his professional baseball career?  That’s over $12 million for the single most disappointing draft pick in Mariners franchise history.  He earned $2.6 million in 2015, which you gotta figure gets bumped up to the $4 million range in 2016, and probably somewhere around $6 million in 2017.  GET RID OF HIM NOW!!!  I don’t care what you have to do, but Dustin Ackley needs to be gone; he’s had every possible chance you can give a prospect, and he’s proven his worth (his worth is zero).  Nothing in the next two years is going to turn him into what we need him to be.

Furbush is a guy I probably wouldn’t mind keeping around.  His pay rate is pretty reasonable, and I wouldn’t expect the raises he gets will break the bank.  Wilhelmsen might be a guy I give another year to, but he’s obviously not someone you’d want to extend long term, and probably not someone you’d want to keep after his final arbitration year.

Finally, here’s a list of all the younger guys with extensive Major League experience, who we’ve got tons of team control for:

  • Brad Miller
  • Mike Zunino
  • Taijuan Walker
  • Carson Smith
  • Jesus Sucre
  • Chris Taylor
  • Vidal Nuno
  • Mike Montgomery
  • James Paxton
  • Roenis Elias
  • Danny Farquhar
  • Lucas Luetge
  • James Jones
  • Jesus Montero

Just brutal.  There are simply too many fucking holes to count.  I mean, look, I guess you can feel pretty good about Brad Miller if you want.  But, he’s still wildly inconsistent.  Or, I guess that’s wrong:  he’s pretty much been consistently bad at the plate since he was first called up here.  And, Chris Taylor is no better, so there’s that.  With Ketel Marte recently being converted to the outfield, there’s yet another short stop prospect gone by the wayside.  Like him or lump him, but Brad Miller is your Opening Day 2016 starting short stop.

Mike Zunino, there’s another.  His rotting carcass has been dragging down this offense for the better part of two years.  But, what are you going to do?  He’s still young enough to where he could theoretically put it all together, but at this point I think it’s foolish to expect him to be the All Star we all hoped he’d be.  So, what we’ve got is Just Another Guy behind the plate.  Great.

Walker, Paxton, Montgomery, and Elias are all young, up & coming starters, but you’re going to run into the same questions going into next year that we had going into this year.  Are they too young?  Will there be more growing pains?  And, most importantly, can they ever stay fucking healthy?  Say what you will about the 2015 Mariners, but I think it will ultimately go down as a good thing for Walker, should he stay healthy the rest of the way.  This year of experience – God willing – will help him be a better pitcher in 2016 and going forward.  One can only hope.  As for Paxton, I won’t put him in Danny Hultzen territory, but I don’t think you can ever count on Paxton staying healthy for a full season.  And, if that’s the case, I really don’t think you can count on him as a starter out of Spring Training.  He might ultimately prove to be a bullpen guy for that very reason.  Montgomery is getting an extended look this year in hopes that we can plug him in for the full season next year.  Should he keep pumping out quality starts, his is a spot in the rotation we might not have to worry about.  But, should he start to get knocked around the more the American League gets used to his repertoire, then that’s yet another hole we’d need to plug.  A hole that might be too big even for Elias, who has seemingly taken something of a step back in his second season in the Majors/upper minors.  None of these guys could be considered safe bets for 2016, but then again, what does that even mean?  We all thought Hisashi Iwakuma was a safe bet for 2015, and look at what we’ve gotten.

The bullpen guys – Carson Smith, Danny Farquhar, Vidal Nuno, and Lucas Luetge – are all pretty iffy in their own rights.  Carson Smith looked to be the second coming of Jeff Nelson until very recently, when he’s been bashed around (possibly to over-use?  He is still fairly young in his career).  I’ll be looking for Smith to ramp it back up the rest of this year.  Nuno has looked okay and will likely be the reason why we don’t see a third year out of Joe Beimel.  Luetge probably continues to get stashed in Tacoma (along with David Rollins, should he manage to stick the rest of this year).  And, that leaves Farquhar, who’s probably good AAA insurance as long as he still has options, which I would assume he does.

The rest – Sucre, Jones, and Montero – aren’t much to write home about.  I have to believe the Mariners will find another backup catcher to allow us to keep Sucre in Tacoma where he belongs.  Jones doesn’t strike me as a guy who’s ever going to hit enough to be anything more than a 4th or 5th outfielder on a team with 3 good starting outfielders (which the Mariners most certainly are not).  Montero is a bit of a wild card, but can you really go into 2016 with him as your starting first baseman?  Or, even as a platoon first baseman?  It would be nice if the Mariners managed to pull their heads out of their asses long enough to call him up for good in 2015 and let us see what the newly-skinny Montero can do over the last two months of the season.  But, that might be asking too much of an incompetent organization looking at wholesale changes in the coming offseason.

The last guy – Mark Lowe – who I didn’t list above, will be a free agent I have to imagine the Mariners will want to re-sign, at least for a year or two.  So, let’s hope that gets done, I guess.

***

That just leaves us with the “Where Do We Go From Here?” bit referenced in the title.  Do the Mariners opt to keep most of the roster intact?  Do they just keep the top five guys under contract and wash away the rest?  Do they completely blow it up, putting anyone and everyone up for auction?

At this point, I’m so disgusted with the whole organization, if I had my druthers, the Mariners would only keep Felix and Seager.  I think if you have a team willing to put in significant coin to take over the remainder of Cano’s contract, I think you jump at the opportunity.  Should he manage to turn things around sufficiently in this second half to make the first half seem like an anomaly, the Mariners could probably trade Cano for a couple of quality pieces (especially when you consider the team he’d end up going to will have a much friendlier stadium to hit in).  Maybe the Mariners kick in $7 million per year the rest of the way, for the right to dump Cano and pick up a couple of quality prospects; wouldn’t that make sense?

Same thing goes for Cruz, though I don’t think the Mariners would have to kick in as much – or any – money to get some good pieces from him.  He’s been a dominant force offensively for the last two years and is only costing $14 million per year.  That’s NOT bad.

Do I think that’ll happen though?  Probably not.  I have to imagine teams are going to stay away from Cano’s contract until they can take him from us for pennies on the dollar.  Nevertheless, there’s something to be said for the Miami Marlins way of doing things:  when you know you’re fucked, dump & run!

Odds are, whoever the next GM is will consider Felix, Seager, Cano, & Cruz as “the core” and will look to build around them.  I can’t imagine Seth Smith, Miller, Zunino, Walker, Carson Smith, Furbush, or Nuno are going anywhere either.  Barring some sort of blockbuster trade, I think these are the guys you’re looking at as the safest bets to return in 2016:

  • Felix – starting pitcher
  • Walker – starting pitcher
  • Carson – reliever
  • Furbush – reliever
  • Nuno – reliever
  • Seager – third base
  • Cano – second base
  • Miller – short stop
  • Cruz – DH/right field
  • Seth – OF platoon
  • Zunino – Catcher

All told, you’ve got 11 of your 25-man roster right there.  How do you feel as that for your “core” players for 2016?  We just need 3 more starters, 4 more relievers, pretty much an entire outfield, a first baseman, and a bench.  I’ve never been more depressed.

Taking a look at the pitching staff, it’s pretty obvious that as long as they’re still here, Paxton, Montgomery, and Elias will get looks in Spring Training.  But, you’re still going to want to bring in a veteran and maybe two.  I’d hope that the Mariners will go hard after a top-end of the rotation guy, and stop trying to make it through seasons with J.A. Happ/Chris Young/Kevin Millwood types.  I mean, if you feel it’s necessary, pick up an innings eater to throw onto the Spring Training pile, but this team absolutely needs another ace-type pitcher, like Iwakuma was before he completely broke down.

For the bullpen, I like Mark Lowe being back.  I don’t even totally mind having Wilhelmsen around, since he’s good to eat up some innings, but I wouldn’t consider him as one of your Late Innings With A Small Lead type of guys.  Assuming Farquhar won’t ever be returning to form, I think this team would be well served in picking up another veteran reliever with a proven track record.  You know, someone like Rodney two years ago, only less volatile.  Lowe, Smith, and Proven Hard-Throwing Righty, combined with Nuno, Furbush, and innings-eating Wilhelmsen could be a nice little unit.  Save that seventh spot for someone off the scrap heap, or a young up & comer with some heat and I think that’d be okay.

So far, my Plan For 2016 involves spending relatively big on a starter and a reliever, while at the same time plucking a cheaper starter and reliever from the scrap heap.

On the hitting side of things, let’s start with first base.  I feel like whatever you do with the rest of the offense hinges on what you do at first base.  The Mariners can afford to keep LoMo or Trumbo, but I don’t think they can afford to keep them both (and I really wouldn’t mind seeing them get rid of both).  If you’re going to skimp on first base (like, say for instance, there just aren’t any quality first basemen available in free agency or via trade), then either you go whole hog with Trumbo as your everyday starting first baseman and cut LoMo loose, or you let Trumbo go, save a few mil, and put LoMo in a platoon with Montero.  Neither of these options are all that enticing, but that’s the world we’re living in.  You can’t afford to completely fill all the holes on this team via free agency, that’s just not how it works.  There aren’t enough good players out there, and the organization won’t be willing to spend all the money in the world just to try to make this team a winner.  We’ve already got major deals going out to five guys in 2016 – the aforementioned guys at the top of the post – those five guys account for almost $79 million in salary next season.  When you account for the 2015 Mariners spending over $126 million on this turd stew, it realistically puts this team with $47 million to spend (minus all the smaller amounts of money going to guys under team control, and minus the arbitration guys we opt to keep).  Honestly?  Not a whole lot of wiggle room.

Of the three options at first base, obviously I’m in favor of Door #3 – the free agent.  But, I’m a realistic man, so I’m putting our chances pretty low at that becoming a reality (especially considering this team has arguably bigger fish to fry in the outfield).  Of the remaining options, I like the idea of Trumbo getting the job outright, because that gives us another spot on the bench a platoon would otherwise take up.  I have to believe that Trumbo is going to give us better offensive output than a combo of LoMo & Montero, but I have to admit the platoon is intriguing (I guess they usually are).  In this instance, Montero would face all lefties and the occasional righty.  This would still give LoMo the majority of the starts, but hopefully the days off would keep him fresh, so he wouldn’t hit so many offensive lulls.  Then, figure LoMo would also come in during the later innings of games he doesn’t start as a defensive replacement, I think this could work in a pinch.  But, as I said before, under no circumstances should the team opt to keep both LoMo AND Trumbo.

With the rest of the infield pretty well accounted for, that leaves the outfield, and a huge gaping hole in center.  No way Austin Jackson returns.  He could be the dumbest man on the planet, but even then he’d still be too smart to want to stay in Safeco.  He’s had a decent bounce-back year in 2015, and I think he parlays that into a nice little 3-4 year deal somewhere a little more hitter-friendly.  And, since the Mariners have exactly no one in the minors ready to ascend in center field (and since the Angels aren’t looking to trade Mike Trout away anytime soon), they’re going to have to make finding a new center fielder one of their highest priorities (if not THE highest).  I don’t know who’s going to be out there in free agency, but this strikes me as something that might have to get done via trade.  We should just assume that we’re not going to find a miracle offensive center fielder, so I wouldn’t mind going the other way:  find the very best defensive center fielder you can possibly find and give HIM the job.  I long for the days of awe-inspiring catches being run down at the wall; I want those days to return, even if it means we have to suffer some more at the plate!  Let’s face it, as long as this team keeps drafting terribly, and as long as they play in Safeco, this team is going to be offensively challenged.  Might as well go the other way and get as strong defensively as you possibly can.

That goes double when you see what we’ve got in the corner outfield.  You’re just not going to keep Nelson Cruz from playing right field half the time.  It’s just the way it is.  Until he severely destroys his knees, he’s going to be a part of this defense.  And, say what you will about Seth Smith, but he’s no defensive wunderkind.  And besides all of that, you still need a right-handed platoon partner for Smith, as well as another solid all-around outfielder beyond that.  If the team was smart, they’d play Cruz in the outfield exclusively in National League parks and against left-handed starters and make Cruz Seth Smith’s platoon partner.  That’d give Smith about 2/3 of the starts, which is about what he should be getting, and it would still give Cruz enough starts in the outfield to feel like he’s giving us more than just his bat.  But, again, that’s if the team was smart.  In that instance, they’d only need to find TWO everyday outfielders instead of three or four in various timeshare situations.  Whatever happens, Ackley needs to go, and Trumbo needs to not be part of that outfield mix.

From there, fill out the bench as best as you can.  Find another catcher, I don’t care whose dick you have to suck.  Chris Taylor is an adequate bench player who can cover you in all the infield positions if need be; the new generation’s Willie Bloomquist.  Fill out the outfield bench spots with speed; maybe finally decide to keep Jones up here for the duration to be a base-stealing and defensive specialist.  Good teams DO have those guys, you know.

If it’s up to me, the roster looks something like this:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Good, Veteran Starter
  3. Taijuan Walker
  4. Mike Montgomery/Roenis Elias
  5. James Paxton/Innings-Eating Veteran Starter
  • Good, Veteran Closer/Reliever
  • Carson Smith
  • Mark Lowe
  • Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Vidal Nuno
  • Charlie Furbush
  • Other Veteran Righty Reliever/Young Righty Fireballer
  1. Mike Zunino – Catcher
  2. Trumbo OR LoMo/Montero – First Base
  3. Robinson Cano – Second Base
  4. Brad Miller – Short Stop
  5. Kyle Seager – Third Base
  6. Good, Veteran Corner Outfielder
  7. Good Defensive Center Fielder
  8. Smith/Cruz – Right Field
  9. Cruz/Whoever – Designated Hitter
  • Backup Catcher Who’s Not Sucre
  • Chris Taylor – Infielder
  • Backup First Baseman
  • Backup Outfielder

For the pitchers, it’s a one or the other scenario.  You’d have Felix and Walker pretty well locked in there, as well as whoever we bring in to be our #2.  Then, you’d want approximately four guys competing for those final two spots.  Paxton, if he’s healthy, probably gets the nod.  And, ideally, you’d only have Montgomery or Elias, but not both, as they’re pretty close to the same pitcher.  Innings-Eating Veteran needs to look reasonably good, but will very well have the advantage over both Montgomery & Elias, as he’s not likely to have any options left.

The bullpen is pretty self-explanatory.

If we go platoon at first base, then obviously the other half of that platoon becomes “Backup First Baseman”.  If we go Trumbo at first, then either Montero gets a chance to be on our bench, or we go out and get someone, but again, I don’t think LoMo should be that guy.  With Cruz & Smith, you’re still looking for three new outfielders (again, assuming the organization has any brains and opts to keep Trumbo away from the outfield entirely), and I wouldn’t mind the bench guy being someone like James Jones.  Either way, Jones can’t be the everyday center fielder, so that needs to come from elsewhere.  And, as I’ve stated repeatedly, they need to get rid of Ackley and go somewhere else for the left field spot too.

If this team wants to try to hang onto the core and keep building around it, I don’t see any way they get that done with fewer than six new players – two starters, two relievers, and at least two fielders/hitters.  The first base situation is a quagmire that we’re probably stuck with, but the outfield situation needs to be a complete breath of fresh air from head to toe.

I don’t know how they’re going to do it, and after this abortion of a season, I honestly don’t much care.  Just get it done and quit wasting Felix’s prime!

Mariners Tidbit 39: Potential In-House Replacements For Taijuan Walker

Taijuan Walker feels like the clubhouse leader for most disappointing Mariners pitcher of 2015 (which puts him in the running with Dustin Ackley for most disappointing player on the 25-man roster).  Don’t you just get the sense that every fifth day, we’re in for a real clunker?  He’s been so shitty this year, he hasn’t missed a start and yet he STILL doesn’t qualify for the E.R.A. title because he doesn’t have enough innings pitched!  Not that he’d be anywhere NEAR that title, with his team-worst 7.33 dragging the collective unit down with his sub-mediocrity, but it’s insane that he doesn’t even qualify.

Taijuan Walker has started 9 games this year.  He’s gone 6 innings or more in two of those games.  6 innings is NOT asking a lot out of a starter!  And yet, here is 20% of our starting rotation who has more games with fewer than 5 innings pitched (4! out of 9!) than he does with 6 innings or more.  It’s pretty obvious that he’s not ready to be an everyday Major League starter, but unfortunately, there hasn’t been much of anything the Mariners could do about it.

Hisashi Iwakuma probably won’t be back before the All Star Break in July.  I’m wondering if he’ll even be back before the rosters expand in September.  In case you haven’t looked at a calendar yet, there’s a huge chunk of games between now and the Break (and an even huger chunk between now and September).  It’s too early to be thinking about a trade (as teams rarely give up on guys before the month of July, as they don’t want their fanbase to get wise to the fact that they’re nowhere near contention), but I don’t even want to speculate on trades anyway.  There’s a near-infinite number of possibilities for the Mariners outside the organization, but here’s the deal:  all of our potential prospects to trade away are already at the Major League level.  Nobody wants Dustin Ackley, so stop believing that the Mariners can just trade him for Cole Hamels straight up (or package him with one of our under-performing short stops, because it’s NOT ENOUGH, YOU BLOODY BOWSERS).  Probably the best prospect the Mariners could trade would be Taijuan Walker, and are you really that excited to trade him away just yet?

For as much as I may be ripping on the guy for his performance this year, I don’t think I want him pitching for another organization.  I just think he needs to work on his secondary pitches in the minors.  Given how he was injured for most of last year, it’s not like he’s had this huge bounty of innings pitched in the upper minors.  The way he’s getting slapped around – even with his plus fastball – you can tell he’s not hitting his spots and his offspeed stuff could be a lot sharper.

With Iwakuma many weeks away, and ditto any possible trade help, that leaves us with the here and now.  The last week of May, the entire month of June, and upwards of 4 weeks of the month of July depending on various variables.  A huge chunk of games where I don’t necessarily want to see Taijuan Walker starting every day.

The only viable options are sitting there in Tacoma.  At the top of the list, we’ve got Mike Montgomery, who has literally never made an appearance in the Major Leagues.  He’s got lots of mostly-mediocre numbers at the AAA level, leading him into this year where he’s made 8 starts and has a 3.83 E.R.A. across 47 innings with a respectable 40 strikeouts.  One knock against him is that he’s another left-hander, which would mean we’d have 4 lefties in the rotation if he replaced Walker.  Considering he’d probably have the worst stuff of the four, I don’t relish the prospects of his starts (especially the ones away from Safeco).

Next on the list, we’ve got Sam Gaviglio, who has made 9 starts and has a 5.63 E.R.A. (you can see the very-big drop-off, and it really only gets worse from here) across 46.1 innings with 41 strikeouts.  He’s been about as erratic as Walker (a decent game here, a grotesque game there, lots of short outings) and you have to imagine he doesn’t have any of the potential to turn things around as Walker would.  He’s a guy you’d bring up if you needed a warm body, but at the same time he’s not someone you’d promote before Montgomery.

Jordan Pries was starting to turn a corner before he went on the DL in early May.  I have no idea when he’d be ready to pitch again.  Stephen Landazuri was just called up from AA and had a horrific start last Friday, so he’s not ready.  Forrest Snow is a fringe starter who has bounced around from AA to AAA in recent seasons.  He’s been starting for Tacoma for the last three weeks and one wonders if his arm has been sufficiently built up.  Justin Germano is apparently a minor league lifer who’s been starting since the beginning of the month.  He’s coming off of a stinker of an outing – but was sort of okay before that – and he’s not on the 40-man, so that’s another strike against him.

As most of these guys aren’t on the 40-man, that makes a move even more difficult.  When you consider none of these guys are clear upgrades over Walker, you can see why this has been a difficult situation for the organization.  Hell, the Mariners just called up Austin Jackson from the DL and sent down Danny Farquhar to work on some things.  Meaning:  the Mariners would rather go with a temporary 6-man bullpen than DFA Willie Bloomquist.  Or Weeks, but shit man, they have to get rid of one of these guys if they’re going to keep Miller & Taylor on the roster!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Danny Hultzen is still plugging away in AA, trying to build his arm back up.  He’s made 3 starts and gone a total of 8 innings in those starts, so no, he’s not ready either, and he probably won’t be until 2016.

In conclusion, I don’t know if there’s any point in calling for Walker’s head, because I doubt he’s going anywhere, unless the train REALLY goes off the rails.  I’m talking another 3-4 starts where he gives up near-double digit runs.  At that point, I don’t think the team would have any choice but to see what Montgomery can do.  But, I think the Mariners want to wait this out as long as humanly possible to see if either Walker is able to turn things around, or if they can work out a trade for a back-end starter where they don’t have to give up too much.

Sounds exciting, right?  If you want my advice, just watch something else whenever it’s Walker’s turn in the rotation.  Either you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you look at the box score the next day, or you’ll be glad you missed another stinker.

Mariners Tidbit 38: Twiddling Our Thumbs

Sorta feels like the season is slipping away, doesn’t it?

My way-too-smug, self-satisfied photo of a sunset to beat this theme to death ...

My way-too-smug, self-satisfied photo of a sunset to beat this theme to death …

I usually hate the end of the month of May when it comes to baseball because it’s around this time where I have my ultimate freakout.  Invariably, that’s because the season truly IS slipping away, because usually the Mariners are terrible.  All the “Everything Must Go Exactly Right” scenarios we dreamed up before the season started have been debunked and what we’re left with is the hard, cold reality of what has come to pass.

This year was supposed to be different.  This year, we had to dream up scenarios where things might go wrong, because in our heart of hearts we all KNEW this team was different.  This team was going to buck the trend!  This team would FUCKING FINALLY put us back into the playoffs for the first time in a God Damn eternity.

And yet, here we are, headed into Memorial Day weekend, 4 games under .500.  Had you told me before the season started that the Mariners would be in this position and I would’ve told you, “That’s what happens when injuries decimate your roster.”  But, what injuries?  A short stint on the DL for Wilhelmsen, a longer stint for Austin Jackson, and a longer-still stint for Iwakuma (which in and of itself doesn’t feel like much of a bad thing, given how shitty he’s been dating back to the end of last year).  You can’t blame injuries for this!  Wilhelmsen’s back!  A-Jax is nearly back, and besides that the season was never going to hinge on his level of production anyway.

The point of that last paragraph is:  help is NOT on the way.  Chris Taylor has been called up and he’s done squat.  Roenis Elias has been called up and has done the lord’s work (making every single one of us second-guess the Mariners choosing Taijuan Walker over him out of Spring Training).  We traded a struggling reliever for a backup catcher, but come on, he’s a backup catcher!  Once again, the number of black holes on this team is crippling us (and it doesn’t help that Cano and Seager have started off beyond sluggish), so even if we WANTED to mortgage every last ounce of future prospects we have in our farm system – to trade for help from outside the organization – it still likely wouldn’t be enough to help turn things around.

For all that’s gone wrong, I would argue just as much has gone right.  No regression for Felix so far is a miracle in and of itself.  J.A. Happ has easily been the second-best starter in the rotation, and has already surpassed all my expectations.  Nelson Cruz has been the motherfucking best hitter in baseball for shit’s sake!  Who expected THAT?

So, at what point do we admit that the sun is setting on this season?  We’re 8 games behind Houston, who looks like the best team in the American League.  We’re two months into the season and closer to fourth place than we are to second place in the West.  We’ve shown an incredible ability to lose games in every way imaginable – our record truly being a team effort – so when do we throw our hands up and cry “Uncle!”?

I’ve grown very detached from this season.  As a fan, as much as it’s pained me, it’s been all too easy to adjust my expectations for this team.  At this point, I’m no longer expecting us to make the playoffs.  I’m not even expecting us to win over 87 games (which I’ve got $100 riding on at the moment, from a sportsbook in Tahoe).  Hell, I thought that was the easiest money of any sports bet I made earlier this year, and now I’m not even sure the Mariners will be a team that wins more games than it loses!

At this point, just give me a little drunken excitement when I watch the games with family or friends on the weekends.  That’s really all I ask.  Yeah, sure, hover around .500.  Go ahead and continue to drive everyone batshit crazy, Mariners, it’s what you do best.  But, give me something to cheer about on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and I’ll be fine.  Placing high expectations on the Mariners isn’t really fair; they’re always going to find a way to screw it all up (through no fault of their own, of course).

It’s almost the end of May, time to put this season to bed.  As the Mariners go through the motions, hovering somewhere around .500, but never really getting back into a position to win the division, you’ll have a much more peaceful go of it if you’re like me and you shift your expectations drastically.

Mariners Tidbit 31: Making Roster Moves

When you start your season this crappy, heads must roll.  Not important heads; minor heads.  Heads you won’t necessarily miss.

Yoervis Medina has been sent down to Tacoma, as has Tyler Olson.  Medina doesn’t strike me as being all that different than his last two seasons in the Majors, maybe a small uptick in wildness.  He’s got 7 walks to 9 strikeouts, so there’s probably your culprit considering his 3.00 ERA.  Honestly, I wouldn’t expect him to be gone for too long, as he’ll probably be the first one called up in the event of another injury to a bullpen arm.

Olson’s demotion makes a little more sense.  He has been wildly ineffective since making the club out of Spring Training.  Considering he’s yet to play any games in AAA, it would make some sense to keep him working regularly while at the same time taking some of the pressure off of his plate.

In their place, Joe Beimel and Mark Lowe return to the ballclub.  With Beimel, I suppose we’re hoping to catch lightning in a bottle twice.  With Lowe, I have no idea.  His fastball is a shell of its former self, so he better have good control and he better have a decent out-pitch.  He’s given up 1 run in 9 innings (with 11 strikeouts) down in Tacoma, so at least that’s a good sign.

On the offensive side, Austin Jackson goes on the DL with an ankle sprain.  We’re all hopeful that he won’t be out too long.  In his place, Justin Ruggiano will get the bulk of the starts in center, so at least we’ll get a nice extended look at what he has to offer.  Let’s hope it’s something in the way of quality at bats, because things are looking ugly.

Chris Taylor gets the call up, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, except I guess it means he’s the starting short stop for now, while Brad Miller gets to play that “rover” we all anticipated would be a possibility.  I don’t totally know what that’s going to entail.  It’s not like you’re going to sit Seager or Cano all that often.  Doesn’t make much sense to play him at first base, since LoMo is also a lefty (and he’s also starting to heat up finally).  The only other place for him is in the outfield, which means we have to get him ready to play Major League outfield by giving him practice reps before games.  That sounds … frightening.  Then again, can he be any worse than Weeks?

I don’t see a lot in the way of improvement with this roster shakeup, but sometimes a shakeup for the sake of making a shakeup is exactly what a team needs.  What does that even mean?  I have no idea either.  The world doesn’t exactly make a whole lotta sense when the Astros are 7 games up in first place.