Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

I remember June 16, 2008, like it was seven years and a few weeks ago.  We were in the middle of a year that would just get worse and worse and worse.  The Mariners, coming off of a winning 2007 campaign, revamped their starting rotation with the Erik Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva signing.  A would-be weakness for the team was bolstered by the addition of a second ace pitcher, and an innings eater who’d solidify the back-end of the rotation while pitching half his games in the spacious Safeco Field.

Those 2008 Mariners would go on to lose over 100 games, netting the #2 overall draft pick.  On June 16, 2008, Bill Bavasi was fired after four and a half miserable fucking seasons.  And we all rejoiced, for we all knew Bavasi was not only the face of Satan incarnate, but the most bumbling and inept motherfucker ever to be given the keys to a professional franchise (tell me I’m wrong, COME AT ME BRO; I will fight you to the death).  Every year of his reign was another chance to reload.  Re-BUILD?  What does that even MEAN?  The Mariners were coming off of their most fruitful seasons under Pat Gillick; but those veterans were all long dead and buried.  Bavasi made it his mission to bring in veteran after veteran to try to right the ship, at the expense of our entire farm system and anything else he could get his hands on.  He wasted money, he traded away superstars, and he brought us nothing but losses piled upon losses piled upon shit.

On October 22, 2008, the Mariners brought in Jack Zduriencik, and while we didn’t really know much about him, we knew he worked in the upper management in Milwaukee, for a Brewers organization on the rise.  He was responsible for that team bringing in some of its biggest stars, and was the first non-GM to win Executive of the Year in 2007.  This guy was a rising star in his own right, and it seemed like he’d fit into the GM world like a glove.

On August 28, 2015, the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik.  He’d been at the helm for a little over 6 and a half seasons.  So, it was time.  He’d out-lasted his predecessor and really wasn’t all that much better at his job.

Bill Bavasi’s Mariners record:  322-395, .449 winning percentage
Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners record:  506-595, .460 winning percentage

Over time, the Bavasi regime has become known for the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade, and the dual trades to the Indians in 2006 giving them quality All Stars Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for magic beans.  Those are desperate moves no GM would EVER live down.  The Zduriencik regime will ultimately go down for the Triad of Suck that was Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero.  The Mariners gave up some legitimately great capital to bring in those guys (2nd overall draft pick, Cliff Lee, and Michael Pineda, respectively) and they all blew up in Z’s face.

Considering Jackie Z’s extensive history in scouting for Major League Baseball, that makes his transgressions all the more galling.  He’d been here for over 6 years and all he had to show for his work was Kyle Seager.  Anyone he ever brought in who was worth a damn was either an established free agent (Cano, Cruz) or some scrub who’d previously washed out of baseball either via injury or ineffectiveness, only to make his comeback with us for an anomalous year or two (Chris Young, Mark Lowe, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel).  I mean, will you LOOK at some of the bullshit that’s crossed our paths thanks to Jackie Z:

  • Dustin Ackley, draft pick
  • Chone Figgins, free agent
  • Eric Byrnes, free agent
  • Justin Smoak, trade
  • The Entire Doug Fister Trade, less Charlie Furbush (a sometimes-okay lefty specialist out of the bullpen)
  • Jesus Montero, trade
  • Brandon League, trade
  • Casey Kotchman, trade
  • Mike Morse for John Jaso
  • Logan Morrison for Carter Capps
  • Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo
  • Mike Zunino, draft pick
  • Danny Hultzen, draft pick
  • Nick Franklin, draft pick
  • Corey Hart, free agent
  • Jason Bay, free agent
  • Joe Saunders, free agent
  • Hector Noesi, trade
  • Miguel Olivo, free agent
  • The Hitless Wonder That Is Brendan Ryan, trade
  • Jack Cust, free agent
  • Blake Beavan, trade
  • Milton Bradley, trade
  • Rob Johnson, trade(ish)

You could go on and on, and I know I’m just picking and choosing the most worthless piles of crap out there, but LOOK AT THAT LIST!  Look at all those miserable bastards that have contributed to nearly 600 losses the last 6+ seasons!  That’s Jack’s legacy!  Did he give away studs on par with Jones, Choo, Cabrera, Tillman and the like?  No.  But, he did get PENNY on the dollar out of stud trade chips like Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, John Jaso, and Carter Capps.  He had three draft picks in the top 3 overall and we’ve yet to see any of them amount to anything more than somewhat quality defense.  After this year, it’s highly likely two of those three draft picks won’t even be in the organization, with Ackley traded, Hultzen an injured free agent who should probably retire, and Mike Zunino fighting for his life somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle.

Was he as destructive as Bill Bavasi?  No, he was not.  That’s why August 28, 2015, came and went a little bit differently than June 16, 2008.  I don’t feel quite the sense of elation as I did when Bavasi finally got the ax.  That was on par with the Wicked Witch of the West getting assassinated; this is more like Old Yeller taking a bullet out behind the house.  Could the Mariners afford to keep him in charge even one more year?  Absolutely not.  His rabies-infested mind would surely destroy us all; he NEEDED to be put down, for his sake as much as our own.

But, it’s not even like that.  I have no real affinity for Jackie Z; it’s not like I’m going to miss him now that he’s gone.  But, it’s still a bummer, because this isn’t supposed to be how it ended.  There was a lot of flawed decision-making when it comes to Jackie Z’s reign; but, there’s also a lot of moves where you could see why he thought the way he did.  A lot of moves that looked good on paper, and then that paper was set ablaze by a fucking cannon.  Guys like Smoak and Ackley and Figgins and Montero – they all came highly touted and having produced quite a bit in their careers up to the point they arrived in Seattle.

In fact, you could say 2015 was a perfect microcosm of the entire Jackie Z era.  There was hope – coming off of a year where the Mariners ended up 1 game out of the playoffs.  There was a smart signing – Nelson Cruz, MVP candidate in 2015.  There was flawed logic – trading away a professional catcher during Zunino’s worst year in the Bigs for a righty power bat who will never play well in Safeco (and who’s yet another DH who shouldn’t be playing out in the field to boot).  And there was a whole lot of bad luck – Cano’s shitty start to the season, Ackley turning back into a pumpkin after last year’s bonanza second half, the bullpen absolutely falling apart after being one of the best units in the American League last year.

Like him or hate him, it’s just sad.  This whole season has been depressing as shit!  Jackie Z getting the boot is just the cherry on top.

The worst part is:  what do we do going forward?  When Bavasi was fired, there was a clear thought process:  scrap everything and start over through the draft.  It only got muddled when the Mariners had a winning record in 2009; that shouldn’t have happened, and it set things back in a lot of ways.  The Mariners made “contending ballclub” moves when they should’ve stuck to the gameplan to keep rebuilding.  It backfired in 2010, meaning we wasted two good rebuilding years thinking we were worth a damn.  We started anew in 2011, built the club up into a winner in 2014, only to see it all bottom out yet again.  Unexpectedly.  Yet again.  But, maybe we should have expected it.  This city is cursed in a lot of ways, and it took one of the greatest football teams of all time to break that spell in 2013.

Now, like in 2008, the Mariners have no farm system.  But, they’ve got plenty good at the Major League level.  This team is far from great, but it’s also far from the worst.  Will the organization be able to find the right guy to come in here and put all the pieces in place?

No.

It won’t.

Because Howard Lincoln is still the man calling all the shots.

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

But, we’re stuck with him, and that’s why we’ll always be losers.

Tracking The Last Five Years In Seattle Sports

If you look at the right sidebar on my main page, you’ll notice a few things.  I try to update and keep track of the teams that are in-season with their current records and their next scheduled games.  I’ve got a list of categories, if you’d rather just read about one particular team.  I’ve got links to my Twitter and Facebook pages.  And, below that, I’ve got a list of the last five years’ worth of records for each of the teams I cover on this blog.

From time to time, I’ll refer to this list.  Sometimes, I need to know exactly how many wins a certain team had in a specific recent year; sometimes, I just like to marvel at how long it’s been since a team has made the postseason.  I chose five years because I think that’s a good barometer as to where a team is headed.  You can take a quick glance and see if things are trending upward, downward, or in the case of Husky Football, maddeningly the same.

The first thing I notice is that the Seattle Supersonics have been missing from this list for quite some time.  Six-plus years, which is a fucking travesty.  Let’s get on this, NBA!  As for everyone else, let’s separate them by heading.

Husky Basketball

Clearly trending downward.  Once the Mariners make the playoffs this year, the Husky men’s basketball team will have the longest postseason drought in the area, which is just impossible to comprehend.

The great thing about looking back at just the last five years is, it’s usually a good indicator as to a coach’s job security.  Lorenzo Romar has just finished year 4 without an NCAA Tournament appearance.  Gotta figure one more of those and he’s out on his ass.

Husky Football

As I said before, clearly trending even.  2010 was our first year playing in a bowl game since we bottomed out in 2008.  At this point last year, you’d have an argument that the program was trending upward, but with 2014’s uneven performance – punctuated by the dud of a Cactus Bowl – I might even make the argument things are starting to go south.

The Huskies lose some really good players on defense to the NFL draft this year.  Compound that with their most experienced quarterback – Cyler Miles – stepping away from the team (maybe forever?), and I have to wonder where our wins are going to come from in conference play.  2015 is certainly going to be a step back, but hopefully it’s a productive step back, where we find a quality replacement at quarterback who’ll be ready to help this team pop in 2016.  There’s still reason for optimism, but it’s going to be difficult to see through the thick layer of shit that’s right in front of us.

Seattle Seahawks

Trending even, but it’s not like things could get much better than the 2013 season.  I’m not ready to proclaim the Seahawks on a downward trend – as we’ve still got the pieces in place for an extended run at Super Bowls – but it’s hard to say things are going to get much better.  Back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, one boneheaded playcall from winning them both, I’d say this team is still at its peak level of dominance.

Still, 2015 is a key pivot point in this organization’s trajectory.  Guys aren’t getting old, necessarily, but they’re getting older.  Combine that with three consecutive playoff runs for the pillars of this team and you’re talking a lot of mileage.  If we can’t figure out a way to re-stock our depth with this year’s draft (combined with the IR players from last year’s draft who’ve had a full year to acclimate to being a professional), things could start to get hairy in a hurry.  We’re always going to be great as long as our great players remain healthy; but how long this championship run lasts will depend on the quality of players who step up when the greats get hurt.

Seattle Mariners

Trending upward!  Hurrah!  Last year, we were one game out from a play-in game for the playoffs.  We dumped our crap – Smoak, Hart, Morales, Denorfia, Beavan, soon-to-be Ramirez – and what useful pieces we lost aren’t devastating to our overall outlook in 2015 (Saunders, Young, Maurer, Beimel).  The important thing is who we’ve brought in to replace them.  Nelson Cruz is a MAMMOTH upgrade at DH.  Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano should be moderate upgrades in the outfield (over Saunders and Jones, particularly).  Rickie Weeks could be a boon for our bench (over someone like Romero).  And, healthy seasons out of Walker and Paxton should alleviate some of the burden the team had to endure with the likes of Maurer, Beavan, and Ramirez (who were absolute disasters when they had to spot start last year).

Obviously, it’s a long season, and anything can happen.  But, it’s good to know that the Mariners have as good a shot as anyone to not only make the postseason, but win the whole thing.  If you think about it, this is a team BUILT for the playoffs.  Felix is the best pitcher in baseball.  Iwakuma is a rock solid #2.  Paxton and Walker both have the potential to be #1 or #2 pitchers.  Then, with the lineup, we’ve got a 3-4-5 that rivals any team’s with Cano-Cruz-Seager.  Combine that with enough role players around them who should keep this offense afloat in the lean times, and top it all off with a bullpen that could be in the top 5 in all of baseball, and you’ve got a team where it wouldn’t be crazy to see it go all the way.

The overall sports atmosphere in Seattle is one of Encouraging Optimism, which is a huge step up from Cautious Optimism (which is usually as high as things get around here).  The Seahawks obviously busted through the gates with their championship last year, but with the Mariners surging, we’re really in some glorious days.  Of course, it’s not perfect.  We’re probably looking at a total rebuild after next year’s Husky basketball team once again fails to make the Tourney.  But, in general, I’d say this is the best time to be a fan of Seattle sports teams.

Now, all we need is a clear plan to bring our Sonics back, and maybe a lead on an expansion hockey franchise, and we’ll be all set.

Predicting The Seasons Of Various Mariners In 2015, Part I

Hope you’re ready for endless Mariners discussion!  This year, I don’t think there’s going to be one definitive 2015 Mariners Preview post.  Rather, I think I’m going to roll them out occasionally, over the next couple months.

These are exciting times to be a Mariners fan.  That’s all relative, of course.  Compared to all the losing we’ve been exposed to in recent years, just about ANYTHING ELSE could be considered exciting.  I keep waffling between the Mariners being really good in 2015 – as many smart baseball types are predicting – and being another huge letdown.  I mean, you know how the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001?  Well, there HAVE been winning seasons since then.  2007 and 2009 come immediately to mind in the particularly wretched stretch from the years 2004 thru 2013.  So, we HAVE come off of winning seasons, only to fall right on our asses with 100-loss teams.  Granted, the 2007 and 2009 Mariners were paper tigers and were due to regress (though, 100 losses seems to be a bit of an over-correction on the whole regression to the mean argument), but it’s not impossible to see the 2015 Mariners hit the toilet.

One thing I keep telling myself is:  the 2014 Mariners won 87 games, and for the most part, the core is intact.  We’re bringing back seven of our eight starting position players, all of our starting pitchers except for Chris Young, and all of our relievers except for Brandon Maurer.  Even if we added NOTHING to last year’s team, you’re looking at some semblance of a .500 roster.  Then, take into account the vast upgrade at DH (Nelson Cruz over Hart/Morales/Other), the possible moderate upgrade in right field (Smith/Ruggiano over Saunders), the possible even trade in our rotation (Happ over Young), and the bevy of young, hard-throwing right handers in our bullpen to step up and replace Maurer, and yeah, it all looks pretty promising.

But, injuries wipe that all way.  If we lose Cano, Seager, Cruz, or Felix for any significant period of time, we’re kinda screwed.  Or, if we lose a large amount of regulars from the second and third tiers of this team’s talent pool, we certainly won’t have enough depth to overcome.

I mean, look at our depth in general!  Who’s our backup second baseman if Cano is out for a month?  Bloomquist?  Oh, that’s fun.  What do we do if Seager sprains an ankle?  Move Miller over to third?  Bloomquist again?  What happens when LoMo inevitably gets injured?  Bring up a guy from Tacoma who isn’t ready?  Bloomquist one more time?  Shit, what if Bloomquist isn’t able to come back from his surgery in time for the season?

That’s saying nothing of the very real possibilities that one or more of our outfielders comes out of the gate sucking dick and needing to be replaced.  How much do we trust Ackley or A-Jax?  What do we even know about this right field platoon?  What if we’re forced to play Cruz in the field more than at DH?  And what if that leads to him getting injured like Hart was all year last year?

It’s no slam dunk that this Mariners team makes the playoffs.  You really gotta hope that this team’s most important players are able to stay healthy for the duration.  But, I guess that’s what baseball is.  I mean, how often do you run into an organization that’s overflowing with depth at every position?  If you run into an unlucky streak, you turn into the Texas Rangers of last year.  That was a GOOD team, but they suffered injuries at just about every single fucking position and ended up being one of the worst teams in baseball.  Don’t think that can’t happen to the Mariners, because if I know my Seattle sports history, I’ll tell you THAT living hell is very much on the table.

***

For now, I’ll try to set aside all doom & gloom and make an effort to tell you what I actually think is going to happen this year.  Let’s start with the starting rotation and call it a day.  I’ll work on the bullpen and the everyday starters in separate posts.

Felix Hernandez – Ahh, what would I do without Felix?  Last year, he had maybe the greatest season of his career, yet he came OH SO CLOSE to winning his second Cy Young award.  He’s been on quite the roll since he was unleashed in 2009 and allowed to pitch unlimited innings.  I would expect more of the same greatness, though it may be unfair to expect him to be as good as he was last year.  Nevertheless, he has it in him to be even BETTER, so I wouldn’t totally count it out.  Count him for 30+ starts, 200+ strikeouts, and I’m gonna say it:  20+ wins!  BOOM!  What’s more, his season won’t be defined by some lame start in Toronto in September, either.

Hisashi Iwakuma – Last year, Iwakuma missed the first month of the season with a sprained ligament in his finger.  His season as a whole was considerably worse than what he brought to the table in 2013, with a rough final seven starts really doing the damage.  It’s impossible to say what’s wrong – if anything – but you’ve got to be at least a little concerned.  But, his strikeout rate was marginally better, and he was fantastic at limiting walks.  The only thing you can really point to is his BABIP increasing from .233 in 2013 to .274 in 2014.  Meaning he went from being incredibly lucky in 2013 to about average (or maybe even still better than average) in 2014.  Anecdotally, it seemed to me that Iwakuma was a little too in love with the strike zone last year, and got beat accordingly too many times.  He also found himself up in the zone more than I’m sure he’d like, which resulted in him getting pounded just a little bit harder.  His double plays were down, and overall he wasn’t pitching quite as deep into ballgames.

I’m not going to say he’s fallen off the cliff, but it would be nice to see a bounce-back season.  I wouldn’t expect the greatness of 2013 – when he seriously contended for a Cy Young Award – but also not the relative failure of 2014 either.  Somewhere in the middle would suit me right down to the bone.  At this point, it’s probably insane to predict a full season of health out of Iwakuma, but here’s hoping we keep him upright for the majority.

J.A. Happ – Suffice it to say, I’m less than thrilled with this guy just being handed a rotation spot.  I highly doubt what he’s going to produce is going to be as good – let alone better – than what we would get from Roenis Elias.  But, I understand the sentiment.  You’ve GOT to have rotation depth, especially if you’re in a position to contend like the Mariners are this year.  If we were coming off of a 60-win season, I highly doubt Happ would be on our roster today.  We’d be pushing as many young pitchers as we could out into the spotlight to see how they fare.  The Mariners are in a fortunate position, though, as – with Happ – we now have six guys who are (or could be) legitimate Major League starters.  Three of those six guys have options, meaning we can stash them in Tacoma without much fuss.  Also, not for nothing, but of those three guys, no one really DESERVES to be handed a spot in this rotation.  So, it’s not batshit crazy to stick Walker, Elias, or even Paxton down in Tacoma for a little additional seasoning, until the time is right to bring one of them back up.  Happ doesn’t have options, and at least in his Safeco starts he should be Good Enough, so whatever.

Part of me expects Happ to find his way to the DL at some point.  The homer in me hopes that DL stint is some manufactured injury due to him struggling, while one of the starters below gets his crack at being called up from Tacoma.  Overall, he might get a slight bump from pitching half of his games in Safeco, but I’m not going to wet my pants over the prospects of J.A. Happ having a career year.  If his ERA is under 4, I’d be ecstatic

James Paxton – Of the three guys we’ve got for the final two spots, I’d say Paxton is the consensus safest bet.  If he’s able to stay healthy, I think he could top out – this year – as this team’s second-best starter in our rotation.  If not, or if he wears down by season’s end, I think he could still be a very good chip for us in our hopes of contending for a playoff spot.  It’s hard to expect him to go a full season, but I would expect a considerable jump in innings from last year to this year.  Here’s to hoping he makes it back in time for a September stretch run.

Taijuan Walker & Roenis Elias – I expect, like many others do, that Walker and Elias will be battling for the 5th starter job.  I’ve been of the opinion that Elias deserves to have consideration over Walker, if for no other reason than he was here pretty much the whole season last year and acquitted himself very well.  That should give a guy a leg up over someone who spent most of last year injured, then the rest of last year toiling down in Tacoma before a September call-up.

But, you can’t deny that Walker has the “stuff” over Elias.  Walker’s potential is Future Ace.  Elias should end up as a nice mid-rotation lefty if everything pans out.  Also, you’ve got to look at the rotation around Elias.  We’ve already got two lefties, including another relatively soft-tossing lefty in Happ.  It would seem to be unwise to have Happ & Elias pitching back-to-back, just as it would seem unwise to throw three lefties in a row with Happ, Paxton, and Elias.  All of that, combined with Paxton and Walker finally being healthy, combined with Paxton and Walker having the higher pedigree, combined with Elias having made the jump from AA to the Bigs (completely skipping AAA), it’s reasonable to expect Elias to start the year in Tacoma, and to be ready for the inevitability when one of the other five starters gets injured for a spell.

While I expect Walker to make the rotation out of Spring Training (assuming all are healthy), I don’t necessarily expect Walker to excel out of the gate or for the duration.  It wouldn’t shock me to see Walker and Elias swap roles at some point due to performance rather than injury.  Nevertheless, I do like Walker to improve as the season goes on, and eventually reclaim that #5 role before the year ends.

The Mariners Traded Michael Saunders For J.A. Happ

The Mariners completed a trade that’s not only alarmingly bad in and of itself, but what it represents for our offseason plan going forward.

For starters, I’m going to go ahead and pump the breaks myself on Michael Saunders.  He’s not an MVP candidate waiting to happen.  He’s a solid 4th outfielder and a fringe starter.  Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much – so why are all of our collective panties in a bunch – but you have to look at it like this:  right now the Mariners barely have ONE viable starting outfielder.  We’re currently banking on the last half-season’s worth of Dustin Ackley carrying over; and I’ll believe in Austin Jackson’s potential when he SHOWS me something.  And, assuming you’ve been paying attention to the Seattle Mariners over the last few years, you’re well aware that we have CONSISTENTLY struggled to run out three quality outfielders.  That’s WITH Michael Saunders on the roster!  Yes, he struggled for a long time when he first came up, but he slowly improved to the point where he was useful and potent as a corner outfielder.

But, he suffered some minor injuries, especially the last couple seasons.  That apparently soured the organization on him, which strikes me as odd.

It’s odd because as soon as Lloyd McClendon took over as manager, he seemed to have it out for Saunders.  Saunders never even had a shot at competing for a starting outfield spot.  The team would rather hand over right field to the creaky knees of LoMo and Corey Hart.  And, while I agree that Saunders really doesn’t have any business playing centerfield, the team also doesn’t have any business giving Abe Almonte a starting job over Saunders.  So, what was going on there?  It’s like Jackie Z told Lloyd when he first got here that Saunders is no good.  And, even as the regular season started out, and we were struggling, Saunders often found himself benched in favor of losers.  Unfortunately for all, when Saunders finally DID get his crack at starting, he found himself on the DL on two separate occasions.  I guess that sealed his fate, but I would argue his fate was sealed long before.

Which is REALLY weird because – going into Spring Training – the biggest disappointment in the organization, Justin Smoak, was being touted as THE starting first baseman as well as a potential league leader in doubles.  Why were they pumping up a fucking trainwreck who never showed ANYTHING outside of random hot spurts in the month of September, while they dismissed a truly valuable outfield rotation player?

It boggles the mind.

While Saunders’ value may be inflated among his staunchest supporters, his injury woes are also inflated by the Mariners (and, apparently, other organizations around baseball, who didn’t have what it took to provide us with a better trade).  It’s not like he’s a pitcher coming off shoulder surgery.  Most of his maladies were of the fluke variety.  He doesn’t strike me as a living, breathing Bumblebee Man, with misfortune hiding around every corner in more hilarious and creative ways.  He just strikes me as someone who has had some misfortune.  But, once he’s able to stay on the field for a full season, you’ll all see that Michael Saunders is really special.  And the Mariners will feel pretty damn foolish in the process.

In return, we get J.A. Happ.  A soft-tossing lefty veteran who doesn’t do anything well, but who also isn’t so horrible that he’s been drummed out of the league.  He’s earning upwards of $7 million and this is the last year of his deal (whereas Saunders still had a couple years left, at a much cheaper rate).

You can’t ignore the fact that the Mariners traded away from a position of weakness.  We already needed another starting outfielder BEFORE we let Saunders go to Toronto.  Nothing changes there, although now what we’re looking at is a drastic reduction of the quality of our depth.  Saunders is really the ideal 4th outfielder.  He probably deserves better – and will get it, by starting in Toronto this year – but as long as we had him, we had some real security in case shit hit the fan (which it usually does, because this is Seattle).

Granted, the Mariners also needed to pick up a veteran starter, because I think we’re all in agreement that to count on Paxton, Walker, and Elias to last the full season in the Majors is asking a lot.  Beyond that, it’s not like we’re sitting on a mountain of pitching depth in the minors.  Hell, even Erasmo Ramirez is out of options and will either need to be carried as a long reliever, traded, or DFA’d!  And, considering the strength of our bullpen as it’s currently constructed, it’s not like we can afford two long relievers.

I mention that because, in an ideal world, Paxton, Walker, and Elias would all crack the starting rotation, and Happ would be relegated to being a long reliever.  I’m sure Happ is nice.  I’m sure he’s got a little Chris Young in him.  I’m sure, playing half his games in Safeco, he’ll be okay as an innings eater.  But, he’s no one you want to COUNT on!  He’s no one I necessarily want to see out there every fifth day, wondering whether or not this is the day he’s going to implode in the second inning.  There’s real honest to goodness upside with Paxton, Walker, and Elias.  What you see with Happ is what you get:  a .500 pitcher with an ERA over 4.  He’s not going to all of a sudden turn it on.  At best, he’ll manage an ERA under 4, but that’s going to require dominant performances at home, with a bunch of Hold Your Breath performances on the road.  Great, just what I never want to see.

See, what really troubles me about this trade – aside from the loss of Saunders and the gain of Happ – is what we’re looking at going forward, with the rest of our offseason moves.  We still need an outfielder.  Maybe a couple outfielders.  And there isn’t a lot left on the free agent market.  So, does this make a trade more of a certainty?  And, if we decide to trade for a quality outfielder, does that mean the days are numbered for one or more of the triad of Paxton, Walker, and/or Elias?  You all know the rumors.  You’ve all heard who Taijuan Walker is connected to.  Is that really what you want?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

But, with Happ, it sounds a little more plausible, doesn’t it?  I would argue we could’ve gotten a Happ-like starting pitcher in free agency, without giving up Saunders, but what the fuck do I know?  Either way, he’s here now, and he could REALLY make things terrible.  I don’t even want him on our roster, but I understand the need for depth.  Teams almost never get to enjoy the same five starters playing all the way through, uninterrupted, for a full season.  But, once we trade Walker, or one of our other young studs, that just means Happ goes from Depth Piece to being locked in as one of our starters, regardless.

There are strengths and weaknesses to being in Win Now mode.  Obviously, if that’s your mode, then your team is pretty damn good already.  But, oftentimes, it leads to ownership making questionable decisions.  I was on board with Nelson Cruz, because we didn’t have to give up anything but money (and, I guess, a 4-year committment).  But, now?  Consider me VERY concerned about the next major move the Mariners make.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part III

Consider this the third in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Click HERE for Part I
Click HERE for Part II

Logan Morrison – Following the signing of Corey Hart, the Mariners hedged their bet by trading away Carter Capps to the Marlins for their version of Justin Smoak.  LoMo played a little more outfield than Smoak ever could have dreamed, and he was a lot more injured, but the sentiment is still the same:  a guy with a lot of power potential who just never put it together, for a maddeningly long amount of time.

He’s yet to play a full season (only over 100 games once in his 5-year Major League career), and he’s yet to be all that effective at the plate.  Encouragingly, 2014 was his best year ever, so there’s hope yet.

He hit .262/.315/.420, with 11 homers and 20 doubles in 99 games.  He had only 9 games in the outfield, with the rest at 1B or DH, which is promising.  Let’s keep him there.  He was a VAST improvement over Justin Smoak (who got the lion’s share of starts early in the season at first base) offensively, and wasn’t all that bad defensively either.  He’s club-controlled and if he can stay healthy, might just be a viable starting first baseman for us.  He’s no All Star or anything, but at this point I’ll just take anyone who’s above replacement.

Outlook for 2015:  Slot him in as your starting first baseman.  At best, the Mariners will only be able to bring in one right-handed slugger, and you have to figure that guy will play primarily at DH.  If, in some incomprehensible universe, the Mariners bring in two sluggers, then I suppose you could be looking at LoMo as a platoon option at first/DH.  But, I bet he sticks and makes us all forget about that time he smashed a bat against a wall in frustration and cut up his face, causing him to miss some time.

Humberto Quintero – Says here he was a third catcher down the stretch and had as many at-bats (2) as Felix Hernandez (as many hits too).

Outlook for 2015:  He’s a free agent.  Either he’ll be back in Tacoma, or he’ll be with some other team’s AAA squad, or he’ll be somewhere else.

Stefen Romero – As per usual, the Mariners were desperate for right-handed outfield bats.  Stefen Romero was pretty good in Spring Training and won a spot on the Major League club.  He stunk.  He was sent down and brought up multiple times.  In that aforementioned game in Atlanta where John Buck hit the game-winning home run, Romero hit a game-tying 3-run home run that ultimately led to Buck’s magic.  This day would be the highlight for both of these men in 2014.

Outlook for 2015:  I dunno.  Tacoma probably.  Outside shot at a bench spot with the Mariners, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Michael Saunders – I’m just going to come out and say it:  Michael Saunders was the third best position player on the Mariners in 2014 behind Cano and Seager.  That’s really saying something, considering he only appeared in 78 games.

Why did he only appear in 78 games?  Well, to start the season, he was on the bench, behind Almonte, LoMo, Romero, and others.  When he got a chance to play – however infrequently – he consistently produced.  But, he missed a huge chunk of June with an injury; then again missed some of July, all of August, and some more of September with another injury.

Is this what the team considers Michael Saunders to be?  This injury-prone fourth outfielder who needs regular days off to stay healthy, fresh, and productive?  Probably.  Not for nothing, but when you’re talking about these guys who play all-out all the time, I tend to agree.  Yeah, he’ll give up his body to make a play, but he’ll be paying for it later.  That’s why I never understood all the vitriol with Ichiro never diving.  Do you want him falling all over the field going after balls?  Or, do you want a guy you can count on to be in your lineup every single day?  Same thing with Shaun Alexander.  Until the end of his career, he was very durable.  Why?  He went down and out of bounds rather than take unnecessary hits.  I love Beastmode and Jay Buhner as much as the next guy, but I’m just sayin’, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and living to fight another day.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s looking to get a raise in arbitration.  He should certainly be back.  Pencil him in as a fourth outfielder with a chance to win a starting job if things break right.  If you wanted my prediction right now, though, I’d say he’s not starting.  I’ve got Ackley in left, A-Jax in center, and Free Agent X or Trade Acquisition Y in right.  Still, it’ll be nice to have Saunders back, as I DO think he’s a bona fide Major Leaguer.  He’ll be even more valuable if we manage to find three viable starters to play ahead of him in the outfield.  No more crappy Endy Chavez for us if we can help it!

Kyle Seager – LOVE me some Kyle Seager, boy!  Hot damn that kid is damn hot!

He led the team in homers with 25 and RBI with 96.  He made his very first All Star game and got a couple flimsy hacks in.  He’s been a regular since July 2011 (the same time as Ackley) and he hasn’t let us down once!  In his three full seasons, he’s hit at least 20 homers and batted between .259 and .268.  All the while, improving dramatically with his defense at third base.  This is reflected in his WAR, which has gone up from 2.6 in 2012, to 3.9 in 2013, to a whopping 5.8 this year.  He was only bested in that number by Felix and Cano, which puts him in rarefied air.

And the best part?  He can still get better!  Particularly at the plate.  I agree with LMC, he can and SHOULD be hitting in the .280s.  And, if this team manages to produce some heavy hitters in this lineup, I think he’d be an ideal 2-hole hitter.  Regardless, I have no problem with him batting fifth, IF we find a legitimate cleanup guy.

Either way, I love the fact that there’s someone besides Cano and Felix who I don’t have to worry about.  He doesn’t slump for extended periods of time.  He’s not afraid to hit in Safeco.  He doesn’t get injured.  He doesn’t have extreme splits at the plate.  Thank God for Kyle Seager!

Outlook for 2015:  I’ll have what I’m having!

Justin Smoak – Ahh, the anti-Seager.  Before the season – indeed, even before Spring Training – Smoak was touted as the starting first baseman.  He was someone LMC declared would one day lead the league in doubles.  Instead, he’s successfully led the league in facepalm moments.

His April was no good after his first seven games.  His May was even worse.  In June, he was either sent down to Tacoma or injured.  Either way, he sucked dick the rest of the way.  .202/.275/.339.  THIRTEEN doubles.  PRETTY sure that’s not even close to league-leading.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s arbitration-eligible and due to make some serious coin if he stays.  He’s also out of minor league options, so we can’t just stash him in Tacoma when we’re sick and tired of looking at him.  I have to believe, with every fiber of my being, that he won’t be back.  He’s been given every chance in the world to succeed and he’s been dreadful at every turn.  It’s time for him to go elsewhere and fail miserably for someone else.  If he’s lucky, the Rockies will sign him and he’ll parlay a hot Spring Training into an okay career, making us all wonder, “What If”, except I’ll tell you What If:  he never would’ve made it in Seattle!  It’s Bandbox or Bust for Smoak.

Jesus Sucre – This was the guy we brought up to replace John Buck.  He’s a better receiver of baseballs – he can frame a pitch well and has a pretty good arm – but he’s nothing with a bat in his hands.

Outlook for 2015:  I’m almost certain he’ll be back in Tacoma.  There’s an outside chance he’s back up here as a backup to Zunino.  But, I have to believe that “backup catcher” is once again one of our middling priorities in the upcoming offseason.

Chris Taylor – He was called up and played his first game on July 24th.  He would’ve been called up sooner, but he had to go on the DL for a brief period.  Either way, his promotion was made possible by Brad Miller being a suck-ass for the first few months of the season.

In total, he played in 47 games.  He had a great batting average (.287), but only hit 8 balls for extra bases (with no triples or homers).  His defense was a step above Miller’s, so there’s your trade off.  Miller is a guy who will hit for power, but he won’t walk, so if he’s not striking the ball flush, then he’s not doing much for you.  Taylor is a guy who will never hit for power, but he walks a little more and doesn’t strike out NEARLY as much.  He also gives you better defense.

Or, put it this way:  Taylor was worth 1.5 WAR in his 47 games; Miller was worth 1.6 WAR in 123 games.

So, what do you value?  Premium power at a premium position?  Or defense and stability?  If Miller plays up to his potential (meaning:  hitting for a high average and cutting down somewhat on strikeouts, while maintaining his power), then his ceiling is one of the best offensive short stops in baseball.  I think Taylor is pretty much at his ceiling right now, meaning he’s anywhere from a 3.5 to 4.5-WAR player (if he can keep it up through a full season).

Outlook for 2015:  I guess we’ll find out next year.  It’ll be interesting to see the short stop position battle shake out in Spring Training, and it’ll be even more interesting to see if the winner of that battle can hold onto his job.  Gun to my head:  I think Miller has the edge in this race.  I think they love his power and are willing to put up with some defensive lapses and slumps.  Not TOO MANY slumps, mind you, but I guess we’ll see.  Taylor is a nice Plan B to have.

Mike Zunino – Right out of the gate, just know that Mike Zunino isnt going anywhere.  He’s the entrenched starter as catcher and will be for years to come.

With that out of the way … KIND OF a woofer of a 2014.  Here are the positives:

  • He stayed healthy and played in 131 of a possible 162 games.  That’s quite a workload!
  • He threw out 28.3% of base stealers (28 of 99), which I want to say is good (at least, it’s a vast improvement over the duds we’ve had here since Dan Wilson retired).
  • He was in the upper echelon of pitch-framers, stealing more would-be balls as strikes than most other catchers in baseball.
  • His Catcher E.R.A. was 3.18 (I don’t even know what that means, or if it’s even a good stat or not)
  • He only had 8 passed balls all year (considering he catches Felix on a regular basis, VERY impressive).
  • He hit 22 home runs.
  • He’s only 23 years old and already has a year and a half of Major League experience under his belt.

You notice that most of his positives are defense-related, yet I’m seeing here that his Defensive-WAR was only 0.3 and his overall WAR was only 0.6.  According to other metrics, he actually had NEGATIVE defensive runs saved numbers.  What the shit?

I was all prepared to come on here and talk about what a stud he’s been defensively, and about what a black hole he’s been at the plate.  Turns out, not so fast.

With my untrained eye (and mediocre grasp of advanced stats), I think he’s still good defensively.  I know for a FACT that he’s the best catcher we’ve had in YEARS.  Again, probably since Wilson.  I also think that his bat stinks, but it’s sure to get better.  It would almost have to, as I don’t think it can get much worse.

He had 476 plate appearances in 2014.  Of those, 337 were against right-handed pitchers and 139 were against lefties.  Here are his splits:

  • Vs. Lefties:  .252/.295/.427, 8 doubles, 5 homers, 42 strikeouts, 30.2% Ks
  • Vs. Righties:  .176/.237/.394, 12 doubles, 2 triples, 17 homers, 116 strikeouts, 34.4% Ks

That’s gotta tighten up.  He’s a home run blast waiting to happen, but much more often he’s a strikeout waiting to happen.  And against righties, he’s remarkably worse.  That’s gotta change, because we can’t just save him for lefties.  We’ve got to hit on this guy because he’s THAT important to our future.

Outlook for 2015:  Starting catcher.  You probably want to keep him towards the bottom of the lineup again.  Which isn’t the worst thing in the world.  Let him get his feet wet and maybe one day he’ll be a 5-hole or 6-hole hitter.  I’m not too worried yet, but his offense has to pick up.  If he hits in 2015 the way he did in 2014, I’m going to be VERY concerned.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part II

Consider this the second in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Click HERE for Part I
Click HERE for Part III (tomorrow)

Corey Hart – The Mariners picked him up as a free agent, taking a flyer that he’d return to his old, bashing ways in Milwaukee.  Of course, he hadn’t played since 2012 – losing a full year to knee injuries – and baseball isn’t like riding a bike.  Especially when you’re 142 years old ABOUT A YEAR YOUNGER THAN I AM?  GOOD GOD I’M OLD!

Hart appeared in a lot of games in the first month and a half.  Mostly at DH.  Occasionally – and ill-advisedly – in the outfield.  Then, he was placed on the DL.  He returned to play a lot in July, then he went back on the DL again until September call-ups.  He stunk throughout, hitting right around .200 for the season.

He had 9 doubles and 6 homers in 68 games.  A paltry 32% of his hits went for extra bases, which is not something you’re looking for in a “power hitter” in your cleanup spot, who you want protecting Robinson Cano in the order.

Outlook for 2015:  The Mariners have already given him his release, because they needed to make room to bring Jesus Montero back from the suspended list.  That’s how little Corey Hart means to this organization, and it’s the perfect representation of his value.  When you look back at his career as a Mariner, just think about that and frown.  Frown with all your might.

Austin Jackson – If you haven’t by now TL;DR’d this series of posts and you’re following along closely, A-Jax is the second of three guys we traded for in July to help bolster the ballclub.  We traded Nick Franklin to get him.  Nick Franklin was an expendable trade chip who never really had a future in this organization once Robbie Cano was signed.  Austin Jackson was a very good, still-in-his-prime centerfielder with another year of team control in 2015.

The Mariners, of course, DESPERATELY needed a centerfielder.  With Guti taking the year off to get his health issues squared away (and no longer a centerfield prospect anymore, given his durability issues), with Abe Almonte a fucking zoo out there, and with James Jones’ absolute dearth of power, we didn’t have a whole lot of options.  A-Jax looked like a perfect fit.

In Detroit, from 2010-2013, A-Jax was worth no less than 3.4 wins per year.  He was a plus-fielder with quicks on the basepaths who could hit for some pop as well as for average.  He declined greatly in 2014, for reasons no one can quite fathom.  In Detroit this year, he was average-at-best, though his power and overall hitting numbers weren’t down dramatically.  Which makes you wonder if he took that huge step back in the field.  Either way, he was better than what we had in Seattle – or so we thought.

In Seattle, A-Jax batted .229/.267/.260.  He was good for 0.1 WAR.  And, not for nothing, but anecdotally he was a fucking disaster in big situations.  Seemed like whenever he had a man on base or otherwise an opportunity to positively affect a ballgame, he would instead ground into a double play or (at best) strike out.  He proved to be my least-favorite of the three mid-season acquisitions, and that’s REALLY saying something Kendrys Morales.

Outlook for 2015:  Still in Seattle, still starting in center, still batting leadoff.  At least out of Spring Training.  Beyond that, who’s to say?  If he plays like he did in the last two months of this season, you never know.  We may be talking about one of the many reasons why the 2015 Mariners DON’T make the playoffs.  Honestly, we’re REALLY counting on A-Jax to turn it around.  I highly doubt the Mariners are going to go out and find another guy to compete in center.  So, if A-Jax fails, and there’s no one in the minors to take his place, we’re proper fucked at a spot on the team where we’re banking on being set.  Just in case you were overwhelmed by the warm-fuzzies after this pleasant 2014 run, keep that in mind.

James Jones – In his first two months, James Jones was amazing.  He was everything Abe Almonte wasn’t.  He was crisp at the plate.  He wasn’t the most-refined in the outfield, but he was solid enough.  And, he was a wizard on the basepaths.

Then, July came around and he started falling off.  We all started noticing his faults.  Like:  how he wasn’t really improving as a centerfielder.  Like:  how he couldn’t hit for power.  Like:  how if he didn’t slap a single the other way, he couldn’t get on base to take advantage of those legs.  In the end, he lost his starting job, was sent back to Tacoma for a couple weeks, then returned exclusively as a bench player.

It’s the part he was born to play, baby!

Keep him away from the starting lineup, keep him out of center, and watch him shine.  He’s a plus-defender in the corner outfield, with speed and a strong arm.  Put him in during the later innings to replace Endy Chavez or whoever.  Pinch run him for Kendrys Morales or some other slow piece of crap.  He’s GOLD!

27 stolen bases in 28 attempts.  Very, very good.

14 extra-base hits in 312 at-bats (with only 12 walks vs. 67 strikeouts) is very, very BAD.  That’s factoring in how a lot of those doubles were hustle-doubles.

Outlook for 2015:  He needs to bulk up.  He needs to get a little more power into his bat.  He needs to retain how well he hit the outside pitch the other way, but he’s also gotta recognize pitches better and take MANY more walks.  His career will be built on a foundation of base-stealing.  If he wants that career to primarily take place in the Majors, then he needs to figure out a way to get on base with more regularity.  In an ideal world, he’d fix what’s wrong with him and be our fourth or fifth outfielder.  But, I got a feeling he’ll start out in Tacoma again.  Not the worst thing in the world.

Brad Miller – In following the Dustin Ackley Path To Success, Brad Miller was a mid-season call-up as a rookie and did quite well.  So well, in fact, that he pretty much earned his starting job without a fight.  Nevertheless, the Mariners put the short stop job up for grabs between Miller and Nick Franklin.  Didn’t matter, as Miller mopped the floor with him in the month of March.  The job was his, and everyone rejoiced.

Then the regular season started:

  • April:  .173/.212/.333 with 26 strikeouts in 81 at-bats
  • May:  .136/.260/.152 with 17 strikeouts and 1 extra-base hit in 66 at-bats

In June, he turned it around with:  .298/.355/.512 with 21 strikeouts in 84 at-bats.  But, then July happened:  .172/.262/.224 with 12 strikeouts and 3 extra-base hits in 58 at-bats.  On July 24th, Miller lost his starting job for good, with the promotion of Chris Taylor.  From that point on, they’d split duties, with Taylor getting the bulk of the looks the rest of the way in high-pressure games.

To his credit, Miller did turn his season around somewhat:

  • August:  .273/.357/.545 with 6 strikeouts and 4 extra-base hits in only 22 at-bats
  • September:  .314/.340/.549 with 13 strikeouts and 7 extra-base hits in 51 at-bats

On the whole, Miller’s 2014 was worse than his 2013, but he still has the potential to be a solid starting short stop in this league.  His power potential is undeniable.  His defense isn’t quite as good as Taylor’s, but he’s very athletic and there’s talk of him maybe converting to outfield (or, at least adding that to his repertoire to become a super-utility guy).  Normally, losing your starting position and getting that super-utility label is a death sentence, but in this case I’m willing to hear it out.

Outlook for 2015:  He will once again come in competing for the starting short stop job, this time against Chris Taylor.  If he mashes again like he did in Spring of 2014, he’s certain to win the job out of camp.  But, I have no doubt that if all things are equal with health, there will be a short leash on Miller if he struggles again in April.

Jesus Montero – You know the story:  we traded Michael Pineda and some other dude for Montero and Hector Noesi.  Noesi was a disaster who was finally DFA’d this year (and who became an okay starter for a struggling White Sox team).  Pineda has been mostly injured throughout his time with the Yankees, but at season’s end he flashed that potential he showed in Seattle as a rookie.

Jesus Montero, on the other hand, has been a fucking loser from the get-go.  First, he was our starting catcher of the future; that didn’t pan out.  Then, we looked to convert him to first base; that hasn’t gone well.  He’s a fat, immobile turd who gets to add “injury prone” to his list of descriptors.  Then, towards the end of the 2014 season, on a rehab assignment with the Everett Aqua Sox, functioning as a first base coach (which, not for nothing, is his future in the game:  a base coach for a single-A baseball team), Jesus Montero was baited into an altercation with an allegedly drunken scout (at the time) for the Seattle Mariners after that scout (again allegedly) sent him an ice cream sandwich and yelled at him to hustle more.

The scout was fired (and rightly so, because I like to give Montero shit, but even I know he was acting like a cunt), and Jesus Montero was suspended (probably because he went into the stands with a baseball bat in his hands, which is a huge no-no in sports).  Montero has since been reinstated, and is apparently being watched like a hawk by the Mariners’ front office.  There’s one last chance on the table for Montero in a Mariners uniform (or, more likely, for Montero as trade bait to try to recoup some of his tons of lost value).  They’ve got him in Arizona working out on a strict exercise program (because, you know, he came in fat to Spring Training 2014 and admitted as such in interviews that all he did was sit around and stuff his face during the offseason).

Outlook for 2015:  Once a loser, always a loser.  There will be all this crap written about how he’s in the “best shape of his life”, but that’ll probably mean that he’s lost all his power.  He’ll start out in Tacoma and continue to suck (if he’s not outright traded in the offseason as a throw-in to a much bigger deal).

Kendrys Morales – Sigh.  Here we go.

You remember him as a productive hitter for the Angels for a bunch of years.  Then, he broke his foot or some damn thing while celebrating a game-winning home run and he ended up losing his 2011 season.  The Mariners swapped Jason Vargas for him straight up prior to the 2013 season (after a decent, but not great 2012) and he had a decent, but not great first year with the club.

The big draw with Morales – aside from being a huge step up compared to the other DHs we’ve employed since Edgar Martinez retired – was that even though he’d be a free agent at season’s end, we could tender him and if he signed as a free agent elsewhere, we’d get a high draft pick (a first rounder most likely, unless it was one of the top 10 “protected” draft picks).  So, we offered him the tender – 1 year, $14.1 million – and of course he turned it down.  Reportedly, we even offered him a 3-year, $30 million deal, and he turned THAT down.  See, Scott Boras is his agent, and together they thought they could squeeze a little more out of the free agent market.

They couldn’t.  No one would sign him.  Because no one wants a broken down statue on the basepaths who can’t play first base because he’ll get hurt or need a few days off every time.  He’s a DH and nothing more, and not even that great of a DH at that.  .449 slugging percentage in 2013, playing almost every single day.  That’s crap.  When you bring nothing else to the table, then guess what:  you don’t get contract offers when it means a team has to give up a high draft pick.

In June, he signed with the Twins.  Again reportedly, the Mariners were interested in signing him during the season, but he wouldn’t have it.  So, we ended up trading for him, by giving the Twins Stephen Pryor (a reliever returning from major injury who was no longer the smoke-thrower he was pre-surgery).

Kendrys had 154 at bats with the Twins.  His numbers were bad (.234/.259/.325), but we all rationalized it away by saying, “He didn’t have a REAL Spring Training, so just consider his numbers with the Twins as his Spring.”

That oft-belabored talking point would soon switch to, “If the Mariners can just get Kendrys going down the stretch, everything should be all right with the offense.”  That’s because he was much, MUCH worse as a Seattle Mariner than he was as a Twin (hitting .207/.285/.347), so whenever he managed to do something right (which, again, wasn’t very often), we all had to hope and pray that THIS was the day that turned a slumping slugger who has “always hit” into what we thought we were getting as the centerpiece of our mid-season trades to bolster a contending team.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  But, at least Morales doesn’t have to worry about being tendered anymore.  Even if he DID qualify, there’s no way in FUCKING HELL that even the Mariners would be stupid enough to offer him a 1-year deal for $15.3 million.

Outlook for 2015:  If he had managed even a semi-reasonable finish to his 2014 season, I could’ve seen the Mariners trying to bring him back on a 2-3 year deal.  But, he looked so bad, I doubt it’d happen.  On top of that, I don’t think Morales wants to be here.  Truth be told, he never did (and proved it by signing with a last-place Twins team even though the Mariners were in contention this year and wanted him back), but after his disaster of a season, I think he’s going somewhere on a prove-it deal.  Some place like Baltimore or the Yankees or some other place he can DH in a small ballpark.  Get his numbers back up to where they should be, and then hopefully sign a final long-term deal for big money with the Rangers or some damn place.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part I

Consider this the first in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Dustin Ackley – Funny thing about Ackley.  If you’d followed the Mariners all season, you’d know that Ackley was one of the most important reasons for our continued success.  But, if you didn’t follow along, and you just now looked at his numbers on the surface, you’d think, “What’s the big fucking deal, bitch?”  He batted .245 this year; he batted .253 LAST year.  He walked only 32 times this year in 143 games; he walked 37 times last year in only 113 games.  What gives?

Well, for starters, his slugging went way up.  .398 vs. .341 last year.  That amounts to 27 doubles, 4 triples, and 14 homers, over last year’s 18/2/4 line on extra-base hits.

Then, take a look at his first half vs. second half.  At the end of the day on June 30, 2014, Ackley was hitting:  .214/.273/.329/.602, with 12 doubles, 2 triples, & 4 homers.  From July 1st onward, Ackley hit .274 with a slugging percentage of .463.  He hit 15 doubles, 2 triples, and a whopping 10 homers to really pick up the slack.  It might’ve been even better, but a nagging ankle injury in September limited his playing time and production.  His August was insane, though:  .280/.325/.533/.857.

So, what does all of this mean?  Haven’t we been seduced by this siren’s song before?  He played a little over half a season (from mid-June onward) as a rookie and did well.  He had a solid start to 2012 and then fell off the map.  He struggled for most of the first half of 2013 before turning it on in August (after enduring a monthlong stint in the minors to get his head right).  Then, in 2014, he struggled in the first half again – finding himself batting towards the bottom of the lineup – before turning it on in the second half.  Which Ackley is the real Ackley?  I’d like to believe he can uphold his second half numbers, but I’ll never be sure until I actually see it for a full year.

Outlook for 2015:  Ackley looks to be the Mariners’ starting left fielder once again, as well as our 2-hole hitter.  We’ll bank on him continuing to hit and play solid corner defense.  If all goes well, we’ve got our left fielder of the future, today.  If all goes to shit, then Ackley is nothing more than a 4th outfielder on a good team’s bench.

Abraham Almonte – On the heels of a pretty mediocre Spring Training, Almonte was handed the keys to the starting center field job as well as our leadoff hitter role.  He was fast, he was exciting at times, but he was raw and for as many amazing plays he made, he made twice as many mistakes.  In the end, he hit like shit and was sent down to Tacoma in early May.  He was later traded to the Padres for Chris Denorfia, where he went on to be a slightly better – but still quite mediocre – hitter.  And then in September, his playing time was cut drastically.

Outlook for 2015:  I have to imagine in AAA somewhere, but certainly not for the Mariners.

Willie Bloomquist – He was a guy – if you’re a Mariners fan – who nobody wanted.  And yet, he was a guy who the Mariners signed to a 2-year guaranteed deal to be this team’s primary utility infielder/outfielder.  And, in the first three and a half months, he played more than anyone would’ve liked, because the majority of this lineup sucked dick.  Particularly our short stop and our entire outfield.  As such, not only did Willie play a lot for a utility guy, but he batted near the top of the lineup.

And, if I’m being honest, he wasn’t The Worst.  He batted .278 and played solid defense.  He was a replacement-level god in a world of sub-replacement clods.  He held this team together in a lot of ways until other guys either improved on their own or came up from Tacoma.  Then, he had a season-ending injury.  But, it was okay.  Chris Taylor was slapping hits around, Ackley was turning it on, and trades were made to theoretically bolster the lineup.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s still under contract, so there’s that.  He had surgery, so I guess it all depends on how he recovers.  If he’s able to return to form, he should be good to have around on the bench.  If he’s not, then we’ll have to decide whether we want to eat the salary, or keep him around anyway as a veteran presence or some damn thing.  I tend to believe he’ll be here, but it wouldn’t kill me if he started the season in the Minors (so, on the DL, getting some extended Spring Training).

John Buck – He was our backup catcher, brought in on a 1-year deal, to back up Mike Zunino (with an outside shot at playing more regularly, depending on whether or not Zunino struggled at the Major League level).  He played in 27 games for the Mariners, he was pisspoor behind the plate, and he was even worse at bat.  He’ll be remembered for hitting a game-winning 2-run home run down in Atlanta, and then getting DFA’d on his birthday on July 7th after a 2-0 win at home over the Twins.  By all accounts, he was a great Clubhouse Guy (who may or may not have come up with the double-jackoff hand signals after guys reached base), but he was also a poor receiver who the pitchers wanted to be rid of.  Jesus Sucre was called up to replace him.  The Mariners would go on to lose their next three games and finish the month of July 7-12, inciting what many only I called the John Buck Curse.

Outlook for 2015:  He was apparently picked up in September by the Angels and played in five games.  The Angels would go on to have the best record in the American League, only to get swept in the ALDS by the Royals.  So, maybe the John Buck Curse has many different meanings.  He won’t be back with the Mariners and he likely won’t be back in baseball period.  All adequate things must come to an end.

Robinson Cano – You know the story:  10 years, $240 million.  He’s here through the 2023 season.  2014 was Year One.

  • The numbers:  .314/.382/.454/.836; 37 doubles, 2 triples, 14 homers, 10 stolen bases, 61 walks, 68 strikeouts, 82 RBI, 77 runs scored, 6.4 WAR, 1 heart stolen (mine, *swoon*)

Want to know how those numbers line up with his career figures?  Let’s take a look:

  • .310/.358/.499/.857; 41.2 doubles per year, 3 triples, 21.8 homers, 4.8 stolen bases (his 2014 total was a career-best), 41.1 walks, 75.7 strikeouts, 90.4 RBI, 87.6 runs scored, 4.88 WAR

His power numbers were a little down, but you had to expect that coming from a bandbox in the Bronx to a cavernous wasteland that is Safeco Field.  Nevertheless, if you go by WAR, this was the fourth-best season of his career.  And that’s in a lineup with not a whole lot around him in support.  There was Seager, and a lot of question marks and holes.  It’s no wonder Cano was among the league leaders in intentional walks.

Consider me a Cano Fan 4 Life after he won me $500 and gave me a good excuse to go back to Tahoe next year to claim my winnings.  We shouldn’t expect these types of numbers for the remaining nine years of his contract, but it’s a helluva start, and in my opinion he’s worth every fucking penny.

Outlook for 2015:  Starting second baseman, 3-hole hitter.  Mark it down in Sharpie.  MVP candidate?  You got it!  The guy who ultimately brings the Mariners back to the post-season?  Gosh I hope so!  Any way you slice it, I would expect numbers comparable to what he did in 2014, with little-to-no dropoff.

Endy Chavez – Like 2013, Endy Chavez signed a minor league deal to return to the Mariners in 2014.  Like 2013, Endy Chavez started the regular season in Tacoma.  This year, he first appeared on May 30th; I believe he had it written into his contract that if he wasn’t on the Mariners’ roster by the end of May, he could get his release and be free to sign elsewhere.

When Endy first played for the Mariners in 2009, he had speed and great fielding ability.  Then, Yuniesky Betancourt happened, causing Endy to tear an ACL.  Ever since, he’s lost much of that speed and fielding ability.  But, if you’re looking for a guy to come off the bench, play some corner outfield, play some emergency centerfield in a pinch, and hit .270 while slapping around a bunch of singles and never walking, then Endy Chavez is your guy!  In short, I like him for what he is.  I like him as THAT.  I don’t like it when he’s playing every day and I don’t like it when he’s batting near the top of the lineup.  Maybe if he walked more, but that’s never going to happen.

Outlook for 2015:  Surprisingly, Endy only played in 80 games this year.  Doesn’t it feel like A LOT more?  I guess if you factor in how he missed the first two months, he really did play in a high percentage (probably around 3/4 of all possible games).  I get the sense that the Mariners will bring him back once again on a minor league deal.  Because why not?  Is he really holding anyone else back?  Not from what I’ve seen.  I’ll take his .270 batting average over some of the stiffs we’ve had roaming the corner outfield spots of late.  If you figure the locks to make this outfield are Ackley, A-Jax, and Michael Saunders (with James Jones as an outside shot as a 4th guy); and if you figure that the Mariners are all but guaranteed to go out and get another outfielder to compete for a starting spot from outside the organization; then it really makes a lot of sense to bring Endy back, start him in Tacoma, and bring him up in late May again if there’s a need for bench help.

Chris Denorfia – He was one of three guys we acquired in trade in the month of July to help us with our stretch run.  We weren’t asking for a lot out of Denorfia:  platoon in right field with Endy Chavez/Michael Saunders when he was healthy, and hit well against left-handed pitchers.  What we got was remarkably less than what we expected.

In 2013, Denorfia was a 4-win player for San Diego, who also plays in a pitcher’s paradise.  He’s always been more or less a bench player in his career, but he got real starting time from 2011-2013 and made the most of it, accounting for a little over 7 wins in production during that time.  For whatever reason, in 2014 he fell off the proverbial cliff.  In 89 games with the Padres before being traded, he hit .242/.293/.319 – essentially the definition of replacement-level.  We picked him up and he hit .195/.256/.317, or just less than a replacement-level player.  In real-world numbers, he had 5 extra-base hits in 32 games.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper.  We brought this guy in to bat right-handed against left-handed pitchers.  How did he do in the role he was brought in for?

In 61 of 90 plate appearances, he hit .164/.246/.255, with 2 of his 5 extra-base hits.

So, in other words, he was an unmitigated disaster.  Chock that trade up as a huge FAIL, because I can all but guarantee that Abe Almonte could’ve EASILY surpassed those bullshit numbers.

Outlook for 2015:  Not a Mariner.  I don’t care where he ends up, as long as it’s not here.  He’ll probably get a minor league deal with an invite to camp somewhere to compete for another bench spot.  I’d say 50/50 he breaks camp with a Major League team.

Nick Franklin – In Spring Training, it was a battle between Nick Franklin and Brad Miller for the starting short stop job.  Remember that?  Remember how we signed Cano, thereby closing that position to Franklin who’d started there for much of 2013?  Remember how we had visions of turning Franklin into a reserve outfielder?

Anyway, Brad Miller was off-the-charts hot in Spring Training, and that was that for Franklin.  Until around mid-April, when he was called up because he was hitting so well and Miller wasn’t.  He proceeded to stink and by early June was back down in Tacoma again.

We would go on to trade him to the Rays in a 3-team deal that brought us Austin Jackson.  At the time, it looked like a gift from the Heavens.

Franklin wouldn’t make his Rays debut until September.  He played in 11 games for them in total.  In his first start, he had two hits with a double, an RBI, and a run scored.  He would go on to have only five more hits, two more extra-baggers, and that’s about it.

Outlook for 2015:  I guess contending for a roster spot with the Rays?  There’s a lot of team control left, so I’m sure he’ll have plenty of chances.  We’ll see.

Cole Gillespie – He’s another fringe, AAAA-type player who’s probably too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the Majors.  And yet, I’m absolutely certain he would’ve been an improvement over Chris Denorfia.  He played in 34 games and did okay.  I still don’t quite remember why we let him go.  He played in 1 other Major League game after he left and I don’t know what’s going on now.

Outlook for 2015:  Sometimes you eat the bar …

Week 26 Random Mariners Thoughts

If you asked me when I woke up on Friday morning last week, what would be more likely:  the Athletics winning just enough games against the Rangers, or the Mariners losing just enough games against the Angels, I would’ve bet the farm that the Mariners would’ve lost at least ONCE.  But, to their credit, when the chips were the most down they could’ve possibly been, the Mariners fought their way through to a 3-game sweep of the best team in baseball.

Granted, the Angels weren’t exactly trying their hardest once they got home field advantage, but that’s neither here nor there.  The Mariners needed to win out and they needed some help.  And, somehow, the Mariners managed to accomplish the first part of that equation.  It’s just too bad the Rangers were a little too bad.  Still, it WAS interesting.  With Oakland losing on Saturday night, while the Mariners would go on to win in extras, the season was pushed to the brink:  Game 162.  The Mariners needed to win that game – with Felix on the mound – and they needed the A’s to lose.

We learned just before the 6th inning that the game was essentially meaningless.  The A’s shut out the Rangers and our season was over.  But, for 161 games & 5 innings, the Mariners’ season had meaning!  This was truly the best year of baseball we’ve had around here since 2001 (I know the Mariners had winning records in 2002 and 2003, but those teams had their dreams crushed thanks to the A’s being insanely good and there not being a second Wild Card team).

In other news, Felix pitched 5.1 innings of shutout ball to claim the E.R.A. title at 2.14.  He ended his season 15-6 with a lot of really impressive counting and average stats.  Thanks to a scoring change in his last start against Toronto – where he got shelled – a hit was changed to an error (on Felix, I might add) that reduced his E.R.A. by something like 16 points.  Either way, it should give him enough to work with to get the Cy Young award.  So, that’s neat.

In Steven’s Gambling news, before the season started I put $550 on a futures bet.  The odds were -110, so it’s essentially $550 to win $500.  Anyway, the bet was Robinson Cano vs. Adrian Beltre:  who will get more combined hits, home runs, and RBI.  I put my money on Cano, and SAINTS BE PRAISED, it looks like my ship has come in!

  • Cano:  187 hits, 14 HR, 82 RBI; Total = 283
  • Beltre:  178 hits, 19 HR, 77 RBI; Total = 274

So, you know what that means:  I’m going back to Tahoe for the third straight year during the first weekend of March Madness!  BAM!  Thank you Robinson Cano; part of my proceeds will most likely go to getting some sort of Cano jersey.

By the by, did anyone catch that game on Saturday?  It was at the same time the perfect representation of a Seattle Mariners game, and also a crazy departure.  1 for 11 with runners in scoring position?  Check.  Multiple instances with the runner stranded on third base with less than two outs?  Check.  Lineup struggling against a left-handed starter, with the only damage being done by left-handed bats (because platooning is for suckers and our right-handed bats suck dick)?  Check.

And yet, there it was, only the second time the Mariners have had a walk-off win this entire season.  The first one, if memory serves, was that day game against Houston back in April where both the Mariners and Kyle Seager broke out of their funks to salvage an ultimately successful season.

There will be a lot to discuss about the 2014 Mariners in the coming weeks, as there will be about the 2015 Mariners and beyond.  We’re wearing our rose-colored glasses now because the season is just over and we came SO close.  And Felix was able to redeem himself yesterday and probably won himself the Cy Young (while getting an emotional standing ovation as he was pulled from the game one out into the sixth inning).  I’ll save the snark and the attitude for another day.

On this day (and probably on a few other days), I’ll celebrate the 2014 Mariners for what they were:  87-75, sixteen games better than they were in 2013.  They were interesting until the bitter end; though “interesting” can be both good and bad.  Still, they were better than I could have possibly hoped for.

I’ll just close with this.  A lot of media types on Twitter like to make fun of the crazed baseball fan who lives and dies with every pitch.  Granted, there are a good number of wackos out there.  But, NOW do you see why the Mariners drive us all crazy on a regular basis?  NOW do you see why everyone flips out on Twitter when the Mariners blow yet another amazing gem of a Felix start?  That shit adds up!  You say we’re nuts for melting down on Twitter when the Mariners blow a game in April; well, ARE WE?  If we’re so nuts, then riddle me this:  how many games behind the A’s for the second Wild Card are we?  That would be one game.  1.

That’s a 2-0 loss to the Angels at home in April.  That’s another 2-0 loss to the A’s in the second game of a doubleheader in May.  That’s a 1-0 loss to the Rangers in June where Felix went 8.1 innings of 4-hit ball and didn’t give up the run until the ninth inning.  Or how about a 1-0 loss to Hector Noesi and the White Sox in July?  I could go on and on.  These are the games that drive us the craziest, and if any one of these games had gone a little differently, the Mariners would still be playing baseball right now.

So, maybe cut us fans a little slack, huh?  Let us vent our feelings the only way we know how:  through crazed diatribes on Twitter to anyone who will listen.

Before the season started, I thought everything would have to break right for the Mariners to make the playoffs.  Indeed, when it comes to the pitching – especially the bullpen – everything DID break right.  Felix was Cy Young quality, Iwakuma bounced back to normal after losing a month, Chris Young might be Comeback Player of the Year, Roenis Elias successfully made the jump from AA and stuck with the big league club the whole way.  In spite of last week’s games in Houston and Toronto, the pitching carried this club.

But, when it comes to the hitting, a lot of shit went wrong, and we still managed to get pretty damn close.  Corey Hart was a huge bust.  Smoak was his usual self.  Brad Miller was a disaster for half the year.  Michael Saunders couldn’t stay healthy.  None of our center fielders or designated hitters could … hit.  Zunino was boom or bust at the plate, with his sub-.200 batting average.  All of our mid-season trade targets ended up hurting us more than helping.  The only things that went right were Cano having an as-expected season, Seager taking the next step to being an All Star, and Ackley busting out to show us why he was the top-rated hitting prospect in his draft class for half a year.  With an honorable mention for LoMo being a streaky first baseman who actually manages to have some hot streaks once in a while.

If certain young hitters mature, and if we’re able to bring in a couple bats to round out the lineup at DH and in the outfield, the 2015 Mariners could legitimately contend for a division title!  How exciting is that?

Jack Zduriencik Receives “Multi-Year” Extension

Nobody really has any idea what this means, other than Jackie Z is getting rewarded for what is really his first successful season as a general manager.  Obviously, success is measured by how well your Major League ballclub does, and this year we’re looking at a team that’s 13 games above .500.

I must say, I’ve been quite pleased with the job Z has done this year.  The Cano deal looks like a slam dunk, the trade for LoMo has been a vast improvement over Justin Smoak, and the deals at the deadline were reasonable while at the same time not giving away all of our prized young talent.

I probably see these things a little differently than most, but the bottom line is:  Kendrys Morales is an improvement over the designated hitters we’ve had here before.  Austin Jackson is an improvement over James Jones and Abe Almonte.  Chris Denorfia gives us a solid right-handed platoon in right field.

Then, you have to factor in the pitching.  The Mariners REALLY got lucky that Randy Wolf threw a hissy fit and walked, thereby opening the door for Chris Young.  Nevertheless, Z went out and got him to sign and he’s been a thrilling success story.  Same goes for Fernando Rodney, who has been tasked with locking down this bullpen for two years.  Joe Beimel was another low-cost prospect who panned out.

At this point, it’s probably easier to look at which moves DIDN’T work, because that number is much smaller.  Corey Hart is an obvious disappointment, but you had to like the reasoning behind that signing when it happened.  John Buck is a guy who didn’t really work out, but who’s going to put a guy on blast for not hitting on a backup catcher?  Willie Bloomquist has been okay, but then he got hurt, and now you wonder why we’d go out and sign him to a 2-year deal when he probably should’ve been had for less.  Granted, we needed his versatility as a utility infielder early in the season, but was he ever going to be necessary in 2015?

The point is, after starting out this year at an all-time low as far as fan confidence is concerned, Z has rebounded quite nicely.  Cautiously optimistic is probably the phrase I’d use.  It doesn’t hurt that some of the younger guys are coming around a little bit (Ackley, for instance, if this thing is indeed for real).  I mean, when you’ve got the likes of Smoak, Montero, Ackley up until a few weeks ago, the Fister deal, the Figgins signing, and the 2013 outfield all under your belt … that’s a LOT to recover from!  You’d be foolish to revert back to In Jack We Trust again, but for now, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Frankly, it’s as much as he deserves, at least until we see some sustained success over a number of years.

This extension is like giving your teenage child the keys to your car the day they receive their driver’s license.  Yeah, you “trust” them, because you have to, but that doesn’t mean you’re not constantly worried for your car’s safety every moment they’re out there alone on those city streets.

Mariners Do Something: Evaluating The Trade Deadline Deals

Mariners trade Abraham Almonte (OF) & Stephen Kohlscheen (RP) to San Diego for Chris Denorfia (OF)

Chris Denorfia is a guy who can play the outfield.  He’s been more-or-less a regular presence since 2011, playing more-or-less everyday when healthy.  He bats right handed and apparently hits left handed pitching pretty well.  He’s got a very minimal amount of pop in his bat, but at least this means we don’t have to see both Endy Chavez AND James Jones in the same lineup at the same time.

In exchange, we gave up Abraham Almonte, who is a poor man’s James Jones.  And also whatever a Stephen Kohlscheen is.  Apparently, he’s a minor league relief pitcher.  BFD.  Denorfia is a free agent at the end of this year, which leads me to believe this is strictly a rental, because what free agent hitter in his right mind would opt to stick around this hellhole?

It’s another safe move in a long line of moves where the Mariners want to look like they’re doing something without actually doing something.  I suppose it beats any panic move where we sell off important future assets for pennies on the dollar.  But, just once, I’d like to see the Mariners really go to town and fleece someone good.

Mariners trade Nick Franklin (2B) to Rays, who trade David Price (SP) to Tigers, who trade Austin Jackson (OF) to Mariners (the Rays also got Drew Smyly (SP) from the Tigers … and I guess a young minor leaguer?)

Or, I could just put it like this, to make it less confusing:

Mariners trade Nick Franklin (2B) for Austin Jackson (OF)

Nick Franklin was blocked at second base, obvs.  Nick Franklin is not what you should be looking for in a starting short stop, defensively-speaking.  Nick Franklin strikes out a shit-ton and seems to be too in love with the long ball (maybe if he was actually BETTER at hitting the long ball, this wouldn’t be a bad thing, but he’s literally a Smurf – three apples tall – so no).

In short, we had no use for Nick Franklin, unless we were going to take the time and effort to turn him into a super utility bench player, which was never going to happen.  He was always good in the minors.  He was good for a bit in 2013 with the Mariners, then he stunk.  He lost the battle for the short stop spot in Spring Training 2014, then he didn’t get much of a shot with the Mariners thereafter, and when he did he stunk even worse than last year.  Nick Franklin was a fucking useless, non-lethal appendage:  it didn’t hurt to have him as part of your organization, but it didn’t help either.

Austin Jackson is your new starting center fielder.  He’s 27 years old, bats righty, leads off a lineup, and is under contract through 2015.  He’ll steal you a base occasionally, he’s already got one of the best on-base percentages on the team, and he’s already hit 25 doubles in his first 99 games of the season.  Austin Jackson is so much better than Endy Chavez and James Jones, I can’t even see straight!

Further Analysis

When you tack on these two moves with the Pryor for Morales trade, you finally start seeing some semblance of an offense taking shape.  People are already trying to condemn the Morales move as a failed experiment, even though he’s been with the team a whole week, but I’m not going to give up on a tried and true hitter just yet.

Here’s what I expect a lineup to look like:

  1. Austin Jackson (CF)
  2. Dustin Ackley/Michael Saunders (LF)
  3. Robbie Cano (2B)
  4. Kendrys Morales (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mike Zunino (C)
  7. Chris Denorfia/Endy Chavez (RF)
  8. Logan Morrison (1B)
  9. Chris Taylor/Brad Miller (SS)

You probably have to platoon Denorfia.  He’ll play against all lefty pitchers and some righties.  With Jackson starting every day, there’s probably no need to keep Jones.  Better to send Jones to Tacoma, let him get CF reps on a daily basis (especially with Almonte going to the Padres).  Have to imagine this is also curtains for Stefen Romero, because he’s also useless, but actively hurting our big league club every time he gets a start.

The question remains:  what happens when Paxton is activated for his start on Saturday?  Either the Mariners DFA Corey Hart, or they send down one of their relievers.  By my count, we have 8 relievers, which is probably 1 too many.  I could see this going either way, to tell you the truth.  With the reliever sent down, we don’t have to DFA anyone.  Do we want to keep Hart around as a pinch hitter and a seldom-used DH/1B?  Sigh, I guess.  I know we have Smoak and Montero down in Tacoma to use in case of injury, but who gives a damn at this point?

We’re knocking Hart out of the everyday lineup, so that’s a start.  Maybe he can start to get his timing back by hitting the batting cages extra hard.  He’s certainly more of a threat as a pinch hitter than Romero, and probably more of a threat than either Smoak or Montero, so whatever.

All in all, not a bad day.  We didn’t get Zobrist or Price or Lester, so you can forget about a serious threat at the World Series.  But, on the plus side, we’ve locked down our center field position for 2015.  That’s one less guy we’d have to go get in the offseason.

Two months to go.  Let’s see what the boys can do.