Mariners Made Some Minor Moves, Brought In Another Catcher

This is the time of year where it’s easy to lose track of the Mariners’ wheelings and dealings, so I’m going to do my best to corral them in the occasional post (mostly so it’s easier for me to go back later and find them, when I do my longer Mariners-related preview posts).  So, without further ado, some stuff:

  • Exercised Seth Smith’s 2017 option for $7 million
  • Declined Chris Iannetta’s option
  • Waived Nori Aoki (picked up by Houston, ugh)
  • Furbush, Clevenger, and Ryan Cook declined assignments with Tacoma, became free agents
  • Claimed Dean Kiekhefer off waivers from St. Louis
  • Lind, Storen, Dae-ho Lee, and Guti also granted free agency
  • Trade Vidal Nuno to Dodgers for catcher Carlos Ruiz

So, mostly news about guys who probably won’t be back.  I can’t imagine, with the shitstorm on Twitter, that the Mariners will work that hard to bring back Steve Clevenger.  Furbush is still annihilated with injuries, so I don’t know what his deal is.  I guess he’ll continue to work his way back into pitching shape and then see if he can get a deal somewhere.  It’s not impossible for him to return to Seattle, but he’s going to have to prove he’s 100%, or else come back on a minor league, try-out deal.  Either way, can’t afford to keep those guys on our 40-man roster; better to have the open spots.  The Mariners actually need a quality left-handed reliever, not a guy who will spend the entirety of 2017 on the DL.

Speaking of left-handed relievers, Vidal Nuno is gone!  I dunno, he was a guy we all liked for his versatility, but it turns out if you’re a crappy starter and a crappy reliever, the bottom line is you’re crappy.  We were able to swap him for another catcher, which looks like an awesome deal from a Mariners perspective.

Mike Zunino came back to the Majors in 2016 better than he was before, but he’s still not a finished product.  His defense is second to only a select few, as he was among the league leaders in defensive runs saved, while playing less than half the season in the Bigs.  With Ruiz’s bat – and competent on-base abilities – I wouldn’t mind seeing an equal timeshare between the two guys.  If they can stay healthy, we might be looking at not just replacement-level production out of the catcher position, but actually having it be a net-positive for this team!  Either way, it’s a VAST improvement over Chris Iannetta, which is all I can ask for.

Also speaking of left-handed relievers, this Kiekhefer guy is one of those!  He has all of 26 Major League appearances under his belt, all in 2016, and most of them pretty sub-par.  He’s sort of like a lefty version of Steve Cishek, only not as good.  He’ll destroy left-handed hitting, but he appears to struggle mightily against righties.  I guess you could argue he’s still pretty young, and for the most part looked better in September than he did earlier in the year (one 4-run appearance aside), but more than anything I think you peg him to be Spring Training fodder.  He’s on the 40-man roster, for now, but that’s not necessarily set in stone.  Whether he has options (I would assume he still does) is another issue.  If he pitches well in spring, either he makes the big league team, or he goes to Tacoma as insurance.  I guess we’ll see.

I think the writing was already on the wall when it came to Smith and Aoki.  The team likes Smith’s veteran leadership and steady (sometimes power) bat in the lineup over Aoki’s streakiness and slap-hittiness.  Aoki’s questionable defensive ability, and his poor base running, really did him in.  Nevertheless, I hate seeing him go to Houston, as I’m CONVINCED he’ll have a career year, even if he doesn’t play every day.

As for everyone else, we’ll wait and see.  I can’t imagine the market is too broad for Guti, so expect him back.  Dae-ho Lee might be less inclined to return, unless he’s guaranteed more playing time.  I have to think we’re going to look for a more permanent fix for our first base woes.  Drew Storen might be the toughest one to retain, as I can’t imagine the Mariners will want to break the bank for a right handed reliever who had a nice half-season with us, but is ultimately a hit-or-miss prospect going forward.  If he wants to come back on a relatively minor deal, fine, but I don’t think I’m paying more than $2-3 million for his services.

So far, so good.  The Mariners are better now than they were at the end of the 2016 season.  Let’s keep doing that and everything should be fine.

The Bullpen Was Too Much Miss, Not Enough Hit

Unless you take that phrase literally, in which case “miss”ing bats is a good thing and getting your balls “hit” is a bad thing, in which case I hate the title of this post already.

The amount of power a bullpen holds over the quality of your team’s baseball season is pretty obscene.  Granted, every area of a baseball team plays its part – hitting, defense, starting pitching, baserunning – so to get to a point where your bullpen can make or break your year means you need your starters to keep you in the game, you need your hitters to give you a lead, your defense needs to not give the other team extra outs, and you can’t take away outs from your own team by getting picked off or taking an extra base you shouldn’t have.

So, while the hitting for the Mariners wasn’t good for the longest time (mostly during the Jackie Z era), it didn’t really matter if our bullpens were good or not.

But, it’s a new day.  Our hitting is solid, our starters – for the most part – keep us in ballgames (even if they’re not particularly dominating), our defense is good enough (again, for the most part), and while our baserunning is pretty bad, it’s also a pretty small part of the game of baseball, all things considered.  A team like 2016’s Mariners had it all going for them, meaning the bullpen was the most important factor in deciding whether or not we’d make the playoffs.

And, as you can tell by our absence, obviously the bullpen wasn’t quite good enough.

For starters, the Mariners were 30-30 in 1-run games.  This is actually what one would expect.  If you’re significantly better, then it would stand to reason that you’re luckier, as these sorts of things tend to even out over time.  If you’re significantly worse, then it would stand to reason you’re unlucky.  So, we can throw luck right out the window as far as the Mariners are concerned.

The Rangers, on the other hand, were 36-11 in 1-run games, which is, like, an all-time crazy record for 1-run games.  Their dumb ass luck ran out though, when they got swept by the Blue Jays in the ALDS, going 0-1 in the playoffs in 1-run games.

Anyway, here are the records of the A.L. playoff teams in 1-run games:

  • Texas:  36-11
  • Cleveland:  28-21
  • Boston:  20-24
  • Toronto:  21-25
  • Baltimore:  21-16

So, as you can see, there’s a good mix.  Texas, Cleveland, and Baltimore were all over .500; Boston and Toronto were both a few games under.  What I noticed straight away is that the Mariners were involved in significantly MORE 1-run games than any of these teams.  37% of our games were decided by a single run.  Looking at it another way, 73% of our games (119) were decided by 4 runs or less.  So, we played a lot of close games.  I’d wager we were among the league leaders in close games.  As such, the performance of our bullpen meant a lot more than that of the rest of the American League.

The Mariners were involved in 74 save opportunities this season; we converted 49 of them, for a save percentage of 66%.  The league average was only 68%, so that doesn’t put us too far behind the 8-ball.  But, how does that compare to the playoff teams?  Let’s take a look:

  • Texas:  56 of 73, 77%
  • Cleveland:  37 of 48, 77%
  • Boston:  43 of 61, 70%
  • Toronto:  43 of 65, 66%
  • Baltimore:  54 of 68, 79%

So, as you can see, 4/5 playoff teams had superior save percentages than the Mariners.  If we’d just saved 70% of our opportunites – 2% above league average, and right in line with the playoff teams – that’s 3 more wins you could add to our total, which just so happens to be the number of games the Mariners missed the playoffs by.

The story of the 2016 Mariners bullpen kicks right off with injuries.  Charlie Furbush was a guy we’d penciled in for a significant role, but he didn’t throw a single inning.  Ryan Cook was another guy we brought in, at least on a tryout basis, but he’s a guy who’d had success as recently as 2014, and was one of the better relievers out there in 2012 & 2013; he too never pitched an inning for us.  Then, there’s Evan Scribner, who didn’t throw his first Major League pitches until September, when it turned out he’s actually terrific!  So, right off the bat, we were at a disadvantage, meaning guys like Joel Peralta and Steve Johnson were getting extended looks early in the season.

Then, you have Tony Zych, who made the Major League roster out of Spring Training.  He had the best fastball on the team, and arguably the best “stuff” of any of our relievers.  He made it to 10 appearances before he got hurt and was lost for the year (for all intents and purposes; he came back in late August for a couple of innings, but had to be quickly shut down again).  And, of course, there was Joaquin Benoit, who got hurt in April, returned about a month later, but was not the rock we needed out of our 8th inning set up guy.  He ended up being traded to Toronto for Drew Storen, where the change of scenery did both of them good.

It’s really quite remarkable, not just how the bullpen ended up looking compared to how we pictured it at the beginning of 2016, but also how it evolved throughout the season.  On top of those other injuries, Storen, Wilhelmsen, Nick Vincent, and Steve Cishek all found themselves on the DL at one point or another.  When you factor in how the starters weren’t always (or even USUALLY) at their best, this bullpen was continuously taxed nine ways from Sunday, all the way until September, when we were finally allowed to expand our roster.

This, of course, affected how we shaped the rest of our roster the first five months of the season, bringing into question why Major League Baseball limits teams to 25-man rosters, when so much of the game is specialized by way of bullpens and platoons and pinch runners and defensive replacements.  It makes no sense, when you think about it, but that’s baseball for you.  It’s the “neither here nor there” of professional sports.

If you want to know how the bullpen was doing at a particular point in the season, just look at the schedule.  You don’t need to hunt for stats to figure out when this bullpen was rolling vs. when it was sucking my will to live.  In the month of May, for instance, it was on a nice little run (the Mariners just so happened to have gone 17-11 in May); in the month of June, they fell apart (the Mariners just so happened to have gone 10-18 in June).  They were great in early August, terrible in late August, and so on and so forth.  This was one of the streakiest Mariners teams in recent memory, and those streaks almost always coincided with how the bullpen was doing.  They’d go long stretches of scoreless baseball, followed by painful stretches of agonizing baseball.  And, in the end, it all added up to 3 too many blown saves.  Who were our culprits?

Well, the first name that comes to mind is Steve Cishek, who started the season as this team’s closer, but lost that job on August 1st, after yet another meltdown.  Of his 7 blown saves, the Mariners were only able to come back and win 1 of them.  He also cost us 3 other games when he came into the game tied and took it on the chin.  Immediately after ceding control of the closer’s job to Edwin Diaz, he went on the DL, only to return to be a masterful set up man.  He’s also under contract for next year, so bank on him being back.

Edwin Diaz was lights out through his first three months or so.  We started him off slowly, but he quickly earned higher leverage roles when it was readily apparent that he was striking out everybody he faced.  He blew three saves, but we were able to come back and win two of those games.  He took 3 other losses when he came into a tie situation, but two of those games were in his pre-closer days.  He did end up taking the loss in the season-deciding game on October 1st, but he was in his 3rd inning that day, and was clearly over-worked to that point.  Diaz will go into 2017 as the frontrunner for the closer role.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to manage his outings a little better.  He was on pace to make something like 74 appearances over the course of a full season, so maybe we can try to shave off 5-10 next year, since he’s still a growing boy and all.

When you take a look at the actual numbers for our bullpen, one name sticks out like a sore thumb:  Nick Vincent.  Even though he had a spell on the DL, he’s one of those constants you can point to on this team this year.  He was brought in just before the regular season, and almost immediately entered the regular rotation as one of our high-leverage pitchers.  What sticks out is that Nick Vincent of all people was involved in 9 save situations, and somehow managed to blow SIX of them!  One fewer than Steve Cishek, and double the number of blown saves of Edwin Diaz; what in the holy fuck?

As I’ve said before, Vincent isn’t bad, but he’s also not a guy – in an ideal world – you want in there late in the game with a lead.  He’s a guy who should be used earlier in games, when the starter gets knocked out prematurely.  Or, put him in there in the 6th/7th innings, or in games where it’s close but we’re trailing.  I’m not saying he can’t handle the pressure of high-leverage, game-winning situations, but I’m VERY MUCH saying his stuff is weaksauce and I’m surprised guys didn’t smack him around more than they did.  Unfortunately, the 2016 Mariners bullpen was far from an ideal world, so he was counted upon more than he should’ve been.  It’s one of the reasons why he hit the DL in the first place; he simply wasn’t used to pitching that much, and his body couldn’t take it!

His semi-saving grace is that only 3 of his 6 blown saves led to losses.  But, again, he accounted for 4 other defeats in tie-game situations.  Of our pitchers who were exclusively relievers, who threw a minimum of 20 innings this year, Vincent was one of only two who had a negative Win Probability Added, leading me to believe that it’s pretty difficult for a reliever to GET a negative rating for this stat over the course of a full (or even PARTIAL) season.

For what it’s worth, Vidal Nuno is the other reliever to have a negative WPA.  I was about to dismiss his numbers though, as he seemed to be used mostly in mop-up duties, but apparently he appeared in the 4th most high leverage situations of guys in our bullpen at 16.  The only people to appear in more high leverage games were Vincent (24), Diaz (26) and Cishek (37).  Diaz had a whopping 1.9 WPA (meaning he alone was worth nearly 2 wins by himself), and Cishek actually had a respectable 0.7 WPA (or he was worth nearly 1 win by himself).

Most of the guys had their ups and downs, but I’d like to point out a few of the good ones.  Drew Storen was actually pretty great, especially considering Toronto was THIS CLOSE to DFA’ing his ass before they traded him to us for Benoit.  Tom Wilhelmsen, same deal (especially considering his stint in Texas, when he was worth -0.9 WPA in 21 games before they did DFA his ass).  Mike Montgomery was also one of the good ones, which is why it’s so unfortunate that he was traded away to the Cubs mid-season.  He’s a pretty rock solid reliever, and he’s good for the occasional spot start, which in my book makes him invaluable, but in the Mariners’ book makes him worth Dan Vogelbach.  Scribner, as I said before, had the all-world September; and Arquimedes Caminero has some lethal stuff, if only he can harness it.

Going into 2017, there’s a lot to like about this unit.  We’re, unfortunately, going to be without Charlie Furbush again, as he needed surgery that would keep him out ANOTHER year, but hopefully with certain guys returning, we can solidify this part of our team and not have to worry about it so much.

Guys I like:

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Steve Cishek
  • Evan Scribner
  • Tony Zych

If we can get these guys back and keep them healthy, that’s as good a foundation to a bullpen as can be.

Guys I like, sort of:

  • Drew Storen
  • Nick Vincent
  • Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Vidal Nuno

Storen isn’t under contract, so the team would have to go out and re-sign him, but I think for the right price, that could be a nice little move for this team.  The rest of these guys, I could take or leave.  I don’t totally trust any of them in high leverage situations, so I’d PREFER they stick to 6th/7th innings, or in extras; but, I also wouldn’t be devastated if the team traded them away or otherwise got rid of them.

Guys I find interesting:

  • Arquimedes Caminero
  • Dan Altavilla

Caminero I talked about before.  Altavilla is another one of these guys (like Diaz) where the Mariners brought him up straight from AA.  He was called up late in the season for the team to get a look at him, and only 3 of his 15 appearances were in high leverage situations, but he showed good stuff, and if he carries that over into Spring Training, I could easily see him making this roster.  If he proves he’s got what it takes to do well in those high leverage situations, he could find himself quickly climbing into the Guys I Like category.

All the other bullpen guys on the roster feel like Spring Training fodder and little more.  The team is in desperate need of a quality left-handed reliever, so I’d expect them to make a move in that regard in the not-too-distant future.  My way-too-early prediction for next season has our bullpen looking like this:

  • Diaz – closer
  • Cishek
  • Scribner
  • Zych
  • Vincent
  • Altavilla
  • Random Lefty Not Currently In The Organization

Depending on the lefty, that strikes me as a bullpen we can work with!  Again, assuming they’re utilized properly.

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.

Injuries Are Killing The Mariners This Year

I know nobody wants to hear it.  Teams are snakebitten every year; all teams have to deal with injuries at one point or another.  But, it’s also no secret that the teams you chronically see going on deep playoff runs tend to be the teams that are predominantly healthy.  Unsustainably healthy.  You won’t see this type of freaky health from year to year, but if you can get lucky in one season, you can go a long way with your primary guys avoiding stints on the DL.

The Mariners have been spectacularly unlucky in 2016.  There hasn’t been a single day this year where some key piece hasn’t been missing.  This team has never been complete!  And, it seems like just as soon as one guy gets healthy, another guy goes down.

Look at this timeline of guys hitting the DL:

  • 4/3 – Furbush & Scribner (key bullpen pieces)
  • 4/25 – Benoit (had he been healthy all year, a guy you could expect would have been a lockdown 8th inning guy)
  • 5/3 – Zych (was dominating through the first month, has missed most of the season)
  • 5/22 – Marte (just when he was starting to assert himself as one of the better short stops in the American League)
  • 5/27 – Martin (Mariners have no competent backup defensive centerfielder on their roster; defense suffered accordingly while he was out.  He was also on a hot stretch offensively when he went down)
  • 6/1 – King Felix (I don’t need to tell you how huge this was)
  • 6/17 – Miley (he wasn’t good, but it further depleted a shaky starting rotation)
  • 6/24 – Sampson (he only made one start, but we never got to know his potential)
  • 6/29 – Vincent (further depleting our bullpen at the worst possible time)
  • 6/30 – Clevenger (was set for increased playing time, but ultimately worked out with Zunino’s return)
  • 7/6 – Walker (was supposed to be his breakout year, but the nagging foot issue inhibited his growth)
  • 7/23 – Marte again (mono, really)
  • 7/30 – Karns (never really popped this year, but again, lack of depth for our pitching staff)
  • 8/4 – Cishek (his injury might have been a key part of him blowing those saves and losing his closer’s job)
  • 8/16 – Paxton (just when he was starting to dominate the league)
  • 8/22 – Storen (just as the bullpen was starting to gel into a dominant unit)

And that doesn’t even factor in Kyle Seager, who’s missing games this week, as well as Cano and Cruz at times this year missing games due to minor injuries.  Suffice it to say, I’ve seen O’Malley and Freeman start more games than I care to see.

If the Mariners could just get their best 25 guys to stay healthy for any extended period of time, you’d be looking at a no-doubt playoff team!  Probably one giving the Rangers a serious run for their money!  As it is, it’s a miracle the Mariners have held in there as long as they have.

The Mariners Are Really Putting Me Through The Wringer

Tasked with the second inexperienced starter in two days, the Seattle Mariners had to put on their big boy pants to beat the Angels last night.  So, it was really a perfect time for the power in the bats to completely disappear.

After digging a hole early, Cody Martin somewhat settled down to go 4.1 innings while giving up only 2 runs.  Given our placement in the standings and how important all of these games are, combined with the fact that the Mariners just took the lead in the top of the 4th to go up 4-2, Scott Servais wasn’t taking any chances.  It was the prudent play.

The bullpen rebounded in a big way over the previous night.  Storen went 1.1 scoreless, Nuno got the final out of the 6th, Caminero made it through a scoreless 7th, and Wilhelmsen did the same in the 8th.  Perfect.  Bring on the Sugar!

Texas Tea ... Sweetener!

Texas Tea … Sweetener!

Who almost fucking blew it.

ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME???

A single and a wild pitch put the leadoff batter in scoring position.  For the most part, like the night prior, the Angels hitters were cheating, going up there looking fastball all the way and swinging accordingly.  That’s what happened with the first batter.  So, Diaz turned to his slider, and almost exclusively his slider, the rest of the way.  I didn’t understand at first, as the next batter whiffed twice at it before laying off the next two balls outside, before putting the final slider into centerfield to make the game 4-3.  After the game, I discovered he’d lost confidence in his fastball command, but either way, it was SCARY for a while there!

Diaz got a strikeout from an overly-aggressive Kole Calhoun, but then Trout singled and advanced to second on the throw as Leonys Martin tried to cut down the runner going to third.  With two runners in scoring position, and only one out in the inning, Diaz intentionally walked Albert Pujols to load ’em up.  From there, he got another strikeout before running into the final batter of the night, who hit a hard ground ball towards the bag that Seager dove on.  He was able to throw out the final runner by a half step to save the game, in what has to be the best defensive play made by a Mariners fielder all year.  Hell, it might be the play of the decade, given the circumstances (but, my memory ain’t what it used to be).

Just an unbelievable sense of relief after that.  We wrap up the 4-game series tonight, with Iwakuma on the mound.  Let’s do this thing!

My Griffey Hall Of Fame Weekend Experience, Day 2

I stayed up through the whole game, everyone!  Keep your chins up!

Allow me to re-introduce myself ...

Allow me to re-introduce myself …

Look, I’m not gonna lie to you, Day 1 kinda got away from me a little bit.  It took me a while to get going on Day 2, but I eventually ventured out of my apartment, grabbed a couple coffees and some scratch tickets, and even worked in a shower before I sweated myself through the second game of the weekend.

I threw $190 into scratch tickets and walked away with $30 when all was said and done, but it’s not all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for Steven A. Taylor.  There’s also copious amounts of line waiting!  We left South Lake Union around a quarter to 3, Ubering our way to 1st & Edgar Martinez Way to the sight of yet another fuckload of people waiting in lines to grab Day 2’s prize:  a mini Griffey HOF plaque.  We, no joke, got in the same line for the Left Field Entrance, at about the same distance as I was for Day 1.  And lo and behold, we got our plaques.

Bee-you-tiful ...

Bee-you-tiful …

We opted to stay in the stadium, as opposed to making our usual trek to Sluggers, because the 24 Retirement Ceremony was starting at 5:30, and we sure as shit didn’t want to miss it.  Since we were starving, food was our #1 priority.  I made the mistake of ordering a Mariner Dog (ate two bites and threw the rest away) and some Club Level “garlic” fries.  You tell me, is this abomination an appropriate order of garlic fries?

Horse. Shit.

Horse. Shit.

That’s either garlic powder, or parmesan cheese, but there’s NO FUCKING GARLIC on that shit!  Safeco, I expect better.

Once I got rid of that shit, I ended up walking a million miles to get a mediocre slice of pepperoni pizza and a cup of chocolate soft serve ice cream, before turning my attention to the $6 Tecates they sell at the Hit It Here Cafe.  Beer:  you can’t fuck up beer.

Let your freak flag fly …

The ceremony was fantastic.  The Mariners know how to do one thing well, and that’s throw a party for their greats.  The usual suspects showed up, from Alvin Davis, to Dan Wilson, to Jay Buhner, to Jamie Moyer, to Edgar Martinez wearing a backwards cap, to Dave Niehaus’ widow; while a bunch of shockers popped in, like Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, Gary Payton, Spencer Haywood, Rickey Henderson, and others.  Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Kobe Bryant, and even Jeff Gordon had jumbotron salutes.  It was truly a star-studded affair.

The Great One ...

The Great One …

We even got a Griffey speech with almost no blubbering!  It was everything you could ever want from a ceremony!

Retire them numbers ...

Retire them numbers …

Then, the game happened, and I don’t even know anymore.  Like the previous night, Mike Trout hit a 3-run homer in the first to put the Mariners at a huge disadvantage.  Unlike the previous night, the Mariners were unable to respond with more than a single run in the bottom half of the inning.  But, in spite of Taijuan Walker’s mediocre return from the DL (4 innings, 6 runs), the Mariners continued to chip away!  1 run in the first, another in the third (Guillermo Heredia’s first ever homer), 2 runs in the fifth (Guti homer, to pull him within a triple of the cycle), and 4 runs in the seventh (a Leonys Martin sac fly, and a MONSTER 3-run homer from the hero of the night, Shawn O’Malley).

It was truly a magical night.  Shawn O’Malley even followed up his game-winning homer with a diving stab the next inning to take a hit away from them, resulting in chanting from the sellout crowd.  Was I JUST complaining of O’Malley’s defense earlier this week?  I don’t recall that!  Surely t’was some other blogger!  Was I among those leading the chants for the rest of the evening?  No hypocrite guy, but MAYBE!

Big ups to the bullpen tonight, for picking up where Taijuan failed to leave off.  Cody Martin went 2.2, Drew Storen got the last out in the 7th (and the win).  Wilhelmsen came in to dominate the 8th, and Edwin Diaz got the game sealing double play to close out the 9th.  Bing, bang, boom, Mariners defeat Angels 8-6, and we all went home delirious.

Day 3 happens later today, and I, for one, can’t wait.

Let your body move to the music ...

Let your body move to the music …

I Don’t Know Why I Stayed Up To Watch All Of That Mariners Game Last Night

You want the short answer?  I knew Ariel Miranda was getting his first Major League start and I wanted like hell for him to do well.  We’d just shipped off Wade Miley – who, in his first start with the Orioles, went 5 innings, giving up 4 runs in a loss – and I’d made that big to do about Good Riddance and all that jazz.  This year has been such a shitshow with the pitching, I’m DESPERATE for any possibility that a new guy might help turn things around.

Also, not for nothing, but I realize we’re just starting to get into Looking Forward To Next Year mode – even if I’m being dragged there kicking and screaming – and I’d like to have some reasons for optimism.  I NEED a good pitching staff, or else I get all wonky!

Well, Ariel Miranda acquitted himself just fine last night.  6 innings, 2 runs, spreading out 8 hits and a walk, with 5 strikeouts.  He got himself into a little trouble here and there, but was able to pitch around it.  I thought he hit his spots pretty well, for the most part.  He seemed pretty fearless out there, and pretty natural at the same time.  He might get sent right back down to Tacoma in a minute, what with Taijuan Walker’s return, but let’s be real here:  no one expects this rotation to stay intact for the next two weeks, let alone the rest of the season.  We will most definitely see Ariel Miranda again.  And I hope we get a lot more of what we saw last night, because that’s a guy I can go to war with.

Unfortunately, as has been the case more and more of late, the hitting let us down last night.  The Mariners should win every game they hold an opponent to 2 runs in regulation.  But, it wasn’t to be.  Robbie – after being our hero on Tuesday – totally shit the bed last night.  Cruz wasn’t good for anything more than a couple of walks.  Seager was 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.  Zunino was only good for a couple of walks (a lot of walks by Mariners hitters last night, which makes the end result particularly galling, as we’re NEVER this patient at the plate).  The only middle-of-the-order hitter to do ANYTHING last night was Dae-ho Lee, with the RBI single in the 5th to tie the game.  He’s so good at getting that runner in by knocking a single the other way; he’s NOT just a power guy!  That’s what we love about Dae-ho so much!

The rest of the lineup wasn’t much better, to be fair.  Leonys Martin is in a BIGTIME slump right now.  Guillermo Heredia is NOT a leadoff hitter, and I wish Servais would stop doing that.  Shawn O’Malley had a solo homer – and 3 hits on the day – but he’s also not a starting-calibre short stop, which was on full display in the top of the 11th, when his diving stab at a single through the infield cost the Mariners a run and ultimately the game.  A competent defensive short stop at the very least is able to keep that ball in the infield, with a good chance of actually making the play and getting the out at first.  This team seriously needs Ketel Marte back in the lineup.  Because he’s leaps and bounds better than O’Malley defensively, and because we need to see if the kid has what it takes to be our everyday short stop next year and beyond.

I mean, seriously, who gets mono in this day and age?!

Short story long, I’ve gotta give it up for the bullpen last night.  They really worked their asses off to keep that game tied as long as it was.  I thought Miranda was pulled at exactly the right time:  he made it through 6, and even though he’d only thrown 80 pitches, he was starting to get hit hard, and it’s better to preserve the kid’s confidence going forward than try to squeeze another inning out of him and giving up the lead in the process.  I like Storen in that spot right now, I thought Nuno was in there the exact right amount, and I even agree with having Wilhelmsen in there for the 4 outs.  No one was egregiously over-used, but with Diaz unavailable (having pitched in 4 days out of the last 5), you had to get a little extra somewhere.  I started the 10th inning wondering just what in the hell the Mariners were thinking by not bringing Blake Parker up sooner – as it looked like he’d been kicking all ass in Tacoma – but by the end of the 10th, I was having visions of Joel Peralta, and understood it probably wasn’t the organization being prejudiced against guys named Blake.  By the time we got to the 11th, and Cody Martin was the last man standing, you kinda knew time was growing short.  I just hoped he wouldn’t IMMEDIATELY give up the go-ahead run, but maybe buy us an inning or two before falling apart.

Oh well, I guess.  Can’t win ’em all, I suppose.  We’ll get ’em next time and whatnot.  The sun’ll come out tomorrow and whathaveyou.

Big Griffey Hall of Fame Weekend starts tonight.  I’m going to all three games, so I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say come Monday.

Mariners Finish Trade Deadline Period By Dealing Miley

I’ve been saying all along we need to hold off until we see all the moves in context.  Well, it’s the afternoon of August 1st, and all the major moves have been made (it’s still possible to get rid of someone like Lind – who has a fat contract and doesn’t bring a ton to the table – before the end of the month, but that won’t mean much at this point, as I’ll get into later).

First, we had Montgomery for Vogelbach, and we didn’t know what to think.  That one probably sits more in the camp of The Future than Win Now, but Montgomery is more or less just a bullpen piece at this point, and Vogelbach could be called up to Seattle at any time.

Next, we had Benoit for Storen, which was an obvious Greener Pastures move for two struggling relievers.  Not much insight there (though, again, you see the Mariners go younger to bring in a guy with more upside, even if his contract expires after this year).

Now, we’ve got Wade Miley going to Baltimore for minor league starter Ariel Miranda.  I know I’ve been conducting the Hate Train on Miley pretty much since he started showing us how worthless he is, but there’s no rational way to look at this move as anything other than a sell-off.  Miley was set to earn upwards of $9 million next year, with a club option for 2018 that would’ve paid out $12 million.  At the very least, we avoid that high salary next year and the $500,000 buy-out for 2018 (the Mariners sent no money Baltimore’s way, so it’s all on them now).

I don’t know why people are so upset!  I mean, yeah, I get it, the Mariners are sellers, and not even GOOD sellers.  They sold off scraps and got back question marks.  Part of that, I’m sure, is that there weren’t any good deals out there.  But, you can’t help but see this amalgam of moves as the Mariners – once again – trying to have it both ways.  They get to be sellers without going so far as selling our most prized assets (*cough* NELSON CRUZ *cough*), but they can also say, “Look, we’re still pretty much the same team we were in the first two months, so let’s not totally close the door on this contention thing.”

And sure, I get it, Miley’s been on an upswing recently.  He’s on a run of 3 quality starts in a row, and 4 out of his last 5 starts.  Hell, his most recent outing – Saturday, against the Cubs – was his very best of the season!  But, don’t forget the rest of the starts.  Don’t forget all the bullshit outings we got out of Miley this year.  A guy who was supposed to be – AT WORST – an innings eater, couldn’t even do THAT!  What value does that guy have, who brings nothing to the table whatsoever?  He’s not going to get you some stud prospect.  He’s going to get you exactly who we got.

Ariel Miranda, with 1 career Major League appearance.  Who’s played the bulk of his career in Cuba, who just made Baltimore’s AAA club this season.  He’s a lefty starter with a good fastball (94 mph range) and a good changeup (he’s actually better against righties than lefties), but nothing much going on with his other breaking balls.

In my book, this guy is no worse than Miley RIGHT NOW.

Everyone points to Miley’s experience as the deciding factor, but what does that mean?  I take it to mean you know what you’re going to get with Miley.  That the younger pitcher will be wild and inconsistent from start to start.  Well, look at the breakdown of 29 year old Miley’s starts with the Mariners this year, from April through July:

  1. Bad Start
  2. Bad Start
  3. Really Bad Start
  4. Good Start
  5. Great Start
  6. Good Start
  7. Bad Start
  8. Good Start
  9. Bad Start
  10. Bad Start
  11. Really Bad Start
  12. Great Start
  13. Bad Start
  14. Really Bad Start
  15. Good Start
  16. Bad Start
  17. Good Start
  18. Good Start
  19. Great Start

Tell me, where’s the consistency?  For what it’s worth, a Good Start is like a regular Quality Start; a Great Start is 7 innings or more with 2 runs or less; a Bad Start is 4 runs or more (or a 3-run, 5 inning start); a Really Bad Start is anything less than 5 innings.

Miley has as many Really Bad Starts as Great Starts.  He has more Bad Starts than Good Starts.  That’s not acceptable, at all, from a veteran starter earning as much money as Miley makes.  He’s a fucking washed up joke, and it’s Baltimore’s loss.

You’re telling me Ariel Miranda can’t give us Miley-esque production as a back-end starter right now?  Because I think he can.  And if he does, then boom, the Mariners have already won that trade, because he’s making peanuts, is younger, and has more upside.  He just needs a chance.

If you ask me, the Mariners got better RIGHT NOW, just by getting rid of Miley.

What does this mean going forward though?  It means, starting tonight, the Mariners have to nut up or shut up.  Felix has to round back into his dominant form.  Paxton needs to be a stud.  Walker needs to return and stay healthy.  Iwakuma needs to continue his run of quality pitching.  And one of our 5th starters needs to emerge.  Wade LeBlanc, Ariel Miranda, or Nathan Karns (seems unlikely on the Karns one, but the other two are possibilities).

It means, starting tonight, the bullpen needs to coalesce.  Absolutely NO MORE BLOWN SAVES from Cishek.  If he blows one more game, he’s done as the closer, period.  Keep putting Diaz in there in the most pressure-packed situations and hope he continues to shine.  And the veterans – Wilhelmsen, Nuno, Storen, eventually Furbush, hopefully Vincent – need to be dialed in.

We need two months of pure excellence out of the entire pitching staff in order to get this thing done.  Anything less, and you’re going to see more of the same frustrating .500 ball that we’ve been watching of late.  Because this is it!  This is the team we have, for the final two months of the season.  No more help is walking through that door.  In fact, guys are more likely to leave, if we can find any takers for Lind, Aoki, or Seth Smith (all names I’ve heard bandied about in trade rumors).

But, even if we do find takers, don’t expect to get a lot in return.  Removing Lind, Aoki, or Smith are cost-cutting moves plain and simple.  You only get those guys off your team if you think they won’t be of any help to you reaching the playoffs, and you want to open up some roster spots for younger guys like Vogelbach, like the recently recalled Guillermo Heredia, like whoever else in Tacoma you want to see drink a cup of coffee.

My bet is that this upcoming homestand – starting tonight with 4 against the Red Sox, then 3 against the Angels over the weekend, then 3 more against the Tigers – is going to be the most important homestand of the year.  There’s one off-day this month for the Mariners, and it takes place after that Tigers series.  If you don’t see something like an 8-2 record in those ten games, I think we go into full-on Play For Next Year mode.  I think you start seeing more guys from Tacoma called up.  I think you start seeing guys like Aoki and Lind and maybe even Smith getting released or traded for peanuts.  I think you see a switch at closer, and you see even more crappy Tacoma relievers called up to show what they can do.

That’s because, after the homestand, it’s 20 games in a row, all but 6 on the road.  The Dog Days!  They’re here!  With the August 31st waivers deadline, followed by the September call-ups, if the Mariners haven’t made up a significant chunk of their 5-game deficit in the Wild Card standings, you’re going to see a whole lotta mailing it in.  How soon that starts will be dictated in the next 10 days.

Pressure’s on, Mariners.  Are you going to be like all the other shitty Mariners teams we’ve suffered through recently?  Or, are you actually going to shock the world?

Yesterday’s Game Was The Most Poorly Managed of Scott Servais’ Career

It really felt like our manager threw one away last night.  Now, I know, Gerrit Cole was rolling, and it might not have mattered either way.  In the end, he pitched a complete game, giving up 1 run on 3 hits, no walks, and 6 strikeouts.  He very well could have done the same exact thing had the game stayed at a more reasonable 3-1 score.  But, it’s impossible to know the type of effort we would have seen out of the Mariners hitters.  I mean, let’s face it, I wouldn’t hold it against anyone if they were a LITTLE more engaged in a 2-run game, as opposed to a game you’re losing by 6, and then 9 runs.  And, that’s ignoring a potential save situation if the game is still close; would Pittsburgh have gone to their closer had it been 3-1 in the 9th?  We’ll never know.

The problem isn’t that Servais botched this one game; it happens.  But, what’s truly galling is that this might have long-term (relatively speaking) ramifications for a recently-acquired, struggling relief pitcher in Drew Storen.

We know his story, we just heard all about it the day before when the Mariners traded Joaquin Benoit for him.  Storen is a guy who has been great as recently as 2015, but who has been God-awful this year, to the point that the Blue Jays had released him just before trading him to the Mariners.  Our general manager admitted this is a Change of Scenery deal, in hopes to get him on the right track.  “Change of Scenery” are just words until you think about the meaning behind them:  getting a player out of a bad situation in hopes that he’ll clear his head, and the fresh start will help get him back to playing like his glory days.

But it doesn’t FUCKING work unless you put him in a position to succeed, you jackass!

The Mariners were smart to put him in a game right away.  James Paxton had his usual James Paxton performance:  one bad inning marring what was otherwise a fine – albeit short – day.  Storen came into the game in the 6th inning after the Mariners had just manufactured a run to bring the game to 3-1.  Awesome.  I’m all for it.  Get him in there, see what he can do, hope for the best.  He was facing nothing but righties, the Mariners were losing (so it wasn’t a pressure-packed situation with blown-save potential), but it was still close enough that it didn’t TOTALLY feel like a soft landing.  It felt like game we were capable of coming back in, ergo, it felt like we were trusting the new guy to keep us in it.

And he didn’t let us down!  He did his exact job:  getting 3 groundball outs in a clean inning of work.  Boom.  Successful day achieved.

That should have been the start of a beautiful working relationship between a struggling relief pitcher and his new team.  Instead, it was just the beginning of a nightmare scenario, as bewildering managerial decisions dictated his demise.

The Mariners (obviously) failed to score in the 7th inning.  And, even though he had thrown somewhere around 15 pitches, here was Drew Storen coming out for another inning of work.  WHAT?  WHY?

The Mariners have had 2 off-days in the last week, with another off-day yet to come (today).  The bullpen was NOT tired!  The bullpen was NOT over-worked!  The bullpen would have PLENTY of time to recover!

When you factor in we’ve got Karns in there, I think Servais lost his fucking mind.  Storen gave up two hits before getting a strikeout, then proceeded to give up another single to load the bases.  And yet, Servais KEPT HIM IN THE GAME WHEN HE WAS CLEARLY GASSED!  What the fuck?  It wasn’t until Storen walked in a run that he finally pulled him.  It’s like Servais was trying to haze the new guy with diabolical Mean Girls tactics, to mentally destroy a hated rival.

The cherry on top, of course, is that with the bases loaded and only 1 out, he put Karns in a shitty spot.  Karns promptly giving up a bases-clearing 3-run double was the cherry on top.  Storen’s ERA gets to skyrocket, AND Karns gets to feel like shit as well!  Servais got to fuck up two relievers for the price of one!

Had he simply done the sensible, SMART thing, and put Karns in to START the seventh, we might have been looking at a completely different ballgame.  Instead, Servais decided to get cute, and in the process made a bad season worse for the newcomer Storen, as well as Karns.  Bravo, Mr. Manager, you had your worst game ever.  How does it feel?

Mariners Traded Joaquin Benoit For Drew Storen

The Mariners and Blue Jays swapped one miserable fucking failure for another.  Both making upwards of $8 million, both on the final years of their deals, both with a recent history of kicking ass, but both with 2016’s that have sucked all dicks around town.

For most of his career, Drew Storen has been a lockdown reliever in the National League (sound familiar?).  He was traded to Toronto for a journeyman outfielder and has been knocked around pretty good.  His velocity being down considerably is the primary culprit, along with a little regression to the mean (as he’d been pretty lucky in the usual batted-ball metrics heading into this season).  Hopefully, it’s a matter of maybe tweaking with his mechanics a little bit to get that velo back in range.  If nothing else, you hope a change in scenery will do him some good.  His confidence has to be at an all-time low since he was DFA’d just prior to this trade.

Joaquin Benoit has had the dead horse beaten out of him all year.  We traded a couple of minor league nobodies to bring him in, but that’s not the point.  He’d been a rock for almost his entire career – and it’s been a LONG one – and was supposed to stabilize the back-end of a bullpen that had struggled mightily in 2015.  Instead, he got injured, went on the DL, and has been the opposite of a rock when not injured.  He just turned 39 years old yesterday, so Happy Fucking Birthday, now get your ass to Canada.

Honestly, the most interesting thing about this trade – aside from the hopeful Change of Scenery theory – is the cash that Toronto is sending our way.  Notoriously tight-fisted Mariners management might not be willing to increase payroll at the deadline for a .500 team with long odds to make the post-season (and too many holes to fill to boot).  I don’t know if we’re talking about a considerable amount of cash coming Seattle’s way, but you have to think it’ll be used in yet another future deal sometime in the next few days.

Shit, at the very least, we won’t have to suffer through any more 45-minute half innings with Benoit huffing and puffing and blowing our houses in on the mound.