Who Is A.J. Pollock?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Miracle Mariners Made It To The ALDS

I gotta tell ya, this weekend felt like a surreal dream! The Mariners shut out the Blue Jays on Friday afternoon, then my girlfriend and I found the perfect house that had been saving itself especially for us. On Saturday, the Mariners blew it early – giving up an 8-1 deficit to the Blue Jays – and as we discussed submitting an offer on the house with our Realtor, that’s when the comeback commenced. We pulled off the comeback as I was on the road listening on the radio, and later that night we got word that our offer was accepted. In one fell swoop, the Mariners swept the Blue Jays to make it to the American League Divisional Series, AND we got a house! What am I more happy about? I’m pleading the Fifth, but let’s say both events are life-changing and make me happier than I’ve ever been.

There is, of course, more to do. The Mariners have a supremely difficult 5-game series with the Astros to look forward to. And we have our home inspection tomorrow afternoon (ensuring I’m likely to miss the end of this M’s game as well). The rest of this month is sure to be a rollercoaster!

Friday was the game we HAD to have. We all knew it. We all knew it because we saw the writing on the wall with Robbie Ray. Spoiler alert: that writing would prove to be correct. Bottom line is: no one wanted to go into Game 2 needing a quality start from one of our most inconsistent starters over the bulk of this season. Note I didn’t say “one of our worst”. That might be Marco, but at least Marco is pretty consistent. You know what you’re going to get – more often than not – from Marco. With Ray, it could be 7 shutout innings, or he could fail to get out of the second; it’s a total crapshoot.

With that in mind, it was beyond a relief to see Luis Castillo come in and dominate from the jump. What’s interesting is that he didn’t necessarily kill them with unhittable stuff. He just killed them with stuff that led to relatively weak contact. He only finished with 5 strikeouts, but three of them came in the 7th inning (when it looked like he was emptying the tank). He finished the game having gone 7.1 innings, 6 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 5 K’s. It was a masterful performance!

But, he left with a runner on first (hitting George Springer on the wrist in his final AB). That brought Andres Munoz into the game to mop up; he got a fly-out and a ground-out against two of the best Blue Jays hitters (Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr.) to keep them scoreless. Then, Munoz returned in the bottom of the 9th to make quick work of things, giving up a harmless double in the process.

The offense got things going early against one of the better starters in the league in Alek Manoah. He hit Julio to lead off the game, a France groundout moved Julio over to second, Suarez doubled to right to score our first run, and then Cal Raleigh immediately followed with a 2-run homer to make it 3-0 before the Blue Jays even got up to bat. That was it until the fifth inning, when Julio was hit a second time, advanced on a France single the other way, and scored on a Suarez fielder’s choice. 4-0, final score.

That was a relief! It was nice knowing that no matter what happened on Saturday, there’d still be a game on Sunday, where Logan Gilbert would square off against whoever the third-best starter is on the Jays. But, no need! This actually sets things up really well for the Astros series (we need all the help we can get), allowing us to potentially throw Gilbert twice if need be.

The offense REALLY struggled to get going on Saturday. We had a decent opportunity in the first again, but couldn’t push anyone home. France reached on an error and Cal walked, but Haniger struck out to end the threat.

Ironically enough – when it came to Robbie Ray – he looked kind of dialed in through the first three at-bats of the game. Two strikeouts and a weak grounder by Vlad gave us all a false sense of security that things would be fine. That proved not to be in the second inning, when he gave up a meatball 2-run home run to Teoscar Hernandez. He gave up an RBI single in the third, and by that point it looked like he was done. Scott Servais, nevertheless, trotted him back out for the fourth inning, and he gave up a leadoff home run to Hernandez (his second of the day) before getting pulled.

I was convinced that extra run might mean something, but after Brash got an inning of work under his belt, he gave way to Sewald in the fifth, who gave up 4 earned runs in 0.2 innings of work. Just a nightmare scenario. We managed to finally get a hit and break through with a run in the top of the fifth (thanks to a Kelenic sac fly RBI), but it was 8-1 by the time the bottom half concluded.

We finally chased Kevin Gausman in the sixth (I missed all of this). He gave up back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases, before striking out Haniger and getting a weak pop-out from Adam Frazier (who, in his career, has notoriously beaten Gausman like a red-headed stepchild). Hindsight being what it is, you wonder why they didn’t leave Gausman in there to face Santana (he was only at 95 pitches). To be fair, Santana hit a rocket of a double in the fifth that missed being a 2-run home run by inches, so maybe that was fresh in the manager’s mind.

Anyway, a wild pitch by the reliever is the only reason why Santana didn’t go on to hit a grand slam. Regardless, it was a 3-run home run (4 runs scored total that inning) to bring the game to an 8-5 score in this now battle of the bullpens. Matt Festa went 1.1 innings of relief, with Penn Murfee relieving him in the bottom of the seventh, giving up an inherited runner in the process. So, it was 9-5 when all hell broke loose.

Top of the eighth: Suarez led off with a double, Raleigh singled to center to make it 9-6. Haniger and Frazier both singled to load the bases, where Santana and Dylan Moore (who had relieved Kelenic) both struck out. With two outs, J.P. Crawford swung at a first-pitch slider that flared into center. Both Bichette and Springer sprinted for the ball, but neither really had a chance for it (maybe if Bichette gave way, Springer could’ve dove for it, but the replay I saw made that appear to be an impossibility). Since there were two outs, everyone was running on the ball, and all three ended up scoring, as Crawford landed on second base. Springer had to exit the game after that, almost certainly with some sort of head injury upon running into his teammate. But, we had a brand new ballgame. 9-9.

Munoz took over in the eighth, struggling a bit, but ultimately kept it scoreless in a heroic effort. That’s two insanely important games in a row – against the teeth of the Blue Jays’ lineup – and he got zeroes on the board.

Raleigh doubled in the top of the ninth, sandwiched around a couple of outs. All hope was not lost, though, as Frazier doubled him home for the 10-9 lead. All that was left was the save.

To this point, we had used Ray (3 innings), Brash, Sewald (2 outs), Castillo (1 out), Festa (4 outs), Murfee (2 outs), and Munoz. There were only three other pitchers on the roster, and one of them was George Kirby. While I know he’s been relegated to a bullpen role – at least for this series, if not for the entire playoffs – I don’t think this is the spot we necessarily envisioned for his first-ever playoff appearance.

Yet, he got three outs, only giving up a harmless walk, and the celebration was on. Blue Jays fans were justifiably stunned, as were Mariners fans, if I’m being honest. The Rally Shoe is apparently a thing now (because some fan – or possible mental patient – put a shoe on his head that was caught by a TV camera during the viewing party at T-Mobile Park); I will not be participating in the Rally Shoe phenomenon, because I don’t want to put a dirty-ass shoe on my head.

Anyway, what a wonderful dream of a weekend! The ALDS starts for us tomorrow at just after 12:30pm. Game 1 Tuesday, Game 2 Thursday (both in Houston), then Game 3 and Game 4 are in Seattle Saturday and Sunday (with a potential Game 5 on Monday, with no off-day for travel).

As fun as this is, this is probably the end of the road for the Mariners. We might steal a game or two, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Astros sweep us. The talent disparity is pretty severe. Plus, they’ve had all this time off and can slot their starters accordingly. We’ll get one game out of Luis Castillo, but probably not two. Not with Game 2 being on Thursday (better chance if it landed on Wednesday); that would put him on 3-days rest for a potential Game 5, if we make it that far.

I expect us to go Gilbert, Castillo, Ray in the first three games. That would put Ray in T-Mobile Park, which is far more ideal than him pitching in Houston. That slots Gilbert to start on Sunday on 4 days’ rest. Or, we could save him for Monday on normal rest and throw Gonzales either Saturday or Sunday. As always, I think it’ll depend on how the first couple of games go. We might have to reshuffle everything depending on how big a hole we dig ourselves.

While I’ll say that I’m officially betting the Taylor Family Farm on the Astros winning this series, it wouldn’t be totally unthinkable for the Mariners to shock the world. It’s only a 5-game series. If our pitching is on point – and I mean REALLY on point – we could steal enough games to move on. I don’t think we’ll be winning any 10-9 type shootouts, though!

We’ll see! I never like playing the Just Happy To Be There card, because I don’t believe this team is just happy to be there. But, as a fan, making the playoffs was the goal. Reaching the ALDS feels like gravy. We’re playing with house money. We got beyond the meaningless drivel that is the Wild Card series, and now we’re into the traditional (quote/unquote) baseball playoffs. The one I grew up with, not necessarily the one my father or grandfather grew up with.

It’s nice to be there. It’s nice to be in the mix with the other divisional winners (the Astros, Yankees, and Guardians – who swept the Rays in part by winning a game in 15 innings 1-0). We have just as much pitching as anyone, therefore we have just as much of a chance to prevail as anyone.

Now that the pressure is off. Now that everyone believes the Astros will prevail (and probably win it all), let’s go out there and have fun and maybe spoil everyone’s bets!

The Mariners Got Back To 90 Wins

I didn’t see that coming!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Dropping A Series In Anaheim Isn’t The Worst Thing Ever

The most important thing regarding the Mariners is simply Making The Playoffs. In that sense, it might not have been too cool if we’d been swept in that 4-game series. But, I wouldn’t have been totally opposed to that either.

We sit 5 games ahead of Baltimore, all alone as the third wild card team. That’s the sweet spot. Honestly, we could probably stand to give the Rays and Blue Jays a little bit of a cushion. Because, the second-most important thing regarding the Mariners is holding onto that third wild card spot. That means we avoid the aforementioned Blue Jays and Rays in the wild card round, plus we avoid the Astros in the ALDS (if we are to make it that far). A 3-game road trip to Cleveland is absolutely my top choice for the Mariners. And, losing 3 of 4 to the Angels went pretty far towards reaching that goal.

I will say this was a fairly ugly series, for numerous reasons. The pitching shit the bed on Friday, with Robbie Ray giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. Matt Festa followed by giving up a 3-run home run in the sixth to really put us away. The offense somehow managed to claw its way back (thanks to homers by Julio and France, and two homers by Carlos Santana), but ultimately we didn’t have enough, and lost 8-7.

Then, the hitting went to sleep for a couple games. That’s not too surprising when you factor in the injuries to Suarez (who hit the IL after getting hit on the hand with a pitch on Friday), Julio (who has yet to hit the IL, after tweaking his back in batting practice), Haniger (who did … something; maybe fielding for a ball?), Raleigh (who has a left thumb/hand injury from sliding into a base), and Ty France (who is allegedly dealing with a nagging something or other, and is playing through it in spite of his struggles at the plate). The only “good” injury news – if you want to call it that – is the fact that Dylan Moore returned from the IL, to help mitigate some of this damage.

Anyway, on Saturday we lost 2-1. Ohtani went 7 shutout innings. Kirby gave up 2 runs in 6 innings. Trammell homered against their bullpen, but that was it.

We lost 5-1 on Sunday, with Marco having one of those Bad Marco days, giving up 5 runs in 6.1 innings. Not a lot of positives to hang our hat on here.

In the rare 4th game of a series landing on a Monday, we salvaged one on the back of Logan Gilbert going 6 innings, giving up 1 run while striking out 11. It’s in the running for most dominant outing of his career, that’s for sure. And, it came with a relatively soft landing, as the bats decided to wake up again. France hit an RBI double in the first, Santana hit a grand slam in the fifth, France hit a 3-run bomb in the seventh, and Santana added a solo homer in the ninth (all adding up to a 9-1 victory). It’s been cool to see Santana get hot at exactly the right time, with France and Haniger starting to find their swings again.

The hope is for Julio to return sometime this week. But, we’ll see about Raleigh, and obviously Suarez is a HUGE concern (since he’d been red-fucking-hot over the last month or so). At this point, I think we’d be thrilled if Suarez is back by the playoffs, but you have to worry about his health at that point; will he be able to return to form? Or, will this injury essentially wipe out his season with ineffectiveness, even if he does return to the field? I think it’s safe to say the Mariners need EVERYONE to be healthy and producing, if we want to make some noise in the playoffs. If we lose any vital cogs, it’s going to decimate our chances.

The road trip concludes with three in Oakland, followed by three in Kansas City. Now is not the time to go on a massive winning streak, although I don’t know if it can be helped. Those teams are SO BAD and our pitching is still really damn good. Then, we’re home for 10 games in 9 days against Texas, Oakland, and Detroit. Ditto there. Here’s to everyone getting healthy over the next couple weeks, but also here’s to the team finishing with the third wild card spot. We deserve it!

The Mariners Had A Very Enjoyable Sweep Over The Angels

In their first series down in Anaheim since The Brawl TM, the Mariners did what they needed to do: took care of business against an inferior opponent, who also just so happens to be lacking one Mike Trout, Mariner Killer TM. It was a sight to behold!

Things looked a little dicey in the first game, and I can already hear you asking how things could get dicey in a 6-2 victory. Well, for starters, the game was 2-2 heading into the ninth, before the Mariners rattled off four unearned runs (thanks to some laughable – to say the least – Angels defense). It was yet another monster pitching matchup; what did Luis Castillo do to deserve going Gerrit Cole-Gerrit Cole-Shohei Ohtani in his first three Mariners starts?!

This one wasn’t quite as dominant for Castillo, but it was still pretty fucking good. He pitched Ohtani to a draw through six innings, and with our bullpen, I’ll take that all day. The offenses touched up both pitchers just a hair – as each gave up 2 runs – with Winker hitting a solo bomb in the first, and scoring on a Crawford single in the third. I will say that not only is it great to have a dominant guy like Castillo, but it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone so regularly go beyond 100 pitches in his starts. I’m used to being that Cinderella-esque magic number where starting pitchers turn back into pumpkins, but Castillo seems to be one of the few in all of Major League Baseball who is sort of bucking that trend.

As one might expect, the Mariners’ bullpen was rock solid through the final three frames. But, we did bring our A-Squad just to make sure: Castillo, Munoz, and Sewald. The Angels had … less than.

Cal Raleigh led off the ninth with a groundout. Sam Haggerty followed with a single. He ended up on second base after a ball got away from the catcher, who blindly threw it into the outfield (thinking Haggerty was going to run, when he initially wasn’t). Then, Haggerty swiped third base with relative ease. Carlos Santana walked and Dylan Moore ran for him. That brought up Julio Rodriguez who lined a screamer up the middle that hit and bounced off the glove of the Angels’ second baseman. Haggerty was initially caught in a run-down, but no one from the Angels opted to cover home, so we got not only a free run out of the deal, but Moore made it all the way to third base, and J-Rod was safe at first. If that wasn’t enough insanity, Ty France followed with a grounder to the short stop. Once again, the runner at third (Moore) was running on contact. He should’ve been dead to rights at home, except the ball got knocked out of the catcher’s glove and everybody was safe (with J-Rod at third and France at second). Winker followed with a simple RBI groundout, then Haniger was intentionally walked. J.P. Crawford knocked an RBI single into the outfield to give the game its final score.

It was the perfect storm of Mariners speed being pesky, a lefty reliever with very hittable stuff, and manager incompetence leaving him out there about four batters too long. Phil Nevin, don’t listen to anyone who says anything to the contrary, we’re going to miss you when you’re gone.

If you thought 4 unearned runs in the ninth was cool, stick around for Tuesday’s game and our 5 earned runs in the ninth!

There’s nothing quite like going back-to-back with Castillo, then Ray. Ray went 6 innings, gave up 2 runs, and struck out 10. He left the game with a 3-2 lead, which of course, the bullpen carried the rest of the way. Let’s just get to that ninth inning straight away, because it was so good!

A Suarez walk was sandwiched between two outs before things got going. New backup catcher Casali singled to keep things going. Then, Adam Frazier ripped a triple down the right field line to make it 5-2. Haggerty singled to make it 6-2. And Julio homered to the opposite field to make it 8-2. That’s some efficient baseball killing right there.

Wednesday’s getaway game featured offensive firepower on both sides. Almost exclusively the top of the Angels’ lineup accounted for their 7 runs. You’d think with the way the Mariners have played throughout the year that 7 runs would be about 4 more than they needed. But, we jumped on ’em early and kept playing add-on to win it 11-7.

Cal Raleigh had 2 homers to lead all baseball catchers in homers (18 on the year and counting). Suarez hit his 20th bomb on the year, and Winker hit his 13th. Haniger had two hits and two runs scored, Crawford got on base four times (including 3 walks) and scored once. Santana had a 2-RBI single. Oddly enough, everyone except Julio got in on the action.

George Kirby did okay – 5.2 innings, 3 runs – and the bullpen picked the perfect game to get a little roughed up. Ohtani is as hot right now as I’ve ever seen anyone, so it’ll be good to get away from this team for a month or so. Maybe he’ll have cooled off or be shut down by the time we see them again in September.

We’re up to 65-54 on the year, and our road trip continues with three over the weekend against the lowly A’s. We’re officially the top Wild Card team at the moment, leading by three games in the win column over the Rays and Blue Jays (who are tied for the 2nd/3rd spots). Onward and upward!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File this under: Good Problem To Have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Should The Mariners Do At The Deadline?

There are three schools of thought: trade for more Major League-ready (albeit shorter-term) talent, trade away our Major League talent for more prospects, or stand pat.

The Stand Pat option is the least-satisfying one, not to mention pretty psychologically damaging to the mental well-being of the players and coaches in that clubhouse (not to mention to us as fans). While I’m sure they’re very confident in each other and their own abilities, even the biggest World Series contenders could always use a little help in some key areas. That being said, the Stand Pat option also might not be the worst one of the three, though I couldn’t possibly advocate for it here.

You only get so many bites at the apple, as they say. If you’re not doing everything in your power to take advantage of the opportunity your strong play has created, then you’re just not doing your job as a General Manager. This is especially true in baseball, since it’s so damn wonky.

Maybe I’m just spoiled by following the Seahawks, but it seems like in the NFL – as long as you have a top tier franchise quarterback – you’re always going to be in contention for a playoff spot. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything when it comes to making the Super Bowl – you need so many things to go right for that to happen – but you frequently see teams with quality quarterbacks go on hot streaks at just the right time.

With baseball, I think you see teams catch fire in the playoffs even more often; the key is simply getting there. What do we remember about the Mariners from 1995-2003? A lot of good, right? All of our post-season appearances took place in this period of time. But, in those 9 seasons, we actually made the playoffs only 4 times (heartbreakingly, we won 93 games in 2002 and 2003, yet failed to reach the post-season). What happened those other five years?

Well, we obviously had the talented core to put up a lot of great stats, and win a lot of ballgames, but we failed in our charge to add to the team when the playoffs were within our grasp. The Pat Gillick years were unmatched in our level of on-field success. But, there’s a reason why he was derisively called Stand Pat. Because more often than not, he did nothing when he should have done something; and the few times he went and made a move, it ended up being the wrong one (hello: Al Martin).

There’s a part of me that sees the level of talent we’ve been able to draft and trade for in recent years, and wants to continue on this course where we have a young, cheap core of players for the next decade. But, there’s absolutely no guarantee that any of the guys in the minors right now will amount to a hill of beans in the majors. Meanwhile, we’ve got some pretty good ones in the bigs right now who need some help around them, if we want to make a dent in the playoffs.

The Mariners are 51-42, right in the thick of the Wild Card hunt. Not just in the hunt, but IN the playoffs, if the season ended today. Our current playoff odds place us at 80% to make it; I couldn’t possibly tell you the last time it was that high! Probably 2003.

As such, it makes zero sense to ship off our veterans for more prospects. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I could see maybe one or two veterans getting moved. But, that would almost certainly be in conjunction with bringing in other veterans to take their place. Maybe we find a taker for Adam Frazier; he is an unrestricted free agent next year, after all. But, if we do that, that would probably be because we’ve found a replacement at second base who looks a little more promising, either for the remainder of this year, or hopefully for the next year or two. Maybe we package Jesse Winker with some prospects to help bring in a high-falutin’ outfielder who’s a little less volatile at the plate. Maybe we flip Carlos Santana – now that we’re confident Ty France is healthy – and would rather save the DH spot for Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger, to bring them back more slowly when they return.

Really, what needs to happen is what I’ve been alluding to all along: the Mariners need to do (almost) whatever it takes to improve the Major League ballclub, whether or not it’s a combination of veterans and prospects. And, at this point, I don’t think you can afford to leave any stone unturned.

There are obvious guys you don’t deal. You have to keep Julio and Cal. You’re probably locked into J.P. and Suarez given their contracts. And I really don’t think Haniger or France are going anywhere (especially Hangier, given he’s more valuable to your team than he would be on the trade market). On the pitching side of things, Robbie and Marco aren’t going anywhere. You’d probably be idiotic to trade Gilbert, Kirby, or Munoz. And there might literally be a mutiny if you trade Sewald.

But, as far as minor league prospects are concerned, or anyone else on the Major League roster I haven’t mentioned, I think they’re fair game. Now, obviously, this is where Jarred Kelenic comes into question. I don’t think he’s totally fallen off the map when it comes to prospect status – he could still very well turn into a great Major Leaguer. But, there’s no question that his value has taken a significant hit. This is the second consecutive year since he was called up to the bigs where he’s had to spend a good portion of the season in Tacoma. He’s got massive holes in his swing, on top of confidence issues that have left him endlessly tinkering with his approach. Before the 2021 season, you could’ve asked for the moon and stars when it came to a potential Kelenic deal; now, he’d be little more than thrown into a package of prospects to bring in a quality Major Leaguer. It would be Kelenic plus 2-3 other high-level prospects to bring in an All Star.

So, would I do that? It depends on the All Star. I’d love to lock down another premium spot on the field that we’re currently filling with a replacement-level guy. Maybe a corner outfield spot, maybe second base. I would need that guy to come with a big bat that’s not going to falter in T-Mobile Park, nor require a platoon because his splits are so stark.

The question on everyone’s mind is Juan Soto, who apparently rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension with the Nationals. He’s under team control through 2024. If he’s turning down THAT deal, then what are we looking at? He’s already earning over $17 million in his first Arb year this year. So, not only are you paying an arm and a leg over the next two years, but you’re probably giving him the biggest contract in Major League history to stay here long term. How do you get that done, and then turn around and extend Julio Rodriguez (who, I would argue, is the higher of the two priorities, in this hypothetical scenario where Soto gets traded to the Mariners)?

Do you just pull the trigger and let the chips fall where they may, hoping you win it all at some point between now and 2024? Do you pull the trigger, give it a couple years, and then maybe trade Soto at some point in 2024 to try to recoup? Do you try to pay both him and J-Rod and just pray you have enough pieces making the minimum around them to continue contending for the playoffs?

Half measures are a great way to win nothing, both in the short and long term. Trading for Soto would be anything BUT a half measure. However, is he enough? It seems to me, you make a Soto deal when you need that final piece to the puzzle (or, if you’re looking for a boost and a superstar to build around). The Mariners have their superstar to build around in Julio. We’re also more than one piece away from World Series contention. If we’re going to drastically trade off prospects to bolster the Major League roster, then I’d like to see them go to other areas of need.

I’d love to trade for another ace-level pitcher, for instance. What does Ray, Gilbert, and Ace 3 look like, when surrouned by Marco, Kirby, and Flexen as a 6th guy/long reliever type? Pretty great, right? Maybe add another reliever or two who throw in the upper 90s with filthy breaking stuff? Can’t have enough relievers! And, I think you can get away with middling another bat, either as an outfield platoon/insurance, or as a starting second baseman, to spare us the combo of Frazier/Toro/Moore.

If we can do that, while not completely decimating our minor league system – to save some prospects for next year and beyond, either to bolster our Major League roster, or to trade for more help – then I think I’ll be happy with the effort put forth to contend in 2022.

I already believe this is going to be a playoff team, barring more injuries. It’s not unfathomable that this could be a team that makes some noise in the post-season. With the right collection of players, and a good amount of injury luck, we might even make the World Series for the first time!