The Mariners Struggled In Miami

With the NFL Draft happening over the weekend, I was a little preoccupied when it came to following the Mariners. When I was at home, they were relegated to the Little TV. And, as usual for a weekend, I wasn’t at home very much, at least when the M’s were playing.

I was looking forward to the Friday matchup against the Marlins, simply because Matt Brash was on the hill. However, he just didn’t have it, which is understandable since he’s a rookie. 2 innings, 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, with only 3 strikeouts. Festa, Mills, and newcomer Penn Murfee eached pitched 2 innings – giving up another 2 total runs in the process – but the end result was an 8-6 defeat.

Luis Torrens had a 3-run double in the top of the second to take a brief 3-2 lead, but we were playing catch-up from there. The 9th inning rally was fun while it lasted – RBI double from Kelenic, sac fly from Torrens, and RBI single by Frazier – but ultimately not enough. J-Rod and J.P. Crawford each had multi-hit games.

Saturday’s 3-1 loss was a real missed opportunity. Robbie Ray was on the hill and he was dealing through four, but gave up 3 runs in the fifth and that was that. The offense was a Dylan Moore solo homer in the third; Winker and Crawford had the four other hits for the team.

Thankfully, we were able to salvage a 7-3 victory on Sunday to get one back. Logan Gilbert did more Logan Gilbert things, going 5.2 innings, finally giving up another earned run in the sixth, but was otherwise pretty unhittable (giving up just the 3, though he did walk 4 more). The bullpen was adequate from there, but thankfully the offense played add-on to keep this game out of reach.

J.P. Crawford had a solo homer in the second (he’s hitting an insane .372/.462/.628 so far this year), Toro had an RBI single in the fourth, and Julio Rodriguez had three hits on the day, including a 3-run homer in the sixth (the first homer of his career; he’s up to a slash line of .234/.306/.325, which is encouraging given his age and experience level, especially compared to Evan White, Jarred Kelenic, and Cal Raleigh). Even Jesse Winker got in on the action, with a 2-run single in the ninth (he’s SO CLOSE to the Mendoza Line, he can taste it).

With that series, the Mariners dropped to 12-10 and in second place in the A.L. West (behind a red-hot Angels team, who – after the weekend – were 15-8). There’s three more games on this road trip, in Houston, before returning home on Thursday for a 4-game set against the Rays (and then no more games against the Rays for the rest of this regular season). I’m glad this Florida part of our season is ending, because our opponents weren’t too kind to us. Let’s hope we have Houston’s number, though, because they’re a far more pressing concern this year.

What Is Evan White’s Future With The Mariners?

I never feel comfortable when there’s anything even remotely resembling an albatross contract on the Mariners’ roster. Whether it’s fair or not, the Mariners are notorious for being a penny-pinching organization. Personally, I don’t think that’s totally accurate. I think, yeah, in the pre-2000’s you could definitely make that argument. But, I think what’s more applicable is that the Mariners are a half-assing organization.

They’re not the A’s. They’re not the Rays. They’re not the Royals or Pirates or Reds. But, they’re also never going to be the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers. They’re never going to go All In. They’re never going to approach the salary cap luxury tax threshold. If things look good and there’s an opportunity to improve incrementally, the M’s might leap into the outskirts of the Top 10 in payroll. But, they’re never going to be in the Top 5 or Top 3.

The highest the Mariners have ever ranked is 7th in payroll, in 2007, when they were rewarded with a 2nd place finish in the division and no playoff berth. I remember vividly the 2008 season – when the M’s increased payroll by over $11 million – and lost 101 games for their troubles. In spite of the increase, they were 9th in payroll that year, and yet they took a significant bath as a result.

Ever since then, it seems like the Mariners have hedged every single one of their bets. Never going all in. Never taking advantage of free agents who might be had for a few extra million dollars. Never making a push to build around King Felix and the like. Content to spend just enough to make it look like they were kinda-sorta trying, while never going back into the red in any individual year (like 2008) ever again.

The M’s bottomed out in payroll in 2020, but it was for a reason. And, yeah, that reason had a lot to do with COVID. Without fans in the stadium, you can’t be going hog wild with player salaries and expect to turn a profit. BUT, the more prevailing purpose was The Rebuild. I can forgive them for spending less than $50 million that year, because I knew we were giving the young players an opportunity to gain experience (that is, the ones who weren’t languishing in Tacoma playing practice games against themselves). We dropped to 21st in payroll that year, and then 25th in payroll in 2021 (though overall, our total increased by $16 million year over year). Fine. Whatever. The kids got a chance to play, and our results actually improved.

It looks like The Rebuild is on the right track. But, I would still argue these are the Half-Ass Mariners. How do I know that? Because we saved all this money over the last two years, and stopped short of going over the top in our spending this offseason. Is there a method to our madness? Maybe. Or, maybe the Mariners will be rewarded for their cheapness in spite of themselves, when the likes of Matt Brash and/or George Kirby prove they’re ready this year to make the leap. If they’re not ready, though, we’ll know who to blame. Half of the ass of the Mariners organization is willing to spend, but it’s that other half that refuses to pony up the greenbacks.

And, it’s difficult to see the M’s spending more money to get out from under poor contracts already on the books. The way things are going with Evan White, it looks like the deal we once lauded as filled with foresight and creativity is soon going to be a weight around our collective necks.

White has guarantees through 2025. The final two years of his deal, he’s slated to earn a total of $15 million (plus another $2 million as a buy-out, assuming we won’t want to keep him on for even more money in 2026, 2027, and 2028). $15 million over two years isn’t a huge deal – especially when we expect the money flowing into Major League Baseball to only expand over the years – but it’s not insignificant when he’s doing absolutely nothing to earn his keep.

Evan White, so far, is kind of a bust. I say “kind of” only because he does have that Gold Glove on his ledger. But, what good is that gold glove when he’s been usurped of his primary position by Ty France? He already can’t hit, and now he’s gotta try to learn to play defense on another part of the field?

Now you can tack on his 2021 season being decimated by a hip injury, followed by a sports hernia taking out a significant portion of his 2022. Every sports hernia I remember happening to a member of the Mariners has been a real nut-buster (and not in a good way). Hernias, oblique injuries, they seem to be to position players what the elbow and shoulder injuries are to pitchers, in that they always take a lot longer to recover from than anyone expects. By “recover”, I mean return to pre-injury form. Lots of guys can return on the expected timetables set by doctors, but they return as shells of their former selves, taking precious weeks and months to finally get back to normal. I don’t expect Evan White to be back to normal in 6-8 weeks. I think we’ll be lucky to see him in any sort of productive capacity before 2023; I’m writing off this whole year for him until he proves me wrong.

He’s still earning a reasonable salary for a guy giving us nothing ($1.4 million), but that jumps to $3 million in 2023, before taking the aforementioned leaps in 2024 and 2025. Coming off of two major injuries, on top of his bat being atrocious at the Major League level, while also being blocked at his best defensive position, and we’re talking about a guy with no trade value whatsoever. Everyone knows the Mariners would be elated to be rid of Evan White, but all he is right now is a salary dump to be attached to a more shiny prospect.

Failing that, then we’ve got to figure out how to get him healthy and make him work as a bench bat or an injury replacement. He’s hoping – once he’s healthy enough to play – that Ty France goes down so he can get a shot in the everyday lineup again. But, if that happens, it’s going to be a huge blow to the Mariners’ chances at making the post-season.

It’s all bad news surrounding Evan White right now. My hunch is, ultimately, there IS no future for Evan White in a Mariners uniform.

Ranking The Trustworthiness Of The Mariners, Part 2: The Non-Pitchers

Check out what I wrote about the pitchers HERE.

Now, we’ve got the position players. There were 21 pitchers on the 40-man roster, which means we have 19 players listed below. Right away, it’s a less-pleasing number – impossible to equally divide into three separate categories – and as it turns out, I can’t even come all that close to making an equal three-way split anyway. The majority of the players you’ll find below are in that medium-trustworthy category. If things break right and the Mariners are once again contending for a playoff spot in 2022, it’ll be because a high percentage of these 50/50 guys bust out and are productive regular players. If the Mariners regress away from their 90-win 2021 season, it’ll be because a high percentage of these 50/50 guys shit the bed. But, first, let’s get the bad players out of the way.

No: The Least-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#19 – Alberto Rodriguez

Everything I know about this guy, I learned from this link. Given his level of experience, I think there’s an extremely low chance that he plays for the Mariners this year. That being said, it does seem like his potential is higher than some of the players you’ll see ranked ahead of him in this post.

#18 – Jose Godoy

We’re talking about the fourth catcher on the 40-man roster (technically the third, I guess, if we assume Luis Torrens has played his last game behind the plate); this guy is injury depth and that’s it. Expect him to play the vast majority of his games in Tacoma. If he’s in Seattle for any length of time at all, something has gone seriously FUBAR.

#17 – Donovan Walton

He’s a 28 year old utility player; he stinks.

#16 – Kevin Padlo

He’s another white utility player; the only reason he’s ranked ahead of Walton is that he’s three years younger. Having less experience is a drawback, but that just means maybe there’s potential there for him to surprise us.

#15 – Taylor Trammell

2021 was his first year scraping the Big Leagues and he had every opportunity at the beginning of the season to lock down a starting outfield job. He failed. He showed a little more pop than expected, but his average was abysmal. Figure he’s another trade fodder candidate.

#14 – Evan White

For someone who has been as bad as he has through the first two years of his Major League career, it’s shocking he ranks as high as he does. But, his sub-par rookie season in 2020, followed by his sub-par and injury-plagued 2021, has cost him his starting first base job. I don’t know what’s in store for his career, but for someone who signed an early guaranteed-money contract – buying out his Arbitration Years – his Mariners future is cloudy at best.

Maybe?: The Medium-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#13 – Tom Murphy

I don’t know what happened. He had such a relatively strong 2019 season, was slated to be our starter in 2020 (but got injured), then was our starter in 2021 but totally faceplanted. He eventually lost his job to a rookie and that was that. I don’t know how he’s still here, but there’s a reason why he’s a bubble guy for me when it comes to trustworthiness. The only notch in his favor is his veteran leadership. Also the fact that he’s projected to be our backup catcher in 2022; maybe reduced usage will help his overall output? I don’t have high hopes.

#12 – Cal Raleigh

It’s funny how secure I was in our catching position heading into 2021, only to see these guys be the biggest question mark heading into 2022. Raleigh had a rough rookie campaign last year, but pretty much any experience is good experience. He handled the pitching staff well, played adequate defense, and at least flashed some potential at the plate. I don’t think he was rushed into the Majors too early, but we’ll see. It wouldn’t shock me to see him return to Tacoma for a spell in 2022, but my hope is he’ll be playing better in September than he does in April.

#11 – Dylan Moore

Moore was one of our best and most surprising players in 2020, which makes his 2021 output that much more devastating. Initially, he was just a utility guy (and a bad one at that), then he turned himself into a starting second baseman; now he’s back to being a utility guy (and a bubble one at that). I don’t know if he’s long for the Mariners; we seem to have a logjam of utility guys. 2022 is really Now or Never for him.

#10 – Jake Fraley

Depending on health, Fraley might start out the season as a starting outfielder, but I don’t expect that to last. His saving grace in 2021 was his quality eye at the plate, and the slightly improved pop in his bat. But, his average was pitifully low, and his walk rate declined the more he played. He seems like a fourth outfielder at best, and is almost certainly another trade fodder candidate. He’s keeping a roster spot warm for another guy coming up later on this list.

#9 – Julio Rodriguez

This guy! Our very best minor league prospect and someone who is a consensus Future Superstar by pretty much every minor league scout. Think Kelenic last year, only with a higher all-around upside; I would expect him to have a starting job by early May, if not sooner. But, of course, that doesn’t mean he’s destined to be elite from the jump; again, think Kelenic last year. He’ll have ups and downs. He’s rated as highly as he is, though, because it’s believed he’ll have fewer downs than Kelenic, which is absolutely thrilling to me.

#8 – Kyle Lewis

Our 2020 Rookie of the Year is a bit of a tragic injury case. Last year, he suffered the second major right knee injury of his relatively brief professional career. When he’s healthy, he’s pretty great! He would be a fantastic outfield starter for us right this very minute if he can stay upright. As it is, he might just be trade bait, or a tale of woe of what might’ve been.

#7 – Abraham Toro

I don’t really have a great idea of what the Mariners have planned for Toro. He was a significant trade target at the deadline last year, and slotted in as a starting second baseman right away. He was pretty good, but the power wasn’t there, and he sort of faded down the stretch. He doesn’t play the outfield, and there are two holes on the infield – second and third base – one of which is going to be filled by Adam Frazier. There’s lots of speculation that the M’s will go out and acquire another starting infielder, which would make Toro’s place on the 40-man redundant. Is he another trade guy? Or do the M’s believe in him more than the rest of us? I do think he has starting potential – and I’d be interested in seeing what becomes of him – but if he’s handed a starting job (and a spot in the top half of the lineup) and the Mariners fail to make the playoffs, I think we’ll be pointing a finger at Toro as a big reason why. On the flipside, if he hits, then he’s a relatively inexpensive star on a young, up-and-coming team for the next few years!

#6 – Jarred Kelenic

I still believe in Kelenic, but I can’t put him in the top tier on this roster just yet until I see him perform at a high level consistently. He has the potential, he has the drive, he just needs to put it all together at the plate. It’ll happen, but his real breakout year might not be until 2023.

Yes: The Most-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#5 – Luis Torrens

Look, if this seems too high to you, just know that I hear you. I get it. Torrens over Kelenic is going to look MIGHTY dumb sooner rather than later. But, Torrens – when they gave up on him being a catcher and made him a full-time DH – vastly improved as a hitter. He was bottoming out early in 2021 and spent a spell in Tacoma, but upon his return he was nails. I don’t think the M’s can afford to have a full-time DH on their roster – they like to give guys days off by playing DH – but as a regular hitter and an emergency catcher, I like what they have in Torrens. I also think they can build his value up to be another trade candiate if the right deal comes along. His power – especially to the opposite field – is something that’s rare in this game today.

#4 – Adam Frazier

He just seems like a steady veteran presence. Someone who will start for us at second, play everyday, and hit for a reasonably high average. Also, his eye at the plate will keep his value up there on this team. On a good team, with 7 or 8 quality hitters, I think Frazier is a key glue guy. But, if we’ve only got 3 or 4 quality hitters – and Frazier is one of them – I think there will be offensive woes beyond our comprehension. Here’s hoping others step up around him.

#3 – Mitch Haniger

He’s probably the best all-around hitter and player on this team, but he gets dinged for his injury history. He made it through 2021 unscathed, which might give you solace, but actually has me on high alert. That means he’s due for a major injury! I hope that’s not the case, because he’s a really good guy – and a really good player when he’s healthy. The Mariners need Haniger to lead the way if we’re going to make the playoffs in 2022.

#2 – Ty France

Hands down probably the best pure hitter on this team. He’s also not too shabby defensively at first base. I know that’s supposed to be Evan White’s job, but France’s effectiveness dwindles when you make him play elsewhere on the field. It’s easier to try to move White around, while occasionally giving White a spot start at first when France DH’s.

#1 – J.P. Crawford

With Seager retired, Crawford is the unquestioned leader of this team (or, at least up there with Haniger). He’s one of the best defensive short stops in the game, and he’s turned himself into a pretty effective hitter at the top of the lineup. Given how hard he works, and his natural ability, I expect him to be a plus Major Leaguer for the foreseeable future. There’s no one I trust more on this team, to get a big hit, or make a big play defensively. All around stud.

The Mariners Bought Out The Arbitration Years Of Andrés Muñoz

The Mariners have done nothing but make unexpected moves this offseason, starting with the deal for Adam Frazier, and the signing of Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray. I would put this deal with Muñoz in the same camp.

Andrés Muñoz is yet another guy we got in the Austin Nola deal with the Padres. It’s so completely unbelievable how well off we made out on that trade, I almost never want to talk about it again! Ty France alone would’ve made it a win for our side. But, Luis Torrens has been a consistent contributor, Taylor Trammell looks like he’ll be a valuable trade piece at some point, and now Muñoz is apparently slotted to be a major back-end of the bullpen piece for years to come.

It’s 4 years, $7.5 million, not a shockingly-high figure. This Lookout Landing piece gives a lot of great information as to why this could be a good deal for the Mariners; in essence, if he pitches to the plus-side of his potential, we’ll have a bargain on our hands after two years (there are also three option years beyond the regular contract years, that will likely be higher in salary, but if he’s still here for those years, then he’s almost certainly out-pitched expectations to an outstanding degree; I don’t expect those option years will be picked up).

Of course, if he pitches to the plus-side of his potential, we’ll have a bargain regardless, because we’re talking about less than $2 million a year for a guy who can touch 100 mph on his fastball. That will be a nice little addition to what projects to be an already-solid bullpen.

The surprising thing about this move is that the Mariners didn’t have to do this. They really only do this for players they believe in (first round draft pick Evan White comes to mind, though there might be others I’m forgetting; I know they tried with Jarred Kelenic), so it would stand to reason they believe in Muñoz. Because bullpen arms in their pre-arbitration years don’t cost a lot. Even during those arbitration years – where they’re getting raises prior to every season – it’s not like they’re breaking the bank for an MLB team. This isn’t a move they needed to make to try to save some future dollars; it might even be foolish when you consider what injury risks pitchers are, especially pitchers who throw in the triple digits.

I mean, hell, Muñoz himself is coming off of Tommy John surgery! He missed all of 2020 and almost all of 2021 (returning for our very last game, to pitch 0.2 innings). They must REALLY believe in this guy if they’re willing to get ahead of this thing.

Either that, or it’s the kind of big balls move a GM makes when he has all the power over personnel decisions. Usually, when it comes to the Mariners, this is the kind of move that backfires horribly, and is one of a long list of moves we look back on and say, “See, this guy had no idea what he was doing!”

But, if things work out, and the Mariners win it all, then this is the kind of move we might look back on and say, “See, this guy is a genius!”

I guess, more than anything, I don’t mind it. It’s only $7.5 million. For the kind of stuff this kid has, it’s worth a shot. It’s worth it even if he’s only healthy for two of those years, as long as he produces incredible results in that time. So, why not? Let’s make this bullpen a dominant force for years to come! Clearly, as was the case in 2021, a dominant bullpen can take you a long way.

Seattle Mariners Trade & Free Agent Targets For 2022

I’m gonna tell you right now, that title is misleading! Because I have zero idea who is actually available in trade or free agency across the Major League Baseball landscape. Besides, I don’t like getting into the weeds of playing fantasy baseball like that; let the more thorough and dedicated Mariners blogs try to tackle that speculative nonsense.

I’m here to talk about the holes on the Mariners, where they need to fill with outside guys vs. where they can afford to fill with prospects.

The easiest start is to look at the guys we have who we want to keep around. They are, in no particular order:

  • J.P. Crawford (SS)
  • Ty France (1B/DH/2B)
  • Abraham Toro (2B/3B)
  • Mitch Haniger (RF)
  • Jarred Kelenic (CF/LF)
  • Kyle Lewis (CF/LF)
  • Cal Raleigh (C)

Even though I’ve listed three outfielders there, and you have to figure Julio Rodriguez is going to earn a call-up at some point in 2022, I think the M’s will nevertheless seek out a veteran outfielder to throw into the mix. Meaning that I don’t see Fraley being quite so prominent a figure in that group; maybe as a reserve, but I could see him getting dealt just as easily. If we go for a high-priced free agent outfielder, we can let Haniger walk at the end of the 2022 season, or try to trade him mid-year, if things aren’t going so well in the standings. That would then open the door for J-Rod in the second half of the season and beyond. Kyle Lewis is obviously the wild card here; will he return from his knee injury? Will he ever be able to play a full season? You have to anticipate he’ll be in the mix for a good number of DH days in a best-case scenario, but I don’t think you can count on him being a full-time player until you see him prove it on the field.

The other obvious addition is either a second or third baseman. The loss of Kyle Seager is significant here, but we were always looking to improve on that spot in the lineup anyway. I expect Toro to take whatever position is left over; I’m hoping there are lots of good free agent options available. Even if we have to pull in a short stop, we should be able to slide Crawford over to second base without too much of a headache.

We also need another catcher. Tom Murphy isn’t really worth keeping around; his bat is fundamentally broken. The new guy should be a relatively good catcher who can play on a regular basis, as we still don’t know if Raleigh is our #1 just yet.

Go ahead and pencil in White and Torrens for bench spots with Fraley at the moment, though I don’t know how long that’ll last. Will Dylan Moore be back? Doubtful, but we’ll see.

Let’s look at the pitching:

  • Chris Flexen (SP)
  • Marco Gonzales (SP)
  • Logan Gilbert (SP)
  • Paul Sewald (RP)
  • Drew Steckenrider (RP)
  • Casey Sadler (RP)
  • Diego Castillo (RP)
  • Ken Giles (RP)

The Mariners need two starting pitchers, minimum. I would expect one to be a quality, top-of-the-rotation type of guy, and one maybe more of a middling veteran to eat up innings. We’ve also got three minor league prospects at the top of our farm system – Emerson Hancock, George Kirby, and Matt Brash – who are all ready to bust down the door in 2022. Brash very nearly made his debut last month, but ultimately wasn’t needed. I think it would be foolish to bank on one of those guys taking a job out of Spring Training, but I would also expect one or more of them to be called up before June to help out with injuries and whatnot. If 2022 isn’t the playoff campaign we all hope it is, then my guess is we’ll see all three of those guys get opportunities to make the rotation for 2023 and beyond.

As for the bullpen, your guess is as good as mine as to what that’ll end up being. Bullpen pieces get moved all the time. Guys get injured, guys get worse for no reason. Every time we think we have the bullpen figured out heading into a season, it seems to always blow up in our faces. But, from the looks of things, we have lots of guys in the minors who are in the mix. I would love to see a better left-handed bullpen option emerge, either from within or outside the organization.

I’m looking at two big bats (one outfield, one infield), a solid starting-calibre catcher, two starting pitchers, and a lefty reliever. Once Seager and Kikuchi are gone, we will have well below $40 million on our payroll, so there is PLENTY of room to spend. We also have assurances from ownership that the Mariners are in a position to increase spending, which you would hope would be a given, but with this organization you never can tell.

The Mariners should be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Hot Stove portion of the offseason. Does that always translate to wins on the field? As the San Diego Padres just showed us: not always. There’s reason for optimism in 2022, but I’m incapable of giving 100% blind faith over to this organization that they’ll do the right thing and make the right moves. I’ve been burned too many times; we all have.

Nevertheless, as I’ve mentioned before, I do feel an excitement level for next season that I haven’t experienced in decades! Good or bad, the 2022 Mariners will be interesting as hell.

The 2021 Seattle Mariners State Of The Young Guys

I promised to get around to talking about the young guys, and here I am delivering on that promise!

As I noted previously, there’s reason for both optimism and pessimism surrounding the immediate future of the Seattle Mariners. If we glom onto the negative, you’ve got an unsustainable offensive model where the team sucks at hitting, except for very specific points in any given ballgame where the team comes together to score JUST enough to win by a run or two. Otherwise, we’re looking at severe blowout losses that throw our run differential out of whack. Furthermore, the people doing most of the hitting are veterans, while many of the young guys struggled mightily.

I’m going to try to look on the bright side with this post, but you know me. Some of that negativity is bound to creep in.

I’ll start with a point I made in Tuesday’s post: J.P. Crawford and Ty France are far from old fogeys. Just because they’ve been around the bigs for a few years doesn’t mean they’re past their primes or anything; Crawford will be 27 in January and France is 27 now. We control Crawford through 2024 and France through 2025; I don’t care about any years beyond those right now, if I’m being honest. The “Win Forever” concept is a nice idea in theory, but let’s just get to the initial “Win” part before we start talking in terms of multiple years or decades down the line.

I would argue there’s a lot to like about the way Jarred Kelenic finished his season. Sure, his rookie season was miserable for the vast majority of it – finishing with a -1.7 WAR in 93 games – but his September/October were leaps and bounds better than the rest of his year. It can be easy to discount a late-season surge like that, but this wasn’t a guy getting a cup of coffee at the end of a losing year. This was a guy who worked through his initial struggles – largely at the Major League level – and found a breakthrough after a lot of trial and error. It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily going to start 2022 on fire and be an All Star the rest of his career, but it doesn’t rule it out either. Regardless, I would expect a huge improvement in his overall numbers next year; I don’t think we have much to worry about when it comes to Kelenic. We know, if nothing else, he’s going to continue to put in the work to be one of the greats.

I also want to talk about Logan Gilbert up top, as another young stud who should be a mainstay for a good, long while. On the whole, he made 24 starts, had a 1.0 WAR and was up and down with his production at the Major League level. But, he also saved his best and most consistent work for the final month of the season; only one game out of the final six featured him giving up more than 2 runs (and that was 4 runs against the Angels, in 5.1 innings of work). He ended up being one of our better pitchers down the stretch, in a playoff chase, which is very encouraging for his career going forward. He’s got the kind of stuff that can be dominant at the Major League level, so I’m very much looking forward to what he has to offer next year and beyond.

In the next tier down, I’d like to talk about a few guys who showed some promise, but also might end up flaming out.

There’s a lot to like about what Abraham Toro did as a Mariner, and I’ll staunchly defend that trade with the Astros anytime and anyplace. Even if he never makes it as a consistent, reliable everyday player, the idea was sound. All you can ask from your GM is to make good decisions based on the information he has available at the time, and then hope for the best that the players he brings in pan out. Toro will be 25 in December and we control him through 2025; that’s easily worth a reliever rental in my book.

On top of which, Toro made an immediate impact as soon as we acquired him! His first month on the team was outstanding, culminating in a game-winning Grand Slam against Kendall Graveman on August 31st. He scratched the surface of being a .270 hitter in that time, but did falter pretty severely down the stretch. His slash line was overall better as a Mariner than it was as an Astro, but there was a little bit of a dip in his slugging. He finished the year – across both teams – with 11 homers in 95 games, which is okay, but not amazing. He might have more left to unleash upon the game of baseball, but it kinda looks like he’s dependant upon his batting average to provide offensive value, so if his BABIP slumps, he’s going to be a pretty miserable hitter (aren’t we all?).

In a vacuum, there are two openings across the infield – at second and third base – and one of those spots needs to be filled by a quality, proven veteran who’s a middle-of-the-order type hitter. I’m okay with Toro getting one of the other spots as we head into 2022, but he’s going to need to produce more than he did in 2021 if he wants to stick around long term.

I’d also like to throw Cal Raleigh into this bin, even though he had a worse year than anyone I’ve mentioned so far. It’s hard out there for most any rookie at the Major League level; the jump from the minors is extreme and will quickly weed out those who don’t belong. I would argue it’s the hardest of all for rookie catchers, who not only have to worry about their own hitting and defense, but they have to lead an entire team full of pitchers through every ballgame they’re in.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you Raleigh will be fine. He might be a total bust! The Mariners have been calling up catchers for years now, and I’ve spent all this time expecting one of them to pan out; none of them did. Mike Zunino was as sure a bet as you’ll see as a catcher and he still managed to strike out a bazillion times. Only this year did he pull it all together as an All Star who hit 33 homers – with the Rays – and that was with a whopping .216 batting average with 132 strikeouts in 109 games. I think we all were hoping Raleigh would be better than Zunino, but I have my doubts.

A lot will be learned next year. Like Kelenic, Raleigh is an extremely hard worker and a natural leader behind the plate. If he’s able to flush his .180/.223/.309 slash line, maybe he can make strides towards being a viable starter going forward.

I’ll say a little bit about Fraley, Torrens, and Bauers: I think they’re okay, but I don’t think any of them are starters. Torrens is a likely trade candidate – since he can catch and play first base – and Fraley feels like a reserve/fourth outfielder on a good team. Bauers has all the tools – and apparently puts on a great batting practice show with his bat – but he’s yet to really put it all together; it felt like a lot of his hits were lucky bloops and dribblers that narrowly evaded opposing gloves.

There aren’t a lot of promising young pitchers at the Major League level, but I’ll talk about a couple of relievers here. Yohan Ramirez took what seemed like a significant step forward in 2021 over his 2020 season. In 2020, he was mostly put into losing games and blowouts; in 2021, that largely continued, but he was also put into some high-leverage situations and came out okay! The team is trying to harness his stuff, as he’s got a great splitter to strike guys out, but he can be wild at times and get behind in the count. I’m curious to see if he can continue to get better.

Andres Munoz is a guy who can throw triple-digits; he got the shortest cup of coffee at the end of the year, playing in Game 162. But, he’ll be 23 in January, and we control him through 2025, so hopefully he can parlay that confidence boost into a great Spring Training.

There are, of course, young pitchers in the minors we’ve still got to look forward to; I’ll save my breath on them until we know what the 2022 roster looks like, as I expect to see multiple veteran starters brought in to round out the rotation (though our bullpen looks largely set with in-house guys).

You can’t talk about the young guys with promise without throwing 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis into the mix. He was injured for most of 2021 – the same knee he tore back as an A-ball player – and his long-term prospects appear to be dwindling. It’s not great that he tried to rehab the knee without surgery, only to have a late-season setback that cost him the rest of the year. It’s going to be super frustrating if he does need surgery, causing him to miss 2022 as well.

There’s no denying his talent when he’s healthy, but Kyle Lewis gets tossed onto the Maybe Pile when it comes to talking about future mainstays on the Mariners.

Which is more than you can say about guys like Evan White, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn. I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen there. White sucked in 2020 as a rookie, then played in only 30 games before going down with a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. In those 30 games, he also sucked. His defense is, of course, elite, but at this point so is France’s. White’s bat just doesn’t play at this level, even a little bit. He’s got power, but misses balls too consistently. And he’s not even a cost-effective prospect since we signed him to that 6-year, $24 million deal before he even played a single Major League game! He made a combined $2.6 million for his last two worthless seasons, is set to earn $1.4 million in 2022, then that figure jumps to $3 million in 2023 and $7 million and $8 million in 2024 and 2025. What do you do with that? If France sniped his job at first base, do you try to trade White? What do you get for a guy with that kind of contract, who can’t hit? Do you try to move him to a different defensive position; make him a super-sub?

As for Sheffield and Dunn, I’ve lost all faith in them ever panning out. They just don’t have the stuff to be good or consistent at this level.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, there are lots of prospects in the minor leagues to pull from in the next year or two. The State of the Young Guys is pretty strong for the Mariners, with one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Here’s to hoping we trade away the duds and manage to hang onto the superstars!

The Mariners Still Have A Few Tricks Up Their Sleeves, Swept The Rangers

I spent the better part of Memorial Day weekend camping, with very limited access to Twitter or anything else. As a result, I missed the festivities, so let’s go through this 4-game series against the Rangers together, shall we?

The first game was last Thursday, which I probably saw at least some of, but for the life of me can’t remember. It was a 5-0 victory. Chris Flexen had 7 shutout innings. Oh, that’s right, Tom Murphy and *checks notes* Jacob Nottingham both had homers. I definitely saw those. Also Jack Mayfield had a 2-RBI double and Mitch Haniger closed it out with an RBI single. Pretty impressive victory all around, but also these are the Rangers, and that’s what you’re supposed to do to the Rangers.

On Friday, the M’s won 3-2 behind some phenomenal bullpen work. Justus Sheffield was just good enough (5 innings, 2 runs), but far from great. Erik Swanson came through in the clutch with the 4-out save, though he promptly was placed on the IL this weekend with a groin strain, so hopefully that won’t linger too long. Kyle Lewis had a 2-run homer and Ty France continued his hit parade since returning from the IL.

Saturday was another 3-2 Mariners victory, this time behind a solid outing from Justin Dunn (5.2 innings, 1 run, 2 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts). J.P. Crawford and Mitch Haniger both homered, and replacement catcher Jose Godoy knocked in the first run of the game on a single.

For the Sunday finale, the Mariners gave themselves a little extra insurance in a 4-2 victory. Yusei Kikuchi continued his great season, with 6.2 innings of 2-run ball. Ty France and Kyle Seager both had multi-hit games (including a late solo homer for Seager) to lead the way offensively.

This was a pretty impressive little series for the Mariners. They pulled themselves back to .500 on the season, which is nice to see after that long drought in mid-May. I know it’s only the Rangers, but the Tigers were only the Tigers and look at what happened there.

We’re still not getting a ton from the offense, obviously, and you wonder how the pitching staff is going to hold up – particularly the bullpen – with so many injuries and so many high-leverage situations to have to pitch through. The bottom of the lineup doesn’t figure to improve all that much, and there really doesn’t look like much offensive help on the horizon. It would be nice if Jarred Kelenic started hitting sooner rather than later; I think it was reasonable to expect him to struggle for the first couple weeks or so, but not THIS much, and not for THIS long. We’re through three weeks now, and I’ll NEVER understand why he was put first in the batting order from day one.

I’ll be curious to see what the next four months bring, because clearly things aren’t going quite as planned. The winning is nice and everything, but we seem to be relying largely upon veterans and guys who might not necessarily figure into the team’s long-term plans. Haniger, Seager, and France are still producing the bulk of the offense. Kelenic is struggling, Crawford is streaky, and White is still on the IL (with Kyle Lewis joining him, it would seem). I like what we’re seeing from Kikuchi, Flexen, and Dunn (for the most part), but Sheffield remains a mystery.

All in all, a pretty odd first couple months of the season.

The Mariners’ Hitting Is Fucking Atrocious

Welp, the Mariners were no-hit. Again. They have a team batting average of .198 on the season, easily dead last in all of baseball (that’s including worse than the entire National League, which regularly has pitchers bat where a Designated Hitter would be more appropriate). They have an on-base percentage of .279 on the season, easily dead last in all of baseball (that’s in spite of the fact that their organizational motto is to Control The Zone or Dominate The Zone or whatever the fuck is supposed to boil down to: swing at pitches inside the strike zone, don’t swing at pitches outside the strike zone). They have an OPS of .639 (dead last in all of baseball), they’re 22nd in runs scored, they’re tied for 8th in most times striking out, I’m sure I could go on and on, but I don’t have the time nor the patience to get into the weeds of all the advanced analytics.

The long and the short of it is what’s right there in the headline: the offense is fucking atrocious.

Sam Haggerty is practically an everyday player at this point, thanks to the litany of injuries the M’s have suffered; he’s hitting .185.

Jarred Kelenic isn’t yet the savior we kinda sorta expected him to be right out of the gate; he’s 5 for 28 to start his Major League career.

Luis Torrens was supposed to be one-half of a dynamic catching duo that was supposed to be the LEAST of our worries. He’s hitting .178 and was just demoted to the Rainiers because not only does he stink with the bat, but he’s also among the worst with his glove. Tom Murphy, meanwhile, is somehow even more God-awful at the plate, hitting .130, but he’s too much of a veteran to send to the minors.

Dylan Moore was just put on the IL; he was starting to come around, and yet his start was so poor he’s only hitting .168.

Taylor Trammell was demoted when we called up Kelenic; he’s been tearing the cover off the ball in Tacoma, but he was only hitting .157 in Seattle.

Evan White is on the IL for God knows how long; his miserable start to 2021 saw him hitting .144.

Jose Marmolejos was just DFA’d because he SUUUUUUCKS at literally everything; he was hitting .139.

Jake Fraley is on a rehab assignment for his IL stint; he was hitting a cool .100 in his 5 games to start the season.

And those are just the guys hitting UNDER .200. Not counting the recent call-ups who aren’t even worth mentioning because the expectations for these players are less than nothing.

If you want to delve into the semi-productive disappointments, there’s Ty France – who hasn’t been the same since he took a fastball off of his forearm, and who currently finds himself on the IL – whose average has dipped to .229. There’s Kyle Lewis – whose first month of the season found him largely on the IL – who is hitting .239. There’s the inherently streaky J.P. Crawford who’s hitting a robust .247. Even our very best and most productive hitters – Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger – are only hitting .224 and .256 respectively. Obviously, batting average isn’t really the best indicator of a hitter’s productivity, and can largely be dependant upon luck on balls hit in play. But, when the team is collectively hitting under .200, I don’t give a flying piece of shit what sabermetrics you give me. THESE GUYS ARE ALL OF THEM FUCKING TERRIBLE!

The Detroit Tigers have the third-worst record in all of baseball. They have the VERY worst run differential (-57) in all of baseball. And yet, they just came into Seattle and swept the Mariners in a 3-game series, including the aforementioned no-hitter (the second time the M’s have been no-hit this season, that’s a little over a quarter of the way completed). I will not be going game-by-game on this series, because what’s the fucking point? It was an unmitigated embarrassment from the top of the organization on down.

The Mariners should be fucking ashamed of what they’ve done. They should fire every coach who has ever even referenced the concept of hitting to these players. And that’s all I have to say.

The end of May is generally when I’m my most annoyed with the Seattle Mariners, because that’s usually when they’re exposed for the frauds that they are (if they haven’t been exposed beforehand). So, by most every season’s expectations, this is coming right on cue. Nevertheless, watching so many of the potential core players flounder like this is especially demoralizing (rendered even more hopeless as key guys suffer injuries to further skew our results to the negative). Thank Christ the weather is improving and I won’t have to give as much of a shit that we’re watching the return of the Same Old Mariners.

The Mariners Are Showing Their True Colors

Based on pre-season expectations, the Mariners were playing out of their minds through approximately a month of the 2021 season. That is decidedly not the case since a 13-8 start, as the Mariners have lost 11 of their last 16 games. You can make the argument that the level of competition has been tough throughout – it makes sense, for instance, that the Mariners would get swept in a 2-game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers – but this losing skid has been a long time coming, and cracks are starting to show against even the poor teams (2-4 in six games against Baltimore and Texas should never happen).

It doesn’t appear to get remarkably easier, as the next few weeks are littered with series against quality teams (including the Indians, starting tonight), so we’re at a bit of a crossroads here with this year’s Mariners squad. The Mariners are under .500 for the first time since April 8th; will they right the ship – with the addition of Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert, effective today – or will they continue their long slide into obscurity?

The last two days were as demoralizing as it gets. There’s an argument to be made that the M’s should’ve won on Tuesday. Even though we were going up against an elite starting pitcher, we still touched him up for 4 runs on 3 homers, and in these types of games, you need to make that limited number of runs stick.

Indeed, behind a strong Yusei Kikuchi start, we held a 4-1 lead heading into the 7th, and a 4-3 lead heading into the 8th. It’s unfair to malign the bullpen too much, since they’ve carried this team in a lot of ways, but it was disappointing all around. I’m disappointed in Scott Servais for trying to squeeze an extra inning out of Kikuchi (he had gone 6 innings, giving up just the 1 run on around 90-or-so pitches before returning to start the 7th; he got one out but traded it for 2 additional runs in the process thanks to shaky bullpenning). I’m disappointed in the choice to go to Anthony Misiewicz – our primary left-handed bullpen arm – to follow a left-handed starter in Kikuchi, especially with runners on (he has not proven himself capable of regularly getting out of these types of jams unscathed in the past). If you’re going to go with Misiewicz, give him a clean inning to start with! I’m also disappointed in Misiewicz himself, who got off to a red-hot start this season before faltering in recent outings. I’m disappointed in Rafael Montero being just a Blown Save Machine for this team (his fifth in six weeks’ worth of baseball). I’m disappointed in the overall bullpen construction – where Kendall Graveman is the only actual quality reliever we have on the roster, and he can’t go 2 innings per save ever fucking time – because there really is no bridge guy to get us to the ninth. A lot of disappointment to spread around, all adds up to a 6-4 defeat that didn’t have to be.

The finale yesterday was a 7-1 drubbing. We couldn’t really touch their starter, and Justin Dunn had another one of his … outings. If he ever puts it all together, he’ll be a Cy Young-calibre player. But, I’d say the odds of that happening are remote, because he just can’t get a handle on where his pitches end up. Once the Dodgers went up 2-0 in the fourth, the game felt over. With the way the offense has performed … all season? Dunn couldn’t even get more than one out in that fourth inning, which meant a lot of opportunity for a faltering bullpen to continue being a sieve.

I would imagine the hot streak that J.P. Crawford had been on is officially over. Mitch Haniger continues to plug away with his power numbers, but his batting average and on-base percentage are dipping considerably. Kyle Lewis hasn’t done a whole lot, Kyle Seager is giving us his usual output, and Ty France looks absolutely lost at the plate (while giving us very little in the field). Beyond that, Haggerty, Moore, Trammell (who was just today sent down to Tacoma, thank Christ), White, Marmolejos, and Murphy are all hitting under .200, with Torrens hitting a robust .208. It’s … pretty fucking bad.

That having been said, it’s SUPER FUN to see Kelenic and Gilbert get the call-up today! I can’t wait for tonight’s game. I know the team is looking forward to these guys possibly igniting things with the ballclub, but they should be more interested in how this will translate to the die hard fans like me. I would have 0.0% interest in watching tonight’s game – or any of the games this series against the Indians, who have one of the best pitching staffs in the American League – were it not for a couple of our young stars being here. This should fire up the fanbase as much as the team itself; I just hope that it translates to more wins for this team.

Because things are looking QUITE bleak otherwise.

The Mariners Split A 4-Game Series Against The Red Sox

It’s interesting to think about what a 13-9 start for the Mariners means. The strength of schedule has been fucking crazy. Boston is first in the A.L. East. The White Sox are second in the Central; the Twins should end up better than their record indicates right now. The Astros are obviously slumping and will be much better than their sub-.500 record when it’s all said and done. And the Dodgers and Giants are the top two teams in the N.L. West. So, to have this winning record, and only be a game behind the scorching-hot A’s is pretty outstanding!

But, it’s also incredibly early. And maybe the bullpen has been unsustainably hot. And the clutch late-game heroics have been unsustainably … existing. This could all be randomness that just so happens to be taking place against very good teams (and the Orioles).

Or, if you want to look on the bright side – something I’ve been trying to do a little more of lately, in spite of the blog’s name – maybe the Mariners are actually good, and they’ll REALLY start to rack up the W’s when we get to the part of the schedule where we can feast on the dregs of the game! Wouldn’t that be something?!

I mean, I’ll be honest: I keep waiting for the tide to turn and the Mariners to be exposed as the frauds they are … yet here we are, 22 games in, and still going strong! If you play around .500 against the good teams, and something like .667 against the bad teams, well, that’s a playoff team in all likelihood.

So, a 2-2 road set in the city of Boston is something akin to a 2-1 series against a shitty team.

Last Thursday, the Mariners were up to their usual tricks: erasing a 2-0 deficit in the sixth inning with an impressive rally (highlighted by a 2-run double by Ty France), then erasing a 3-2 deficit in the eighth with a J.P. Crawford double. Only to explode for a 4-spot in the tenth inning, featuring a clinching 3-run homer by Mitch Haniger to put it away.

Justin Dunn looked more in control in his 5 innings of work (2 runs on 6 hits and only 1 walk, with 5 strikeouts), and the bullpen was dominant from there (1 run on 2 hits and 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts).

The M’s couldn’t keep the good times going on Friday, but very nearly did pull yet another game out of their asses! Yusei Kikuchi didn’t have it, giving up 5 runs in less than 5 innings of work. The bullpen, however, kept us in it JUST enough to let things get interesting (minus an unearned run attributed to Ljay Newsome, who was otherwise solid). We were down 6-2 in the ninth inning before a 3-run homer by Kyle Seager made things interesting. But, just not enough offense in this one; 4/12 with runners in scoring position, with 9 left on base.

We bounced back in a huge way on Saturday behind a STRONG Chris Flexen start (7 innings, 1 run on 4 hits & 1 walk, with 7 strikeouts). The offense blew the doors off, with France, Seager, White, and Haggerty all contributing multi-hit games in the 8-2 victory. Can’t say enough good things about how Flexen has looked the first few times through the rotation. He is a VERY welcome surprise, after the dud of a bottle rocket that was the return of James Paxton.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull off the series victory on Sunday, as Nick Margevicius couldn’t get more than a single out and we had to go with a Bullpen Day. After being pulled prematurely in his previous start, Margevicius was put on the IL today with shoulder inflammation; we’ll see who takes his place (though Newsome figures to be a safe bet).

You’d think a Bullpen Day – with the way the bullpen has been going – might not be the worst idea. And, indeed, they were excellent, holding the Red Sox to 1 run over 7.2 innings. But, the damage was done with the 4-spot Margevicius gave up, as we lost 5-3. Again, the offense scuffled, going 2/11 with RISP and striking out 11 more times. That’s going to happen, as the offense isn’t elite after the first couple batters, and as we go up against top tier starters. Hopefully, things start to level off on both ends (where we’re not facing so many guys with Ace-like stuff, and our hitters regress to a more competent level of baseline).

Now, it’s four in Houston. So, maybe the swoon starts today? We’ll see! I’m still waiting.