Kevin Mather Resigned From The Mariners Instead

As soon as word spread about what former Seattle Mariners president Kevin Mather said at that Rotary Club online event on February 5th, it was clear he needed to go one way or another. Obviously, firing him would have been much more satisfying, and sent a more powerful message to the rest of the organization and the fanbase as a whole, but accepting his resignation yesterday works too (while, presumably, reducing the legal ramifications for the club in having to separate from a high-level executive).

To their extremely minimal credit, the remaining Mariners executives are saying the right things, sort of. They’re obviously downplaying Mather’s sentiments as his own, rather than the organization’s (which is, of course, bullshit). As I said before, and as is clear to anyone with half a brain cell, Mather wasn’t just making up total fabrications, he was being just about as candid as possible, without literally tossing out racial epithets. The president of a major sports team is privy to all of the inner-workings of that organization, as well as its plan of action for the next however-many years. What’s that quote? “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That certainly applies here. Don’t believe Mather’s toothless apology Sunday night after he got caught; believe the 45-minute speech and Q&A that he didn’t realize was being recorded to later be published on the Internet.

Yesterday, John Stanton – majority owner – had to face the music to the press. He will be taking over as president on an interim basis until they find a permanent replacement. That’s not as interesting to me. What’s interesting is how he’s trying to walk back Mather’s statements as one man going rogue. Kind of a play on the One Bad Apple policeman analogy, that totally dismisses the systemic issues at the heart of the Seattle Mariners.

It’s a delicate dance, because the smart thing IS to manipulate with a player’s service time. Look, this is the system that we have in place. There’s no formal salary cap – the players won that battle a long time ago – but in its place, we have this system of Team Control, that might arguably be worse for players than it would be to have a hard cap. Professional sports owners are greedy and fucking RUTHLESS, man. If they’re conceding something to you, I would take a hard look at what you’re agreeing to, because somewhere in there is a huge blindspot that the owners will be more than happy to take advantage of.

Getting back to the dance, though, you have to play all sides. You have to tell the players, “It’s all about competition and having the best players out there to help the Major League club win ballgames,” while at the same time telling them, “Well, you’re young, and don’t have enough minor league reps yet, so we’re going to play this underqualified retread/has-been until you ARE ready,” which just so happens to be however long it takes to maximize that player’s Team Control. You have to tell the fans to be patient, that it’ll be worth it in the end when all of these young prospects are up with the big ballclub, so just hang in there! And, you have to bend to the will of the ownership group, who will cut any corner if it means saving money in the short term. Owners will TELL you they’re desperate to bring back a winner, but in reality, that only matters if it comes with lots of fanfare and beaucoup bucks.

So, where are we now? I would argue, trust in the Seattle Mariners is at an all-time low. The fans are, obviously, outraged, to see that management has – ONCE AGAIN – bungled in the face of zero adversity. The players are, justifiably, outraged, to see that their worst suspicions have been not only confirmed, but given a name and a face to place their scorn. And, shit, the other Major League ownership groups are outraged because everyone knows Kevin Mather and the Mariners aren’t the only ones who think and act this way; and, of course, the Players Association is outraged because they’re looking out for the players who keep getting dicked around in this fashion.

How do we fix it? Well, not fucking up royally again for a while will surely help! Time fixes all wounds or some damn thing. I would also say the Mariners are heading into Spring Training with one arm tied behind their backs. ALL EYES will be on them and the way they go about deciding who makes the Opening Day roster. I would say it’s all but assured that at least Jarred Kelenic is in Seattle at the beginning of April, rather than the end of it. He might not be the only prospect making his Major League debut on such a timetable.

If you’re worried about Kelenic’s Team Control concluding with the 2026 season as opposed to the 2027 season, fear not! If he makes the Mariners effective Opening Day, presumably that means the Mariners will have him starting every day (there’s no reason to call him up and sit him on the bench). If he struggles, they can always send him to Tacoma for a month, telling everyone, “See, we told you, he’s not quite ready yet!” And we’ll get our extra year of Team Control. Of course, if he succeeds, then GREAT, we’ve got another quality outfielder helping us win games right away. This is win-win all around.

But, that’s a short-term solution. In the long-term, you want to know how the Mariners get over this controversy? SPEND SOME FUCKING MONEY.

Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. You talk a good game about wanting to be a World Class, World Championship organization. Well, you gotta spend money to make money in this game. Or, you gotta spend money to make wins, at least. Because, quite honestly, the Mariners don’t develop to the same high-quality level as the Rays or A’s to think they can get away with being fucking tightwads now and forever. It’s time to put up or shut up, Mariners.

Frankly, it was time to shut up a few weeks ago!

The Mariners Absolutely Must Fire President Kevin Mather Immediately

I don’t come to these types of reactionary decisions lightly. I’m not waiting around, scrolling Twitter all day, just looking for something to be offended by. Indeed, when I come across something that either already has blown up, or clearly WILL blow up in the very near future, I tend to chuckle and think, “Well, that person just ended their own life.”

These types of responses – so and so must be fired immediately – get lumped in with this phony concept of Cancel Culture. For starters, it doesn’t exist. No one is ever canceled; at worst, they go in Time Out for a while and then get to resume earning a living again. If Brett Ratner can get another job directing a major motion picture, if Mel Gibson can be welcomed back into the Hollywood fold, if Louis C.K. can start touring again after a nine-month vacation, you tell me who’s really canceled. Beyond that, you know who NEVER seems to get canceled? Good people. Isn’t that strange? It’s only the fucking assholes, or the idiots who can’t keep their mouths shut and need to boost their own egos constantly who end up taking themselves down (for a period of time). Furthermore, if you don’t know how the game is played by now, it’s your own fault. If you do or say shitty things, you will be exposed eventually … SO JUST DON’T DO OR SAY SHITTY THINGS! Because it very much is a game, and you’re losing if you get found out; there’s no money in being a martyr. Just because good people don’t get canceled doesn’t mean there aren’t bad people absolutely THRIVING; they’re just smart enough to know how the world works.

In fact, I’m annoyed that Kevin Mather’s speech at the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club (whatever the FUCK that is; I’m assuming it’s full of the absolute worst of what this area has to offer, when it comes to entitled wealthy pricks) is even SLIGHTLY brushing up against racism, because while he’s certainly being one of those entitled wealthy pricks in his comments about Iwakuma (and other players, not noted in the link above; go find the full transcript for all of his bon mots), and while those are indeed fireable sentiments, I’m not here to tell you what you don’t already know: rich old white guy looks down on those from other ethnicities, news at 11.

I think Kevin Mather should be fired because he’s fucking terrible at his job!

When you are a president of something, your primary job is to be a leader. Handing out all of the Mariners’ internal secrets – when it comes to sabotaging a player’s service time, when it comes to exposing (in broad strokes) the organization’s financial situation, when it comes to fucking badmouthing your employees (you know, the guys you rely on to play the fucking game of baseball) – that’s not being a leader. I mean, in political terms, it’s the baseball equivalent of Joe Biden handing all of our nuclear codes to the Russians; Kevin Mather is helping THE REST OF THE LEAGUE destroy the Mariners.

If you’re a player in the organization, how can you trust anything that anyone says, from manager Scott Servais, to GM Jerry Dipoto, to primary owner and CEO John Stanton? If you are a free agent, why would you ever sign with a team that has this much contempt for its players? IT’S ALREADY HARD ENOUGH TO GET FREE AGENTS TO COME TO FUCKING SEATTLE! Because we’re so far out of the way, because we’ve sucked for almost the entirety of this organization’s existence, and because the weather is fucking shit! Now you’re chopping off both of the organization’s arms and legs, tossing us a sword, and telling us to go fight?

Someone who WANTED to get fired, who went into his boss’s office and shat on his desk and motherfuckered everyone in the most public and ostentatious way possible couldn’t have done a better job than what Mather did at this meaningless online event. He name-drops just about everyone, and NOT in a good way; in fact, he has something derogatory to say about just about everyone.

The thing is, did he lie? As far as I can tell, no. He said what everyone was already thinking. We knew there was no chance that any of the high-level prospects were going to get a shot at the Major Leagues in 2020. We knew that Jarred Kelenic wouldn’t likely be called up until May of 2021, to ensure that the Mariners control his services through 2027. We knew, financially, the Mariners are in good shape, because they have a controlling stake in their own cable channel that earns them countless millions of dollars that they get to hide from the rest of the league (there’s no profit-sharing in Regional Sports Networks; that’s all M’s, baby!). But, you can’t say those things out loud! Major League Baseball has another huge collective bargaining agreement to work out with the player’s union very soon! Do you think the rest of the league wants this type of dirty laundry aired for all to see (and to be used against them)?!

What galls me is that Kevin Mather talked about how confident he is that the Mariners are going to be world champions with this group. First of all, don’t you God damn jinx it! Secondly, if you’re ostensibly so high on these players, why are you making it nearly impossible for them to want to stick around longer than they absolutely have to? Why do I envision some of these guys refusing to play, and forcing their way out of Seattle eventually? Why do I see those championship hopes slipping through our fingers like the sands of fucking time, because one way or another we’re going to shoot ourselves in the fucking foot?

That’s what this is: the ultimate act of self-sabotage. His comments are no good for the Seattle Mariners organization BECAUSE they are the truth. They are the truth and everyone knows it, because there are 29 other MLB organizations who feel the same way about their own players (the only difference is, the other 29 presidents aren’t so fucking STUPID as to speak these words into a recorded Zoom meeting – allegedly while not knowing that it was being recorded in the first place, because he’s old and technologically inept). In that sense, this is the most Mariners thing he could have possibly done. The Mariners are ALWAYS fucking things up for themselves, in new and profoundly shocking and moronic ways. It’s like we’re fucking allergic to winning!

I am usually inclined to give people a second chance, if they speak out of turn or let some small thing slip out in conversation, or if something is taken out of context, but we’re talking about a keynote speech. This isn’t something he just blurted into a hot mic; this is something he worked on and maybe even rehearsed. To not know that this would get out into the world is BEYOND arrogant and/or asinine, because EVERYTHING gets out into the world! Shit man, even Ted Cruz can’t sneak away to Cancun for a weekend – abandoning his state in its time of need like the miserable fucking snake oil salesman that he is – without his picture (ON THE PLANE) circulating throughout every corner of the Internet. You think, you, Kevin Mather, are somehow exempt from the world that is 2021?

Of course, I had completely forgotten about how Mather was wrapped up in that sexual harassment scandal (and somehow got away scot-free with his employment with the organization intact). I was going to say that even though this is his first strike (it would, in fact, be his second strike … that we are aware of), he needs to be fired immediately, because this goes above and beyond damaging to the Seattle Mariners. It’s fucking sabotage.

His apology (riddled with spelling and grammatical errors as it is; perhaps he needs an English interpreter to help him with his statements) is meaningless. It’s also the first time he’s lied to us in this entire ordeal. Those comments are his own, because they are also reflective of the Seattle Mariners’ organization. They come off of years of strategy meetings and conversations with the rest of the higher ups, formulating their plan on how to run this rebuild. He can work to make amends all he wants, but that needs to be done with a pink slip in his back pocket.

Kevin Mather clearly can’t be trusted with delicate, valuable information related to the Seattle Mariners. Furthermore, I don’t know of a damn thing he has EVER done that makes him worthy of keeping his job. The best thing you could say about Mather up to this point is that he managed to stay OUT of the news (again, aside from the sexual harassment scandal). That’s something Chuck Armstrong – his predecessor – couldn’t seem to accomplish, as he kept sticking his big foot in his mouth in seemingly every interview. But, to blow up whatever good will he’d built up in such spectacular fashion is akin to striking out the side on a single pitch.

ONETWOTHREESTRIKESYOU’REOUT, Kevin Mather. I know you’re only fluent in Dumb, but I trust you won’t need anyone else to spell it out for you to help you understand.

Shed Long Is The Mariners’ Forgotten Man

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough.

Shed Long came over in a deal prior to the 2019 season. He was an infielder in the upper minors who seemed to have potential to be more than just a utility guy. Maybe not A LOT more, but enough for the Mariners to give him a legitimate shot at winning a spot on this team. He played in two stints with the M’s – in between jaunts to and from the Tacoma Rainiers – and … was okay. He showed promise. He was good enough for the Mariners to hand him the starting second baseman job in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. With the pop in his bat and quality glove work, it wasn’t hard to squint and see him as an everyday player maybe.

At the very least, with how bad the 2020 Mariners were projected to be, it made perfect sense to at least give him a chance and see if he could prove himself.

Unfortunately, Shed Long ended up falling flat on his face. Now, apparently, he was trying to play through a shin injury that would require surgery after his season ended (instead of, you know, getting it taken care of beforehand), but his numbers really cratered and there was never a time where he looked like the answer. He eventually got benched for Dylan Moore and others, and now he’s a man without a home.

Word on the street is: the Mariners are designating him as a Super Sub. He can play any infield spot in a pinch, as well as corner outfield (we’ll see about that one). The way I see it, until Jarred Kelenic earns his call-up, there WILL be an opening for Shed Long to try to re-prove his worth. But, he’s going to have about a month and change to do it, before Kelenic gets the nod and the organization has to do some roster shuffling.

I’ll say this: I’m intrigued to see what a healthy Shed Long can do. But, I have extreme doubts. He’s never been a guy who hits for a high average, and even though – for a little guy – he has a lot of pop in his bat, I don’t believe he will hit for enough power to sustain a regular Major League career. That isn’t to say he will NEVER figure it out, but I don’t think he will manage it in the next couple months. He also, not for nothing, strikes me as a Spring Training dandy who turns back into a pumpkin when the Regular Season starts. Prove me wrong, Shed!

2021 is a Now Or Never year for a lot of Mariners, but it’s most pronounced for someone like him. It is LITERALLY now or never, in that he better hit the ground running at a furious pace to earn his playing time. But, my hunch is that he’ll be trade fodder at some point down the line; a throw-in to a deal to bring back someone (hopefully) better.

So, What Is A Dylan Moore?

I swear I was going to get around to doing a Dylan Moore post independent of this very interesting one by Lookout Landing. Really, if I had to give an overarching title to my series of Mariners-related posts lately, it would be: Things I Find Interesting About The Mariners In 2021. And, obviously, I find Dylan Moore VERY interesting!

He was drafted in 2015 by the Texas Rangers. He bounced around a couple of other organizations before signing as a free agent with the Mariners prior to the 2019 season. He was projected to be a utility guy who is capable of backing up at many spots: both corners of the outfield (center if you’re desperate), as well as every spot around the infield except catcher (he even pitched in one game when the Mariners were getting destroyed and needed someone to eat an inning). He made his Major League debut with the M’s in 2019 and was about what you’d expect someone like him to be: a bad hitter and a capable defender (when he even struggled with his glove early in that season, he truly looked like a lost cause; thankfully for him and the organization, he at least improved on that facet of his game before the season concluded).

It made sense to hang onto Moore heading into 2020, because why not? Depth and competition being what it is, you can never have enough cheap utility guys to help you out in a pinch. But, the Mariners also brought in a few other guys who did the same exact job, because why not? Moore in 2019 did absolutely nothing to guarantee his own job security.

With his defensive issues in the rearview, Moore went to work improving on his hitting (which you can read about in that LL piece above). What resulted was nothing short of breathtaking! Smallish sample and all of that, but Moore was absolutely one of the very best players on that team! Kyle Lewis got all the publicity – for obvious reasons – but day-in and day-out, there weren’t many people you could rely on more to come through for this team (especially once we traded Austin Nola away) than Dylan Moore.

He played so well that he went from a utility guy, to a utility guy you couldn’t take out of your lineup (once again, he played every defensive spot on the field except catcher), to a bona fide starter at second base once Shed Long went down. In fact, he played so well that heading into 2021, he’s already being pencilled into the lineup as your everyday second baseman (though, I could see him playing quite a bit in left field as well, until Jarred Kelenic gets the call-up).

It’s an exciting time to be a Dylan Moore! This year can make or break his entire professional baseball career! He’s 28 years old, he will be entering his first of three Arbitration years in 2022, he’s on a young, up-and-coming team and at least for the time being, he has the potential to be a big reason for its success. The Mariners clearly have this hole at second base that needs to be filled (to say nothing of third base once Kyle Seager moves on after this year), and unless Shed Long turns it on (being demoted to a utility role going forward), there really isn’t a lot in the pipeline. The Mariners could always make a big splash next year (maybe signing a high-priced short stop as a free agent, which could theoretically move J.P. Crawford to second base, as has been indicated by many scouts to be his future), but they also might not have to. Dylan Moore has his future in his hands; if he kills it in 2021, either the Mariners can keep him as their everyday second baseman for at least the next few years, or they can flip him for a great return of Major League talent and/or future prospects.

Considering the investment to bring Moore into the organization, I couldn’t be happier with what we’re witnessing! Assuming he stays healthy and his star keeps rising, it’s all gravy at this point!

Obviously, the downside is: he could turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight. Or, you know, get hurt (which seems to happen quite a bit whenever I get excited about someone). As that LL post indicates, opposing pitchers could make his life miserable with off-speed stuff and render this whole fantasy moot. He was batting near the top of the lineup most of last year, and you’d think he’s destined to start out in the 2-hole this season; teams are fully aware of the Dylan Moore transformation. He will have to continue to work on his swing and make adjustments to the new tactics we all anticipate will be coming.

But, even getting to the point where he could hit a fastball with any regularity is a place I never expected we’d get to, so I don’t see why he couldn’t continue to improve and become a fully well-rounded hitter. Should that be the case, it’s yet another reason to be excited by the prospects of these 2021 Mariners.

What Do The Mariners Do If Mitch Haniger Is Great Again?

It can be easy to overlook the fact that Mitch Haniger is still on the Seattle Mariners. The guy last played in a baseball game on June 6, 2019. That’s when he formally went down with what has been described as an oblique injury (there was also something about a ruptured testicle that I seem to have blocked out of my memory, as those words – put together – tend to make me black out). These injuries are notoriously difficult to play sports with, and apparently quite difficult to overcome. In Haniger’s case, it required multiple surgeries, missing the rest of 2019 and all of 2020 (in spite of the fact that 2020’s season started late and only lasted 60 games).

Added to the “easy to overlook” factor in all of this is the excitement over our Rookie of the Year, Kyle Lewis, as well as hotshot prospects Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic (who are both poised to ascend to the Major Leagues either this season or next). You don’t even have to squint to envision an outfield of K-Lew, J-Rod, and J-Kel(?) in some order; if everything goes according to plan, that IS the future for the Mariners’ organization.

And yet, there’s real potential for a “motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre Mitch” situation here. As recently as 2018, Haniger was an All Star. He had a 6.2 WAR, with 26 homers and an OPS of .859. That was only his age 27 season; not only was he the “future” of the Mariners, he was the present and the FACE of the organization (especially with King Felix on his way out the following year). He’s 30 years old now, he’s completely healthy and recovered from all the medical shit, and apparently he is fucking jacked!

Obviously, the Mariners have him written down in pen as the Opening Day right fielder for 2021. If he returns to his 2018 level of production, he will easily be this team’s best player. He’s also in his second year of arbitration, with one more season of team control left.

So, what will happen with Mitch Haniger?

Well, there are options. We can let his deal play out, thank him for his time, and move on. In this scenario, that either means the Mariners are confident in the outfield I outlined above, or it means Haniger doesn’t return to his previous level of greatness (because of lack of production, or because he suffers another injury). If Haniger does manage to recapture that old magic, I don’t think this scenario is very likely, because how are you going to find opportunities for all three of those other outfielders to showcase their talents, when Haniger has a stranglehold on right field? And also, why would you let Haniger walk if he’s back to being great again?

Well, that leads me to another option: Mitch Haniger becomes this team’s regular DH. This also doesn’t seem very likely, because he’s too athletic to squander his talents just being a hitter. But, if he’s one of those injury-prone guys who can’t stay off the Injured List, that might ultimately be his destiny. Now, to get around the roster crunch, the Mariners could always rotate the outfielders, so everyone is getting a DH day throughout the week; that’s something I think they’ll do regardless, to try to keep everyone fresh. So, I’ll throw this idea on the Maybe Pile.

Another option is: the Mariners sign Haniger to an early extension. For this to become a reality, he would almost certainly have to get through 2021 completely unscathed from injury. That’s a tall order for literally any baseball player, but for someone as unlucky as him, it’s probably an impossibility. Nevertheless, if he’s once again a 6-WAR player, the M’s could always extend him – effectively buying out his 2022 arbitration year to get something of a discount – and then figure out the outfield crunch later. I’ll be honest, this is probably the least likely scenario of the bunch.

The option I’m most curious about is: the Mariners could trade Haniger. I highly doubt he will be traded during the season, but if he is, he would have to get off to an amazingly hot start. Right now, Mitch Haniger has almost no trade value. He’s only earning a little over $3 million, but for teams who don’t have access to his medicals – and who haven’t seen him play since 2019 – if you’re trading for Haniger, you’re trading for his potential. Is this recovery legit? Can he return to his 2018 production level? Teams don’t like to give up quality players or prospects for question marks; they want to know they’re getting someone who will help right away. In that case, it doesn’t make sense for the Mariners to trade him until he’s built up most of his previous value. He’ll never be as valuable as he was after the 2018 season – because at that time he had two more years of club control – but if he plays like an All Star in 2021, with another option year at a relatively reasonable price for 2022, that COULD be worth something to another team if we decide to trade him next offseason.

The only downside is, with one more year after this season on his contract, that’s still not enough value to get a top flight prospect. You’re probably only trading him to a team that’s already great and is near the luxury tax threshold (who also happens to need an outfielder). So, even this option isn’t the greatest for the Mariners; I wouldn’t go into any Haniger trade scenario very optimistic that we’re going to fleece some dimwitted general manager like we did in the Cano deal.

If I’m being realistic, my prediction is that Haniger returns this year and is just okay. I don’t necessarily believe he’ll suffer another devastating injury, but I could see him getting worn down by various bruises and strains, as all players must endure. I think the combination of the long gap in between playing the game of baseball, his tendency to press (to want to be great so badly that he tries to do too much at the plate), and some good old fashioned bad luck with BABIP will render his numbers relatively mediocre. I don’t believe even his best-case scenario will see him return to those 2018 heights; even if he’s good, though, I don’t think that will be enough to make him much of a trade candidate.

In that case, the Mariners might have their hand forced heading into the 2022 season. They might decide to trade him just to get SOME value out of him. Either that, or let him start the season in Seattle, in hopes that he’ll get off to a hot start and allow the organization to deal him at the deadline, to be some other contender’s rental for a few months.

I know we’re delving into a lot of hypotheticals here, but let’s say he’s just okay in 2021 and remains in Seattle in 2022; what happens if he IS great to start that season, but the Mariners themselves are also great and contending for the playoffs? Do we then let it ride with Haniger and see where he can lead us?

That’s kind of what I’m hoping for, among all the possibilities. I like Haniger! Shit, I bought his jersey after the 2018 season for Christ’s sake! I thought that was a safe choice, of someone who I believed would be a major part of this organization for many years to come. While I’m obviously seduced by an outfield of Lewis, Rodriguez, and Kelenic, I do hope there’s room for Haniger to stick around for another handful of seasons, because I believe he’s a real asset when he’s healthy.

But, that’s the key, isn’t it? That’s everything with him! I don’t know if he has what it takes to stay on the field consistently, and ultimately it’ll be his downfall with the Mariners’ organization if he’s not here beyond 2022.

Let’s Be Patient, Mariners Fans

Look, I’m right there with you. I’ve been there with you the entire time (and by “entire time” I mean I jumped on the bandwagon in the late summer of 1995 like a lot of other people in the Pacific Northwest who weren’t necessarily baseball fans until there was a professional team around here actually worth watching). I’ve ENDURED losing season after losing season, mediocre season after mediocre season, and those handful of seasons where we came oh so close to breaking the playoff drought.

I started this fucking BLOG in large part due to the Mariners and their ineptitude! I needed an outlet for my rage, the M’s were my vessel, and Richie Sexson in 2008 was my inspiration. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t furious with this organization; even in 2001 – in the midst of a 116-win season – I was pissing and moaning about all the moves the M’s didn’t make mid-season to push us over the hump!

I can’t say I’m the biggest Mariners fan, nor would I want to. I haven’t been around since the beginning. I have no idea what this team looked like in the 80’s, other than various blooper clips that have seeped into my subconscious over the years. But these last 20 years have FELT like a fucking lifetime in and of itself.

I. FEEL. YOUR. PAIN.

And, obviously, I have no skin in the game. I’m not paid by the Mariners. I’m not in the practice of writing puff pieces defending this team. Do I sometimes let my annoying homer side get the best of me, succumbing to rare bouts of optimism when things are going or looking good? Sure, who doesn’t? Why be a fan if there wasn’t some small sliver of hope that our team will one day win it all before our bones have turned to ash? The thing is, we have no choice but to talk ourselves into the next plan of action working! It’s not like we have any say in matters of personnel. Sometimes flukey shit happens. Sometimes the stars align.

Sports fandom is, like, 90% belief, 5% crushing disappointment, and 5% watching the games.

So, believe me when I say this: I don’t come to this argument lightly. But, it’s clearly in all of our best interests to be patient, let the rebuild play itself out, and let’s just see what happens.

I’m not saying you have to trust in Jerry Dipoto & Co. Remain skeptical! Why wouldn’t you? What have they done to earn your trust?

But, now is not time to jump the gun. In spite of the improvement we saw in a weird 2020 season, in spite of MLB increasing the number of playoff teams, in spite of all the glowing reports about our farm system: this team isn’t ready. It may “contend” in 2021 – in the same way that almost all American League teams will contend, if indeed 8 out of 15 teams continue to make it into the postseason – but this isn’t a legitimate championship squad just yet.

And, frankly, I know we’re all looking at 2022 as the goal for finally making the playoffs, but maybe we should be pumping the brakes on that too. You never know with young players how long it’s going to take for them to finally pop. It came out over the last week that the Mariners have five players ranked in the Top 100 Prospects per Baseball America, including two in the top five (Julio Rodriguez, 3; Jarred Kelenic, 4). Will all five of those guys pan out? Hell, will both of J-Rod and Kelenic pan out? I will believe it when I see it.

But, the important thing to remember is: you can’t see it if they’re not out there playing for you. You can’t go out there and sign an outfielder or two when you’ve already got Kyle Lewis (2020 Rookie of the Year) and Mitch Haniger (back from injury in 2021 and looking buffer than ever), on top of two prospects in the minor league top five!

Do you want to go out and sign a starting pitcher or two, to help fill out your rotation? Why would you do that when you have Logan Gilbert (35) and Emerson Hancock (57) in your farm system? Gilbert is ready to jump to the Major Leagues THIS season! Hancock is still a couple years away, but that’s about when you’d expect this team to start contending for real. There are also countless pitching prospects outside of the top 100 (remember, the Mariners have been going HARD in the draft on pitching the last few years); I’m not saying all of these guys will pan out, but one or two might! That’s on top of Justus Sheffield, who took a major step forward in his development in 2020, and Justin Dunn, who is just getting started and nevertheless showed real improvement in his first full season.

All of these guys are young and inexperienced. You want to see what you have, so you know who to keep and who to later flip for other players who can come in here and help this team win at the Major League level.

It doesn’t hurt the Mariners one bit to be regarded as having one of the very best farm systems in all of baseball. Only a small handful of teams have as many as five players in Baseball America’s Top 100, and the M’s are one of them! That reputation is only going to be an asset going forward when the guys we know are rockstars are at the Major League level and producing in a major way. Other teams will see that and wonder who else we’re hiding in the basement of this organization. You didn’t hear it from me, but it rubs the lotion on its skin.

In a way, I do see the other side of the argument. There’s nothing stopping the Mariners from signing a bigtime free agent now, because if the young core is as good as advertised, that free agent will still be around when the Mariners are good again. But, you’re making a lot of assumptions there. Are you signing a guy that will block one of that young core (specifically a position player)? Well, that’s a non-starter for me. There is time later for that, if whatever position of need can’t be filled internally. Are you talking about bringing in a stud starting pitcher? Well, those guys get hurt all the time! Bringing in a great guy for 2021 doesn’t do us any good if the team around him is still young and mediocre. And, if he’s hurt in 2022 or 2023 when this team IS good, then again, that does nothing for us. Also, are any of the free agents out there worth a damn? Are there any true Ace starters on the market? There doesn’t appear to be, to me anyway. On top of injury concerns, there’s aging and regression to worry about (when, again, there will be a whole new crop of free agents in 2022 and again in 2023).

And, if you’re talking about trading guys from our farm system to bring in a younger superstar, again that’s a non-starter for me. Because you know who teams are going to ask for in return? Your very best prospects. Those guys in the Baseball America Top 100. I want to see those guys HERE! And just because other teams are able to trade Not Their Best Prospects to get guys like Blake Snell, doesn’t mean the Mariners would also make that happen to their benefit. The Padres had been building their farm system for years in the lead-up to the Snell deal! The M’s don’t have nearly that sparkling of a reputation as drafters and developers. The Padres also, not for nothing, have a proven young core that made a run in the playoffs in 2020; they were more ready to make that kind of a deal. The Mariners have done jack shit for 20 years; they are not ready.

So, let’s hold our horses here. The only other argument I can make is this: even if the M’s splurged on free agents, and sold their farm for other Major League-ready players, there’s still a great chance that we wouldn’t see this team even make the playoffs. The Mariners have been half-assing rebuilds for the last 20 years; panicking now to try to break a drought would be more of the same. For what? So maybe they can get a wild card spot?

If you’re a Mariners fan, that should not be your priority. We’ve had it too hard for too long. The amount of karma we’ve built up in our suffering should be ENORMOUS. We are due for not just a playoff team, but a real, honest-to-goodness World Series champion! And, there’s no way we’re going to get there by throwing good money after aging free agents, and mortgaging our farm system for unwanted cast-offs from other teams.

We’re only going to reach the promised land by developing our own young talent, promoting them when they’re ready, and wishing on a star that they all hit big at the same time. This is the model. Once those guys are ready, THEN you start throwing money at free agents to complete the puzzle. Once you recognize where the minimal amount of holes are on your roster – because the vast majority of those holes have been filled in-house – then it’s so much easier to get over the final hump.

For now, kick your feet up, sit back, and enjoy the process. I know the 76ers turned “the process” into a four-letter word, but you know, sometimes it goes the other way too. To paraphrase the great Fred Durst, you gotta have faith.

I’m Not Interested In The Mariners Trading For Blake Snell Right Now

I wasn’t going to write anything today, but I’ve got some free time this morning, so HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Here’s a post about Hot Stove Baseball.

There’s rumors abound that the Tampa Bay Rays are listening to offers for ace pitching prospect Blake Snell. Why would the Rays be interested in trading away one of the best starting pitchers in the American League, who is on a very-reasonable deal where he’s only making $39 million over the next three years? Because they’re a cheap organization who plays in a dank cave of a stadium where you wouldn’t even know there’s a pandemic going on right now because they never played in front of any fans anyway.

I was going to make some crack about how terrible they are as an organization, but let he who isn’t a Mariners fan cast the first stone.

The fact of the matter is, aside from being so cheap and not spending any money, the Rays are a GREAT organization! They’re up there with the Oakland Athletics on doing more with less. They draft well, they develop their young talent (especially pitchers), and they consistently win at a high rate! They’ve only been around since 1998 (compared to the Mariners in 1977); in the last 13 years alone, the Rays have been to the World Series twice, and in the playoffs six times (the Mariners, as we all know, haven’t been to the World Series ever, haven’t been in the playoffs since 2001, and in their entire 40+ year history have only been to the postseason four times).

In other words, the Rays know what they’re doing. Blake Snell’s value is as high as it’s ever going to be. Now is the time to strike, if indeed someone is willing to trade away the farm to get him.

The consensus (sensible) thinking is that it’s going to take quite a haul to get Snell away from the Rays. Idiots can sit there and believe the Mariners could have him for Yusei Kikuchi and a few low-level prospects, but that’s clearly the ramblings of a lunatic. As much as I’d like to preserve our dream outfield of Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez, while still acquiring Blake Snell (maybe by sending off a newly-healthy Mitch Haniger and some other guys), I know that’s not realistic; to get Snell, one of those big three would have to go.

Kyle Lewis just won the American League Rookie of the Year award. Jarred Kelenic looks like the surest of sure things (and a potential mini-Mike Trout in the making), and some prospect websites have Julio Rodriguez rated even HIGHER than either of them! So, I mean, who do you want to part with as a jumping-off point? You would think any one of those guys would be plenty when compared to a starting pitcher, but that’s not how it works; it would still take probably 3-4 other prospects going away (albeit, not nearly as highly-rated, but still probably guys who will be contributors on a Major League team someday).

Look, I know as fans of a particular team (in this case, *sigh*, the Seattle Mariners), we always overrate our own prospects. Every single guy in the system is bound to be an All Star someday and we’re all going to be enjoying 20 World Series titles in a row very soon! So, rationally, I know that it’s VERY unlikely that all three of Lewis, Kelenic, and J-Rod pan out (by “pan out” I mean “reach their fullest potential”). Gun to my head and I had to choose one to go, I’d probably send Kyle Lewis away, but I wouldn’t feel great about it! He’s the only one who has actually done literally ANYTHING at the Major League level, but that’s also how highly I think of the other two guys. Regardless, a big part of me just wants to see an outfield with all three of these guys healthy and kicking ass. I don’t care nearly as much about the rest of the Mariners’ minor leaguers; just give me this one outfield!

Besides that, though, I just don’t think it’s practical. The Mariners are still smack dab in the middle of the rebuild. 2020 was fun, but it was a fluke. If you play that season outside of a pandemic setting – for a full 162 games – I don’t think we’re looking back on it quite as fondly. A lot of warts are covered up by a 60-game season; with the way Lewis was struggling down the stretch, I highly doubt he would’ve been the ROY, for instance. I think the dog days of August and September would’ve been a feeding ground for teams to eat up the Mariners’ inferior pitching and inexperienced hitting. A lot of people are expecting the 2021 Mariners to take another step, with an outside shot at making one of the Wild Card spots; but, I’m telling you right now, don’t sleep on a possible regression. The Mariners could look a lot worse next year. 2022 was the goal for playoff contention, but it very well could be 2023 or even 2024; at which point, we would have wasted all of Blake Snell’s remaining team control. At that point, he’ll be commanding a contract at or near the top of the starting pitching market, and his value will plummet accordingly.

Trading for Snell this year is a move better suited for a team that’s closer to contending in 2021. Who needs one final piece of the puzzle to push them over the top. The Angels make a lot of sense, because they have a great farm system and they like spending lots of money (on top of needing a HUGE pitching upgrade). The Mariners, even if we have Snell, would still have so many holes to fill. We need to focus on getting our young guys more experience at the Major League level.

STAY THE COURSE! Now is not the time to panic. The Rays sure as shit aren’t panicking. That’s why they’re “listening to offers” and not “actively shopping” him. There’s a difference. The Jets were listening to offers for Jamal Adams, but would’ve been just as willing to keep him on the roster; the Seahawks had to come in over the top with two first round draft picks to get him. Similarly, the Rays are more than capable of handling Snell’s salary for at least another year. They don’t NEED to trade him. Indeed, coming off of a World Series appearance, it might be in their best interests to NOT trade him until after the 2021 season (to fully take advantage of their current Championship Window). It would have to take a team going over the top – like the Seahawks did with Adams – to make it worth the hit to their short-term title chances.

I hope the Mariners aren’t that team. Let Snell go somewhere else (ideally outside of the A.L. West entirely).

The 2020 Mariners Are Giving People A Lot Of Hope For 2021

The best-case scenario for the 2020 Mariners would’ve been going 60-0 with the players we had on our original roster (without calling up any of our prized prospects), followed by a rampage through the playoffs and our first (of many) World Series titles; my second and third wishes – for the record, if there are any lamp-imprisoned genies out there reading this – would be a billion tax-free American dollars given to me through no criminal means, and my very own Perpetual Orgasm Machine that I’m able to plug into Matrix-style for my own nonstop indulgence.

Since we obviously didn’t reach that apex of baseball achievement, I’d have to say the 2020 Mariners season was a qualified success! I’ll rate it a 7 out of 10 batting doughnuts (you don’t rate baseball success on a scale of batting doughnuts?). Based on expectations as a long-suffering Mariners fan, though, I’d have to bump it up to an 8 out of 10.

There was every reason to expect the worst this year. Key guys getting injured. Potential stars failing to develop. Botched trades. Useless free agent signings. Listless or negative clubhouse chemistry compounded exponentially as losses mounted. The Mariners have been in some form of rebuild since plummeting back to Earth in 2004. You can say they’ve never really torn the franchise down to the studs until this time around – and I’m inclined to agree with you – but there’s also no one right way to rebuild a franchise. As it turns out, hindsight being what it is, we know that all the ways we’ve tried it over the last 16 years have been utter failures, largely due to the reasons listed at the top of this paragraph; we’ve seen it all and then some!

So, to have the relative success this team was able to achieve is pretty remarkable. For the first time in a VERY long time, there is reason for actual hope. This feels real! Not based on a mountain of lies and unsustainably-lucky performances. We finished 27-33, and even with the playoffs expanded to eight teams per league, we still failed to get there. Honestly, I think that’s great! We didn’t overachieve! Because let’s face it, the last time there was this much hype around a bad, yet-hopefully-rebuilding Mariners squad, we did overachieve (in 2007 and again in 2009) and were crushingly disappointed (in 2008 and again in 2010).

Our general managers in those eras made what now feels like panic moves, to bolster a house of cards and see if we could parlay unlikely success into a return to meaningful, post-season baseball. And, we ended up losing over 100 games in response both times, falling apart under the weight of too-high expectations.

That isn’t to say the Mariners should stand pat going into 2021; just stick to the plan. The plan all along was to strip away the rotting, dead wood, give our young prospects an opportunity to flourish, and then add on complementary, quality veterans to slingshot into the stratosphere. While a 60-game, COVID-shortened season isn’t the ideal form of development for our young guys, it’s better than nothing. And, you can argue they flourished all the same.

The M’s are in desperate need for young, cheap, homegrown stars (not necessarily draft picks or international free agent signings, but really anyone acquired to work their way through our minor league system). Kyle Seager was really the last one to stick in any sort of meaningful way, and he obviously has a ceiling to his level of production; before him you’re probably looking at King Felix. That’s NOT a lot of stars over the last 15 years, which makes the futility all the more understandable.

With the crop of youngsters we have on the team now, and the guys in the upper levels of the minors (who figure to be called up pretty early on in the 2021 season), there are a considerable number of candidates who could be stars for this team. That’s so exciting!

As a change of pace, I’m going to rank the top Mariners I’m most excited about, with a little blurb for each.

  1. Jarred Kelenic – We did it! We kept him in the minors for the entirety of the 2020 season! That buys us an extra year of club control, and if we keep him down there for the first month or so in 2021, that’ll earn us one MORE year. This is important, see, because he’s far and away the best prospect we’ve had in the organization since King Felix, the best position player prospect we’ve had since Adam Jones, and probably the best position player prospect who we’re not going to foolishly trade away since Alex Rodriguez! If it all breaks as it should, his floor should be as a perennial All Star, with his ceiling being an MVP-calibre superstar.
  2. Kyle Lewis – Our should-be Rookie of the Year, he’s really exceeded expectations both in his 2019 cup of coffee and his 2020 surge forward. Of course, in both instances, we saw some struggles; his final month of this season was a pretty collosal nightmare from a batting average perspective. But, he remained a tough out – with a resepctable on-base percentage throughout – and took a huge leap in his defense, in locking down the everyday centerfield job. You never root for someone to do poorly, of course, but I don’t think his end to the season was a bad thing. He’s not a finished product, that’s clear. That’s also really exciting, because we know what the floor is (and that’s a really good player); we have no idea what the ceiling is, though, which allows us to dream as big as we want!
  3. Evan White – On paper, his rookie season wasn’t all that good, but there are still promising signs of things to come. For starters, he’s already among the best defensive first basemen in baseball. That’s going to paper over a lot of things for someone who slashed only .179/.253/.352. Anecdotally, though, I think we all saw some good improvement with his approach at the plate. In 54 games, he hit 7 doubles and 8 homers; extrapolate that out for nearly a full season and you’re looking at a 20/20 player. As a rookie? I’ll take that. This was good, pain-free experience for a still-developing prospect; I know I’ve said this a lot over the years, but I really believe he’s only going to get better from here. When he makes contact, the ball really explodes off his bat! This isn’t a Justin Smoak/Warning Track Power sort of swing; he’s got some pop that will play at this level! He just needs to improve his eye at the plate and his contact rate; everything else will work itself out in the years ahead.
  4. Marco Gonzales – What a stud. Just an absolute horse for this team. Someone to lead a new generation of exciting pitchers both with his outstanding on-field performance and his in-clubhouse guidance. I’ll be honest, I forgot we already extended him through 2025, but now that I confirmed it (and at a pretty reasonable salary to boot), I’m even more thrilled! When the M’s originally acquired him from the Cardinals in 2017, I thought we were getting just another ho-hum, soft-tossing lefty who at best would translate to a #5 starter, but more likely fizzle out of baseball entirely. Boy am I happy to be so wrong! He has gotten better every year he’s been here, to the point where you can legitimately have him in the Cy Young conversation! I thought his 2018/2019 level of production was his peak – a 4 ERA type of guy who might give you 175-200 innings and keep you in most games – but what he was in 2020 was a legitimate … ALMOST ace. He’s so close! If he can do what he did this season over 30+ starts next year, then I’ll absolutely give him that mantle for as long as he’s still in Seattle.
  5. Mitch Haniger – Don’t think I forgot about you! You know what’s exciting? Having an All Star locked and loaded and ready to go (hopefully) in 2021. He’s still young, he’s still at the Arbitration level for two more seasons, he’s STARVING to be back on the diamond and among the greats in this league again (so you know motivation won’t be an issue), and he’s still talented in all the ways you want in a right fielder. Sure, he might be a little rusty at first, but he hasn’t irrevocably declined; he’s just had nagging, freak injuries. Injuries, mind you, that should fully heal and shouldn’t hamper his ability going forward. I’m under the assumption that – before too long – he’ll return to his 2018 level, where he was a 6-WAR type of player. This further helps matters because, while the Mariners do have a considerable glut in outfield talent, they don’t necessarily have to call them all up right away. We’ve got Haniger here to soften the blow! Also, with the DH spot up for grabs, if we do end up extending Haniger beyond 2022, he can always transition there and prolong his career that way.
  6. J.P. Crawford – Before the final series of the season – where he raised his batting average nearly 30 points in four games – I think there was a lot of consternation about Crawford’s 2020 season. To that I would say: this is the same guy who was hitting nearly .400 through July 31st; he’s streaky! In great and maddening ways! If you offered me .259/.335/.343 out of him every year, with the quality defense he plays at short stop, I think I’d take that and be happy. I don’t think anyone loves the idea of him being this team’s leadoff hitter – though, he was pretty great at working counts and looking at a lot of pitches this year – but as a bottom-of-the-order type of guy with plus-defense? Yes please! But, more importantly, he’s young enough that there’s still plenty of potential for him to get better as he gets used to playing at this level. I think he’s fine, and I’m happy to continue rooting for him.
  7. Justus Sheffield – There was a lot of concern for him as I’ve noted before, the bloom had come off the rose a little bit (even though he only just turned 24 this year). He was always going to start this season in the Majors and be given every opportunity to work his way through any growing pains. I think he came out of it wildly successful given my pre-season expectations! Six of his ten starts were of the quality variety, and I’d argue it would’ve been seven of ten had the manager left him in there longer in his final appearance of the season (there was no reason to push him, since we weren’t playing for anything, but he had plenty left in the tank). The fastball isn’t great, but his slider is phenomenal, and I thought his command improved tremendously from where it was in 2019. When we traded James Paxton to get him, we’d hoped we were getting a future ace; I don’t think that’s in the cards here. But, he can be a quality #2 or an elite #3 in a great rotation if he continues to progress.
  8. Ty France – He’s not the biggest name we got in the Austin Nola deal, but he’s the most Major League-ready bat, which is just what this team needs. The question remains: where does he belong? Is he a DH until Kyle Seager moves on? Does he take over at third base after that? Do we try to transition him over to second base? Do we shoehorn him into left field until Kelenic gets called up? Or, is he simply trade bait for someone else who has a more established defensive fit for this team? What I’m excited about is the fact that his production at the plate didn’t falter one bit in going from San Diego to Seattle. You never know what you’re going to get when you trade for someone; sometimes the transition causes them to press and try to do too much (leading to mistakes). His bat plays anywhere in the 2-6 range in the lineup – depending on who you’ve got around him – and it should continue to be productive as long as he’s here (under team control through the 2025 season).
  9. Dylan Moore – He’s your frontrunner for the starting second baseman job next year, but he too can play all over the field if you need him. This is VERY impressive for someone who appeared to be nothing more than a utility guy (at best) or a Quad-A level talent (at worst). We’ve seen TONS of Dylan Moore types who never took the next step into being an everyday starter, which is why his story is so special. He came into this season and really set all of our expectations on fire! His defense has DRASTICALLY improved since the beginning of 2019, and now his bat – particularly his power numbers – has taken that leap as well. He’s yet another diamond in the rough this team was able to pluck from obscurity who should be a valuable player on the roster, as well as a valuable trade chip if we need him to be.
  10. Tom Murphy / Luis Torrens – Let’s just lump both of our prospective catchers in here. This has long been a troubled position for the Mariners (as an organization with LOTS of trouble spots they’ve failed to properly fill over the years, that’s really saying something). It’s so reassuring that we not only have this spot 100% locked down in 2021, but for many years to come (with prospect Cal Raleigh knocking on the door of the Majors, who figures to be our regular starting catcher as soon as 2022 or 2023). Murphy, of course, spent 2020 injured, but he should return at full health (and to his quality 2019 form). This, fortunately, afforded us ample opportunity to get a good, long look at Torrens, who also came over from San Diego, and was really reliable in all facets of the catching game for the M’s.
  11. Justin Dunn – Our other big rookie starter getting a “full” season’s worth of experience didn’t have quite as promising of a year as Sheffield. He too has a rather disappointing fastball, but makes up for it with tons of movement. Which means that he didn’t give up very many hits (or even a ton of hard-hit balls), but he walked a bunch of dudes (31 in just over 45 innings). You wonder, if he is able to harness things and stay within the strike zone more, if that’ll translate to giving up more hits and extra-base hits. BUT, if he’s able to put it ALL together, he could be a really special guy. As it is, this was just a year to get his feet wet, and he did that, while staying healthy throughout. He’s worked his arm up, accounting for four quality starts out of ten, and now it’s time to take what he’s learned this year and advance things in 2021 and beyond. Once again – with Sheffield – he’ll be given every opportunity to walk out of Spring Training with a starting rotation job, which means he has a significant head start over the younger guys we’ve drafted in recent years, who are champing at the bit to make their marks in the Major Leagues.
  12. Yohan Ramirez – The bullpen was an unmitigated disaster in 2020, but Ramirez – the Rule 5 guy we got from the Cheating Astros’ organization – managed to not only stay up all year, but be probably our best overall reliever, as well as the guy most poised to be our Closer of the Future. He made 16 appearances, got 3 saves, and had the best ERA on the team (of guys who finished the season on the 25-man roster). He had 26 strikeouts in 20.2 innings, so he’s got electric stuff; but he also had 20 walks in that span, which means he’s yet to fully harness it. Bullpen is such a crapshoot, and we’ve probably got 20 guys right behind him who all have potential to be at least competent, so I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense to go crazy here. I’m just happy we came out of this season with ONE guy I like!

I could go on and on; there are a few pitchers in the minors I’m pretty excited about, but I know almost nothing about them, and I don’t know what exactly they were able to accomplish in Tacoma this year, without any real games happening (and facing the same Mariners prospects over and over). Many of them won’t be ready until 2022 at the earliest, and even the guys who are on the cusp will still likely have to start 2021 in the minors just to prove they’re ready to be called up.

But, if you just look at the guys I talked about here, 2021 looks like it could be quite fun. By midseason, Kelenic, Lewis, and Haniger could be our outfielders. Seager, Crawford, Moore, White, and Murphy/Torrens could be our infield, with Ty France as our DH (and any number of good-looking bench/utility guys behind them, like Jose Marmolejos, Sam Haggerty, Tim Lopes, and Shed Long). What do you think about this lineup?

  1. Dylan Moore (2B)
  2. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  3. Kyle Lewis (CF)
  4. Kyle Seager (3B)
  5. Ty France (DH)
  6. Evan White (1B)
  7. Jarred Kelenic (LF)
  8. Tom Murphy/Luis Torrens (C)
  9. J.P. Crawford (SS)

Obviously, of course, Kelenic will eventually ascend toward the 2-4 range in the lineup, but as a rookie? Let’s give him a soft landing, at least until he’s worked through his inevitable struggles.

That’s a fun lineup, though, right?! Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais are already talking about the 2021 team contending for the playoffs – which is a good year (at least) earlier than most projections had us heading into this season – and that has to be a considerable reason why. Those guys can hit, defend, steal bases, get on base; everything you want! That’s a viable Major League everyday roster that can win a lot of ballgames.

On the pitching side of things, it’s a little more iffy. It sounds like we’re going to continue with a 6-man rotation, with four of the slots going to Marco, Justus Sheffield, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justin Dunn. Figure that Nick Margevicius and Ljay Newsome will compete for a fifth spot (with the other likely heading to the bullpen as a long reliever), and a sixth spot going to a free agent (maybe bring back Taijuan Walker, who was KILLING it in Toronto after we traded him; it’s a bummer that it doesn’t look like he got a chance to pitch in the playoffs, before they lost to the Rays). With all the money the Mariners have to spend, I have to imagine that whoever we sign in free agency will be of high quality. So, if you figure he’s at least on Marco’s level, that’s two high-quality starters at the top of the rotation, with two promising young guys in Sheffield & Dunn, and Kikuchi who will hopefully figure it out at some point (considering his pedigree in the Japanese league). Also, not for nothing, but Margevicius and Newsome both threw lots of strikes and consistently kept the M’s in ballgames, so I have no problem with either one of them.

It’s not a dominant rotation, but as long as guys don’t regress too bad, you can win a lot with them.

The bullpen is another matter, of course. You figure the M’s will also look to free agency here to shore it up, but I won’t be holding my breath. The variance from season to season when it comes to relievers makes them too unpredictable to project. It’s going to take a lot of luck – in finding the right guys, as well as helping our homegrown guys improve in their development – but if the Mariners somehow hit the lottery with their bullpen configuration, then 2021 could very well be the year we end the streak.

It could be the first year since 2001 that we make the post-season!

(it would also help if MLB kept the playoff format as is, with eight teams per league advancing, but that’s neither here nor there).

As I mentioned, every time I’ve left a season allowing myself to dream big about the future, the Mariners have fallen on their faces. This time DOES feel different, though. The foundation doesn’t seem like it’s being held together by 15 year old duct tape, with a leaking roof and spiders crawling all over the basement. The veterans are still in their primes, the young guys look poised to develop early, and if we can just catch a fucking BREAK for once, maybe there will be cause for real, legitimate celebration in 2021!

Or, you know, maybe everything falls apart again, the front office all gets fired after making all these promises of contention, panic moves – made in hopes to save their jobs – all bite us horrifically in the ass, and we’re left to do this all over again in another 5-10 years.

When I put it that way, when do the Seattle Kraken start playing?

Blockbuster: The Mariners Traded Austin Nola & Duds For Prospects (and probably some duds too)

The San Diego Padres are making a move, ladies and germs. From what I can tell, this is the equivalent of pushing your chips out and declaring yourself All In. At the time of this writing, they’ve made four deals, and the trade deadline is still some hours away yet.

One of those deals was to acquire Sicilian Army Knife (seriously, according to Wikipedia anyway, the Nolas emigrated from Sicily) Austin Nola from the Mariners. Since the deal was padded out from there, here’s the nuts and bolts:

  • Padres acquire: Austin Nola, Austin Adams, and Dan Altavilla
  • Mariners acquire: Taylor Trammell, Andres Munoz, Luis Torrens, and Ty France

The rumors started swirling yesterday morning, when Nola was not-so-suspiciously out of the lineup (he had just played the night before, and catchers usually get day games off following night games), but the Mariners DID suspiciously call up a third catcher just in case. Of the players the Mariners might be willing to part with (in other words, the players NOT currently factored into the overall rebuild), Austin Nola had the most value of anyone. He’s currently in the prime of his career, he plays multiple positions well (catcher, first base, the corner outfield spots, maybe even a little third base in a pinch), and he’s still under club control for five more years beyond 2020 (meaning for the duration of his prime, he figures to be extremely cost-effective).

At that point, you have to wonder – as a Mariners fan – why we’d want to give away someone with so much value? If he’s so good, and he’s cheap for so long, isn’t that someone you try to build around?

Well, he turns 31 years old in December. Asked and answered. If we don’t expect the Mariners to seriously contend until 2022 at the earliest – which will be Nola’s age-32 season – is it wise to expect he’ll still be as good when he’s entering his mid-30’s? It’s likely Nola’s trade value will never be higher than it is right this very minute. If his on-field production starts to decline, that value is going to plummet. So, it’s probably smarter to strike while the iron is hot. Nevertheless, when I started reading the rumors, I was adamant that the Mariners better get a king’s fucking ransom in return! We can’t keep trading quality players for pennies on the dollar if we’re ever going to turn this ship around!

And, to their credit, it sounds like the Mariners did just that!

Taylor Trammell is the big prize here. He’s a Top 100 prospect who, oddly enough, is also an outfielder. Including the two guys we have in the minors (until at least a month into the 2021 season) as well as Kyle Lewis, that gives the Mariners four very highly-coveted outfielders. Which, on the one hand, gives us insurance in case someone doesn’t pan out, while on the other hand gives us a valuable trade chip in the unlikely event that they ALL pan out.

Andres Munoz is a reliever who can throw triple digits with ease. At least, he could, until he required Tommy John surgery back in March. Pitchers usually return from this surgery intact, so that’s not much of a worry. He’s 21 years old and already has 22 games of Major League experience from 2019, when he showed that electric stuff (30 strikeouts in 23 innings, albeit with 11 walks and 10 runs given up). I know fans are going to want to immediately declare him the “Closer of the Future”, but let’s hold our horses a little bit. It’s fun to get excited over guys who throw as hard as he does, but these types of pitchers flame out just as easily as they succeed (and it’s pretty rare that any reliever is successful over a long career). I think the best we can hope for is that he puts together one or two magical years when all the stars seem to align for the Mariners; but, banking on him being any consistent presence over the next half decade or longer is simply unrealistic. That being said, his stuff is CLEARLY better than anyone else in the Mariners’ minor league system (saying nothing of the Major League roster, which is a dumpster fire).

Luis Torrens is a 24 year old catcher with moderate MLB experience, where the best he’s shown is promise. He should get a significant look the rest of this season. To his credit, he’s looked better in 2020 than he ever has at this level, and he’s young enough to still build himself into a viable Major League catcher. But, it’s clear the Mariners are banking on Cal Raleigh – currently on the Jarred Kelenic/Julio Rodriguez track – to be this team’s Catcher of the Future. At best, Torrens figures to be his backup, if he’s still around in a few years. In the meantime, he could be the bridge to Raleigh if everything breaks right for him.

It doesn’t sound like Torrens is much of a defender behind the plate. But, so far I’ve really liked the Mariners’ coaching staff when it comes to improving catcher defense. They’ve been able to turn Austin Nola into a star, they got the most out of Omar Narvaez (rated as among the very worst defensive catchers when we traded for him before last season), they turned Tom Murphy’s career around before his injury this year. It seems like they can work with someone like Torrens and build him into at least a league-average catcher.

Ty France is a 26 year old third baseman, who is in his second year in the bigs. Fans have taken that as a sign that Kyle Seager could be moved later today (seems unlikely, given his contract), but he really seems like just another prospect to throw onto the pile. His bat in the minor leagues was insane, but he struggled quite a bit in his Major League debut last year. He’s been better this year – in a small sample, of course – but obviously it’s too soon to make any sort of definitive statement about his development. Like Torrens, I would expect France will get a LONG look the rest of the way, either at DH or subbing in for Seager. Hopefully, his bat stays as hot as it’s been to this point of the season, as losing Nola is going to put a serious damper on this Mariners offense the rest of the way.

I also understand – thanks to U.S.S. Mariner – that France can also play second base, which could be significant because Shed Long looks … bad. Don’t get me wrong, physically he LOOKS cool as shit, but he can’t hit, he lost all his power it would seem, and his defense is nothing to write home about. Since there’s clearly an immediate hole at second base, and there figures to be a hole at third base in the next year or two, if France pans out with his bat, that’s a big worry off our collective plates.

On top of this, the Mariners were able to rid themselves of Dan Altavilla, who – as I’ve lambasted repeatedly this year (and in years prior) – has never been able to parlay his strong arm into Major League success (even more reason to caution against over-hyping Munoz). Austin Adams was a good reliever for the Mariners in 2019, but there’s a reason why I refused to learn any of these relievers’ names this year: none of them figure to be here when the Mariners are good again. Adams hasn’t pitched at all in 2020 because of his ACL surgery (which doesn’t figure to be a serious ailment for a pitcher, but nevertheless requires a buttload of rehab to come back from), which makes his inclusion in this deal all the more surprising. From what I recall, he’s been throwing … somewhere, and may in fact return to Major League action before the season ends. But, I mean, that’s a lot to ask from someone – to jump right into the fire like that – who hasn’t pitched an inning in anger since last September.

This is a pretty exciting deal for the Mariners, all things considered. This further bolsters our farm system and makes our current youth movement at the Major League level all the more interesting. It’s also an exciting deal for the Padres! I have no reason for any animosity towards them; they’re another franchise who hasn’t been good in a LONG time. It’s commendable for them to play for the championship right now, as opposed to playing it safe and seeing if their own guys can develop on their own. I don’t really have any other ponies in this race (particularly with King Felix sitting the season out), so yeah, I’ll root for the Padres! Go get ’em boys! May Austin Nola be the last piece to the championship puzzle!

The Mariners Cut Dan Vogelbach

The Mariners are bound to make a lot of low-level roster moves this season, as they cycle through young players to get a look at as many prospects as possible (at least, when it comes to prospects whose service time they don’t mind churning through before it’s absolutely necessary; sorry Jarred Kelenic, you gotta wait). As such, I’m not going to write about every little move the team makes.

For instance, last night we saw the 2020 debuts for a couple of Quad-A outfielders who will probably never amount to much of anything at the Major League level; am I going to talk about them? No, I am not. I can barely muster the energy to talk about how Mallex Smith was demoted off of the Major League roster the other day. He’s been PRETTY terrible since we traded away Mike Zunino to bring him here, and while I don’t miss Zunino’s millions of strikeouts and anemic batting average, it still feels like we should’ve gotten a better player in return for a former #3 overall draft pick whose defense at least played well at this level. But, anyway, Mallex Smith is here now and he apparently still has minor league options; nevertheless, I don’t expect he’ll be part of the Mariners’ organization in 2021, so here’s hoping he figures his swing out to the point where we can maybe trade him away for scraps.

Dan Vogelbach is the real story here, and I know what you’re thinking. Here’s a guy with a slash line of .094/.250/.226; why are we writing a Mariners Obituary for someone who was never really much of anyone?

I dunno, I guess I think it’s noteworthy when the Mariners – who we can all agree has been a poorly-run organization for almost the entirety of its existence – DFA a guy who was an All Star just a year ago. First of all, it’s crazy that Vogey was an All Star to begin with; the guy’s career numbers are pretty pisspoor: .196/.326/.397. As a guy marketed as a big, burly, hit-first dude when he first came here, his only real skill that you could count on was his ability to take walks. I always got the feeling that the only reason he EVER swung the bat was due to peer pressure from coaches and players around him. Guys with no speed – who only generate walks and singles – have no value in this league, unless you play a premium defensive position AND you’re the absolute very best at that position (the paradox there is that you generally need to have a lot of speed to be good at defense). Vogey’s best defensive position was Designated Hitter; he’s like the rambunctious little boy who is best able to “help” his mom by staying out of her hair for a while. If he was ever going to stick at this level, he needed to be a guy who – when he did swing – hit lots and lots of dingers.

And, for one season, he did that. In 2019, he hit 30 homers in 144 games. By then, he was no longer blocked by Nelson Cruz at DH, and the team mostly stopped trying to shoehorn him into playing first base, so he was free to just mash. Both fortunately and unfortunately, he did the bulk of that mashing in the first half of the season. He hit 20 of those homers from April through June (which is the period that they look at to determine All Star Game rosters), but both his power and overall batting numbers took a steep decline from that point onward. As I’ve complained about repeatedly, he’d find ways to get ahead in the count, then he’d take a nice, juicy meatball right down the middle rather than depositing it into outer space. From there, he’d either work that walk I mentioned earlier, or he’d feebly swing and usually strike out.

The thing is, there’s no joy in writing this. I’m not happy he’s gone, like I usually am for so many underperforming former Mariners. Vogey was an incredibly likable guy, all things considered. There’s a reason everyone keeps comparing him to Chris Farley; he just seems like such a fun teddy bear/party animal! HE NEVER STRAPPED HIS BATTING GLOVES IN; HE JUST LET THE FLAPS HANG OPEN! He always seemed like he was having a great time, and by all accounts he was a terrific teammate and clubhouse presence. You couldn’t help but root for the guy, because the potential for greatness was always there, but also because you just wanted to see Vogey do well and continue to be happy! Also, not for nothing, but as a bigger guy myself, I can’t help but want to see other big dudes succeed at such an insane level as the Major Leagues.

But, also, by some accounts he wasn’t necessarily the most dedicated to his health or his craft. It sounds like, at some point, he got so good at hitting that he sort of cruised by on what he did well, and never really worked to keep improving. And, it’s like the manager said, if your one thing is hitting, and you’re consistently NOT hitting, then at some point the team needs to make a move.

Someone, I think, on Twitter mentioned something about Vogey playing in Japan or Korea; I think that’s PERFECT for him! I think he would excel SPECTACULARLY overseas! Do you know how many slug-first former MLBers go over there and jack dozens of homers every year, to universal acclaim?! He would be a freaking SUPERSTAR over there! While it’s not outside the realm of possibility for him to get his career back on track here in the States, I think that really is the best option; he’d get to do what he loves, he’d probably be great at it, he’d have thousands (or maybe even millions if he’s good enough) of adoring fans, he’d make a good living, and he’d get to go back to being Vogey again (without all the pressure of trying to be a cornerstone to a rebuilding franchise).

Anyway, I’m rooting for him. Consider me a Vogey fan for life. And, of course, there’s always the outside chance that the team re-signs him to a minor league deal (assuming he clears waivers), but either way this still feels like the end in many respects.