Are The Mariners The Worst Home Team In Baseball?

There are obviously worse teams out there. The Orioles are 3-10 at home, for instance. The Marlins and Nationals are marginally worse at home, recordwise. But, God damn have the Mariners been horrid at T-Mobile Park so far!

In choosing to go to the 3:40pm game yesterday, I couldn’t have picked a worse one to attend. An 11-0 rout by the Cubs that was never even remotely competitive after the first inning. In the stands packed to the gills with Cubs fans, there was less than nothing to cheer for. I left after the third inning, after we were down 7-0; it was the best decision I made all day.

So, getting back to the original premise, the first homestand of the season was pretty good. The M’s went 5-1 against the Red Sox and Angels, with a +14 run differential. Not bad! The subsequent 6-1 road trip really had fans taking notice, but that was just the calm before the storm. We returned home to lose all six games to the Astros and Indians; our Run Differential At Home went from +14 to +2, as our record went to 5-7. After a 3-3 road trip to Anaheim and San Diego, we won the first two against the Rangers to bring our Run Differential At Home back up to +15. Then, the apocalypse: we lost the final two to the Rangers, and both games to the Cubs, by a combined 39 runs. That’s a -24 Run Differential At Home, which I have to believe is the worst in baseball.

Our overall Run Differential is all the way down to +2. It … hasn’t been pleasant.

In other news, I know Mallex Smith was sent down to work on things, but can we also send Domingo Santana down? Because that dude is a piece of shit in the outfield! I have never seen anyone drop so many easy fly balls in my life! He has 6 errors in the outfield already! No one else has more than 3! I mean, does he just not care? Is he trying to tank it so the team will keep him as a DH? His bat may be better than I expected, but his defense is a million times worse, and if the team doesn’t bench his ass at least once in the next series, I’m going to seriously question Scott Servais and his managing style. He has no problem calling out Felix or Jean Segura, but Domingo Santana is just going to continue getting away with nonchalant outfield defense? No fucking way! Send a fucking message, Servais! Nip this shit in the bud!

That’s all I got. Thank Christ the Mariners are off today, because there’s no way I could bring myself to look at them right now.

The 2019 Mariners Have Even Bigger Ewing Theory Potential Than The 2001 Mariners

All credit to Bill Simmons, let’s go back JUST a bit, to 2001.

To put it in context, we all remember that crazy-wonderful 1995 team that saved baseball in Seattle. In 1996, behind a number of questionable dealings, and one glaring Randy Johnson-sized hole in our rotation, we fell back to Earth a little bit. But, the original core put it all together for a quasi-memorable playoff run that ended in the ALDS. That team was absolutely LOADED, with one of the all-time best power offenses in MLB history (264 homers, 925 runs scored, tops in the league in slugging & OPS), to go along with a healthy Big Unit, a rock-solid complement of starters featuring Jamie Moyer & Jeff Fassero, and a zoo of a bullpen that eventually coalesced into something halfway passable (though it cost us an arm & a leg in deadline deals to make it happen).

If you want to talk about one of the most underrated Seattle sports What Could’ve Been’s, the 1997 Mariners are right at the top. I mean, how does a team with Griffey, Edgar, A-Rod, and Buhner (all at the absolute PEAK of their powers) lose to the Baltimore Orioles in 4 games in the ALDS with Randy Johnson losing TWICE? It’s absolutely unfathomable. You’re telling me that team couldn’t have taken out the Indians and the Marlins for a World Series title? Get real!

Anyway, halfway through the 1998 season, the M’s traded Randy (as opposed to extending him; he would go on to win 4 Cy Young Awards and a World Series title in Arizona) while we slogged through a losing season. Then, after another slog through 1999, Griffey demanded a trade. We somehow managed to parlay that into a 2000 Wild Card finish and an ALCS appearance. Following that, A-Rod walked to the Rangers with a then-record $252 million contract, and in 2001 we somehow managed to parlay it into a tie for the most wins in a season in MLB history.

I now refer you back to that Bill Simmons article, which was actually written in the early stages of that 2001 season. Sometimes, freaky shit like this happens! The Mariners dropped three of their most talented players of all time – in the primes of their respective careers – and somehow improved. What the shit is that?!?

Fast forward to 2019. The Mariners just rid themselves of – or are otherwise playing without – the following guys:

  • Robinson Cano
  • Nelson Cruz
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Kyle Seager
  • Jean Segura
  • James Paxton
  • Alex Colome

Those are just the BEST guys, or ostensibly the guys who are supposed to be the best. That doesn’t even factor other bullpen arms, Mike Zunino, various other Quad-A outfielders, and so on and so forth. But those 7 guys up there are pretty huge. And yet, the 2019 Mariners are now 10-2 and absolutely DESTROYING everyone in their path!

Now, as it relates to this team’s 2001 Ewing Theory status, at least that team was coming off of a playoff appearance. THIS team is coming off of zero playoff appearances in 18 years!

Of course, the question is: How long can this continue? As I’ve written about ad nauseam so far, it’s only a matter of time. But, then again, who knows?

What we do know is that this offense is raking through 11 games, having hit 5 more homers last night en route to another lopsided victory. +37 in run differential is now the best in all of baseball, and from what we heard all last year, that’s the most important indicator of a team’s success, right?

So, maybe instead I should be asking: How long can this offense keep it up?

I don’t have a good answer for you there, but I hope it’s forever. If they are indeed the Best Offense In Baseball, then I think we’ll have to shift expectations for where this team can end up. Either way, at this point I’m glad I didn’t bet on the over/under for season wins, because I’m pretty sure I would’ve taken UNDER 74.5, and I’d be looking like an idiot right now.

Comparing The Mariners Lineups From 2018 To 2019

Grains of salt, I’ve taken a few: obviously it’s mid-January, and Jerry Dipoto is a wildman when it comes to wheeling and dealing. So, this could look VERY different when Pitchers & Catchers Report, as it could look VERY different come April when the regular season gets going in earnest. But, it’s getting to be gambling season, and my friends have commissioned me to start looking at this team for the purposes of futures bets; namely: over/under 74.5 wins.

My hunch is, we’re pretty close to looking at the everyday lineup. Sure, some high-salary oldies could be sent packing, but I’ll speculate on that with each guy. For what it’s worth, I’m not going to talk about every single dude who played at each position in 2018; I’m going to stick to the big names, the guys who played the lion’s share of games. Without further ado:

Catcher

2018 – Mike Zunino, 2019 – Omar Narvaez

This is one of those changes I’m most interested in seeing how it plays out in the early going, because these guys could hardly be more different. Zunino was excellent in all facets of defense at the position; Narvaez appears to be among the very worst. Zunino had a ton of power, not only launching balls among the farthest in the league, but also with the volume of balls leaving the park the last couple seasons. Narvaez appears to have very little power, and will be fortunate – with his increased workload – to hit double-digit dingers. On the flipside, Zunino’s batting average and on-base percentage were absolute trash, and the primary source of this entire fanbase’s angst. Narvaez, conversely, hits for a very nice average, with a tremendous on-base percentage, and doesn’t strike out NEARLY as often. So, you know, pick your poison, I guess. What means more to the overall success of the team?

My hunch is that it’ll be a wash. I can already tell you that we’re going to be inundated with countless articles and blog posts about how Zunino’s overall package is worth more than Narvaez’s, but I honestly don’t understand all the defensive metrics and I feel like much more weight is put on them than is actually the case. I will say this: if defense is ever going to mean more, it’s at the catcher spot, with all the different ways they control the game.

First Base

2018 – Ryon Healy/Dan Vogelbach, 2019 – Same

Putting Vogey in here seems like a bit of a stretch; he hardly played in the Bigs in 2018 and he might not play much at all in 2019 either. Nevertheless, it’s now or never for the kid, so this is his last and best shot with the Mariners.

As for Healy, I’m pretty confident we know what we’ve got in him: a placeholder for Evan White. He’s a high power guy (25 and 24 homers the last two years) whose average and on-base percentage took a big hit as he went from Oakland to Seattle between 2017 and 2018. He strikes out a ton (though he scaled that back just a tad last year), and brings solid first base defense (for what that’s worth). Considering where all the power went on this team between 2018 and 2019, Healy could be a difference-maker for this squad. If his power becomes drained, that’s a black hole this team can ill-afford. If he steps up and returns his average to the .270 range, we could be talking about a nice player on an underwhelming team.

I do think one or both of these guys could still be traded, but the value isn’t very high, so I wouldn’t bank on it.

Second Base

2018 – Robinson Cano/Dee Gordon, 2019 – Dee Gordon

Losing Cano obviously hurts in the short term (this is a post about the 2019 season, so I won’t get into the benefits of dumping his salary and remaining contract years). He only had 10 homers and 22 doubles last year, but remember he missed half the season. Prior to that, with the Mariners, Cano had been a force in all facets of the game. His power numbers were much better than we expected, his slash line was as expected, and his defense was silky smooth as always.

Gordon, on the other hand, was brought in here to convert to outfield in an experiment that was working just fine until the Cano suspension. Of course, at that time, we thanked our lucky stars we still had an All Star second baseman on the roster, so it was a no-brainer to move him back to the infield. But, his bat went in the tank thereafter, finishing the season with a slash line of .268/.288/.349. He stole 30 bases – which was exactly half of what he did in 2017 – and while his defense was pretty stellar, it was clear he wasn’t the leadoff hitter we were hoping for. The guy just won’t take a walk. He hardly even takes a single PITCH! Gordon is the kind of guy who needs to hit over .300 to be of any value to your team, because otherwise he doesn’t find enough ways to get on base and use that speed to his advantage; he’s never had any power to speak of, and really doesn’t leg out enough doubles to be of any use.

Gordon is a clear downgrade at the spot for 2019. I thought the Mariners would’ve traded him by now, but his value appears to be too low to get anything back. He might be someone to look at dealing at the deadline, assuming another team has a need at the position. Any way you slice it, this is a guy who was brought in to bat #1 in the lineup, who will spend more time batting #9.

Third Base

2018 – Kyle Seager, 2019 – Same

Seager has been a steady presence for the Mariners since his rookie call-up in 2011. Last year was an all-time low across the board. His defense was actually something to laud early in the 2018 season, but it eroded as did his confidence. He’s a guy who’s always tinkering with his stance and approach, but the bottom line is as the use of shifts has gone up, so have his numbers gone down.

I don’t really see a fix for this, outside of the MLB commissioner totally outlawing shifts, which almost certainly won’t happen this year. Either he figures out how to hit the other way (seems very unlikely), he devotes his entire game to lifting the ball and hitting dingers (he might as well, since his strikeout numbers were also at an all-time high in 2018), or he just gets lucky with BABIP (which also doesn’t seem likely, as you’d think the shift is designed to cut that way down). Bottom line: he better develop a change in his swing that induces MANY more fly balls, or he’s toast.

I do think he’ll be on the trading block at some point this season, but moving him won’t be easy, as his value is at its all-time lowest.

Short Stop

2018 – Jean Segura, 2019 – J.P. Crawford/Tim Beckham

Here is your very biggest downgrade on the entire team, and it’s not even close. Jean Segura was a .300 hitter, with moderate home run power, very good doubles numbers, low strikeouts, and excellent on-base numbers. Combined with his defense, which was fine, and you’re talking about an All Star short stop.

Crawford is a young-ish, highly-touted prospect who is verging on Bust territory. Beckham is slightly less young-ish, highly-touted prospect who is already in that Bust territory. I don’t think either of these guys are remarkably better defensively than Segura (if they’re better at all, which remains to be seen), and their bats outright stink. This is going to be a black hole for the entire 2019 season, outside of probably a few (and far between) hot streaks.

Centerfield

2018 – Dee Gordon/Guillermo Heredia/Others, 2019 – Mallex Smith

I’ve already talked about Gordon. Heredia brought better defense, but otherwise very little to the table battingwise. He was a Quad-A player at best who got way too long of a look at Ben Gamel’s expense.

Mallex Smith broke out in 2018 and appears to be a fun-looking young player going forward. His defense is great, he hits for a high average, and unlike Dee, he CAN take a walk. He can take many of them! There’s no power there, but he stole 40 bases last year, and actually parlayed his speed into 27 doubles. With Gordon as the #9 hitter, and Smith as the #1 hitter, if we can ever get these guys on the bases at the same time, we should likely see some runs scored. Smith is a prototypical leadoff hitter and should be a huge upgrade at this spot in the lineup.

Right Field

2018 – Mitch Haniger, 2019 – Same

He’s got all the tools and is a cornerstone piece for this organization for many years to come (unless, of course, some needy franchise gives us a Godfather deal for an insane return of high-level prospects). The only question is, will he be the same now that he’s far and away the best player on the team? Last year, he had Cruz, Cano, and even Seager to hide behind. We could bat him second, taking advantage of those heavier hitters behind him, or we could move him down to 6th in the lineup to hide him a little bit. But, you figure with Cano and Cruz gone, he’s likely going to be slotted right in the sweet spot of #3 or #4. Will the added pressure get to him? He hasn’t been so great in those spots to this point in his career, albeit in very few ABs.

Left Field

2018 – Denard Span/Ben Gamel/Guillermo Heredia, 2019 – Jay Bruce/Domingo Santana

Heredia, I talked about. Gamel was an okay defender, with excellent batting numbers, though a complete dearth of power. Span was old, with waning defensive skills, but brought everything you could ever want to the plate with him. Just about every time was a professional at bat and a God damned delight! Shades of grandfather Seth Smith.

In Jay Bruce, you hope to see more of the same as with Span. He’ll be 32 years old this year, and his average took a big hit in 2018 (after being pretty respectable to that point in his career), but he comes with more power than anyone we had in 2018. He also gets on base quite a bit, so you could see him as this team’s #2 hitter.

In Domingo Santana, we actually have someone much more interesting. He’s coming off of a rough, injury-plagued 2018, but in 2017, he was absolutely fantastic. High average, good on-base numbers, and 30 homers to go with 29 doubles. If he returns to that player, opposite Mitch Haniger, with Mallex Smith in the middle helping cover extra ground, we could be talking about a dynamite outfield the likes of which we haven’t seen around here in a LONG time.

But, that’s a pretty big IF. The good thing, we have both of these guys, so you’d think ONE of them would pan out. At this point, we have no idea how the timeshare is going to work, as I would assume it’ll be based on merit. But, I have to imagine Santana will get a pretty significant look, as he figures to be part of this team’s future. If he stinks, and Bruce is washed up, then what might’ve been an improvement could very well be a downgrade compared to 2018. If nothing else, you’d think we’d at least see improved power numbers out of this spot. As for everything else, who knows?

Designated Hitter

2018 – Nelson Cruz, 2019 – Edwin Encarnacion

This feels like a pretty significant downgrade on first look, but that could be my absolute love of Nellie clouding my judgment. In reality, while he still hit a whopping 37 homers in 2018, his average took a big hit, ending up at .256. Which, incidentally, is in line with where Encarnacion has been for much of his career. Encarnacion has 30+ homers in his last seven years, so assuming Cruz’s average doesn’t snap back into the .270-.290 range, this could be pretty close to even compared to where the Mariners were in 2018.

Of course, Encarnacion is probably the MOST likely of these guys to be moved before the season starts, at which point you’re looking at a lot more Jay Bruce, a lot more Vogelbach, or a lot more some guy off the scrap heap (in which case, it’s a big minus).

Conclusion

In 2018, based on run differential, the Mariners should’ve been a 77-win team. Obviously, a crazy-unsustainable amount of good luck in the pitching department (specifically the bullpen department) led to the 2018 Mariners actually winning 89 games. Considering most of those bullpen guys are gone, to be replaced by clear downgrades across the board (saying nothing of the starting rotation), you’d have to think at the very least the Mariners will play closer to their run differential expectations.

Which takes us to the hitters. I don’t think the Mariners were particularly lucky OR unlucky in 2018 when it comes to hitting. I think what you saw was what you got. Assuming that proves the same again (and we don’t see a bunch of flukey walk-off homers, or insane cluster-luck), will this group of position players bring the win total up or down compared to 2018?

I have catcher, first base, third base, right field as a wash. I also see DH as a wash, assuming Encarnacion lasts the entire season in a Mariners uniform.

I see very significant downgrades at second base and short stop, from a hitting perspective (defense is likely a wash) which will ensure that this team doesn’t win 80 games.

I see upgrades at center and left fields, though left is the biggest wild card. It could be a HUGE upgrade, or a wash, with a chance of even being a detriment. Center is almost assured to be an improvement, as we’ll be getting improved defense and improved on-base numbers (with all else being the same).

So, what does this mean for the over/under of 74.5? Well, there’s room for improvement at third base and left field. I find it unlikely that Seager will be able to do enough to return to his former glory, which means we’re putting A LOT of hope on that young left fielder panning out and turning into a star (to replace one of the THREE stars we sent away).

There’s also a good chance Haniger regresses some, that the older guys are finished, that the catcher defense reduces the effectiveness of our pitchers, and that the overall power numbers from this offense goes totally and completely in the tank. At which point, will there be enough walks, singles, and doubles to score enough runs to win any games? With THIS pitching staff?

While I have yet to really focus on the pitchers yet, let’s say winning over 74.5 games doesn’t look great.

Mariners Fire Sale! Everything Must Go!

I’ve had sort of mixed emotions about the first two big deals on this list (that I linked to, if you want to read about my feelings).  I think they were definitely necessary moves the Mariners needed to make, to shake things up and boost our farm system, but ultimately I wonder if we got enough back in return.  A starting catcher (who’s also a defensive wizard) for a centerfielder who probably won’t be here for more than a year or two before we get tired of yet another slap-hitting singles artist FEELS like pennies on the dollar.  Then, giving up a potential Ace starting pitcher for a mixed bag of minor league talent – again, while bolstering our terrible minor league teams – FEELS like yet more pennies on the dollar.  Now, of course, both of those guys (all three, if you want to include Heredia) come with their own risks.  Paxton and his injury issues, and Zunino with his woeful hitting issues, could submarine their respective new teams.  Or, they could figure it out/catch a little luck, and be superstars we gave up on too soon.

Before we get to the next slate of deals, I’ll talk about the minor moves the M’s made.  For starters, it seems odd that we’d dump Herrmann when we were already looking to trade Zunino, and the fact that the Astros made a play on him is doubly concerning.  In the end, probably no big thing, and he’s probably not a guy you’d want to guarantee a 40-man roster spot at this point in his career, so whatever.

Not going to arbitration on either Erasmo or Nick Vincent is probably a net gain.  I’m on the record as not having a whole lot of belief in Erasmo.  I think, for what he brings, he shouldn’t cost you very much in salary, so if he gets that elsewhere, more power to him.  And, while I like Vincent as much as the next guy, he was due a significant raise, and given his age and his declining abilities in 2018, that’s money poorly spent for the direction this team is going in.  I’m okay without either of them going forward, as I particularly think Vincent’s best days are behind him, and he’s going to get WAY too much money from another team.

The M’s offered Elias arbitration, and I think that’s cool, but I would’ve been cool if we didn’t as well.  I don’t think he’s in the longterm plans, but you do need to fill out a 25-man roster.  As a reliever/swing starter, there’s some value there.  He was good in 2018, and it’s just as likely he’ll be terrible in 2019, in which case that helps us on our quest to get a higher draft pick.

Finally, Casey Lawrence asked for his release so he can go pitch overseas.  I wish him the best, but again, no great loss.  He was mostly AAA fodder with occasional underwhelming call-ups.

***

Okay, now to the big deals!  Let’s start with the appetizer.

There was all this talk about the above-referenced blockbuster deal with the Mets, but before we were finished obsessing over that one, Jerry Dipoto snuck in a sneaky-good deal with the White Sox.  Alex Colome was another guy with some value who was not in our longterm plans.  He’s still got closing ability, he did pretty okay in 2018, so that value was probably not going up considerably.  Better to strike now rather than at midseason, when he could suck (or get injured) in the first half and see his value drop to zero.

On top of that, we get a starting-calibre catcher in return!  Omar “Don’t Call Me Navarez” Narvaez is a bat-first, lefty-hitting catcher who can take a walk and hit for a decent average.  He lacks Zunino’s power, but he’s improved in that area over the last year.  Where he stinks, unfortunately, is every aspect of his defense, as he rates as one of the very worst in the league.  Pitch-framing, throwing out runners, blocking pitches in the dirt, you name it, he sucks at it.  So, that’s going to be a drastic change of pace.  He’s essentially the Anti-Zunino, so if you REALLY hated Zunino, you’re REALLY gonna love this guy.

We’ll see if he can pick it up defensively, but I feel like that’s something you either have or you don’t, and you don’t really develop it if you lack it in the first place.  I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like he’s NOT the Catcher of the Future, not unless we find more pitchers who are able to miss more bats (without diving balls between and betwixt his legs).

Regardless, if you can get a starting catcher with multiple years of team control for a reliever on the final year of his contract, that’s a deal you make 10 times out of 10.

So, that solves the Zunino-sized hole at our catcher spot.

***

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s dig into the main course:  the Mets deal.

Robinson Cano has 5 years and $120 million left on his deal.  He’s old, but he’s still pretty effective; if I had to guess I’d say he has at least 2-3 more years left playing at his current level of productivity.  There’s always the chance that he’ll start his decline sooner rather than later – particularly on defense – but he’s too naturally talented to be a total black hole at the plate.  That having been said, as his legs go, it’ll end up being either singles, homers, or strikeouts, so unless he beefs up his homer totals, I can’t see him hitting a significant number of doubles from here on out.  With Nelson Cruz seemingly out of the picture, it looked like Cano was a natural to start to transition to his eventual destination as this team’s primary DH.  But, the M’s obviously had other plans.

So, what changed in a year?  Obviously, the PED suspension.  I’m trying to get a handle on if it’s a concern of a second suspension (and a yearlong ban), or if it’s just his attitude/personality and how it might clash with the new/younger direction this team is looking to make.  He’s obviously a big character on this team, and commands a lot of respect wherever he goes, and maybe the Mariners just want the players to learn from a different voice.  I mean, Cano is an All Star, so you can obviously learn a ton from a guy who built himself up from nothing.  But, there are the usual concerns about his hussle and his passion for the game.  I dunno.  I don’t know if we’ll ever get the real dirt about why the Mariners wanted out from under this deal.  I would assume the concern lies in the fact that he probably NEEDS the PEDs to keep up with his usual All Star level, and without them, his decline will start earlier.

With the $24 million per year contract, we obviously were never going to trade him by himself.  Unfortunately, the only real carrot we could dangle to get him out of here was our all-world closer Edwin Diaz.

I’ve been on record from the very beginning as saying this team should deal Diaz, and if I had it my way, we would’ve traded JUST him to the highest bidder, and gotten a REAL prospect windfall in return.  Honestly, I don’t believe he has it in him to stay at that level for very long.  I think with the way he throws the ball, he’s destined to sustain a serious arm injury, maybe even as soon as 2019.  It wouldn’t shock me in the SLIGHTEST to see him tear something and be out for a year.  I think, regardless of whether he injures his arm or not, he’s destined to lose velo on his fastball sooner rather than later – certainly well before he’s set to hit free agency – and with that I think his value as a closer will plummet.  This is, without question, Edwin Diaz at the peak of his value, and we were never going to have a better opportunity to replenish our minor leagues.

If it were up to me, and the Mariners are just hellbent on ridding this culture of Robinson Cano, then I would’ve just cut him and paid him his remaining salary, while trading Diaz for the highest bounty possible.  But, obviously, it’s not my money, so that’s easy for me to say.

That scenario just isn’t realistic.  I don’t see the harm in forcing him to exclusively DH (while maybe spot starting at second in an emergency), and riding out the remaining years of his contract.  Was he really so poisonous to this culture?  Would his presence alone have set us back so much?

Now, obviously, there’s the fringe benefit of making the Mariners worse by getting rid of him now.  Like I said, Cano can still play, and I bet he’ll be pretty solid for the Mets in 2019.  If our goal is to bottom out, then obviously you don’t want a guy in your lineup doing POSITIVE things like hitting for a high average, lots of extra-base hits, and lots of RBI.  So, that’s something.

In return, we take on some high-priced/low-performing contracts from the Mets.  Jay Bruce is set to earn $26 million over the next two years.  He’s a corner outfielder and I can’t imagine his defense is worth a damn.  Maybe he starts in left; maybe he platoons with Gamel (though, they both bat lefty, so that seems unlikely); maybe the M’s find a way to flip him to another team!  He was okay in 2017, but really had a bad 2018.  He does have some pop in his bat, and he’ll be 32 next year, so maybe we run him out as the DH?  Feels like the best way to preserve his legs and keep him away from anything related to defense.

Anthony Swarzak is on the hook for $8 million in 2019; he’s a veteran reliever who also had a good 2017, then bottomed out in 2018.

If we just talk about money, that’s $21 million for Bruce & Swarzak in 2019, and $13 for Bruce in 2020; that totals $34 million out of Cano’s remaining $120 million.  On top of that, the M’s chipped in an extra $20 million, meaning we ended up saving a total of $66 million going forward (not counting the remaining guys in the deal).  That’s not an insignificant number, especially when you hope that by the time 2021 rolls around, this team will be in a position to contend again.  That’s just the time when Cano should start to suck and Diaz should be recovering from a shoulder surgery!

As for the prospects, your guess is as good as mine.  Kelenic was the 6th overall selection in the 2018 draft.  He’s an 18-year old outfielder with all the tools; he just needs to develop them.  He would be the prize of this deal.  Again, if you can trade a reliever for a starting-calibre outfielder, you make that trade 10 times out of 10.  The question is:  do you trust this organization to develop him the right way?

Dunn is a 19th overall draft pick from 2016 and was the Mets’ highest pitching prospect.  He was in AA last year, so he appears to be on the right track.

Bautista is a reliever who can apparently throw 100 miles per hour.  Obviously, he has command problems, but we have a couple years to work out those kinks before hopefully he’ll stick in our Major League bullpen (or get flipped for still more prospects, if the ol’ rebuild hasn’t gone according to plan).

For what the Mariners were trying to do – acquire top-flight prospects while shedding some money and ridding the clubhouse of a possible cancer – this is probably as good as it gets.  If the outfielder pans out, it’s a terrific deal.  If he doesn’t, and the starter converts to relief, and the reliever flames out, then this could’ve busted SUPER HARD.

***

And, for dessert, I bring you the Jean Segura deal.

This one … REALLY makes me mad.  For starters, we traded for him prior to 2017 in what was at the time a CLEAR victory for the Mariners.  For Taijuan Walker (who doesn’t look like he’ll come close to being the ace we thought he could be), we got an All Star short stop and an All Star outfielder in the primes of their careers.  He started off strong in 2017, so we signed him MID-SEASON to a 5-year extension when we could’ve easily let him play it out through 2018 and seen what we had in him.

But, we liked him enough, so fine, 5-year extension.  He was officially part of our future.  And they didn’t realize until halfway through 2018 that he’s a headcase???  That he’s kind of soft and kind of a clubhouse cancer and we’re now bound and determined to do whatever it takes to be rid of him?

Look, I get the spirit of the rebuild, I really do!  But, this is an All Star player – particularly with the bat – on a very REASONABLE contract; he should be worth more than this!

Segura is due $14.25 million per year for the next 4 years.  In that time, he’ll almost certainly be worth that figure, if not be an outright bargain.  But, whatever, we save that money and we ostensibly get worse at the short stop position in 2019 (again, so we can tank and get that higher draft pick).  Then, there’s Juan Nicasio’s $9 million for 2019.  He, of course, sucked a fat one in 2018, but that could obviously flip entirely the very next year, because that’s how it is with relievers; randomness abounds!  Nevertheless, that’s a lot for an 8th inning reliever who may or may not be finished.  James Pazos has a nothing salary, which is most galling, because he’s both young and good!  Why couldn’t HE fetch a pretty penny on the open market?  Why the need to throw him into the mix?

Particularly when Carlos Santana is coming our way?!  He’s a first baseman (or a DH, depending on what else we do with that first base spot) who’s owed a combined $35 million over the next two years ($500,000 of that is a buyout for 2021, because you figure there’s no way in hell this team is going to pay a 35 year old first baseman another $17.5 million when they don’t have to).  Santana – like all these other useless veterans we’re getting back in these deals – was great in 2017 and stunk in 2018.  So, NOT GREAT, JERRY!

The prize in this deal, I guess, is J.P. Crawford, who will be a 24-year old glove-first/no-bat short stop in 2019.  If we can develop the bat into something halfway decent, then maybe that’s an upgrade in the end.  But, that’s obviously no guarantee.

And, that’s it.  A new short stop and a savings of another $31 million.  On the plus side, all these massive contracts expire after 2019 or 2020, so RIGHT ON TRACK FOR 2021 YOU GUYS!

As always, it’s hard to judge anything until you see the rest of the offseason moves.  But, you figure the biggest deals have been made (unless the team goes full boar and unloads Haniger for another bevy of prospects), and now it’s time for the rest of the roster moves to fill in around these guys.  But, on a surface level, it’s hard to get too excited, when so many variables are in play.

Looking At Some Numbers And Stuff About The 2018 Mariners

The Mariners’ season ended with a whimper over the weekend.  The M’s took 3 of 4 against the Rangers to finish 89-73.  That’s good for 14 games behind the Astros for the division and 8 games behind the Athletics for the second wild card (also, 1 game behind the Rays for the first runner up position to that second wild card, but that’s neither here nor there).

The Mariners were -34 in run differential, which comes out to a pythagorean win total of only 77.  They were 45-36 at home and 44-37 on the road.  They were 36-21 in 1-run games and a whopping 14-1 in extras!

Somehow, the Mariners had a winning record against every single team in the division:

  • 10-9 vs. Houston
  • 10-9 vs. Oakland
  • 11-8 vs. Anaheim
  • 10-9 vs. Texas

The Mariners were 23-9 against the AL Central, 19-15 against the AL East.  But, as I talked about before, the Mariners were a dreadful 6-14 against the National League (which, again, if you flip that, then we’re tied with the A’s for that second wild card spot).

Here’s the month-by-month:

  • March/April:  16-11
  • May:  18-11
  • June:  19-9
  • July:  10-13
  • August:  12-16
  • September:  14-13

And just to rub some salt in the wounds:

  • Pre July 4th:  55-31
  • July 4th onward:  34-42

I like to point to July 3rd as the high-water mark, but it was really just the beginning of the end.  The REAL high-water mark was at the conclusion of our game on June 5th, where we beat the Astros in Houston and took a 2-game lead in the A.L. West.  We, of course, lost to the eventual champs the very next day and after another week of hovering around first place, we ended up dipping below for the duration of the season.

*Sigh* those were wonderful, delightful times back in early June.  I was so young and naive in those days!

Let’s move on to some individual accolades.

  • Jean Segura is your 2018 Mariners batting champion, with a .304 average
  • Robinson Cano is your 2018 Mariners OBP leader with .374
  • Mitch Haniger is your non-suspended 2018 Mariners OBP leader with .366
  • Nelson Cruz is your slugging champ with .509
  • And Haniger is your OPS champ with .859 (narrowly besting Cruz’s .850)

Here are all the guys who had 10+ homers:

  1. Cruz – 37
  2. Haniger – 26
  3. Ryon Healy – 24
  4. Kyle Seager – 22
  5. Mike Zunino – 20
  6. Segura – 10
  7. Cano – 10

With all of that, the Mariners were just 11th in the AL in homers.

Some other individual numbers:

  • Cruz beat Haniger in RBI, 97-93
  • Haniger beat Seager in doubles, 38-36
  • Dee Gordon beat Denard Span in triples, 8-6
  • Segura edged Haniger in total hits, 178-170
  • Segura also edged Haniger in runs scored, 91-90
  • Gordon topped Segura in steals 30-20

My MVP has to go to Mitch Haniger, who was amazing this year.  He finished with a 6.1 WAR, which was easily the best on the team, and looks to be just scratching the surface of a great MLB career.

On to the pitchers:

  • Your ERA champ among qualified starters was Wade LeBlanc with 3.72
  • James Paxton led the team in strikeouts with 208
  • Mike Leake led the Mariners in innings pitched with 185.2
  • Marco Gonzales led the team in wins with 13
  • Leake led the team in quality starts with 18

Here’s your pitching section just devoted to the miracle that was Edwin Diaz:

  • (Obviously) led the Mariners in saves with 57
  • 57 is tied for 2nd all time in a season in MLB history
  • He fell 5 short of the all-time leader, Francisco Rodriguez
  • He led the team in pitching WAR with 3.2
  • Paxton was second with 2.9
  • He led the team in K/9 with 15.22
  • Only Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances had higher K/9 in the A.L.
  • Even though he’s just a reliever, and pitched fewer than half the innings of the starters, Diaz’s 124 strikeouts was still good for 5th on the team (one behind King Felix, who pitched 82 more innings)
  • The next-closest reliever in strikeouts was Nick Vincent with 56
  • He led the team in WHIP with 0.79
  • He led the team in ERA with 1.96
  • He led all pitchers in games played with 73 (Vincent was second with 62)

Without making it a whole thing, here are some props to some non-Diaz relievers who had great seasons.  Alex Colome, Roenis Elias, and James Pazos all logged in some serious innings for the Mariners and all had sub-3 ERAs.  I know that stat doesn’t mean much anymore, but I mean, those guys were dealing more often than not.

Nevertheless, Edwin Diaz is my Mariners Cy Young Award winner and it’s not even close.

Finally, let’s take a look at how some of these Mariners greats stacked up against the rest of the American League:

  • Segura was 7th in batting average, and one of 8 in the A.L. to hit over .300
  • Haniger was 9th in WAR
  • Segura was 15th in WAR (with 4.3)
  • Haniger was 10th in OPS
  • Cruz was 14th in OPS
  • Cruz was 8th in homers
  • Diaz (again, obviously) led the league in saves (2nd place had 43)

So, that’s that.  Another playoffs-less season in the books.  Do it all again in 2019?  Sure, why not?  What the hell else do I have going on in my life?  Might as well continue to root for a mediocre baseball team some more.

It’s Time To Blow Up The Seattle Mariners

For real.  It’s time.

We are officially 8.5 games behind the A’s for the second wild card spot, with 18 games to go.  So, stick a fork in the Mariners everyone!

If that isn’t bad enough, we’ve fallen so far that the Tampa Bay Rays of all teams have officially caught us in the standings.  A team that really wasn’t trying to Win Now at the trade deadline – sending away some quality talent for prospects – has done so good in its second half run that the Mariners are doomed to fall two teams out of the playoffs.  Fantastic.

Here are my thoughts on what the Mariners should do this off-season.

Bye Bye Nelson Cruz

People were talking about extending Nelson Cruz throughout the year, as he’s on the final year of his deal.  Which, of course, got me to wondering what the M’s should do this off-season to try to improve.  SHOULD they extend Cruz?  Abso-fucking-lutely-fucking-not!  Dude’s hitting .260!  Sure, he’s got 34 homers, but that’s ALL he’s got!  He has a whopping 16 doubles and is easily on pace for his lowest double count in a Mariners uniform.  Dude can’t run, can’t hit for average; if he’s not swinging dingers or grabbing the occasional walk, he’s totally useless.

Let’s see Nelson Cruz for what he is:  one of the best free agent signings in Mariners history.  We got four REALLY GREAT years out of the guy.  If you asked me at the time of signing, I would’ve told you I hoped for 2 great years, 1 okay year, and 1 dreadful year.  The fact that we’ve milked that cow for all he’s worth is pretty fucking astounding.  LET’S LEAVE IT AT THAT!  Let’s remember Nelson Cruz fondly!  Let’s be able to look back and say we MAYBE got rid of him a year too early, rather than a year too late.  For what it’s worth, I think getting rid of him after this season is RIGHT ON TIME, but regardless, he’s not getting any better.

From there, that opens us up to options.  But, all I want to see is this team shedding salary and shedding talent for high-level prospects.

Trade James Paxton

He’s never going to be fully, 100% healthy in any full season ever.  He’s never going to be any better than he’s been this year.  His value has peaked.  He’s still got 2 more Arbitration years, so that contract is in great shape.  We should be able to get ELITE-level prospects for a guy like Paxton, so jump at the opportunity.

Trade Mitch Haniger

You’re not going to get any prospects of quality whatsoever for the real dregs of this team:  Seager, Cano, Felix; so we’re going to have to trade some players of actual value if we’re going to rebuild this organization.  Haniger has 4 more years left of team control and he’s already an All Star; his value will never be higher.  We should be able to get a TON of prospects for him.

Trade Edwin Diaz

Unless he’s the next Mariano Rivera, relievers don’t have a long shelf life.  Particularly ones who regularly throw in the high 90’s and have an awkward-looking arm slot.  Diaz just strikes me as a guy who’s going to have elbow and/or shoulder problems, MAYBE as early as next year.  He’s leading all of baseball in saves, he’s the best closer in the game, ergo we should make a KILLING in this trade.

Dump Robinson Cano or Put Him At DH

I’m in the camp that we’ll never be able to move Cano’s salary.  He’s making $24 million per year for the next 5 years.  If a team offered the Mariners literally ANYTHING for Cano – even if it’s a low-level PTBNL – you jump at the opportunity.  Hell, even if we have to send a bunch of millions over to make the deal work, whatever money we can save while getting out from under that contract, you do it.  You also do it because, frankly, I think Cano still has some value to a team.  I think he’s still a pretty good player.  And, for the objective of the Mariners blowing it up, we don’t WANT pretty good players on this team.  We want useless assholes who can’t hit, can’t pitch, and suck at fielding.  We’re not going to make the playoffs anyway, might as well be the very WORST team in the league.

If I’m right, and we can’t deal Cano for a bag of balls, then he’s got to slot over to DH.  That’s where he’s destined to go in his old age anyway.  If we’re going to be stuck with him for five more years, then we’re going to get the most value out of him at the DH spot.

Dump Dee Gordon or Leave Him At 2B

Dee’s another guy who’s owed a ton of money – an average of $13.5 million per year over the next 3 years – so it’s not likely we’d get anything for him.  Again, MAYBE a bag of balls, and probably only if we shell out some millions to get someone else to take him off our hands.

I’m less upset about being stuck with Dee because he’s fun.  He’s also not really that good.  Assuming he doesn’t regain his former hitting form as a .300 hitter, he should be a nice little drain on this team as we try to tank for the #1 overall draft pick the next few years.

Get Rid Of Kyle Seager

We’ve got Seager for $18-19 million per year for the next three years (his buyout in 2022 should be nominal).  So, like Cano and Dee, that’s a tough one to move.  However, I could see moving him as a more plausible objective based on the fact that he’s pretty well-liked in baseball circles.  He very well could just need a change of scenery to get his bat and his mojo going again.  Put him in a stadium with a short porch in right field and let him go to work yanking balls down the line; how are the Red Sox stocked at third base?

Either way, he’s got to go.  Unless he’s hiding some secret injury that we won’t hear about until after the season, I don’t see him turning his career around at all in Seattle.  He’s just TOO bad.

Keep Mike Zunino

He’s not any good anyway.  Plus, I just don’t see us getting anything of value back in trade, considering he’s never been able to hit and he seemingly never will.  Zunino is going to be cheap for the next 2 years anyway, so keep him, and try to develop his replacement when he’s a free agent and we let him walk.

Don’t You Touch My Felix!

He’s got one more year to go.  He’s earning $27 million next year.  No one will pick up that salary.  We’d likely have to send $20 million with him just to get rid of him for zero prospects.  Plus, I like Felix, he’s still ours, and YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM I DON’T CARE HOW BAD HE GETS!

Think of it like this, if he continues to pitch worse and worse, then that helps the Mariners tank, and maybe he retires at the end of the year and will go down as the greatest Mariners pitcher of all time who never played for any other organization.  Or, in the off chance he turns his career around and turns into a Bartolo Colon type, then great!  Maybe we can extend him at a team-friendly salary season-to-season and enjoy Felix in his overweight twilight years.

Only Trade Segura If There’s Good Value

For who he is, he’s actually got a pretty friendly contract all the way through 2023.  Even though he’s been dinged up with minor aches & pains recently, he’s still hitting over .300.  If another team offers the M’s a nice package of prospects, then absolutely jump on it!  But, don’t make him a straight up salary drop; wait for the teams to come to us and maybe start a bidding war if possible.

Here’s the deal:  Jeff Passan brought up a good point yesterday on Brock & Salk; when asked if the M’s should just blow it up, he asked if we’re ready to be terrible for the next 5 years.  And, as Salk mentioned, we’ve been pretty fucking terrible for the last 17, so what’s 5 more?

The Astros aren’t going away.  The A’s are young and solid.  The Angels are never going to stop trying to build around Trout and they’ve proven to be willing to over-spend on superstars.  The Rangers are already in the midst of their rebuild, so they’ve got a head start on us.  I don’t want to just contend for Wild Cards every year!  I don’t want to go dumpster diving for veterans on 1-year prove-it deals to try to make this fucked up nucleus work!  I don’t want to watch Nelson Cruz get booed and look shitty at the plate.  And I don’t really want to see what Robinson Cano looks like in the final couple years of his deal.

I want a total and complete rebuild, with high-level prospects.  I want the organization to stick to its philosophy of Controlling The Zone and defense and all that, and I want them to bring in guys who FIT that philosophy!

I’m just tired of losing all the fucking time … so let’s lose A WHOLE LOT for a few years, then hopefully be great for a while after that.

And yeah, I get it, the Astros’ model is no guarantee.  If we draft the wrong guys, if we don’t develop them properly, if we get unlucky with injuries, then it can all still go to shit and we can be right back where we started.  In a perpetual loop of utter fucking incompetence.  But, at least it’s trying something different.

I’m already numb to the Mariners sucking.  They’ve been doing it all my life.  Even when they were good, they still sucked when it counted!  The M’s falling apart this second half has hardly hit me at all.  Oh sure, I’ve been mad a few times, but more than anything I’m just resigned to my fate.  It’s never going to get good until we let it get really fucking bad.

So, blow it up, Mariners.  Do the right thing.  Let the Astros and A’s run their course and by the time they’re old and crappy, maybe we’ll be in a position to be the NEW Astros.

Gotta have hope, after all.  And, with the roster as it’s currently constructed, there is none.

No, I Don’t Think The Mariners Will Make The Playoffs This Year

I don’t respond to every single comment – however rare they find their way into my posts on this blog – but I thought I’d answer a question someone left in my most recent entry.

For what it’s worth, I USED to think the Mariners would make the playoffs this year.  I thought they were a shoo-in!  Then, they had a 10-13 month of July (not to mention a 6-8 month of August), while the Oakland Athletics went from 34-36 on June 15th, to now being 72-48 heading into August 15th (a record of 38-12 in two months’ time) and now we’re talking about the M’s being 3.5 games behind the A’s, with 8 more games against them the rest of the year.

I might have held out a little hope heading into this 3-game set against the A’s – coming off of that 4-game sweep down in Houston – but losing the first two games has really dampened my spirits.  Not just that, but obviously the WAY the Mariners have lost.

On Monday, we lost 7-6, but it was 7-1 heading into the 8th inning.  You can take that two ways; you can laud the late comeback against a pretty formidable bullpen, or you can lament another poor pitching performance.  Marco Gonzales has been pretty remarkable this season, but his last two outings have been terrible.  He followed up a 5-inning, 7-run performance down in Texas with a 5-inning, 4-run performance in Oakland.  Everyone’s saying he’s tired, that 140 innings is by far the most he’s thrown in the Majors, but come on man, this is his JOB!  He’s a Major League starting pitcher for Christ’s sake!  I don’t want to be Get Off My Lawn guy, but it really feels like coddling if we have to give him a rest in the middle of a fucking playoff chase.

Also, I don’t know what the opposite of Pouring One Out is – maybe Pissing On The Grave? – but piss one out for Casey Lawrence, who is (I’ll say it) the WORST long reliever I’ve ever fucking seen.  Any time you ask this guy to go more than a single inning, he falls apart.  The point of a long reliever is to come in, eat up innings, and keep your team in the ballgame, in the off-chance that the offense gets its shit together and jumps back into the game.  Well, if Lawrence had done his JOB on Monday, we might’ve seen a remarkable come-from-behind victory against the very team we’re chasing for that wild card spot!  Instead, he added more gas to the dumpster fire, and here we are, one run short of a comeback.  Sending his dumb ass down to Tacoma was the best thing the Mariners have done all week.

Of course, if that wasn’t bad enough, last night James Paxton took a line drive off his forearm, and is poised to hit the DL for a start or two (or more?).  Luckily, we still had King Felix stretched out, so he was able to go 5.2 innings of 2-run ball to keep us in it (FANCY THAT, A LONG RELIEVER WHO DOESN’T SUCK!).  He’ll slide right into Paxton’s spot in the rotation until he’s able to come back, at which point it’ll probably be September and we’ll be able to expand our roster beyond the 25 guys we have now.  Maybe, if Felix can hold it down, we go to a 6-man rotation, to give everyone a little break and ease Paxton into the home stretch.

Or, maybe we’ll go right back to seeing the Felix that struggles, at which point we’ve swapped out our best starter for our worst starter, and our odds of making the playoffs got that much worse.  If I’m betting the Taylor Family Farm, I’m betting on the latter, as sad as it is to say.

I guess the only bit of good news is Robinson Cano returned last night.  He started at first base and got a hit while batting second in the order.  Seems unnecessary to move him off of his regular spot in the order (if you’re doing it to punish him, then bat him 5th or 6th), but I guess if you’re going to move him all over the field, then why not move him all around the batting order?

I just ultimately don’t think the boost we’ll get from Cano will be enough.  Too many bats are struggling – Seager, Zunino, Gordon, even Segura has significantly cooled off since the All Star Break – and with the pitching staff looking as iffy as we all expected it to be coming into this season, it all adds up to a total and complete collapse in the second half of this season.

So, no, no playoffs for the Mariners again in 2018.  The real question is:  how long will the neverending streak of losing Mariners teams continue?

The Mariners Are Now Tied For The Second Wild Card Spot

Sigh.

That’s right, after being 11 games up back in June, we’re now tied with the A’s for the second wild card spot.  The A’s have won a million games in a row and the Mariners have lost every single day since I can remember.  Everything sucks and now Toronto and their shitty fans invade our stadium for the next four days.

That series with the Astros started off promising enough.  James Paxton out-duelled Gerrit Cole to take the first game 2-0.  It was all down hill from there, though.  We got a very Mike Leake-y start the next day (6 innings, 3 runs) and the offense couldn’t do shit.  The bullpen gave up a 2-run ding dong late, and we lost 5-2.  That left us with an opportunity to still win the series, with folk legend Wade LeBlanc on the mound.  Bad time for him to have his worst start of the season, though, as he was knocked out after 4.1 innings, having given up 7 runs in the process.  He left meatballs out over the plate all day and was getting crushed accordingly.  The offense had few opportunities to make a comeback, and couldn’t take advantage of any of them as we lost 8-3.

So, that’s that, then.  The A’s are here to stay, and the Mariners are pretty much done.

This is just the worst feeling, you guys.  We’re talking about a team with the longest playoff drought in all of the major North American professional sports.  A team that – FINALLY – 17 years later, got off to just a torrid start.  Heading into the 4th of July holiday, the Mariners were 55-31.  They were locked into that 2nd wild card spot with no enemies in sight.  We were talking about maybe even challenging the Astros for the division!  Sure, it was a pipe dream, but those were simpler times!  We could afford to daydream, because THIS was the year!  We were finally going to break the curse!

We’re also talking about a team, mind you, with a very narrow window for contention.  The farm system is garbage.  Some of our very best players are getting up there in age (and some of them are over the hill already).  There’s a nice core of guys in Haniger, Segura, Diaz, Gonzales, and Gordon, but by and large this team is made up of guys no one else wanted.  We’re not laden with young, superstar talent like the Astros or Yankees or Red Sox or Athletics.  The Mariners are a fragile ecosystem that needs everything to go right just to eke out a victory; but if even one little thing goes wrong, it all implodes and we lose by a ton!

This wasn’t a team built for the long haul; it’s a team built for 2018 and that’s it.  We’re 18 games over .500 with a -9 run differential; it’s not a sustainable model and it never has been!  This is a once in a generation type of team that’s been coasting on the very best luck the league has seen in years.  You could make carbon copies of every single player on the roster and try running it all back again in 2019 and you know what you’ll get?  A Mariners team desperately trying to stay around .500.  We were always going to be screwed in 2019 and beyond; at some point, it’s going to crumble, and with no help on the horizon in the form of a development system, the Mariners will crater and be among the very worst teams in all of baseball.  That time is coming, and it’s coming very soon.

Which is what made 2018 so important.  If we don’t break this playoff drought this year, it might not happen for another decade or more.  That’s why this sucks as much as it does.  Because it now feels inevitable that the A’s are going to keep on winning, and the Mariners are going to play .500 ball the rest of the way.

Sure, the hitting has been abysmal, and even with the return of Cano, how much better can we reasonably expect it to get?  Jean Segura is starting to slow down from his unsustainably hot pace.  Same with Dee Gordon.  Ben Gamel had been one of the team’s hottest hitters of late, and they just sent him to Tacoma for no fucking reason, just so we could keep the black hole that is Guillermo Heredia on the roster.  Nelson Cruz still has plenty of pop in his bat, but his average is dipping down into the .260s (showing his age, and the need for this team to probably move on from him after this season is over, if for no other reason than to move Cano to DH next year).  Haniger’s been slipping, Healy is an 0’fer on most nights, we’re mired in Seager’s very worst year as a Major Leaguer, and Mike Zunino STILL can’t manage to bust through the Mendoza Line!

That’s not even factoring in how we have absolutely no business having any faith in any starting pitcher not named James Paxton or Marco Gonzales.  LeBlanc has been ridiculously good, but that can’t last.  Leake is who he is, and Felix looks like he’s just about done.  And you think Erasmo Ramirez is going to save this rotation?  Please!  Also, I love Edwin Diaz as much as the next one, but a string of blown saves is coming, mark my words.  No closer is this good for this long without at least a little hiccup along the way.  We won’t be able to blame using him in tie games for his struggles, is all I’m saying.

It’s all darkness and evil thoughts.  Thank God football season is starting back up again.

The Mariners Wrapped Up The July 31st Trade Deadline By Getting Cameron Maybin

Yesterday, I talked about the trio of relievers we brought in.  Then, in the afternoon, one more deal trickled through the cracks.  We went back to the Miami Marlins well, this time for centerfielder Cameron Maybin.

Again, it’s not a huge deal (we gave up minor league infielder Bryson Brigman and some International Slot Money), but it’s something.

With Cano out, and Dee Gordon sliding back to second base, we’ve had what I’m told is a pretty big black hole out in center.  Guillermo Heredia has gotten the lion’s share of starts and we’ve seen his offensive production slip pretty dramatically since starting off the season pretty strong.  Most people had him pegged as – at best – a team’s 4th outfielder, and they don’t appear to be wrong.  The league has seen enough of Heredia, and they KNOW how to get him out.

What’s surprising to me is that his defense is also not great?  That really doesn’t pass my smell test, but I don’t get to watch all the games, so maybe I’m missing something.  Also, “Smell Test” isn’t really a sabermetrically-sound way to determine who’s good and who’s not.  The nerds will tell you Heredia isn’t helping matters even with his glove, and considering he was probably the best defensive centerfielder we’ve had all year, you can only imagine how much our outfield defense has declined when Haniger, Gamel, and Span have been out in center (saying nothing of Gordon, who I also thought was fine, but was indeed learning a brand new position at the Major League level).

So, how much of an upgrade is Maybin?

Well, he’s a veteran hitting .251 this year, as a mostly-everyday outfielder.  I think that’s about what you can expect of him going forward (anything more than that is gravy).  He’s 25 points or so better than Heredia (who’s trending ever downward the more he plays, so that number could increase as the season goes on), so right away we should expect a bit of an offensive boost.  He’s in no way a power threat, so he’s more Denard Span than Mitch Haniger in that regard, and I GUESS you could say he’s a speed threat on the bases, but he’s only got 8 steals against 5 caught stealing this year, so that’s pretty far from elite.  The best thing going for Maybin is that he walks pretty regularly, so he should be MUCH more of an on-base machine than Heredia.  That, if nothing else, makes this a nice little upgrade to the offense.

Again, though, the big upgrade is coming in two weeks when Cano returns.  There’s no way around it, Cano HAS to play everyday upon his return.  If that means sitting Ryon Healy’s home-runs-every-10-days production, then so be it; the other 9 days he sucks, so that’s not a guy you HAVE to keep in your lineup.

I’ll say this about Maybin:  he makes our lineup look a lot better:

  1. Gordon (2B)
  2. Segura (SS)
  3. Cano (1B)
  4. Cruz (DH)
  5. Seager (3B)
  6. Haniger (RF)
  7. Span (LF)
  8. Zunino (C)
  9. Maybin (CF)

There’s a lot you can do with a lineup like that.  You can flip-flop Maybin and Gordon, for starters (as Gordon isn’t really tearing it up like he was earlier in the season).  You can bump Segura up to the top and move Haniger to the 2-hole if need be (or Maybin in the 2-hole, or Span for that matter).  There’s a lot of flexibility, is what I’m saying.  As Maybin is a righty, you can always start Ben Gamel in his place in a pinch (if, again, you want to sacrifice some defense).  I’m told Maybin is certainly an improvement in the field, but I’m also told he’s not some remarkable phenom or anything.  As he is with his bat, he’s a marginal improvement over Heredia with his glove.  Considering the cost (a low minor leaguer), it’s not too shabby for a guy who will be a free agent at the end of the year.

There is, of course, the potential for more deals in August (a la Mike Leake last year).  These would be players who pass through waivers unclaimed (most likely due to onerous contract situations).  Everyone talks about the money saved by Cano’s suspension as a catalyst for getting more of these types of deals done (maybe for another starter?), but we’ve made a bunch of deals already!  There can’t be all that much money left!

If we see a deal that takes on significant salary, I’d be willing to bet the team is going into the red, which is admirable.  Let’s hope it pays off.

The Mariners Got Pounded By The Angels And Oh By The Way Paxton Injured His Back

Fucking great.

Before we all go jumping off of buildings, I’m gonna wait and see how this plays out.  Given the timing of this – with the All Star Break next week – it might not be the worst thing in the world.

Remember last year, when the Mariners were sort of barely clinging to contention for the second wild card spot, and going into the All Star Break I was talking about how we needed – above all else – to maximize James Paxton the rest of the way?  He spent most of the month of May on the shelf, then had a really rocky month of June as he worked his way back to his usual dominance.  Well, it was paid off in July, when he went 6-0 and won the A.L. Pitcher of the Month award.  He had a 1.37 ERA and went at least 6 innings in all 6 of his starts.  I figured:  yes, get him as many starts as humanly possible between now and the end of the year (even if it meant having him pitch every 5th day regardless of off-days, and shuffling the rest of the rotation around him accordingly), and MAYBE the Mariners would be within reach of the wild card by the end of the year.

What happened?  He made 2 starts in August before going back on the DL, struggled through half of September, and had 1 more quality start the rest of the way (on October 1st, the final game of the season).  The Mariners finished under .500 and out of the playoffs, and his absence was one of a million reasons why this team underachieved.

Of course, that made one of the keys to this 2018 season to:  Keep Paxton Healthy.  His entire offseason program was centered around making all of his starts for the first time in his career.  He’s been the ace of this staff through the first half, but obviously it’s all coming to a head with this injury he suffered last night.

After biffing that series against the Rockies over the weekend, the M’s didn’t play their best baseball against the Angels in Anaheim.  In fact, in two of these games they might’ve played their very worst baseball of the season.

On Tuesday, Leake could only make it through 4 innings, giving up 7 runs (5 earned), and the bullpen allowed them to tack on a couple more to really put it away.  Anaheim’s starter left injured in the third, but we couldn’t take advantage of their bullpen and ended up losing 9-3.  Haniger had a good game – with a double, a homer, and 3 RBI – but everyone else was unremarkable at best.

The M’s didn’t completely shit the bed this series, as they notched a win on Wednesday behind Marco Gonzales’ 7 shutout innings, on 2 hits and 0 walks.  David Freitas of all people hit a homer (the first of his brief Major League career), and Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run single to put the M’s up 3-0.  The bullpen was able to keep it that way, with a scoreless inning apiece from Colome and Diaz (for hold #14 and save # 36, respectively).

That led us into last night’s game, with a chance to win the series and feel a lot better about things heading into Colorado this weekend.  But, Paxton apparently never felt right even in his warmups, and just prayed that his back would loosen up during the game.  It didn’t, and he was pulled 2 outs into the first inning.  We were up against Anaheim’s best pitcher, and our bullpen couldn’t keep us anywhere even remotely in it (behind a 4-run inning from the completely inept Nick Rumbelow, who spent most of the year on the DL, and was mystifyingly called up after a short stint in Tacoma – THREE GAMES – even though he really has no Major League success of which to speak whatsoever!  Why are we moving Heaven and Earth to get this guy to the bigs when it’s clear he needs a lot more seasoning in AAA?).

(I mean, Rumbelow has made 8 appearances – all defeats – and has given up at least 1 run in 5 of those games!  How much more do you need to see out of this guy?  You’re telling me there’s absolutely NO ONE ELSE down in Tacoma who can take this guy’s spot?  It’s not like he’s out of options, so what the fuck?).

Anyway, getting back, the M’s lost last night 11-2.  We put Andrew Romine in there to pitch the bottom of the 8th because it got so out of hand (he gave up 2 runs, yet still managed to get Trout & Pujols out, which is something he’ll have to tell the ol’ grandkids one day).  It was ugly, to say the least (I’m glad I slept through this entire series, to be honest).

Aside from being super proud of my boy Marco (and, SUPER DUPER proud of my fellow M’s fans for voting Jean Segura into the All Star Game this week), it hasn’t been so hot for the Mariners of late.  That’s 5 losses in 8 games, following our 8-game winning streak, following our 3-7 stretch against the Red Sox & Yankees.  A real rollercoaster; the All Star Break can’t come soon e-fucking-nough.

3 more games.  Felix is on the DL for the break, Paxton looks like he’ll join him there; Zunino has been keeping the shelf nice and warm with his own issues.  This isn’t trending in the right direction.  All of these guys need to come back fast, and not just so we can put a bunch of other guys down; the rest of the team absolutely needs to stay healthy as well.

The A’s have won a million games in a row and are now only 5 games behind us for that second wild card spot.  We’re a full 3 games behind the Astros for the division.  And, even though it’s essentially meaningless, our run differential is all the way down to +5.  We’re 22 games over .500 and just 5 runs over .500!  Do you know how insane that is?  It’s insane, just in case you forgot.

We’ve got Christian Bergman going tonight.  He has 1 start this year with Seattle, where he went 7 shutout innings (in a game we somehow lost 5-1) before being sent right back down to AAA.  He’s been pretty good, but far from amazing, in Tacoma, so while I like him as a spot starter type, I’m pretty lukewarm on the idea of him making many multiple starts for the Mariners this year.

So, get well soon James Paxton!  And, when you do come back, don’t suck balls for a month like you did last year!