The Luis Torrens Era Comes To An End With The Mariners

Before the Mariners headed to Texas yesterday to start their road trip tonight, they made a couple more roster moves. As expected, Julio Rodriguez came off of the IL, with Jarred Kelenic being sent back down to Tacoma. This means that in the short term, Jake Lamb gets a stay of execution. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a little disappointing with regards to Kelenic.

Kelenic started the year on the Major League roster and lasted through May 11th before being sent down. At that time, he was hitting .140/.219/.291. In this most recent stint, he appeared in nine games, and all of those numbers have managed to go down. That’s in spite of some promising developments at the AAA level, which is just demoralizing to me as a fan, so I can only imagine what it’s been like for him. Last year, after he was sent down, he returned and made an impact at the big league level. Part of me was hoping that would be the case again this year, but it’s clear there’s something broken with … whatever he’s doing at the plate. I mean, I’ve never seen a more uncomfortable-looking batting stance in my life. I feel like going back to the drawing board might be in order there.

He had 2 hits (1 of them a homer in that 6-run first inning Gerrit Cole game) in 27 at bats, with 0 walks and 11 strikeouts. I will say that the defense was still there, but you can’t really make a career out of just competent outfield defense. I think that nails it as far as 2022 being a total and complete Lost Year for him. I also think – barring a very dramatic development between now and next year – that we’re going to have to forever temper our expectations when it comes to Kelenic. In all likelihood, he’s never going to pan out, and if he does it’ll be with another franchise.

You know what gets me? He used to be so delightfully cocky. It was 90% of his charm! He was so dominant through the minors, and he really let his personality shine through in interviews. Now, all I can see is someone who appears to be internally struggling with confidence. And that’s a recipe for disaster in professional sports. I really hope he gets it figured out, but I’m not holding my breath at this point.

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This was supposed to be a Luis Torrens post, and there I go talking about Kelenic!

The other roster move the Mariners made yesterday was to call up Curt Casali off of the IL. He’s the backup catcher we traded for with the Giants, in a very necessary move to help give Cal Raleigh some rest.

Raleigh has been playing in a crazy number of games this year for a catcher, appearing in 72% so far. It’s even more impressive when you figure the M’s had a whopping three catchers on their roster to start the season, before Tom Murphy had a season-ending injury. And that also factors in a short stint in Tacoma where Cal was sent down to work on his swing (he left Seattle with a slash line of .083/.214/.208 in late April; it’s up to .207/.276/.458 now). Ever since Murphy went out – and since Cal started raking the ball – Raleigh has been playing virtually every day. Not literally, of course. Usually if there’s a day game after a night game, he’ll get a blow, but even then he might still come in to pinch hit or take care of the 9th inning catching duties.

I’m guessing, since he’s a big, strong kid without a lot of miles on his legs, the Mariners feel they can get away with it in the short term, but you can’t run him into the ground. They saw that at the deadline, and hence the Curt Casali deal.

As I mentioned at the time, Casali isn’t anything special. It’s not like we nabbed some other team’s starting catcher and brought him over here to back up Cal. He’s a clear #2. But, he’s also a competent one, by all accounts. And, unfortunately, that’s just not Luis Torrens.

Torrens came over in that famed fleecing of the Padres, where we brought in Ty France, Andres Munoz, and Taylor Trammell for Austin Nola and a couple of scrub relievers. I mean, that one goes in the Mariners Hall of Fame for best trades ever, but here we see the first chink in the armor.

Torrens’ bat was always the draw when it came to his overall package. No one ever really expected him to be an “everyday” starting catcher. I remember there being questions about him eventually moving to another infield spot. That came to a head in 2021. He was sent down early in the year because of his hitting, and when he returned he started to seriously rake, but never really got behind the plate again. He was primarily a DH, with a sprinkling of first base opportunities (and some work behind the scenes, I believe, at second or third base).

With his offensive woes seemingly rectified, he returned in 2022 with a new lease on life. We figured, again, he’d play some DH, but also opted to work him back in at catcher when we had that 3-man rotation (and Cal was struggling). That proved to be quite necessary when Murphy got hurt. I don’t remember there ever being a time this year when Torrens was the main starter – it seemed pretty simultaneous that after Murphy went on the IL, Cal took over as the team’s starter thanks to his offensive resurgence (to say nothing of his skills handling the pitching staff and calling games).

The main problem with Torrens is the fact that his offense has totally cratered. And he’s out of options, so we can’t just send him to Tacoma to work on it.

It’s a bummer. I really liked Torrens’ bat. You don’t see a lot of guys with his kind of power, especially to the opposite field (especially in Seattle). He had some big hits with the Mariners since 2020, most recently in that epic 1-0 victory over the Yankees in the 13th inning as a pinch hitter.

But, it’s becoming clear that he’s a man on an island in some respects. He’s just not what you want, defensively, from a catcher. He’s not atrocious; he’s passable. But it seems like whenever he has to take on too many defensive responsibilities, his bat goes down the tubes. And he’s not good enough defensively to make up for those kinds of limitations on offense.

Thankfully, the National League has embraced the DH, so I think he’ll be back again. I had my doubts that Daniel Vogelbach would stick around very long after leaving Seattle, and yet we still see videos of him popping up on Twitter from time to time, doing something fucking rad. Torrens is a DH, and an emergency fill-in at a couple of spots defensively. If he’s free to just focus on hitting, I think he’ll be okay and stick around a little while. Of course, he’d have more value if he hit lefty, but that’s neither here nor there.

Also, I guess there’s a slim chance that no one claims him and he accepts a demotion to Tacoma. After all, we’re one more injury away from him being back with the Mariners in that scenario. But, after his struggles this season, a change of scenery might be in his best interests.

3-DAYS LATER UPDATE: The slim chance comes to fruition! But, the M’s DFA’d Ken Giles over the weekend for some reason. That’s going to be annoying if he jumps to a contender and dominates in the playoffs.

The Mariners Won Another Wildly Impressive Series Over The Yankees

The thing is, you can’t talk about this series victory over the Yankees without talking about the miserable 9-4 loss on Monday. Oh believe me, I don’t want to talk about it; I want to ignore it and move on! But, there’s cause for real alarm, because Logan Gilbert gave up a season-worst 7 runs in 4.0 innings of work.

That follows Gilbert’s previous-worst mark of 6 runs given up last week in New York against this very team (that was in 5.1 innings). It’s been a terrible month of August (13 runs in 9.1 innings over the two starts) and a concerning overall inflation of his numbers as the season has gone along. Now, MAYBE the Yankees just have his number; I guess we’ll see the rest of the way. But for a guy who had been the best and most consistent overall starter for the Mariners (at least, until Luis Castillo came to town), that’s not what you want to see from someone who’s slated to play an important role in this team’s playoff run. Especially when you consider he’s most likely to join the top two guys in any post-season rotation we roll out there. The Mariners need Gilbert to continue being great, is what I’m getting at.

One of the problems seems to be the fact that he’s so fastball-heavy, especially early in games and early in counts. The Yankees have jumped all over Gilbert, and I don’t see why others wouldn’t do the same.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about Monday’s game. That’s because Tuesday’s game was so thrilling, that’s ALL I want to talk about, ever again, for the rest of my life!

Round 2 of the heavyweight matchup between Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole was always going to be better and more impressive than Round 1 last week (where Cole gave up a 6-spot in the first inning, and we cruised to a 7-3 victory). But, even if you had high expectations for this one, the game exceeded it by leaps and bounds!

Cole was brilliant: 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Castillo was even better: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts.

There wasn’t anything even close to offensive output through seven innings. That’s mostly because whenever the Mariners managed to get to first base, they ran themselves out of the inning (a blunder by Frazier trying to turn a single into a double, and a caught stealing by Haggerty that wasn’t even close to succeeding). The Yanks almost served a knockout blow to Castillo in the eighth – as they had two runners on for the first time all day – but with his 110th pitch, Castillo was able to induce a ground ball to get out of the mini-jam.

Then, it was a battle of the bullpens. We got the best the Yankees could throw out there, and they got the best of what we had to offer. Andres Munoz not only struck out the side in the ninth, but he struck out the top of the order. Paul Sewald took care of the 10th (thanks to a nifty pick-off move as the ghost runner tried to steal third before he threw his pitch). Matt Festa looked a little erratic out there, but he generated a line-drive double play to second to once again eliminate the ghost runner, before allowing another line drive – this time to right field – that was caught before it hit the ground.

Enter Matt Brash – game still scoreless – for the 12th and 13th innings. In his very first at-bat, Brash snagged a groundball behind his back in some sort of miracle play that resulted in him forcing the ghost runner into a pickle (he would run himself out of the baseline for the first out), and as the batter tried to reach second base, he too ran himself out of the baseline for the double play. It was as absurd of a play as you’ll ever see, and I loved every second of it. Brash got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the 12th, it looked like we might FINALLY end this thing. With one out, Haggerty (the ghost runner) advanced to third on a ground out from France. With two outs now, Haniger and Jake Lamb walked to load the bases, with Suarez at the plate. But, he couldn’t get that elusive base hit (indeed, the Mariners hadn’t gotten a single base hit since the 8th inning at this point), striking out swinging and breaking his bat in two with his knee as he walked back towards the dugout.

That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. I should point out that at some point in extras, we pinch hit Santana for Kelenic, which necessitated the Mariners putting Haniger (the erstwhile DH) in right field. That meant we lost our DH, and Brash’s time was limited (since there’s no way you’re letting a pitcher bat in a game this important).

He was able to go back out there in the 13th inning though, and once again he worked some sort of voodoo to keep it scoreless. Right off the bat, we intentionally walked Aaron Judge, because there’s no way we’re letting that freak of nature beat us. Then, after a strikeout, Brash walked the bases loaded. Thankfully, he was able to get another strikeout, followed by a ground out, and that kept the game right where we needed it to be.

Cal Raleigh led off the 13th by singling to right; with Judge’s arm, there was no way Suarez (the ghost runner) was scoring there. With no outs, though, that’s a pretty enticing scenario! J.P. Crawford ended up tapping it back to the pitcher, but it advanced Raleigh to second. That led to an intentional walk of Sam Haggerty (the second time they’d done that to him in the extras), which brought up the Brash spot in the lineup. Luis Torrens – who has been having a God-awful season to date – pinch hit, which was risky in its own right, because he’s the only backup catcher we have right now. If he failed, that would’ve put a lot of pressure on Raleigh to stay healthy through the end of the game.

Thankfully, Torrens came through! He took strike one looking, swung at strike two (both pitches 97 miles per hour and nasty looking), and then put the third fastball into play, pushing it to right field for the game-winner. 1-0, an all-time classic. Absolutely unreal!

The M’s would be forgiven if there was a bit of a hangover on Wednesday afternoon’s getaway game. Once again, it was another amazing pitching matchup – Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Robbie Ray vs. All Star (and former Mariners reliever) Nestor Cortes – and while this one didn’t quite live up to the magic of Tuesday night, the game was still scoreless through five and a half innings.

Indeed, Cortes was spinning a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth, when Sam Haggerty jerked a line drive home run off of the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead. That would prove to be short-lived, as Ray – maxing out at 115 pitches – couldn’t quite get out of the seventh unscathed. It’s understandable – given how many relievers we had to use the night before – that Servais would try to squeeze an extra inning out of Ray (especially when he was dealing so hard through six), but he walked one too many guys, then paid the price with a 2-run homer to the Yankees’ #9 hitter.

That ended Ray’s day, but it didn’t end the Yankees’ seventh inning scoring spree. Aaron Judge (of course) saw a hanging slider from Penn Murfee, and did what he does with those pitches, depositing it to left for a solo homer and a 3-1 lead. I figured that was the ballgame, but boy was I wrong again!

In the bottom of the same inning, France reached second on a single and a passed ball; he would end up scoring on a Haniger RBI single to make the game 3-2. After a Suarez strikeout, Carlos Santana did what he does: hit go-ahead bombs. This one was jacked to right field for a 4-3 lead.

That lined us up for Diego Castillo’s return from the IL (a 1-2-3 eighth inning), followed by Sewald’s 15th save on the season. The best part: no Aaron Judge coming around in either of those innings to rain on our parade.

We have an off-day today, and boy is it well-earned! Those last two games felt like 40. It’ll be nice to go back on the road and (hopefully) beat up on the Texas Rangers some more.

Some quick bits of news that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog: Abraham Toro was sent down to Tacoma earlier this week for sucking. Kyle Lewis was sent down to Tacoma more recently, also for sucking. Chris Flexen has been put into the bullpen, because it’s impractical to run a 6-man rotation out there with only 13 pitcher spots allowed. And, it looks like Julio Rodriguez is going to return soon (possibly as early as tomorrow).

In other news, Jake Lamb sucks (and was batting in the cleanup spot in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory for some God-foresaken reason; he went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and a meaningless walk) and I don’t know why he’s here. Also, Jarred Kelenic sucks as well, and figures to get the demotion upon Julio’s return. Oh, and Jesse Winker had to leave Monday’s game with back spasms, so we’ll see how long he’s out for.

We’re so close to a lineup without any black holes, I can almost taste it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Much Of An Overpay Was Luis Castillo For The Mariners?

We’ll never get the official line of thinking behind why the Mariners were willing to give up who they gave up to bring in Luis Castillo for 1 year and 2 months worth of baseball. Not unless one of our executives joins up with the Bellevue Rotary Club for another recorded Internet chat.

The general line of thinking, however, among reasoned baseball people (i.e. not fans and their reactionary rhetoric) is: this is why you build up your farm system. The whole point of doing a rebuild is to stock your farm system full of talent. That’s step 1. Step 2 involves evaluating that talent and marking down who is among the priority guys you want to keep and build around. So, here we are, in the dog days of 2022, and we’ve already (more or less) completed both of those first steps. We brought in prospects, to the point that over this past offseason, we were considered to have either the best or one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. And, meanwhile, over the last couple years, we’ve gone and evaluated all those guys, not to mention the guys who were already at the Major League level. We came to realize Julio is the real deal and a superstar in the making. We brought up Logan Gilbert, then George Kirby, and have earmarked them as rotation mainstays. We locked in J.P. Crawford and will probably soon do the same for Ty France. We’re starting to see quality production out of Cal Raleigh, who looks like a starter in this league for years to come. Then, we went and signed the reigning Cy Young winner (Robbie Ray) to lead our rotation.

I should say that the Mariners aren’t a completed product yet. They’re not the Asstros or Yankees. There’s still a lot of building left to do if we want to be among the best of the best. But, we’re on the right track, which is why this is the perfect time to get to Step 3, which is using the leftover prospects to trade for legitimate stars and starters to come in and help your big league club succeed in the post-season.

And the thing I wonder – the thing we’ll never get a straight answer to – is how much did it hurt Jerry Dipoto to give away the players he gave away? The Mariners, theoretically, SHOULD have the best idea about how good these guys will be. They’ve been in our organization, we’ve watched them every day, we’ve gotten to know them as people. We know their work ethic, we know their strengths and weaknesses at least a little bit better than anyone else. And, frankly, we know their medicals better than anyone else, so we’d know if there’s some underlying concern that might spring up down the road.

I often bitch about the Yankees because it seems like whenever they trade away a highly-rated player, it turns out that guy’s a bust. Yet, we KNOW they’re fully capable of drafting and developing among the best in the game. But, they seem to also be among the best at properly rating their prospects (even as the rest of the league over-rates them). But, you know, I’m not looking at every deal they’ve ever made. I’m sure they have gaffes just like everyone does.

But, I know the Mariners, and they’ve got a long line of lopsided trades against them (or, at the very least, trades that worked out for NEITHER side).

The general consensus is – at the moment – that the Reds got a great haul of prospects back. I wouldn’t say the Mariners got fleeced, but we’ll see; if Castillo gets hurt, or struggles, then sure. Or, if the prospects pan out and turn into All Stars, then yeah, you could argue a fleecing has occurred. But, right now, I would say it’s tilted in Cincinnati’s favor, while at the same time it’s understandable that the Mariners did what they did.

And, not for nothing, but they did it NOT just for the best starting pitcher available, but one of the very best starting pitchers period. If I’m going to trade away a bundle of highly-rated prospects, I’d like to know I’m at least getting the cream of the crop. Don’t waste my time on middling starters; I want fucking superstars!

Part of me holds out hope, though, that Jerry Dipoto is quietly giggling at what we gave up. That he knows better. Maybe Marte has some holes in his swing that will rear their ugly heads when he gets to the Major League level. Maybe Arroyo’s bat has been built up more than it’ll actually end up being. Maybe the reliever’s got future shoulder problems, and maybe the starter is just a guy.

Maybe the REAL studs in our prospect group are still down there, waiting to be elevated and turned into superstar Mariners at some point down the line.

None of these questions can be answered now. All we can do is speculate. It matters what Castillo does over the next year and change. It matters how the Mariners play around him. Winning baseball games, in the regular and post-season, is what matters.

If the Mariners fail, then we’ll turn our sights to Cincinnati and see what it is we ultimately gave up. It’ll be YEARS before we comprehend the full magnitude of what happened. Luis Castillo, likely, won’t even be here by the time most of those prospects see the big leagues!

All we can do is hope for the best, while dreading the worst, because we’re Mariners fans, and that’s all we ever get. The fucking worst.

The Mariners Traded For Luis Castillo As They Were Nearly Swept (Again) By The Astros

I can’t wait for the Mariners to sneak into the playoffs as one of the wild card teams, only to get swept by the Asstros in the A.L.D.S.

I don’t want to talk about this weekend series. The Mariners won 1 out of 4 games, and they were LUCKY to even win that. Even worse, Julio Rodriguez went on the IL and Ty France is sitting out a few days, both with wrist injuries that figure to linger the rest of the season. It’s about as low as I can imagine feeling while still technically qualifying for the second Wild Card spot.

Anyway, the deal: the Mariners get Luis Castillo from the Reds in exchange for 4 prospects. Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, Andrew Moore, and Levi Stoudt.

Let’s talk about … the discourse. This deal, of course, happened over the weekend, so the best I could do is follow along on Twitter. It SOUNDS like there’s panic in the ranks of Mariners fandom. And I get it, this is a massive haul of prospects going away. Marte was probably our highest-rated prospect, and word on the street is that Arroyo has the potential to be even better. Two short stop prospects for a year and a half of a starting pitcher?! That’s a lot! To say nothing of the reliever who throws over 100 mph (Moore) and the lottery ticket of a starter (Stoudt).

I’ll just say this and move on: Twitter is a poor example of the general populace. They’re only the most vocal and complain-y members of the populace (and I absolutely acknowledge my very small part in that). But, I think more Mariners fans – especially the most casual Mariners fans – are deeply in favor of this move, because it means we’re FINALLY going for it, after all this time.

It’s the loons who obsess over prospects all the time that really get to me. How many prospects actually pan out and turn into stars? It’s a very small percentage. How many of those same loons pegged Jarred Kelenic as a can’t-miss uber-prospect? Well, I’d say he’s very much missed in his parts of two seasons in the bigs. And I don’t think it looks good for him going forward.

We all figured Marte was on the trade block. We’ve got J.P. Crawford locked up long-term, for starters. And even if Marte is destined to shift over to second or third base, he was probably at least two years away from being in a position to crack our roster. That’s for a guy who, again, is no guarantee. He’s not Julio. Now, he might turn into a very good player, but them’s the breaks. You need to trade some good prospects every now and then to get in some good players. Guys who, you know, will perform well at the Major League level right away.

Arroyo hurts, though. He’s not as highly-rated as Marte – at the moment – but his trajectory suggests his prospect rating is about to explode. He could go down as not just the one that got away, but the really embarrassing folly of this deal. For the two of them, plus a reliever with tremendous potential, plus a starter, again, it seems like the Mariners should’ve gotten more.

At the very least, I would’ve loved to have seen this deal at the beginning of the year, piggybacking on the Winker/Suarez deal.

The rational side of me understands this is what the Mariners need to do. First of all, they need to over-pay for literally everyone, because they’re not the Yankees. We’re all paying that fucking Yankees tax, because everyone in the world over-rates Yankees prospects to the point of insanity (when, in reality, the Yanks are the best in the world at keeping their very best guys, while jettisoning good-looking guys who will ultimately under-perform expectations).

But, moreover, the Mariners have to take this opportunity. To strike while the iron’s hot. Because you don’t get a lot of these chances in the game of baseball.

That being said, the irrational side of me sees this as the Erik Bedard Deal 2.0. Remember that disaster? Remember how the Orioles got marginally better with players we could’ve desperately used to actually contend? What are the Reds going to do with our guys, other than flip them down the road for more prospects, while maybe squeaking into a wild card once or twice?

Here’s the upside, though: Luis Castillo is legitimately amazing! He throws in the mid-to-high 90’s with a devastating change up. He’s been compared to young Felix (given how hard he throws) and veteran Felix (when he wrangled that change into a Cy Young-winning weapon of mass destruction), so I’m conditioned to like this guy!

He’s an ace, period. Now he’s in a rotation with Robbie Ray (shrug emoji), Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, George Kirby, and Chris Flexen. Say what you will – and spoiler alert, I’ve got some thoughts – but that’s a pretty formidable rotation.

We needed another starting pitcher for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, Kirby is going to reach an innings limit and almost certainly won’t get to participate in the playoffs. There’s also talk about pulling back on Gilbert, since this is just his second season – and first full season – in the big leagues. Then, there’s always injuries to contend with. So far this year, we’ve seen the injury bug hit our bullpen pretty hard, and our everyday lineup a fair amount. But, our rotation has been wildly, unsustainably healthy through four months. I think everyone expects that to change at some point; at least now we’re better prepared. I shudder to think who might’ve stepped in had we not brought in Castillo.

He also gives us the best opportunity to make a significant impact at the deadline. If you’re like me, then you’re pretty sure the Mariners either don’t have what it takes to wrestle Juan Soto from the Nationals, or they’re not willing to do what it would take. My hunch is, what it would take starts with a Julio Rodriguez and goes from there. There just aren’t a ton of great bats out there! The best addition we’re likely to see is Mitch Haniger when he comes off of the IL.

What happens if we trade for a bat, and he’s like so many other guys we’ve brought in? Either he’ll need an adjustment period to get used to playing half his games in Seattle, or he’ll downright fucking suck his entire time here. We’re just as likely to see positive regression from the guys already on our roster (Winker, Frazier, Suarez) than we are to see a vast improvement from some outside bat (again, if you believe Soto is unreachable). So, I’m cool going this route and holding off until the offseason before addressing the offense again.

This team lives and dies with its pitching. That’s also – not for nothing – what most of the very best playoff teams do. If we’re going to make any kind of noise in the postseason, we need monster pitching (which is why I hope we make moves for another ace reliever or two).

I have high hopes for Castillo. He’s been elite even in that bandbox they play in over in Cincy. I’m a little annoyed that his first two appearances in a Mariners uniform are going to be against the Yankees and Gerrit Cole, but here we go! We’ll get a great look at how his stuff is going to play. If he comes in on fire, I think that bodes well for this year and next. If he struggles, then I think we’re going to be justifiably concerned. We HAVE guys who can dominate the Rangers and A’s; we need someone to take down the Yankees and Astros!

If he pans out, there’s nothing that says we can’t extend him beyond next year. If the Mariners are out of contention next season – and an extension doesn’t look likely – we can always flip him at the deadline. But, otherwise, heading into 2023, our rotation looks set, and it looks pretty fucking great. Castillo, Ray, Gilbert (with the training wheels fully off), Marco, and Kirby (who should be that much stronger in his second season in the bigs).

In the short term, that’s it for the Cheating Astros for the regular season. God willing, we won’t have to see them again until 2023. Don’t think they’re cheating anymore? Well, don’t tell Robbie Ray that, because they seem to be tipped off to what he’s throwing, better than most other teams in the A.L.

The Mariners Swept The Rangers After Being Swept By The Astros

Even weirder: the Astros just got swept by the Athletics after sweeping the Mariners. Baseball is idiotic.

Oh, what a difference a Julio Rodriguez makes!

He didn’t return in time for Monday’s game. But, the impact he made on Tuesday and Wednesday is pretty gargantuan.

Monday’s game was a run-of-the-mill 4-3 victory. Chris Flexen went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs. The offense manufactured a couple runs in the fourth, before Ty France hit a solo bomb in the fifth, with Santana beating out a fielder’s choice (avoiding the double play, in other words) to add an insurance run in the seventh. Diego Castillo didn’t have very good command – needing 22 pitches to get one out in the ninth, while giving up a solo homer to give the game its final score – but Erik Swanson only needed three pitches to get the final two outs for his second save of the year.

Tuesday’s 5-4 victory was anything but run-of-the-mill. George Kirby returned from his mini-sabbatical, tethered to a pretty severe pitch count as the team ramps him back up. He was expected to throw 60-70 pitches (thinking maybe 3-4 innings of work), but he only needed 51 pitches to make it through five innings, to potentially qualify for the victory. He looked outrageously impressive; sharp with his command, and nasty with his 2-seam fastball moving all over the place. All told, he gave up 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 4 and giving up 0 runs.

The aforementioned Julio Rodriguez returned for this one and homered in his first at bat of the game. The Mariners continued to make the Rangers’ starter work as we got another run in the same inning. It looked like he might get knocked out early, but those were the only two runs the Rangers’ starter gave up.

It was 2-0 heading into the seventh, before Texas closed the gap to 2-1. However, Cal Raleigh homered in the bottom half to make it 3-1, and seemingly pave the way to a safe and sound M’s victory. Not so fast, though, as Paul Sewald got two quick outs before suffering some insanely bad luck. Well, the two walks weren’t “bad luck” so much as “bad command”. But, the 2-run double to tie the game looked like it was going to go foul before bouncing the opposite way – just inside the first base bag – as if it was deflected by an invisible tennis racket or something.

Erik Swanson came in for the top of the ninth – game still tied – but the Rangers worked him over for a run to make it 4-3 heading into the bottom half. That’s when the offense got going again. J.P. Crawford led off with a single, followed by a Cal Raleigh double to tie it at 4-4. Adam Frazier sacrificed Cal over to third, and with one out on the inning, the Rangers did the sensible thing: they intentionally walked both Julio and Ty France to load the bases.

Unfortunately for them, we had Carlos Santana in the 3-hole. Having a veteran, professional hitter to take that spot means the world to this organization. Santana worked the count to his favor, then got a ball he could drive to center. It was JUST deep enough to score Cal on a tag-up from third base (after video evidence on replay review confirmed he didn’t leave early).

That set the stage for Wednesday’s afternoon sweeping, 4-2. Marco Gonzales gave up 2 runs in 7 innings (4 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts), though we were down 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. That’s when the magic man did it again.

With one out, Cal walked and Sam Haggerty doubled to put runners on 2nd & 3rd. Instead of intentionally walking him again, the Rangers left their starter in there to face Julio, who made him pay with a 3-run jack to make it 4-2. Swanson and Munoz combined to endure the eighth, and Matt Festa worked the ninth for his second save of the season.

In hindsight, I don’t see how anyone pitches to Julio in that situation ever again, especially with first base open. The Rangers even had the benefit of not having to face Ty France, who was getting the day off to rest a sore wrist. I don’t know how likely it would’ve been to see him pinch hit, but it sure seemed like the M’s wanted him to rest ahead of our trip to Houston (first game later today). Regardless, you love to see two players of the calibre of J-Rod and France hitting back-to-back like that. Pick your poison, man! Or, walk them both and still have to go up against a professional hitter in that 3-hole.

I can’t tell you what it means to our season to not have fucked away this Rangers series after faceplanting against the Asstros last weekend. Now, we play those Asstros again, followed by the Yankees, which could make for a very LONG next seven days.

Same Ol’ Mariners Give Us That Sweet Home Cookin’

Were you getting a little too excited about the Seattle Mariners? Did you watch in awe as they completed one of the hottest streaks in franchise history? Indeed, one of the hottest streaks in MLB history, relatively speaking.

We’ve talked about this before. It’s a bit of a running joke with the Mariners. First, it requires decades upon decades of sucking: check. Then, it requires the M’s to get off to a slow-ish start to the season: check. Next, the Mariners need to play well enough to climb back into contention: check. Usually, this culminates with an impressive streak of wins (though, 14 is truly a bit much), maybe a well-timed series sweep or something, always on the road: check.

Now, the table is set. Sometimes, we get an off-day between games. An extra 24 hours to really sit and relish in our excitement. The Mariners are returning home! Let’s keep the good times rolling! This time, we had four days, the All-Star Break. We were the toast of baseball, our young phenom made a name for himself in the Home Run Derby and for an inning or so during the game itself (when Julio was interviewed while playing on the field). Fan interest was at a fever pitch!

I should also point out that invariably, the team we’re coming home to face after playing so well is almost always the Cheating Houston Astros. If there was ever a team that made you want to give up the sport of baseball and renounce your Mariners fandom in one fell swoop, it’s the Asstros. Whether actively cheating or not, they have our number. It won’t be that way forever, but it kinda feels like it will.

If I could’ve had one victory this weekend, I would’ve chosen Friday’s game. Get me to 15 consecutive wins, with Marco on the hill, in front of a sold out crowd. But, I couldn’t have ANY victory this weekend, as the M’s got completely obliterated. Oh sure, the scores all look close enough, but don’t let that fool you. The Mariners weren’t competitive. There was no point where we were realistically going to win any of these games.

Marco didn’t have it on Friday. He gave up 5 runs in 5.2 innings. The Astros’ starter – the worst in their rotation, and someone we’ve pounded multiple times this year – went 6 innings and gave up 1 run. That’s it. Game. 5-2.

No one had it on Saturday, as Verlander once again dominated us (7 innings, 1 measly run). Logan Gilbert gave us a nice quality start (6 innings, 2 runs), but the offense shit the bed, save a Carlos Santana homer. 3-1.

And Robbie Ray came back down to Earth on Sunday (3 innings, 6 runs). If we were still playing like we did during our winning streak, this would’ve been one for the win column, as the Astros managed to give up 5 runs on the day. However, we were already losing 6-0 through the first six innings before the offense woke up. We lost 8-5 when all was said and done.

It should be noted that Julio Rodriguez was scratched from all three games with a wrist injury. Apparently he hurt it in the Rangers’ series, and proceeded to do all the All Star festivities with it.

Part of me wants to be annoyed by this. Seems irresponsible. Seems like more of a Me First attitude. At the same time, he’s a 21 year old kid, he’s excited for his first All Star Game appearance. He’s trying to make a name for himself and build his brand. He’s literally trying to double his baseball salary on the year. And, he’s got that kind of attitude where he thinks he can do anything, he can succeed in whatever he wants. At some point, if you’re a fan of the kid, you’ve got to take him with all of his exuberance. He’s not perfect.

That being said, I hope this is a learning experience. Because at some point, I don’t think you can help but question his desire to win. What’s more important, a flashy All Star Break, or games against your bitter divisional rivals when you’re fighting for your playoff lives? Every game matters. All 162. They all count in the standings, and when the season’s over, it’s going to come down to just a small handful of them.

In this specific scenario, I wonder if it would’ve mattered. Would he have been 100% healed if he’d skipped the All Star festivities? Can’t say. He very well still might’ve been sore and the team might’ve held him back anyway. Maybe he would’ve been better, but still not 100%; would that have made a difference in the outcomes of these games? Would a Julio at 85% have made up for the 3, 2, and 3-run deficits we lost by? Seems like a stretch. Even if he WAS 100%, I don’t know if it would’ve mattered. We really would’ve needed him to be on fire, mashing all kinds of RBI throughout the weekend. That’s not totally outside the realm of possibility. But, the way the Astros were pitching – and the way we struggled to limit damage in two of the three games – I find it hard to believe he would’ve made a difference. Therefore, I find it hard to blame him for what he did.

I’ll say this, though, I’m going to be more than annoyed if he ends up on the IL. The longer this injury keeps him out, the harsher my opinion is going to be. Because you can’t put the kind of strain on an already-injured wrist that he put it through – with 80+ dingers in the Home Run Derby, to say nothing about all of his practice swings – and not do more damage to it.

The Rangers are up next. Let’s hope we can get right back on track, but I dunno. It kinda feels like we’re about to undo a lot of the good we just did.

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

File this under: Good Problem To Have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Should The Mariners Do At The Deadline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julio Rodriguez Made The Home Run Derby Fun Again

As Mariners fans, we have a love/hate relationship with the Home Run Derby. Our last entrant was Robinson Cano, who flamed out in 2016. Before that, we had Bret Boone in 2003, who managed a whopping 0 homers, and again in 2001, when he got all of 3 (turns out, when your specialty is hitting them the opposite way, that’s not necessarily the best way to win a derby). We also got Edgar in there in 2000, which I had totally blocked from my memory; even back then he felt out of place. Maybe if you arranged a Doubles Derby or something …

But, then you’ve also got the 1990s, and all the times Ken Griffey Jr. made it fun and relevant. Although, I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t specifically recall any of his three victories. I feel like I must have watched them, but they don’t really stand out except in reruns on ESPN The Ocho.

It’s funny, I couldn’t tell you for sure the last time I sat down and watched the Home Run Derby in its entirety. I’m guessing it wasn’t in 2016, since I didn’t write about it. But, Cano was never built for something like that; I don’t care that he won it all with the Yankees in 2011. Anyway, that’s pretty damning for the derby itself, since there’s literally nothing else going on in sports the week of the All Star Break. Although, it’s hard to blame the event itself. Usually, the Mariners are so mediocre by this point in the season, all I want is a fucking break where I can focus on literally anything BUT baseball.

This year, however, excitement for baseball is back! All it took was a 14-game winning streak, and 22 wins in 25 games!

I know for a fact I haven’t seen the Home Run Derby since they changed it from 10 “outs” to a time limit each round. I don’t know which way I like more. It feels like there’s more urgency when the outs start ticking upward; that makes those runs guys go on feel more impressive. If you’re down to your last out, and you rip off four or five more dingers, that can make all the difference, in a relatively pressure-packed situation! But, on the other hand, we’re definitely getting more bang for our buck with the time limit. Especially over the last three years, we’re seeing higher home run totals across the board, and isn’t that the point? More dingers = more fun & excitement!

It’s a little silly, though, to be regularly tinkering with the rules, because the derby grows stale or whatever. They seem to have a similar “problem” as the Academy Awards: everyone tries and fails to make the event shorter and more popular with the youths of today. There are eight participants, they each get three minutes to hit as many homers as possible. That’s 24 minutes in round one, 12 more minutes in round two, followed by a two-minute final per person: 40 minutes of home run action. So, why does it take three hours to put on this event? Well, everyone gets 30 seconds of “bonus time”, automatically built in. How is it bonus time if everyone gets it? WHO CARES?! Then, you get an additional 30 seconds if – during your allotted three-minute round – you hit two home runs of 440 feet or more. Then, there’s a brief rest period between your round and the bonus time, plus you’re allowed to take a time out during your three-minute round.

Look, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying, if your goal is to make this thing shorter, you’ve got a funny way of going about it. Honestly, three hours feels appropriate for this sort of nonsense.

I will say that it can get a little confusing, as oftentimes they’re already throwing the next pitch before we can even see if the last one went out or not. There were times when the counter was a little slow, so you’ll forgive me if Conspiracy Theory Steven wasn’t on alert when Juan Soto’s total jumped up a few extra homers in the final round out of nowhere.

But, in the grand scheme of things – even in the grand scheme of baseball things – you have to remember none of this means anything. This is the consummate Just Happy To Be There sort of occasion. Did Julio Rodriguez have fun? Did he more than double his 2022 Major League salary by finishing in second place? Did he make a name for himself on a national level, to the point where he even overshadowed the winner? Yes, yes, and yes, and that’s all that matters.

I always forget how irrelevant we are up here in the Seattle area, when it comes to the national perspective. We were pretty well known for our professional football when Russell Wilson was around. In soccer circles, I guess we’re kind of a big deal. But, by and large, unless you live in an A.L. West market, you don’t get to see the Mariners very much. It was funny to hear – even among other baseball players at the event – all the guys who had never seen Julio in person before. Not to mention all the people around the country who had never seen him period!

It’s a shame that ESPN doesn’t cover the sport like it used to. Even in the summer, Sportscenter and the like are focused more on the goings on of the NFL and NBA offseasons. Used to be, you could flip on ESPN in the evenings and see a nonstop barrage of highlights from the day’s MLB games. That would be the opportunity for the rest of the nation to see what’s happening (or not happening) in Seattle. Now, it takes a 14-game winning streak to finally break through; something that happens maybe once a generation.

It’s safe to say, though, Julio Rodriguez made a big impact yesterday. He led off the event by hitting 32 homers, easily defeating Corey Seager, who had 24 (which was the most by anyone in a single round at the Home Run Derby not named Julio Rodriguez, making his the unluckiest of draws). Then, he followed that up by mashing 31 more in the second round, to defeat last year’s winner, Pete Alonso (who looked like he was taking the thing WAY too seriously; do you really need to meditate heading into your turn?).

With the reduction in time for the finals (from 3 minutes to 2), it was disconcerting to see Julio struggle in regulation. He didn’t even qualify for the extra 30 seconds, as he only hit one home run 440 feet or beyond. Still, it was impressive that he managed 18 of them in total, which gave him a glimmer of hope to win it all (since Juan Soto did barely just enough in each of his victorious rounds). It even seemed likely that Julio would win, after Soto struggled through his first minute. But, then he caught fire. And, he managed to unlock the extra 30 seconds that Julio couldn’t, which gave him plenty of time to get that 19th home run during his bonus period.

Kind of a bummer of an anticlimactic ending, but all in all it was super fun to see Julio do his thing. It’s even cooler to witness the world getting their first glimpse of our latest superstar. Julio Rodriguez has already made a big impact on the field for the Mariners this year. He’s a big reason for our success and an even bigger reason for our hope for the future. He’s only missing a couple things so far: he’s yet to take away a home run over the fence, and he’s yet to have that signature at bat that endures the test of time (though, I would say that grand slam against the Rangers – blowing open a game that was only a 1-run lead – was pretty special).

The cool thing, though, is that he’s only 21 years old. He’s got PLENTY of time to make his lasting mark on the game of baseball. Even cooler, now he’s going to have the eyes of the world on him. If anyone can rise to that occasion, it’s Julio.