The 2021 Seattle Mariners State Of The Union

We just wrapped up a wildly entertaining and overachieving season by the Seattle Mariners. They won 90 games for the first time since 2003 and fell just two games short of the playoffs. We’re in the thick of a full-on rebuild, but it’s the fun part of the rebuild: where things turn from being a perennial loser to hopefully a perennial winner. If things go according to plan, the 2022 Mariners should make the postseason for the first time since 2001 – breaking the longest drought in all of the major North American sports – and the 2023 Mariners should start contending for American League pennants and World Series championships.

There’s also a Glass Half Empty outlook to this whole thing. Because this is Seattle, and these are the Mariners, so of course we have every reason to believe it’ll all go to shit like everything else in our sports universe.

Let’s start with the hitting: the Mariners were dead-last in the American League with a .226 batting average. We were second-to-last with a .303 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage. That’s all good for a second-to-last OPS of .688; we were one of only two teams (the Texas Rangers, at the exceedingly UNFUN portion of a rebuild, where they’re legitimately one of the worst squads in all of baseball) with an OPS under .700. And, as far as pitching goes, we were very much middle-of-the-road across the board.

We were 90-72, but ninth in the American League with a -51 run differential. Our Pythagorean win/loss record indicates we should’ve been 76-86 (per Baseball Reference). So, how do you make sense of a season like this? Well, the M’s were 11-28 in blowouts (games decided by 5 or more runs), but we were 33-19 in 1-run games.

It boils down to the starters being good enough to keep us in most ballgames, our manager pulling the right strings regarding when to take them out of harm’s way, and a bullpen that, in part, was one of the best units in the league. And, our hitters being among the most clutch I’ve ever seen. They didn’t hit much, but when they did, they made those opportunities count! Often late in games, to either come from behind, or break a tie to win it in thrilling fashion.

So, where do we attribute the Mariners’ success and ultimate failure?

Well, for the highlights, look no further than J.P. Crawford, Ty France, Mitch Haniger, and Kyle Seager, on the hitting side of things. They had an inordinate amount of impact on just how well the Mariners performed this season. It’s not even close; the drop-off after those four guys is insane. You don’t LOVE to see something like that, because Seager is gone next year, and Haniger only has one year of Arbitration left before he might walk in free agency.

What you want to see is the young guys stepping up and assuming huge roles; I’ll discuss these guys in a separate post, but suffice it to say, they weren’t quite up to the task just yet.

But, Crawford and France are still pretty young, with lots of team control remaining. They’re not nothing!

If you think about the Mariners in 2-3 year chunks, then we’ve got at least those two guys in the fold and producing at a high level. We can always extend Haniger after next year, or if we don’t, that means we likely have someone else of a high calibre who can fill his shoes (Julio Rodriguez, for instance).

In the meantime, as I’ll get into another time, it’s far from doom-and-gloom with the young guys. Plus, it’s not like we’re going to rest on our laurels with the guys in the farm system. We’ll bring in veterans in free agency and trades to fill out the lineup, and make up for the loss of Seager.

As for the starting pitching side of things, who doesn’t love what Chris Flexen did as a bargain-basement signing? He led the starters in innings pitched, WAR, ERA, and wins, and he did it with sustainable stuff that should continue to play as a solid #2 or #3 starter. Marco Gonzales continued to do Marco Gonzales things. And, Logan Gilbert had a strong first season, seeming to improve as the year went on (more on him later).

The downside is, that’s pretty much it. James Paxton got injured on day one. Yusei Kikuchi likely pitched his way off the team (losing a 4-year, $66 million option in the process), though he could always exercise a 1-year player option for $13 million (but, that seems unlikely, as you’d think someone else would fork over more guaranteed dollars and try to fix his issues). Justus Sheffield was one of the biggest disappointments on the team and his future is very much in doubt. Justin Dunn lost half his season to injury, but wasn’t all that effective in the half he was healthy. Tyler Anderson was a competent back-of-the-rotation starter we acquired at the trade deadline, but he’ll be a free agent this offseason and will be looking for a significant raise.

I would argue the Mariners need at least two starters, and it’s debatable as to whether or not the young guys in our farm system are ready yet. If we’re trying to make the playoffs in 2022, entrusting two more rotation spots to rookies seems like a bad idea. But, we have to do better than Sheffield and Dunn, so they better figure something out.

The bullpen was the biggest pleasant surprise on the team. Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider, and Casey Sadler were all lights out! Diego Castillo was fine, though it’s hard to want to trust him in the highest-leverage situations. Kendall Graveman was excellent when he was here, and he netted us a nice little return in Abraham Toro; plus we could always sign him again this offseason if we wanted!

The thing is, we have team control with all of those guys (save Graveman), and I haven’t even gotten to the younger guys who I’ll talk about later. Nor did I mention Ken Giles, who missed this year with injury, but is signed through the 2022 season and is slated to return and be a big part of this group! The bullpen went from being arguably this team’s biggest weakness heading into the 2021 season, to being arguably its biggest strength heading into 2022. That’s HUGE (with the usual caveat being: bullpens are notoriously volatile from year-to-year, so they could all shit the bed as well).

So, what’s the state of the union as we exit 2021 and head into 2022?

I know the marketing materials would tell us it’s all looking up, and I’m buying right into the rose-colored glasses this organization is trying to peddle, but I think they’re right! I like the looks of things for the Mariners in the coming years. I’m not going to sit here and guarantee a playoff spot in 2022; I could easily see this team taking a step backwards.

Odds are, the 2022 Mariners won’t be quite so lucky in 1-run games. Odds are, the 2022 Mariners won’t hit quite so well in the clutch. Odds are, the 2022 Mariners will continue to suffer injuries to key guys (anyone remember Kyle Lewis?).

The thing is, we could see all of that; we could even see the 2022 Mariners end up as a sub-.500 ballclub in the overall standings! That having been said, we could see all of that while the team itself continues to grow and get better. Maybe we start out slow, losing games we expected to win, but in the process we get to watch more young guys make their Major League debuts. We get to see other young guys continue to blossom into Major Leaguers and All Stars. Maybe 2022 is the final step-back before things all skyrocket in 2023 and beyond.

The point is, there will be more bumps in the road. Things never EVER go according to plan. But, that doesn’t mean the overall outlook isn’t high. Just don’t put too much pressure on the year right in front of us. It might take two years, and that’s okay.

But, if we’re not in the playoffs by 2023, there should be hell to pay. Because how do you fuck up an organization with a farm system this stacked? Well, if anyone can fuck it up, you know the Mariners can!

The Mariners Traded For Diego Castillo

We learned about this one in the early evening hours yesterday, and the first tweet I saw about it – from a non-reporter – was something to the effect of, “Ho-hum, this guy’s just whatever, he’s no Kendall Graveman.” I mean, that’s very possible; he could come here and totally shit the bed, just like countless other relievers have done throughout the years, but I feel like that’s still residual reaction from the vitriol incited by the Graveman trade more than it is an accurate reflection of that person’s feelings on this deal in a vacuum.

Diego Castillo looks like he has amazing stuff! A fastball that hits triple digits, and a slider that sits in the low-90’s? Does that remind you of someone we recently traded away in the Robinson Cano deal, who was seen as the real prize of that acquisition? As we’ve seen from Edwin Diaz since putting on a Mets uniform, that combination isn’t a guarantee of a sub-1.00 ERA forever. But, I would argue that Kendall Graveman’s stuff isn’t going to remain in that otherworldly realm forever either. He’s bound to return to normal and start blowing some saves. At which point, he’ll be no better or worse than Diego Castillo.

Yes, Castillo blows some saves every now and again. That’s going to happen to just about anyone who isn’t having an unsustainably lucky/flukey season. But he’s also – assuming he stays healthy, which is a big assumption; given how hard he throws, his arm could blow at any time – going to be good-to-great most of the time. On top of which, he’s just entering his Arbitration years, meaning we can keep him for the next three seasons after this one.

He cost us J.T. Chargois – a guy we picked up off the scrap heap before this season – and Austin Shenton, a third base prospect (who, it sounds like, doesn’t have the defensive acumen to stick at third base). Think “Ty France Type” as his ultimate ceiling. So, you know, that’s tough – it sounds like he’s got the hitting part down – but this is also the first I’ve ever heard of him, so he couldn’t have been THAT elite of a prospect.

I know, I know, “what I don’t know could fill a book.” Speaking of which … it also comes in Kindle.

The Rays apparently love Chargois’ stuff, but I think they mostly like his cheapness (he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2023, so they could easily flip him this time next year if they’re so inclined). And, I’m sure they’ll get the most out of that Shenton guy, but I still like this deal for the Mariners.

Taken as a whole, it’s a Graveman for Castillo swap (a guy who’s a free agent at the end of this season, vs. a guy who will be here for three years BEYOND this season); a Rafael Montero for Joe Smith swap (two duds, but at least we’re able to recoup something for the Montero debacle); and a Shenton for Abraham Toro swap (a guy who just this year made it to the AA level, vs. a guy who is a Major League-ready prospect right now and could take a leap forward at any time); plus two prospects for Tyler Anderson (guys likely to never have much of an impact on this game, vs. a viable starting pitcher we can use starting this weekend in our push to make the playoffs).

I don’t know about you, but to me that looks like Jerry Dipoto sticking to his plan: going for it in 2021, while at the same time not sacrificing our major pieces of this rebuild.

Look, I think we learned A LOT about this team over this most recent homestand. It wasn’t a total success – we didn’t hit that 5-2 mark that I’d talked about – but it wasn’t a total failure either. It was a 4-3 homestand. If I’m being honest, kind of what I expected, in some way, shape, or form. We learned that the Mariners are indeed in contention for one of the 2021 Wild Card spots (3-1 against the A’s, one of the favorites to be in that play-in game), but we also learned that the Mariners probably aren’t in contention for the A.L. West (a lucky 1-2 against the Astros), and probably aren’t one of the elites.

Have you seen the deals they’re swinging in New York and Los Angeles? The Yankees and Dodgers are going ALL-IN on 2021 like nothing I can remember! These are mega, MEGA blockbuster trades, made by teams who are there. They’re not rebuilding, they’re BUILT. And they’re throwing any and all available minor league prospects away to get the superstars they need. And, you know what? They probably still have great farm systems plugging away behind those guys they just jettisoned! That’s what happens. That’s what success looks like.

Sure, the Mariners have a Top 5 or Top 10 farm system now, but I would argue that’s mostly top-heavy, with guys who are either in the Major Leagues right now (Kelenic, Raleigh, Gilbert), or guys who are a year or two away (J-Rod, Kirby, maybe Hancock). Now, I think it’s definitely deeper than it’s been in the last 15-20 years, but it’s not a well-oiled machine like the Yankees and Dodgers have been producing for decades. Until we get THERE, the topic of going All-In really means something. It means totally depleting what we’ve built in the minors. So, we better be good and fucking sure that we’re ready to contend NOT JUST FOR A WILD CARD SPOT, but the whole fuckin’ thing. I’m not interested in mortgaging our future just to break the playoff drought for a single-elimination play-in game. I want to be regarded as among the greats, the Astros and Dodgers and the like. I want a fucking World Series championship in my lifetime; is that too much to ask?!

So, I’m fine with these cursory deals. These players on the edge of the roster. Little upgrades here and there, while still taking shots on guys like Toro to be bigger pieces of the puzzle. While it hurts losing Graveman from a morale standpoint, you can’t say we threw him away for nothing. Castillo mitigates that loss considerably (I hope). Toro gives us a boost at second base for now (again, I hope). And we brought in a starter who couldn’t be any worse than the Bullpen Days and sub-replacement level guys we’ve been starting (almost definitely).

But, this whole “contention” business was always going to hinge on the players we have on the active roster right now, continuing to play out of their fucking minds. To be the clutchest motherfuckers on the planet. To mostly get hits with runners in scoring position, and to be the winningest team in one-run games in the Major Leagues. There’s no crazy amount of deals that was going to turn this Mariners team into that Astros team. This is it. You need the J.P. Crawfords and Dylan Moores and Cal Raleighs and Mitch Hanigers and Ty Frances and Luis Torrenses to lead the way. You need this starting rotation – held together by duct tape and fishing line – to keep us in most every ballgame. And you need this bullpen to be lockdown 9 times out of 10. Hell, maybe even 10 times out of 10, since we’re in the home stretch.

Two months to go! We are 55-48 heading into the dog days of summer. We’re 2.5 games behind the Athletics for the second wild card spot. We’re a mere 1 game ahead of the Yankees, and would you look at that! We go to their ballpark to play them on this upcoming road trip we’re on. Considering the way they manhandled us at T-Mobile Park, on top of their additions of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo (a notorious Mariners-killer with Texas), I expect we won’t be too happy with what happens at Yankee Stadium.

But, you know, once an optimist, always an optimist.

Is The Mariners’ Jake Fraley For Real?

The alternate title for this post was going to be, “Jake Fraley Is This Year’s Dylan Moore Of 2020”, but it’s not quite apples to apples. The sentiment is there: he’s a fringe player, thought to be nothing more than a bench bat/fourth outfielder, who has stepped his game up to the point where the Mariners MUST put him in the lineup everyday. Or face the consequences. Namely: my wrath.

Dylan Moore was just that prior to 2020. He was a nobody. Then, last year, he figured out how to generate more power from his bat; his slugging jumped from .389 in 2019 to .496 in 2020. Of course, last year was a pandemic year. On top of that, Moore was buried on the active roster by lesser players (mostly an injured Shed Long), so even though he was killing it, he only appeared in 38 of 60 games.

Not for nothing, but through the first half of 2021, Moore finds himself playing considerably worse than even his paltry 2019 season. The only aspect of Moore that’s better today is his defense, but you couldn’t be much worse defensively than Moore was in 2019 (especially in the first half of that season). I had much higher hopes for Moore heading into this year, based on his 2020. I thought he’d enacted some sort of Chris Taylor transformation, but apparently that’s not the case. In all likelihood, 2020 was a mirage.

That brings us to Jake Fraley. He was brought over after the 2018 season from the Rays in the Mike Zunino/Mallex Smith trade. Mallex Smith was a bust, and I don’t think anyone had any confidence in Fraley being anything more than a Quad-A type of player. His brief cups of coffee in 2019 and 2020 all but confirmed it. I figured, at best, he was a reserve outfielder who might be a defensive replacement late in games, or an emergency starter if enough guys got injured.

And yet, here we are in 2021, and Jake Fraley is tied with Ty France for second (among position players) on the Mariners in WAR (1.6) even though he’s only appeared in half the games of France. He’s among the best players on the team in on-base percentage (first among position players at .409), slugging (third among position players at .439), and OPS (first among position players at .848).

And, like Moore in 2020, Fraley has often found himself buried on the active roster behind inferior players. It’s really only since the end of May that Fraley has found himself in the lineup on a regular basis. And yet, he’s managed to produce!

A lot of the hype – especially early on – surrounded Fraley’s walk rate. It was off the charts! It continues to be his biggest asset, but he’s managed to add a little pop to his bat to balance things out. He’s also – like J.P. Crawford – finding himself in the middle of a lot of these Mariners rallies. He’ll find a way on base when we need someone, he’ll steal a bag for you, and he’ll come up with a clutch hit late in the game to win it. What more can you ask for from someone who consistently finds himself batting near the bottom of the lineup?

It’s difficult to see Fraley’s long-term viability on the Mariners, with guys like Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez soon-to-be patrolling the outfield on a regular basis, and also Kyle Lewis, whenever he gets his injury issues squared away. Fraley could be an excellent bridge guy to our Outfield of the Future, or he could supplant someone like Lewis (if we find the right trade for him), or he could be a trade chip himself! I would want Fraley to build up considerably more value before the Mariners deal him, but thankfully there’s still plenty of time for that.

Ironically, Jake Fraley is exactly the type of player who would thrive in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. If he’s able to keep it up through the rest of this season, maybe we send him back for another Rays player, who perhaps will soon be too expensive for them to retain. Fraley has team control through 2025, so he’ll continue to be a bargain for a little while yet.

It’s always fun seeing these guys who you never expect to turn into anything, become quality everyday players. Fraley is especially fun because he’s so involved in all of the best aspects of what this 2021 Mariners team has become. Scrappy, fast, playing above their overall talent level, finding ways to get it done that are maybe a little less conventional than the Three True Outcomes. In another time, Fraley might’ve been one of my all-time favorite players. As it is, I’m going to enjoy the ride for as long as he takes me on it.

The Mariners Won One Against The White Sox

If you ever want to know where the Mariners are in their rebuild, it’s helpful to see how they play against the very best teams in baseball. I would put the White Sox up there among them, and at least at this point in the rebuild, the M’s were outclassed.

The game on Monday was a brutal 6-0 shutout. Justus Sheffield looked pretty good through three innings, but the wheels started to come off in the fourth, and he was done after five, having given up 6 runs, 4 earned. I would say that performance was as expected for a guy making his first start of the season, against a team that absolutely mashes left-handed pitching.

The real drag was from the lineup, who managed only three hits on the day (two of them by Haniger). We struck out 15 fucking times against only 4 walks; that’s as pathetic as it gets. Take a picture of what the outfield looks like right now (sans Haniger), as it can ONLY improve from here with call-ups and guys returning from injury. Jake Fraley, Sam Haggerty, and Taylor Trammell don’t appear to be Major League players (yet? maybe ever?). Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez can’t get here soon enough.

The only positive in this one was the four innings of shutout ball by the bullpen. Don’t get used to that, though.

Tuesday’s game was a miserable 10-4 blowout, where both Paxton and Fraley left injured. Paxton’s injury seems particularly bad, as he’s reportedly seeking a second opinion. Fraley: who cares? Margevicius never should’ve appeared in this series – being a soft-tossing lefty – and was roped around accordingly. The rest of the bullpen behind him didn’t do the team any favors either, as everyone after Paxton combined to give up 9 of the 10 runs.

As for the hitters, Haniger and Ty France were good! Tom Murphy was productive in his at-bats at DH. Everyone else was pretty mediocre.

Yesterday’s game was a relatively impressive 8-4 victory for the M’s! I’ll be honest, that was a tough one to see coming, and in retrospect seems even less likely!

Justin Dunn has improved velocity on his fastball, but was otherwise up to his old tricks in this one: allowing one hit while walking EIGHT! Ye gods. He failed to get through the fifth inning. BUT, the hitters brought their lunch pails in this one, scoring three off of old buddy Dallas Keuchel, then five more against some hapless reliever who got knocked around something fierce.

Kyle Seager started pulling his weight in this one, with three hits and three RBI. But, seven Mariners in total had hits, most of them in a 7-run sixth inning.

The bullpen went 4.1 innings, giving up just 1 run, with Will Vest getting his first career Major League win. All in all, a lot to like about this one game at least. If the series as a whole is a barometer of where the Mariners are in their rebuild, it’s encouraging to have a performance like this one to at least give us some hope.

Now, the Mariners are off on their first road trip of the season, with a weird three-game series against the Twins (with a random Friday off-day). I don’t understand why MLB didn’t schedule this with another off-day on Sunday; if you’re SO worried about there being a rainout, why not front-load the games so you have a better opportunity to get the entire series in? Sure, the Twins’ home-opener is secure, but what happens if there’s a rain storm on Saturday or Sunday? We’re fucked into making a repeat trip to Minnesota later in the season! Fucking idiots; schedule smarter!

2021 Mariners Preview Extravaganza: We Have A Rest Of The Team

Yesterday, I wrote about the starting rotation. Today – the day of the Mariners’ first game of the season – I’ll be writing about everything else.

If you’ve been following along all offseason, I’ve already written about most of these guys. But, now we have an official roster, so let’s run through it.

We’re pretty set with the infield:

  • Kyle Seager (3B)
  • J.P. Crawford (SS)
  • Dylan Moore (2B)
  • Evan White (1B)
  • Tom Murphy/Luis Torrens (C)

All healthy, present, and accounted for! All of them, of course, come with question marks. Does Seager have anything left in the late-career resurgence tank? Can Crawford build on his Gold Glove campaign to be a more consistent (and somewhat more powerful) hitter? Was 2020 a mirage for Moore? Will White EVER hit, period? And, is the catcher position as strong as I expect it to be? How many of these guys – if any – will be longterm solutions at their respective positions? I gotta believe that the Next Great Mariners Team has at least a few of these guys playing roles; they can’t ALL still be in the minors or other organizations!

One guy we don’t have to worry about is:

This guy can hit! No notes! Also, since I believe in him so strongly, watch him struggle mightily. This is the way.

The outfield is my favorite part of this team, now and especially in the future. With Kyle Lewis starting on the 10-Day IL, it’s a little underwhelming at the moment, but obviously the M’s have to play it super safe with our 2020 Rookie of the Year.

  • Mitch Haniger (RF)
  • Jake Fraley (CF)
  • Taylor Trammell (LF)
  • Sam Haggerty (INF/OF)
  • Jose Marmolejos (INF/OF)

The story of camp has been Trammell making the Opening Day roster. Not just as an injury replacement to the injured Lewis, but as a legitimate starting left fielder for this team. He’s another one of those great guys we traded for from the Padres last year when we sent them Austin Nola – making us three for three of guys coming over in return making the team in 2021, with France and Torrens – whose prospect stock has fluctuated wildly over the course of his minor league career. But, he appears to be putting it all together now at just the right time: ahead of Kelenic and Rodriguez. This glut of highly-touted outfielders will only make things that much easier for the M’s as they fill out the rest of the roster to try to build a championship ballclub. Of everyone on this 26-man roster, Trammell is the one I’m most excited about.

And Haniger is the one I’m most curious about. He’s had a long road back to full health; at one point in his career he was one of the top 25-or-so players in the American League. It wouldn’t shock me to see him right back in that area; it also wouldn’t shock me to see him totally shit the bed. He no longer seems to be the future of the franchise, but he’s currently the present, and will have every opportunity to rebuild his value in the game of baseball.

Fraley and the rest are just guys. Placeholders until our young superstars return from injury and/or get called up from the minors.

The obvious wildcard on the Mariners is the bullpen:

  • Rafael Montero
  • Kendall Graveman
  • Nick Margevicius
  • Anthony Misiewicz
  • Keynan Middleton
  • Casey Sadler
  • Will Vest
  • Drew Steckenrider

Oof. Like I said, I have avoided learning too much about the bullpen; I’d rather watch them with my own eyes and draw my own conclusions. But, to get me started, I guess I’ll look up some info and regurgitate it here, for my own benefit if nothing else.

The Mariners traded for Rafael Montero from the Rangers in the offseason. He had 8 saves for a terrible Rangers team last year, and I guess figures to be our closer out of the gate? He doesn’t have a ton of Major League experience, but maybe he’s put it all together. We’ll see. He’s not a bad buy-low candidate, at least in the short term.

Graveman we all know. He was here last year, signed to be a starter after missing a lot of time with injuries. He ended up with a neck issue that somehow allows him to throw very hard in short bursts as a reliever, but hampers him too much to go too many innings in a row. I don’t understand this one iota (mostly, I don’t understand why he doesn’t just have some surgical procedure to fix it and return 100% healthy), but whatever. He’s generally pretty good for an inning most of the time, so that makes him a quality set-up candidate in my mind.

Margevicius was neck-and-neck with Justin Dunn for the sixth starter job. He will be one of the long men in the bullpen to eat up innings and keep us in ballgames when a starter falters. He’ll also be the first man to join the rotation if there’s an injury (and there will be an injury). He’s fine, I like him in this role a great deal. He’s also one of just two lefties in the ‘pen, so there should be no shortage of work for him this season.

Misiewicz is presumably our top lefty reliever. We drafted him in 2015 and he made his debut last year. He was pretty good, I think! I dunno, we’ll see I guess.

Keynan “Don’t Call Me Kenyan” Middleton was a free agent signing who played for the Angels’ organization the last four years. His 2020 looked pretty atrocious. The three years prior look better, just as long as you don’t go sniffing around his FIP too hard. He might be just a guy. A cheap guy, but a guy nevertheless. He’s still young enough to put it all together, but don’t hold your breath.

Sadler is a veteran we claimed from the Cubs last year, who has bounced around multiple organizations. He’s someone else with big Just A Guy energy.

Will Vest is a Rule 5 guy we poached from the Tigers this offseason. He will be making his Major League debut this year, which will be somewhat fun! Other than that, I dunno. He’s the Rule 5 guy, that’s the nugget I’m going to keep in my brain and promptly forget as soon as he makes it into an actual game.

Drew Steckenrider sounds like one of those names I always fuck up when it comes to those Lookout Landing Sporcle quizzes asking you to name all the Mariners’ pitchers from a particular season. He came over from the Marlins organization on a minor league deal and was apparently one of the last guys to make the team. He’s another one I’m not holding my breath about.

***

The world is our oyster here! The Mariners could be a Bottom Five team, but I really don’t think that will be the case. There’s a lot of young talent in the organization just waiting to break through. There’s a TON of athleticism. There’s promise bursting at the seams. This is a team that WANTS to be great, that has just enough leadership at just the right spots – including the coaching staff – to potentially make it happen. We could be looking at a team that hangs around and FINALLY becomes the one to break the playoff drought!

Or, you know, it could be another year with another mediocre record.

But, the hope is that the young guys will improve. That’s really all that matters. 2020 was a roaring success because we saw improvement from the guys we needed to see improvement from. 2021 needs to be more of the same. Winning and losing isn’t quite as irrelevant as it was last year, but that’s not the ultimate agenda quite yet. The experience of winning isn’t quite as important as the experience of just playing at this level, but there is a lot of value there. That’s why I won’t be as maniacal as in years past when it comes to getting a high draft pick for next season.

Do what you’re going to do, Mariners!

My prediction is that the M’s easily surpass the 72.5 win total that Vegas has them at. But, ultimately I don’t see us getting one of those Wild Card spots. Instead, we’ll probably be drafting in the teens next year.

I’m reserving all predictions beyond that. I’m not making ANY specific player predictions, because so much can happen. Injuries, regression, breakouts, it’s all on the table. My only hope is that I don’t exit this season feeling worse about the Mariners than I do right now. Right now, I’m full of optimism! So, let’s just work in service of that and try to make 2022 and beyond really special!

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

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

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

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

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

So, what will happen with Mitch Haniger?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Be Patient, Mariners Fans

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

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

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

I. FEEL. YOUR. PAIN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Lewis Has Dumps Like A Truck Truck Truck

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know about Kyle Lewis when the Mariners originally drafted him. This was back in 2016; have you taken a trip down Memory Lane when it comes to our first round draft picks? I didn’t think it was POSSIBLE for this team to select anyone who’s worth a damn!

Leading up to the Lewis selection, previous GM Jack Zduriencik made eight first round picks across six drafts. They ended up being:

  • Dustin Ackley (2009) – Bust
  • Nick Franklin (2009) – Bust
  • Steven Baron (2009) – Nobody
  • Taijuan Walker (2010) – Just Okay Starting Pitcher
  • Danny Hultzen (2011) – Injury Bust
  • Mike Zunino (2012) – Human Strikeout Machine
  • D.J. Peterson (2013) – Bust
  • Alex Jackson (2014) – Currently a fringe Major Leaguer with the Braves (also probably a Bust)

That was, not for nothing, coming on the heels of the Bill Bavasi regime, which saw us select the following five first rounders across four drafts:

  • Jeff Clement (2005) – Bust
  • Brandon Morrow (2006) – Rushed to the Majors, dicked around between being a starter and a bullpen arm, had great potential but ultimately never panned out in Seattle (also selected him over local kid and future 2-time Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum)
  • Phillippe Aumont (2007) – Bust
  • Matt Mangini (2007) – Who?
  • Josh Fields (2008) – Sigh

So, you know, after that run of drafting incompetence, why should I have had confidence that the Mariners would EVER be able to pull their heads out of their asses? Kyle Lewis could’ve been Alex Jackson 2.0 for all I knew!

Then, in his very first season in the minors, he blew out his knee. Even though he’d only played in 30 games as a rookie, he showed great promise, so OF COURSE he had to suffer a devastating injury that really set him back for most of the next two years! He slowly climbed the ladder in 2017 & 2018, but mostly struggled and couldn’t get past the AA level.

Then, last year, returning to AA, he started to make good on that earlier promise. He showed enough improvement that the Mariners called him up in September to take a look at him. He not only Didn’t Disappoint, he blew the roof off the fucking stadium!

He hit 6 homers and 5 doubles across 18 games, with 13 RBI, including a homer a day in his first three games as a Major Leaguer. He cooled off just a tad over the last week of the season – to lower that batting average closer to his usual level – but the damage was done. On a bad team looking to rebuild through its own homegrown prospects, Kyle Lewis had the inside track to earn a starting job in 2020 (so long as he, you know, didn’t shit the bed in Spring Training … or Summer Camp, as whatever it is this thing we’re doing here is being called).

Much like his torrid September last year, Kyle Lewis has gotten off to just as hot of a start this month, hitting three homers in two intrasquad games at Safeco Field over the last few days. Let me be far from the first person to note the extremely small sample size, and provide the usual warning of not taking these games too seriously (they don’t count in the standings, guys are still building up their throwing arms and yadda yadda yadda), but shit man, how can you NOT get excited for this kid?! These kinds of explosions are what All Stars are made of! It’s too early to start working on his Hall of Fame bust, but we could be looking at a cornerstone of the next Great Mariners Outfield! When you factor in our two seemingly Can’t Miss prospects in Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic (the top two rated guys in the Mariners’ farm system, and consensus Top 20 prospects across the entire Major Leagues), I mean, this is it! This is your outfield! By 2022, these three guys are going to be destroying everything in their paths! Just slot them in anywhere from 2-5 in the batting lineup and let’s fucking go!

My only concern – because I can’t help it, it’s a sickness with me – has to do with the Mariners ultimately figuring out their pitching issues. Kyle Lewis is great. Evan White – drafted in the first round in 2017 – is already locked in with the big ballclub and getting his first Major League action in 2020; he seems like he’ll be fine. But, these last three first round draft picks – all starting pitchers – on top of all the other draftees and trade acquisitions we’ve made to bolster our staff NEED to pan out! Because the last thing we need around here is another desperate General Manager with an itchy trade finger, looking to ship out one of our top-line outfielders to shore up a problem they’ve been bungling for years!

I know it’s hard to preach patience when you’re talking about the Mariners; when you’re talking about a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001; when you’re talking about a team that has never won an American League pennant. But, we just CAN’T screw this up! I don’t ask for a lot, but if we could just have this one elite set of outfielders intact, it would do a lot for my own personal morale. Thank you and goodnight.