2024 Seattle Mariners Preview Extravaganza Part I: Run Prevention

It’s interesting how opinions can shift. Just two months ago, I was ranting and raving about the F-grade the Mariners deserved for this offseason (not necessarily the grade Jerry Dipoto & Co. earned, but the organization as a whole, starting first & foremost with ownership). Since then, it should be pointed out, three very important personnel moves were made. We traded for Jorge Polanco to shore up second base. We traded for Gregory Santos to shore up the back-end of our bullpen. Then, we signed Ryne Stanek after it became clear Santos (and Brash) wouldn’t be healthy enough to break camp with the Mariners out of Spring Training. You’re talking about some much-needed depth, and you’re also talking about – when healthy – a team that should at least hang around.

On top of those moves, the other thing that’s happened in the subsequent two months since I wrote that post is that the Mariners have had their entire Spring Training session. We have some more information than we did before. Even though we’re all loathe to talk positively about numbers, you can’t help but feel at least a little warm and fuzzy about hitters mashing the ball, and the stuff from your pitchers starting to come around.

I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve done a complete 180 on this team. But, between the additional moves, the exhibition performance, all the pundits and analytics being more bullish than bearish on this team, and the general optimism of spring and the new season directly before us, it’s hard not to have that … whatever the opposite is of cloud your thinking. Clear? Sunny up? They’ve gone and sunnied up my disposition – without my consent, I might add – and I’m not sure how to reconcile those feelings from two months ago.

You know what I hate? Being everyone’s “dark horse”. You know what else I hate? Being suckered into this fucking team, only for them to fall flat on their asses.

So, I’m trying to shut all that noise out and just focus on what my brain tells me. For starters, I have to give the usual caveat: all of this prognostication assumes we have an average amount of health (or better). Every team deals with injuries. Even the very best teams have to endure stretches where it feels like the baseball gods are whooping them with the ugly stick. The Rangers last year – World Series champions – had a spell in the second half where it looked like they might fall apart. But, they picked themselves up, steamrolled through the playoffs, and the rest was history. But, obviously, everyone remembers the 1996 Mariners, where Randy Johnson was lost for most of the year, and we also lost a good month from Ken Griffey Jr. Teams can’t endure the loss of their two best players for extended stretches and still hope to compete. If the 2024 Mariners lose Luis Castillo and Julio Rodriguez, no one is going to sit there and say, “Well, that’s just an average amount of baseball injuries.” It’s debilitating!

With that out of the way, let’s get going here. Since all I want to talk about is the hitting, we’re going to save that for Part II tomorrow. Right now, let’s get into the pitching and (a little bit on the) defense (at the end).

Baseball is tricky. You can’t sit there and say, “So and so is the most important guy on this team, and without him playing great, we have no chance.” It’s not football with the quarterback position. It’s not basketball with whoever your superstar is. Baseball is too much of a team sport. Yes, you need your stars to play well, but one guy can’t do it all. If that were the case, Mike Trout would be a champion countless times over.

You can’t even pin it all on a single pitcher, though I’ll contend until my dying breath that there’s nothing quite like an ace to dominate (particularly down the stretch of a pennant race). But, with the 2024 Mariners, we’re not even close to talking about them being contenders without this pitching staff, and especially this starting rotation. They’re the straw that stirs the drink. The most important aspect of this team, by far.

I don’t think you’re going to find a more talented one through five in Major League Baseball – nor one with a higher upside – than the one the Mariners are going to throw out there this seaason. Luis Castillo and George Kirby, right now, are among the best starters in all of baseball, and Logan Gilbert isn’t too far behind. And the pure, raw stuff of Bryce Miller, Bryan Woo, and Emerson Hancock (who is slotting into Woo’s spot while he starts the season on the IL with a little bit of arm inflammation) makes them more than the ideal 4 & 5 starters. There’s the kind of potential that we just saw in the first couple of seasons with Kirby and Gilbert! Now, obviously, that’s no guarantee they’re going to turn into bona fide All Stars, but if the worst thing you can say is that the guys projected to be in the back of your rotation – with mid-to-high 90’s fastballs with tons of movement and some promising off-speed pitches – are going to get hit around every now and then, that’s a pretty great problem to have.

Do you know how many teams have absolute bums in the back-end of their rotation? Do you know how many teams are relying on soft-tossing journeymen a la Marco Gonzales to simply eat up innings? Meanwhile, the Mariners have nothing but power arms fisting their way through opposing lineups; it’s outstanding!

Obviously, the knock against the rotation is the lack of depth. But, what team doesn’t have that problem? With Hancock, I’ve already listed six guys who we like. The top three guys are better than most other teams have in their ace spots; and the bottom three guys are better than most every other team’s back-end. If those other teams suffer rotation injuries, I can only imagine the drop-off in quality!

The fact of the matter is, the Mariners are uniquely positioned to withstand the injury bug every now and then. Obviously, it would be ideal if we can get through the next couple months without losing any more starters – to give our bullpen an opportunity to heal up. But, with our home stadium, with our marine layer, and eventually when we get our bullpen figured out, I don’t have a big problem ceding a few outings to a Quad-A starter every now and then. Let him five & dive and hope your offense is up to the task to win a squeaker.

Now, that bullpen does come with some questions. I think we’re all in agreement that when our studs get healthy, a top four (in whatever order you choose) of Santos, Brash, Stanek, and Munoz, is as good as it gets. Again, in all of Major League Baseball. At that point, it almost doesn’t matter who else you put out there. Saucedo and Speier are reliable-enough. Trent Thornton could conceivably be due for a bounce-back, after having a full offseason in our throwing program. And, I’m sure there are plenty of under-the-rader arms in our organization who are poised to be the next Justin Topa or Paul Sewald. Until this unit lets me down, I have to believe we have what it takes to get the job done in the bullpen.

If this team is going to get back to the playoffs, it’s going to be on the arms to get the job done. For as good as they are, it would be helpful if the defense could pick things up behind them, but we’ll see.

By all accounts, we’re going to take a serious step back defensively. Which is kind of shocking, if I’m honest. I always remember Mitch Haniger being better than average. Has he really taken such a dive with age and injury? If he has, that’s a problem, because we’re clearly not as good in left field with the loss of Kelenic. I don’t even know if Luke Raley is competent out there! We might be on the hook for Super Utility Dylan Moore more than we’d like (that is, if he’s not covering for third base).

Speaking of which, is Luis Urias the worst defensive third baseman in baseball? We’ll find out! He sure as shit seems to be worse than Suarez. And I don’t know if Rojas or Moore are much better. Also, what are we going to get out of Polanco at second?

Seems like the potential for a lot of holes. That being said, I don’t care how old Haniger is, there’s no WAY he’s worse than Teoscar Hernandez. We still have Julio and J.P. And our catching figures to be among the best in baseball as well (or, at the very least, the most underrated).

I don’t know if we can count on this defense to carry us. But, as long as it isn’t a total hindrance, then the run prevention half of this team should be among the best in the American League. Certainly good enough to get us to the post-season.

Now, will the hitting do its part? Check back tomorrow (and the rest of this regular season) to find out!

Re-Examining The Mariners’ Kelenic Trade With The Braves

When I wrote about this trade initially, there was a lot going on. Honestly, it’s a deal that requires multiple posts to really dig in and assess everything.

For instance, we have more information. We knew it was a Salary Dump, but we didn’t necessarily know why it was so. It’s also interesting to see where the players involved ended up, as two of the three Mariners we shipped off were subsequently flipped. To be fair, it really feels like everyone ended up where they were supposed to. Marco Gonzales was traded to Pittsburgh. Evan White was sent to Anaheim. And the guy with the most upside – Jarred Kelenic – remains in Atlanta.

I couldn’t tell you for a million dollars if Pittsburgh will be any good in 2024; they finished 4th in the NL Central last year. If I had to guess – based solely on reputation – I would say they’re a young team with lots of prospects getting chances to play at the Major League level, and were in need of a calm, veteran presence in their rotation to eat innings and be a guiding force for the rest of the pitching staff. I didn’t even need to look it up to know that the Braves would also be sending money to the Pirates to complete the deal, and the least surprising thing of all is that the return is a Player To Be Named Later.

This is, frankly, ideal for all involved. Pittsburgh gets a solid vet who will probably be at least a little rejuvenated by pitching in the NL again (even if the pitchers no longer hit, I think it’s safe to say most of the hitting talent resides in the American League). Marco gets a chance to be a starter, after effectively losing his rotation spot in Seattle with his injury last year. It’s low expectations, so he’ll most likely have a longer leash. And, the Mariners don’t have to worry about a potentially-disgruntled presence languishing in the bullpen and costing us games because that role is nowhere near his forte.

As for Evan White, his career could go any number of directions. He could immediately get injured again, and that will just be his destiny until his contract runs out. He could recover and be an okay player (great defensively, not so hot hitting). Or, he could come back stronger than ever, put it all together at the plate, and be an All Star for years to come. In which case, OF COURSE he’s an Angel. OF COURSE they would pick up our scraps and turn him into a weapon we have to face a dozen times a year.

The Angels can easily afford to take this project on. They just lost Ohtani, so it’s not like people are really expecting much out of this team. They can keep him in the minors for at least another year, to let White build himself back up. And I’m sure, as they continue to underwhelm in the standings, White will get a Major League opportunity sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the Braves got back a useful player while never having to try to work White into their system. And, as for the Mariners, we get to move on from another injury-riddled disappointment, without pouring good money over bad to try to make him a thing here.

The ultimate kick in the ass, though, is likely to be Jarred Kelenic. He stays with the Braves. They, obviously, took on a lot of salary to make this whole thing go, so it’s only fair for them to have the highest-upside share of this deal.

I would say it’s still fair to question Kelenic’s ceiling. The guy has obvious holes in his swing. He strikes out a ton. He has a decent eye at the plate, but that’s not going to prevent him from going chasing more than he should. He’s also a pretty big headcase, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to mature out of his personality. I’m sure if he actually achieved real, sustained success at this level, it would do wonders for his psyche. But, it’s also fair to wonder if that was ever going to happen in a Mariners uniform.

We already knew that Kelenic didn’t like the Mariners organization. They dicked around with him, waiting to call him up until after he got to a point where we’d have another season of team control. They offered him an Evan White-like contract when he was still in the minors, that he saw as a lowball slap to the face, and then effectively held him hostage by telling him he could come up to the Major Leagues sooner, only if he signed the deal. And I don’t know what he thought about his usage when he finally did get the call-up, but immediately putting him in the upper third of the lineup seemed like a mistake, putting immense pressure on him, when he would’ve been better served starting out at the bottom of the order.

If it wasn’t clear he hated the Mariners before, literally every statement and interview he’s given since the deal with the Braves has only cemented the notion.

I don’t see Kelenic as the type of player who’s going to tank his own development just to get out of an organization, but if I had to bet on it, I’d say he was never going to fully blossom with the M’s. With this fresh start, this new team, new ballpark, and new set of eyes coaching him up, I fully expect Kelenic will really take some huge leaps forward. There’s no doubt about it in my mind: the Braves are the superior baseball organization in every facet of the game. If they can’t turn Kelenic into a star, no one can.

There’s still risk, of course. I’m not saying it’s a done deal that he’s going to be an All Star with the Braves. But, the likelihood goes up tenfold with him there over him still being here.

The pressure’s completely and totally off now. He has no choice but to start out near the bottom of the order; they have one of the most stacked lineups in all of baseball. They also have their share of outfielders, so they can even afford to platoon Kelenic if need be.

On the one hand, it’s a bummer, because I did have really high hopes for Kelenic. A potential outfield with an elite Kelenic playing alongside Julio for a decade would’ve been a real treat!

But, on the other hand, I dunno, is Kelenic kind of an asshole? Or, at the very least, so intense that he’s no fun to be around? Is this a situation where, for this team at least, it’s addition by subtraction? The Mariners Roundtable on the Mitch Unfiltered Podcast made an interesting point; when were the Mariners at their very best and hottest last year? In late July and August. Between the time Kelenic went out for kicking a water cooler and the time he returned, the Mariners went 32-16; when he returned, the Mariners went 9-10 overall (5-10 in the games Kelenic appeared in). No one is necessarily saying that Kelenic is the reason we were mediocre – and the absence of Kelenic was the reason we were red-hot – but I’m also not totally ruling it out. He seems like a Dark Cloud walking around on a regular basis; who needs that kind of energy in their lives? Not even a team FULL of Eugenio Suarezes could counterbalance Kelenic’s unrelenting angst!

All that being said, though, as a Mariners fan, you’d like to think we could get more for him. You’d like to think he’s worth more than simply shedding however many millions of dollars from our current and future payrolls. In a good and decent world – where the Mariners aren’t owned by tight-fisted old misers – I would expect, at the very least, a prospect or two we could all be excited about.

There’s no “winning” this trade for the Mariners. At best, I think we have to hope everyone else loses. But, just know that I’m mentally preparing myself for the time when Kelenic becomes a legitimate star in this league. It almost seems destined at this point. And, if Evan White turns his fortunes around, you’re going to see quite a bit of the erstwhile Mariners Future out there performing for other teams, while the Actual Mariners remain in Seattle wasting all of our fucking time.

The Disappointing Mariners Tenure Of Robbie Ray

Was this always a dumb idea? We sit here and we piss and moan about the Mariners not spending any money on free agents, then when they actually do – to the tune of 5 years and $115 million for Robbie Ray a couple years ago – what happens? He doesn’t quite live up to the hype, then he gets injured and misses a season and a half.

I will say that this Walking Tommy John Surgery Waiting To Happen line is scarily accurate.

In hindsight, of course this was a dumb idea. We got Robbie Ray immediately following his career-best season. We bought stock in him at the absolute peak of his value. He’d never really seriously contended for a Cy Young Award before that; he was always kind of up and down throughout his career. AND we were getting him starting with his Age 30 season, banking that he’d learned whatever trick he needed to learn to be an upper echelon starting pitcher (when, in reality, he just had an inordinate amount of good luck with Toronto in 2021, and it was going to be impossible for him to ever replicate that again).

Ray started his 2022 season with two straight months of mediocrity (a near-5 ERA through the first week of June), before focusing on his 2-seam fastball and jumpstarting a fantastic turnaround. The rest of the way, he was much better, with some pretty notable exceptions.

July of 2022, he had back-to-back starts against the Astros, where he combined for 5.2 innings, 10 runs on 15 hits and 4 walks, with only 4 strikeouts. Fast forward to back-to-back starts in September, against the Braves and Angels, where he combined for 10 innings, 9 runs on 16 hits and a walk.

Then, there were the two disasterous appearances in the playoffs. 4 runs in 3 innings against the Blue Jays (where we miraculously came back to win 10-9), followed by a walk-off, game-losing homer allowed two pitches into a bullpen appearance against the Astros. He ate up two thirds of an inning in that 18-inning marathon loss to the Astros a few days later, but the damage was done.

There was cautious optimism for a rebound in 2023. If anyone was veteran-enough and confident-enough to make it back from such a disastrous finish to a season, it was Ray. He had a tremendous Spring Training, but it was all for naught, as he threw 91 pitches in 3.1 innings of his first start before blowing out his arm and requiring that aforementioned Tommy John surgery. He went on to miss the rest of 2023, and it was announced that the earliest he’d be available is around the All Star Break in 2024. That always bodes poorly, as pitchers are rarely the same after such a substantial layoff. Best case scenario is he’s something close to normal by the start of 2025, but by then he’ll be 33 years old, so that’s asking a lot.

You can’t really rule out a comeback in 2024, but I’m just going to say it’s not very likely. In an ideal world, he’s a boost to your rotation late in the season, and some injury insurance if you can hang around contention for that long. But, I was heading into this year not expecting anything out of Robbie Ray, and willing to be pleasantly surprised if he proved me wrong.

I guess I can’t be shocked, then, that the Mariners decided to trade him. We already got rid of the over-inflated contracts of Marco Gonzales, Evan White, and Eugenio Suarez; part of me wondered if Robbie Ray would be next. Given the M.O. of this ownership group and front office, $23 million is a lot to spend on someone who might not help you out at all this year (or, at the very least, not at all through the first half). According to Mariners Math, we couldn’t afford it (it’s like Girl Math, only MUCH more stingy).

In that case, the return makes sense. Frisco takes our dead money, and we take theirs. Mitch Haniger is a walking oblique strain waiting to happen, and that starter we got from them is nothing more than a J.A.G. But, at least Haniger might give us a third of a season, and the pitcher might give us some sub-par bullpen outings in blowout games. And, in the grand scheme of things, we don’t have to pay Robbie Ray an additional $50 million across 2025 and 2026 (assuming he sticks around on the player option); we just have to pay Haniger $15.5 million in 2025.

I will say, though, the potential upside for this deal is all on the Giants’ side. It’s MUCH more likely that Ray turns into a useful starter again, than it is that Haniger will play anything close to a full season over the next two years. Even if we take extra special care of Haniger, give him lots of rest days, and he manages to make it through without an IL stint, I don’t trust that he’s still a good player. His numbers have been in steep decline since 2018, and he’s 33 this year. I’m guessing he’s very close to being done as a Major League player, if he isn’t done already.

I don’t think this is a good deal for the Mariners. It’s also probably not a good deal for the Giants, but I think it has the potential to be a better deal for them than I do for us. The Giants are buying low, so even if he does the bare minimum for them, it’s going to be a better outcome than it would ever have been for us.

All of that being said, I don’t entirely dislike Robbie Ray. He was kind of put in a no-win situation with the M’s. There was never going to be any living up to the contract. But, he did himself no favors by putting up way too many Erik Bedard-like outings. Ultimately, I think he’ll go down as being well-liked by fans, if for no other reason than he was a mentor to guys like George Kirby and Logan Gilbert. That’s cool, I guess. If his teachings made those guys better than they would’ve been otherwise, then I’ll hold him in high esteem.

Who was that old reliever who taught J.J. Putz his forkball? Eddie Guardado? I mean, that was probably his greatest contribution to the Mariners’ organization, and he’s pretty well-liked.

But, in the grand scheme of things, George Kirby was always going to be elite. Robbie Ray was … less than. And, he’ll go down as one of the biggest busts in Mariners history. For what he cost, for what he produced on the field, and for what he got us back in trade.

Is this the end of the Mariners’ cost-cutting trades this offseason? Well, there’s still another month or so before Spring Training. Somebody find Luis Castillo and make sure he’s still on the team!

The Mariners Made A Couple Of Trades To More Or Less Wrap Up Their Offseason

Full disclosure: I’m writing this on Friday afternoon of January 5th, the day these two trades went down. It was noted at this time by Dipoto that these were pretty much it as far as it goes for the major moves this offseason. There might be a small piece here or there coming in, but nothing to write home about. Nothing that’s going to drastically shake-up the organization’s chances to compete in 2024. So, if that’s not correct, and something huge happens between this day, and the day this post hits the Internet, you almost certainly won’t even be reading this paragraph, as I’ll need a new lede.

To recap this offseason so far:

You know what that has the feel of? A tear-down. Not an overwhelming tear-down, but you’re taking guys who were significant contributors to your team last year, you’re cutting them out, and you’re replacing them with …

Suffice it to say, the whole Root Sports brouhaha has been a disaster for our collective fan morale. This was a team that already needed to improve at left field, second base, and DH, and went ahead and added third base and right field to the mix (to say nothing of the uncertainty surrounding first base, with Ty France and his dwindling production). And what did we get for our consternation? Around $20 million.

Okay, so $20 million to play around with. There was some talk about the Mariners having intentions of still finding a way to out-spend our already-middling salary total from last year, so that’s not a zero chunk of change. But, it’s hard to see how you can fill out a whopping five spots on your everyday roster, not without significant trades to deplete your resources elsewhere. And, at this point, based on everything they’ve done, I find it VERY hard to believe we’re even going to spend as much as we did last year, let alone go past that mark.

The Mariners started their hard road back to relevancy by signing Mitch Garver to be our everyday DH (with maybe a start here and there at first base, or as an emergency backup catcher). That accounted for $12 of the $20 million, across two years. Probably means that’s it for free agency.

Which brings us to the flurry of moves made on January 5th:

  • The Mariners traded Robbie Ray to the Giants for Mitch Haniger and starter Anthony DeSclafani (in a deal notable for it being a money-neutral swap for 2024)
  • The Mariners traded Jose Caballero to the Rays for outfielder Luke Raley

If you follow me on Twitter (currently known as X) – and why wouldn’t you? I’m a mediocre-at-best follow – you already know how I feel about these trades, but I’ll reiterate here.

I like Mitch Haniger a lot as a person (and, not for nothing, I’ve never been super-into Robbie Ray as a Mariner, but that’s neither here nor there), but I don’t understand the unconditional love for this deal. Haniger is what we thought he was: consistently injured. Injured guys can’t help you win ballgames (unless it’s addition by subtraction, which at this point you have to put on the table). Haniger played in 61 games last year, with a whopping THREE stints on the IL. He played in 57 games in his final season with the Mariners in 2022. He played a full season in 2021, but no games in 2020, and only 63 games in 2019. 2018 was his last (and his only) great season at the Major League level, and we’re never seeing him play at that level again. At this point, with how broken down his body is, it’s fair to wonder if he’s even someone who’s playable. He might be a sub-.200 hitter for us going forward.

This year’s money is irrelevant (though it’s in excess of $17 million) because the money’s gone either way (we were either giving it to an injured Robbie Ray or an injured Mitch Haniger), but he’s also set to earn over $15 million next year on a player option. Why would he turn that down to become a free agent? Only someone who plays the vast majority of a full season at a relatively competent level would do that!

As for the pitcher, he supposedly “isn’t bad”. A ringing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one. I’ve never seen the guy pitch, so I can’t really sit here and tell you any different. But, based on his numbers (a FIP in the 4-5 range the last two years, a career 7.9 K/9 average – which dipped to 7.1 last year – and someone who in the last five years maxed out at 167.2 innings in a season), he strikes me as a right-handed Marco Gonzales. He also was lost to injury last year in July, and only appeared in 5 games in 2022. So, not even as durable as Marco then. Neat. At least he’s on the last year of his deal.

I think the most interesting aspect of this particular trade is what Dipoto said afterward. First of all, right out of the box it’s being declared that DeSclafani is destined for a long relief role in the bullpen. That’s assuming our five starters – Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, Miller, and Woo – make it through Spring Training healthy.

More importantly, though, Dipoto said that the Mariners looked into the possibility of trading one of their young starters, and “never liked the way it looked.”

I think that’s tremendously informative, and might be the most important thing the Mariners have done to try to salvage the long-term viability of this team going forward.

A lot of us believed in an inevitable trade from one of those five guys, to try to bolster our lineup. Maybe we’d back-fill the rotation via free agency, or in a separate, lesser deal. But, to truly improve our lineup, we’d need to deal from a position of strength (thereby diluting it). The likeliest trade chips were Miller and/or Woo. They were the least-proven of our starters who finished the season last year, which meant they had an unknown upside, but also an unknown downside. The hope being: maybe they’re not as good as we think, so let some other team find that out the hard way, while we get one of their stud hitters.

It doesn’t shock me that the Mariners were looking at all of their trade options. Ownership really tied their hands this offseason, so what other choice did they have? I will say that it’s somewhat surprising to hear the return wasn’t looking as bright as we’d once imagined. But, we don’t know all the ins and outs. We don’t know, for instance, how much salary this organization would be willing to take on. It’s one thing to trade Woo for whatever high-priced slugger is on the trade block at the moment; but, if ownership is unwilling to take on that salary, then obviously the point is moo (you know, a cow’s opinion).

But, we also don’t know how other teams value our pitchers. Maybe they weren’t as high on Miller or Woo as we are. Maybe everyone was holding out for Kirby or Gilbert, and we’re steadfast on keeping them. OR, maybe we’re the ones over-valuing our starters, and other teams refused to match our demands. There’s a lot of variables we don’t know about.

I find it somewhat encouraging, though, knowing that we’re taking a stand. We’re holding strong to our young, vibrant rotation. We’re keeping our strength, and at least heading into 2024 knowing we’re set somewhere. It may not be enough to get us to the playoffs, but at least it’s a plan.

I’m encouraged by that, even knowing how pisspoor this lineup is likely to be.

I can already tell this post is too long, so I’ll save my Robbie Ray thoughts for another time. Spoiler alert: the upside for the Giants is significantly higher than it is for the Mariners in this trade, even though it’s likely to be inconsequential-to-bad for both teams.

I’ll tell you what, though, I actually like the trade with the Rays! Maybe that’s a bad sign; when have the Rays ever NOT swindled us? But, getting rid of Caballero and bringing back a potentially-useful outfield bat – without having to throw in more prospects to get the deal done – is pretty sweet!

I was not a Caballero fan. I know I’m in the minority here, but so be it. His best attributes consisted exclusively of bothering the shit out of the Astros and Rangers (among other teams, I’m sure), because I guess he fucked with them when it came to the pitch clock. But, I mean, we’re talking about a guy who didn’t hit for average, didn’t hit for power, was okay defensively and on the basepaths, but who also made a lot of mistakes in both areas. He started off last year relatively hot – mostly in on-base percentage – but by the end of the season he was only getting on base if guys plunked him. He was hit by 17 pitches, and I’m willing to bet a good number of those were on purpose because he was so annoying.

I was not looking forward to another year of Caballero as this team’s mostly-everyday second baseman. Now, watch the Rays turn him into an All Star.

Luke Raley, on the other hand, is a little more seasoned, and is coming off of a year where he had a 126 OPS+. In 118 games, he had 45 extra base hits, to go along with 14 stolen bases. He does garner his fair share of strikeouts, but with the loss of Kelenic, we had a need for some lefty power.

In fact, there’s a pretty interesting comparison to be had between the 2023 seasons of Kelenic vs. Raley:

  • Kelenic: 105 games, 416 PA, .253/.327/.419/.746, .359 BABIP, 25 2B, 2 3B, 11 HRs (2.6% HR rate), 13 SB, 41 BB (9.9% BB rate), 132 K’s (31.7% K rate)
  • Raley: 118 games, 406 PA, .249/.333/.490/.824, .330 BABIP, 23 2B, 3 3B, 19 HRs (4.7% HR rate), 14 SB, 28 BB (6.9% BB rate), 128 K’s (31.5% K rate)

Pretty comparable, honestly. But, Raley clearly has the better home run power, with maybe not quite as good of an eye at the plate, but also maybe better bat-to-ball abilities. In looking at their respective batted ball rates, we see some more interesting similarities and differences in 2023:

  • Kelenic: Exit Velo 90.9, Hard Hit 45.6%, Line Drive 29.8%, Ground Ball 43.8%, Fly Ball 24.4%, Pull 33.1%, Center 52.1%, Oppo 14.9%
  • Raley: Exit Velo 89.6, Hard Hit 45.7%, Line Drive 17.2%, Ground Ball 40.9%, Fly Ball 27.6%, Pull 39.7%, Center 47.0%, Oppo 13.4%

Kelenic is hitting more line drives, which contributes to a higher BABIP and a higher batting average. But, Raley is hitting fewer grounders and more fly balls, and is hitting drastically more to the pull side, which contributes to his increased home run numbers. I feel like, if anything, that’s going to help him play a little better at T-Mobile Park, considering the short porch in right. How frustrating was it to see Kelenic hit the ball hard to center or the other way, only for it to be gobbled up by an outfielder? Hopefully, we’ll see less of that from Raley.

This post is WAY off the rails, so I’ll stop here. At some point in the near future, I’ll talk about what this means for our lineup in 2024.

What Happens If This Is It For The Mariners?

The recent moves by the Mariners have a rationale behind them. You’ll note there that I didn’t say it was a GOOD rationale. I didn’t even say it was a rationale that I buy. But, they – the Mariners (ownership and front office) – feel they are in an economic pinch. This is in spite of 2.7 million fans coming to games in 2023, this is in spite of all the success this team has had the last two seasons, this is in spite of all the countless millions of dollars this team has generated over the years.

Where is the economic pinch coming from?

Well, local cable provider Xfinity/Comcast/Whatever The Fuck decided they would do their customers a solid by removing Root Sports from the basic cable package. That saved people, what, $10 per month? Something like that? On the one hand, it makes sense. The vast majority of people who subscribe to cable aren’t necessarily interested in sports programming, and if given the choice of saving $10 per month, or having the option to scroll past a sporting event, I’m sure most people would gladly take the ten bucks. Sports fans – and there ARE many of us – tend to forget that we’re actually a minority in this world (depending on the sport, of course, and depending on the locale; in Alabama, for instance, I’m sure football fans are in the majority; you get the idea).

What has been the gripe all along about people on the west coast generally, and in the greater Seattle area specifically, when it comes to the Pac-12? There isn’t enough fan interest – compared to the SEC and Big10 – to generate the kinds of revenues for our schools to be able to compete on a level playing field. Well, I guess for Seattle, you can extend that to Major League Baseball (Mariners), Hockey (Kraken), and the NBA (Trailblazers), among other lesser sports. We apparently don’t care enough about these teams to force Xfinity’s hand in keeping Root Sports on the basic plan. As a result, if we want to keep Root Sports – and we’re forced to go with Xfinity – we have to pony up for whatever the sports tier is, something like $18-$20 extra per month. I would bet that most fans interested in the Mariners, for example, don’t give a shit about all the other things one might get with that sports tier; they just want the M’s. So, then it comes down to a decision: do you want to pay an extra $20 per month for all the bells and whistles, just to get the one thing you want? Or do you want to say, “Fuck it, I don’t need to watch the Mariners anymore, I can listen on the radio”? Or do you find an alternative streaming option that offers Root Sports at a lower financial level, cutting the Xfinity cord for good?

That’s the pinch. What we don’t know exactly is how much this is costing the Mariners. They have a controlling ownership stake in Root Sports. This was done, in theory, to bring in extra revenue streams for the team that they didn’t have to share with the rest of Major League Baseball. This SHOULD have been making us countless millions of extra dollars every year, to ideally put us in the upper echelon of Major League teams when it comes to revenue, as a result, allowing us to spend with the big boys. But, we don’t know if that’s true or not. We don’t know if this deal has been as good for the Mariners as they intended. Maybe it has! But, as with all billionaires, it doesn’t matter what you made LAST year; it only matters what you make NEXT year. And, again, we don’t know what this is going to cost the M’s. Either it’s super dire, and the RSN model is going to collapse upon itself as more and more people cut the cable cord, or it’s just kind of annoying and is going to take some millions of dollars out of the pockets of literal billionaires.

CAN’T HAVE THAT! Losing even one dollar is an outrage to fucking billionaires, because they’re fucking psychopaths. Greedy fucking villains who we entrust with our sporting allegiance, because we have no other choice. We’re not Packers fans.

Anyway, now the Mariners have – through the trades of Suarez, Gonzales, White, and Kelenic, and through the lack of a qualifying offer to Teoscar Hernandez – saved themselves, what, $20 million for 2024? Hypothetically something close to $40 million, if Teoscar would have signed? Anyway, let’s just say $20 million; that feels like a comfortable round number to work with. We assume this is money the team is going to use towards filling out the roster, but we also assumed the Mariners would increase payroll over last year, rather than savagely cut it, so where does assuming get us?

What can you get for $20 million?

We need a right fielder, left fielder, third baseman, second baseman, and designated hitter. I think it’s safe to say we’re never going to get a legit DH under this front office group; they’d rather put whatever bullshit in there they have laying around, under the guise of giving guys “rest days” (that never actually happen, because it just ends up being Mike Ford or some bullshit). If we take DH out of the equation – and project some scrub already on the roster for that role (Canzone, Haggerty, Moore, whatever) – that’s still four starters we need. If we project Urias in that third base spot (a black hole if I’ve ever met one), and maybe Dylan Moore in that second base spot, that’s still two outfielders we need to find, and only $20 million with which to spend.

YOU CAN’T GET ANYTHING IN BASEBALL FOR UNDER $20 MILLION! Do you remember what A.J. Pollock cost last year? His broke ass was $7 million, specifically to be a platoon partner; he wasn’t even brought here to be an everyday player! Who the hell are we going to get for $20 million, to fill anywhere from 2-5 open spots in the everyday lineup? No one. No one good, anyway.

For the record, I do kind of expect the Mariners to spend this $20 million. I don’t think we’re done making moves; there will probably be a few new players coming in at some point. Remember that year when the Seahawks had some extra money to spend, and rather than sign one great offensive lineman, they spread it around on 4-5 scrubs? I think that’s what the Mariners will do. They’ll bypass all of these potentially impactful bats, wait around for the guys nobody wants, and still probably overpay a few of them into coming here, kinda like the way the Seahawks overpaid for Luke Joeckel.

When I talk about “this being it” for the Mariners, that’s what I mean. I think all of the potential impact bats are already on this roster. Julio, Cal, J.P., hopefully Ty France with a new Driveline swing.

Then, there’s everyone else: Dylan Moore, Josh Rojas, Jose Caballero, Sam Haggerty, Luis Urias, Dominic Canzone, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell. You know, all of these junk guys who are just around because they don’t have any minor league options. That’s the kind of talent we have, and that’s the kind of talent I expect the Mariners to bring in with their meagre ration of $20 million.

By my count, we have 4 spots left on the 40-man roster. I would say, if the season started today, all of the guys I just listed – plus a backup catcher, also a nobody – are the 13 position players on the 26-man active roster. Maybe we mix and match, drop a guy here and there down to the minors, depending on who we’re able to bring in via free agency or trade, but again, the talent level isn’t going to be all that different from what we’re looking at.

Pretty grim! Almost no power, almost no high batting averages, very little ability to get on base with any regularity. That seems like a lineup that’s destined to take this team absolutely nowhere. It’s significantly WORSE than it was in 2023, and again, that was a lineup that failed to push us back into the playoffs. We can only go downward from here with a lineup even closely resembling THAT.

So, where do we turn to for hope?

I think, at this point, it’s safe to say we should start thinking of the Seattle Mariners in terms of the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, and the like. I know we’ve always lamented the Mariners for being too cheap, but that hasn’t really been the case until now. They’ve always just been afraid to go the extra step. They’ve always been content with half measures. They’ve always failed to finish the job to put this team over the top. In that sense, how is this any different? We get close to where we want to go – in the playoffs for the first time in two-plus decades, then a game or two short of the playoffs a season later – but never do what needs to be done to turn this team from a fringe contender into a legitimate World Series contender.

But now? With this kind of cost cutting? With reports that it’s all but certain that the Mariners are never going to be able to extend Cal Raleigh – because he’ll cost too much, and likely because he wants to go somewhere to be on a winner – we’re not only fucking up our contention window, but now we know this window has a finite timetable to it.

We’re never going to be able to keep this young core together. That was the plan before, right? Draft and develop a spectacular young core, then fill in around the edges with quality outside veterans to push us over the top. Now, we have to pick and choose who we can keep. We have to think about a future where we can have George Kirby OR Logan Gilbert, but not both. We have to think about all of these young guys as they head into their arbitration seasons, where their salaries will skyrocket based on their high levels of performance as very young players. We’re not going to be able to extend them all early. And we’re not going to be able to afford them even DURING those arbitration years, let alone afterward when they become unrestricted free agents. That means – since, again, we’re thinking in terms of A’s, Rays, Royals, etc. – that we’re going to have to start trading some of these guys for more cost-controlled prospects and just hope and pray we can develop the guys we get in return into viable Major League pieces.

The bummer in all of this is that our next crop of homegrown prospects are another full year or two away from hitting the Major Leagues. So, not only do we have an ever-shrinking window with our current crop of young Major League talent, but there’s likely going to be a significant gap between when those players start leaving, and the next crop ascends.

How long do we have with our current crop?

Cal Raleigh is arbitration eligible in 2025-2027. Logan Gilbert is eligible in 2024-2027 (his estimated 2024 contract will be $5 million, and will only go up and up and up from there). George Kirby is eligible from 2025-2028. Luis Castillo is signed through 2027, with a vesting option for 2028. Robbie Ray is here likely through 2026 (he has a player option after 2024, but considering he’ll at best be playing half a season next year, seems unlikely he’d opt out); we’re stuck with his crazy salary unless he gets lumped in with the next round of salary dump trades. And J.P. Crawford is signed through 2026. Obviously, Julio isn’t going anywhere, so I hope he likes being our ONE good player, because I’m guessing if we haven’t won a World Series by 2026, we’re going to start moving on from most of these guys.

That’s a 2-3 year window. 2024 & 2025 for sure, MAYBE 2026, if ownership hasn’t totally panicked by then and switched to a new GM/manager combo. We can write off 2024, as the team has no prospects ready to come up. 2025 is maybe a possibility to improve from within. Leaving us with a narrow pinpoint window of 2026 as the ideal target.

By then, maybe Cole Young, Harry Ford, Colt Emerson, Michael Arroyo, Felnin Celesten, Tai Peete, and the like, will be ready to make their mark at the Major League level.

If that’s how ownership is going to treat this team – if all we have left to hope for is our prospects taking the next steps – then I think it’s time to turn our attention to the minors. Because I don’t think there’s going to be any significant help coming via free agency. Sure seems like most trades – from here on out – will be shipping off guys with less club control for guys with more club control. Then, it’s just retreads and reclamation projects as far as free agency is concerned.

Obviously, I’m not saying that 2026 is the year we win the World Series. That’s a BEST case scenario, and also the soonest we should even be thinking about that. I think the lead-up to 2026 is going to be pretty frustrating, and 2026 itself might be a total disaster for all I know.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know where I’m at with this team anymore. I feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me. Again, I don’t know why I should’ve expected any different. But, it hasn’t felt like dire straits like this for a while. It still felt like this team was on the rise, even with the pitfall that was 2023. But now? I can only see the doom and the gloom.

I don’t know how much more I can give as a fan to this team. I think as this ownership group starts pulling back its money and its effort from the talent level on the Major League roster, so will I start to pull back my interest in watching this team, in going to their games, in investing my heart and soul into the day-to-day grind. As the Mariners predictably fall short on the field, so will I fall short in giving a fuck.

There’s more to life than Mariners baseball. I know I’ve threatened leaving this team high and dry for years now. But, I also wasn’t married then. I didn’t have a family then. I didn’t have other things that would draw my attention away from this organization that CLEARLY doesn’t give two shits about this fanbase. Why bother? Why feed into their villainy? Let them run the Mariners into the ground. I’ve got my own life to live.

The Mariners Are Continuing Their Short, Quick Backslide Into Mediocrity

It’ll be interesting to look back five years from now, when we reflect upon the six-year anniversary of the last time the Mariners made the playoffs – itself the first time we’d made the playoffs in 20+ years – how will that team be remembered? Will it have the same reverence as the 1995 playoff team? Or will it be closer to that 2000 team, kind of forgotten and overlooked?

It’s funny that a franchise who has made the playoffs only five times in its history can have playoff teams that are overlooked, but such is the world we live in.

I guess one could argue the Mariners are getting all of their least popular moves out of the way early, rather than spread them out over the course of the entire offseason. But, at some point, you have to wonder if the bad taste that’s in all of our mouths won’t overshadow whatever good moves they eventually make.

Of course, you have to wonder if any good moves are on the horizon, but that’s neither here nor there.

We traded Jarred Kelenic, Marco Gonzales, and Evan White to the Atlanta Braves for reliever Jackson Kowar and pitching prospect Cole Phillips. Kowar, I guess, is a hard-throwing right hander who has yet to put it together through pieces of three seasons with the Royals; even his numbers at the AAA level the last three years have been subpar. Phillips, meanwhile, was drafted in 2022 and needed Tommy John surgery. He’s yet to pitch in the minors, as far as I can tell. He’s the rawest of prospects at this point, and I have no idea where he’ll start his career with us, but it’ll be nowhere near the Majors.

As you can tell by 2/3 of the names we gave up, this is a salary dump. Marco is making over $12 million this year. There’s also a club option year in 2024 that’s worth $15 million, but clearly we were never going to pick that up. Also clear: we didn’t want to pay him $12 million to be a shitty reliever, so it’s not hard to see why we’d want to move on.

Evan White signed a team-friendly buy-out of his arb years back in 2020, when he was a Gold Glove first baseman during COVID times. He’s since been mostly too injured to play (not logging a game in the Majors since 2021), and when he has played he’s been bad (spending small bits of time in AAA the last two years, doing next-to-nothing of value at the plate). A glove-first first baseman is the last thing this team needs, and with his salary looking to spike in 2024 and 2025 ($15 million total across the two seasons), with future club options that come with a small cost to buy out, it’s also not hard to see why we’d want to move on.

Marco stopped being part of this team’s future plans pretty much as soon as he signed his last contract; you knew he was never going to see another one here. He stopped being part of this team’s present as soon as we were able to call up enough young prospects to fill out the rotation. He was always a Meh starter who could eat a respectable amount of innings and keep you in a respectable amount of games. But, usually he was only good against the very worst teams, and pretty hard to watch against the likes of the Astros and whatnot.

Evan White is kind of a disappointing story, since he was a first round draft pick and is so talented and athletic defensively, but he just couldn’t stay healthy. Even if he had, there’s a strong chance he never would’ve made it anyway, considering the holes in his swing made him a pretty big liability at the plate. If you were often frustrated by all the strikeouts you saw from Teoscar Hernandez, Eugenio Suarez, and yes, Jarred Kelenic, you would’ve been pretty miserable seeing White flail at the plate all these years. Maybe those injuries were a blessing in disguise, at least for the eyes of every Mariners fan.

The Kelenic piece hurts, for those of us who were clinging to hope that he’d eventually figure it out, put it all together, and be an All Star for years to come. Around the time Evan White signed his extension, we thought Kelenic was also on a fast track to super success. That turned out to decidedly NOT be the case, and for a little bit it looked like he was going to be an extreme bust. In the last offseason, he really worked on his swing, and came into 2023 looking better than he’d ever been. That carried over into a strong start to this season, before he eventually cooled off, then kicked a water cooler, landed on the IL, and made it back in time to struggle at the end of the season when we could’ve most used a boost.

I am, in no way, shape, or form, giving up on the concept of Kelenic being a good Major Leaguer, but I’ve been resigned to the fact for a while now that it wasn’t going to be in a Mariners uniform. He was the most likely candidate to be traded away this offseason to help us bolster the ballclub.

What I didn’t predict was that instead of helping to bring back a Major League-ready bat to come in here and start right away, he’d be used as a means to shed unwanted salary, probably netting us nothing in return other than that savings.

Fans are justifiably upset. This is a Salary Dump. The Suarez deal was a Salary Dump. Not giving Teoscar Hernandez a qualifying offer was itself a form of Salary Dump. These aren’t the moves of good, healthy organizations looking to compete for a World Series. These are the moves of third-tier, “cash-strapped” organizations who choose to pinch every penny even though they’re owned by billionaires and those teams are worth untold billions of dollars on the open market.

Some fans are choosing to have trust in the Mariners for some reason. At this point, maybe the humor is so dry it’s flying over my head, but if it’s legitimate and there are fans out there still believing in the shit this team is peddling, then we’ve got some serious Stockholm Syndrome going on and maybe we should send social services to their homes to make sure they’re okay.

The argument is: the Mariners are picking up extra money any way they can so they can go out and spend it on high-priced free agents and/or trade acquisitions.

It’s funny, because remember when the Mariners made all those moves to free up extra cash the last time? It was, incidentally enough, when Shohei Ohtani first came to the United States. Remember what happened? We failed miserably, and then did nothing with the international signing money we acquired. Nor did we do anything else in regular free agency to shore up the team. In effect, we put all our eggs in the Ohtani basket, and watched those eggs fall off of a cliff Wile E. Coyote-style, splatting to the ground below.

How are we this stupid? How are the Mariners so stupid as to fall for the Ohtani allure yet again, when he will never come here no matter what we offer him? And how are Mariners fans so stupid as to think this team’s logic is based anywhere close to reality?

Maybe they have other plans. Maybe there are other targets we’re trying to acquire. Even so, you can always make these cost-cutting deals AFTER you’ve added the pieces you’re committing to add. You don’t have to do it before! You don’t have to look like the cheapest organization on the planet. You don’t have to bottom out the hope of an entire fanbase.

As we’ve discussed in the previous two deals, it’s pretty clear there’s a new philosophy with the Mariners when it comes to striking out. Or, rather, that philosophy might’ve always been there, but we’re finally taking steps towards seeing it to fruition. Hernandez and Suarez were two of the top three hitters with the most strikeouts in the league, with a total of 425 combined. Kelenic didn’t have that many strikeouts only because he didn’t play in as many games; but his strikeout rate was actually highest on the team (31.7%, compared to 31.1% for Hernandez and 30.8% for Suarez).

For the record, last year there were five hitters above league average in strikeout rate (23.2%), with the other two being Julio (24.5%) and Cal (27.8%). For some reason, I don’t think either of those guys are in danger of going anywhere anytime soon.

So, when you factor in the strikeout aversion this team has suddenly developed, Kelenic’s days in Seattle were numbered. My contention here – like with Hernandez and Suarez – is that we’re not getting enough in return for very valuable pieces. I guess the team is hoping that it’s actually Addition By Subtraction. Except, the only problem with that is: you still need players to fill in for the vacant roles you just created!

Now, we’re down a third baseman, a right fielder, and a left fielder. We already needed a DH and a second baseman, as well as a new first baseman (depending on how much you believe in Ty France being fixed by Driveline). All we’ve done so far is pick up a backup catcher and a couple of potential relievers (assuming we’re able to fix what’s wrong with them in Spring Training).

That’s a lot to have to fill in one offseason. Arguably, it’s too much, and we’re going to come up short in multiple areas yet again. On top of which, there aren’t any prospects we can reasonably hope to rely upon in 2024, meaning we’re not just in need of help in our everyday starting lineup, but we’re also in need of bolstering our depth. As you can see by how much that depth was forced into action in 2023, they are NOT good enough to carry this team to the post-season.

It just feels like the Mariners are going further and further backward in their development, when they’re really supposed to be making a big push towards World Series relevance. And I can’t tell what exactly the plan is. Are we waiting for our next batch of prospects to develop? That won’t come until 2025 at the earliest, probably closer to 2026 or even 2027. At which point, what are we doing with the guys we’ve got at the Major League level currently?

At this rate, it seems like we’re waiting for them to get so fed up they demand to be traded out of here. God, wouldn’t that be nice? Can I demand to be traded to a fanbase where their team actually gives a shit about winning? I don’t even know what that’s like!

What The Mariners Need To Fix Heading Into 2024

Whenever you hear someone from the team talk about what went wrong with the 2023 Mariners, and what they need to do to get back to the playoffs in 2024, they make it sound like it’s just a small tweak here and there. I got into the positives of the 2023 squad, and yeah, there’s a lot of good pieces here. But, I would also say it’s not an insignificant undertaking!

I counted 12 positives, and that’s including Teoscar, who is not a guarantee to be back. He’ll likely be extended a qualifying offer, which everyone believes he will turn down. At which point, either you find a way to sign him as a free agent, or you have to go out and fill that spot in right field. Regardless, 12 is less than half of the Major League roster. Even if you add a few of those bullpen pieces to the mix, you’re still hovering around 50% of the team that could definitely use an upgrade. That’s hardly a small tweak here and there!

If we’re talking about reasons why the Mariners fell short this year, you have to start with Ty France and Eugenio Suarez. Ty has been a regular whipping boy this season, for good reason. He has drastically fallen off a cliff these last two years, to the point where he was barely above replacement level in 2023.

In 2021, I would’ve said Ty France was one of our most important players. His batting average has slipped 41 points, his on-base percentage has slipped 31 points, and his slugging has fallen a whopping 79 points. Its been a disaster, on top of which, his strikeouts are climbing. He’s doing nothing well, and even his defense – by the numbers – has fallen off. He somehow managed to avoid the IL, and he had a career high in HBP; that’s what he has to hang his hat on. He has 2 arb years remaining, and I’m not even sure we should give him that much. It might be better for everyone involved for him to just move on, except I don’t know what’s out there to fill in at that spot. It’s not like we can trust in Evan White. Free Agency sounds like a wasteland. We’ll probably have to fill that spot via trade, and so help me if we bring in another one of these Quad-A guys to try to hit in T-Mobile Park.

The only hope is that his year two arb number doesn’t increase much, and that he follows through with the program at Driveline (and it somehow manages to stick). I know they worked wonders for J.P., but I can’t imagine Ty France has been going out and doing nothing the past two offseasons; Driveline is no guarantee of future success.

Eugenio is a slightly different story. His batting average and on-base percentages year over year are pretty close to one another; it was just his power that took a bit of a dive (31 homers in 2022, 22 homers in 2023). That’s a little trickier to explain. His line drive percentage actually went up this year – which might speak to the uptick in doubles – but his fly ball percentage dropped. His pull percentage spiked, while his balls to center and right fell. His hard hit rate and ground ball percentages were both static, and his strikeout rate actually went down a tick (even though his overall strikeouts went up, mostly due to his playing in every single game). Is that just bat angle? Is that the way pitchers were throwing to him? Were they busting him up and in, and that reduced his effectiveness in getting the ball to leave the park?

He also just turned 32 years old, so we can’t necessarily rule that out. Either way, I don’t see him going anywhere. Or, let me put it this way: I don’t see both him AND France leaving (maybe one or the other). But, you can’t try to replace both of those guys plus Teoscar; that’s just too much to try to accomplish in one offseason.

There wasn’t a bigger (and better) story than Jarred Kelenic for the early part of the season. This was truly a make-or-break season for the youngster, and he seemed to take the biggest step forward of anyone in a Mariners uniform. The first couple months were outstanding! It’s too bad they were overshadowed by the rest of the team struggling as much as they did.

His first 53 games – through the end of May – saw him hit .277/.333/.513, with 14 doubles, a triple, and 10 homers. His final 52 games – June through the end of the year – saw him hit .226/.320/.316, with 11 doubles, a triple, and 1 homer.

So, what was that all about? How much did the stint on the IL for kicking a water cooler have to play into it? Well, considering he was struggling mightily leading up to it – hence his physical display of frustration – you can’t blame it ALL on the layoff. Did pitchers adjust to whatever adjustments he had made in the offseason? Probably. Was he ill-equipped to then adjust again? Sure seems like it. What does this mean for his Major League career going forward?

Well, I think it’s safe to say he salvaged some of his value, which is a plus. But, can you really go into next season with him as your everyday left fielder? Or even your most-days platoon left fielder? For what it’s worth, I don’t know if his splits necessarily dictate that he HAS to be a platoon guy. He had a slightly higher batting average and slugging percentage against lefties, and was actually luckier with BABIP against righties than lefties. So, I think he’s fine to be an everyday outfielder. I still think there’s room for him to grow as he continues getting comfortable at the Major League level. But, he goes in the tank for far too long to be considered dependable, and he doesn’t strike me as an All Star type player. He might luck into a hot half-season and get handed a spot one year. Overall, though, I think he’s destined to do whatever it is he’s going to do in another uniform. I believe this will be the offseason we package him to another team, in hopes to bring in a veteran we can count on.

The rest of the problem children include Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Kolten Wong, Dylan Moore, Dominic Canzone, A.J. Pollock, Josh Rojas, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Cooper Hummel (remember him?), Tommy La Stella, and Brian O’Keefe. I can’t possibly devote an entire paragraph or series of paragraphs to these guys, because we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, they’re all fringe Major Leaguers (at best), and were eating up WAY too many spots in our lineup for this offense to be even remotely effective. Some of them had decent stretches (Ford had 16 homers on the year, Caballero was an on-base machine for a while, Rojas and Marlowe had brief hot streaks), but on the whole, these are not the types of players you want to pin your hopes on.

On the pitching side of things, you have to begin with Robbie Ray and the fact that he only made the one start this year. Now, do we know if he would’ve been good this year? Remember how poorly the end of his 2022 season went. But, that could’ve been a fluke. The bottom line is that a guy you were expecting to eat up a significant chunk of quality innings wasn’t around for you. It accelerated the development of Miller and Woo – which in the end might’ve been a bonus – but you could see those guys start to wear down towards the end of the year. Would they have been fresher if we could’ve held them back a little longer? We’ll never know, but it sure seems likely.

Marco Gonzales only made it 10 starts this year, and continued his gradual downturn ever since 2020. We’re still stuck with him for one more year, and I find it hard to believe we’ll be able to find a trade partner for him. On the one hand, he’ll be healthy by the start of 2024, and you can’t have too much starting pitching; on the other hand, he’s useless as a member of the bullpen, and if he keeps Woo or Miller from starting for too long, it’s going to be enraging.

The biggest tragedy of this year might’ve been the injury to Emerson Hancock. We only got about two and a half starts out of him, but he looked fairly promising in his limited action. And it happened right around the time Bryan Woo was returning from his brief IL stint, when we were supposed to head into the dog days of summer with a 6-man rotation, to hopefully keep everyone fresh. How important was THAT in derailing our season? Who’s to say? It’s one more What If to throw onto a season full of ’em.

And we’ve already gone into the bullpen of it all. There were gods and clods, and the clods were pretty damn mediocre. Trading Sewald, so far, looks like a disaster. But, that’s one of those things you can’t measure in two months’ time. You have to look at it over the next 2-3 years and see where everyone lands. I’ll say this: I don’t have any confidence in Canzone or Rojas. But, I also think we’re right around the corner from Sewald turning into a pumpkin. In which case, it was all for naught, and very well might’ve been the single biggest factor in sinking our season.

So, TL;DR, what do we need to fix? Well, we need to upgrade at either 1B or 3B. We need to fill RF with either Teoscar or Other. We need a bona fide fucking DH, because this horse shit we’ve been doing isn’t going to fly.

The Mariners are so full of shit with this DH thing, by the way. It was supposedly a means to give regular guys off-days, but how often was it used for that purpose, really? Suarez played at third damn near every day. France rarely went off first. J.P. never sits. Instead, that spot went to Teoscar on occasion (which was really a means to improve our outfield defense), Cal once in a while (when Murphy was healthy and able to back him up), and people like Ford, Pollock, Haggerty, Rojas, and the like. Lots of bullshit bench guys getting DH starts and doing nothing with them! Just sign a great hitter and park him there! Enough with this experiment that you’re not even using as you say you will!

Also, we need a proper second baseman, a proper backup catcher (who can stay healthy all year), and an outfielder or three (depending on what happens with Teoscar and Kelenic). Oh, and replenish the bullpen with at least one heavy duty arm (so it’s not just Brash, Topa, and Munoz and that’s it).

So, yeah, there’s a lot to do, and only one offseason to do it.

What We Can Be Happy About With This 2023 Mariners Season

I get it: being out of the playoffs is pretty irritating. This isn’t what we expected coming into the season; we were supposed to be a team on the rise and a team taking a step forward, after finally breaking the playoff drought in 2022. We had the core nucleus, we had the pitching, we just needed guys to play to expectations and we should’ve been all right. Did we do enough to get over the hump and become a division winner? No. We had a chance! Houston came down to Earth a little bit – which is something we definitely needed to happen for that to come to fruition – but we never expected Texas to be as good as they were, and that wrench ultimately ended our season.

Now, we have to move on. We have to look forward to next year. With a little bit of time to sit in our resentment, and reflect on what’s been done and what’s been said, now it’s time to rationally look back at what went right. We know what went wrong. The bottom of the order and the bench stunk. Many guys didn’t play to expectations. But, there were some positives as well, and we can’t just ignore them because we’re mad at the end result.

This organization isn’t going to blow everything up. The front office is staying intact. The manager and coaches are all being retained. There are guys under contract who likely aren’t going anywhere, and players with club control who still figure into our future plans. Unfortunately, we’re in a similar situation as the end of the 2022 season: needing to fill in around the margins. We didn’t get it right last offseason; we must get it right this offseason.

First and foremost, how do you not love what we got from J.P. Crawford? He came into 2023 as a legitimate fringe player. His 2022 season was arguably the worst of his Mariners career. He had terrible Spring Training numbers. He started out the year batting 9th, as everyone was calling on this team to upgrade at the short stop position. 2023 was as Make Or Break as it gets. And, to his credit, he put in the work last offseason at Driveline, he picked himself up, and he had the very best season of his career. He was a 5.0 WAR player; that’s leaps and bounds better than he’s ever been. He got his batting average back up to where it’s been in the past, he increased his on-base percentage quite a bit, and he slugged off the charts at .438. He hit 19 homers; 10 more than he’s hit in any other year! His 54 extra base hits were a career high. He pretty quickly found himself at the top of the batting order and never relinquished it, which I find most encouraging. That means he didn’t suffer a lot of prolonged, aggravating slumps. He was a guy we could always count on; for most of the year, he was the ONLY guy we could count on.

That’s a tremendous foundation on which to start. Short stop is secure for the foreseeable future. His defense seemed to bounce back a bit, he’s probably the best leader we could hope for among this player group, and where do you need to be strongest on a baseball field? Up the middle.

Which brings us to Julio. I can’t say it was a better season than 2022, but I do believe he took a step forward. Julio had a rough April in 2022, before going on a tear. In 2023, he REALLY struggled through June. Sophomore Slump was being bandied about. I think we all believed he’d pull out of it at some point, but I wasn’t sure he could get anywhere near where he was as a rookie.

Then, in July, he started picking it up. And that August, MY GOD. .429/.474/.724 slash line for the entire month; he was otherworldly! All of a sudden, he DID start to get back to where we all expected. But, then he cooled again in September. His slugging was still there, but everything else severely diminished. His WAR was 5.3 – tops on the team – but his entire slash line was a little bit worse compared to 2022. He had more doubles, homers, and stolen bases, but he also played in 23 more games.

All in all, I’m not worried about Julio. I think 2023 was a great learning experience for the young superstar. But, it wasn’t a wasted year for him, either. He didn’t have a learning experience while taking an extreme step back; he was still the best and most important player on this team, and I expect him to take these first two years and move forward as one of the best players in all of baseball.

Finishing with the Up The Middle motif, we have Cal Raleigh. Thank Christ for Cal Raleigh! This was his first full year. His first full year as the unquestioned #1 at catcher. And his first year where he wasn’t in jeopardy of being sent down to Tacoma to work on some things. He improved his batting average and on-base percentage, while taking a quiet step back in slugging. He had career highs in homers and doubles, but again, played in 145 games (compared to 119 in 2022). Where he REALLY took a step forward was with his defense; he was throwing dudes out left and right, really shutting down the run game of opposing offenses (in spite of the fact that this pitching staff isn’t always the greatest at holding runners).

I wouldn’t say Cal is a finished product either, though I don’t know if I would expect him to hit considerably above his .232 batting average. What matters is, like J.P., he didn’t suffer crazy lulls. He was pretty consistent all year. And, if you’re going to give me 30 homers from a catcher, I’m going to take that every time! Going forward, we don’t have to worry about Cal; he’s the guy. He’s going to be here for a good, long while. Hopefully, we can sign him to a long term extension sooner rather than later, because I think he’s going to be worth every penny. The concern lies in who his backup is going to be. Tom Murphy is a tremendous backup – when healthy – but he’s proven that we can’t count on him in that regard. We don’t want to blow Cal out with overuse, even though he’s a stud and wants to be out there every single day.

There’s a steep drop-off from there, as far as everyday players are concerned. I don’t want to get too into the weeds with Teoscar Hernandez – because I don’t know where he’s going to be next year – but I thought he did okay. He gave us almost what he showed he was in Toronto in 2022. Worse slash line, WAY too many strikeouts, but he was a 2.1 WAR player and that’s not nothing. He hit 26 homers and 29 doubles, while playing in 160 of 162 games. Yes, he had an abysmal start to his Mariners career, but he got it going as the season went along (and also enjoyed a torrid August), showing you what he’s capable of. I get the feeling it took him some time to figure out how to hit in this ballpark, but to his credit, he figured it out. He wasn’t a total waste of space like Jesse Winker and some of these other guys we’ve brought in. His overall numbers and production were pretty much what I would’ve expected out of a healthy Mitch Haniger, though I will say the defense was often a problem.

That’s all I got for the offense. On to the pitching.

Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, excellent work, no notes! They had wonderful seasons. All 190+ innings pitched, all sub-4 ERAs, all with 179+ strikeouts, all with WHIPs 1.10 or lower. All 3.1 WAR pitchers or above. They obviously didn’t win as many games as we’d like (between 13-14), but that’s a reflection of the team as a whole. All had 18+ quality starts (out of 31-33 starts). It’s as ideal of a Top 3 in a starting rotation as you could hope for: all young, under contract/club control for years to come, and all elite in their own ways. On top of which, it was just Logan’s third Major League season, and Kirby’s second. The training wheels are off for all of these guys; we get to head into 2024 knowing that 3/5 of our rotation is not just set, but among the best in all of baseball. They continue to get better! They continue to introduce new pitches and find new ways to get batters out! Hell, I welcome the further influx of George Kirby knuckleballs! Bring it all on!

Now, were they all totally consistent all year long? No. Castillo and Kirby really came up short in that final week and a half. There were enough instances this season where their lines really left me scratching my head. But, that’s pretty nit-picky. On the whole, all three of these guys were tremendous, and I’m happy to go forward with them.

Sticking with the rotation, how do you not like what we got from Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo as rookies? They very much WERE under strict pitch counts and innings limits. They weren’t perfect, but they had ERAs of 4.32 and 4.21 respectively. They had K/9 rates of 8.2 and 9.5, which slots them quite nicely with our Top 3 listed above. Going into 2024, a rotation of just those five guys looks – on paper – to be outstanding!

We don’t know exactly what they are yet, though. They’re still very raw, very young, very inexperienced. I don’t know that they have a great command of their secondary/off-speed pitches. They were both fucking bananas against righties, but really had their struggles against lefties, and that has to get fixed if they expect to stay in the Major Leagues for the long haul.

  • Miller vs. Righties: 7.20 K/BB, .200/.234/.315, in 282 PA
  • Miller vs. Lefties: 2.94 K/BB, .303/.358/.558, in 255 PA
  • Woo vs. Righties: 7.25 K/BB, .179/.226/.268, in 191 PA
  • Woo vs. Lefties: 1.52 K/BB, .283/.389/.540, in 180 PA

That’s too stark of a difference. It’s a little Matt Brash-y. Excellent numbers for a reliever, but not so hot if you want to hack it as a starter.

With Marco Gonzales coming back for one more go-around – assuming we can’t find a trade partner for him – and with Robbie Ray still on the books for a tremendous amount of money (though, I was dismayed to hear he likely won’t be back until midseason, which means he probably won’t be back to normal until 2025), I think there’s a general sense among the fanbase that one of Miller or Woo won’t be here next year. That one will be traded to help bolster other areas of need. It makes sense, though it’s unfortunate. I can’t help but feel like it’s a case of We Can’t Have Nice Things. Just when we lock down the rotation as solidly as possible, we have to bust it up – YET AGAIN – to help out our feeble offense. I was surprised to hear that Woo is more liked than Miller, as far as the scouts and analytical people are concerned. That’s interesting, considering Miller passed the eye test a little bit more. He’s a little further along in his development, has more innings under his belt, and doesn’t have the injury history of Woo. But, whatever, I guess. Both guys looked awesome, and I hope we’re able to find a way to keep ’em around.

I can only go as far as Matt Brash, Justin Topa, and Andres Munoz with the bullpen. We had other nice-ish pieces – Gabe Speier, Tayler Saucedo, Isaiah Campbell all got an extended run, and looked decent as back-end of the bullpen kind of guys – Eduard Bazardo had good-looking stuff, Ty Adcock got a cup of coffee and looked decent, Prelander Berroa got a tiny cup of espresso and looked like a guy with tremendous upside, but I don’t know how much you can count on ANY of those guys. Especially when you consider, in 2022, we had the likes of Diego Castillo (who spent most of 2023 in Tacoma), Matt Festa (who had solid numbers in Tacoma, but isn’t even in the organization anymore), Penn Murfee (who got hurt, and isn’t expected to be healthy in time to start 2024), not to mention Paul Sewald (who famously was traded at the deadline). There’s so much flux with any bullpen, year to year, that it’s kind of pointless to project. If we get anything out of any of these lower tier guys in 2024, it’ll be gravy. I’m expecting nothing; I’m not even expecting they’ll be on the team.

You have to say Matt Brash was the best reliever on the team, especially after Sewald went to Arizona. There’s a lot to like here. 107 strikeouts was fifth on the team, behind our top four starters. 13.6 K/9 led the team. 3.06 ERA was very respectable. I wouldn’t say he gave us quite what we were expecting, but I think that’s because we were expecting the moon and the stars. Every report about his offseason was about how he might have the best slider of all time, in baseball history. Shit like that. As your #3 reliever behind Sewald and Munoz coming in? I think I expected something like a sub-1 ERA and maybe no more than 1 or 2 blown saves. Instead, you know, he was on the hook for 5 blown saves, and he got dinged with 4 losses. He had a somewhat rocky first couple months, but then improved over the rest of the season, and became the pitcher we all thought he’d be. He was the most reliable reliever we had by season’s end. And I think he improved enough – and worked on his pitch mix enough – to get even better in 2024.

Justin Topa came out of nowhere, as an older pre-arb player – to totally blow away expectations. Before 2023, he had played in no more than 7 games in any given season with the Brewers; this year he was in 75. He had an 8.0 K/9 rate, and had the best WAR of any Mariners reliever with 1.6 (over Brash’s 1.3). He wasn’t perfect – none of these guys were – but he was maybe the most consistently-good reliever we had, with no prolonged slumps. Every once in a while he didn’t have it, but you could say that about anyone; Topa didn’t cost us very many games, and was an incredible asset overall.

Andres Munoz, at least for me, barely qualifies for the theme of this post. But, he’s under contract through 2028 and isn’t going anywhere. He was fine. He wasn’t what he was in 2022, but an early-season injury took him out of commission for a good chunk of games. For as amazing as his stuff is, he was a little too inconsistent for me. As one of five regular relievers with 10+ K/9 (12.3), it’s clear his arm talent is pretty rare. But, his walk rate spiked, his K/BB rate dropped considerably (6.4 in 2022, 3.0 in 2023), and his splits vs. lefties and righties flip-flopped. He was better against lefties than righties in 2022; though still amazing against righties. But, while he was still strong against righties in 2023, he took a big dive against lefties, for whatever reason.

Ultimately, I’m not too worried. Though, I will say it’s concerning that he got hurt again. Remember, he missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 coming back from injury. He might just be a guy – with the way he throws – that he’s going to break down sooner than you’d hope. The M’s will want to take a good, hard look at this bullpen, and have more contingencies in place, so we’re not forced to rely on guys like Trent Thornton, Dominic Leone, Luke Weaver, and Juan Then types.

So, when you hear about the Mariners talking up their core guys, these are who they’re talking about. It’s a fine core! I like all these guys. But, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There are guys who had really BAD 2023 seasons that need to be called out; we’ll get into that next time.

The Mariners Had The Worst Weekend Possible

That’s a harsh way to look at a 4-game series where the Mariners won 3 games, especially against a team that had so thoroughly owned us this season (we finished 4-9 against the Rangers; essentially the story of our year), but that’s what you get when you dick around all month, ruining all the momentum you had in a torrid August.

The Mariners finished 11-17 in September. Can’t do that. Not if you want to make noise in the playoffs.

Anyway, nothing mattered this weekend, because the Astros swept the Diamondbacks. We could’ve swept Texas and we’d still be in the same place we are right now: out of the playoffs. What makes matters worse is that we HAD a chance to prevent the Astros from winning the division. All we needed to do was lose in the finale on Sunday. Instead, we somehow clung to a 1-0 victory, thereby ensuring that the reigning champs have this week to reset their rotation, rest their bullpen, and get nice and ready for another dominant playoff run.

Yay.

Our season technically ended Saturday night. That just so happened to be the game me and my friends were going to. It’s the annual Oktoberfest game, where they have a give-away of a special Oktoberfest beer stein or boot or whatever they decide to come up with. By my count, I’ve gone six times so far; it’s the best give-away the Mariners do all year. For the price of your ticket, you get the stein or boot or whatever, AND you get a voucher for one free drink. Can’t beat it!

Unfortunately, I should’ve known I was going to be in for an annoying day when I got an email that morning from the Mariners saying our steins were delayed. I don’t know how that happens when you know about it all fucking year, but there you go. I ended up having a pretty nice day anyway, but that had everything to do with me being with my lovely fiance and my terrific friends (and nothing to do with the product on the field – another inept 6-1 loss – nor the product they were selling in the stadium).

Luis Castillo couldn’t get out of the third inning, at least not without giving up 5 walks, 5 hits, and 4 runs. That’s back-to-back pisspoor outings from our “ace” against our two direct rivals for the division. One could argue, if he was his usual dominant self in these final two games against the Astros and Rangers, we’d be division champs right now. Or, at the very least, in the playoffs. Of course, it also didn’t help that the offense could only muster a single run in each of those contests, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Mariners were trying something a little different with their 200-level concessions (I didn’t scout the other levels, but I’m sure this wasn’t the only spot), where they sell the hot dogs and sodas and whatnot. They had all the hot food sitting out, presumably under a heat lamp. So, you grab what you want (in my case, two of those junior dogs and a pretzel), take them to the check-out, order your drink and pay. Made things a lot faster! But, the hot dogs were cold and the bun tasted a bit stale. Also, I’m staying away from those pretzels from now on; they aren’t great.

Probably the most annoying thing was the fact that they weren’t taking our free drink vouchers that came with the give-away. You’d think we just drew a Mariners logo on a piece of paper and were trying to pass it off as a coupon! We went to the bar area in the 200-level and they turned us away, saying you had to get the drinks from a concessions stand. So, we went to a place that had the hard ciders we wanted – in this case, the pasta station – and they started to turn us away too. Luckily, we were standing right behind someone higher up who works for the Mariners, and they were able to text someone in charge. But, if they weren’t standing right there at that exact moment, we’d probably still be looking for a place to take these damn things!

I’ve never had this much trouble with an Oktoberfest. It was honestly really disappointing. I invited a bunch of people who’d never been to an Oktoberfest Mariners game, and it’s just a shame that there had to be so many snags.

After Saturday’s game, Cal Raleigh came out and admonished the Mariners for not spending enough, and not bringing in enough quality players to fill out this roster. HE SPEAKS FOR ALL OF US, MARINERS!!! The team made him apologize on Sunday morning, but he still got his point across, and J.P. Crawford (as well as others) backed him up after the game Sunday afternoon.

You can’t field a playoff team with the likes of Haggerty, Ford, Caballero, Canzone, Rojas, and Dylan Moore taking up everyday at-bats. Not when Ty France, Jarred Kelenic, Eugenio Suarez, and Teoscar Hernandez are so fucking streaky (to be kind; some of them were outright disasterous). Second base, DH, and left field were fucking black holes YET AGAIN. As was backup catcher after Tom Murphy went down, but what else is new? When you’re already going super-cheap on your bullpen arms – and you’ve got a ton of cost-controlled starters – it’s fucking ridiculous that this team pinches pennies the way it does. Trying to get by with the likes of A.J. Pollock, Kolten Wong, and Tommy La Stella; you should be FUCKING ASHAMED of yourselves, Mariners front office!

I don’t know how to feel looking ahead to next year. On the one hand, I guess we have to like where the rotation sits. Castillo, Gilbert, and Kirby should all be full go’s. Miller and Woo should have increased workloads. Ray will be back. You have to think we’re taking whatever we can get in trade for Marco. But, then there’s the bullpen we have to find a way to reload (presumably with more retreads that we hope we can fix).

It’ll ultimately come down to what we can do to improve the offense. I guess we like J.P., Julio, and Cal. Suarez probably isn’t going anywhere. J.P. said he’s taking Ty France with him to Driveline to fix his swing, but will he even be around after what’s become of his Major League career? Teoscar is a free agent; maybe we put a qualifying offer on him and keep him for one more go-around. Kelenic … we’ll see. We still need a boost at second base, and DH is still a nothing-burger. And the bench … ye gods.

Nobody wants to come here and hit in our stadium. That means trades. No one in the minors is ready for a call-up just yet. Our best prospects will be heading to AA – at best – in 2024. They won’t be ready until 2025 at the earliest. Is it another year just like this one? Or do we flush our farm to try to win now? Will that even bring in enough to put us over the top?

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, compared to how we felt at this time last year. This might be the most important offseason we’ve ever seen around these parts. And, for the first time since the Jackie Z era, I’m having my doubts that we have the management in place to get it done.

As usual, the common denominator is ownership. It’s all on them. So, I guess we’re fucked.

The Mariners Are On The Brink With Their Starting Rotation

I don’t want to alarm anyone, or overlook all the awesome things the Mariners are doing as a team this year. But … this is just something to keep an eye on.

The unquestioned strength of the 2023 Mariners is its starting rotation. It’s interesting to think of what could’ve been had everyone stayed as healthy as they were in 2022, but there’s definitely an argument to be made that injuries to Robbie Ray and later Marco Gonzales actually made this rotation stronger.

We have no idea how Robbie would’ve responded after some late-season challenges last year; he is a former Cy Young Award winner, after all. There’s no reason why he couldn’t return to form. But, I think some skepticism is a little smart – and valid – and if you asked me who I would want right now to start an important game between Bryce Miller and a fully healthy Robbie Ray, I’d pick Miller and it’s not even close. As for Marco, he’s been on a clear downward trend since 2020; his stuff wasn’t even good enough to crack the playoff roster last year. Between an inexperienced and sometimes wild Woo or Gonzo, I think I’m taking Woo’s stuff and not looking back.

The thing is, while that’s fine in a hypothetical, in reality we’re talking about two rookie pitchers who have limits to how long they can pitch this season. They’re both skyrocketing beyond their career highs in innings. The short IL stint for Woo will help, but just think where we were a week ago. We were staring down the barrel of a 6-man rotation, with the addition of another impressive young arm in Emerson Hancock. An embarrassment of riches! Just as the offense is catching fire and pulling this team back into the playoff race. It was all so perfect.

It turns out, a little too perfect. Hancock’s last start got cut short after two innings, he came up lame with a shoulder issue, and now he not only finds himself on the IL, but the 60-day IL. His season is done. It speaks to a tragic long-term outlook – considering this is the third time he’s found himself with serious arm issues – and if you look at the way he throws a baseball, it just looks fucking painful. I imagine this won’t be his last time on the IL, and I’m seeing a bullpen role ultimately being his fate.

Okay, fine. Woo has returned and we’re back to our five best starters. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the way.

The thing that scares me is now we’re talking about the third season-ending injury to a valued starting pitcher. Four if you want to count Easton McGee (whose season was dashed after one spot start in Seattle), though I don’t know if I’d call him “valued”. Digging deeper into our depth, obviously Chris Flexen was a flop and was DFA’d. And, until this year, Taylor Dollard was an up-and-coming prospect who just got his feet wet in AAA before going down for the season after 3 starts. Who’s left? Darren McCaughan (of the 5.99 ERA in Tacoma, and underwhelming mop-up appearances with the Mariners) and Tommy Milone (of the 4.44 ERA in Tacoma, with two decent spot starts with the M’s spanning 9 total innings). That’s it. The cupboard is bare in AA; there aren’t any more flashy prospects waiting in the wings.

Now, I see that – as part of yesterday’s spate of roster moves – we picked up someone named Luke Weaver. He’s just flat out bad. He started all year for Cincinnati and sucked through and through with a near-7 ERA, averaging less than 5 innings per outing. It was pretty clear the Reds didn’t trust him, nor was he someone to be trusted, ultimately resulting in his release last week.

We’re told that he’s going to be a long reliever, and an occasional spot starter, and BOY HOWDY does that sound unappealing coming from him.

It’s weird that we’d choose Weaver over Milone or McCaughan, two guys in our system, whose stuff we’re familiar with. What do we know about Weaver? He’s got a good pitch mix, but just hasn’t unlocked his potential yet? He’s 30 years old! He is who we thought he was! Besides, is late August of a pennant chase the best time to build up a reclamation project? Can you even call someone a “reclamation project” if he’s never put together a full season of competence?

Here’s my concern: what if we lose another starter? That’s what I’m talking about when I say we’re on the brink. God forbid we lose one of our top three guys, but even if we lose Miller or Woo to injury, the dropoff is CONSIDERABLE. Again, the plus side is that it’s late August. A pisspoor fifth starter won’t ultimately be the reason we’d fail to miss the playoffs in that scenario. But, then again, the Mariners are where they’re at, and the margin for error is pretty thin. So, YEAH, a pisspoor fifth starter MIGHT ultimately be the reason we flame out! One bad game in the last week or two of the season might be the one game that costs us.

Hopefully, the offense is here to stay, and maybe they’d bail us out going forward. That’s what I have to cling to, anyway. The Rays have been bitten by the injury bug probably more than any contender, and yet they’ve still managed to stay in the thick of things. They’re an inspiration! Here’s to the Mariners being like the Rays (minus employing the alleged underage sexual assaulters).

Well, really, here’s to the Mariners not losing any more guys to injury. Let’s stay just the way we are from here on out!