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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comparing The Mariners Lineups From 2018 To 2019

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

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

Catcher

2018 – Mike Zunino, 2019 – Omar Narvaez

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

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

First Base

2018 – Ryon Healy/Dan Vogelbach, 2019 – Same

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

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

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

Second Base

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

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

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

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

Third Base

2018 – Kyle Seager, 2019 – Same

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

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

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

Short Stop

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

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

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

Centerfield

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

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

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

Right Field

2018 – Mitch Haniger, 2019 – Same

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

Left Field

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

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

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

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

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

Designated Hitter

2018 – Nelson Cruz, 2019 – Edwin Encarnacion

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Did Some Other Stuff Too

The big signing of the free agency period so far has been Yusei Kikuchi, but that’s not all they’ve done of late!

(yes it is, that’s all anyone really cares about)

Another name you’ll be hearing about is Tim Beckham, who’s a short stop out of Baltimore. He was signed to a 1-year, $1.75 million deal. You might remember the M’s making a deal with the Phillies for J.P. Crawford, who is ostensibly our “Short Stop Of The Future” (until the 2019 season is over, when a new one will be annointed). Crawford is a glove-first guy whose glove is maybe a little spotty, but what’s worse is that his bat stinks. Assuming that holds true, Tim Beckham is veteran insurance. At 29 years of age (later this month), he’s a career .252/.304/.424 hitter with moderate pop, sub-average speed, probably an adequate glove, who strikes out way more than he should. Ideally, Beckham will be a utility infielder, but since I don’t have any hopes for Crawford whatsoever, I’d bank on Beckham getting significant playing time. He should also be a huge upgrade over Andrew Romine, so at least that’s something.

Cory Gearrin is a right-handed reliever who got a 1-year, $1.4 million deal to be in the mix for a set-up role. He’s 33 years old in April, and true to form, he had a quality 2017 and a bummer of a 2018. His K/9 is nothing that’ll blow you away, so really he’s like pretty much every other reliever in the world.

And then there’s the re-signing of Dustin Ackley to a minor league deal. I guess he’s more or less a first baseman now, which is (I think) what he was in his final year in college, and so all that promise of him being a #2 overall pick is officially dead. He hasn’t hit in the Bigs since 2016, having spent the past two years in AAA for Anaheim, and by all accounts did okay for them. To be fair, he does play in the corner outfield spots, as well as second base in a pinch. I don’t know if there’s any room in our outfield as it’s currently constructed for Ackley to break in, but I could certainly see him promoted if Ryon Healy goes down, or if he simply tears it up for Tacoma and the M’s are looking for a spark. It’s nothing that moves the needle for me, though, because he’s a bust and that’s never going to change. Tacoma needs guys too, is what I’m told.

In former-Mariners news, Nelson Cruz signed a 1-year deal with the Twins for a little over $14 million. That’s fun! Plus, you know, he’s not in the division, so the most we have to see him is 6 or 7 times (of course, he could very well be dealt at the deadline, at which point that number could sadly change). I still think he’s got a lot to offer a team looking for added pop to their lineup, so I think this is a very good move for them. If the team as a whole sucks, then they should be able to recoup some of that in trade value.

Finally, Roenis Elias was extended (and thus avoids arbitration) on a deal worth a shade under $1 million. He’ll be important to this ballclub, as we’ll need a quality long reliever who can spot start on occasion. Of course, he’s yet another soft-tossing lefty to go with Kikuchi, Gonzales, and LeBlanc (as well as Sheffield, who isn’t quite as soft-tossing, but yet another lefty who figures to see some starts in 2019). Right now, our right-handed starters are Felix and Leake, which does nothing to disspell our soft-tossing reputation.

Mariners Fire Sale! Everything Must Go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Traded James Paxton, The Next Great Rebuild Is On

James Paxton to the Yankees
Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams to the Mariners

So, yeah, this is what we all wanted, right?  Stop pussy-footing around, trying to merely contend for a wild card spot, and start tearing things down to rebuild the foundation even stronger in the seasons to come.  Will the Mariners suck in 2019?  Absolutely.  Were they going to be worth a damn anyway, if we’d re-signed Nelson Cruz, maybe brought in a guy or two from free agency, and tried to run it back with the same core of guys?  Probably not.  The Mariners were going to suck – or at best be mediocre – for years to come; I’d rather they REALLY suck and hope to hit on some young prospects, while waiting out the Astros and A’s and whoever else who are already good now, and figure to be good for a long time.

I’ll start with this:  James Paxton had to be one of the first to go.  That guy is a walking injury waiting to happen, he’s at the peak of his value as a front-line, ace-type starter, so we had to get him out of here while his arm was still attached to his body.  Counting on him to survive a full Major League Baseball season is unrealistic, because he’s literally never been able to do it to date.  Does that mean he’ll NEVER do it?  No; I’m sure as soon as 2019 he’ll be a Cy Young contender.  But, over the long haul, he’s going to be on the DL more than his fair share of times, and it would’ve been frustrating to try and root for the guy who can never stay healthy for longer than a month or two.

There’s also the very real possibility that the Yankees figure something out about his mechanics or whatever and fix him, so he goes on to have a Randy Johnson-esque career in his 30’s.  Never rule out the ineptitude of the Mariners’ organization and its coaching staff.

As for the return?  It’s underwhelming.  It was always going to be underwhelming.

For starters, I’ll agree with what Mike Salk has said on 710 ESPN:  I also hate trading for Yankee prospects because they ARE the most over-hyped prospects in the game.  Now, part of that is due to the fact that they manage to find so many diamonds in the rough; their great teams are ALWAYS built on homegrown talent.  So, yes, they do have an eye for it, but more importantly, they keep what’s going to work best for them, and they ship off the duds.

So, yeah, Justus Sheffield might be their best prospect NOW, but Jesus Montero was once their best prospect.  It might be a down period for Yankee prospects (because so many of them have made it to the Major League level in recent seasons).  Sheffield has also been traded twice in his young career; are we sure we want to get too excited about a guy that two teams have already given up on?

Sure, he COULD be the next James Paxton, but he could also be a back-end of the rotation nothing.  He throws UP to 97 miles per hour, but how much do you want to bet he actually sits closer to 93-94?  And that doesn’t even go into how trading for ANY pitching prospect is risky business, with all the injuries that befall pitchers nowadays.

The bottom line is, scouts around the game feel he likely tops out as a #2 starter, whatever that means.  I guess it means he’s not going to be one of the top 10-15 starters in the league.  For the purposes of the Mariners’ organization, he’ll likely be our #1, but he’s a #1 starter like Freddy Garcia was once a #1.  It all depends on the rotation; someone’s gotta go on opening day.

That’s already underwhelming, and I haven’t even gotten to the throw-ins.  Erik Swanson is another pitcher who’s already been traded twice in his career.  He’s yet to actually make any Major League appearances, though (whereas Sheffield at least made it into 3 games in relief towards the end of last year).  Swanson did pretty good in AAA last year – and both of these guys figure to at least get a look in Spring Training in 2019 – but I’d bet the family farm that he starts out in Tacoma.  Swanson is projected to be a back-end of the rotation starter at best, with some guys projecting him to eventually end up in the bullpen.  In which case, whoop-dee-freaking-doo.

Then there’s Dom Thompson-Williams, an outfielder who made it all the way to the high-A level last year.  He’s young-ish, but probably should’ve made it higher than he has.  He figures to start in AA in 2019 and I guess we’ll see.  They say he plays center, but he projects more as a corner outfielder, and ultimately probably a 4th outfielder at the Major League level.  Either way, don’t expect to see him on the Mariners before 2020 or 2021.

Which, incidentally, is what Jerry Dipoto said is the target for the Mariners to start turning it back around again.  We’ll see.  That sounds pretty optimistic.

As I said up top, I’m all for trading Paxton, but I dunno.  Maybe we could’ve held off until AFTER Thanksgiving to see what we could get.  Is this really the best deal out there?  Are we sure there wasn’t another team willing to chip in just a little bit more?  Obviously, we were limited.  The teams who’d be in on Paxton are the teams who feel they’re World Series contenders RIGHT NOW.  There wouldn’t have been any rebuilding teams, or middling wild card teams in on him, because those teams would be looking for better bets on long-term health.  The Yankees are just hoping Paxton can keep it together for 1-2 years; if he has that in him, maybe they go to the World Series next year.  Or, if he lands on the DL a bunch in 2019, they can always trade him next off-season to recoup whatever they can get.

My thing is, the Mariners believe in their ability to develop players more than I believe in them.  The Mariners probably feel like they can get the most out of Sheffield, that with their coaches, they can turn him into an ace.  I’ll tell you right now, that’s not gonna happen.  Developing fringe talent into stars is probably the WORST thing the Mariners do.  Killing it on social media, engaging with the fans, having cool ballpark give-aways, celebrating their retired stars?  That’s more in their wheelhouse.  It’s fine, we all have our special talents.  Being good at baseball just isn’t one of the Mariners’.

Of course, I’m talking out of my ass, because I haven’t seen any of these guys play at all.  They could shock the world and prove Jerry Dipoto to be a genius.  Based on precedent, I have my doubts.  I’m a Mariners fan, and as such I’m destined to always root for a loser.

Looking At Some Numbers And Stuff About The 2018 Mariners

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the month-by-month:

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

And just to rub some salt in the wounds:

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

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

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

Let’s move on to some individual accolades.

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

Here are all the guys who had 10+ homers:

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

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

Some other individual numbers:

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

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

On to the pitchers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Time To Blow Up The Seattle Mariners

For real.  It’s time.

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

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

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

Bye Bye Nelson Cruz

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

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

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

Trade James Paxton

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

Trade Mitch Haniger

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

Trade Edwin Diaz

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

Dump Robinson Cano or Put Him At DH

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

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

Dump Dee Gordon or Leave Him At 2B

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

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

Get Rid Of Kyle Seager

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

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

Keep Mike Zunino

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

Don’t You Touch My Felix!

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

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

Only Trade Segura If There’s Good Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Are Why Seattle Is Sports Hell

It’s hard for me to believe that the Mariners are just in a slump, because with their run differential (-19), it feels like they’re just playing to expectations at this point, and really this is who they are.  They’re a team that loses 3/4 to the God-awful Toronto Blue Jays, at home, with their Canadian fans totally overwhelming our home fans in attendance.

The annual fucking embarrassment is over, so that’s the good news.  But, we’re living in Hell right now, in case you didn’t know.  Seattle sucks again, and the Mariners are the primary culprit.

On Thursday, Felix did the bare minimum (5 innings, 2 runs) and Juan Nicasio blew it in the 7th, giving up 2 runs in less than an inning.  He’s since been dumped on the DL with a knee issue, and I hope it’s for the rest of the fucking year, because he’s a fucking worthless pile of shit and is actively killing this team.  The final score was 7-3.

It was somehow even worse on Friday, as Marco gave up 4 runs in 7 innings, and the offense just did absolute jack shit.  A late-game meltdown was essentially meaningless as we lost 7-2.

And, LOOK AT THAT, it got even worse on Saturday.  Paxton went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs, but we lost 5-1 as it appears no one in our bullpen could get anyone out this series.

We somehow salvaged a win on Sunday even though Sam Gaviglio was going for Toronto and essentially equalled Mike Leake’s production through his rotation turn.  It was 3-3 heading into the bottom of the 7th before Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager blew it open.  We got the game to Edwin Diaz who was able to shut ’em down for his 41st save in a 6-3 win.

This team is just a garbage fire right now, and it’s about to get a whole lot messier as we head out on a road trip through the A.L. West.  Texas, then 4 in Houston, then Oakland, with no days off (only to come home to the Dodgers and Astros again).

Oh yeah, by the way, we’re now 2.5 games behind Oakland for the second Wild Card spot.  Neat.  They say the best time to visit Sports Hell is in the summer, when the weather is nice, the people are content, and the baseball team is sucking a non-stop train of dicks.

The Mariners Are Now Tied For The Second Wild Card Spot

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how much of an upgrade is Maybin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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