The Mariners Drafted Kyle Lewis & Joe Rizzo

I’m not a huge draftnik in general, and specifically with baseball I don’t know if I could care any less than I already do.  I don’t follow college baseball, I sure as SHIT don’t follow high school baseball, I’m not a scout, and trying to project what teenagers will become in 3-8 years sounds like a futile and pointless exercise.

I pay attention one day a year, and that’s Day 1 of the draft, and by “pay attention” I mean:  I happen to be on Twitter and notice the beat writers talking about it.  Then, I click on links they offer, read what people have to say, and that’s the basis for my knowledge on the subject.  Pretty neat, huh?

In years past, the Mariners have drafted the following in the first round:

  • 2015 –
  • 2014 – Alex Jackson (OF)
  • 2013 – D.J. Peterson (3B – converted to 1B)
  • 2012 – Mike Zunino (C)
  • 2011 – Danny Hultzen (SP)
  • 2010 – Taijuan Walker (SP)
  • 2009 – Dustin Ackley (OF – converted to 2B – converted to OF)
  • 2009 – Nick Franklin (SS)
  • 2009 – Steve Baron (C)

As you can see, a real Who’s Who of garbage (and Taijuan Walker).  To be honest, I forgot all about Steve Baron, but he’s a no-bat defensive catcher who makes Jesus Sucre look like Babe Ruth at the plate.  Nick Franklin is in the Tampa Bay organization and is still trying to break on through into becoming a regular big leaguer.  Dustin Ackley is The Most Disappointing Man In The World.  Taijuan you all know and love.  Hultzen is one of a long line of safe Jackie Z draft picks, who was supposedly the most “Major League-ready” pitcher, but whose bevy of arm injuries has killed his career.  The jury is still out on Peterson and Jackson; but Peterson was drafted for his bat and his power, and has yet to really impress with either on a regular basis; and Jackson is mired in single-A ball, appearing to be on nobody’s fast track to the Majors.

This year, with the 11th overall pick, the Mariners selected Kyle Lewis, an outfielder out of Mercer University.  He’s 6’4, he bats and throws right-handed, his position for now is in centerfield, but some project him to be a corner outfield guy.  He played basketball and baseball in high school, and only dedicated himself exclusively to baseball relatively late in his amateur career.  He went to Mercer as a project, busted out as a Sophomore, and was “College Player of the Year” as a Junior this year.  In 61 games this season, he hit 20 homers while putting up a slash line of .395/.535/.731, while also walking a whopping 66 times.  So, he’s got the power, he’s got the plate discipline, his swing is apparently a little long and wonky, but they can work on that with him after he signs, he’s rangy, with good but not great speed, and has a nice arm.  His high leg kick is apparently a concern, which could mean he’s in for a lot of strikeouts when paired with that swing.  So, it’ll be imperative that he smooths all that out if he wants to make it to the Bigs someday.  One would think, as he continues to round out as a pro and puts on some more muscle, he won’t necessarily need that leg kick to generate the power he’s accustomed to.  If that clicks for him, he could be a monster.  I’m seeing comparisons ranging from Jason Heyward to Mike Cameron.

From what I’ve read, I like the pick, but then again I’d probably be saying that no matter who the Mariners went with at the 11th overall spot.  Lewis had been considered by many to be a Top 10 pick, with some people ranking him as high as the third overall selection.  The Mariners themselves thought they didn’t have a chance at him when they scouted him initially, so for them it was a nice, pleasant surprise.  I mostly like that he’s a high upside player.  Granted, he could make it to Tacoma and promptly flame out like so many Quad-A outfielders we’ve gotten to that point in recent years.  But, if he figures it all out, he could be a superstar in this league.  Here’s to hoping he’s got the focus, and the organization has the people around him to make that a reality.

The farm system, right now, is pretty dire.  I don’t think there’s a single person in AAA, for instance, who projects to be an everyday Major Leaguer (maybe a bullpen guy or something, but the rest of those guys seem to have hit their ceilings).  There’s some good-looking talent in AA right now, but you figure you’re still at least a couple years away (at best) from seeing them produce in a Mariners uniform.  Beyond that, who knows?  So, when I see the Mariners have drafted a centerfielder, I don’t really pay attention to specific “needs” at the big league level.  Since these guys don’t generally make an impact for many years after they’re drafted, it’s not like football where you see holes and you draft guys to fill those holes; in 5 years, or whatever, when Kyle Lewis is ready to get his shot at the Major Leagues, will there be a hole in centerfield?  Probably, but you can’t think that way as a fan.  From a farm system perspective, there are holes EVERYWHERE, at all levels!  The draft is the crappiest of crapshoots, particularly in baseball.  Bringing in talent, regardless of position, is what’s important right now.

Especially since, when you think about it, the Mariners are currently in contention, and might be robbing from that farm system to try to bring in big leaguers to help us win right now.  Obviously, we just drafted Kyle Lewis, so he isn’t going anywhere.  But, guys above him, in AA and AAA, might be shipped off.  So, replacing those guys with incoming draft picks – and having some of those draft picks actually pan out – is going to be pretty important.

Which brings me to the Mariners’ second round pick, Joe Rizzo.  He’s a high schooler with a nice swing, who appears to be pretty polished at the plate, and raw literally everywhere else.  He’s not as athletic as you like – particularly for a third baseman – which is why everyone is already projecting him to move anywhere from left field to first base.  Considering that’s more or less what they were talking about when the Mariners drafted D.J. Peterson, I’m not super-thrilled with these descriptions.  I mean, who was the last guy they talked about in these terms, who actually panned out in a big way in the Majors?  Seriously, I’m asking, because as I said before, I don’t follow the draft all that closely!

For what it’s worth, they said similar things about Dustin Ackley as well (although, his bat was more highly regarded, thus the #2 overall draft slot).  Guys who hit well in college and high school, who don’t have an established defensive position, aren’t really options in my mind.  Yeah, they may be good to go from a hitting perspective, but that just means they’re going to put all their energy into either learning a new defensive position, or trying to refine the position they came up with.  Either way, all that focus on the defensive side of the ball – which is VERY important – will inevitably take away from them becoming a professional hitter, at which point you’ve got a player who isn’t good defensively, who also hasn’t made any strides at the plate, and all that promise they had coming in will have been squandered.

Look for Joe Rizzo to be absolutely nothing for the Mariners one day.  I hope he proves me wrong, but I seriously doubt it.

At least with Kyle Lewis, you’ve got athleticism, and some built-in defensive ability, to go with his excellence at the plate, so all he has to do is refine and mature, as opposed to essentially starting all over as a professional.

Baseball can be really discouraging.  Baseball prospects are generally at the top of that pyramid.  Now you can see why I rarely try to put any energy into focusing on the minor leagues.

Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

I remember June 16, 2008, like it was seven years and a few weeks ago.  We were in the middle of a year that would just get worse and worse and worse.  The Mariners, coming off of a winning 2007 campaign, revamped their starting rotation with the Erik Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva signing.  A would-be weakness for the team was bolstered by the addition of a second ace pitcher, and an innings eater who’d solidify the back-end of the rotation while pitching half his games in the spacious Safeco Field.

Those 2008 Mariners would go on to lose over 100 games, netting the #2 overall draft pick.  On June 16, 2008, Bill Bavasi was fired after four and a half miserable fucking seasons.  And we all rejoiced, for we all knew Bavasi was not only the face of Satan incarnate, but the most bumbling and inept motherfucker ever to be given the keys to a professional franchise (tell me I’m wrong, COME AT ME BRO; I will fight you to the death).  Every year of his reign was another chance to reload.  Re-BUILD?  What does that even MEAN?  The Mariners were coming off of their most fruitful seasons under Pat Gillick; but those veterans were all long dead and buried.  Bavasi made it his mission to bring in veteran after veteran to try to right the ship, at the expense of our entire farm system and anything else he could get his hands on.  He wasted money, he traded away superstars, and he brought us nothing but losses piled upon losses piled upon shit.

On October 22, 2008, the Mariners brought in Jack Zduriencik, and while we didn’t really know much about him, we knew he worked in the upper management in Milwaukee, for a Brewers organization on the rise.  He was responsible for that team bringing in some of its biggest stars, and was the first non-GM to win Executive of the Year in 2007.  This guy was a rising star in his own right, and it seemed like he’d fit into the GM world like a glove.

On August 28, 2015, the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik.  He’d been at the helm for a little over 6 and a half seasons.  So, it was time.  He’d out-lasted his predecessor and really wasn’t all that much better at his job.

Bill Bavasi’s Mariners record:  322-395, .449 winning percentage
Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners record:  506-595, .460 winning percentage

Over time, the Bavasi regime has become known for the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade, and the dual trades to the Indians in 2006 giving them quality All Stars Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for magic beans.  Those are desperate moves no GM would EVER live down.  The Zduriencik regime will ultimately go down for the Triad of Suck that was Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero.  The Mariners gave up some legitimately great capital to bring in those guys (2nd overall draft pick, Cliff Lee, and Michael Pineda, respectively) and they all blew up in Z’s face.

Considering Jackie Z’s extensive history in scouting for Major League Baseball, that makes his transgressions all the more galling.  He’d been here for over 6 years and all he had to show for his work was Kyle Seager.  Anyone he ever brought in who was worth a damn was either an established free agent (Cano, Cruz) or some scrub who’d previously washed out of baseball either via injury or ineffectiveness, only to make his comeback with us for an anomalous year or two (Chris Young, Mark Lowe, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel).  I mean, will you LOOK at some of the bullshit that’s crossed our paths thanks to Jackie Z:

  • Dustin Ackley, draft pick
  • Chone Figgins, free agent
  • Eric Byrnes, free agent
  • Justin Smoak, trade
  • The Entire Doug Fister Trade, less Charlie Furbush (a sometimes-okay lefty specialist out of the bullpen)
  • Jesus Montero, trade
  • Brandon League, trade
  • Casey Kotchman, trade
  • Mike Morse for John Jaso
  • Logan Morrison for Carter Capps
  • Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo
  • Mike Zunino, draft pick
  • Danny Hultzen, draft pick
  • Nick Franklin, draft pick
  • Corey Hart, free agent
  • Jason Bay, free agent
  • Joe Saunders, free agent
  • Hector Noesi, trade
  • Miguel Olivo, free agent
  • The Hitless Wonder That Is Brendan Ryan, trade
  • Jack Cust, free agent
  • Blake Beavan, trade
  • Milton Bradley, trade
  • Rob Johnson, trade(ish)

You could go on and on, and I know I’m just picking and choosing the most worthless piles of crap out there, but LOOK AT THAT LIST!  Look at all those miserable bastards that have contributed to nearly 600 losses the last 6+ seasons!  That’s Jack’s legacy!  Did he give away studs on par with Jones, Choo, Cabrera, Tillman and the like?  No.  But, he did get PENNY on the dollar out of stud trade chips like Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, John Jaso, and Carter Capps.  He had three draft picks in the top 3 overall and we’ve yet to see any of them amount to anything more than somewhat quality defense.  After this year, it’s highly likely two of those three draft picks won’t even be in the organization, with Ackley traded, Hultzen an injured free agent who should probably retire, and Mike Zunino fighting for his life somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle.

Was he as destructive as Bill Bavasi?  No, he was not.  That’s why August 28, 2015, came and went a little bit differently than June 16, 2008.  I don’t feel quite the sense of elation as I did when Bavasi finally got the ax.  That was on par with the Wicked Witch of the West getting assassinated; this is more like Old Yeller taking a bullet out behind the house.  Could the Mariners afford to keep him in charge even one more year?  Absolutely not.  His rabies-infested mind would surely destroy us all; he NEEDED to be put down, for his sake as much as our own.

But, it’s not even like that.  I have no real affinity for Jackie Z; it’s not like I’m going to miss him now that he’s gone.  But, it’s still a bummer, because this isn’t supposed to be how it ended.  There was a lot of flawed decision-making when it comes to Jackie Z’s reign; but, there’s also a lot of moves where you could see why he thought the way he did.  A lot of moves that looked good on paper, and then that paper was set ablaze by a fucking cannon.  Guys like Smoak and Ackley and Figgins and Montero – they all came highly touted and having produced quite a bit in their careers up to the point they arrived in Seattle.

In fact, you could say 2015 was a perfect microcosm of the entire Jackie Z era.  There was hope – coming off of a year where the Mariners ended up 1 game out of the playoffs.  There was a smart signing – Nelson Cruz, MVP candidate in 2015.  There was flawed logic – trading away a professional catcher during Zunino’s worst year in the Bigs for a righty power bat who will never play well in Safeco (and who’s yet another DH who shouldn’t be playing out in the field to boot).  And there was a whole lot of bad luck – Cano’s shitty start to the season, Ackley turning back into a pumpkin after last year’s bonanza second half, the bullpen absolutely falling apart after being one of the best units in the American League last year.

Like him or hate him, it’s just sad.  This whole season has been depressing as shit!  Jackie Z getting the boot is just the cherry on top.

The worst part is:  what do we do going forward?  When Bavasi was fired, there was a clear thought process:  scrap everything and start over through the draft.  It only got muddled when the Mariners had a winning record in 2009; that shouldn’t have happened, and it set things back in a lot of ways.  The Mariners made “contending ballclub” moves when they should’ve stuck to the gameplan to keep rebuilding.  It backfired in 2010, meaning we wasted two good rebuilding years thinking we were worth a damn.  We started anew in 2011, built the club up into a winner in 2014, only to see it all bottom out yet again.  Unexpectedly.  Yet again.  But, maybe we should have expected it.  This city is cursed in a lot of ways, and it took one of the greatest football teams of all time to break that spell in 2013.

Now, like in 2008, the Mariners have no farm system.  But, they’ve got plenty good at the Major League level.  This team is far from great, but it’s also far from the worst.  Will the organization be able to find the right guy to come in here and put all the pieces in place?

No.

It won’t.

Because Howard Lincoln is still the man calling all the shots.

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

But, we’re stuck with him, and that’s why we’ll always be losers.

Predicting The Seasons Of Various Mariners In 2015, Part III

Today, we conclude our 3-part series, by taking a look at the batters/fielders.  Let’s get going before it all becomes obsolete!

Here are the links to read about the starting pitchers and the bullpen guys to get you all warmed up.

One more time, let’s try to predict a reasonable lineup, 1-9:

  1. Austin Jackson – CF
  2. Dustin Ackley – LF
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz – DH
  5. Kyle Seager – 3B
  6. Logan Morrison – 1B
  7. Mike Zunino – C
  8. Seth Smith – RF
  9. Brad Miller/Chris Taylor – SS

Probable Bench:

  • Backup Catcher
  • Willie Bloomquist
  • Rickie Weeks
  • Justin Ruggiano

With the signing of Rickie Weeks this week – to a guaranteed, Major League contract, no less – things start to clear up a little bit.  For starters, we can be all but assured that the loser of the short stop battle will be starting his season in Tacoma.  You can also bet on Guti, Endy, Montero, Romero, Jones, and all of these other fringe Major Leaguers to start in Tacoma too (unless injuries get in the way).  In one fell swoop, the depth on this team is improved greatly (in theory).

In theory, Rickie Weeks could play backup to Logan Morrison and/or Dustin Ackley.  In reality, Rickie Weeks has never played anything other than second base in his entire professional career.  I’m not 100% sold on his ability to transition to the outfield – especially considering he’s already not that great at defense when it comes to playing his “natural” position – but I’ll tell you what this DOES mean (and you’re not going to like it):  if Ackley struggles early, or he in general continues to struggle against left-handed pitching, instead of experimenting with Weeks in the outfield, what’s more likely to happen is we DH with Weeks against lefty starters, and push Cruz to left field.  I mean, what’s the simplest answer here?  That after 32 years, we force a guy to learn a completely foreign position?  Or, we let our big-money free agent signee get some work in the outfield once in a while when we need to sit Ackley?  WAKE UP, DUM DUMS!

I’m not saying that’s the worst thing in the world, but it’s probably going to happen, so better to brace for it now.

I’m not going to go too much more into the bench situation as it stands now.  I just like that our depth is a little more impressive than it was at this time last week.

Austin Jackson – I’m not buying it.  A-Jax has been trending downward the last two years, bottoming out in his couple months with Seattle.  He’s going to get the starting job in center because he’s the only guy we’ve got.  And, he’s going to play a lot more than he probably should, because again, he’s the only guy we’ve got.  But, it’s not going to be pretty.  I give it until the end of May before he’s knocked down in the order.  In no way should he be leading off, and I’m going to be repeating that phrase over and over for the first two months of the season, I can already tell.  By mid-season, the Mariners will be scrambling for even a lukewarm body to replace A-Jax in center, rendering him a useless bench player who comes in for defensive relief late in games.

Dustin Ackley – Again, I’m not buying it.  BAD START!  We’ve got two REAL BIG red flags here at the top of our order.  It’s going to be super annoying when we have to endure the entire month of April with Cano hitting with the bases empty.  The Mariners will have a quicker hook in moving Ackley down in the order, but unlike A-Jax, I don’t think they’ll be as quick to remove him from the lineup entirely.  I think Ackley will have the better season offensively than A-Jax, though it’ll still pale in comparison to Ackley’s second half in 2014.  It’s impossible to predict what Ackley is going to do, so it wouldn’t shock me to see him turn it back on in the second half of 2015, but I think in the end we’re all going to quietly wish we’d traded him at the height of his value.

Robinson Cano – Stud.  Expect more of the same as last year.  I think we’re still 2-3 years away from his decline.  Hope he doesn’t get injured.

Nelson Cruz – I’m more or less in line with everyone else on Cruz.  I think him hitting 40 homers was an anomaly (in spite of the fact that he hit more homers away from Baltimore).  I think his more natural number is anywhere from 25-30.  I think that number takes a hit with him playing half of his games in Safeco, meaning he probably tops out at 25, with a floor somewhere around 17-18.  I think there’s enough talent around him to make his other numbers look good (RBI, runs scored, OBP), and I think we still win enough games that it doesn’t matter.  But, we’re not REALLY going to be getting the bang for our buck that we were hoping.  If I’m wrong, then HALLELUJAH!  Our best bet is Cruz getting off to a hot start.  If we’re at the end of April and he’s at 2 home runs, this will probably be a match made in hell.

Kyle Seager – As always, no worries here.  It’d be a damn fine sight if he continues to improve.  One of these years, he’s going to hit over .300; why not this year?  For the first time since he came on as a regular you can count on, he’s not The Man.  He’s more like The Third Man.  If we ever get to the point where we can bat him in the 2-hole, I would expect his batting average to skyrocket.  As it stands now, I think he finally has it in him to get over the .270 hump.  Let’s play it safe:  .290, 24 homers, 101 RBI.

Logan Morrison – I’m much more relaxed about LoMo being our everyday first baseman now that we’ve got Rickie Weeks in the fold.  While it’s unrealistic to expect Weeks to just magically convert into an outfielder overnight, it’s not impossible to see him quickly adapt to playing first base.  Obviously, he’s not ideal, but I think he’s going to see quite a bit of playing time, as I just can’t envision a world where LoMo is healthy for a full season and producing in such a capacity that he’s not benched at some point for performance.  I mean, he’s not QUITE Justin Smoak-bad, but he’s also not a guy with a huge track record of success.  When he’s inevitably injured around mid-May, Weeks will step in and we’ll be fine for a while.  Then, we’ll get tired of Everyday Weeks, and by the time LoMo returns from injury, it’ll be a strict platoon the rest of the way (to spare LoMo’s fragile body, and to spare US from Everyday Weeks).

Mike Zunino – This is actually a really fun time to be a Mike Zunino fan.  So, if you’re not already on the bandwagon, I encourage you to hop on now before there’s a long line to get in.  He had his abbreviated rookie season, cut short by injury.  He had his full season as The Man behind the plate.  To date, nothing appears to be “too big” for this kid to handle.  The most important stuff – receiving pitches, handling pitchers, calling a game – is well within his wheelhouse.  The rest – hitting for stuff besides gargantuan power – is sure to improve as his comfort level continues to grow.

Last year, our boy hit 22 homers, in the mostly pressure-free “bottom of the order”.  That’s the good, but even that is something that can be improved upon.  The bad is his .199 batting average.  His 17 walks compared to 158 strikeouts.  His lack of speed and overall baserunning ability is something that’s just taken for granted, but his work at the plate can use some improvement.  Nevertheless, we now have his floor established.  If he is – going forward – the guy he was in 2014, it’s not the WORST thing in the world.  You’ve still got a quality defender and a power bat at the bottom of the order.  BUT, if he improves in his work at the plate – working counts, reducing strikeouts, eliminating holes in his swing – then the sky is the limit and we will all quickly forget what a trainwreck he was with a bat in his first couple seasons.  I believe he’s bound to only get better.  He’s probably 3-4 years away from his offensive peak years, but it’s still going to be fun to watch him improve.  If we get the same great defense, add about 25 points to his batting average, reduce his strikeouts by 10-15, and increase his walks by 10-15, I think those are very reasonable goals to attain in 2015.  His ceiling for this year is all of that, plus he scratches the surface of 30 homers & 30 doubles, but that’s probably a best-case scenario.

It’s also probably going to be the norm in his peak offensive years, so like I said before, these are fun times to be a Mike Zunino fan.

Seth Smith & Justin Ruggiano – You can’t talk about one without the other, as this is a package deal.  Seth Smith is the lefty.  That’s what we all need to remember.  He’s the guy who’s going to be playing more often, because there are more right-handed starting pitchers in baseball than lefties.  So, figure Smith plays about 2/3 of the games compared to Ruggiano’s 1/3 (if everything pans out, and both stay healthy).

I’m utterly convinced that one of these guys is going to fail miserably.  Odds are, Ruggiano is that guy.  Smith has experience playing in bigger ballparks, as he’s played with the A’s and Padres the last three seasons.  The fact that he was reasonably successful with the A’s doesn’t lead me to worry too much about his abilities to hit American League pitching.  And, quite frankly, considering he’s coming off of his best season – playing down in San Diego – gives me great comfort that he’s not about to fall off the tracks.

Ruggiano has been more or less a career backup.  He’s bounced around from the Rays to the Marlins to the Cubs last season.  He’s got moderate pop in his bat, which should be riddled useless in Safeco.  He’s the righty who does pretty well against lefties, so hopefully that trend continues.  Given the fact that he’s looking at some pretty spotty playing time, it wouldn’t shock me in the least if he gets off to a slow start.  I’m not expecting a ton out of either of these guys, though.  If we can get some good batting averages out of them, and occasional timely hitting with runners in scoring position, I’ll be happy.

Brad Miller & Chris Taylor – This is the loser-out situation in camp.  So, get ready for a million articles and blog posts on the Short Stop Battle of 2015!

Remember the Short Stop Battle of 2014?  Pretty lame, if you ask me.  Brad Miller had a torrid love affair with Spring Training and knocked Nick Franklin down to Tacoma.  Then, of course, Miller stunk once the calendar flipped to April, and was pretty bad until we were able to call up Chris Taylor.

What you need to know here is:  Miller has the bat, Taylor has the glove.  Miller’s power gives him the edge in this race, and since I’m convinced he’s a Spring Training Dandy, I’m throwing my full prediction behind Miller winning the job.  Either way, I think it’s good we have both of these guys, as I’m not convinced we should be sold on either.

I’m encouraged by the way Miller finished up his season last year.  That leads me to believe the pressure didn’t totally deflate him.  With that year under his belt, maybe he’ll be able to calm down and relax at the plate a little more.  It also helps that he’s not going into the season as the leadoff hitter.  They’ll most likely keep him in the 9-hole to take advantage of his speed as the lineup turns over.  I’m expecting a little more consistency out of Miller, which will be good for everyone, because if we can get him going, this lineup has the potential for juggernaut status.

Lots to like here.  Can’t wait for it to begin.  Go M’s.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part II

Consider this the second in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Click HERE for Part I
Click HERE for Part III (tomorrow)

Corey Hart – The Mariners picked him up as a free agent, taking a flyer that he’d return to his old, bashing ways in Milwaukee.  Of course, he hadn’t played since 2012 – losing a full year to knee injuries – and baseball isn’t like riding a bike.  Especially when you’re 142 years old ABOUT A YEAR YOUNGER THAN I AM?  GOOD GOD I’M OLD!

Hart appeared in a lot of games in the first month and a half.  Mostly at DH.  Occasionally – and ill-advisedly – in the outfield.  Then, he was placed on the DL.  He returned to play a lot in July, then he went back on the DL again until September call-ups.  He stunk throughout, hitting right around .200 for the season.

He had 9 doubles and 6 homers in 68 games.  A paltry 32% of his hits went for extra bases, which is not something you’re looking for in a “power hitter” in your cleanup spot, who you want protecting Robinson Cano in the order.

Outlook for 2015:  The Mariners have already given him his release, because they needed to make room to bring Jesus Montero back from the suspended list.  That’s how little Corey Hart means to this organization, and it’s the perfect representation of his value.  When you look back at his career as a Mariner, just think about that and frown.  Frown with all your might.

Austin Jackson – If you haven’t by now TL;DR’d this series of posts and you’re following along closely, A-Jax is the second of three guys we traded for in July to help bolster the ballclub.  We traded Nick Franklin to get him.  Nick Franklin was an expendable trade chip who never really had a future in this organization once Robbie Cano was signed.  Austin Jackson was a very good, still-in-his-prime centerfielder with another year of team control in 2015.

The Mariners, of course, DESPERATELY needed a centerfielder.  With Guti taking the year off to get his health issues squared away (and no longer a centerfield prospect anymore, given his durability issues), with Abe Almonte a fucking zoo out there, and with James Jones’ absolute dearth of power, we didn’t have a whole lot of options.  A-Jax looked like a perfect fit.

In Detroit, from 2010-2013, A-Jax was worth no less than 3.4 wins per year.  He was a plus-fielder with quicks on the basepaths who could hit for some pop as well as for average.  He declined greatly in 2014, for reasons no one can quite fathom.  In Detroit this year, he was average-at-best, though his power and overall hitting numbers weren’t down dramatically.  Which makes you wonder if he took that huge step back in the field.  Either way, he was better than what we had in Seattle – or so we thought.

In Seattle, A-Jax batted .229/.267/.260.  He was good for 0.1 WAR.  And, not for nothing, but anecdotally he was a fucking disaster in big situations.  Seemed like whenever he had a man on base or otherwise an opportunity to positively affect a ballgame, he would instead ground into a double play or (at best) strike out.  He proved to be my least-favorite of the three mid-season acquisitions, and that’s REALLY saying something Kendrys Morales.

Outlook for 2015:  Still in Seattle, still starting in center, still batting leadoff.  At least out of Spring Training.  Beyond that, who’s to say?  If he plays like he did in the last two months of this season, you never know.  We may be talking about one of the many reasons why the 2015 Mariners DON’T make the playoffs.  Honestly, we’re REALLY counting on A-Jax to turn it around.  I highly doubt the Mariners are going to go out and find another guy to compete in center.  So, if A-Jax fails, and there’s no one in the minors to take his place, we’re proper fucked at a spot on the team where we’re banking on being set.  Just in case you were overwhelmed by the warm-fuzzies after this pleasant 2014 run, keep that in mind.

James Jones – In his first two months, James Jones was amazing.  He was everything Abe Almonte wasn’t.  He was crisp at the plate.  He wasn’t the most-refined in the outfield, but he was solid enough.  And, he was a wizard on the basepaths.

Then, July came around and he started falling off.  We all started noticing his faults.  Like:  how he wasn’t really improving as a centerfielder.  Like:  how he couldn’t hit for power.  Like:  how if he didn’t slap a single the other way, he couldn’t get on base to take advantage of those legs.  In the end, he lost his starting job, was sent back to Tacoma for a couple weeks, then returned exclusively as a bench player.

It’s the part he was born to play, baby!

Keep him away from the starting lineup, keep him out of center, and watch him shine.  He’s a plus-defender in the corner outfield, with speed and a strong arm.  Put him in during the later innings to replace Endy Chavez or whoever.  Pinch run him for Kendrys Morales or some other slow piece of crap.  He’s GOLD!

27 stolen bases in 28 attempts.  Very, very good.

14 extra-base hits in 312 at-bats (with only 12 walks vs. 67 strikeouts) is very, very BAD.  That’s factoring in how a lot of those doubles were hustle-doubles.

Outlook for 2015:  He needs to bulk up.  He needs to get a little more power into his bat.  He needs to retain how well he hit the outside pitch the other way, but he’s also gotta recognize pitches better and take MANY more walks.  His career will be built on a foundation of base-stealing.  If he wants that career to primarily take place in the Majors, then he needs to figure out a way to get on base with more regularity.  In an ideal world, he’d fix what’s wrong with him and be our fourth or fifth outfielder.  But, I got a feeling he’ll start out in Tacoma again.  Not the worst thing in the world.

Brad Miller – In following the Dustin Ackley Path To Success, Brad Miller was a mid-season call-up as a rookie and did quite well.  So well, in fact, that he pretty much earned his starting job without a fight.  Nevertheless, the Mariners put the short stop job up for grabs between Miller and Nick Franklin.  Didn’t matter, as Miller mopped the floor with him in the month of March.  The job was his, and everyone rejoiced.

Then the regular season started:

  • April:  .173/.212/.333 with 26 strikeouts in 81 at-bats
  • May:  .136/.260/.152 with 17 strikeouts and 1 extra-base hit in 66 at-bats

In June, he turned it around with:  .298/.355/.512 with 21 strikeouts in 84 at-bats.  But, then July happened:  .172/.262/.224 with 12 strikeouts and 3 extra-base hits in 58 at-bats.  On July 24th, Miller lost his starting job for good, with the promotion of Chris Taylor.  From that point on, they’d split duties, with Taylor getting the bulk of the looks the rest of the way in high-pressure games.

To his credit, Miller did turn his season around somewhat:

  • August:  .273/.357/.545 with 6 strikeouts and 4 extra-base hits in only 22 at-bats
  • September:  .314/.340/.549 with 13 strikeouts and 7 extra-base hits in 51 at-bats

On the whole, Miller’s 2014 was worse than his 2013, but he still has the potential to be a solid starting short stop in this league.  His power potential is undeniable.  His defense isn’t quite as good as Taylor’s, but he’s very athletic and there’s talk of him maybe converting to outfield (or, at least adding that to his repertoire to become a super-utility guy).  Normally, losing your starting position and getting that super-utility label is a death sentence, but in this case I’m willing to hear it out.

Outlook for 2015:  He will once again come in competing for the starting short stop job, this time against Chris Taylor.  If he mashes again like he did in Spring of 2014, he’s certain to win the job out of camp.  But, I have no doubt that if all things are equal with health, there will be a short leash on Miller if he struggles again in April.

Jesus Montero – You know the story:  we traded Michael Pineda and some other dude for Montero and Hector Noesi.  Noesi was a disaster who was finally DFA’d this year (and who became an okay starter for a struggling White Sox team).  Pineda has been mostly injured throughout his time with the Yankees, but at season’s end he flashed that potential he showed in Seattle as a rookie.

Jesus Montero, on the other hand, has been a fucking loser from the get-go.  First, he was our starting catcher of the future; that didn’t pan out.  Then, we looked to convert him to first base; that hasn’t gone well.  He’s a fat, immobile turd who gets to add “injury prone” to his list of descriptors.  Then, towards the end of the 2014 season, on a rehab assignment with the Everett Aqua Sox, functioning as a first base coach (which, not for nothing, is his future in the game:  a base coach for a single-A baseball team), Jesus Montero was baited into an altercation with an allegedly drunken scout (at the time) for the Seattle Mariners after that scout (again allegedly) sent him an ice cream sandwich and yelled at him to hustle more.

The scout was fired (and rightly so, because I like to give Montero shit, but even I know he was acting like a cunt), and Jesus Montero was suspended (probably because he went into the stands with a baseball bat in his hands, which is a huge no-no in sports).  Montero has since been reinstated, and is apparently being watched like a hawk by the Mariners’ front office.  There’s one last chance on the table for Montero in a Mariners uniform (or, more likely, for Montero as trade bait to try to recoup some of his tons of lost value).  They’ve got him in Arizona working out on a strict exercise program (because, you know, he came in fat to Spring Training 2014 and admitted as such in interviews that all he did was sit around and stuff his face during the offseason).

Outlook for 2015:  Once a loser, always a loser.  There will be all this crap written about how he’s in the “best shape of his life”, but that’ll probably mean that he’s lost all his power.  He’ll start out in Tacoma and continue to suck (if he’s not outright traded in the offseason as a throw-in to a much bigger deal).

Kendrys Morales – Sigh.  Here we go.

You remember him as a productive hitter for the Angels for a bunch of years.  Then, he broke his foot or some damn thing while celebrating a game-winning home run and he ended up losing his 2011 season.  The Mariners swapped Jason Vargas for him straight up prior to the 2013 season (after a decent, but not great 2012) and he had a decent, but not great first year with the club.

The big draw with Morales – aside from being a huge step up compared to the other DHs we’ve employed since Edgar Martinez retired – was that even though he’d be a free agent at season’s end, we could tender him and if he signed as a free agent elsewhere, we’d get a high draft pick (a first rounder most likely, unless it was one of the top 10 “protected” draft picks).  So, we offered him the tender – 1 year, $14.1 million – and of course he turned it down.  Reportedly, we even offered him a 3-year, $30 million deal, and he turned THAT down.  See, Scott Boras is his agent, and together they thought they could squeeze a little more out of the free agent market.

They couldn’t.  No one would sign him.  Because no one wants a broken down statue on the basepaths who can’t play first base because he’ll get hurt or need a few days off every time.  He’s a DH and nothing more, and not even that great of a DH at that.  .449 slugging percentage in 2013, playing almost every single day.  That’s crap.  When you bring nothing else to the table, then guess what:  you don’t get contract offers when it means a team has to give up a high draft pick.

In June, he signed with the Twins.  Again reportedly, the Mariners were interested in signing him during the season, but he wouldn’t have it.  So, we ended up trading for him, by giving the Twins Stephen Pryor (a reliever returning from major injury who was no longer the smoke-thrower he was pre-surgery).

Kendrys had 154 at bats with the Twins.  His numbers were bad (.234/.259/.325), but we all rationalized it away by saying, “He didn’t have a REAL Spring Training, so just consider his numbers with the Twins as his Spring.”

That oft-belabored talking point would soon switch to, “If the Mariners can just get Kendrys going down the stretch, everything should be all right with the offense.”  That’s because he was much, MUCH worse as a Seattle Mariner than he was as a Twin (hitting .207/.285/.347), so whenever he managed to do something right (which, again, wasn’t very often), we all had to hope and pray that THIS was the day that turned a slumping slugger who has “always hit” into what we thought we were getting as the centerpiece of our mid-season trades to bolster a contending team.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  But, at least Morales doesn’t have to worry about being tendered anymore.  Even if he DID qualify, there’s no way in FUCKING HELL that even the Mariners would be stupid enough to offer him a 1-year deal for $15.3 million.

Outlook for 2015:  If he had managed even a semi-reasonable finish to his 2014 season, I could’ve seen the Mariners trying to bring him back on a 2-3 year deal.  But, he looked so bad, I doubt it’d happen.  On top of that, I don’t think Morales wants to be here.  Truth be told, he never did (and proved it by signing with a last-place Twins team even though the Mariners were in contention this year and wanted him back), but after his disaster of a season, I think he’s going somewhere on a prove-it deal.  Some place like Baltimore or the Yankees or some other place he can DH in a small ballpark.  Get his numbers back up to where they should be, and then hopefully sign a final long-term deal for big money with the Rangers or some damn place.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part I

Consider this the first in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Dustin Ackley – Funny thing about Ackley.  If you’d followed the Mariners all season, you’d know that Ackley was one of the most important reasons for our continued success.  But, if you didn’t follow along, and you just now looked at his numbers on the surface, you’d think, “What’s the big fucking deal, bitch?”  He batted .245 this year; he batted .253 LAST year.  He walked only 32 times this year in 143 games; he walked 37 times last year in only 113 games.  What gives?

Well, for starters, his slugging went way up.  .398 vs. .341 last year.  That amounts to 27 doubles, 4 triples, and 14 homers, over last year’s 18/2/4 line on extra-base hits.

Then, take a look at his first half vs. second half.  At the end of the day on June 30, 2014, Ackley was hitting:  .214/.273/.329/.602, with 12 doubles, 2 triples, & 4 homers.  From July 1st onward, Ackley hit .274 with a slugging percentage of .463.  He hit 15 doubles, 2 triples, and a whopping 10 homers to really pick up the slack.  It might’ve been even better, but a nagging ankle injury in September limited his playing time and production.  His August was insane, though:  .280/.325/.533/.857.

So, what does all of this mean?  Haven’t we been seduced by this siren’s song before?  He played a little over half a season (from mid-June onward) as a rookie and did well.  He had a solid start to 2012 and then fell off the map.  He struggled for most of the first half of 2013 before turning it on in August (after enduring a monthlong stint in the minors to get his head right).  Then, in 2014, he struggled in the first half again – finding himself batting towards the bottom of the lineup – before turning it on in the second half.  Which Ackley is the real Ackley?  I’d like to believe he can uphold his second half numbers, but I’ll never be sure until I actually see it for a full year.

Outlook for 2015:  Ackley looks to be the Mariners’ starting left fielder once again, as well as our 2-hole hitter.  We’ll bank on him continuing to hit and play solid corner defense.  If all goes well, we’ve got our left fielder of the future, today.  If all goes to shit, then Ackley is nothing more than a 4th outfielder on a good team’s bench.

Abraham Almonte – On the heels of a pretty mediocre Spring Training, Almonte was handed the keys to the starting center field job as well as our leadoff hitter role.  He was fast, he was exciting at times, but he was raw and for as many amazing plays he made, he made twice as many mistakes.  In the end, he hit like shit and was sent down to Tacoma in early May.  He was later traded to the Padres for Chris Denorfia, where he went on to be a slightly better – but still quite mediocre – hitter.  And then in September, his playing time was cut drastically.

Outlook for 2015:  I have to imagine in AAA somewhere, but certainly not for the Mariners.

Willie Bloomquist – He was a guy – if you’re a Mariners fan – who nobody wanted.  And yet, he was a guy who the Mariners signed to a 2-year guaranteed deal to be this team’s primary utility infielder/outfielder.  And, in the first three and a half months, he played more than anyone would’ve liked, because the majority of this lineup sucked dick.  Particularly our short stop and our entire outfield.  As such, not only did Willie play a lot for a utility guy, but he batted near the top of the lineup.

And, if I’m being honest, he wasn’t The Worst.  He batted .278 and played solid defense.  He was a replacement-level god in a world of sub-replacement clods.  He held this team together in a lot of ways until other guys either improved on their own or came up from Tacoma.  Then, he had a season-ending injury.  But, it was okay.  Chris Taylor was slapping hits around, Ackley was turning it on, and trades were made to theoretically bolster the lineup.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s still under contract, so there’s that.  He had surgery, so I guess it all depends on how he recovers.  If he’s able to return to form, he should be good to have around on the bench.  If he’s not, then we’ll have to decide whether we want to eat the salary, or keep him around anyway as a veteran presence or some damn thing.  I tend to believe he’ll be here, but it wouldn’t kill me if he started the season in the Minors (so, on the DL, getting some extended Spring Training).

John Buck – He was our backup catcher, brought in on a 1-year deal, to back up Mike Zunino (with an outside shot at playing more regularly, depending on whether or not Zunino struggled at the Major League level).  He played in 27 games for the Mariners, he was pisspoor behind the plate, and he was even worse at bat.  He’ll be remembered for hitting a game-winning 2-run home run down in Atlanta, and then getting DFA’d on his birthday on July 7th after a 2-0 win at home over the Twins.  By all accounts, he was a great Clubhouse Guy (who may or may not have come up with the double-jackoff hand signals after guys reached base), but he was also a poor receiver who the pitchers wanted to be rid of.  Jesus Sucre was called up to replace him.  The Mariners would go on to lose their next three games and finish the month of July 7-12, inciting what many only I called the John Buck Curse.

Outlook for 2015:  He was apparently picked up in September by the Angels and played in five games.  The Angels would go on to have the best record in the American League, only to get swept in the ALDS by the Royals.  So, maybe the John Buck Curse has many different meanings.  He won’t be back with the Mariners and he likely won’t be back in baseball period.  All adequate things must come to an end.

Robinson Cano – You know the story:  10 years, $240 million.  He’s here through the 2023 season.  2014 was Year One.

  • The numbers:  .314/.382/.454/.836; 37 doubles, 2 triples, 14 homers, 10 stolen bases, 61 walks, 68 strikeouts, 82 RBI, 77 runs scored, 6.4 WAR, 1 heart stolen (mine, *swoon*)

Want to know how those numbers line up with his career figures?  Let’s take a look:

  • .310/.358/.499/.857; 41.2 doubles per year, 3 triples, 21.8 homers, 4.8 stolen bases (his 2014 total was a career-best), 41.1 walks, 75.7 strikeouts, 90.4 RBI, 87.6 runs scored, 4.88 WAR

His power numbers were a little down, but you had to expect that coming from a bandbox in the Bronx to a cavernous wasteland that is Safeco Field.  Nevertheless, if you go by WAR, this was the fourth-best season of his career.  And that’s in a lineup with not a whole lot around him in support.  There was Seager, and a lot of question marks and holes.  It’s no wonder Cano was among the league leaders in intentional walks.

Consider me a Cano Fan 4 Life after he won me $500 and gave me a good excuse to go back to Tahoe next year to claim my winnings.  We shouldn’t expect these types of numbers for the remaining nine years of his contract, but it’s a helluva start, and in my opinion he’s worth every fucking penny.

Outlook for 2015:  Starting second baseman, 3-hole hitter.  Mark it down in Sharpie.  MVP candidate?  You got it!  The guy who ultimately brings the Mariners back to the post-season?  Gosh I hope so!  Any way you slice it, I would expect numbers comparable to what he did in 2014, with little-to-no dropoff.

Endy Chavez – Like 2013, Endy Chavez signed a minor league deal to return to the Mariners in 2014.  Like 2013, Endy Chavez started the regular season in Tacoma.  This year, he first appeared on May 30th; I believe he had it written into his contract that if he wasn’t on the Mariners’ roster by the end of May, he could get his release and be free to sign elsewhere.

When Endy first played for the Mariners in 2009, he had speed and great fielding ability.  Then, Yuniesky Betancourt happened, causing Endy to tear an ACL.  Ever since, he’s lost much of that speed and fielding ability.  But, if you’re looking for a guy to come off the bench, play some corner outfield, play some emergency centerfield in a pinch, and hit .270 while slapping around a bunch of singles and never walking, then Endy Chavez is your guy!  In short, I like him for what he is.  I like him as THAT.  I don’t like it when he’s playing every day and I don’t like it when he’s batting near the top of the lineup.  Maybe if he walked more, but that’s never going to happen.

Outlook for 2015:  Surprisingly, Endy only played in 80 games this year.  Doesn’t it feel like A LOT more?  I guess if you factor in how he missed the first two months, he really did play in a high percentage (probably around 3/4 of all possible games).  I get the sense that the Mariners will bring him back once again on a minor league deal.  Because why not?  Is he really holding anyone else back?  Not from what I’ve seen.  I’ll take his .270 batting average over some of the stiffs we’ve had roaming the corner outfield spots of late.  If you figure the locks to make this outfield are Ackley, A-Jax, and Michael Saunders (with James Jones as an outside shot as a 4th guy); and if you figure that the Mariners are all but guaranteed to go out and get another outfielder to compete for a starting spot from outside the organization; then it really makes a lot of sense to bring Endy back, start him in Tacoma, and bring him up in late May again if there’s a need for bench help.

Chris Denorfia – He was one of three guys we acquired in trade in the month of July to help us with our stretch run.  We weren’t asking for a lot out of Denorfia:  platoon in right field with Endy Chavez/Michael Saunders when he was healthy, and hit well against left-handed pitchers.  What we got was remarkably less than what we expected.

In 2013, Denorfia was a 4-win player for San Diego, who also plays in a pitcher’s paradise.  He’s always been more or less a bench player in his career, but he got real starting time from 2011-2013 and made the most of it, accounting for a little over 7 wins in production during that time.  For whatever reason, in 2014 he fell off the proverbial cliff.  In 89 games with the Padres before being traded, he hit .242/.293/.319 – essentially the definition of replacement-level.  We picked him up and he hit .195/.256/.317, or just less than a replacement-level player.  In real-world numbers, he had 5 extra-base hits in 32 games.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper.  We brought this guy in to bat right-handed against left-handed pitchers.  How did he do in the role he was brought in for?

In 61 of 90 plate appearances, he hit .164/.246/.255, with 2 of his 5 extra-base hits.

So, in other words, he was an unmitigated disaster.  Chock that trade up as a huge FAIL, because I can all but guarantee that Abe Almonte could’ve EASILY surpassed those bullshit numbers.

Outlook for 2015:  Not a Mariner.  I don’t care where he ends up, as long as it’s not here.  He’ll probably get a minor league deal with an invite to camp somewhere to compete for another bench spot.  I’d say 50/50 he breaks camp with a Major League team.

Nick Franklin – In Spring Training, it was a battle between Nick Franklin and Brad Miller for the starting short stop job.  Remember that?  Remember how we signed Cano, thereby closing that position to Franklin who’d started there for much of 2013?  Remember how we had visions of turning Franklin into a reserve outfielder?

Anyway, Brad Miller was off-the-charts hot in Spring Training, and that was that for Franklin.  Until around mid-April, when he was called up because he was hitting so well and Miller wasn’t.  He proceeded to stink and by early June was back down in Tacoma again.

We would go on to trade him to the Rays in a 3-team deal that brought us Austin Jackson.  At the time, it looked like a gift from the Heavens.

Franklin wouldn’t make his Rays debut until September.  He played in 11 games for them in total.  In his first start, he had two hits with a double, an RBI, and a run scored.  He would go on to have only five more hits, two more extra-baggers, and that’s about it.

Outlook for 2015:  I guess contending for a roster spot with the Rays?  There’s a lot of team control left, so I’m sure he’ll have plenty of chances.  We’ll see.

Cole Gillespie – He’s another fringe, AAAA-type player who’s probably too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the Majors.  And yet, I’m absolutely certain he would’ve been an improvement over Chris Denorfia.  He played in 34 games and did okay.  I still don’t quite remember why we let him go.  He played in 1 other Major League game after he left and I don’t know what’s going on now.

Outlook for 2015:  Sometimes you eat the bar …

Mariners Do Something: Evaluating The Trade Deadline Deals

Mariners trade Abraham Almonte (OF) & Stephen Kohlscheen (RP) to San Diego for Chris Denorfia (OF)

Chris Denorfia is a guy who can play the outfield.  He’s been more-or-less a regular presence since 2011, playing more-or-less everyday when healthy.  He bats right handed and apparently hits left handed pitching pretty well.  He’s got a very minimal amount of pop in his bat, but at least this means we don’t have to see both Endy Chavez AND James Jones in the same lineup at the same time.

In exchange, we gave up Abraham Almonte, who is a poor man’s James Jones.  And also whatever a Stephen Kohlscheen is.  Apparently, he’s a minor league relief pitcher.  BFD.  Denorfia is a free agent at the end of this year, which leads me to believe this is strictly a rental, because what free agent hitter in his right mind would opt to stick around this hellhole?

It’s another safe move in a long line of moves where the Mariners want to look like they’re doing something without actually doing something.  I suppose it beats any panic move where we sell off important future assets for pennies on the dollar.  But, just once, I’d like to see the Mariners really go to town and fleece someone good.

Mariners trade Nick Franklin (2B) to Rays, who trade David Price (SP) to Tigers, who trade Austin Jackson (OF) to Mariners (the Rays also got Drew Smyly (SP) from the Tigers … and I guess a young minor leaguer?)

Or, I could just put it like this, to make it less confusing:

Mariners trade Nick Franklin (2B) for Austin Jackson (OF)

Nick Franklin was blocked at second base, obvs.  Nick Franklin is not what you should be looking for in a starting short stop, defensively-speaking.  Nick Franklin strikes out a shit-ton and seems to be too in love with the long ball (maybe if he was actually BETTER at hitting the long ball, this wouldn’t be a bad thing, but he’s literally a Smurf – three apples tall – so no).

In short, we had no use for Nick Franklin, unless we were going to take the time and effort to turn him into a super utility bench player, which was never going to happen.  He was always good in the minors.  He was good for a bit in 2013 with the Mariners, then he stunk.  He lost the battle for the short stop spot in Spring Training 2014, then he didn’t get much of a shot with the Mariners thereafter, and when he did he stunk even worse than last year.  Nick Franklin was a fucking useless, non-lethal appendage:  it didn’t hurt to have him as part of your organization, but it didn’t help either.

Austin Jackson is your new starting center fielder.  He’s 27 years old, bats righty, leads off a lineup, and is under contract through 2015.  He’ll steal you a base occasionally, he’s already got one of the best on-base percentages on the team, and he’s already hit 25 doubles in his first 99 games of the season.  Austin Jackson is so much better than Endy Chavez and James Jones, I can’t even see straight!

Further Analysis

When you tack on these two moves with the Pryor for Morales trade, you finally start seeing some semblance of an offense taking shape.  People are already trying to condemn the Morales move as a failed experiment, even though he’s been with the team a whole week, but I’m not going to give up on a tried and true hitter just yet.

Here’s what I expect a lineup to look like:

  1. Austin Jackson (CF)
  2. Dustin Ackley/Michael Saunders (LF)
  3. Robbie Cano (2B)
  4. Kendrys Morales (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mike Zunino (C)
  7. Chris Denorfia/Endy Chavez (RF)
  8. Logan Morrison (1B)
  9. Chris Taylor/Brad Miller (SS)

You probably have to platoon Denorfia.  He’ll play against all lefty pitchers and some righties.  With Jackson starting every day, there’s probably no need to keep Jones.  Better to send Jones to Tacoma, let him get CF reps on a daily basis (especially with Almonte going to the Padres).  Have to imagine this is also curtains for Stefen Romero, because he’s also useless, but actively hurting our big league club every time he gets a start.

The question remains:  what happens when Paxton is activated for his start on Saturday?  Either the Mariners DFA Corey Hart, or they send down one of their relievers.  By my count, we have 8 relievers, which is probably 1 too many.  I could see this going either way, to tell you the truth.  With the reliever sent down, we don’t have to DFA anyone.  Do we want to keep Hart around as a pinch hitter and a seldom-used DH/1B?  Sigh, I guess.  I know we have Smoak and Montero down in Tacoma to use in case of injury, but who gives a damn at this point?

We’re knocking Hart out of the everyday lineup, so that’s a start.  Maybe he can start to get his timing back by hitting the batting cages extra hard.  He’s certainly more of a threat as a pinch hitter than Romero, and probably more of a threat than either Smoak or Montero, so whatever.

All in all, not a bad day.  We didn’t get Zobrist or Price or Lester, so you can forget about a serious threat at the World Series.  But, on the plus side, we’ve locked down our center field position for 2015.  That’s one less guy we’d have to go get in the offseason.

Two months to go.  Let’s see what the boys can do.

At This Point, We Have To Ask Ourselves: Are There Too Many Holes To Fill On The Mariners?

At this point, about three weeks ago, I was really gung-ho about the Mariners’ chances.  It was at about this time where I had a very simple request:  get a top-notch starter and two decent-to-good hitters and let’s go win this thing!  Specifically:  Price, Zobrist, and whoever else that could DH/play first base.  The last piece of that puzzle could be almost anyone – as long as he’s an improvement in some way over Hart – which is why Kendrys Morales fits the bill.  But, with the Rays just destroying teams left and right, and with not only their division but the second Wild Card perfectly in sight, they no longer have any incentive to give away their two best players for prospects.  They can utilize the window they’ve got open right now and try to win with Price before he becomes too expensive to keep.

With that season-saving move off the table (what I wouldn’t give to be able to pool all of our resources with that of the Rays to make a super team; only in my dreams, I guess), and with the majority of Mariners hitters completely falling off the fucking table, it’s time for some hard truths:  there is too much to fix on this team to make 2014 a realistic option.

As per usual, we’ve got the two locks:  Cano & Seager.  Obviously, they can’t do everything, but they do just enough to avoid our scorn.  After that, when it comes to simply batting, we’ve got a sea of duds.  Zunino is a lock, but that’s primarily for what he brings to the table defensively.  We could withstand his lack of getting on base if the rest of the lineup was solid, because he has just enough power to be a solid #8 or #9 hitter in the order.  Everyone else, you’d like to see replaced.

A few weeks ago, I had James Jones down as a lock, but that was before it was made aware to me that he’s actually not that great defensively.  Just because he’s the fastest guy on the team, doesn’t mean he’s a good defensive center fielder.  He takes poor routes on balls and seems tentative on those iffy plays where he can’t decide whether to dive for the catch or pull up to keep the play a single.  He has a strong arm, but nasty accuracy issues.  So, without any discernable defensive advantage, what have we got?  A guy who absolutely refuses to work a count and take a walk, and a guy whose only power derives from slapping a ball to the opposite field and legging out a hustle double.  If his defense was Guti-like, we could all forgive the lack of power and on-base-ness (because of that and his contributions on the basepaths, stealing and whatnot).  But, without that defensive advantage, he’s just a faster version of Endy Chavez.

Who, I might remind you, is getting the bulk of the playing time with Michael Saunders on the DL!  Yes, we like Saunders, and when he’s healthy he’s a remarkable contributor to this lineup.  But, we simply can’t count on him being healthy, which means he probably HAS to be a part-time player going forward, whether we want him to be or not.

When you tack on Ackley, you’ve got all three outfield spots that need to be improved upon.  Yes, I know Ackley has been on a tear in the month of July, but it won’t last.  It never lasts.  This is Ackley flashing his awesome potential – the reason why he was a #2 overall pick – which ultimately leaves us wondering “What If”, which leads to more playing time, which leads to him stinking for the vast majority of the year.  To count on Ackley keeping up this hot July through the rest of the season is absolutely asinine.  You can do it if you want to, but I’ll have to see it to believe it.

Then, there’s short stop.  Brad Miller is a fucking mess at the plate, so the Mariners brought up Chris Taylor.  Taylor is supposedly the best defensive short stop we’ve got in the organization, so that’s neat.  He was never projected to be much with the bat, yet he’s done nothing but tear new assholes in the minor leagues.  Even if he struggles somewhat at the plate, his defensive contributions should be enough to warrant his roster spot.  In that regard, he’s a lot like Zunino, in that on a good team – WITHOUT seven holes in the lineup – you could bury him in the 8- or 9-hole and be okay.  Not so much here.

And, of course, who can leave out 1B/DH?  Kendrys Morales is back, locking down that DH spot, so we’ll see how that goes.  If he returns to last year’s form, we should be okay.  If he continues to struggle, as he did for much of his time in Minnesota, then I guess he’s one more flop to throw on the pile.

Morales’ return means we’ve got LoMo and Hart at first base.  I feel like, even if we don’t make a move at the trade deadline, this team is pretty close to DFA’ing Hart.  He’s done.  To be frank, I’ve been calling for his head for weeks, but I’m not even mad at him anymore.  THAT’S how certain I am that his impending removal is imminent.  Then, there’s LoMo, who was on a nice little Ackley-esque tear when he came back from the DL, but has once again reverted to his inconsistent, Ackley-esque form.

When Saunders was healthy, and LoMo was roping the ball, and James Jones was slapping singles the opposite way and stealing bases left and right, and Brad Miller was on the mend at the plate after a disasterous first couple months, and Seager was ascending to All Star status, and Cano was Cano, and Zunino’s contact rate was up, it was easy to see how a hitter here and a starting pitcher there could turn this already-good team into a real, legitimate contender.  But now?  I don’t think there’s any saving this season.

Oh, we’ll continue to hang around, “in the hunt” as they say.  We’ll be .500 or a little bit better, within shouting distance of that elusive second Wild Card spot.  We can do nothing else – leaving it at that when it comes to trades – and offensive regression alone will pick up to the point where we’ll look good at times.  Great, even!  And, if our pitching somehow holds, we MIGHT even win that second Wild Card spot.  It’s not impossible; nothing’s impossible when it comes to the second Wild Card.

But, it’s not bloody likely.  And, my attitude might change, but right now I’m weirdly okay with that.  This season was certainly interesting, but without major upgrades, it’s not meant to be.  Major David Price & Ben Zobrist upgrades, which – as I stated above – aren’t going to happen.  At this point, it’s probably better to NOT sell the farm.  Not for the lesser return we’d likely see.  I still think we should ship off Nick Franklin for a warm body who can play outfield and replace Endy Chavez/Stefen Romero.  But, no longer do I think we should throw everything at winning now.  It’s a lost cause.  The last couple of months can still be entertaining, but they’ll just be baseball.  A higher-quality of baseball than we’ve been used to this last decade, but just baseball, not Playoff Baseball.

There’s still a lot to like.  The rotation is rock solid with Felix and Iwakuma at the top.  Roenis Elias will have survived his first full season in the Majors.  While he will be shut down in the coming weeks, it’s still quite the accomplishment, and something to look forward to for next year.  And, there’s still a chance for Taijuan Walker & James Paxton to make an impact in August or September.  If we can get them back, at full health, it’ll be a nice little momentum-builder going into next year.  Granted, this is what we were talking about at the end of 2013, but they can’t lose ALL their seasons to injury, can they?  Hell, maybe Chris Young keeps up this insane run of pitching he’s been on and we bring him back to a modest salary in 2015.

At this point, we know what’s necessary next year.  A lot of it is the same problems we’ve had for years:  first base, DH, outfield.  We’ve got a foundation in place with Cano, Seager, and Zunino.  I figure Zunino’s production at the plate is bound to improve year by year until he’s eventually an All Star, so we should get a boost there.  There are ALWAYS outfielders to be had in free agency, as long as we know where to look.  No more reclamation projects.  Now, we need to go out and build on this talent we’ve already got.  It’s okay to over-pay for free agents if you’re over-paying for quality.  And, when Ackley proves he’s not the guy we thought we were getting when we drafted him, flip him for someone better.

We need to be gunning for 2015 now; that’s where our big hope lies.  2015 and beyond, when D.J. Peterson and some of our other highly-touted prospects are ready to be thrown into the fire.

The Mariners Are Letting This Season Slip Through Their Grasp

It’s that sense of panic and dread.  Like, you can read the writing on the wall and you know something intensely bad is going to go down, it’s just a matter of when.

Right now, things are fine.  We’re happy, we’re in the playoffs (if the season ended today), we’ve got a small lead for that second Wild Card.  Yes, the teams ahead of us in the division have made moves to better themselves, but our other Wild Card rivals haven’t really done much.  If the status remains quo, it’s not hard to see this team making the playoffs and finally giving Felix a taste of that post-season he’s craved for so long.

Today is July 24th.  Next Thursday is July 31st.  At around 1pm on the 31st, the trade deadline is going to arrive.  We’ve got a week.  We have holes on this team that need to be filled.  Failure to do so effectively flushes this season down the toilet.

The Mariners enjoyed a great month of June.  18-10, beating up on most of the small fries, everything was all right.  In July, there was REALLY more of the same.  Outside of six games against the A’s & Angels, we’ve continued to face the dregs.  Houston, Chicago, Minnesota, and most recently the Mets.  We should have won each of those series handily!  Instead, we got cut down by the starting pitching buzzsaw of the White Sox, we punted away 3 of 4 against the Twins, and by all rights we should have SWEPT the fucking Mets (but instead we lost two of three, because of course we did).

We’re five games over .500.  We need to end up around 18 games over .500 to have a realistic guarantee of making the playoffs.  We have two months and one week in which to do this.  We’re going to need some help.

At this point, just forget about going for the World Series.  That isn’t likely anymore.  Not without a David Price & Ben Zobrist combo.  Right now, it’s about keeping this season a success by making the playoffs.  Which means, we have to shift our priorities.  The Rays have gone on a crazy run and are now 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card.  They may indeed opt to trade Price & Zobrist, but it would take one whale of a deal.  Because, they have the talent to kick it into a higher gear; they’re essentially the same team that made the playoffs last year, after all.  For Price & Zobrist, I would have traded away the farm.  With that currently off the table, I’m less inclined to trade anyone of importance.

But, that doesn’t mean I don’t expect a move to be made.  Nick Franklin has to go.  There is zero point in keeping him around; he’s never going to make it as a Seattle Mariner.  He won’t fetch the biggest prize on the market, but as I’ve said all along, this team doesn’t need the best bat out there.  It just needs an excuse to DFA the fuck out of Corey Hart, because he’s a worthless waste of space.

If they can just do that one thing, I won’t completely abandon the bandwagon.  But, really, they need to replace their DH as well as their entire outfield.  The more pieces of that outfield they can improve, the better their chances of making the playoffs.  But, SOMETHING has to happen.

Really, something needed to happen about a month ago.  Since the start of that White Sox series on the 4th, the Mariners have gone 6-10.  With any kind of consistent hitting out of the black holes in our lineup, we easily could’ve gone 10-6.  EASILY.  Go 10-6 instead of 6-10 and we’ve got a 4.5 game lead in the Wild Card and things are a little more comfortable.  Instead, we’ve got a half-game lead and our castle is crumbling down around us.

There may still be time to salvage a playoff run, but the last three weeks have done A LOT of damage.  I know this is a lot of doom and gloom about a team that’s currently in the lead for the second Wild Card, but the writing is on the wall.  Hart and Ackley and Chavez all have to go.  This is no small task, but if the Mariners do nothing (or believe that Jesus Montero is the answer), you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

Believe you me, no one is going to flip out more than me if the Mariners let next week go by without a move being made.  I don’t care what bullshit excuses Jackie Z comes up with; I’ll be calling for his head immediately.

The Case For Trading The Farm

Of course, when I say, “The Farm”, I’m only talking about a few guys.  Taijuan Walker, D.J. Peterson, Alex Jackson, and maybe two or three others.  When the average Mariners fan thinks of “The Farm”, that’s who they’re thinking about.  I don’t think anyone is going to give two shits if we can package the likes of Nick Franklin, Jesus Montero, or Erasmo Ramirez into a deal – and for good reason, because they likely wouldn’t fetch much anyway, because for as down as we are on these guys, the rest of baseball – the people in The Know – are even MORE down on these guys.

Nobody really wants to sell the farm.  We’re told from day 1 that the best franchises – regardless of sport – are those who draft and bring up their own stars.  That’s just the way it is.  And, as a result, fans get WAY too attached to the players in that organization.

But, what if I told you right now that by trading Walker, Peterson, and Jackson, the Mariners would bring in enough pieces to win the World Series in 2014?  I make no promises one way or the other going forward, but for at least 2014, the Mariners will be world champs.  Would you do it?

Some people would say no.  I happen to find that sick and absurd, because I would make that trade in a heartbeat!  The only problem with trades like these – where you’re a team in contention trading away young talent to the worst teams in hopes to rent a player for a few months and hopefully a playoff run – is that they backfire just as much as they work out.  Arguably, you could say they backfire way more – because only one team per year can win the World Series, and how many teams go out every season with the express goal of improving for that very championship?

And that’s just it.  No one can guarantee anything.  So, what if the Mariners and Rays work out some kind of deal that looks like:  Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, and Dominic Leone (and maybe another lesser player or two) for David Price and Ben Zobrist (and maybe another minor leaguer).  Would you do THAT trade?  That’s a lot of guaranteed years for two guys whose deals run out after 2014 (there is a team option for Zobrist, so he technically runs through 2015).  On the flipside, you’re giving the Mariners another ace pitcher and a rock solid #2 hitter who effectively ends Dustin Ackley’s career as an everyday starter.

I feel like that’s something of a realistic trade (I’m sorry, but the Rays aren’t going to accept Franklin, Ackley, Smoak, Montero, and Furbush for their two best players; I’M SORRY!), and a deal that helps both teams (one short term, one long term).  On the one hand, you could say the Mariners are getting ripped off in that deal.  The Rays would get a potential ace pitcher, a potential starting second baseman, a potential closer, and another prospect or two; and they’d only give up their current ace pitcher (who they won’t be able to re-sign after this year anyway, because they work on a shoe-string budget) and a jack-of-all-trades switch-hitter who otherwise (if they’d kept him) would be blocking a better prospect.

On the other hand, though, what if Taijuan Walker keeps getting injured and never makes it?  What if, instead of developing and refining his game, he continues to struggle with command issues for his whole (brief) career?  What if Nick Franklin is a dud, and Leone is only an okay reliever?  If that’s the case, even if the Mariners fail in their charge to win a World Series, I’d still call it a win for the Mariners.

The fact of the matter is, there are those two best-case scenarios for either team, and there are a million other variations in between.  You’ll never know unless the deal is made.

Those fans smarter than myself would bemoan the lost service time.  They’d complain (probably rightly so) that there’s no way in Hell that David Price will re-sign here after the season.  They’d love Zobrist, because he’s amazing, but they’d see his age (33) and make note of the fact that he might not be worth $7.5 million in 2015 (especially if his numbers this year continue what’s been something of a modest downward trend over the last year and a half).  Those smarter fans may be right, but you know what?  Part of me is kinda tired of waiting.  100% of me roots for the Seattle Mariners and not really its affiliates.  I don’t care if Seattle is considered as having one of the better minor league systems, because what I REALLY care about is how well the organization is doing at the Major League level.

Yes, I WOULD take 10 years of mediocrity if it meant a world championship.  I love the old Florida Marlins model of franchise ownership!  You’re telling me that group of morons were able to win not one, but TWO titles?  Where do I sign up?

Because, honestly, what would be the difference between that vast, savage hellscape and the one we’ve just emerged from between the years 2002-2013?

And yes, I trust Jack Z to make a smart trade for this organization like I trust him to drill into my skull without touching brain.  But, here’s the thing:  which deals does he get the most shit for?  The Smoak and Montero deals, of course.  Because they were unmitigated disasters.  Smoak and Montero were supposed to be high-upside studs and are instead steaming piles of manure.  It’s hard to say those deals backfired too much, because Cliff Lee was never going to re-sign with us at season’s end, and because Pineda has been injured and suspended more than he’s been healthy and contributing at the big league level.  But, here’s another doozy:  the Doug Fister trade.  That has netted us:  Charlie Furbush, a crappy left-handed reliever.  That one REALLY backfired, hard.

The point is:  Jackie Z doesn’t know shit about trading for prospects.  He’s been about as bad at it as anyone I’ve ever seen.  How he rose through the ranks in scouting is beyond me, because seemingly every trade he has made for prospects has totally tanked.  On the flipside, when he’s sending away prospects, he’s either been very lucky, or he knows what he’s doing.  There were all those losers we shipped off to get Cliff Lee here in the first place.  There was the Morrow deal (which kind of looks bad, until you see that Morrow has yet to throw 200 innings in a season, so it’s not like we gave up some true #1 starting pitcher).  There are probably some others, but nothing comes directly to mind, which means there’s no real nagging deal out there where I’m watching the likes of Adam Jones be awesome for another team.

If Jackie Z sees something in Taijuan Walker that leads him to believe Walker might not be as amazing as we all think he’s going to be, then I don’t really have a problem with shipping him off.  Just as long as we get some players coming back who will bring an immediate impact right away.  It’s not hard to look at David Price and Ben Zobrist and see a way they can help this team win.  Anything less … anything that brings with it a “who’s that?” from Mariners fans at large, and I’ll probably be irate.

Such is the thrill of contention in baseball!  Remember how we used to feel this way almost every year, from 1995 through 2003?  Remember how we’d talk about the trade deadline as a means to potentially make the team better NOW vs. in three years from now?  Remember all those years the Mariners “stood pat” and ended up either not making the playoffs, or losing prior to the World Series?  Conversely, remember all those years the Mariners traded away Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek and we still can’t fucking shut up about it?

It’s been one long bummer of a ride from the minute the Mariners set foot in Seattle lo those many decades ago.  But, as the Seahawks have taught us, it only takes one year to turn around a franchise’s fortunes.

This year COULD BE the year for the Mariners.  Of course, not as things stand right now; we’re at least two players away from serious contention for a championship.  Is it worth the potential cost of a future that might not even exist as we dream it?

I say yes, but that’s just the way I roll.  Instant gratification.  Give me a championship now and I can gnaw on that sucker for YEARS.  Do nothing, and that desire will only continue to gnaw at me, piece by piece, until I’m a broken husk of a man.

3 Months In: How About Them M’s?

45-38.  +56 in run differential, which places us second in all of Major League Baseball (behind the A’s, who are a fucking brickhouse).  Third place in the division (3 games in the loss column behind the Angels), 1.5 games ahead of the next-best teams for the second Wild Card spot.

We’re in there!  We’re doin’ it!  Scrapping, yelling, mixing it up!  And yet, it seemed so impossible only three months ago.

Three months ago, I was of the opinion that everything had to go right for this team to do what it’s doing right now.  To be fair, a lot has gone right, but it’s by no means a perfect storm.  After the first month of the season, it felt like the same ol’ Mariners.  A big, fat, 8-game losing streak ruined what was an otherwise fine first couple weeks of the season.  And, thus far, this season as a whole has come to be defined by that losing streak.  There’s the Mariners through the 8-game losing streak:  7-13, hopelessly out-matched by teams like the Marlins and Astros (thought to be the two worst teams in all of baseball), ready to run out the string of shitty performances like we have in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2006, and so on.

And then, there’s the Mariners AFTER the 8-game losing streak:  38-25, amazing pitching, just enough hitting on most nights, an absolutely lights out bullpen, and a leader getting the most out of his players on a daily basis.

People still talk about the 8-game losing streak like it was an asteroid striking the Earth and wiping out civilization as we know it.  In a way, it did.  It destroyed the early-season bandwagon jumpers straight away.  All that was left were the hardcore, die hard Mariners fans.  Who watch games on a regular basis even though they have eyes and are able to comprehend simple arithmetic.  We the lowly, we the shivering, we the starving for a contender.  Any scraps or morsels of winning baseball, we pounce on and hungrily devour.  And since that 8-game losing streak, we have THRIVED!  My God, what a glorious last couple of months!  Two straight months of winning baseball, capped off by an 18-10 run in the month of June.

April seems so long ago now.  Remember when Abraham Almonte played in 27 games and started almost every one in centerfield, as our leadoff hitter?  Remember how he batted .198 with streaky defense and streakier base running?

Remember when James Paxton had two good-lookin’ starts out of Spring Training before being injured?  Remember how he was supposed to be back by now?

Remember how we lost Taijuan Walker to injury in Spring Training?  Remember how he just returned last night and threw himself a Quality Start?

Remember Kyle Seager’s slump to start the season?  And then he single-handedly ended the infamous 8-game losing streak and subsequently went on a tear that saw him raise his slash line from .156/.280/.219/.499 to what it is today:  .274/.345/.483/.828.  Even Kyle Seager defines his season by that 8-game losing streak!  Where his fortunes go, our fortunes go.  At the start, Seager was hovering near the bottom of the lineup, and now he’s entrenched as our cleanup hitter!

Remember how Iwakuma missed the first month of the season?  He hasn’t been his regular, Cy Young-ish self since his return, but he’s been plenty damn good, and certainly a huge upgrade over some of these other starters we’ve used.

It’s been a rough go with injuries, but I guess most every team could say that.  What’s most impressive is how players have responded.  Felix Hernandez is probably having his best-ever season, and that’s saying a lot, considering – in my estimation – he’s the best pitcher in baseball.  In this era of dominant pitching, it would be an amazing achievement for him to get his second Cy Young Award.

Roenis Elias has stepped up HUGE.  I don’t think anyone expected a whole lot out of him to start the year.  I know, for me, I was just hoping that he’d sort of be okay for a month until the rest of our rotation returned from injury.  Instead, those guys have had significant set-backs, and Elias has picked up the slack in a huge way.  What’s even more impressive:  Elias has a lot of room for growth; who knows what he’ll be doing in a year or two?!

Remember Randy Wolf?  Remember how he was supposed to be a thing?  And remember how he left the team because we wanted him to sign a contract that would allow us to cut him after 45 days, without penalty?  Yeah, he got REAL pissy with a process that happens ALL THE TIME.  Guys like Randy Wolf are a dime a dozen.  They don’t deserve guaranteed contracts because they’re old and coming off of injury.  They deserve what they get:  a safety net for the team that’s sticking its neck out by giving this guy a chance.  So, Randy Wolf split, and on the year he has appeared in six games.  He’s 1-3 with a 5.26 ERA, and it doesn’t appear that he has a job at the moment.  If he does, it’s not with a Major League team.

The Mariners, meanwhile, went out and picked up Chris Young, who was only more than happy to sign that contract with that 45-day clause.  He felt it was better to prove oneself and EARN that full-year pick up.  And, as it turned out, circumstances dictated that he was necessary to have in the rotation, with all the injuries and poor performances from guys like Ramirez and Maurer.  So, what did he do, with the circumstances he was given?  Made the most of them and proceeded to kick a lot of Major League ass!  He’s the current owner of a 3.15 ERA and MOUNTAINS full of regression potential.  But, that’s neither here nor there, because you can’t take away his first three months of the season, and those first three months have been AMAZING!

This could have been yours, Randy Wolf.  But, you let pride get in the way.  Tsk tsk.

For as solid as the rotation has been (or, at least, 4/5 of the rotation), the bullpen has been even better.  Currently, all but one guy has an ERA under 4 in the bullpen.  And that one guy?  Our eighth man, Brandon Maurer, who recently converted to the ‘pen and introduced the world to his 99mph fastball.

I can’t say enough good things about the bullpen.  If this team was ever going to go anywhere, the bullpen needed to over-perform its pre-season projections.  And it has, in spades.  Fernando Rodney has been one of the few (only?) free agent closers to sign with a new team this past off-season and be worth the money he’s been given.  It was dicey to start, but Rodney has really come on since about mid-May or so.  His save opportunities aren’t NEARLY as frightening as they were to start the season.  He has better command of his stuff.  And, finally, he has quieted those of us (myself included) who thought Farquhar deserved a crack at the closer’s job.  With Rodney in there locking shit down, that bumps everyone else back a level, and they seem to be handling it with great alacrity.

Leone has been good, Medina has been good, Farquhar has been good, Hell, even Wilhelmsen has been good!  Those are four really good right-handed set-up men, not counting Maurer, who has been lights out in his few bullpen appearances.  Joe Beimel has been rock-solid from the left side, if a bit underutilized (though, I guess with a guy his age – 37 – you probably want to keep him fresh by using him less often).  And, while Furbush has had his moments of being truly awful, he has picked it up of late, and there really isn’t any other option from the left side that you feel confident about.

On the offensive side of things, we’ve been just as unlucky with injuries.  Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, and Corey Hart have all spent time on the DL.  That’s a starting corner outfielder, a starting first baseman, a platoon outfielder/first baseman, and our starting designated hitter, all missing significant time.  The jury is still out on these guys, but thus far Saunders has looked really good, Smoak has looked really bad, LoMo has looked great since his return (and since he was given a chance to play everyday), and Hart looks incomplete.

Compounding the problem, the usual and unusual suspects have underperformed.  Dustin Ackley had one short stretch of goodness surrounded by an ocean of ineptitude.  Brad Miller really took a shit after one of the hottest Spring Trainings I’ve ever seen.  Almonte was given too long of a leash.  Nick Franklin was a strikeout machine in his two brief call-ups.  Stefen Romero could never take advantage of the opportunity he was given.  And while Zunino has shown brilliance behind the plate, his discipline AT the plate leaves a lot to be desired.

Nevertheless, there have been just enough bright spots to be pleasantly surprised.  At the top of that list, as far as hitters are concerned, is Robinson Cano.  He has been WELL worth the $240 million paycheck, at least in the first half of his first season here.  We’ll see how the rest of it goes, but it’s nice knowing we have at least one guy we can count on, day-in and day-out.

The aforementioned Kyle Seager has been another.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m surprised by his performance, but it is pretty thrilling to see what he’s done at home this year.  11 of his 12 bombs have come at Safeco, and his splits from there are pretty mesmerizing (you have to figure his road numbers will pick up in a matter of time).

James Jones has been rock solid since coming up to replace Almonte.  He’s like Almonte with a better contact rate, and not as skittish in the field or on the basepaths.  Almonte could be a disaster, or he could make other teams look foolish, but there was rarely an in-between where you felt comfortable with him out there.  Jones, on the other hand, is a calming influence.  And, not for nothing, but he’s up to 17 stolen bases with only 1 time being thrown out.  This guy slaps an infield single, and he’s on third in moments!

When you tack on Saunders’ solid play, with the surging Morrison and the power-streaky Zunino, and you’ve got six guys who range from “amazing” to “pretty good”.  Then, factor in Brad Miller’s improvement in the month of June, and Endy Chavez’s ability to hit a lot of singles and nothing else … well, you get the idea.

As the fan said in the movie Major League, “Ya know, these guys ain’t so fuckin’ bad.”  This is a team that had a lot of holes coming out of Spring Training.  Shockingly, they’ve managed to fill a lot of those holes with guys inside the organization.  If I were to rate the roster based on various confidence levels, this team has more positives than negatives.  Let’s go down the list:

I Feel Great About:

  • Felix Hernandez (SP)
  • Robinson Cano (2B)
  • Kyle Seager (3B)

I Feel Good About:

  • Mike Zunino (C)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma (SP)
  • Roenis Elias (SP)
  • Michael Saunders (OF)
  • James Jones (CF)
  • Everyone In The Bullpen

I Feel Adequate About:

  • Logan Morrison (1B/DH)
  • Brad Miller (SS)
  • Chris Young (SP)
  • Taijuan Walker (SP)
  • Justin Smoak (1B)
  • Cole Gillespie (OF)
  • Endy Chavez (OF)
  • Willie Bloomquist (INF)
  • John Buck (C)

I Feel Bad About:

  • Dustin Ackley (LF)
  • Corey Hart (DH)

There’s really only two guys I don’t trust, who figure to have a big impact on this team.  Two guys who I would be more than happy to replace with outside help at the trade deadline.  This team needs a new left fielder in the worst way.  It also needs someone to pick up the slack at DH.  If it were up to me, we’d leave LoMo at first base and see if he can continue this run he’s been on.  If he starts to falter, then maybe platoon him with Smoak.  But, either way, someone to play DH is a must.

But, who knows?  Maybe this organization struggles to make any trades and is forced to take another look at the guys we’ve got now.  Maybe Corey Hart finds his timing again and rips off a nice little second half.  Maybe Smoak gets healthy and turns it around.  Maybe Ackley has a fire lit under his ass with all this talk about the Mariners trying to unload him for nothing.

Or, maybe the Mariners fall apart in the second half and we go back to ripping this team on a weekly basis.  The fact of the matter is, I’m actually excited for what the second half could bring for this team.  I’m excited about the future, and for vastly different reasons than before!  Because the future isn’t some nebulous, intangible blob way off in the distance.  The future is here and now!  Right before us!  Three more months to go!

Three more months before – dare I say – a little bit more?