The Mariners Made A Somewhat Interesting, Minor Trade

It’s a trade so minor, not even Lookout Landing bothered to do a write-up on it (yet).

The Mariners acquired reliever Mike Baumann and minor league catcher Michael Perez from the Orioles, for minor league catcher Blake Hunt.

It kinda feels like that stupid Tik Tok thing, where I’m walking down the sidewalk and talking into my phone … “We’re Mariners fans! Of course we’re going to nit-pick to death even the most minuscule details of every trade!”

“We’re Mariners fans! Of course we believe guys only turn into good baseball players once they’ve left the organization!”

“We’re Mariners fans! Of course we can’t wait for the sweet release of death!”

By the way, I don’t actually have Tik Tok, but I do watch a stupid amount of Instagram Reels. Yet, even I know it’s a Tik Tok thing, because no one in their right mind talks about watching Instagram Reels. But, I digress.

I kinda want to like this deal, but I’ve got my foot caught in some netting that I just can’t pull myself free from. I understand the need to bolster our bullpen. In that sense, the addition of Mike Baumann feels like it at least has potential. Is he remarkably better than Cody Bolton, who was optioned to Tacoma? I dunno, we’ll see. I would say probably, but who knows? He’s been pretty darn good the last two seasons, and he’s only 28. But, if he’s so great, why did Baltimore DFA him recently (leading to this trade, because we wouldn’t be in line to claim him off waivers, given our overall record)? Especially when bullpen is their biggest weakness as a team?

The first thing I look at when it comes to pitchers is their ERA, because I’m a 43 year old man and I’m dumb. The second thing I look at is their strikeouts per 9. I feel like that’s one of the better dummy stats for relievers; shows you what kind of stuff they have and how good of an out-pitch they’ve got.

His ERA numbers are good; under 4 in 2023 and 2024. He had 8.5 SO/9 in 2023, and 7.9 this year (in a much smaller sample size). It’s good. Ideally, you want 9 or more (averaging a strikeout-plus per inning), but that’s fine. I will, of course, have to reserve judgment until I can see him actually pitch in a Mariners uniform, but it seems like this should be a value-add to the team.

What I don’t totally get are these shenanigans with the catcher position. Specifically the backup catcher spot.

We all know Cal Raleigh is great. But, the dude could use a break every once in a while! And the team could use someone who isn’t a total fucking waste of space. If you’re going to back up Cal Raleigh and you’re going to be a black hole in the lineup, the least you can do is be a whiz defensively! But, Seby Zavala is neither a remotely decent hitter, nor a remotely competent backstop. That kid from The Sandlot would be a better alternative!

Before we brought in Zavala, we traded for Blake Hunt (giving up Tatem “Don’t Call Me Lewis” Levins). Levins is still in A-ball with the Rays, so who knows if he’ll ever amount to anything. But, Hunt at least seemed promising. He was in AAA last year with the Rays, and has been a very pleasant surprise for the Tacoma Rainiers so far this year (slashing .293/.372/.533).

You’re telling me, right now, Blake Hunt isn’t an improvement over Seby Zavala? The same Seby Zavala who went into today’s game slashing .188/.212/.344? Frankly, it’s asinine that Zavala is here in the first place, and for what? Because he’s 5 years older than Hunt?

Now, Hunt goes to Baltimore, where he should be a significant improvement over the guy we got for him, Michael Perez. Perez who, at this point, is hardly even a AAA player. He looks as washed up as it gets, which isn’t the worst thing in the world as long as he stays in Tacoma. But, it looks like the Mariners found the one guy in professional baseball who’s more useless than Zavala.

I would take Kevin Costner’s character in Bull Durham over either of these guys. Hell, I would take Kevin Costner TODAY over them!

I wish I could find information on how much team control the M’s will have over Baumann. From what I could glean, he’s a pre-arbitration player, so that gives us a few years of team control. This only really works out if we can turn him into a leverage arm. With Brash gone, and Santos the biggest of question marks, we’re in desperate need of another leverage arm.

It does NOT work if Baumann is another Austin Voth or Cody Bolton-type. He needs to be better. He needs to slot most of the rest of the arms (not named Munoz or Stanek) down a rung. At that point, I think I’ll find a way to move beyond this backup catcher conundrum.

The M’s Bounced Back Against The A’s

Kind of a weird weekend series for the Mariners. I don’t think ANY of the three games went as we might expect.

Friday night saw the return of Bryan Woo. As it happened, 2024 Woo looked a lot like 2023 Woo. A lot of fastballs, a lot of strikes, pretty reasonable pitch count; on the downside, he ended up getting tight in the fifth inning and had to be pulled (4.1 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, 3 K’s). It won’t equate to another IL stint (just yet), but it is pretty concerning. Even more concerning is that this isn’t the first time he’s had this feeling on his way back to full strength.

On the good side, his arm tightened up because he had to rest so long between the fourth and fifth innings, because the Mariners were scoring so many runs. I think it’s a fair trade; give me 8 runs, I’ll suffer a starter not being able to go five full innings. Dylan Moore kicked some fuckin’ ass in this one, going 3 for 4 with a homer and 5 RBI. Ty France bounced back with two hits (including a 2-RBI double), and Luke Raley also chipped in with an RBI double and 2 runs scored.

It was nice to get the win, and not have to use anyone of import out in the bullpen, on what could’ve otherwise been an ugly night. Instead, that ugliness ended up taking place on Saturday, as we lost by an identical 8-1 score.

We were limited to 3 hits and 0 walks, which is how you waste a perfectly good Bryce Miller Quality Start (6 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts). But, the bullpen did us no favors, with Stanek giving up a run, Speier giving up 2 runs, and Bazardo (back from AAA) giving up 3 runs.

The Mariners’ offense bounced right back, though, scoring 8 more on Sunday to win 8-4. Julio had two hits with a homer, Garver also had two hits with a homer, even the backup catcher got in on the action with his first homer of the season. Pair that with a Luis Castillo Quality Start (6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts) and some competent bullpen work, and you get out of the weekend with a series win.

In other news, I called it with Matt Brash. He had surgery recently and is out for the year. What I wasn’t expecting was Gregory Santos not being back until maybe July. That’s rough. That makes me think this team probably needs to acquire another bullpen arm or two.

In some good news, J.P. Crawford is getting ready to go out on a rehab assignment. And I think I heard something about Dom Canzone swinging a bat down in extended spring training. So, you know, that’s something.

The Mariners Head Into An Early-Season Showdown With The Rangers

Last year, the Mariners went 4-9 against the Texas Rangers. We had a winning record against everyone else in the division, including a 9-4 record against the Astros. Our record against Texas – it could be argued – single-handedly prevented us from making the playoffs.

What’s even worse is that 3 of the 4 victories happened in the final series of the season. It would’ve required a gargantuan series sweep to give us a chance of making the playoffs; instead, we came up two games short. That means, heading into that series, we were 1-8 against the Rangers; we were remarkably inept against the eventual World Series champs, until it practically didn’t matter.

That can’t happen again this year.

There’s probably never going to be a good time to play the Rangers this year, but I will say that it’s a helluva lot more encouraging to face them towards the end of April rather than at the beginning. While the Mariners are still quite flawed, at least the pitching has started to get into a groove, and the hitting is starting to come around.

We parlayed our sweep of the Reds into a 2-1 series win down in Colorado. Friday’s game was snowed out, if you can believe it. Thankfully, we’ve got an off-day today, so yesterday’s doubleheader shouldn’t have any sort of lasting impact.

Luis Castillo kept our streak of quality starts intact on Saturday, with a rather easy 7-0 victory. He went seven shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 9. That was nice to see, knowing we’d have a long day on Sunday; the bullpen was largely spared. On the flipside, the Rockies might be the worst team in all of baseball, so let’s not go crazy patting him on the back.

Cal Raleigh and Julio Rodriguez both had big games, with 4 hits each. But, this was a true offensive juggernaut, with the team going 5 for 12 with RISP.

We proceeded to biff the first game of the doubleheader on Sunday, losing 2-1 in extra innings. The game was scoreless through regulation, thanks to some nifty Dylan Moore defense in left, and a well-placed Fan Interference call in the bottom of the ninth on a would-be double (but certainly not a homer, since he actually reached out over the fence and over both the playing field and Moore’s outstretched glove). George Kirby gave us five shutout innings, when he apparently wasn’t feeling his best. The rest of the bullpen did their jobs, until they didn’t. The Mariners scored once in the 10th, on an RBI single from J.P. Crawford. But, Andres Munoz got jumped all over, failing to generate an out while gagging away the game. It happens.

The second game went much more favorably, 10-2 in our favor. Emerson Hancock gave up 2 runs in the first, but still went six innings, keeping them to 4 hits and a walk, while striking out 4. The offense proceeded to mash, with Cal, Julio, and Luke Raley each generating 2 hits. Even Seby Zavala chipped in with his first three hits of the season, to stave off his inevitable release.

All in all, this team is in as good a shape as it’s ever going to be, all things considered. Jorge Polanco still isn’t doing much of anything, and Munoz has had more hiccups than I like to see (without Brash or Santos here to pick up some slack). But, all in all, the bullpen has been solid all year, the starters are on cruise control, and the rest of the hitters seem to be coming around.

We’re 11-11. The Rangers lead the A.L. West at 12-11. This is our shot to really make a name for ourselves and stake our claim to the division.

What we CAN’T do is blow all three games, and suffer a repeat of last season. So, figure it the fuck out Mariners!

The Mariners Traded For Jorge Polanco

Going to Minnesota, we have reliever Justin Topa, starter What’sHisButtFromTheGiants Anthony DeSclafani, outfield prospect Gabriel Gonzalez, and pitching prospect Darren Bowen.

Going to Seattle, we have Jorge Polanco, a 30 year old starting infielder (pegged to be our everyday second baseman) with one year left on his contract (and a club option for 2025).

DeSclafani is no big loss. I’m honestly relieved that I don’t have to watch him pitch for the Mariners. Seems like a guy better suited to be a back-of-the-rotation starter and NOT a long reliever like the M’s were going to use him as. I’m going to go out on a limb and say neither prospect will amount to much at the Major League level (because if either one of them do, then this trade absolutely murders the Mariners).

I would say the part that hurts the most is losing Justin Topa, who is going into the first of three arbitration years, and is earning just a million and a quarter dollars this season. He figured to be our third-best reliever behind Brash and Munoz, but I would argue – on the whole – he was more consistent and less blowup-prone than anyone in the pen in 2023. The Mariners were already in need of a pick-me-up or two out of the bullpen (as we’ve talked about ad nauseam, they’ve yet to even replace Paul Sewald, and now we’re talking about replacing Topa too), and now that job is even more important.

Quite frankly, the Mariners’ stance on this – that they can pick up any ol’ scrub off the scrap heap and turn them into ace relievers – is bordering on irresponsible hubris. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners’ biggest weakness in 2024 IS the bullpen (and we all know how little I think of the starting lineup, so that’s really saying something).

All that being said, it doesn’t feel like the worst deal I’ve ever seen. The money pretty much evens out (I think it was reported the M’s are sending money to the Twins to make it so). They get a couple of scratch-off lottery tickets to provide some longterm hope, and they get a valuable reliever to add to what I’m told is a strength for them. Plus, you know, the starter could be okay for them in that division (where the hitting is less fearsome than it is in the West). In turn, the Mariners get a VAST improvement over the likes of Josh Rojas, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, et al, when it comes to plugging one of their infield holes.

We already knew going into the season that second and third base would suck for this team. Now, what this deal presupposes is … maybe only one of those spots will suck?

I’m willing to go out on that limb that Jorge Polanco will be a valuable hitter for this team when he’s healthy. One guy I’ve never met on Formerly Twitter telling me so is good enough for me! But, there’s that caveat again, right? Polanco hasn’t played a full season since 2021. The last two years, it’s been knee and ankle injuries. Something like five or six stints on the IL. Sure as shit reminds me of one Mitch Haniger; how could it not? It was pretty much the first point bandied about in the analysis of this deal for the M’s.

If I choose to see the positive in this, it’s nice to see us fill a hole with a bona fide Major Leaguer, and not just another Quad-A nobody. If I choose to see the negative in this, then it’s just another coin flip with the usual questions we have when we bring in ANY new hitter:

  • Can he stay healthy?
  • Can he hit in Seattle, or will his bat be swallowed up in the marine layer?
  • Can he withstand the pressure of playing for a new team?
  • Will he enjoy living here, which is presumably very far away from wherever he considers home?
  • How close is he to falling off of an age-related production cliff?

You can plug those questions in about ANY of the guys we brought in this offseason – Mitch Garver, Luke Raley, Mitch Haniger, Luis Urias, Seby Zavala – as well as any of the guys we’ve brought in over the last few years, and get a wide variety of answers. Inevitably, some will hack it okay, some will become total garbage. And it’s not necessarily always the ones you think. I keep coming back to guys like Jesse Winker and Kolten Wong; we were supposed to be getting – at the very least – solid veterans who could give you professional at bats. What we got, was nothing.

As with all of this offseason’s moves, I’m not holding my breath. Quite frankly, I’m not moving off of my F grade for the Mariners; I still don’t think we’re any better than we were a year ago. If I’m being generous, the Polanco deal has the potential to now put this offense over the top compared to 2023. But, a shaky bullpen was made all the shakier with the loss of Topa. And now our rotation depth – which was razor thin before – is totally evaporated. Unless our top five starters manage to stay healthy for the full year – on top of key guys like Polanco and Haniger for our lineup – there’s a good chance we’re worse across the board. Hence the failing grade.

I will say that – as with all the other trades this offseason – I mostly felt relief that we didn’t actually trade any of our young starters. But, that still isn’t going to move the needle enough for me to vastly change my outlook on this offseason.

Just once, I’d like to see the Mariners make a move that is universally lauded, rather than coming with a thousand caveats. Something tells me it ain’t gonna happen.

What Is The Mariners’ Lineup Looking Like For 2024?

For the record, it’s impossible to try to predict how ANYONE in baseball is going to perform from year to year. There’s injuries, there’s regression, there’s age, there’s personal life matters that creep in; those are all elements that can negatively affect players. On the flipside, maybe they go to Driveline and work on their swing. Maybe they learn a new pitch. Maybe they get in “the best shape of their lives”.

Who expected J.P. Crawford or Jarred Kelenic to take their respective steps forward last year? Who expected Suarez to come to Seattle and be a hit? On the flipside, who expected Winker to come here and be a total bust? Who saw the Ty France nosedive coming? Who expected to get absolutely nothing out of Kolten Wong, A.J. Pollock, Adam Frazier, and the like? Oh wait, maybe don’t bring up those last three guys.

So, I’m willing to admit that I’m probably going to be dead wrong about a lot of these guys, one way or the other. But, for fun, let’s take a look at who we’re likely to see as our 13 position players, and how they fit in a potential lineup.

The “everyday” guys seem to be something like this:

  • Left Field – Luke Raley
  • Center Field – Julio Rodriguez
  • Right Field – Mitch Haniger
  • Third Base – Luis Urias
  • Short Stop – J.P. Crawford
  • Second Base – Josh Rojas
  • First Base – Ty France
  • Catcher – Cal Raleigh
  • Designated Hitter – Mitch Garver

The bench guys – who figure to see a good amount of platoon time – include:

  • UTIL – Dylan Moore
  • OF – Dominic Canzone
  • Catcher – Seby Zavala

The final guy is someone between Sam Haggerty, Taylor Trammell, Cade Marlowe, Zach DeLoach, or Jonatan Clase (I’m assuming one of them will have a torrid Spring Training and force his way onto the team for a couple weeks, until it’s clear his spring was an aberration).

I’ll tell you right now, that lineup is ROUGH to look at. Here’s an order, for reference:

  1. J.P. Crawford (SS)
  2. Julio Rodriguez (CF)
  3. Cal Raleigh (C)
  4. Mitch Garver (DH)
  5. Luke Raley (LF)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ty France (1B)
  8. Josh Rojas (2B)
  9. Luis Urias (3B)

As a tried and true Mariners fan, I can only allow myself to feel good about the top three guys. Everyone else has a wild range of outcomes going from Absolute Worst to Better Than Expected.

Garver should be fine, but would it shock anyone to see a middling slugger come to Seattle and hit for Warning Track Power? Raley has less of a Major League track record, so he gets a little less confidence from me. Haniger, obviously, is going to get hurt within the first two months of the season, missing more time than he’ll play for. France is working out at Driveline, so there’s hope that he follows in J.P. Crawford’s footsteps, but I’ll believe it when I see it; I’m heading into 2024 expecting nothing from France. Rojas is Just A Guy, and will almost certainly lose playing time to Dylan Moore, among others. Urias is also Just A Guy, and will almost certainly lose playing time to Dylan Moore, among others.

How many Dylan Moores do we have on the team, anyway?

I would say there’s better than a 50/50 chance that the bottom third of the lineup is as bad as it’s ever been, with probably better than a 35% chance that 5 out of our 9 hitters – on the whole – are underperforming and actively costing us ballgames.

And that’s, again, AFTER the bulk of our moves in trades and free agency. That’s ostensibly supposed to be an “improvement” over 2023. Odds are, the Mariners will be a significantly WORSE hitting and scoring team in 2024.

We pretty much decided to punt second and third base. We swapped Kelenic for Raley, which is kind of a wash. We swapped Teoscar Hernandez for Haniger, which feels like a downgrade when you consider the time Haniger is going to miss (with the very real possibility that Haniger is just cooked as a professional ballplayer). The only actual upgrade is at DH, but it’s hard to give them credit for that when they effectively punted DH last year. Getting something – when we were so consistently getting nothing – is pretty easy to do when you actually find a warm body to put there.

And don’t even try to start with me on suggesting improvement out of guys like J.P., Julio, or Cal. They are what they are, until I see otherwise. But, I am by no means banking on them being anything more than what I’ve seen. Same goes for Canzone, or any of the other Quad-A guys we’ve got on the 40-man roster that we’re forced to keep on the 26-man roster because they’re out of options. Again, I’ll believe it when I see it, and I don’t expect to see much of anything.

So, yeah, pretty bleak! Hope we find some improvement in our bullpen! Hope our starters are able to carry this team on their backs the whole year! How many 1-0 losses do we have to look forward to?

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

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

To recap this offseason so far:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Signed Mitch Garver

We’re looking at 2 years, $24 million. So, that’s a chunk of change, and a bit of a committment.

It’s a relief that the Mariners are coming to their senses on this whole DH thing. Part of me wonders if their prior stance – that they were aiming to use the DH as a rotating “rest day” of sorts for the regular starters – was all a smokescreen, because the organization was being too cheap to actually go out and sign someone of import. Either way, Garver WAS a catcher. But, since the Mariners have done nothing but bring in catchers this offseason (Blake Hunt in a trade with the Rays, Seby Zavala in the Suarez deal with the Diamondbacks), there’s not really room at the inn for another one. At first, I was moderately concerned that this was going to precede some sort of blockbuster Cal Raleigh trade, but I’ve been assured by people in the know that Garver is going to be our DH. At least through 2023, if not for the next two years. With maybe some first base mixed in.

Garver has been relatively productive in his 7-year Major League career. He won a Silver Slugger Award in 2019 with the Twins. That year, he whacked 31 homers, with a .995 OPS in 93 games. His, uhh, availability has diminished since then. Post-COVID, he’s averaged just under 70 games, thanks to a barrage of injuries that all seem to be related to his body breaking down under the influence of his catcher duties. Taking away those duties, in theory, should prolong his ability to perform at the plate. Then again, he’ll be 33 years old in mid-January, so I guess we’ll see.

Last year, he hit 19 homers and had an OPS of .870 with the Rangers. He also missed most of April and all of May with injury, but again we hope that won’t be a problem in his new role.

Are we concerned that he’s played 8 games in Seattle and has thus far never even gotten one hit?

I can’t say that I’m super jacked about this signing. I have long ago given up hope that the Mariners are going to do anything this offseason that will move the needle. I think Salk on the radio yesterday said something about this being a replacement for Teoscar Hernandez’s production at the plate. Except, ideally, with fewer strikeouts and more on-base ability. I’d like to sit here and proclaim delight at no longer having a black hole at DH, but I’m going to be on a Wait & See track with any and all moves the Mariners make. Someone said he rakes against lefties. I’m pretty sure that’s also what they said about A.J. Pollock. At least Garver is a few years younger.

Now, we just have to find a Suarez replacement, a Kelenic replacement, and someone to actually play in right field and second base. No biggie.

What does this mean for what money we have left to spend? Did we just use up over half on one guy? I hope he’s worth it!

One backup catcher the Mariners won’t be signing is Tom Murphy, who inked a deal with the Giants for a couple years. Pretty good money for someone who has been as injury-prone as he has. I hope he kills it down in San Fran.

The Mariners Traded Eugenio Suarez For Junk

I’d be lying if I told you I understand what the Mariners are doing. Usually, when it’s this early in the offseason, I’ll sit back and say, “Let’s wait and see what other moves are coming. Because surely THIS can’t be the plan!”

The last move that made sense from a roster construction perspective was a little over a year ago, when we traded for Teoscar Hernandez. Your miles may vary on whether or not the move actually worked out, but at least it made some kind of sense. Then, starting with us giving away Kyle Lewis for nothing, trading for Kolten Wong, and bringing in A.J. Pollock and Tommy La Stella – while extending Dylan Moore and essentially guaranteeing him a near-everyday spot in the lineup – the moves started to get blurry to me. They stopped making sense. I kept waiting and TRYING to see, but the closer we got to the start of the season, the more it became clear that this was it. This was the team. We were done making moves, and content to suck it.

We all saw how that turned out.

There hasn’t been a lot going on with the M’s so far this offseason. We let Teoscar Hernandez go away without a fight, which seemed like a bad move at the time, considering I figured there was little risk of him signing his qualifying offer. I haven’t heard of him signing anywhere, but I also don’t think he’s finished as a Major League baseball player. In conjunction with that, comes the news that the Mariners traded away Eugenio Suarez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, just as they did with Kyle Lewis, Ketel Marte, and Paul Sewald. In return for this deal, we get back Carlos Vargas (a relief pitcher) and Seby Zavala (a backup catcher). Pretty much the least you can get in return for a viable starting third baseman.

If I squint, I can sort of see what’s going on here: the Mariners just shed themselves of 425 strikeouts between Hernandez and Suarez. They were the second and third-most strikeouts in all of Major League Baseball last year. Nevertheless, they also accounted for a combined 4.3 WAR between them. That’s not an insignificant amount of production we need to recoup somehow, someway.

There was another deal that happened a couple weeks ago – indeed, on the first day of my honeymoon – that I was going to let slide under the rug and never think about, because it seemed so inconsequential. However, in the wake of the Suarez deal, there have been rumblings. Distressing rumblings.

The Mariners traded reliever Isaiah Campbell – one of our bevy of rookie arms from this past season who was fine at times, but far from great – to the Red Sox for infielder Luis Urias. I had assumed Urias was just another Quad-A utility infielder to throw on the pile. I think I had good reason for this assumption: he’ll be 27 next year, he hasn’t done much of anything at the Major League level, he’s coming off of really a nothing season, and his good numbers were from 2-3 years ago when he played for Milwaukee. That’s a prototypical guy you take a flier on in Spring Training, who maybe ends up as your 25th or 26th man.

However, once the Suarez deal went down, there were some people In The Know saying that this paved the way for Urias to be our starting third baseman, which is absolutely shocking to me! I really want to dismiss it, and again retreat into my cocoon of Wait & See, but coming off all the inaction of our previous offseason, I have to at least somewhat take this threat seriously.

I guess Urias doesn’t strike out as much. That’s something. He also doesn’t hit for average, hit for power, walk a ton, or steal any bases. Maybe his defense is good? That’s fine, but so was Geno’s. This feels like a significant downgrade, and that’s before you consider the hit to morale in the clubhouse. A clubhouse that’s been pissing and moaning for the better part of two years, whenever we get rid of highly-regarded teammates (Graveman, Sewald, now Suarez).

The fact of the matter is, the 2023 Mariners already had at least one significant hole to fill in our everyday lineup (probably more like two or three, but let’s not be greedy). Now, with the loss of Hernandez and Suarez, that’s a MINIMUM of three major holes (and, again, probably more like four or five). We’re going the wrong direction. Our goal was supposed to be improving upon the 2022 playoff squad, to start fighting for a World Series. We sat on our hands last season and regressed our way right out of the playoffs. Now, we’re actively ridding ourselves of productive players, and potentially replacing them with cheap nobodies who will do nothing for us.

Granted, in defense of Mariners brass, both Hernandez and Suarez took steps back in 2023 compared to 2022. If either one of them had managed to just maintain their level of production, we easily would’ve been in the playoffs. But, you can’t dismiss the possibility that they just had down years, and will bounce back in 2024. These are pros, and baseball is wonky as hell. Sometimes you have a bad season for unexplained reasons. That doesn’t mean you’re just finished forever.

As for our return in the Geno deal, Seby Zavala looks like a disaster at the plate. Maybe I’m being a little hard on him, but we’ll see. This surely means the end of Tom Murphy, which I’m fine with. I like Murph as much as the next guy, but he can’t stay healthy, and this team (and Cal Raleigh in particular) is severely taxed whenever he goes down. Zavala appears to be a quality defensive backstop, and if he can just be better than Brian O’Keefe, or whoever in the hell we had in 2022, then bully for us. But, a backup catcher isn’t going to move the needle on this team’s playoff chances.

Carlos Vargas has appeared in exactly 5 Major League games, all in 2023. He’s only 24, and allegedly throws the ball hard, but he also doesn’t seem to have great command yet. This trade will work out if we can harness his power and get him in the strike zone (without getting hit too hard in the process), but I read somewhere that there isn’t a lot of movement on his pitches. It seems like we just traded Isaiah Campbell for an Isaiah Campbell clone. Which means we traded Suarez for Urias and Zavala. Which feels like an absolute massacre for the Mariners.

My faith in the Mariners was already dwindling. Now it’s almost gone completely. I hope they do something awesome soon.