The Mariners Won That Series In Kansas City

It’s been a really busy week, so I’m keeping this brief.  After blowing the Minnesota home opener, the M’s routed the Twins on Saturday behind some solid Mike Leake pitching and a ton of hitting up and down the lineup.

Sunday’s game was snowed out.  It will be made up at the end of a road trip in mid-May.

On Monday, the Mariners were destroyed 10-0 in the series opener with the Royals.  The M’s got exactly 2 hits – both singles – and 2 walks.  On top of that, Marco Gonzales got absolutely murdered and wasn’t able to get out of the third inning.  2.1, 8 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts.  Meanwhile, Tyler O’Neill is motherfucking tearing shit up in AAA for the Cardinals, so GREAT FUCKING TRADE DIPOTO.

Don’t think I’m not going to bring up this trade each and every time Gonzales takes a dick in the ass this year, before he’s either ultimately traded for peanuts on the dollar or given his outright release.  What a crock of shit deal.

Anyway, the M’s were able to shrug that off and come back strong, winning 8-3 on Tuesday.  Felix had an okay start (5.2, 3 runs, 6 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts), and the top of the lineup did top of the lineup things.  Shout out to Jean Segura, who was a homer short of the cycle in this one.  Also, shout out to Seager for starting to bust out of his early-season slump in this one, with a 2-RBI double to really sock the game away.

Then, on get-away day yesterday, the Mariners earned a hard-fought 4-2 victory.  Paxton got the no decision, going 6, giving up 2 runs off of 6 hits & 1 walk, with a whopping 10 strikeouts.  Safe to say he’s rounding into mid-season form (so his DL stint should be any day now).  Seager was the hero in this one, kicking off the scoring with a sac fly in the first, then homering in the go-ahead runs when the game was tied 2-2.  Rock solid bullpen work followed, with Nick Vincent getting the win, Juan Nicasio getting the hold, and Edwin Diaz getting his 4th save of the new year.

The Mariners are now 6-4 and have easily played the fewest games in the AL West.  Another off-day today only exacerbates that figure.  Predictably, the M’s are in third place.  The Angels are on a hot streak, at 10-3, and the Astros are the Astros, at 9-4.  Shohei Ohtani is annoyingly amazing, and I hate every single person on the planet.

I do think there’s reason for optimism with the way the Mariners have played so far, but let’s not go crazy.  Lots of off-days have us as a very well-rested ballclub; let’s see what this team is made of when it has to play 20 games in 20 days or whatever bullshit this schedule has in store.  Also, we’ve yet to see a fifth starter in the rotation.  Is anyone excited by Ariel Miranda’s minor league mediocrity thus far?  Is anyone even remotely confident in Erasmo Ramirez, whenever he returns from the DL?  We’ve already got Marco Gonzales stinking up the joint at least half the time, and Felix is going to be an adventure every time out, so all the problems we had heading into the season are still there.

But, yes, 6-4 with the imminent return of Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino, and Ben Gamel is pretty fun.  Also, this early-season schedule has been pretty easy.  Going forward, aside from the games against Houston and Cleveland, the rest of the month of April looks do-able.

Oakland’s coming up this weekend.  Let’s just keep winning and see what happens, huh?

Marniers Did A Bunch Of Things I Don’t Like Yesterday

They lost to the Mets, for one.  Ariel Miranda struggled mightily early, then settled down to strike out a career high 10 batters over 6 innings, giving up the 4 runs.  With the offense roaring back in the fifth inning, the Mariners even handed their bullpen a 1-run lead!  But, it wasn’t to be.  Scrabble had one job to do, and failed miserably as the left-handed hitter smashed a homer to right.  Then, David Phelps proceeded to melt down in the very same inning, giving up the go-ahead two runs.  We couldn’t get anything off of their bullpen, and that was that.

Perhaps even more damaging than the loss was the trade the Mariners made:  Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez.  Yes, THAT Erasmo Ramirez.  We traded him away to the Rays for Mike Montgomery a while back when he was out of options, and now he’s back.  He’s been primarily a reliever for the Rays, though he’s spot-started his fair share of games.  He’s been better as a reliever, but he’s still pretty much the same mediocre pitcher we sent away.

And now he’s being handed the keys to a starting rotation spot.  Because Andrew Moore was just demoted back to Tacoma to make room.

Is Erasmo Ramirez better than Andrew Moore?  Or Yovani Gallardo?  Or Sam Gaviglio?  Or any of these other shitty starters we’ve brought in?  Absolutely not.  So, let’s go ahead and dilute our bullpen to bring in another shitty starter!  Oh, wait, I forgot, “trade from a position of STRENGTH”.  Yeah fucking right.  We have a tenuous hold over this bullpen at best, thanks to the starters always getting pulled prematurely; we need as many quality bullpen arms as we can get!

It sounds like this is the last of the deadline deals, and I can only call it an unmitigated disaster for the Seattle Mariners.  Jerry Dipoto has done a lot of good in his short time here, but he really should be ashamed at what little he was able to accomplish in this very important season.  Not getting a Sonny Gray, or another comparable starter to help us in the stretch run, is an absolute failure for this organization.  And trading away Tyler O’Neill is going to be the icing on the cake when he starts tearing shit up in a few years.

Time to shift gears to football season, because there’s nothing to see here with this Mariners team.

James Paxton Is Better At Baseball Than You

We’ve seen pitching dominance before, but not many better than last night.  ESPECIALLY this season.  Paxton went 7 innings of shutout ball, giving up 4 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 10.  The team combined for 9 innings of shutout ball, giving up 4 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 12, as Nick Vincent and David Phelps mopped up the final two innings.  Gamel had a couple hits, including a triple; Segura and Valencia each had RBI doubles; and Seager had a solo homer to kick everything off.  Badda bing, badda boom, 4-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Paxton has been on quite the tear since a dreadful month of June.  He’s given up 34 runs all season (32 earned), and 21 of those (20 earned) came in June.  In July, he’s got a record of 5-0 in five appearances, having given up 6 total runs in 33.1 innings, which is simply phenomenal.

The big story of yesterday had to do with:  What Would You Give Up To Bring In Sonny Gray?  Someone mentioned that any package would have to start with Kyle Lewis and Ben Gamel, among other prospects.  That sounds like a lot, particularly for a guy who was injured last year.  But, if I’m being honest, and I start to think about what this team might look like with a rotation that featured Paxton, Felix, Gray, Miranda, and whoever, I can actually get excited about this team again!

As it stands now, there’s just no shot.  You wouldn’t expect any more prolonged slumps out of Paxton, but everyone else certainly has the potential to melt down at any time.  I’m never CONFIDENT in a non-Paxton start, let me put it that way.  At best, you have to manage the rest of the rotation VERY carefully and, in turn, over-work your bullpen just to hope to eke out a victory.

But, throw Gray into the mix, now you’ve got two top-flight starters, and things start to look a little better.  You figure Felix probably has more good games in him than bad games at this point.  Miranda, if nothing else, will keep you in most games.  And, whoever else is whoever else; fifth starter gonna fifth starter, you know?

I know it sounds crazy, coming from the guy who flipped out when the Mariners traded Tyler O’Neill last week, but this is apples and oranges here.  O’Neill was blown on a AAA pitcher who will probably end up being nothing for the Mariners.  Kyle Lewis is ostensibly a better prospect, with a higher ceiling, who you’d hate to see do well with a divisional rival, but if he helps bring in a bona fide Major League pitcher, then HEY!  Sign me up!

The thing that gives me pause at this point is losing Ben Gamel, because I truly think he’s got a long and fruitful career ahead of him.  Particularly with the way Mitch Haniger has been struggling since his return from the DL.  If we can’t count on Haniger, and if Heredia/Dyson are just speedy slap hitters, then removing Gamel from the equation severely limits this offense’s potential.

But, here’s the deal:  this offense hasn’t been getting the job done as it is.  I know it sounds counter-productive to then remove one of its best hitters, but I think this team would gain more by having another top-shelf starting pitcher than it would having Gamel’s high batting average and long, flowing locks.

It’s either that, or we pretty much give up right now, because as this team is currently constructed, there’s no way we’re seeing the post-season.  There will be hot streaks and cold streaks and ultimately this team will finish right around .500 and ultimately that will be a few games short of our goal.  If that’s what you WANT, and you just want to pack it in and try to re-load for next year, then okay.  Let this next week go by and do nothing.  We’ll all go through the motions for a while, but I’m going to stop giving so much of a shit, because why bother?

This team does NOT have what it takes, and that’s all there is to it.

More than that, there’s no help on the horizon either.  We can’t look forward to a star returning from injury next season, because all the good injured players we have now are likely done for good.  And, all the “Major League-ready” players in AAA and AA are suck-ass and mediocre.  Better hope there’s a free agent or two available, otherwise the Mariners will have to continue trading from their so-called position of strength.  And keep trading from that so-called position of strength until it’s once again the biggest position of weakness on this team.

Super.

Mariners Burn My Ass By Trading Tyler O’Neill, Also Fucking Stink Against The Yankees

It’s getting to be pretty hard to “trust the process” when it looks like the Mariners are no closer to the post-season than they’ve ever been.  When it looks like every trade for a pitcher brings in Chase De Jong.  When it looks like this year’s Mariners team might be worse than last year’s variety, in spite of all the offensive upgrades we’ve made in just a year’s time.

Look, I get the whole argument that fans over-value their own prospects.  But, I also see what Tyler O’Neill has done throughout his minor league career:  he’s gotten consistently better each and every year.  And, I see all these other deals go down around the league, some of which a team gets obviously fleeced, and its trade partner gets good value for its fucking high-ranked prospects (even in a farm system that isn’t exactly overflowing with high-ranked prospects).

I just think it’s stupid to trade someone so good – who can potentially be an All Star – for a pitcher so mediocre, in Marco Gonzales.  A pitcher who missed all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery to his elbow.  A pitcher who has done NOTHING at the Major League level but suck total ass in 12 games over 3 seasons.  A pitcher who was drafted in the first round, but whose only claim to greatness has been half a season in AAA this year; 11 games.  A pitcher who I’m hearing might be out of options after this year?  Which, if that’s the case, is the biggest slap in the face of them all, because these guys (out of options, out of their team’s future plans) are supposed to come at a DISCOUNT; they’re NOT supposed to cost you your best minor league prospect!

Oh, and not only is he not here to help out the Mariners THIS YEAR – you know, when we’re in this playoff race and actually need the starting pitching help – but who’s to say he’ll be ready next year?  If he doesn’t have some injury setback (which, yes, is a real concern now and forever), will he be able to win a spot in this rotation?  Odds are, the Mariners are STILL going to have to bring in other starters to compete!  What happens if we have to settle for Gonzales being a reliever?  THEN what have we done???

And the company line continues to be:  trading from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness.  BULLSHIT!  Even if I believe in Ben Gamel (which, we’re talking about half a season or so), Mitch Haniger has NOT been the same since he returned from his injury (as I predicted), and Guillermo Heredia has been slumping pretty hard since he was effectively put in this centerfield platoon.  How is that a strength?  How would the Mariners not be better served with more competition?  Especially considering how Boog Powell isn’t worth a shit, and Taylor Motter has been figured the fuck out.  If OF is such a position of strength, then where’s the DEPTH???  Tell me that, you company man!  You fucking Mariners sycophant!

In other Mariners Trade News:  they gave Mark Lowe and Jean Machi away to the White Sox for cash.  This allows them to potentially continue their Major League careers, and makes the Mariners look enticing to the next batch of over-the-hill veterans who might sign on for minor league deals.  We hardly knew ye or some shit.

In actual Mariners Baseball News:  they got destroyed by Aaron Judge and the fucking Yankees last night.  Andrew Moore gave up 5 runs in 6 innings, Emilio Pagan went the rest of the way shutting them out, and the offense could only muster 1 run, as they went 3 for 12 with RISP.  C.C. Sabathia got the win, because of course he did.  He kills us when he’s great, he kills us when he’s shit, he kills us when he’s young, he kills us when he’s old.  On a related note, Masahiro Tanaka goes tonight, so get ready to be swept in this stupid fucking series.

New day, more Mariners bullshit.  I hate this fucking team.

Should The Mariners Mortgage The Farm On 2016?

My mid-season, All Star Week review of the Mariners continues.  Today, we’re talking about the farm, of which I don’t know a ton.  I hear names occasionally – sometimes on the Root broadcast, usually on Twitter from the beat writers – and my opinions are shaped thusly.  The more a player is portrayed in a positive light, the higher I regard that player, even if I’ve never seen him before (which is practically everyone).

So, that question again:  SHOULD the Mariners sell the farm to go all in on this year?

Well, it’s really a 2-pronged question.  1.  Do we want to part with what coveted pieces we have in the farm system, and risk them becoming stars elsewhere, for the chance of glory in the short term?  And 2.  Is this season even worth salvaging in the first place?

Let’s take that second question first.  If you’d asked me this question two months ago, I would have given a resounding YES!  Sell it all off, let’s get that ring in 2016!  What’s changed?  Well, for starters, the draft happened (which I’ll get to later), and the Mariners have gone a whopping 15-23 since June 1st, to fall to 45-44, third place in the West (8.5 games back), and 5 games back in the Wild Card race.  This, from a team I’ve repeatedly argued already needed to trade for help BEFORE all the injuries struck!

At this point, it’s impossible to say whether the Mariners will – for starters – even get healthy enough to get back to their early-season form.  Some guys are bound to return, but will they last through to the bitter end?  Or, will they have to go back on the shelf because their injuries never had a chance to fully resolve (or, are worse than first appeared)?  Other guys likely are gone for the season, rendering the team at a significant disadvantage.  At its best, when most everyone was healthy, the depth on the 25-man roster was razor thin.  Now that we’ve hacked away at a good chunk of it, with some never to return, the Mariners need outside help just to get back to the point where they’ll need MORE help to be serious World Series contenders.

At that point, you just have to throw up your hands and cry uncle.  Enough is too much!  Even if we WANTED to sell the entire farm, it’s likely not good enough to get the type of players back we need to win this fucking thing.

The flipside to that argument is:  no one is getting younger.  The Mariners are one of the oldest, most veteran teams in the league, and the window for a lot of these players will be closing shortly.  You figure Kyle Seager will still be in his prime for the next half-decade at least.  But, Cruz is getting up there.  Cano is getting up there.  King Felix (GASP) is getting up there.  We’ve got, what, 2-3 more years TOPS for those guys to be in their primes?  Many project even less.  Many people say that the core of this team has through the 2017 season before we seriously gotta start worrying about guys getting considerably worse.  That’s the rest of this year and all of next year, and then the great unknown.  If the team falters again next year, do they blow it all up?  You gotta wonder.

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that these players, by and large, won’t be much better than they are right now (when healthy).  Again, Seager might still have room to blossom, but everyone else has seen his peak or is at his peak right now.  The pressure’s on!  Time is of the essence!  If you’re EVER going to go all out for a ring, now is the time!

Again, though, as I’ve said before, I’m over the idea of a 2-month rental.  Any quality veterans you trade for have to – at a minimum – be under contract through the 2017 season.

Anyway, getting back:  is this season worth saving?  To answer that, I’d say yes IF we get the right guy back.  I’m talking a serious impact player (likely a starting pitcher), who will be here at least through next year.  But, in reality, we better get not only a starter but an impact reliever, like a veteran version of Edwin Diaz, who’s not prone to melting down like a Fernando Rodney type.

Which takes us back to the first question:  how much do we like what we have in the farm?

You can be a know-nothing like me when it comes to the Mariners’ minor league system and still be aware that the M’s are not flush with talent down there.  It’s ranked near the bottom in all of baseball, and will probably be so for at least the next few years to come.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s totally barren.  So, I’ll just talk about a few guys who have caught my eye.

D.J. Peterson (2013 first round pick) has skyrocketed in recent weeks, starting the year in AA, struggling at first, then turning on the jets, getting promoted to AAA, and continuing his massacre of all things minor league pitching.  Granted, it’s only been 11 games in Tacoma, but he’s hitting off the charts.  There’s still plenty of reasons to be concerned that he’ll never take that next step to be a bona fide Major League star – his lack of defensive polish, his high strikeout rates, his unimpressive walk rates – but the kid was drafted for his hitting, and if he makes it, he could be the right-handed first base power bat we’ve been waiting for (apologies to Dae-ho Lee, who you’ve gotta figure will move on to better things at some point).

On the one hand, I like D.J. Peterson the way I like all highly-drafted prospects the Mariners bring in:  they have all the potential in the world, and then they get called up to Seattle where they suck all the dick in the world.  If we keep him, odds are probably 90% or more that he disappoints; if we trade him, odds are probably 90% he kicks major ass (okay, probably not that high, though it seems like it, right?).  If he brought back the right piece (that I’ve talked about above), I think I’d be okay with him going away.

Alex Jackson (2014 first round pick) has been mired in A-ball.  His ceiling is a poor man’s Bryce Harper, only without the obvious fast track to the Majors.  He’s flashed in small bursts, but has yet to really break out, and appears to be far away from putting it all together.  And, if his questionable work ethic doesn’t improve (allegedly, of course, because what do I know?), he’ll probably never reach his potential.  I don’t think I’d mind trading him away either (he is a Jackie Z draft choice, after all), but his stock is probably pretty low, in which case I’d rather hang onto him and see what happens, than trade him for peanuts on a low-upside Big Leaguer.

Tyler O’Neill (2013 third round pick) is blowing up in AA this year.  Bigtime power bat & corner outfield player with (allegedly) the good kind of work ethic you like to see.  This could be a guy we talk about, in the next year or two, making the jump and having a longterm impact on this organization.  Best case scenario is he turns out to be a Nelson Cruz replacement in right field, who actually plays plus defense and slots into the middle of the order in the lineup.  The way people talk about this kid, I’d REALLY hate to see him go, so we’d have to get someone really special in return.

To round things out, I’ll talk about this year’s main picks, Kyle Lewis (first round) and Joe Rizzo (second round).  I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of an organization trading a draft pick in the same year as when they drafted him, so you gotta figure these guys are simply off the table.  Kyle Lewis so far is dazzling down in Everett (A-ball); he should be quickly shooting up the prospect rankings not only in the Mariners organization, but in all of minor league baseball.  The kid appears to have all the tools, and could very well see himself on a fast track to the Majors in the next couple years.  Rizzo (rookie league) is more of a project in that he still doesn’t have much of defensive position (with third base off the table as long as Kyle Seager is around).  But, as projected, he’s got one of the sweetest swings in the org, so he’ll go as far as his bat takes him.  If he can just figure out first base, he could be a better version of D.J. Peterson.  If he can figure out a corner outfield spot, he’ll be worth his weight in gold.