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.