Offseason Swap Series: Seattle Mariners
By Mike Brandyberry
This week we cover the Seattle Mariners, a team certainly ahead of the Oakland Athletics, but clearly chasing the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I get to pinch hit for Matt Van Wormer this week, who is preparing some upcoming stories, and correspond with Harrison Crow of SoDo Mojo, an indepth Mariners blog. The Mariners and Indians seem to always cross paths, whether it be with managers Mike Hargrove and Eric Wedge, trades involving Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera or weird rainouts and snow games. Who knows how the 2012 Mariners will intersect with the Tribe. On to the questions…
DTTWLN? #1-Last season didn’t go as planned, a 95-loss season, complete with a 17-game losing streak. Can you explain what went wrong?
The Mariners right up until the All-Star break were sporting a near .500 record in fact, July 5th, the start of the M’s 17-game losing streak.
I’m not sure anyone even within the coaching staff or on the roster could explain why they lost so many games in a row. The way I see it, it was more of a matter of the pitching that was keeping us in games and giving the bats a chance to only score 2,3,4 runs to win a game, took a hiatus.
August was a near .500 month but after that the Mariners went to playing a smattering of young guys and giving individuals opportunities that wouldn’t normally have them.
Ultimately this team is more of a 75 win team and just got unlucky in July and really didn’t put it’s best foot forward in September to give younger players an opportunity to get better and grow. Does their record reflect them being a 67 win team? Yes, but they are better than that record reflects.
DTTWLN? #2-With the Rangers and Angels doing their best Red Sox/Yankees impersonation this winter and the Athletics trading off major league talent for prospects, the Mariners are caught somewhere in between. Are they making every attempt to land Prince Fielder, or are they trying to build a nucleus around Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda?
While they certainly plan to include Dustin Ackley in any future plans, the state of Pineda is rather unsure. The Mariners have so many pitching prospects in the upper minors that despite his upside the Mariners could score big and bring in some much needed missing pieces in the farm system (catcher, third base, a bat of any significance)
They will plan on building around the rotation in general. Jack Zduriencik (Mariners GM) understands how Safeco Field works and he’s been extremely smart in acquiring pieces and while not all those pieces have worked out he’s done nothing to jeopardize the Mariners future.
More specifically the key to the Mariners future at the present time is Felix Hernandez. A bonafied ace regardless of your definition and one that wants to stay in Seattle. He loves the culture, the fans and the organization. He is the center piece and living embodiment of the Mariners at this time. The Mariners plan on building Ackley, Justin Smoak, Mike Carp, Pineda, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and everyone else around Hernandez.
DDTWLN? #3-It seems Felix Hernandez trade rumors always seem to be on the back burner. Would the Mariners really trade their ace, and if so, why? He’s under team control for the next two seasons and making $20 million each season. Couldn’t the Mariners resign him for the around the same price? If they traded him, how big is the package they are looking for?
The trade rumors are at a point where it’s as if they are just begging for the Mariners to trade away their best player and face of their franchise. It’s rather ridiculous and is poor journalism. I’ve personally become disgusted by it and I know that many fans feel the same way.
The Seattle fan base hasn’t had many good things happen to it in the last three years outside of the Sounders (our epic MLS team… love those guys!!!) and trading away Hernandez is perhaps the next worst thing you could do.
But, just as you said the organization has money. He is signed to what is considered to be a team friendly contract (for a pitcher of his stature) and he wants to be here. What’s the purpose of trading him?
I truely believe that improvement is going to have to be shown to him before he would sign another extension but if the Mariners have a couple of 80+ win years and look to be close, I could completely see him signing a 10 year+ contract worth 200+ million for the remainder of his career. But things have to start going right for this club.
Now, moving Hernandez. Well, let’s just say Ivan Nova and Jesus Montero and some other random prospect out of the Yankees system is a horrible trade suggestion. I hear and it over and over and over, it continues to get repeated and it’s just pure ridiculous. Really, it cheapens what Hernandez means to this organization and insults what he has accomplished as a mere 25(!?!?!?!!!) year old pitcher with six years of dominance and a Cy Young.
Any deal that would move Hernandez out of Seattle would have to be enormous in size. There would have to be multiple players in their (very) early 20′s with star material type stuff and there is no team out there that would pay that and there are few teams that could in all actuality afford such a move. He’s ours and for the next 3 years, you can’t have him.
DDTWLN? #4-Ichiro showed his first signs of invincibleness in 2011 and is a free agent at the end of this season. What are the chances he resigns with the Mariners and makes a run at 3000 MLB hits, or leaves for greener pastures at the end of the season? Would Seattle ever consider trading him this summer to a contender?
I don’t know you tell me. Would you want Ichiro on your team? There is a general belief that his trade value is so low that there are few teams that would be willing to pay his price tag. Not to mention the fact that he’s been the icon of the team for the past 10 years and giving up on him at this stage would send yet another bad signal to fans.
I’m honestly not sure if he resigns and even less sure about the possibility of achiving 3,000 hits. I think that’s important to him but I’m not Ichiro and I certainly don’t know him personally so it’s hard to gauge on whether or not he’d want to stick around past his prime to accomplish it. There is some that think he’ll just head back to Japan after this year is over and others that believe that the Japanese ownership will force the front office into extending him to a Derek Jeter like extension.
Would I, Harrison Crow, considering trading him to a contender? It’s all about what that team would be willing to offer me back. In a vaccum, I’d certainly consider it, but it’s really interesting to see how he’ll perform this year and whether he’ll have a resurgence or just continue to show decline.
DDTWLN? #5-Considering the landscape of the American League West and the Mariners current roster, what are the realistic expectations for the team? What kind of record and finish do you think the team can have?
Don’t quite sleep on the Mariners. They aren’t a playoff team by any stretch of the imagination but they could win 80-82 games if everything breaks right. They’ll have full and healthy seasons from Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Casper Wells so the offense certainly looks to take at least a full if not a couple of steps forward.
Not to mention they have two very good pitchers that are near major league ready in James Paxton and Danny Hultzen. I don’t expect either to start with the big league team but both profile to be #2 starters and you add that to an already potent front half rotation of Hernandez, Pineda and Jason Vargas and you could really have a team that takes off.
Not to mention one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball, Brendan Ryan, and Ichiro who hopefully bounces a notch back up.
We’re not going to win any banners but what’s important is that we continue moving forward as an organization. We continue to graduate prospects, who are successful at the major league level and continue to restock the farm system.
The Mariners will most likely fit into third place, ahead of the quick dealing Athletics. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish behind the Angels, in second place. I think there is some regression coming back to Texas this year and while they sport a near dominating lineup, their rotation is sketchy and the team in generally has issues staying healthy in the second half of the season due to all the heat.
I’m not quite ready to pack in it.We’re going to make whatever team wins the west, earn it.
I call a 78 – 84 record, which in my book would be a very successful season.
Thanks for the help, Harrison. Next week we conclude the American League portion of our blog swap series with the Texas Rangers. We’ll see what the chances of an AL Three Peat are for the team from Texas before moving to the Tribe’s interleague opponents in 2012.
Photo: Associated Press