Mariners and the Trade Deadline

By Bliadd Drwg

Somehow, the Mariners find themselves in the playoff hunt. Granted, this is more a result of luck than skill, but it is happening so the Mariners need to start thinking about making some sort of a move before the deadline. It won’t be easy because there are only about 8 teams in the majors who are truly out of contention. What the Mariners really need is 2 bats and an arm if they want to have any really serious shot at winning a playoff series. Why two bats and an arm? Well let me tell you.

Pitching – their bullpen has been lights out but bullpens are a fickle thing, especially one that gets used as much as the Mariners have relied on theirs. Hernandez and Iwakuma are a tough 1-2 combination but the rest of the rotation is a mess:

Chris Young is due to turn back into a pumpkin at some point; his numbers are just not sustainable as his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) ERA is 1.74 higher than his actual ERA. He is also sporting a mutantly low BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .219. Let’s put it this way, the MLB average BABIP is .298. For a pitcher who does not strike out that many hitters to have a .219 BABIP means that he is incredibly lucky. At some point those outs will become hits and that will be the end of Chris Young as a viable starter.

Roenis Elias has been figured out by the league. After a decent April, he basically is sporting an ERA pushing 5 since then, and with the diminished offense in the league, that is not acceptable anymore. They will keep trucking him out there, but that is eventually going to have to change.

The #5 starter is a real problem right now. Ramirez is terrible as a stopgap, Maurer showed he can’t handle it, Walker can’t seem to throw strikes, is back in Tacoma and is probably still hurt and Paxton can’t stay healthy enough to pitch more than once a month. Just a reminder why TNSTAAPP. Things are so bad that they ended up using Tom Wilhelmsen to start a game.

You don’t need David Price here, although he would not hurt. You really just need a middle of the rotation guy – just like what the Yankees did when they picked up Brandon McCarthy. You don’t want to go into a 7 game series with the prospect of getting only 2 or 3 starts out of Hernandez/Iwakuma. The M’s won’t win in that scenario.

More after the jump…

Continue reading “Mariners and the Trade Deadline”

A Tough Week on the Waiver Wire

By Blaidd Drwg

It has been a bad couple of weeks for former Mariners. The transaction wire is just full of bad news:

June 25th – Washington National – Designated 1B/3B Greg Dobbs for assignment.

June 21st – LA Angels – Requested waivers on OF Raul Ibanez for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release

June 20th – Arizona Diamondbacks – Designated RHP J.J. Putz for assignment.

Raise your hand if you had any idea that Greg Dobbs was still in the majors. JJ Putz, at age 37, suddenly could not get a MLB hitter out, posting a 6.59 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in just 13 innings. I am pretty sure that someone will sign him once he clears waivers since the D’backs are on the hook for the roughly 7 million they owe him for this season. It wouldn’t be a bad risk to take, especially if he suddenly becomes effective again.

I thought Ibanez, despite the good month and a half he had last year, was done and I was confused why the Angles signed him and expected him to be more than a bench guy. I always had a healthy respect for Raul and Dave Schoenfield wrote a nice tribute to him here. If Raul is really done (and I hope he realizes he is done), he should sign a 1 day contract with the M’s, retire and get to throw out the first pitch sometime before the season ends.

Revisiting Expectations

By Blaidd Drwg

I said in this post that I would revisit the points I made about the Mariners at the end of the month, so that is what I am doing.

The team went 5-9 in the interim, losing 8 in a row and then winning 4 out of 5, so this team is definitely going to be Jekyll and Hyde all season.

My points for review:

1)      These boots are made for walking – Zunino and Miller specifically were my targets and they had combined for 1 walk in 84 plate appearances in the original article. Well, they improved to 3 walks in 159 – 2 for Miller and one for Zunino. It actually should be 2 in 159; the Zunino walk was intentional, when they were playing in Florida, with the pitcher due up next. So Mike Zunino has exactly 0 unintentional walks this season in 74 plate appearances. That is terrible. About the only thing keeping him in the lineup at this point is pitchers continue to throw him pitches near the strike zone and he has turned them into hits. At some point they will figure out the guy can’t hit or lay off a curve ball out of the zone. Miller probably would have played himself back to Tacoma at this point if it weren’t for the fact there is no better option. Nick Franklin can’t play short and Willie Bloomquist can’t hit, so you are stuck with Miller and his 3 for 32 slump, except when you get to see Willie Bloomquist in the lineup, which is much too often these days. The walks have been a team issue – they are 14th in the AL in runs, just 9 ahead of the Astros and last in the league in walks.

2)      Under pressure – Cano won’t be allowed to hit with runners on base. I was wrong; he has only drawn 5 walks in 34 PA with runners on, and has hit a whopping .241 in those situations. Maybe teams will pitch to him as long as he continues to not do anything with guys on.

3)      Round and round – the M’s OF is a mess. It continues to be a mess. Ackley is the best of the bunch with a .256/.298/.372 slash line. Romero/Saunders/Almonte have shown nothing at bat and the fielding has been less than stellar. Time to trade Nick Franklin and an arm for Andre Ethier and his insane contract. He can’t be worse than what the M’s are trucking out there right now.

4)      Hot mess – the M’s rotation. Iwakuma is still a couple weeks from coming back, Walker has been shut down indefinitely, Ramirez and Maurer have pitched their way out of the rotation and even Felix hasn’t looked great in his last few starts. It will probably get worse before it gets better when it comes to starting pitching.

Are we having fun yet? Lets revisit again at the end of May.

Tempering Expectations

By Blaidd Drwg

I am writing this on a Monday and it will be posted on a Friday, so I am issuing the disclaimer that things may change in-between, but this makes my point.

The Mariners spent the first 12ish days of the season in first place. Everyone here was overly excited that they started the season 3-0 and that the team was poised to make a playoff run. Let me put that into perspective for you. Three games is roughly 1.8% of the baseball season. It would be like declaring that your team has turned it around and is making a playoff run approximately 1 quarter into the first game in the NFL season. Sample size people, sample size.

Well, since the Mariners torrid 3-0 start, they have managed to go just 3-5 to drop 1.5 games behind the A’s. Did you realize that the M’s had 4 winning streaks of at least 3 games last season, including an 8 game winning streak. No one got excited over those.

I think that the last 8 games are a better indicator of this team than the first 3, based on my predictions earlier this year, but there are a few very disturbing trends that should start sending out warnings to the management of this team. Yes, we are dealing with sample size issues here, and they shouldn’t start really being a concern until the end of the month, but they are things that an eye should be kept on.

1)      The Mariners aren’t drawing any walks lately – particularly Brad Miller and Mike Zunino. Actually that is a bit of an understatement, because Zunino and Miller have combined for exactly 1 walk in 84 plate appearances. An average hitter will draw a walk in roughly 9% of his plate appearances, which means that these guys should have drawn about 8 walks by now. This is a potentially dangerous stat for the M’s because Zunino already has a reputation for chasing breaking stuff out of the zone. Things will probably change as the sample size increases, but if the walk rates for these guys stay this low, they are going to have to both hit over .300 just to be getting on base at a reasonable rate of around .320. It is a team issue too – the M’s drew 15 walks in their first 3 games and scored 26 runs (there is a significant correlation between walks and scoring runs). In their last 8 games, they have drawn 18 and only scored 19 runs, including being shut out twice. Pitchers tend to make mistakes with runners on base, so with guys not getting on, pitchers have the advantage.

2)      Robinson Cano is not going to be allowed to hit with runners on base unless the bats behind him wake up. Cano has just 4 RBI and 2 extra base hits in 11 games and has been walked intentionally 3 times already this season. It may not seem like a lot, but it is in this small sample size. Justin Smoak lit up spring training and was hot the first 3 games of the season and then his bat fell asleep once pitchers made adjustments. Seager is batting .121, Corey Hart is hitting a wearing his sunglasses at night .188, Logan Morrison is batting .150. Granted those averages will regress to the mean, but how long will it be before Robby gets pissed off that this is happening.

3)      The M’s need to figure out the OF situation. The entire outfield rotation of Romero/Hart/Morrison/Saunders/Almonte has looked lost at the plate and in the field this year (although Ackley is looking better than he has since his rookie season). They need to sort out who should be getting the bulk of the playing time and just stick with them and let them figure it out.

4)      The pitching staff, despite some nice starts, is a mess. Iwakuma and Walker are out longer than anticipated (and I don’t think you will see Walker back before the middle of May). Paxton is on the DL and I am sure they are being cautious with him also. You never know what you are going to get from Ramirez and Elias and the back of the rotation is Chris Young, who hasn’t pitched in 2 years and Blake Bevan, who has never really shown any ability to get MLB hitters out consistently. This is why I have cautioned Mariner fans not to get overly excited about their pitching – they went from it being strength to a weakness in a hurry. Just takes a pulled muscle here and there and you lose 60% of your starters.

Let’s revisit this in a couple of weeks and see if the M’s made any real adjustments to fix the situations described above before they really become issues.

Mad Libs: The 2014 Mariners Starting Rotation Edition

By Blaidd Drwg

Let’s play a game of Mad Libs:

The Mariners 2014 rotation to start the season will be Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, (Insert name of failed M’s prospect) and (Insert name of another M’s failed prospect).

Remember, Iwakuma and Walker are out for at least the first 2 weeks of the season. The Mariners released their scrap heap recalmation candidates, Scott Baker and Randy Wolf on Tuesday and they were the 2 most likely guys to start for the Mariners coming out of spring training. I am guessing that the other 2 spots are going to go to Hector Noesi and Blake Beavan, and yes, I am serious about that. They would only have to make 3 spots assuming that Iwakuma and Walker are back when they are supposed to be back (the M’s schedule in the 2nd week of the season has enough off days that they don’t need a 5th starter), but there is a huge risk to this team gaining any real traction if they have to slog through 3 potentially disastrous starts. Other than 3 games in Miami and 2 in NY, all of the rest of the games in the first month of the season are against AL West opponents, and only 3 of the 22 games are against the Astros.

If the M’s don’t get back Iwakuma and Walker when expected and/or Ramirez and Paxton are not as good as advertised, this is going to be a long season yet again – the M’s have absolutely no depth in their starting rotation right now. I bet the backup plan is to trade Nick Franklin for a middle of the road starter if someone flames out.

The Mariners and Spending Money

By Blaidd Drwg

Reason #124342423 that Jack Zdurencik will be fired this season and the Mariners will continue hopelessly spinning their wheels. This is from a Jim Bowden article on ESPN.com:

Several general managers told me they don’t understand how the Seattle Mariners could give Robinson Cano almost a quarter-billion dollars and then claim not to have the money to bring back Kendrys Morales or make a run at Ervin Santana.

Seattle is emboldened by its lucrative local television deal, but many general managers are wondering what the Mariners’ plan is. How does a team spend that much money and go from fourth-best in the division to … fourth-best in the division. The Mariners haven’t really improved at all, and with so many needs they would have been better off spreading the money around.

Cano complained a few weeks back about the team not spending any money. I don’t think that he was wrong, and it appears that other MLB GM’s feel the same way. I am starting to think that the Cano signing was just to try to keep season ticket holders from defecting (I am still glad that I did not renew my tickets) and not about trying to make the team better. Unless they catch lightning in a bottle from about 5 of the guys in their lineup, this is basically a .500 team.

And for my next prediction – the Taijuan Walker shoulder tightness will end up being more serious than expected and he will need major surgery at some point before the end of the season and be out for all of 2015.

The Blaidd Drwg 2014 Mariners Report

How hard is it to get excited about the Mariners? Well, let’s take a look at their off-season so far:

Signed Robinson Cano – 10 years/$240 million

Signed Corey Hart – 1 year/$6 million

Signed Willie Bloomquist – 2 years(!)/$5.8 million

Signed John Buck – 1 year/$1 million

Signed Franklin Gutierrez (!!!) – 1 year/$1 million

Signed Endy Chavez to a Minor League Deal (YAHOO!)

Signed Scott Baket to a Minor League Deal

Traded Carter Capps for Logan Morrison.

I know a bunch of Mariner fans are really excited by the Cano signing, but, as I have written before, I don’t think that it benefits the team. The Mariners aren’t near contending and I honestly think that they are probably 2-3 years from POTENTIALLY being there, and by the time they get there, Cano will be in the decline phase of his career and that contract is going to look horrible. That contract is so bad that I know Yankee fans who are happy their team didn’t offer Cano anywhere near those years or dollars – and these are people who think Cano is the best player in the league. That should tell you something.  It also probably means that the Mariners have given up on Nick Franklin since he no longer has a position to play. So much for the youth movement.

The other problem with all of those signings is that you don’t really improve on the positions that you have deficiencies in. One of the Mariners biggest issues was lousy outfield defense. There is absolutely no way that the Mariners should have every put Raul Ibanez in LF for the 100+ games that he was (the Colossus of Rhodes has more range than Raul) and they had the revolving door in both CF and RF and on occasion were playing 3 left fielders in their outfield at any given time. So what do they do, go out and replace Ibanez and Morse with Hart and Morrison – basically 2 OF who are horrible defensively and probably aren’t any better offensively than Ibanez and Morse.  Add to that they still don’t have a centerfielder (I think they have given up on Ackley there too) or a right fielder. Kind of makes you miss the days of Ichiro, doesn’t it.

The catching situation is definitely up in the air. The John Buck signing is an important one because it tells me that the M’s still have questions about Zunino’s ability to hit at the MLB level. Buck isn’t going to win an MVP award, but he is decent enough to catch about 2/3 of your team’s games, so this didn’t strike me as a “sign a backup guy” type move. My prediction is that Buck is your opening day catcher and Zunino starts the year in Tacoma.

The M’s didn’t address the need for another starting pitcher. Sure they have a bunch of young guns in the system, but you never know how those guys are going to hold up over a full season (take a look at Brandon Maurer last year) so you need an insurance policy. The 2 best starters left on the market are Ubaldo Jiminez and Ervin Santana. It is probably going to take a 4 year/ $50 – $60 million dollar deal to land one of those guys and I have the feeling that the M’s will sign one of the two of them and then regret that move by the end of the season. The problem is that neither is consistent enough to warrant the money you will have to spend for them and there is a good chance that neither would be pitching for the Mariners by the end of their contract should they get signed by the team. The M’s need to show fans they are trying to win and the way they seem to approach that is by overpaying for talent. The other option is to sign a scrap heap started (see Joe Saunders last year, that is what the Scott Baker deal is this year) and hope that the young guns actually can contribute. If they don’t, you probably just lost another 20% of your already eroded fan base.

The other two guys whose names keep getting associated with the Mariners are Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz. Both guys were looking for huge contracts and neither one is going to get one, so at least if you sign them, you probably can do it on a one year deal. The issue is that you already have a bunch of horrible defense/1B/DH/LF types on the roster and how much of an improvement are these guys anyway over the mass of players you have?

We still have a few weeks before the start of spring training and there is always the possibility that the Mariners will make some unexpected moves, but right now, this looks and feels like a 77-80 win team at best. On the bright side, at least the Astros will keep the M’s from finishing last in the division and I am willing to bet that Zdurencik gets fired if this team is not playing at least .500 ball at the all-star break.

Oh, in case you don’t agree with me, Dave Schoenfield is much more pessimistic about the Mariners outlook:

Yes, signing Cano will make the Mariners interesting at the start of the season. But … well, what else is there? The Mariners are desperately counting on their young players — Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, Dustin Ackley (is he still a young player?), Justin Smoak (ditto) and Michael Saunders (ditto) to improve — and all have huge question marks. They’re counting on two rookies in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton for the rotation. They hope Hart and Morrison are healthy, but even then they’re basically replacing the production Morales provided last year. Cano should be great, but I’m having trouble seeing where the improvement is going to come from unless Walker and Paxton are much better than anticipated.

Prediction: 74-88

More on the Mariners…Now With Expert Opionions

By Blaidd Drwg

The Mrs. accuses me of being too negative about the Mariners.  Yet, every year I make a prediction about their win total, I am either pretty much spot on or slightly optimistic about the team in hindsight. Since I don’t really care about the team, my predictions are analytical based on stats rather than emotions, so when I say that the Mariners are a 75 win team, that is what the stats tell me, not what my gut does.

My wife probably hated this post last week where I thought that the Mariners prospects for making moves and signing someone like Cano were not as optimistic as some people.  I wrote it before the rumors about David Price came up. I still don’t think that getting Cano and Price makes them a playoff team and I am not the only one. Here are some comments from 3 diehard Mariners fans who I absolutely respect the opinion of:

Scott Weber of Lookout Landing:

It’s that the Mariners simply are not in a position to make this kind of a splash, this many games out of a playoff spot. Especially when two other teams in their division are much stronger, and are also fortifying their clubs with moves that help them win now.

Dave Cameron of USS Mariner:

And I’m not convinced that David Price is the right guy, nor am I convinced that the 2014 Mariners are the right team, for this kind of trade to be worth doing.

David Schoenfield of ESPN.com:

You can’t trade Walker for Price and then not sign Cano. But that’s no guarantee. You could trade for Price tomorrow and then see Cano sign with another team in January. And how good would they make the Mariners? Maybe Price pushes this team to 75 wins. Maybe Cano pushes it to 80. Maybe the young guys play a little better and you win 85.

All 3 quotes came from Schoenfield’s piece last week on espn.com, it is worth the complete read. These 3 guys know a heck of a lot more about the Mariners than I do and they all feel the same way I do. What does that tell you about this team?

The Mariners and the Offseason

By Blaidd Drwg

I keep hearing that the Mariners are going to be a major player in the FA market this season. Here is where I think the Mariners have some major holes to fill to bring them to an 82-85 win team:

RF and LF (assuming that Dustin Ackley is their CF)

1B or DH (depending on where you play Smoak)

C (you need someone who can play almost every day in case Zunino proves 2013 was not a fluke)

SP (at least one back of the rotation guy)

RP (the bullpen needs help – too many guys imploded last year)

If you want to talk about being a playoff contender, they probably need to replace Smoak with someone better and they probably need 2 middle of the rotation guys in addition to 2 OF, a catcher and some bullpen help. I personally think they need to do more than that and that would be a ton of spending, so it isn’t going to happen.

I write this because of the flurry of activity that has occurred over the last week. The A’s have made trades to bolster their team and so have the Rangers. The Yankees have signed the best catcher and OF on the market and appear to still be in the running for Cano. The Tigers are making themselves better through trades and signings. The Mariners? Well, they did sign Willie Bloomquist. Are you excited yet?

I keep hearing the Mariners are the front runners for Robinson Cano. He tried to play chicken with the Yankees and the Yankees wouldn’t budge, so his agent, Jay-Z, decided to pull a Scott Boras move and get a bidding war for Cano’s services going, hence the Mariners involvement. The M’s are a team with just 2 players under contract (Iwakuma and Felix) and a bunch of guys who are arbitration eligible/under team control. If the M’s don’t go out and spend any money on FA’s this season, their payroll will be in the 45-50 million dollar range. Based on that, the M’s could afford to overpay Cano in the 25-27 million dollar range just to get him to sign.

With the M’s offer, Jay-Z goes back to the Yankees and says, “See, there is a team willing to pay my client 27 million per for 8 years, but he really wants to stay in NY. If you do 25 million per for 7 years with an option, we can call be happy.” Unless the Rangers step in, I would put money on Cano signing for 7 years/175 million with the Yankees.

There are a couple of reasons why signing Cano makes no sense, especially for 8 years:

  • You have now committed 50+ million dollars on 2 players through 2019. That is a ton of payroll on two guys considering one is a pitcher and the other will be in his late 30’s.
  • Signing Cano to that contract would basically mean he is untradeable. You now have to hope that his batting numbers don’t fall into a black hole in Safeco, or that he becomes unhappy if the team is not competitive.
  • You have no place to play him. I don’t think you can put him at DH, so that means you have to find a new position for Nick Franklin, unless you put Cano at 1B and move Smoak to DH.
  • Your team is going to get really expensive over the next 3 seasons. All of the guys under team control will get bumps due to arbitration and the arbitration eligible guys will get huge bumps from free agency.  As deep as the M’s farm system is, it can’t replace the entire roster, so you are probably looking at adding 40-50 million to your payroll in the next few seasons, assuming that you keep all of the important guys.
  • You are going to have to sign or replace Iwakuma. He is on the last year of his contract in 2014 and you are probably going to be paying him in the 15-17 million per range unless he implodes this season. The M’s hold an option on him for 2015, but I expect that the contract will get extended sometime this season and void the team option.
  • When was the last time a mega deal free agent worked out for the team that signed him?

Cano makes sense if you are close to being a perennial contender. The Mariners are not. I suspect what happens in the next few months is the M’s sign Nelson Cruz, resign Kendrys Morales, a couple of replacement level guys for the bench , a scrap heap starter and a couple of fungible relief guys and plod their way to another 77-81 win season, hoping that all of the kids become superstars.

And folks wonder why I gave up my season tickets.

Disappointment at the Trade Deadline

By Iron Chef Leftovers

The trade deadline is always interesting in baseball, but this year just seemed plain boring. Sure there were a couple of bigger trades and I am happy with the move the Red Sox made in getting Jake Peavy for Jose Iglesias, but beyond that, it was the moves that didn’t get made (and one that did but I can’t figure out why) that were odd.

The Diamondbacks, just 2 ½ games out of first place, traded Ian Kennedy to San Diego. Granted, Kennedy’s 5+ ERA has not looked great this year, but there are things to consider – his stats suggest that his ERA should be about a run lower than it is and he is probably better than whoever the D’Backs are going to plug into their rotation to replace him. It is possible that the D’backs see something in Kennedy that scared them into making a deal with one of their division rivals, but they effectively dealt a decent starting pitcher for a LOOGY (Joe Thatcher), a mid-level prospect and a 2nd round draft pick. Not a great haul. What am I missing here?

The Mariners decided to stand pat despite having a few moderately tradable commodities. It seems that management is trying to keep fans by winning a few more games than they would if they dumped Morales/Ibanez/Perez. Well, I am not sure that winning 80 games will keep the fan exodus from happening any more than winning 70 games will. I suspect the reason is that they are trying to win at least 76 games – so they can make the bullshit argument that they improved over last season and that the 3…er 5…er 7 year plan is still working. The M’s are effectively out of it – 12.5 games back of the A’s for the division lead and 9.5 back of Cleveland for the 2nd wild card spot. Even if they get close to .500, they are still going to be playing to a mostly empty stadium come September, so why not deal Ibanez and Morales (they are both free agents at the end of the season) for something more than a bucket of balls and just play the kids and see what happens.