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.
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.
We are just days away from the trading deadline and the question for teams on the fringe of contention is “to sell or not to sell?” Basically, do we trade our fringy marginal veterans to a team in contention for something more than a bag of warm peanuts.
The Mariners are one of those teams; they currently sit 11 games back of the A’s for the division lead and 8.5 games back of Baltimore for the wild card. While teams have come back from further out, the odds are highly unlikely (ESPN has the M’s playoff chances as 1.1%). Considering a heavily negative run differential – only two teams have a worse differential in the AL: Houston and Chicago, I think it is time to sell. What do the Mariners have to sell though? Really not a ton. You don’t want to move any of your young guys, so Ackley, Ramirez, Franklin, Miller, Zunino, Smoak, Seager and Saunders are off the table. Felix is pretty much untradeable because of his contract. So who does that leave? Here are the most likely candidates:
Kendrys Morales – he is a free agent at the end of the season, so he is a likely candidate. He is having a good, not great season and plays marginal defense, which probably means he heads to an AL team as a DH. I would guess he is going to end up in Tampa, Cleveland or New York and they will probably be able to get major league ready talent for him.
Raul Ibanez – he seems to have found the fountain of youth, but he is 41 and I doubt that he can sustain his home run prowess for too much longer. He is a terrible defender and teams constantly take advantage of his weak arm. His defense is so bad, that he has virtually negated his offensive WAR value – baseball-reference.com has him at 2.2 oWAR and -1.5 dWAR. He is a nice story but not a long-term benefit to the team. This is the classic case of buy low-sell high. His likely destination is the same list as Morales.
Brendan Ryan – he can’t hit but he does have great value as a late-inning defensive replacement, so the M’s could probably flip him for a grade-C prospect at this point.
Endy Chavez – He can neither hit nor field and is at best a 4th OFer, but he keeps sticking around the majors for no good reason. The M’s can probably get a warm body for him.
Joe Saunders/Aaron Harang – they are both the kind of pitchers that tend to get traded at the deadline; back of the rotation guys who teams are willing to overpay for because they want a veteran back of the rotation guy down the stretch run.
The Entire Bullpen – yep, I would move any of these guys because, frankly, relievers are a fungible commodity, but your most likely candidates are Oliver Perez (love those lefties) and Tom Wilhelmsen.
Buster Onley seems to disagree:
The chief officers of those franchises must assess what surrendering in July would signal to the fan bases, because once the Royals trade Ervin Santana, or the Mariners trade Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, that means they’re telling their fans that they’re willing to give up any chance of a comeback, and they’ll see the evidence in the attendance.
Teams that sell off in July are telling their customer base: We don’t have any chance.
That’s a hard thing to sell for the Royals, who haven’t been in a postseason since 1985, or the Mariners, who have been almost irrelevant for the past decade and seem to be building something in the past month. Keep that in mind over the next six days, as you scratch your head about some decisions that confuse you.
Well, I am not sure that you would actually see it in the Mariners attendance if they traded any of their veterans. Let’s face it, people are not coming out to the park to see Raul Ibanez or Kendrys Morales and you are not going to get an attendance boost because Saunders or Harang are on the mound (but you probably would get a boost from their potential replacements on the mound – Taijuan Walker or Danny Hultzen). I don’t necessarily trust the Mariners attendance figures, since they go by tickets sold and not butts in the seats (and there are a good number of season ticket holders that don’t show up for the game) but they haven’t exactly been going gangbusters with their attendance, drawing just a shade under 22,000 per game and they have yet to sell out a game this season (although I do believe they have officially sold out the game on August 10th). Heck, they never topped 26,000 in any game against the Red Sox in July, and the majority of fans in attendance that series were in Red Sox gear. Here is a nice scatter chart of their attendance this season:
In case you care, here is what the attendance looks like based on the day of the week:
Day of the Week
What will cause the attendance to decline isn’t the team signaling it has given up, it is the same thing that it is every year – the team just isn’t that good and will fall completely out of contention, meaning that 5,000 people will show up for the weeknight games in September.