The Seattle Mariners’ 5 Year Plan

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All across the Mariners blogosphere, you hear “we need David Price because our time is now!”. This doesn’t make much sense. Almost every key player on the Mariners roster is locked up for years to come. In fact, with the exception of Kuma and a few other pieces, every other player— with a WAR of any significance— has at least three years before free agency.

Yes, we have a good team this year. And next year. And the next year. And the next year.

Seriously, this team is no temporary fluke. This team is trending upwards, not down.

Let’s look at the key Mariners contributors, including 2014 WAR thus far, and the year they hit free agency.

Pitching:
Felix Hernandez, 4.9, 2020
Hisashi Iwakuma, 2.3, 2016
Chris Young, 2.3, 2015
Tom Wilhelmsen, 1.0, 2018
Dominic Leone, 0.9, 2020
Yoervis Medina, 0.8, 2019
Danny Farquhar, 0.8, 2020
Fernando Rodney, 0.9, 2016
Plus: James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias, Brandon Maurer all with at least 5 years of team control.

Batting:
Robinson Cano, 3.6, 2024
Kyle Seager, 4.1, 2018
Michael Saunders, 2.0, 2017
Brad Miller, 0.7, 2020
Mike Zunino, 0.6, 2020
James Jones, 0.5, 2020
Plus: D.J. Peterson with 6 years of team control, starting soon (please!).

Obviously, the Mariners will be negotiating extensions with Iwakuma, Seager, and Saunders when the time is right. Further, none of these guys appear to have strong desires to play outside of Seattle— especially as the team is now winning— nor do they have a strong financial incentive to see free agency (so long as the extensions are respectful).

This means that the Mariners have finally built a sustainable winning ball team. The team you’re watching and loving is not some fleeting entity. Quite the opposite. This team has staying power, and a solid foundation to build from. (And yes, they need a few more bats!) When you hear commentators talk about a team’s “window to win”, it usually applies to teams with star players who won’t be around much longer. The Mariners are not that team.

Of course, Felix and Cano won’t be this good forever. That’s why we’re talking about a 5-year plan. The Mariners want to make the most of our superstars’ skills and salaries. With a supporting cast of young team-controlled talent, you’re looking at a steady half-decade window to chase pennants. Any asset listed above ought not to be traded, unless the return further benefits the 5-year plan.

This applies, generally speaking, to a Starling Marte or a discounted Matt Kemp, but not for a David Price.

So excited as we are, no need to hold your breath. This moment isn’t merely passing by.

Now, watch this video of D.J. Peterson and imagine 2016.

 

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”— 3 Reasons the Mariners Need to Pass on David Price

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Mariners fans have been anticipating a trade since the Robinson Cano signing. And now that the M’s are performing at a 5% better winning clip than they were projected, the fever is burning. Seattle baseball fans— forgive them— have had a losing team for so long that they’re outright giddy at the word “post-season”. And they should. This is cool. The Mariners are starting to look pretty darn good.

Yet when the discussion turns to David Price, I don’t become excited. I become worried. It’s not that Price isn’t excellent, it’s not that Price wouldn’t help. It’s about the future of this team, the reality of their current standing, and an aversion to “all-or-nothing” moves.

1) The Cost

David Price not only costs a lot of money—$20 million next year— he will also cost a handful of top prospects. The Rays have been widely reported to want more than the Cubs’ got for their ace Jeff Sarmadzija. And the Cubs, you’ll remember, got Oakland’s two top prospects plus other pieces. We needn’t speculate much further than the notion of the Mariners giving up Taijuan Walker and D.J. Peterson: Two exciting faces that could represent the future of this team.

That is a steep price. Come 2016, when David Price has signed with New York for $168 million, we’ll be left with a team gutted of it’s key prospects. True, maybe those prospects fail like Dustin Ackley or Justin Smoak. But then maybe we’ve traded away our next Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager.

2) You Simply Cannot Ignore This Offense

Sure, you can never have too much pitching. But you can have too little hitting. Acquiring David Price could be the most lopsided strategy seen in baseball in years. Could it work? I don’t know, and neither do you. But we have now seen 15 games this season when the Mariners lost despite allowing 3 runs or fewer.

The answer can’t be to buy the most expensive pitching to over-compensate for poor hitting. You need to balance to an acceptable degree. That doesn’t mean our hitting quality must equal our pitching quality, but you do need a serviceable lineup. While our current pitching staff (not including Price) could take us to the World Series, our hitters simply could not.

Ignoring our hitting issues while dreaming of grandeur is concerning. It’s like a marathon runner going out to buy himself the best shoes and the best running pants and even the best power-energy bars, all while having a sprained ankle. Okay, that’s a bad metaphor. But the point remains— Strong pitching cannot simply carry limping hitting to the World Series.

3) The Theory of Going “All-In”

I actually love this poker metaphor. And if you know anything about poker, you know that this move works on two occasions: You either have the best hand, or you try to bluff your opponent.

Now, there’s no bluffing in baseball. So going “all-in” is only a strategy when you have the best hand. Oakland recently went “all-in”, and well, they have the best hand in baseball right now. We don’t. We have the 3rd best hand in a 5 hand division. (Imagine playing poker when you can see all of your opponents hands. That’s baseball.)

True, we could be in first place in the NL East, but we’re not in the NL East. We have to beat both the Angels and the Athletics, and probably the Tigers to get to the World Series. And maybe in your opinion, simply getting to play in a division-title series is worth gutting the farm for. But I am convinced that the time is not right for this type of move. Perhaps next year at the deadline will be different. And maybe then trading the farm for an ace rental makes sense. But for now, this team isn’t ready to go “all-in”. We will lose that bet.

Of course, internet-trade-theorizing is supposed to be for fun. We all have different opinions, and that’s wonderful. I don’t pretend to think my analysis is the ultimate truth, or that somebody else’s desire to trade the farm for David Price is dumb. Price is an excellent pitcher. Who doesn’t want an excellent pitcher? What I am trying to offer is a point of view that favors a long-term outlook. There are organizations like the Cardinals who have put together consistent good-playing teams whom each year have a shot at the pennant. We can do that. Our organization has rebuilt, and we are now a respectable, sustainable club that has a long-term quality outlook. To me, that is far more important than one or two years of weak pennant races, followed by 6 years of sub-.500 baseball.

Fellow fans, I beg you to enjoy the team that we have. Watch them grow. Re-imagine the Mariners as a sustainable ball club.

David Price is not for us, not now.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Mariners, Rays Could Be Eyeing Three Team Trade

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The speculation is killing me. It’s well reported that the Mariners would like to acquire David Price and/or Ben Zobrist from the Rays. The teams have been discussing Seattle’s top prospect Taijuan Walker for some time now.

But it seems that the Rays are interested in acquiring a top name hitting prospect for Price, something the Mariners do not currently have. If Seattle still wants Price without a drastic overpay, a third team seems necessary. As Buster Olney reports, the Cubs could be a good fit.

This seems like a perfect match for all three teams. However, it was reported that the Rays already turned down Addison Russell for Price, before the Athletics ultimately moved him on to the Cubs. If the Rays don’t want Russell, it could shut the whole (speculative) operation down.

However, a deal here could still be possible:

  • When originally offered Russell for Price, the Rays may not have thrown in the towel on their season (they still haven’t). A second opportunity at Russell would surely be hard for the Rays to pass on.
  • The Rays could be interested in other Cubs prospects, such as Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, or Albert Almora.

The Mariners are also still interested in Ben Zobrist, and Nick Franklin remains a center piece in the discussions. Tampa Bay has also been searching for catcher for quite some time, and are likely interested in Tyler Marlette.

A potential deal could look like:

Mariners receive

  • David Price
  • Ben Zobrist

Cubs receive

  • Taijuan Walker

Rays receive

  • Addison Russell
  • Nick Franklin
  • Tyler Marlette

There would likely be other players (specifically from the Mariners) involved in this trade, but this is a solid foundation for a three team deal. Again, this is all very speculative, but it’s not implausible.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Mariners Trade Discussions Heating Up

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As the All-Star break comes to a close, and the trade deadline becomes more prominent, the Seattle Mariners find themselves in the middle of every major rumor.

Josh Willingham:

It seems that talks between the Mariners and Twins over Willingham have slowed to a halt.

 

Marlon Byrd:

The talks between the Phillies, the Mariners, and Marlon Byrd have folded, and a deal now seems highly unlikely. The biggest reason for this was Byrd’s demand to have his 2016 vesting option guaranteed before he agreed to waive his no-trade clause.

The Phillies’ outfielder would be owed $8 million in 2016, a price Seattle likely would not want to pay for a 39-year-old outfielder. Byrd would help Seattle in the short term, but with names like Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes set to hit free agency before the 2016 season, tying up a large sum of money is not in their best interest.

Billy Butler:

The Mariners’ desperation to add a bat has found them discussing the Kansas City designated hitter. This would have been intriguing last year, but Butler has struggled in 2014, looking more like a speed-less version of James Jones than the fear inducing power bat Seattle needs.

In 2014, Butler has hit just .273/.325/.355 with three home runs and a wRC+ of 87. His WAR sits at a dismal -0.8, as his defensive limitations have done nothing to improve his value.

That being said, Butler has been better of late, hitting .318/.363/.422 since May 28. In fact Steamer projects Butler to hit .287/.359/.440 with six home runs the rest of the season, including a .349 wOBA and a 121 wRC+. ZIPs also has a favorable projection for Butler in the remainder of 2014, though slightly more conservative. While this could just be a hot streak by Butler, he has been good in his career a lot more than he has been bad.

Butler is also affordable monetarily, only owed $3 million for the remainder of 2014. He has a team option for $12.5 million in 2015, though he likely will end up a free agent, and teams should be able to sign him for much less. However, this is where a Butler trade starts to make less sense for Seattle. While Butler is available at a nominal cost to the Mariners’ resources, they’ll be able to sign him in the offseason without having to give up any players. Still, that would not help Seattle this season, and the likelihood of Butler choosing to sign in Seattle is slim to none.

Ben Zobrist:

Seattle’s talks with the Rays about Ben Zobrist seem to progressing rapidly over the last week.

Likely, the Rays asked for a lot more than Seattle was willing to give. Tampa Bay still believes they can compete, and won’t move Zobrist unless they are blown away. This could change as the trade deadline gets closer, and the Rays fall further in the standings.

The asking price could also increase, as many teams are interested in Zobrists’ monetary cost and positional flexibility. A bidding war could ensue. The Mariners aren’t the only ones who make sense for Zobrist.

Here’s what Bob Dutton had to say about Zobrist:

They like him, he’s available, affordable and would be a nice fit. But that’s true for a lot of teams. There might not be a player who draws more interest over the next few week. That means the price will probably be pretty stiff.

David Price:

In addition to Ben Zobrist, the Mariners and Rays are in serious talks over lefty David Price.

Apparently, Seattle is looking to find a package that could return both All-Stars. A package would have to include Taijuan Walker, along with Nick Franklin and D.J. Peterson or James Paxton, among others.

Neither Price nor Zobrist is under club control long term, so this deal would be a serious win now move.

These talks have been going on since Spring Training, so this is not a new development. Jack Zduriencik will have to weigh his options between winning now and saving for later. If the cost is truly as high reported however, it may be wise for Seattle to look elsewhere for upgrades.

Remaining questions:

The Mariners announced the recall of outfielder Stefen Romero on Thursday, electing to send Lucas Luetge to Tacoma. This shows Seattle is still unwilling to hand over a starting job to Ty Kelly, and still have gaping holes in the corner outfield.

Seattle also pushed Taijuan Walker’s next Tacoma start back to Friday, eliminating him from rejoining the team as the fifth starter. The Mariners will need to find someone to pitch next Tuesday. Erasmo Ramirez could be that someone, if he is not dealt by then.

Only 38 spots are filled on the 40-man roster. One is likely reserved for injured pitcher James Paxton (who is pitching for Everett as I’m writing this), but the other is still a mystery.

More news is sure to come in the next day or so, and I’ll try to provide constant updates as information becomes available.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Mariners’ Week 15 Review

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The Mariners have four All-Stars… Just let that sink in. 

Record: 51-44 (3-4); 3rd in AL West, 8 GB

7/7 –  vs Minnesota W 2-0
7/8 – vs Minnesota L 0-2
7/9 – vs Minnesota L 1-8
7/10 – vs Minnesota L 2-4

7/11 – vs Oakland W 3-2
7/12 – vs Oakland W 6-2
7/13 – vs Oakland L 1-4

Who’s hot

Robinson Cano just keeps getting better. Over his last ten games, Cano is hitting .425 with four walks, a home run, and six runs batted in. His season average is up to .334, fourth in all of Major League Baseball. Cano has been named a starter for his fifth All-Star game, and will bat third for the American League on Tuesday.

Who’s not

Roenis Elias has struggled in his last three outings, giving up a total of 16 earned runs in just 14.1 innings. He has also walked six batters during that stretch, and allowed three home runs. Elias’ recent struggles may be due to fatigue, as he is just a rookie, but it is clear that Seattle needs another starting pitcher if the team is serious about making a postseason push.

Injury Updates

Michael Saunders left Friday’s game with a grade-two left oblique strain. Saunders will be placed on the 15-day disabled list  for the second time this season, after suffering a shoulder injury in June. He had played well since being activated on June 27, hitting .306 with two home runs and five RBIs. It’s not known how long Michael will be out, but it surely does not help the Mariners, who have struggled to find positive offensive results in the outfield.

James Paxton threw a 53-pitch simulated game on Saturday. Paxton will start a rehab assignment, likely with Everett, on Thursday.

Roster Transactions

The Mariners designated backup catcher John Buck for assignment on Monday, calling up Jesus Sucre in his place. Sucre is a large defensive upgrade to Buck behind the plate. The move opened up another spot on the 40-man roster, as only 38 players remain on it. This foreshadows an upcoming trade, as well as possibly James Paxton’s activation from the DL in the coming weeks. It’s still a mystery as to what the team plans to do with its empty roster spots.

Wednesday, Seattle optioned prospect Taijuan Walker to Tacoma, recalling relief pitcher Stephen Pryor. This move was made to add a ninth arm to Seattle’s pen, stabilizing them for Thursday’s pen extravaganza. The following day, Pryor was optioned to Tacoma in favor of lefty Lucas Luetge.

Michael Saunders was placed on the disabled list on Friday, leading to Justin Smoak‘s recall from Tacoma.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Marlon Byrd Trade? Yes Please.

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The Mariners ongoing search for a righty-power-bat outfielder continues. Developing this week is trade talk for Marlon Byrd of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Byrd is 36 years old, with 1.5 years left on his contact, not including an option for 2016. He’s relatively cheap, at $8 million a year. Considering he posted a 5.1 WAR last season, that’s a nice price. Of course, Byrd is over-performing his own career averages these past two seasons. His power has increased remarkably, and many people find that unreliable.

What the Mariners need most is power against lefty pitching. Since 2013, Byrd has posted a .957 OPS against southpaws. Wow. Even if Byrd slips back to his career .813 OPS against lefties, that’s still impressive.

So who would the M’s trade for him? Nobody substantial. Certainly not a key prospect like Taijuan Walker or D.J. Peterson. My guess is a few lower level players with moderate potential. The Phillies really ought to be starting to rebuild, but who knows with Ruben Amaro.

Acquiring Byrd would likely push Dustin Ackley out of the picture. Whether Ackley becomes trade bait or a replacement bench player, his dismal offense just can’t be endured if this team wants to win. If there was ever an example of Ackley’s struggles at the plate, we saw it today in his second at bat. Sonny Gray’s first two pitches were fastballs straight down the middle. Ackley weakly fouled both. Then Gray sent a fastball up and in the zone, a pitch many lefties turn and drive over the fence. Ackley fouled. He then continued to foul until he struck out. Ackley does make contact, but he just can’t get good lumber on the ball. A sad story for such a highly touted prospect. But that’s baseball.

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The All-Star break has now set upon the Mariners 2014 season. If Marlon Byrd wears a Seattle uniform next weekend, don’t be surprised. This move makes a lot sense for the M’s. It doesn’t bankrupt them or cost them a key prospect. It’s certainly the best trade option we’ve heard to date.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Reviewing the Mariners Trade Objectives

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All around Mariners blogs, folks are talking about trades. This is the funnest aspect in blogging about baseball. However, I can’t help but doubt the wisdom my peers. Are they really professing to trade long term assets for short term assets?

Don’t get me wrong, when the time is right, you make those moves. What the Oakland Athletics did to acquire Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel was an excellent calculation. But that trade essentially took the best team in baseball and ensured they’d get to the World Series. The Mariners really aren’t in that position. Even though we’re enthusiastic about their winning record.

As an organization, the Mariners have worked hard to rebuild their farm. While there’s lots of talent within the system, we’re by no means flooded with it. And if you’d like to see the Mariners be decent for years to come— unlike the past decade— keeping the farm system stocked is necessary.

Currently, the trending trade rumors include the Rays’ David Price and Ben Zobrist. The Mariners would offer some combination of Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, D.J. Peterson, Nick Franklin, and younger pieces. And while Price in our rotation would be incredible, and Zobrist would certainly help, both players have just 1.5 years to offer. Not only is that a steep price (pun!) for a small amount of time, it’s also a leap of faith to think the Mariners are ready to contend at that level.

Simply, I’m not convinced. The Mariners have figured out pitching, but their offense is clearly a work in progress. I find it nearly comical to imagine this team in the World Series, even with Ben Zobrist batting second. Going “all-in” by trading key farm pieces for “win-now” trades only works when a team is already great. The Mariners, although fantastic to watch, are merely a good or very-good baseball team. Perhaps next year they’ll be great, perhaps 2016. This is the distinction missing from fellow bloggers’ trade theories.

The Mariners current trade objective should be for a long-term impact piece. A player like Matt Kemp, who has 5.5 years left under contract, would leave the door open much longer for contention. They should also be targeting pieces of higher impact. Trading for a Josh Willingham type player— who offers little more than a win or two— doesn’t make much sense. Why trade farm pieces when you can wait to pick up free agents in a few months?

Seriously people, this season is fun. But this team isn’t World Series ready. Last Sunday’s loss to Hector Noesi revealed that. Trading the farm likely won’t lead to a championship now, yet it will doom a chance for championship later.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

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