Category: Roster Construction

Ego Moves

Ego Moves

On the last day team’s could acquire players that could be active on playoff rosters, there was plenty of movement.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are four games over .500 and sit 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot. They bolstered their lineup by adding Justin Upton and Brandon Philips. Upton was an all-star this season, slashing .279/.362/542. Philips has been great for a very bad Atlanta Braves team. He’s hitting .291, with an on base of .329 while slugging .423. Both players are veterans, and make the Angels significantly better.

According to their record, the Houston Astros are the best team in the American League. They had a glaring hole in the starting pitching rotation. They addressed that by adding six-time all-star Justin Verlander from the Tigers. His best years are behind him, but with a 3.82 earned run average over 172 innings this season, he makes the Astros significantly better.

Jerry DiPoto loves making trades. It isn’t confirmed, but it probably started in elementary school. He’d make deals at lunch, hoping to improve his lunch both for now and the future. What was he up to today?

He gave up Leony’s Martin, an outfielder he had already given up on twice this season. In return the M’s will get cash, or a player to be named later.

You can’t blame him for being dormant. The M’s are two games under .500, making the gap between the team and the playoff’s 4.5 games wide. With less than 30 games left in the season, its most likely too large to cross.

It’s frustrating. The playoff drought will continue. DiPoto had chances throughout the season to add pitching to a team that has needed it since spring training. He added players like Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Rameriez and Andrew Albers.

Who?

A bunch of four A guys. Players who are solid in triple A, but aren’t ready, or may never be ready for the Major Leagues.

They are strange moves in hindsight.

Even at the time they were strange.

The Mariners had a chance to land proven starters in Sonny Gray and Verlander. Did they have the prospects, and in Verlanders case, the cash to acquire those players. Pundits said no, but you can always offer more.

The type of moves DiPoto makes are becoming more questionable with the more moves he makes. They feel like ego moves. If the players he brings in pan out, they make DiPoto look like a genius.

Gonzales was a first round draft pick by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He’s also coming off Tommy John surgery. If he becomes a successful Major Leaguer, Dipoto stole one. If he doesn’t, he was damaged goods when he got here. It’s such a nothing move.

Not to mention, the Mariners gave up one of their best prospects to do it. Their farm system is nothing special, but Tyler O’neill could have been a piece in a trade for Verlander or Gray.

DiPoto was the general manager of the Angels a few seasons ago. He got into an argument with Mike Scioscia that became fatal. After management sided with the tenured Scioscia, he left. Literally packed up his office and walked out.

Ego moves?

Ego moves.

As contenders add proven veterans that make their team significantly better, the Mariners watch from below. Below .500. Below playoff spots. DiPoto continues to add players who, if they pan out, make him look like a genius. He’s starting to look stupid. For Mariners fans, these ego moves need start paying off, or the movement should take place with DiPoto himself.

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Mariners Deadline Lid-Lifter

Mariners Deadline Lid-Lifter

Finally, let’s talk trades.

The Seattle Mariners finalized a deal to bring David Phelps from the Miami Marlins for four prospects. Those prospects are centerfielder Brayan Hernandez, as well as pitching prospects Brandon Miller, Pablo Lopez, Lucas Schiraldi. Phelps isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018. If all goes well, he’ll be a Mariner through then.

Phelps has spent his career as a starter before being converted to a reliever. In 545 innings pitched, he’s accumulated a 3.90 earned run average, striking out 509 batters while walking just 211. He’ll be a useful asset out of the bullpen.

It’s an interesting move. When used correctly, the Mariners bullpen, is one of the best in baseball. Since the all-star break, the M’s have gone 5-1, with closer Edwin Diaz saving all five wins. It goes back further. Since May 25th, the bullpen’s 2.75 ERA is the best in baseball.

That’ll work.

The starting pitching causes more concern. Everyone knows that injuries have bothered the rotation all season. Yovani Gallardo has been moved to the bullpen. Sam Gaviglio was solid early, but lately hasn’t been great. He’s 0-4 with a 6.65 ERA over his last four outings.

As of today, the team doesn’t have a starter for Monday’s series opener against the Red Sox. Maybe the idea was to add to a strength of the team and make the game shorter for a starting rotation that hasn’t been much better than serviceable.

Regardless, General Manager Jerry DiPoto has lifted the lid on trade deadline moves in the Northwest. The Mariners are one and a half games behind the New York Yankees in the wildcard standings. The two teams start a four game series tonight.

For now, we’ll wait and see how this trade works for the Mariners.

 

Can the Mariners Live with Mike Zunino?

Can the Mariners Live with Mike Zunino?

Mike Zunino doesn’t fit into the brand of baseball the Seattle Mariners would like to put on the field, but they can live with it?

On June 7, 2017, Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino hit two home runs. The first happened in the third inning, getting the Mariners on the scoreboard. The second, was a two-run walk-off shot that gave the M’s a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Zunino was drafted by the Oakland Athletes in the 29th round of the 2009 MLB draft. He chose to go to the University of Florida, where he improved his stalk. In 2012, se was drafted third overall by the Mariners. He made his Major League debut in 2013.

Throughout his career, Zunino has posted numbers that make you ask if he swings with his eyes close. He’s played 388 games, hitting .197 in 1246 at bats. He’s hit 54 home runs, but has struck out 457 times. He’s drove in 150 runs, but has only walked 85 times.

In each of the last two seasons, Zunino has spent time in Triple A Tacoma, working on his swing. The results haven’t changed much. He strikes out a ton and hits home runs on occasion. This is what Mike Zunino is.

As a team, the M’s have an on base percentage of .335, good enough for fifth best in the Majors. They’ve driven in 175 runs, good enough for ninth best. They don’t do it with the long ball, only hitting 65 homers through the first 61 games of the year.

Zunino doubled his 2017 home run total on June 7. If he runs into one every couple of games, it should be considered success for him.

Only time will tell if the M’s can live with Mike Zunino

Mariner Fans, Pray for Pitching

Mariner Fans, Pray for Pitching

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in two weeks. It’s an exciting time of year, no matter what team your root for. Everybody is full of hope and optimism that their team can reach whatever goal they feel fair. Pacific Northwest baseball fans are anxious to see new additions to the Seattle Mariners. In 2017, Mariner’s fans should be praying for pitching.

In 2016, the starting pitching is what caused the Mariners to miss the post season by a two and a half games. The rotation was never healthy. The team was forced to use 13 starting pitchers. The woes started when Felix Hernendez went to the 15-day disabled list. Wade Miley followed suit. Nate Karns hit the shelf in July. Taijuan Walker was sent to Tacoma in August.

The Mariner offense was one of the best in baseball last season. The team hit the third most home runs in the league, swatting 223 balls over the wall. They drove in 735 runs (sixth), and had 768 runners (sixth) cross the plate.

Fans can’t help but fantasize about what could have been with healthy arms. Jerry DiPoto has retooled the pitching staff for 2017. Karns, Miley and most notably, Walker will wear different uniforms this season. He’s added Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo to go along with Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.

The King was dethroned by injury for the first time in his career in 2016. Hernandez went to the DL on June 1 with a calf injury. He missed a month and a half before returning to the Mariners. The King made 25 starts, posting an 11-8 record. He had a 3.82 earned run average over 153.1 innings. It was his highest ERA since his second full year in the bigs in 2007. He missed throwing 200 innings for the first time since he threw 190 innings in both of his first two seasons as a Mariner.

Fan’s are hopeful for a second coming worthy of praise.

Iwakuma was Seattle’s best starter last season. In 33 starts, Kuma was 16-12 with a 4.12 era. He threw 199 innings, striking out 147 betters while walking 46. Kuma’s ERA jumped .6 points from his last full season in 2014. He gave up  51 more hits in 2016 than he did in 2014.

Signs are showing that Kuma is on the downslope of his career as well. His health was crucial to the M’s being in a playoff race towards the end of 2016. That same consistency is the desired outcome for Iwakuma.

Paxton may have turned the corner in 2016. Between Triple A and the Majors, the Lefty pitched the most innings of his career, throwing 171 frames. Mariner coaches tweaked Paxton’s arm slot, and the results were great. He had a 3.79 ERA, throwing 117 strikeouts while walking 24 batters. The M’s need his fifth season in the bigs to be his best.

Smyly is searching for a second chance in Seattle. The left handed pitcher threw 175.1 innings, giving up a 4.88 ERA while going 7-12 for the Tampa Bay Rays. The guy throws strikes, punching out 552 batters while walking 161 in his big league career.

He’s been labeled as a fly ball pitcher, which should benefit him in spacious Safeco Field. Well, not exactly. Safeco was the best home run producing ball park last season. An average of 2.89 baseballs left the yard as 234 total dingers were hit. If Smyly can keep the ball low, he could be a useful addition to the club.

Gallardo rounds on the opening day starting five for the Mariners. At one point in his career, Gallardo was a Cy Young candidate. Before 2016, Gallardo consisted made more than 30 starts every year since 2009. Last season as an Oriole, he started 23 games, lasting just 118 innings.

Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have been mainstays in the Mariner offense the past two seasons. The team added the National League hits leader in Jean Segura over the offseason. They also added speed in Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger. The only questions fans should have is starting pitching.

So God, please help King Felix return to form. Help Iwakuma maintain the the level he’s pitched at. Please let Paxton continue to improve and perform all season long. Help Smyly keep the ball low in the zone, and let Gallardo have a bounce back season.

In Your name I pray, amen.

 

Struggling Storen Gets New Home

Struggling Storen Gets New Home

The Mariners had a reliever get ten years younger Tuesday night. Not really, but theoretically they did. Jerry DiPoto was at it again with his favorite transaction, the trade. The M’s found the fountain of youth by trading Joaquin Benoit  for Drew Storen. Both relievers have pitched poorly in 2016. If Storen can return to his old form on his new team, the back-end of the Mariner bullpen has been improved.

The Mariners are getting the 10th overall pick from the 2009 draft. In seven big league seasons, Storen has a career 3.31 earned run average, accumulating 353 strike outs to 106 walks. Storen has had three seasons with a sub 2.75 ERA, all coming as a member of the Washington Nationals. 2016 has been Storen’s worst year by far. In 38 games, the right hander has given up 43 hits, including six home runs and has allowed 23 earned runs.

“Obviously, this has not been Drew’s best season, but he is closely linked to a run of great success pitching in the back-end of very good bullpens,” Dipoto said. “Hopefully this serves as a change of scenery and over the next two months we can get him back on track.”

Benoit was also having one of the worst seasons of his 15 year MLB career. Benoit had posted a 5.18 ERA, giving up 20 hits and 14 earned runs in 24.1 innings pitched. If Storen continues to put up lousy numbers, not much was lost in this trade.

A new home jersey may be what Storen needs to get back on track. Tom Wilhelmsen was another reliever who struggled early. Since rejoining the Mariners, the Bartender has posted a 1.23 ERA in 7.1 innings pitched. A 180 degree turn around from the 10.55 ERA Whilhelmsen had in Texas.

At face value, the trade looks as though the Mariners and Blue Jays have swapped a pair of struggling relievers. The Mariners had a reliever get ten years younger. The M’s also got a former top ten draft pick. Storen’s best years came as a member of the Washington Nationals. Hopefully, Storen can find his old self, in a new Washington.

DiPoto Guys Wanted

DiPoto Guys Wanted

Sound the alarm, the Mariners have made the their first move nearing the trade deadline. Jerry DiPoto struck a deal that sent Mike Montgomery and Jordan Pries to the Cubs in exchange for Dan Vogelbach and Paul Blackburn. Montgomery being traded could be an indication of the players who could be on the move before the trade deadline.

The Mariners have picked up a first baseman and a relief pitcher. Vogelbach is a large, large man. The 23-year-old stands at six feet tall, and weighs 250 pounds, with 78 pound forearms. Vogelbach’s numbers are as impressive as his stature. The left-handed hitting first basemen is hitting .318 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 64 runs batted in in triple A Iowa. Scouts say Vogelbach is ready to contribute to the big league club right now. It will be interesting to see how soon that happens.

The M’s also picked up a reliever. Blackburn has pitched 102.1 innings in double A, giving up a 3.17 earned run average. The righty can get the punch out, accumulating 72 k’s to his 26 walks. If that doesn’t scream “DiPoto guy” I’m not sure what does.

The Mariners gave up a do-it-all pitcher in Mike Montgomery. Montgomery was 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA with 54 strike outs and 18 walks. Montgomery had been solid for the Mariners and will be an asset for the Cubs. Pries was pitching well in triple A Tacoma. Pries had recorded a 3.65 era in 24.2 innings pitched.

The trade makes sense for the Mariners. The M’s had a surplus in left-handed pitchers in James Paxton, Wade Miley, Wade LeBlanc and Montgomery. Of the four lefty’s Montgomery had performed the best. The Cubs may have only been listening to deals involving Montgomery, but there could be more to it.

DiPoto retooled the roster over the offseason. When the M’s hit the field in spring training, 31 of the 60 players in camp where new to the organization. Montgomery was a player who was brought in by the old regime, and isn’t a Dipoto guy. From a performance standpoint, it makes more sense to give up both Miley and LeBlanc, but both of those players were brought in by DiPoto.

DiPoto has traded Mark Trumbo away from team’s he’s ran twice. Trumbo is the league leader for home runs in 2016. If you ain’t a DiPoto guy, you’re gone.

The return sees a left-handed hitting first basemen come to the ball club. Adam Lind becomes a free agent at the end of 2016. Apart, from his 15 home runs, two being walk-off’s, Lind’s .231 batting average hasn’t been stellar. This move could have been made for 2017. Lind could also be another piece that’s moved before the trade deadline.

Montgomery has pitched well all season long. Numbers show he’s been better than all other left-handed starting pitchers the Mariners have. The Cubs may have only been listening to offers involving Montgomery. History also shows that you have to fit the mold the Mariners General Manager wants. If you don’t, you may need a real estate agent soon.

Bullpen Blowup

Bullpen Blowup

Wade Miley pitched well enough to pick up a win for the Mariners last night. The M’s would eventually fall 6-1 to the White Sox. The bullpen pitched well, until an explosion in the ninth inning.

Miley pitched 6.1 inning allowing three earned runs, with six hits and four strikeouts. Tom Wilhelmsen came in and pitched 0.2 of an inning keeping the sox scoreless. Edwin Diaz was remarkable, getting all three outs in the eighth by strikeout. The game was in reach entering the ninth inning with the score at 3-1.

Joaquin Beniot hasn’t been sharp all season long, and he continued that trend Tuesday night. Despite striking out two, Beniot gave up a two run homer, pushing the score to 5-1. Beniot left the game with a runner on first when David Rollins took over. Rollins gave up an RBI double, and the run was charged to Beniot.

A comeback was feasible entering the ninth inning with the game at 3-1. Beniot and Rollins put the game out of reach. The M’s look to rebound This afternoon when Felix Hernandez makes his return to the mound. The team can not afford another bullpen blowup.

Buy or Sell… Try Now or Later

Buy or Sell… Try Now or Later

With a couple weeks left in July, the sports world is focused on the Major League Baseball trade deadline. At this point in the 162 game season, teams determine whether they are in a playoff race, or if they are completely out of it. The labels teams are given are buyers, or sellers. Buyers are acquiring valuable assets from losing teams. Sellers are trading assets for prospects. Personally, I can’t buy into the terms buy or sell.

There are returns on both sides of any trade. Throughout history, we have seen trades where the seller gets a better return than the team that bought. In 2008, the Mariners bought Erik Bedard for Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and three other minor league players. Bedard had an earned run average that was just over three in 2007 and finished in the top five in cy young voting. In Seattle, Bedard never piched more than 83 innings in two short seasons. Adam Jones has blossomed into an all-star outfielder, batting .277 on his career while hitting double-digit home runs in all but one of his nine years of Baltimore. Chris Tillman was the Mariners minor league pitcher of the year in 07, before turning into an all-star with the Orioles.

In this example, the Mariner’s bought, but lost everything. The Orioles sold, and it could be one of the greatest trades in their franchises history with what they got in return. Connotatively, buy and sell promotes the idea that the team that is buying will always win the trade.

Teams are facing the decision to play for right now, or for the future. Similar to a draft, you can’t truly tell how a trade will affect a franchise until two or three years after the fact. The only way of knowing is if the instant gratification of a championship is won by the team playing for now.

If your team is selling this trade deadline, it isn’t a reason to be down on the franchise. Those getting rid of valuable assets, may be doing what is best long term. The MLB trade deadline is usually the most exciting of the four major sports in the United States. I’m not buying into buyers and sellers. I am excited to see who will be wearing a different uniform in August.

Bartender, Fill Me Up

It takes patience to be a Seattle Mariners fan and right now, I’m running on empty. As of May 26, the Mariners were leading the American League west, with a record of 28-18. Since that day, the Mariners are 8-17 and have fallen 9.5 games out of first place. A potential roster move has me irritated with a pattern that is becoming far too familiar for baseball fans in the pacific northwest.

Rumors are swirling about the Mariner’s potential acquisition of right handed relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen spent five seasons with the Mariners from 2011-2015. Wilhelmsen was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers after posting a 10.55 earned run average in 21.1 innings, allowing 38 hits, 25 earned runs, with 11 strikeouts and nine walks. The 32-year-old pitcher opted to test free agency rather than going to triple A Round Rock. A part from Wilhelmsen being atrocious this season, why does this potential move have me so upset?

 

Almost a year ago to the date, the Mariner’s hired an an all-time great in Edgar Martinez to be the teams new hitting coach. Martinez spent 19 years in a Mariner uniform, batting .312, with 514 doubles and 309 home runs. Martinez hiring came when the Mariners were 32-37, sitting 7.5 games out of first place. The argument can be made that Martinez did help the Mariner offense, but the move did not lead to more wins. The move was an attempt to distract fans from the terrible product that the organization was putting on the field.

The same thing will happen with Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen is a familiar name, that the casual fan will be happy to see play for the Mariners again. The acquisition of ‘the Bartender’ will be a move that distracts the fans from the incredible dive the Mariners have taken.

The Mariners will need to go on an insane tear to reach the top of the AL West. At this point, the team is playing for the second wild card and is sitting 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. Don’t be fooled, Tom Wilhelmsen isn’t the Mariners answer. A nice run from the Mariners is desperately needed to refuel my tank for the remaining four months of the 2016 regular season.

Seattle Mariners Position Battles Answered

Seattle Mariners Position Battles Answered

With a week left in spring training, questions that Seattle Mariners fans have been asking have been answered. Two position battles have left fans curious as to who is going to be chosen. The Mariners were in need of a fifth starting pitcher, as well as a right handed hitting first basemen. The battle turned out to take place between familiar faces, and new ones. Should fans really be surprised in who was chosen?

New general manager Jerry DiPoto brought in what seems like thousands of new players to the Mariners organization. 31 of the 60 players in Mariners were spring training were new to the organization. DiPoto was on a mission to retool the roster in a way he saw fit.

The fifth spot in the Seattle Mariners pitching rotation came down to James Paxton and Nathan Karns. Paxton has been a part of the Mariners organization, but has never lived up to his potential. Paxton has worn a Mariners uniform in three seasons, but those seasons have been broken. Paxton has never pitched more than 75 big league innings. I considered the fifth starting pitcher job to be Paxton’s to lose, which he did. Paxton boasted a 10.80 earned run average, which is never great when attempting to win a job on a Major League roster.

Nate Karns was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Karns completed his first major league season in 2015 with the Rays, pitching 147 innings, striking out 145 batters and only walking 56. Manager Scott Servais has said that the M’s want to control strike zone both offensively and defensively. Karns did that last year, striking out 89 more batters than he walked. Karns has posted a 6.75 earn run average in the spring of 2016. Theres virtually no difference between a 6.75 ERA, and a 10.80 ERA. If a pitcher on your favorite team has either of those ERA’s, your favorite team loses.

The other position battled that had fans intrigued took place on the infield. DiPoto traded for first baseman Adam Lind. Lind is a proven, left handed hitting first basemen. The team needed a right handed bat to possible platoon or be the designated hitter while facing left handed pitching. The battle came down to three players. Those players were Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero, and the free agent signing Dae-Ho Lee.

Romero has spent his career as an outfielder, however he was added the first base mix as a guy with versatility. Romero had a hot spring, batting .357 while learning a new position. Romero had a minor league option, making him the odd man out, and the easiest to send down to triple A Tacoma.

Jesus Montero sent Mariners fans on a roller coast throughout his career with the Mariners. Montero was brought over in a trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees. Troubles with performance enhancing drugs as well as his weight fluctuation kept Montero from the Major Leagues. Montero batted an incredible .355 with 18 doubles and 18 home runs in triple A Tacoma in 2015. However that success did not carry over to the spring of 2016 as Montero hit a poor .237 in 38 at-bats. Having no minor league options forced the Mariners to place Montero on waivers. Montero was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays a day later.

That leaves Dae-Ho Lee, the mystery man from South Korea. Lee was a superstar in Japanese and Korean Leagues. Lee was the Korean Baseball Organization’s MVP in 2010, a three-time batting champion, and a two-time home run king. Lee hasn’t played much better than Montero, registering a .239 batting average with just one home run. So why did Karns and Lee win jobs with the new-look Mariners roster?

Karns and Lee are both hand picked by Jerry DiPoto. Neither of those players truly beat out those who they were competing with. DiPoto has choses to ride with the guys he brought in himself. The only of remanence of former general manager Jack Zduriencik are players the new GM would be an absolute fool to give up. It makes you wonder if these so called ‘battles’ were ever really that to begin with. Fans, it’s no surprise that players who were chosen by Jerry DiPoto have made the opening day roster.