The Seattle Mariners have made their fair share of blunders over the years, namely letting numerous players leave for little-to-no return.
This long, illustrious list includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jason Varitek, Rafael Soriano, Alex Rodriguez—you get the point.
The M’s missed a big opportunity in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Danny Hultzen was drafted third overall by Seattle and immediately became part of the “Big Three” pitching prospects along with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Hultzen showed immense potential, but has seen his career derailed by injuries.
The former first-round pick could still achieve the success he was projected to reach, but it will take time.
Hindsight is obviously 20-20 (stop me if you’ve heard that before), but the 2011 draft produced numerous first-round gems that the Mariners could have taken. Here are some of those players in order of draft position.
Dylan Bundy, Starting Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, 4th Overall Pick
Bundy, only 22, made his major league debut in 2012. He made two relief appearances for the O’s, totaling an inning and two thirds.
However, the former fourth-overall shows the potential to be a front-line pitcher, if not an ace in the major leagues.
If nothing else, Bundy’s name appearing in trade rumors should speak to his value. According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles wanted Bundy in a trade for Matt Kemp while Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported in July that Boston was interested in Bundy in a potential Jon Lester trade.
Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman: Washington Nationals, 6th Overall Pick
In a draft class loaded with talented hitters, Rendon has shown the most polish early.
The third baseman, who has also experience at second base, hit .287 in 153 games. The infielder also scored a major-league high 111 runs. In addition, he swatted 23 home runs, drove in 83 runs and swiped 17 bases.
He would have trouble finding at-bats with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager manning second and third, but teams can always use extra bats—especially quality ones like Rendon.
Archie Bradley, Starting Pitcher: Arizona Diamondbacks, 7th Overall Pick
Similar to Bundy, Bradley has future ace/front-line starter written all over him.
He’s been routinely ranked in the top ten prospects in the league and is probably on equal, and while his minor league numbers haven’t been overly impressive (4.45 ERA and a 1.506 WHIP in 18 minor league starts across three minor league levels) he still has a bright future.
Bradley is on similar or better footing than Taijuan Walker or James Paxton in terms of potential.
Francisco Lindor, Shortstop: Cleveland Indians, 8th Overall Pick
Lindor has skyrocketed through the minors and could be in Cleveland in the near future.
One of the top prospects in the game, Lindor is regarded as a top-notch defensive shortstop. He also managed a .273 batting average in 38 Triple-A, showing the potential to be more than simply a defensive wizard at the major league level.
His impending arrival also forced two-time All Star Asdrubal Cabrera out of Cleveland at the trade deadline. Incumbent shortstop Jose Ramirez could meet the same fate as Cabrera.
Javier Baez, Infielder: Chicago Cubs, 9th Overall Pick
Part of the Cubs’ first wave of impact prospects to make the majors, Baez shows tremendous upside. He has outstanding power and will drive in plenty of runs when he reaches his potential.
Baez can play either middle infield position and is part of a talented group of Cubs’ infielders that include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo among others.
The infielder wouldn’t unseat Robinson Cano at second (duh), but he’d provide an upgrade over Chris Taylor and Brad Miller at shortstop.
Baez mashed 37 homers and drove in 111 runs in across multiple levels in the minor leagues in 2013.
George Springer, Outfielder: Houston Astros, 11th Overall Pick
While Rendon would have been blocked at multiple positions by the Cano and Seager, George Springer wouldn’t have been blocked in the outfield.
Part of the Astros’ next great team, Springer is a slugger in every sense of the word.
The outfielder swatted 20 home runs in a mere 78 games. He only hit .231 and struck out 114 games, but his power is undeniable.
Springer has a .303 career batting average in the minor leagues—or, in other words, he won’t be a .231 hitter forever. He’ll improve.
But instead of hitting bombs in Safeco Field as a member of the M’s, Springer will be hitting for the division rival Astros.
Jose Fernandez, Starting Pitcher: Miami Marlins, 14th Overall Pick
Jose Fernandez is one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball—a fantastic accomplishment considering he was only drafted in 2011.
The 22-year-old Cuban took home Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors in his first season in 2013. Only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright finished ahead of Fernandez in Cy Young voting that year.
The Marlins ace is one of the many exiting, young talents in Miami that have prompted the team to give Giancarlo Stanton a big contract and accelerate the rebuilding process so as to win as soon as possible.
Coming off of an injury shortened 2014, Fernandez will undoubtedly be Miami’s ace when he returns in 2015 and beyond.
Seattle is blessed in the pitching department with the likes of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but adding Fernandez certainly wouldn’t have hurt.
C.J. Cron, First Baseman: Los Angeles Angels Anaheim, 17th Overall Pick
Cron can flat out hit. He may not be as dynamic as teammate Mike Trout, but he provides the Angels with another young player to build around.
The first baseman owns a .290 career minor-league batting average and can drive the ball out of the park. He slugged 11 bombs in only 79 games in 2014 and has the potential to do much more.
With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in decline, Cron will be counted on to help carry the Angels into the future. Don’t be surprised if Cron gets close to 40 home runs in a season at some point.
He would have been a nice fit at first base for the M’s.
Sonny Gray, Starting Pitcher: Oakland Athletics, 18th Overall Pick
While Bundy and Bradley are future aces, Gray (like Fernandez) is already there.
Gray has a 2.99 ERA in 283 innings pitched and posted a 3.2 WAR in 2014. That 3.2 WAR was higher than the likes of Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Anibal Sanchez.
Gray stepped in during his rookie season and started two playoff games for the A’s. Both times he went toe-to-toe with vintage Justin Verlander and didn’t blink, arguably pitching as well as the former Cy Young MVP.
Also like Fernandez, Gray would have been a nice addition to the M’s, but Seattle will have to settle for seeing him pitch against them a few times a year with Oakland.
Other Notable Names
In addition to the big names like Fernandez, Springer and Rendon, there were a plethora of players available later in the first round of the draft.
The Cardinals and Giants respective second baseman (Kolten Wong and Joe Panik) were taken 22nd and 29th overall. Jackie Bradley Jr. was taken with the 40th pick while fellow Red Sox youngsters, and current farmhands, Matt Barnes (19th), Henry Owens (36th) and Blake Swihart (26th) were also first-round picks.
While Danny Hultzen hasn’t reached the big leagues yet, the M’s clearly could have received more value out of all these players.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comunless otherwise noted.
The Seattle Mariners have been here before. Not just with Kendrys Morales; he was with the team last year, but in this situation. Not re-signing a player after a productive season and then trading part of its future to get the player back. This happened with Russell Branyan in 2010.
Branyan had an absurdly productive power year in 2009 with an unprecedented 31 home runs. He would sign with Cleveland the following year only for the Mariners to suddenly want him back. Their replacements obviously didn’t work.
Seattle surrendered outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and shortstop Juan Diaz in the trade. Neither was tipped for stardom, but neither were the two players Seattle sent to Cleveland in two deals for Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez. The two players Cleveland got for Broussard and Perez? Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Despite the iffy track record the M’s have in dealing away future talent for role players (see Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Michael Morse… the list goes on) Carrera and Diaz never really panned out. Neither made a sizable impact in Cleveland and as such, aren’t with the organization at present. However, both were dealt to Cleveland as minor league players with no big league experience. The player Seattle surrendered to Minnesota in order to obtain Morales, Stephen Pryor, does have big league experience. In fact, he’s been quite good in the Majors. He’s no Mariano Rivera in terms of relief pitchers, but he does own a career 2.81 ERA across 30+ innings.
The Mariners probably felt comfortable trading Pryor due to the emergence of Dominic Leone and the continued improvement of Danny Farquhar and Yoervis Medina. Still, a team can never have enough quality relievers. Injuries and ineffectiveness run rampant throughout a season, so depth is as much of a necessity as anything.
The package Seattle gave up to get Branyan back didn’t amount to anything special, and Pryor was surplus to requirements given the depth the M’s have in the ‘pen, but both were still significant chips to part with simply to reacquire a player the team could have kept for nothing.
If recent numbers hold true, Morales won’t have the impact that everyone thinks he will. The former Angels slugger has a .439 OPS and more strikeouts (eight) than hits (six). Pryor may not amount to more than a quality reliever, but Minnesota will have pulled off a train robbery if they get Pryor for a player the M’s could have replaced, production wise, with a player from AAA.
Branyan didn’t do much the second time around either. Yes he hit 15 home runs in 57 games for Seattle, but he also hit a lowly .215 at the plate. That’s certainly not what a team is looking for from a middle-of-the-order bat.
The M’s don’t have a strong track record when they trade for a player only a season after letting them leave via free agency. Acquiring Kendrys Morales only continued the trend.
All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.
Rumored Mariner signing Nelson Cruz would add a powerful bat to a lineup already bolstered by the arrivals of Robinson Cano and Corey Hart. What signing Cruz doesn’t do is guarantee success.
An offensive triumvirate of Cruz, Cano and Kyle Seager isn’t one to balk at, and is a wonderful foundation for the team moving forward, but in terms of success, it guarantees nothing.
In most divisions, like say the NL West, these kinds of additions (Cano, Cruz, Hart) would push a team towards the top of the table. Not so much with the Mariners in the AL West.
The rest of the division is stocked. The Mariners’ rise to “playoff-contender” status, if not the realm of respectability, has vaulted the division to a ridiculous level. On paper, the Angels, A’s and Rangers all have the talent to be playoff teams. Throw in Seattle, and you end up with a lot of unhappy teams come the postseason.
It wouldn’t be completely surprising to see, even with Cano and friends, the M’s finish in the same exact place in the standings as last year. They’re probably going to have an improved record, but as stated, the division is stacked.
If one thing is clear after watching postseason baseball, it’s that pitching is needed to contend. Teams like Detroit, Boston, St. Louis and Oakland found great success last year with tremendous staffs. And it wasn’t just those four teams; most playoff teams boasted strong pitching. Great pitching is nearly synonymous with a playoff squad now-a-days.
Which brings the topic of one-way conversation in the piece to the Mariners’ pitching.
The M’s will use some combination of Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer and recent signing Scott Baker for the last three spots in the rotation. This is where question marks come into play. Moving into the future, both Walker and Paxton figure to be mainstays in the Seattle rotation thanks to their fantastic potential, but between them they have a grand total of 39 innings at the big league level. Whether they continue to show promise or hit a wall remains to be seen.
Ramirez and Maurer have both shown flashes of potential in the past, but the jury remains largely out on the pair. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Baker, given his experience and quality, leapfrog one or both of them to claim a rotation spot. The bottom line is that the Mariners’ rotation could show the promise and poise that Oakland’s young hurlers have shown, or they could continue to display the growing pains that have plagued the team.
If anything, a potential Cruz signing puts more pressure on the rotation to succeed. The one-time Brewer coupled with Cano, Hart and Logan Morrison would vastly improve a team that had issues scoring runs. The run output in Seattle should, at the very least, be slightly above average. The Mariners need their young pitchers to step up. If they can do this, Seattle will be in a position to contend. If not, well let’s just say get ready for all those low-scoring losses to turn into higher-scoring losses.
The Seattle Mariners reportedly had conversations with the Dodgers about incumbent outfielder Matt Kemp.
Kemp is reportedly not being moved, but the M’s should maintain interest in the two-time All-Star.
- CF Dustin Ackley
- 3B Kyle Seager
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Corey Hart (he only wears sunglasses when it’s sunny, just so we’re clear)
- 1B Logan Morrison
- LF Michael Saunders
- C Mike Zunino
- SS Brad Miller
- RF Abraham Almonte
That’s a pretty solid lineup. In terms of the division standings, that group would probably get you higher than the Astros, and should the pitching hold up, above the Angels. If Hart and Morrison can have bounce-back years, and (again) pitching forbid, the team has a good chance to surpass Texas.
Acquiring Kemp would vault them past Texas and the Angels. Something that seemed absurd four months ago. Oakland may be out of reach, but bringing in Matt Kemp would put the Mariners in a position to legitimately contend for a Wild Card berth.
The Dodgers’ outfielder would bring a perfect blend of, well, everything to the Mariners. Kemp’s defense would shine in still-spacious Safeco Field. Hitting him cleanup in the lineup listed above could be potentially lethal. Imagine this-
- RF Abraham Almonte
- 3B Kyle Seager
- 2B Robinson Cano
- CF Matt Kemp
- DH Corey Hart (he still only wears sunglasses when it’s sunny)
- 1B Logan Morrison
- LF Michael Saunders
- C Mike Zunino
- SS Brad Miller
Almonte is the “projected” leadoff hitter only based on the fact that he has the foot speed to create at the top of the order, and Ackley can’t play right field. A leadoff hitter would probably be the next item on the Mariners’ to-do list. Ackley could be traded in an effort to get one.
The Yankees, among others, have inquired about the former first-round pick. Ideally, Seattle could flip Ackley and one of their lesser relievers for one of their incumbent outfielders, Brett Gardner. Here’s another lineup prediction with Gardner (bear with me on this)-
- LF Brett Gardner
- 3B Kyle Seager
- 2B Robinson Cano
- CF Matt Kemp
- DH Corey Hart
- 1B Logan Morrison
- RF Michael Saunders/Abraham Almonte
- C Mike Zunino
- SS Brad Miller
That lineup would contend with Oakland for the division. Not only could that lineup, coupled with the Mariners’ underrated pitching staff, contend with Oakland, but they could compete with the best of them. Outside of Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles and a regressing (for the moment) Boston, Seattle could have the most talented team.
This isn’t even mentioning former top-prospects Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Nick Franklin, all of whom could be shopped to add to the M’s bullpen or rotation.
Getting to this point won’t be easy. Seattle’s going to have to take on some money as well as give up a solid player or two to acquire Kemp. The other trades won’t be cakewalks, but should the Mariners do it, they could be looking at a playoff berth for the first time in a long, long time.
The M’s may have lost their manager, and the season might be over, but don’t despair! There are loads of former Mariners contributing to playoff teams who could not only find themselves on a postseason roster, but also be the reason you tune into the playoffs this year.
We’ll start in the American League-
The Tigers may have the largest contingent of former M’s on their squad. Doug Fister, the 14-game winner, who was stolen from the acquired from the Mariners for nothing relative to his worth, will likely continue his postseason form for Detroit. Last October he was arguably the Tigers’ best pitcher. High praise considering who he shares a rotation with. Other former M’s who have a shot to make the postseason team include suddenly effective relief pitcher Jeremy Bonderman, hometown favorite Matt Tuiasosopo and head scratcher Ramon Santiago. Fun bit about Santiago — he was traded to the M’s by Detroit with another minor leaguer for Carlos Guillen. After a short stint in Seattle’s organization he was soon back in Motown—as Guillen’s backup.
Boston Red Sox
Beantown’s Mariner contingent doesn’t boast the pitching prowess that Detroit’s does, but it certainly can hit. David Ortiz might be one of the most recognizable baseball players in the world. He also may be one of the most recognizable former Mariners in the world. The slugging DH, who often is discussed in the same breath as former Mariner great Edgar Martinez in the pantheon of designated hitters, was a farm player in Seattle’s organization. The price for him? The right to rent Dave Hollins. Mike Carp is another former Seattle player who was let go for relatively nothing. Carp is a vital bench cog for the AL East Champs. The last Seattle cast off in Boston is Matt Thornton, who got to his current destination by way of Chicago. The former All-Star was last seen in an M’s uniform in 2004.
The A’s group of former M’s is a small one. Outside of manager Bob Melvin, injured backstop John Jaso is the only ex-Mariner. Jaso was shipped to the Bay Area in the three-team-swap that netted Seattle Michael Morse. The slugger has since been flipped to Baltimore for outfield prospect Xavier Avery. So what does John Jaso get you? Some A-ha walk-up music for a couple months and an outfield prospect stuck on the organizational depth chart. Bill Bavasi would be proud.
The Indians have a few players with local ties. Michael Brantley was born in Bellevue and Nick Hagadone is an ex-Husky, however the only former M here is Asdrubal Cabrera. Before Brad Miller made himself someone who could take over as the long-term shortstop there were long years of Jack Wilson and Ronny Cedeno. During that time, Asdrubal Cabrera was looked at as the one who got away. Cabrera was traded to the Indians for Eduardo Perez in an ill attempt to improve the M’s DH situation. He has since gone on to appear in two All-Star games, take home a Silver Slugger and carve out a reputation as one of the better fielding shortstops in the Major Leagues. Eduardo Perez hit into more double plays (3) than he hit home runs (1) in a 43-game stint in the Emerald City. Oh, what could have been. Lets out a long, exasperated sigh.
Tampa Bay Rays
Sadly household Rays’ names such as Longoria and Price were never Mariners. Maybe this is a good thing seeing all the talent the M’s have let walk out the door in the last 20 odd years. The Rays aren’t without a former Mariner or two though. Reserve catcher Chris Gimenez was a Mariner at one point, as were relief pitchers Jamey Wright and Josh Lueke. We have Lueke to thank for John Jaso. The M’s and Rays swapped the two once. We also have Jaso to thank for the A-ha music and Xavier Avery. We’ve come full circle everybody!
And as we come full circle, we’ll head to the National League.
As far as I can tell, Pittsburgh doesn’t have any former Mariners on the team. So, if you’re looking for a bizarre team to bet on in the playoffs, here it is.
The Braves have one former M on the team sheet. That would be injured, but-dominant-when-healthy reliever, Eric O’Flaherty. O’Flaherty’s ERA in three years with Seattle — 4.09, 4.47 and 20.25. His ERA in each season since joining the Braves — 3.04, 2.45, 0.98, 1.73, 2.50. Oops. There is also Justin Upton. Who could have been a Mariner, but declined the opportunity. I thought that was a good thing actually.
St. Louis Cardinals
The NL continues to make this post look top-heavy. The Cardinals have one resident former Mariner, former Rainier great Rob Johnson. The veteran backstop was in Seattle for four years before moving on to San Diego before the 2011 season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers continue the NL trend of lack of former M’s. Brandon League is the most noteworthy– and only former Mariner on LA’s payroll. The M’s got two prospects for the former All-Star. In a non-related story, there is a Dodgers’ pitcher named Paco. So, that’s fun to say. Not as fun as Francisco, but close… That was a marginal Will Ferrell reference/humor bit everyone. I repeat, marginal.
The Reds have as many former Mariners as the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates do put together. That would be two. Infielder Jack Hannahan and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. While it begrudges me not to have more players to write about, it does give me a chance to write about Choo. Earlier I wrote about the M’s attempt to bolster their DH position way-back-when when they acquired Eduardo Perez. The team also acquired another player from the Indians to help bolster their production at designated hitter. That was Ben Broussard. And the player they gave up was Choo. Let me be clear, the Perez/Cabrera swap was a train robbery, but if that was a train robbery, the Choo trade makes it look like a ticket for jay-walking in terms of offenses. Broussard did produce at a much better rate than Perez, which is to say adequately. Also his HR/GIDP ratio was much better than Perez’s. The point out of all this is that the Mariners gave Cleveland two ridiculously good players for two veterans who were in the later stages of their careers. Train robberies all.
So, when looking for baseball to watch this fall, be sure to check out the former Mariners across the October landscape, from players who were let go for nothing up front (Cabrera) and nothing long term (Fister), there are former M’s everywhere you look.
Well, except Pittsburgh.