Seattle Mariners: Washington Nationals Players Serve as Reminder to What Could Have Been

As the Seattle Mariners watch yet another playoffs from their respective couches, they find themselves wondering what could have been. Or rather, how close they could have been had they acquired or retained certain players.

Nowhere is this more relevant than in Washington, where the Nationals employ four former Mariners and two extremely important pieces of their team that were this close to becoming Mariners. Here’s a look at those players.

Anthony Rendon

Widely panned as the best hitter in his draft class, Rendon was taken sixth overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. The Mariners had the second overall pick that year. They took left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen, who has had his share of troubles thanks to a rash of injuries. Rendon, on the other hand, led the league in runs scored in 2014 (only his second season in the majors), hit 21 home runs, drove in 83 runs, swiped 17 bags and hit .287 with a .824 OPS.

Positional log jams aside, the Mariners are probably wishing they had Rendon’s bat in their lineup.

Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg is the one player on this list who Seattle didn’t have on their team, or could have drafted. Yet, he still represents one of the biggest, “what ifs?” in Mariners’ history.

Simply put, Seattle and Washington were both awful in 2008. Both had a legitimate shot at the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft – at the time, widely believed to be Strasburg. Seattle won four of its last six to finish 61-101 while Washington lost five of their last six to finish 59-102. The Mariners already have two of the best starters in the league in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, plus talented youngsters James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. If Strasburg drafted by the M’s and in that rotation, the Mariners’ playoff drought would be a thing of the past.

Doug Fister

The first of many former M’s on this list, Fister was traded from the Emerald City to Detroit along with David Pauley for Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells, Chance Ruffin and minor league prospect Francisco Martinez.

Since then, Fister went on to pitch fantastically in his 2 ½ years in Detroit, posting 32 wins—20 more than his total in 2 ½ years in Seattle— and turning in an ERA under four in every season. He also posted some absurd strikeout-to-walk ratios. Down the stretch in 2011 he struck out 57 batters while walking five over 70 innings.

The players Seattle got in return?

Wells would post decent power numbers in his brief time in Seattle before getting pushed out of a crowded outfield and finding himself with three different organizations not named the Seattle Mariners in 2013. He drove in a singular run in 53 games. Martinez was eventually traded back to Detroit for a PTBNL while Ruffin recently retired. Furbush was the only solid player Seattle got back. He’s provided a dependable reliever, but is buried in a deep bullpen.

Detroit would later send Fister to Washington, but the current Nationals pitcher is just another reminder of what could have been for Seattle.

Matt Thornton and Rafael Soriano

Seattle isn’t short on relievers at the moment, but Thornton and Soriano are two more examples of players who got away. Thornton, a former first round pick of the Mariners, was dealt to Chicago in 2006 for outfielder Joe Borchard. He went on to enjoy a long stint in the Windy City before moving to Boston midway through last season. He won a ring with the Red Sox and split 2014 with the Yankees and Nationals, posting a cumulative 1.75 ERA over 64 innings. For his career, Thornton has a 3.43 ERA in 670 appearances and an All-Star appearance to his name.

Soriano is the more sorely missed of the two. While Fernando Rodney has been superb as the M’s closer, and the has gotten by with a string of quality closers, Soriano has been superb in his career.

Upon leaving Seattle he moved to Atlanta, in a trade that will be addressed later, and in two years posted ERAs of 3.00 and 2.57 before taking over the closer’s role in 2009 and turning in a 2.97 ERA with 27 saves. He was traded to Tampa Bay and promptly led the league with 45 saves. He pitched to a tremendous 1.73 ERA and finished in the top 12 in Cy Young and MVP voting. After a year in Tampa he moved to the Yankees where he had a slight down year with a 4.12 ERA in 42 games before bouncing back to save 42 games and post a 2.26 ERA in 2012. He placed 20th in MVP voting that year. He then signed with Washington where he has accumulated 75 saves over the past two seasons with a collective 3.15 ERA.

Since leaving the Mariners, Soriano has appeared in 469 games, posted a 2.84 ERA and recorded 203 saves.

Now we get to the trade that was mentioned earlier.

The Mariners traded Soriano to the Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez.

Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who’s ERA over 20 starts and 98 innings was 7.16. You heard me correctly, 7.16! Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who let righties hit .340 off of him. Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who allowed lefties to hit .330 against him. Yes, that Horacio Ramirez.

The Mariners traded away a reliever who would become one of the game’s finest at his position for a back-of-the-rotation starter who posted an ERA over seven in nearly 100 innings.

Yikes.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Another Mariner traded away for relatively nothing, Cabrera was lost to Cleveland in “The Great Highway Robbery/Fleecing of 2006.” Cleveland traded Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez to Seattle in two different trades. Seattle gave up Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera respectively.

Cabrera would go on to establish himself as a premium two-way shortstop, culminating with a 2011 season in which he hit .273 with 25 home runs, 92 runs driven in, 17 stolen bases and a .792 OPS. Cabrera would make two All-Star appearances in Cleveland before moving to Washington at this past trade deadline. While he isn’t a threat to hit anywhere near 25 homers, he still provides pop and solid defense for a middle infielder.

In Conclusion

It’s easy to sit and think, “what if this?” or, “what if that?”, especially with the Mariners. But the reality is that Seattle has a history of letting players go too early, as well has just missing acquiring players who could turn into important cogs. Those players go on to become impact players elsewhere. There are quite a few former Mariners and almost-Mariners in various MLB cities playing vital roles to their teams. The Washington Nationals just happen to have more than most. For the Mariners, it’s a reminder of what could have been.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

 

Where Are They Now? Seattle Mariners Edition: Doug Fister

The good people over at Homers Apparel made a t-shirt making light of the fact that the Mariners traded Doug Fister, basically for a decent relief pitcher.

Fister left the Mariners, along with reliever David Pauley, in a trade to the Detroit Tigers. The return on the two, but mainly Fister, was outfielder Casper Wells, reliever Charlie Furbush, third baseman Francisco Martinez and a player to be named later. That player eventually turned into ex-first-round draft pick Chance Ruffin.

With Fister on the move again, this time to Washington, I thought, as a Tiger fan, it was appropriate to fill Mariners’ fans in on what happened to Fister on the mound since he left the Emerald City.

Before the trade, Fister went 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA in 21 Seattle starts. At that trade deadline he was flipped for said package of players. The now ex-Tiger posted fantastic numbers down the stretch, going 8-1 with a sparkling 1.79 ERA over the course of 70 innings. He struck out 57 batters and walked a paltry five. FIVE.

The California native followed that up with a solid second season in Detroit when he went 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk numbers weren’t nearly as gaudy with 137 punch-outs to 37 base-on-balls. He continued to solidify himself as a dependable frontline starter with a 14-9 record and 3.67 ERA this past year over 32 starts.

Fister was good in the regular season, but he was fantastic in the post-season. With the exception of a six-run anomaly during Game One of the 2011 ALDS against the Yankees where he was forced to come out of the bullpen, the 6 foot 8 righty was dominant. After said anomaly, he won the clinching Game Five in New York while holding the Yankees to one run over five innings. For the rest of his Tigers’ career he procured quality starts in each of his postseason starts. 2011 ALCS start versus Texas? Quality start. 2012 ALDS versus Oakland? Quality start. 2012 ALCS versus the Yankees? Quality start. I think you get my point. Fister’s career postseason ERA sits at 2.98.

He continually keeps his team in the game, something that is more valuable than ever in the playoffs. Fister has thrown a quality start in every single postseason start in his career. Having a reliable, non-dazzling pitcher may not seem like the most exciting quality, but knowing you have that reliability in October goes a long ways.

Fister, as mentioned, is off to Washington. The deal saw the Tigers acquire utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi, young reliever Ian Krol and starting pitching prospect Robbie Ray.

Most people will call the trade a bad one for the Tigers, but that’s a discussion for another time. The point is that Fister is off to Washington, solidifying himself as one of the better ex-Mariners around Major League Baseball.

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Why the Vetoed Justin Upton Trade Was a Good Thing

Last offseason the M’s almost acquired Justin Upton. Almost. The Mariners would have sent Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor.

Drink it all in.

That’s Seattle’s second baseman of the future, their two best bullpen arms, plus a potential ace.

Does that sound like the haul to give up for a player like Upton?

Justin Upton is not the player he was in 2009 or 2011. At least statistically he isn’t. He probably isn’t a threat to hit .300, but he will turn in close to a .270 batting average.  He may hit a lot of home runs, somewhere around 25 or 30, but that’s it. Also, he has never reached the 100 RBI plateau, an interesting fact considering the supposed stature of Upton as a hitter.

So, does a hitter with a .270 batting average, 20-30 homerun potential and less than 100 RBIs a year (last season he drove in 67 in 150 games) sound like the guy to trade for a future ace, second baseman, and two dominant bullpen arms?

The answer is a resounding, “No.”

I’m not disparaging Justin Upton’s talent as a player, I just think his market value at the time was overblown.

Put it this way, not only did the Mariners keep nearly a fifth of their future roster, they also found a suitable mish-mash of players to replace, and out produce Upton.

Meet Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse and the since-departed Jason Bay. Plans B, C, D, E, in no particular order. The M’s brought this group in to provide the same kinds of things Justin Upton would provide, a middle of the order presence. The team might have gone a different direction in filling out the rest of their lineup with Upton seeing as these four players are… four players, and Upton is just one. But at the end of the day, they play the same role.

And the M’s combination has done it better.

Justin Upton’s 2013 WAR with his new team, the Atlanta Braves, 1.9.

Kendrys Morales’ 2013 WAR, 2.9.

Raul Ibanez’ 2013 WAR, 0.8.

Jason Bay’s 2013 WAR, 0.5.

Michael Morse’s 2013 WAR, -0.6.

Collectively that spits out a WAR of 3.6. And while that may be four players’ output versus a singular player’s output, the different ways the M’s got that output is key. The price for Upton would have been two ace relievers, an actual ace and a second baseman. The price for the current M’s was a backup catcher, who was blocking the path of Mike Zunino, and a starting pitcher on an expiring contract who likely didn’t factor in the team’s long term plans.

It’s a good thing that Justin Upton vetoed a trade to Seattle. Yes, he would have brought star-power to the team, but since the veto, the M’s have found a much better solution for their lineup, statically and monetarily. Not to mention they keep the team intact for the long haul.

Hey, the A’s Did it, How About Us?

The Oakland Athletics had an extremely successful season last year. Maybe you didn’t notice. In a discussion where the A’s were probably relegated to the kiddy table, while big-boys Texas and Anaheim were supposed to contend for the division, the A’s won it. LA of Anaheim missed the playoffs all together, and Texas went out in a pretty unceremonious way against Baltimore in the new-fangled one-game playoff.

The team’s supposed strengths going into the season were pitching and, well, pitching. Albeit in an enormously large ball park where a game of cricket can be played down the right field and left field foul territories.

Oakland’s strength ended up being not only pitching, but also a tendency to hit home runs. And lots of them. The A’s were one of the better teams at the art of the long ball (7th in baseball last year.)

Last year as well, the A’s got the bulk of their power from their first base/ corner outfield/DH spots from a mix-matched group of role players and journeymen.

(Sensing a theme?) Continue reading

What Justin Upton Rejecting a Trade to Seattle Means for the Mariners

“HELP!!! HELP!!! OFFENSE NEEDED!!! NO ONE ELSE WILL SHOW UP!!! WE’LL TAKE ANYONE AS LONG AS HE CAN HIT THE BALL IN THE GAP.”

This is what the signs that are draped over every overpass on I-5 in Seattle read. The Mariners need offensive help and apparently Justin Upton is not interested.

The M’s supposedly agreed to send shortstop Nick Franklin, relievers Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of the pitching prospect trifecta of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton. Probably Walker.

The most interesting part to all of this is that Arizona actually agreed to it. I am in no way saying that these are going to be or are bad players, but if I was Arizona I would have tried to get one more of the “trifecta.”

Yes, all three are likely going to be starters in the Majors, but they all could be aces. I’m not overvaluing Upton or anything, but the asking price should be higher than stated for a few reasons. He’s young. He has the potential to be a dynamo offensive player, and Seattle is so very desperate for offense. We’re talking David-Stern-desperate-for-power-and-control desperate.

On the flip side of that is the fact that the Mariners could have potentially stolen Upton for cheap. Arizona probably should have asked more for Upton, but Seattle was going in not giving up too much in reality. Yes, Franklin could be special, but the M’s would have gotten a special player back in Upton. Yes, one of the “trifecta” could be special as well, but so could the other two. And if you haven’t noticed, the Mariners are starting to develop a very “Oakland A’s” kind of feel to them in terms of developing good relievers, so losing two wouldn’t be horrible.

It’s really a true shame that Upton didn’t accept the trade. I’m not sure why he doesn’t want to come to Seattle. It’s honestly one of, if not the best city in the world (I’m a tad bit biased seeing as I was born and live in the greater Seattle area.)

Can you imagine the Mariners’ offense had he accepted the trade? Upton, Morales, Seager and Montero are a pretty fantastic middle of the order. Add in Raul Ibanez, Dustin Ackley and a possible resurgent Franklin Gutierrez and you have the makings of a legitimate offensive team. Something we haven’t seen in Seattle in a very long time.

It is disappointing that the trade for Upton didn’t work out, but the big positive here is that the Mariners know that they have a package of players that would have acquired one of the premier players in the game. If that group of players could have brought in Upton, then they can certainly bring in someone else of his caliber.

What do you think about all this? Was Upton smart to stay in Arizona? Should the Mariners go after another player of his caliber?

Tell me in the comments section.

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