— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) July 12, 2015
The Seattle Mariners offense is struggling. Despite the offseason addition of Nelson Cruz and the presence of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, the M’s offense is in a rut. Entering the week, only the White Sox and Phillies had scored fewer runs.
Given all these factors, the addition of Mark Trumbo would seem like the best early Christmas present known to man. Yeah… not so much.
Trumbo’s early impact, or lack thereof, has been staggering considering the slugger’s track record.
The former Angel was a massive hit for his hometown team, averaging 32 home runs, 94 RBI and a .251 average over three full seasons with the Halos. The M’s needed that Trumbo, not the one they acquired. The first baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter (he basically plays every “power” position on the diamond) had a rough go of things in Arizona. With the Diamondbacks he tallied 23 bombs, 84 RBI and 128 strikeouts in 134 games. Those aren’t that awful numbers, but when you consider the stats were accumulated over the course of two seasons, it encourages pause.
The Mariners certainly gave up some quality pieces to bring a player who once finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and appeared in an All Star game during his first two seasons.
Out went Welington Castro, Dominic Leone and minor league prospects Gabriel Guerrero and Jack Reinheimer.
(It should be noted that reliever/swing man Vidal Nuno made the move north with Trumbo in the transaction, so the M’s upgraded their bullpen to some extent).
Losing Castillo is the most prominent negative here. Yes, Leone had his moments last season in relief, but he struggled this year and Nuno is likely an upgrade over the now-former Mariner.
Seattle’s catching situation is pretty straight forward. Mike Zunino is the starter and Jesus Sucre is the backup. However, Zunino is hitting .158 with a .230 OBP while Sucre is scuffling with the bat. His batting average, OBP and slugging percentage are all .043. He owns the rare distinction having an OPS under .100. Yes, that’s right, Jesus Sucre’s OPS is .087. Yikes.
So why is this being mentioned? Because Welington Castro happens to be a career .251 hitter, who at his best hits somewhere in the .260-.270 neighborhood.
Why he was dealt for a struggling Trumbo is puzzling.
Trumbo put up half-way decent numbers (9 home runs, 23 RBI, .805 OPS) in 46 games in the desert prior to the trade—however, Seattle was already well-stocked in the first-baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter areas. In fact, they had a log jam on their hands. Logan Morrison was/is entrenched at first base, while the pre-Trumbo corner outfield/DH candidates included Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, Justin Ruggiano and Dustin Ackley. James Jones has also received at-bats in the outfield.
Adding Trumbo to this mix makes sense if the Trumbo in question is the one who suited up for the Angels. However, sacrificing an above-average offensive catcher (Castillo) and two prospects for the Trumbo who suited up for the D-Backs is, in layman’s terms, a bad deal.
Losing Castillo hurts catcher production, while adding Trumbo to a position where there is a surplus only rubs salt in the wound. While Zunino is clearly the starting catcher, he’s struggling with the bat, as is his cover, Sucre. Sacrificing offensively behind the dish is fine trade-off when you acquire pre-Diamondback Mark Trumbo, but sacrificing behind the dish for a player who hit entered the week hitting .179 as a Mariner… well, then you have some problems.
The Mark Trumbo acquisition will be a win for the Mariners if the slugger can regain the form he displayed with the Angels, however if he continues his downward trajectory, the M’s may soon come to regret the trade.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
The number of hits allowed by Mariners starter J.A. Happ. The veteran lefty pitched well, but didn’t receive any runs support. He also struck out six batters in seven innings while only walking one Ray, Logan Forsythe.
The number of hits/runs/earned runs/home runs allowed by M’s closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning. In an otherwise scoreless game, Rodney blew the save and took his third loss of the season. Again, Forsythe was the exception, going yard in the ninth.
The number of hits by new Mariner Mark Trumbo. The former Angel/Diamondback went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, hitting fifth behind Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
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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.
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-
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)-
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.
In a rivalry, both teams need to win for it to be considered a rivalry. The Astros won on Tuesday night… Check that box. So it’s a rivalry, now I’m able to write about it.
The Mariners are a good team who should be a dark-horse contender for a wildcard spot. The Astros are a bad team who should be a contender for the number-one overall pick.
The Astros are a transitional team, littered with former top prospects who have yet to make the jump to being established big leaguers but still show potential. Plus there are some veterans on short-term deals looking to reestablish their major league careers.
The Astros stink. There are no two ways around it.
Seattle is much too good for Houston. The Mariners aren’t going to become world-beaters; they aren’t going to be one of the Yankees teams of old. They’re going to be the Mariners. One of the upsides to that is that they will play the newest member of the AL, the aforementioned Houston Astros.
The Astros are really bad…(Wait didn’t I just write this? That’s how bad Houston is folks; they cause brief short-term memory loss. Take that to the bank!)
The Mariners are much more talented than Houston (Doing it again, sorry. Slaps forehead. I guess Houston is that horrible?)
What I’m really trying to say is that if Houston and Seattle play 20 times, it wouldn’t shock anyone, even Emerald City haters (yes, apparently some people hate the lovely city of Seattle, oh the horror) to see the M’s win 15-17 times out of 20 against the ‘Stros.
The term “rivalry” is being brought into play not just for the sake of making this piece hold water, but also because it will be a rivalry.
Houston is where Seattle was as recently as a few years ago. (Fun fact, both teams have Erik Bedard! Look out, if the Angels flame out and have a fire sale in the next three years, Erik Bedard will be there.) The Astros have their one solid piece to build around (Jose Altuve), and they’re trying to figure it all out. The Astros will definitely be better over the long term. They may serve to bolster the win column for Seattle nowadays, but in a few years with some shrewd moves, Houston will be back to relevancy.
(Another fun fact I forgot to mention, Ronny Cedeno was/is on the really-bad-now-good-later Mariners of a few years yonder and the current Astros. He might be on the ashes of an Angels’ team after that fire sale with Bedard.)
I guess the most comparable situation here in recent memory is that of the Blue Jays of the late 2000’s and the Orioles of that time period. One team is a good team stuck in a tough division, and the other team, while stuck in the same tough division, is horrendous.
Seattle will win most of its games with Houston, but give it some patience (a few years) and the Astros will be providing you with bang for your buck at the old Safeco Field.