The Seattle Mariners Have Been Here Before With Kendrys Morales

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.

Seattle Mariners: Signing Nelson Cruz Doesn’t Guarantee Success

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.

Seattle Mariners: This Week in Walk-Up Music News

It’s been a sad time lately for the Mariners. Before Robinson Cano signed, the team was coming off a 71-91 season in which they struggled mightily. More importantly, outfielder Mike Morse and his A-ha walk-up music were traded.

I like rap as much as the next guy, but Morse’s usage of classic 80’s music was a breath of fresh air in terms of walk-up music. As a fan of 80’s music it’s nice to see, but when you can get the crowd to do this… well, let’s just say it’s entertaining.

The Mariners’ newest acquisition, Corey Hart, will go a long way to replacing and or improving on the production Morse gave the Mariners.

No, not that Corey Hart. Corey Hart, the former Brewer who M’s GM Jack Zduriencik drafted during his time with the Brewers.

“Sunglasses at Night” may be a slight downgrade from A-ha and the Eurhythmics (another Morse walk-up favorite), but Hart’s on-field play will likely pay bigger dividends than Morse’s.

Seattle Mariners: Why the Team Should Trade for Matt Kemp

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.

After the ambitious, low-buy acquisitions of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, the team’s lineup will look something like this-

  1. CF Dustin Ackley
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. DH Corey Hart (he only wears sunglasses when it’s sunny, just so we’re clear)
  5. 1B Logan Morrison
  6. LF Michael Saunders
  7. C Mike Zunino
  8. SS Brad Miller
  9. 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-

  1. RF Abraham Almonte
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. CF Matt Kemp
  5. DH Corey Hart (he still only wears sunglasses when it’s sunny)
  6. 1B Logan Morrison
  7. LF Michael Saunders
  8. C Mike Zunino
  9. 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)-

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. CF Matt Kemp
  5. DH Corey Hart
  6. 1B Logan Morrison
  7. RF Michael Saunders/Abraham Almonte
  8. C Mike Zunino
  9. 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.

 

Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners: The Importance of the Signing

Robinson Cano is a member of the Seattle Mariners. Let it all set in.

The Mariners are trying, folks.

People can talk all they want about Cano’s production. How fantastic it will be for the first couple years. How it will look bad at the back end. How many runs he will drive in next year.

Take Cano’s on-field production aside, this is what people need to consider with Cano. He’s a marquee signing.

Yes, I just stated the obvious, but I’ll compare it to the Knicks signing Amar’e Stoudemire a couple years ago. The Knicks stunk before they signed Stoudemire, but signing him to go along with all the pieces that they had made them an instant playoff team. I’m not saying the M’s will do this, but they still have a lot of holes to fill. Signing Cano signifies a shift made by the Mariners in the free agency market. It signals that star players are willing to go to Seattle.

No one has wanted to come to the Emerald City lately. Star players at least. Seattle whiffed on Josh Hamilton, lost out on Prince Fielder and was turned down by Justin Upton. Who could blame them? They were all in their primes at the time and wanted to go to winning teams to do just that, win. The M’s weren’t a winning team. Sure, give it three or four years and Seattle could become a contender, but at that time they weren’t ready.

Signing Cano helps the Mariners in two ways in terms of helping them attract other players. Not only does it signal that star players want to come to the Pacific Northwest, it also means that the M’s will improve. Even if Seattle doesn’t acquire anyone else of note (an unlikely situation), Cano immediately makes them better.

The former Yankee isn’t the LeBron James of baseball. People aren’t going to hit free agency and say, “I want to go play with Robbie Cano. Agent, get me on the next flight to Seattle!” But at least they’re going to listen when Jack Zduriencik comes calling.

Adding another big name player via trade or free agency could do wonders for the M’s. Not only will it add to the misconception that big players don’t want to go to Seattle, but it will also take the M’s to another level in terms of competing. I don’t necessarily mean the World Series. Seattle is a number of pieces away from that, the playoffs, or at the very least a wild-card game isn’t out of the question. Oakland will be better next year, but outside of that, each division team has its warts. Anaheim continues to look like a terrific team on paper, but looks average when you see the actual statistics. Texas was already hurting from losing the power bats of Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, but now with the losses of Nelson Cruz, David Murphy and Ian Kinsler, the Rangers will suffer even more.

Seattle has a legitimate shot to make the playoffs if it can get some more reinforces for their new poster child Robinson Cano. If the team can pick up David Price and/or Matt Kemp to add to a nucleus of Cano, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kyle Seager and Danny Farquhar, then the future is looking bright in Seattle.

Just like signing Amar’e opened the door for the Knicks to get Carmelo Anthony and eventually Tyson Chandler, Cano will open the door to other exciting options for the Mariners.

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.

MLB Trade Rumors: Why Trading for Matt Kemp Makes Sense for the Mariners

It’s “rumor” season folks. When the bad (in a statistical sense) teams look to get better and the contending teams look to keep up with the Joneses, you know it’s rumor season.

One of the Joneses-keeper-uppers is the Dodgers, who have a glut of outfielders, namely Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford. Also likely to compete for an outfield spot is minor league prospect Joc Pederson, who could break the big league roster in the near future.

I thought dealing Puig might be the answer for the Dodgers, but it seems that they may have interest from other teams in Matt Kemp. Dealing him would solve their outfield dilemma until Pederson is ready for the bigs.

 

Kemp would be the perfect fit in Seattle.

Funny enough, Kemp has never actually played in Seattle, and has struggled in some of the other AL West ballparks, but nonetheless he would be a fit in the Emerald City.

Seattle has needs in the outfield and in the middle of the lineup. On that note, they could use a leadoff hitter as well.

While Kemp has experienced most of his success at the plate in the three and four spots in the lineup, he has been successful as a leadoff man. Kemp has hit .292 and has scored 33 runs with 25 extra base hits in 51 career games at leadoff.

The former Dodger could play leadoff, but he would likely hit third, or even fourth, in Seattle. A three-four-five combination of Kemp, Kendrys Morales and Kyle Seager would be pretty formidable.

The problem with the Dodgers being a contending team, and Kemp supposedly being available in a trade, is that the Dodgers will be picky about the return. They certainly aren’t going to trade him for the sake of trading him. After all, this is the guy who led the league in runs scored, home runs and runs batted in on his way to a top-two MVP finish, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award just two seasons ago.

Los Angeles is also going to be picky because they don’t have a lot of holes to fill. Having already addressed the potential problem at second base, the hot corner is likely the biggest need area for the Dodgers.

Unless the Mariners offer one of their big pitching prospects (extremely unlikely considering Kemp only played in 179 games the last two seasons,) the only piece LA would want is probably Kyle Seager. Unless the Dodgers think a couple of the M’s young, bullpen arms are of equal worth to Kemp,  Seager is the most likely target. If Kemp can get back to his 2010 form, then maybe the M’s would consider a swap of the two, but at this point Seager provides the only legitimate stability of any M’s position player. Meaning the team won’t even consider trading him unless the return is substantial.

If the Dodgers are willing to sell-low on Kemp to clear up their outfield picture, then the M’s could swing a deal. Should Kemp return to his 2010 form in Seattle, it would be all the better.

Free Agent Find- Josh Johnson

The Mariners have a dilemma on their hands. One that involves pitching. The team gave up the fifth most runs in baseball last season. They also finished in the statistical basement in categories such as WHIP, homeruns and wild pitches. A lot of that has to do with their starting pitchers, based on sheer workload compared to the bullpen.

The current starting rotation consists of Felix Hernandez, Hishashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer.

Going forward, Hernandez and Iwakuma are the only real locks. Saunders could be kept around, but that’s a story for another time.

The dilemma that I alluded to earlier is this: Seattle needs to upgrade its starting pitching, but they don’t want to block the path of the Big Three. No, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish aren’t walking through that door, but James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker are.

Seattle could throw all three of them in the fire and use the rookies with their two All-Stars, but in all likelihood, not all of the pitchers will be ready. Hence the M’s need a stop-gap player.

Enter Josh Johnson.

The former Marlins’ Ace struggled in a Blue Jays uniform. In 16 starts north-of-the-border he posted a 2-8 record with an ERA of 6.20. Not only did his ERA balloon, he also gave up more homeruns in 16 starts than he gave up in nearly twice as many starts in his final year in Miami. The potential is still there. He posted 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings in his first year in the AL, his highest total since 2010 when he was an All-Star and received votes for the Cy Young (finished 5th) and MVP (25th).

Due to numerous variables, Johnson won’t garner as much free agent attention as other starting pitchers who are also out of contract. Part of that has to do with his down year. It also has to do with the moderately strong class of free agent starters. Matt Garza, AJ Burnett and Masahiro Tanaka headline the group with other names such as Ervin Santana, Hiroki Kuroda, Bartolo Colon and Ricky Nolasco sure to garner interest.

The underlying theme here is that Johnson could be had for cheap, relative to his value. Teams won’t necessarily be lined up around the block with money to offer him like they will/would for Tanaka or Garza. This could be a one-man gold mine for the Mariners.

Obviously Johnson isn’t going to be a long-term piece in Seattle. He won’t sign a long contract and the Mariners like their youngsters moving forward, but Johnson could be a very enticing fit in the Emerald City.

Put it this way, the Mariners sign Johnson, he regains some of the form that he lost from his Cy Young worthy years, and the Mariners sell high on him at the deadline in order to gain a young piece for the future.

Not only is Johnson an attractive option to sign and flip come deadline day, he also will improve the M’s pitching staff.  His 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings were higher than every M’s starting pitcher not named Hernandez. That’s 2.2 more than Maurer, 2.7 more than Harang and 3.8 more than Saunders. This is useful considering the fact that the M’s were an extremely poor defensive unit, no matter what advanced stat you use. To sum it up, that’s two to three more outs that Johnson didn’t expose his fielders to, outs that never left the batters’ box.

Who knows, maybe the M’s contend with a trio of Felix, Iwakuma and Johnson. Maybe they decide that they like Johnson and want to keep him long term. This could allow them to trade the lesser, in their opinion, of the Big Three in a package for an impact bat along the lines of what they tried to get with Justin Upton.

Josh Johnson, one man gold mine for the Mariners.

Potentially.

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.

The Mariners’ Future is Now

A quick pan over the Mariners’ depth chart shows Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino in the starting nine. This wouldn’t be too far-fetched if it were, say next year’s depth chart, but this is where the world is presently; the Mariners future is also their present.

The M’s probably would have liked to have had Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero each put a respective stranglehold on second base and catcher so that the team could ease Franklin and Zunino into their roles for the next decade. Ackley hit .205 with five extra base hits in 45 games, while Montero struggled to fit in defensively and was a smidgen better batting than Ackley with a .208 clip. The two obviously didn’t execute said strangleholds, and here we are.

This might be a good thing for the Mariners, all of course pending the youngsters perform well.

Zunino is obviously the future at catcher. He’s proved that with his own body of work. Not to mention having Montero prove the fact for him with his defensive shortcomings. This lets him get a head-start on being the M’s everyday catcher while continuing his learning process. Everyone knew he was going to take over for Montero at some point between the start of this season and the end of next. This just accelerates the process and lets Montero transition to more of an everyday utility player, one who might catch a day or two a week and play the other games at first base or as the DH.

The Franklin transition seems to be working out for all parties involved. Mariners, Franklin and Ackley. Franklin is currently preforming well for Seattle with a .299 clip at the plate while providing plus defense. Ackley is ripping the cover off the ball at AAA Tacoma, a good sign after his iffy stint with Seattle to start the year, with a .383 batting average.

This could all work out well for Seattle. Zunino could establish himself as the catcher sooner than expected. Franklin could integrate himself into the core of the team, also sooner than expected. Ackley could come back firing from a hitting spree in Tacoma, and Montero could figure things out after he returns from injury.

Things are looking up for the Mariners.