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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nearly a month ago, the baseball world was thrown into a frenzy. Not just because it was the non-waiver trade deadline, but because David Price was traded. That the former Cy Young winner had been dealt wasn’t the shock. Everyone and the foul pole knew that was coming for years, but the shock was who acquired him— the Detroit Tigers. Detroit didn’t just do it on their own, they got the Seattle Mariners involved— acquiring Price from Tampa Bay, flipping Drew Smyly and minor league shortstop Willy Adames to Tampa and sending Austin Jackson to Seattle, who in turn sent Nick Franklin to the Rays.
While most will talk about how Detroit came away as a huge winner or maybe Tampa Bay didn’t get as much as it could have, the Mariners are the forgotten team in the trade. Seattle made out like highway bandits. Highway bandits.
The Mariners’ offensive output was horrendous. The infield is excused from this discussion because of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. While the infield gets a pass, the outfield doesn’t. The pre-trade deadline offensive production in the outfield was dreadful.
Like any good general manager of a contending team, Jack Zduriencik made a trade to fix that. In actuality, he made two. One was to bring in Chris Denorfia, who is at best a platoon option on a good team, and the second involved acquiring Jackson.
The one-time Yankee farmhand hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in the Emerald City. He’s hitting .227 with a .542 OPS and is averaging one strikeout per game. But, at age 27, Jackson still has room to improve and time to get back on track. At best he’s a .290-ish hitter who’ll reach double digits in homeruns, steals, triples and approach 30 doubles. In addition, he plays strong defense in center field. The caveat with Austin Jackson is that he strikes out a lot. He paced the league with 170 punch outs his rookie season and fanned at least 100 times every season he’s been in the big leagues.
So, maybe he strikes out a lot. Maybe too much. But at this point, the Mariners will take any offense they can get, no matter what the cost (i.e. lots of strikeouts). It wasn’t exactly like the M’s acquired a .227 hitter in the trade; Jackson hit .273 in 100 games for Detroit. If he can get close to that number, he’ll be exactly what the Mariners need.
What made the Jackson trade look so one sided was what Zduriencik gave up to acquire the former Tiger— minor league second baseman Nick Franklin. Once thought to be one half of the Mariners’ double play combo of the future, along with Brad Miller, Franklin hit a mere .225 in his first season. Despite that, he showed promise with 12 homeruns and 45 runs driven in across only 102 games. All of that progress was seemingly chucked out the window when Seattle signed current offensive catalyst (and second baseman) Robinson Cano. Franklin was then thrown into a spring training battle with Miller for the starting shortstop job. Miller won the job, hence making Franklin expandable.
The second baseman only got into 17 games with the Mariners. He hit an extremely underwhelming .128. His OPS over those games? .363. It wasn’t a case of Franklin being in the minors because of lack of available at bats in Seattle. It was because of a lack of production in Seattle.
The bottom line is that the Mariners acquired Austin Jackson for Nick Franklin. They acquired an above-average center fielder for a minor league second baseman who was failing to produce in the majors, an established player with a track record for above-average play for a player whose value comes more from a promise that may or may not come, as opposed to on-the-field play.
The Mariners didn’t bring in David Price like the rumor mill thought they would, but they were still involved in the trade. And from their perspective, it looks pretty good.
All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless 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.
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.