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The Mariners are the poster child for a failed rebuild. Jack Zduriencik came from the Brewers, who had drafted Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, to rebuild the struggling Mariners franchise. Jack Z has had the second and 27th, second, third, and 12th picks in the draft (they also lost a draft pick as compensation for signing Chone Figgins. That hurts.) and ended up with Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen, Mike Zunino, and D.J. Peterson. I like Zunino, but all of the picks before him have crushed a franchise that could have picked Mike Trout, Tyler Skaggs, and Jose Fernandez instead.
And yet, this man is still the general manager and has been given a year’s reprieve for seemingly one last opportunity to win. After signing and trading for seemingly every DH candidate he could, Jack Z will have to build this offense and strengthen the rotation enough to compete with the Athletics and Rangers. I don’t think it’s going to be pretty.
The Mariners aren’t going to lose a ton this off season, as Saunders and Gutierrez are spare parts. Perez found a home in relief and Ibanez made headlines with his power number while celebrating his 41st birthday. The only real loss here is Morales, who hit 23 home runs in his second productive year after getting injured on a walk off home run. Ryan was a defensive ace and Morse was the exact opposite, so they aren’t bad losses either. The biggest thing for this team is that all of these players are going to clear a lot of money for a potential big mistake this off season.
The Mariners have so little money owed to people it’s no wonder they are rumored to be the favorites for Jacoby Ellsbury. Just two guaranteed contracts for next season and two arbitration eligible players makes this a very versatile roster. The Mariners have a lot of money to play with (or at least have before) and should be able to successfully tweak the roster in ways few teams can in the next few seasons.
So this line up has some holes in it, if that isn’t obvious from the graphic. Zunino isn’t exactly who you want at clean up, at least in terms of his experience level. Smoak’s passable at first, but nothing special. Ackley can take over the leadoff spot, but isn’t necessarily the best fit there. The team needs power. They really, really badly need power. Luckily for the Mariners, they have what should be openings to fill in right field and designated hitter that could end up supplying the power for them. Saunders is very replaceable and Franklin will need to do better this season to stay at short.
The Mariners’ issue is not the pitching staff. Hernandez is obviously an ace and Iwakuma is a solid number three starter and just finished second in the Cy Young voting. Walker has ace potential and is the future of this rotation, while Maurer is another solid mid-rotation arm and Ramirez is a capable major league starter. They also have some depth in the form of James Paxton. The bullpen is also very good, and Wilhelmsen will probably lose his set up job if he pitches like he did at the end of last season. Farquhar took over the closer job and did well while Capps is a nice set up man.
The Mariners’ farm system has really bitten the franchise the last few years, with each new call up performing below expectations. It doesn’t matter if they were drafted or traded for, the Mariners lack of success from the farm system is striking. Walker may be the real deal though. He has excellent make up for a young player to go with great stuff and has the makings of an ace. Zunino made it to the major leagues and has some issues to fix, but still has a lot of luster on him. Hultzen struggled and is looking more and more like a terrible pick. Franklin came to the majors with a bang, but struggled at the end of the season. And finally, Paxton made it to the majors and is ready to help this team in the rotation. It’s not often you can point to all five top prospects and say they are ready to make an impact on next year’s team, but that’s certainly the case here. D.J. Peterson is a third baseman with power and some feel for hitting who can also walk. He’s a college player the team is probably hoping can make his way to the majors quickly to help the team, but don’t expect to see him any time soon.
I try to stay away from intra-division trades like this, but this one makes way too much sense not to throw out there. The Mariners are deep in pitching and shouldn’t be afraid to trade away pitching depth for offense, and the Angels badly need pitching depth and have offense to give. Enter Kendrick, who by all accounts was being shopped around at the trade deadline, and Bourjos, who they can’t fully utilize since Trout should be playing in center and not a corner, and Cron, who the Angels don’t have a place for either thanks to Pujols and Trumbo. Maurer and Paxton could instantly step into the rotation for the Angels and the Angels already have Taylor Lindsey, who could eventually take over at second. It’s not perfect for the Angels, but it should fix their biggest problem. Meanwhile the Mariners can move Ackley to an outfield corner where he belongs and they’ll have an elite defensive center fielder who can hit a little, solidifying the team for years up the middle of the diamond.
DH/1B Kendrys Morales (4/$55 million)
The Mariners need power, and they need it badly. While Morales isn’t necessarily the best player to give a multi-year contract to, he is a guy who just hit 20+ home runs while playing his home games at Safeco Field. He fits seemlessly into the line up and provides depth to it. It’s hard to say what Morales’ market is, but his relative youth (he’s only 30) and skill set make him valuable to this team. I inflated his contract a bit (originally I had 3/$40), but that’s the free agent climate we’re in now. The Mariners can afford it and it’s not a terrible bet to make.
So something I haven’t mentioned up to this point that now needs to be mentioned: I love the Mariners’ future. Their owner just died (who apparently never went to a single Mariners home game), so there’s a chance Nintendo sells off the team and the Mariners get new ownership in place. The new owner could then fire Jack Z without losing a dime and bring in a new GM to helm a team with young talent, a decent farm system, and money to spend. I think this is a perfect landing spot for Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ director of scouting and player development. He should be one of the top GM candidates in all of baseball and the Mariners would be a perfect landing spot for him.
McLeod and every other possible GM will have a year to watch this ownership situation shake out. If things are looking good this time next year, the club should have their pick of the litter. All they have to do is survive this next year without making some sort of idiotic move that puts the future of the franchise behind winning next year. But given that Jack Z knows he has to win or go home, this franchise is in a very dangerous place right now.
Jack Z will not make that disastrous move to wound the franchise.
At his core, Jack Z understands short term versus long term thinking and won’t make a move that hurts the future of the franchise. He tried his plan out and he just ended up picking the wrong players. Some of that wasn’t obvious at the time, but sometimes it was. Jack’s a draft and develop guy at his core, and he won’t change his ways over the next year. He may go out and get a Jacoby Ellsbury, but he won’t sign Robinson Cano or make a James Shields type of trade. He’s smarter than that (… I think).
Sum it Up with a GIF (from SB Nation)
Iwakuma love you ❤
The Mariners are a team on a rise that isn’t rising quite yet. They have to avoid any major mistakes that will put their future in jeopardy, but I don’t think that will happen. This team’s future looks bright, but they’ll need to find a source of power to drive the offense. This team is a prime candidate to go out and get Giancarlo Stanton when he comes available, and they should. They need that kind of bat to help move this team forward.
For now, they need to cruise with their young talent and see what they have before making any rash decisions. They also need to hope that Felix continues to be the ace he’s been since getting to the majors. It’s not all bad, but the promising future isn’t guaranteed, it’s just sitting there right in front of them. They just have to grab it.