Today the M’s won their second game in the weekend wrap-around series in Tampa Bay. Tomorrow the M’s face former Cy Young winner David Price, which presents two problems.
Though Price has had his struggles this year, as the Rays limp through the season decimated by injuries, he’s still David Price, Damned Good Pitcher. On May 13th Price pitched the Rays to a complete game 2-1 victory, allowing the M’s a mere six while striking out 12. The M’s will send out, well I don’t know if they’ve announced who they will send out.
This is the fifth spot in the rotation. When the season began it was Erasmo Ramirez’s spot. But he was putrid after six starts and was sent to Tacoma to defumigate. Blake Beavan came up to take the fifth spot, but in addition to being awful, he got hurt. Brandon Maurer, coming off the injured list, took over at number five, but he also provided seven shots of execrable before heading to the DL. Ramirez returned to the five hole last week, and was terrible. Today McLendon confirmed he’d be able to continue on his road to respectability again tomorrow against Price. Nothing like a challenge.
The M’s are faced with sending out Erasmo to be slaughtered for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is because Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are injured. There simply isn’t anybody else to write into that slot. Beavan and Maurer are hurt, and the two guys Jack Z. planned to pencil into the three and four spots in the rotation are broken. And it doesn’t feel like they are particularly close. Paxton still isn’t pitching and Walker, surprise, looks really rusty in his rehab starts. Thankfully Roenis Elias and Chris Young are pitching surprisingly well. Their efforts have kept the M’s near the top of the league in pitching after Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma take their turns toying with the opposition.
So here is my question. How much better would the M’s be if they had signed one of the starters on the market as we headed into spring training? Young would probably be in the 5th spot. Ervin Santana? Matt Garza? Chris Capuano? Ubaldo Jimenez? Ubaldo Jimenez’s grandmother could make great number threes. Injury, especially to pitchers, is a huge part of this game. It was foolish to pass up on established pitching because a team simply cannot have enough. So, tomorrow the Mariners are faced with rolling out the equivalent of a black hole to face one of the best pitchers in the league. The M’s may still win, but it might require an asteroid crashing into the Price home tonight.
Then there is the matter of finding hitters to smack Price around. Remember that May 13th performance and the six hits the Mariners managed against him? Would it have been different if Kendrys Morales was hitting behind Robinson Cano? It might, but we’ll never know because Morales is now a Minnesota Twin. Yes, those Twins, presently owning a 29-31 record good enough for tied for 4th in the AL Central.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge Kendrys Morales fan. He’s big and slow, can’t do anything but DH. He’s not somebody we’ll debate about putting into the Hall of Fame. Edgar, Big Papi, or Harold Baines he’s not. But he did have a remarkably consistent year for the Mariners last year. 23 home runs and 34 doubles. No big splits in average from either side of the plate, though most of his power comes from hitting left handed. Morales doesn’t walk a lot and does plenty of whiffing. Did I mention that he’s big and slow? But the bottom line is that he’s much more productive than the guys currently hitting in the DH spot, Dustin Ackley and Stefen Romero.
How do the Mariners, working toward contention for a playoff spot for the first time in years, let a valuable piece like Morales get away to the Twins? What do the Twins have the Mariners don’t have, unless we’re simply talking money and possibly years. According to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, Morales will receive a prorated portion of a $12 million salary, or $7.5 million for 2014. In the media there have been hints the M’s are strapped to add more payroll. Baseball Reference.com shows the current M’s salary at $90.3 million. I confess not to being much of an accountant, but it seems silly that in a year in which the Mariners are improved, attendance has ticked up a bit, and the team is reaping the reward of a much larger chunk of national broadcasting revenue as well as local media revenue from their local Root Sports network, the Mariners would claim poverty.
So tomorrow the M’s will wrap up their series in Tampa Bay facing a really good pitcher, knowing they’ve made some choices that makes winning much less likely. They’ll have a bad pitcher facing a former Cy Young winner. How bad? Erasmo Ramirez has an ERA+ of 56 (league average is 100.) Ramirez has a WAR of -.5. That’s bad. They’ll also send out a lineup that has at time struggled against average pitching. They had a chance to improve that lineup, but instead they passed. Let the Twins have Morales. David Price’s job just got easier.
Any idea when the last time was the M’s were four games over .500 on June 8th? It was 2007, seven seasons ago. Though the Mariners didn’t go on to make the playoffs, it left the fans hungering for 2008. Perhaps Mariners management should consider what it takes to make this team a winner. Didn’t Chief Financial Officer Kevin Mathers promise additional spending if it was needed to improve the team? Where were you this week big guy? Sphincter spelunking?