I’ve already written about the A’s stunning acquisition of Jeff Samardijia and Justin Hammel. The Angels have also bolstered their weakness, their bullpen. July 5th they acquired Joe Thatcher and Tony Campagna from the Diamondbacks, and last week they picked up Huston Street from the Padres. Both the teams in front of the M’s in their division improved themselves in significant ways.
Today the news came across MLB Trade Rumors the Yankees acquired Chase Headley from the Padres. With .229/.296/.355 slash, Headley is not exactly the second coming of Mike Schmidt, but he is playing superb defense and will fill a hole for the Yankees in the field.
It’s important to be realistic as teams approach the trade deadline. The M’s are 8 1/2 games back of the division leading A’s and 6 1/2 back of the Angels. Both teams are playing very well right now and the Mariners are unlikely to catch them. There is no deal currently nn the marketplace, or likely to be available that will make Seattle so much better they will be transformed into the kind of offensive club necessary to make up that kind of ground. The Rockies aren’t trading Troy Tulowitzki, the Marlins aren’t letting go of Giancarlo Stanton, the Pirates aren’t parting with Andrew McCutcheon, and it would likely take all three to win the division.
But the Yankees move is disturbing because the Mariners hold in the second wild card slot, and the Yankees are only 2 1/2 games behind them. Toronto, Cleveland, Kansas City, Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota are all within 7 1/2 games. It is likely that many of these same clubs will make deals to improve their position in the wild card race. The M’s may lead this race today, but it is hardly a sure thing.
The question for the Mariners and Jack Zdurencik is what to do? Act now, trade prospects, improve the team for a one game playoff riding on Felix Hernandez’s right arm, or play the hand you have and hope for the best. It seems unlikely the M’s can win the wild card if they stand pat. They’ve done really well at run prevention, but if we learned anything from the Angels series, it’s that we must score more, even if it’s only a little bit more. Let’s take a look at some numbers.
DH Corey Hart .213/.291/.337, OPS+ 80, -5 WAR. Yes, I know David Ortiz is not available. But certainly a bat is available who will have more success in this role than these numbers suggest. DH should provide an offensive boost, not a hitting black hole. Remember when people complained about Jose Vidro at DH? Cadillac by comparison.
The Outfield. Dustin Ackley is thriving-at the moment. But we’ve seen these moments before. I like James Jones, but he is till learning at the major league level. Though he has scored 38 runs, third most on the team behind Cano and Seager, he has only 12 extra base hits and no home runs. Endy Chavez is a guy like Doug Strange and Stan Javier who played sparingly and made great Mariners teams better. Michael Saunders is the best of the lot at this point and he is injured. The Mariners outfield has hit a total of 14 home runs, or the same number second year player Mike Zunino has hit. They don’t get on base enough, or have enough speed to make up for the lack of power. The Mariners need an upgrade in the outfield.
SS Brad Miller. Miller is hitting .204/.272/.323. I know Miller struggled out of the gate and picked himself up in June, but he’s back in a funk again. Surely there is an upgrade out there somewhere–maybe even within the organization.
1B. Lots of guys have had a shot at this: Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Corey Hart, even Willie Bloomquist. Nobody is prospering. Smoak was sent back to Tacoma last night in a roster move. Despite some initial success after his recall from the DL, Morrison has struggled. Bloomquist doesn’t belong at first. First base is an offensive intensive position, and instead production here is just offensive.
Starting pitching. The M’s have gotten by managing Felix, Iwakuma, Chris Young, and Roenis Elias, and for the most part they’ve responded unbelievably well. But Elias will run out of innings soon and Young hasn’t thrown this well this long in years. The fifth spot is another gigantic question mark. Hopefully James Paxton will return soon. It’s clear Lloyd McClendon isn’t enamored of 21-year old Taijuan Walker at this moment, and thinks even less of Erasmo Ramirez. The help wanted sign is out.
It’s clear the Mariners are fishing in a very shallow pool of talent for mid-year reinforcements, a pool that’s also being fished by many competitors. The question is, who do you let go of in exchange for upgrades. If I were the M’s there are some guys that are untouchable-Zunino, power hitting right hander D.J. Peterson, and James Paxton. Walker could be had for the right deal, though it’s clear we haven’t seen the best of him. . The M’s do have some pieces, mostly prospects, to make a clear upgrade, and let’s face it there are positions that are easily improved. They shouldn’t be afraid to deal, as long as they aren’t mortgaging their future with little return in time and talent. In other words, don’t be trading Walker for a guy who walks at the end of the year.
I don’t expect a blockbuster makeover, but there are some of those mid-level guys that are or will become available in the coming days who can strengthen this team. As we head into August and the importance of every win and every loss is magnified, what is or isn’t done at that trade deadline will take on added scrutiny.