It’s always difficult to know what to say about your team when the season’s over. The M’s didn’t make the playoffs, again. But you already knew that. The Giants beat the Royals in an outstanding World Series. You saw that too? Damn. Spring Training starts in February, with Cactus League games opening March 4th. Yeah, but you probably knew that too.
Nope, no games to play or watch so we enter the annual twilight zone known as the Hot Stove League, but it’s still a couple of weeks away. Time for some items to consider:
- Cliff Lee trade is officially a bust. In 2010 the Texas Rangers played themselves into a World Series with the help of a trade from the Mariners. Cliff Lee went to the Rangers for a bevy of highly regarded talent. Matt Lawson, remember him? Neither do I. More ink was spilled on Josh Lueke’s conviction for “wrongful imprisonment” and efforts to cover it up by Mariners brass than was actually written about the reliever’s pitching career. Blake Beaven left as a minor league free agent yesterday. A former first round pick, big guy who threw relatively slow, Beavan will seek his fortune in another organization. Just didn’t miss enough bats with his slow stuff Beavan never found success in the majors. Last year, the M’s tried to make him into a reliever. And of course, the cherry on top of the cake, Justin Smoak was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. I’ve always had hope the big South Carolinian would be a switch hitting monster, but it never happened. Of course, my big fear is the light will click on at age 28 and he’ll become a switch hitting monster for somebody else. So the book can now be closed on our deal for Cliff Lee. On the other hand, the Phillies did pay the big man Robinson Cano money for 81 innings of work in 2014.
- Kyle Seager wins Gold Glove. Yeah it’s the Gold Glove, and we’ve laughed at these in the past. It’s harder to laugh when it’s your guy who’s getting it. To be fair, at least Kyle was in the top three for defensive metrics with Josh Donaldson and Adrian Beltre, and the results weren’t conclusive. So congrats to Seager and M’s need to work on that contract extension.
- Felix Hernandez for Cy Young. Felix is nominated for and should win the 2014 AL Cy Young Award. He has a stronger record than he did the first time around. He also has thin leads in most of the sabrmetric stats that matter. Corey Kluber had a great year, but not quite as good as the King.
So we launch into the opening of Hot Stove this week with the General Managers meeting. The M’s had a great year but need an even better offseason if they’re to have a shot at the playoffs in 2015. Apparently one of the first items on the agenda is to shop outfielder Michael Saunders, as October’s mysterious dispute between the team and Saunders’ agent continues. General Manager Jack Zdurencik will have to be smart with any deal for Saunders because, frankly, when healthy, he’s the team’s best outfielder and also pencils out to be one of the team’s best hitters. There aren’t any OF’s in the immediate pipeline.
No mysteries what the team needs. A good DH is at the top of the list. Preferably a right-handed one with some swat-Victor Martinezish, Nelson Cruzy or a reasonably facsimile thereof. Outfielders may also be on the to do list even if Saunders stays, but definitely if he is gone. If the Mariners are to be truly competitive next year they will have to get more offensive. But we say that every year, don’t we.
The pitching staff looks to be good. Felix and Iwakuma are gimmes. James Paxton is refreshing. Taijuan Walker is probably a lock to make the team. If his health is good Roenis Elias should make five. But what about injuries? Remember last spring training? Does Chris Young fit into their plans after his big 2014? The M’s will almost certainly look for depth somewhere. What about the bullpen? How much stays and how much of it is available to trade to fill the holes in the lineup? What’s the Plan A? What’s the Plan B?
Jim Bowden and Jeff Sullivan have both written that heading into 2015 the Mariners could be the new kids on the block for the 2015 playoffs. At this point, all we can do is just go along for the ride and hope for the best.