15 games left to play. Those conspiracy theorists believing the M’s can still sneak into the playoffs should take their meds. They are eight games behind the Rangers, with three left to play with them, and still in fourth place behind the Astros and Angels. I have some more reachable goals. Catch the hated Angels. Try to finish at .500. Doesn’t sound like much, but the team would have to go 10-5 to reach hit .500.
No it’s time to look ahead and start making wish lists. With a search on for a GM, we should all apply for the job. Heck, I couldn’t do worse than Jack Zdurencik, could I? Certainly better than Bill Bavasi. So I couldn’t actually get the job (sigh) I could certainly send a list like a letter to Santa Claus. So here’s what I’m thinking.
There’s no way to get around the fact the Mariners rotation underachieved in 2015. Felix Henandez may be one of the only player to go 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in seven consecutive seasons. He may even have his first 20 win season. But I’m also sure he would tell you this is not one of his best seasons.Tai Walker had a solid year of development. But after that everyone else was a mess. The J.A. Happ experience went on the road to Pittsburgh where it seems to be doing quite well. Hisashi Iwakuma has pitched well since coming back from injury, but he’s only made 17 starts. James Paxton, also injured, made only 11 starts. Roenis Elias, with 17 trips to the mound, is inconsistent.
The M’s have to bolster their rotation. They went in to the season with little starting depth, and when the season started with lots of short outings and then two of its mainstays on the DL it had two important effects. A) Overworked the bullpen and contributed to its collapse. B) Forced the team to rely for too many starts on Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno, who may turn out to be okay, but certainly weren’t ready to be the go to guys yet. Lots of very good starting pitching will be on the FA market this year including David Price, Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir. Oh, and that Iwakuma fellow. The M’s should try to sign Iwakuma to a team-friendly deal and lay out the cash for a big arm. . The M’s still need the Elias’s and the Nuno’s for depth or in other roles, but the M’s need a stronger core. Go big or go home
The ‘pen was such a mess for so much of the year, it’s hard to know who the M’s really have. Tom Wilhelmsen, Carson Smith, and Danny Farquhar are pitching well as the season winds down, but can the team count on them for next year. And the rest of the relief corps are a bunch of young guys + Joe Beimel. What are they worth? In all likelihood the M’s need to add another couple of arms to their ‘pen for next year in addition to those already mentioned. Should they go after an established closer or trust their luck to The Bartender who has struggled in that role a couple of times? Not a lot of closers on the market and they will carry a hefty price tag.
This position is a terribly weak spot for the Mariners. Seth Smith is returning. He is the only veteran outfielder I see who is coming back. Smith should only play against right-handed hitting. The Mariners should only play Nelson Cruz at DH. Yes, I know, he doesn’t like that, but he is not a good outfielder. Every defensive metric shows his 2015 year as an outfielder well below average. At bat, he’s been amazing, but his performance in the outfield in a large park is not good and undermines the pitching. Finally, the M’s cleverly traded away their only veteran centerfielder. Yes, they’ve had guys in Brad Miller, Sean O’ Malley and James Jones showing their stuff. I don’t believe centerfielder is where you put players learning a new position. It brings back nightmares of Abraham Almonte. The Mariners need a minimum of two outfielders including a veteran centerfielder. Denard Span, Austin Jackson, and Colby Rasmus are all available and all would be better than taking a chance on someone who doesn’t belong there, though Span has been broken most of the year.
Logan Morrison, we hardly knew ye. Yes, LoMo is a good guy and a decent defender, but I bid him adieu. The M’s should commit themselves to Mark Trumbo as the team’s first baseman. Morrison has simply never become the hitter we thought he would when the Mariners traded for him last year. Though Trumbo is still the one dimensional player I believed him to be when the M’s acquired him in the mid season deal that sent Wellington Castillo to the Diamondbacks, he’s a better one dimensional player than Morrison. With a ..254/.306/.416 slash line, it is somewhat better than LoMo’s, and it’s clear that Trumbo has improved under Edgar Martinez’s tutelage.
Wow, I hate to tell a GM what to do when it comes to coaching staffs, but everyone seems to credit Edgar Martinez with the general improvement of the Mariners offense since he joined the team. Honestly, I was opposed to Edgar’s hiring. It seemed like another look back at the M’s glorious past, instead of a real accountable improvement of the team. An examination of team offensive stats, however, show the M’s improved from last or next to last in most offensive categories. Though they are still in the bottom third in most areas, the team has improved. (Hah! The Mariners actually lead the Angels in OPS and runs scored!) More than that Edgar’s sublime career is now tied to a management team that is not so good if not execrable. But if a new regime held on to Papi, validating his success at a position the M’s have routinely tossed the occupant of overboard at mid-season as a sacrifice to the gods of shitty offenses, it would mean something good.
Win at Safeco.
The M’s are currently 34-41 at Safeco Field with six games left to play They will have a losing record at home for 2015. . In the Jack Zdurencik era, the Mariners have had winning seasons at home only twice. What is that about? How can any GM be taken seriously when they can’t be bothered to analyze and determine the skills set a team needs to win in the ballpark where they play half their games? This GM will have the core of the team he has. Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager are going nowhere. but the rest of the team should be a blank canvas, and the goal should be to put together a team that can win in a roomy pitcher’s park. There are probably several routes to winning, but playing well at home and capturing the fan base should be part of the equation.
Just my wish list, but I don’t think I’m way off the mark. Now for my record wish list . . .