Month: December 2018

Nelson Cruz’s last gift to the Mariners

Nelson Cruz goodbye

December 4, 2014.  The Seattle Mariners signed Nelson Cruz to a four year $57 million contract.  Over those four years Cruz averaged .283/.362/..545 and 41 homers.

July 20, 2016.  Mariners trade LHP Mike Montgomery and RHP Jordan Pries to Chicago Cubs for 1b/DH Daniel Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn. In his three years with the Cubs, Montgomery is a valuable swing man, contributing 175.0 valuable innings, and serving a valuable role on Chicago’s championship team.  Paul Blackburn was traded for the clubhouse cancer Danny Valencia, now on his 27th big league roster.  Vogelbach has 127 plate appearances over his three years of Mariner stewardship, is now out of big league options, and has never really had the opportunity to provide the left-handed offense for 2016 and beyond that Jerry Dipoto promised when he made this trade so long ago.

Mike Montgomery 2

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. In this season of swaps big and little, and the general purge of the 2018 Seattle Mariners roster, it is Nelson Cruz I will miss most.  Yes I’ll miss the Boombstick’s titanic blasts.  But  Cruz proved was that he was more than a guy who hit occasional home runs around 200 strikeouts that seems to be the popular model in baseball these days. He hit for average, would take his walks, was happy to drive in runs with a single, could hit with two strikes as well as hacking at number three.  Nelson Cruz was an All-Star three of his four years in a Mariner uniform, received MVP votes in those years, and twice was in the top ten in voting. He was the real deal.

Cruz played healthy, he played when he was dinged.  Scott Servais literally was not allowed to write in somebody else’s name in the four spot.   I watched him hit in Minnesota with an injured wrist screaming in pain after a swing and miss, and he still drove a ball out of Target Field. He was tough as nails.  I truly believed he loved Seattle, being a Mariner, being Robby’s teammate.

Word everybody knew was coming today, Nellie signed with the Twins.  And good for him.  He may help a rising Twins team overcome a strapped Indians team trying to hang on to as much of its division-leading pitching as possible.

And Cruz’s signing may, in its own way, be a farewell present to his old team.  As the first of the quality DH only types to hook on with a team, it now opens the door for other teams to look for a DH.  Available, as posted on a big sign outside T-Mobile Park, one Edwin Encarnacion. Maybe the Astros, looking for a replacement for Evan Gattis will kick his very large tires.  Though they are in denial, maybe the Rays will also look under the hood.

Edwin Encarnacion

Sorry Edwin, you just aren’t the guy we need.  It’s not that you’re bad, or that you can’t still jolt ’em out of the ballpark, nothing personal at all.

We just need to revisit that second transaction.  I hated the Montgomery trade.  At  the time of the deal with the Cubs, Montgomery was a useful piece out of the bullpen,  He’d started some games as other Mariner pitchers like Wade Miley and Nate Karns struggled to carry their load.  I have no doubts that Mike Montgomery was not the second coming of Randy Johnson or Sandy Koufax, but could he have gotten the one or two more wins the M’s needed to get into the 2016 playoffs?

Daniel Vogelbach recalled

Vogelbach is my least favorite kind of baseball player.  Round, unathletic, really not capable of playing in the field.  Despite that, the man has lit up AAA with the bat.

2017: .290/.388/.455  17 HRs

2018: .290/.434/.545  20 HRs

That said, in very limited and scattered service with the M’s, Vogelbach has done very little to scream “Vogelbach needs to play!!”  His .197/.301/.315 major league slash over three years and 146 PA doesn’t make an overwhelming argument in his favor.  However, his irregular appearances in Seattle, and even rarer games played hardly gives a player the consistency and confidence to play well.  There was always that Cruz fellow ahead of him on the DH depth chart, and when you have a productive Cruz, why look for help elsewhere?

But 2019 will be different.  Cruz is a Twin.  Encarnacion is a player in chartifiable, decline.  It’s a year the M’s know they aren’t going to compete for much more than pride. It’s time to give those at bats to Vogelbach.  Let’s see if the premise for making the Montgomery trade was based on truth and not fantasy.  Yes, Jay Bruce, if not traded before the season, will have to get at-bats somewhere.  But Vogelbach is 26.  His ticket on the Tacoma Express is expired; he’s out of minor league options.  He’s strictly in use-him-or-lose him territory. It’s time to see what the big lefty can do with 400 PA’s

Cruz’s signing with Minnesota opens the door for an Encarnacion trade to Houston or Tampa, or some other unwitting suitor.  It is his final gift to the Mariners and Daniel Vogelbach.


Hall of Fame Voting So Far


2018 Hall of Fame class.  From Left-Vladimir Gurerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and Jim Thome.

It’s December 23rd and one of my favorite times of year. Two weeks off work, badly needed this Christmas season.  Some rest, seeing family and maybe a nice gift or two, I’ve anxiously awaited all of it.

But there’s baseball stuff going on too.  I’m always excited to see what the Mariners do in the off season, and with everything from the naming rights of the ballpark, to a big ugly court case, to the perpetual Construction Zone yellow tape that masks their roster, the team has a lot going on.

This is also prime Hall of Fame voting time.  The baseball writers have cast their votes.  They must be in soon, and that counter of votes, Ryan Thibodaux is posting the results as they become available. Many of the voters make announcements and justifications for their ballots, either on Twitter, or on their publications, so Thibodaux and his minions scoop ’em up and share them on Twitter as soon as they are available.  It’s because of the trust they have for Ryan that sometimes they just share directly with him.

There are 88 votes that have made their way to Thibodaux’s famous Tracker and there are some interesting results so far.  This is a list of all on the ballot over the required 75% for election:

Mariano Rivera:  100% (1st year)

Roy Halladay:  93.2% (1st year)

Edgar Martinez: 92.0% (10th year)

Mike Mussina: 84% (6th year)

Curt Schilling: 76.1% (7th year)

That’s quite a collection.  No surprises, well maybe the solid bloc behind Halladay, but I have no problem with it.  These are the front runners for election, but only about 21.4% of the votes are in, and it’s the final 25% or so that gets pretty conservative, their ballots are shorter and these vote totals are unlikely to stay as they are.  Several prognosticators are making their projections for those who win election.

Ross Carey shows three getting in-Rivera, Doc and Edgar.

Jason Sardell gives Rivera, Halladay, Martinez and Mussina the go sign

The Movers

Some of the players have had quite a good showing so far.  Larry Walker, in his 9th year on the ballot has drawn 14 new voters to reach 64.8%.  Hopefully he can finish with about 70% to prepare a final campaign for induction in 2020.  Likewise Mussina has drawn 11 new voters, but will need more to finish with 75%.  Tragically, but not surprisingly, Fred McGriff tied Walker for most new voters with 14%.  McGriff is in his final year of eligibility and currently sits at 36.4%, not close to induction.  However, if he can raise it just a bit more, the Crime Dog will have a strong case for the Veterans committee in a couple of years. He was a clean, consistent hitter, and deserves induction.

The PED Class

Those suspected of steroid use are divided mostly into two groups.  There is Bonds and Clemens and everyone else. This is currently how they stand:

Roger Clemens: 73.9%

Barry Bonds: 72.7%

Manny Ramirez: 28.4%

Gary Sheffield: 12.5%

Sammy Sosa: 10.2%

Of the five, Sheffield has picked up three votes, Bonds and Clemens added one each, while Manny and Sosa have net lost votes from ballots submitted thus far. There has been little movement for Bonds and Clemens in their 7th year on the ballot, and they are projected to finish about where they were last year, about 60%. Predictions of a gradual easing of a PED “prejudice” hasn’t happened, and the suggestion of a “forgiveness” vote hasn’t appeared.  At least not yet.


Everybody who is a Mariners fan knows Edgar Martinez is in his last year of eligibility.  The voting began with Edgar appearing on his first 24 ballots, but fell off a bit from there. He’s hung around at about 90+ ever since.  That’s encouraging.  He’s appeared on ballots even posted by some of the Small Hall crowd.  Edgar has gained a net nine votes from previous Hall voters.  He needs a total of at least 20 new votes, assuming no losses. It seems pretty likely he’ll make it but keep those positive thoughts coming.

Carlos we hardly knew ye

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana came to Seattle as a hunk of the Jean Segura trade to Philadelphia.  He was the veteran ballplayer hunk that came with young shortstop J.P. Crawford. An all-star first baseman who had a sub-career average year with the Phillies after signing a pretty rich contract.

It was also evident he wouldn’t be a Mariner for long. Limited to first base or DH, and packing two years left on his $17.5 million contract, the handwriting was on the wall the M’s would do their best to trade him before the season began.  Today, with time expiring at the Winter Meetings, they did just that.

Too bad the M’s couldn’t have made this trade last year.  With his career average .247/..363/.442 slash line and 25 homers and 106 walks per year, Santana would be the best first baseman the Mariners have had since Russell Branyan.  How much better would the M’s have been managing first base than Ryon Healy?  Hell, who knows, that ship has sailed.

In fact Carlos has sailed off to Cleveland, from whence he migrated to Philadelphia in 2018.  Of all the “interesting” trades” the M’s have made this season, this tops the list for particularly weird circumstances.

Let’s start with the fact that it’s a three team deal involving the Seattle, Cleveland, and of course, Tampa Bay. The M’s send Santana to Cleveland and they receive 1B-DH Edwin Encarnacion.  They also receive Cleveland’s pick in the Competitive Balance phase of the June draft, number 77 overall.  Not good enough for an elite draft choice, but not chopped liver either. Because this is mostly a trade of over-priced contracts, the M’s also sent the Indians $6 million.

The M’s aren’t as involved in the second leg of the draft as the Indians sent minor league outfielder Yandy Diaz and RHP Cole Pulsipher to the Rays for 1B/OF Jake Bauers.  The Rays also slipped the Mariners $5 million in a manila envelope, unmarked bills to finish things up. No, I don’t understand, go figure.

So the M’s get Encarnacion, a draft pick, and lose a million bucks in a weird transaction.  The big slugger is already rumored to be headed out of town, perhaps to Tampa Bay for a prospect, and doubtless accompanied by a bag of cash. to pay down the $24 million the big guy is owed for 2019.

Strange trade.  It feels a lot like a trade of over priced contracts, as the Mariners do their best to pare down some of the hefty veteran promissory notes that began with Segura and Nicasio, wound through Santana and ends, for the moment, with Encarnacion.  With this deal, the Mariners would save $11 million on the two year deal owed to Santana, veruss the one year deal owed Encarnacion. It’s sort of like when I was a kid, and my mom would serve something I didn’t like for dinner.  If I just moved it around my plate long enough, lo and behold my peas would disappear.  I’m waiting to see how they deal Encarnacion and what they can do to continue shrinking that guaranteed money.

I am, in some ways, sad to see Santana go.  He is a control the zone kind of hitter, with power and plays good defense.  Hopefully, the M’s haven’t outsmarted themselves and don’t end up stuck with Encarnacion.  I really would prefer to see what a year of Vogelbach as a DH, and a year of Healy at 1B looks like.  Can they help us, or not?

In historic last year, Edgar is 24 for 24 so far.


Edgar Martinez is in his last year of eligibility for Hall of Fame voting.  Last year, year nine, Edgar finished with 70.4% of the votes on the Baseball writers’ ballots, about twenty votes short of selection. He has received all the public votes tendered so far, including six he didn’t get last year.

As I said, there is a sense of urgency for the Mariners designated hitter with the sweet swing.  If he dosesn’t receive at least 75% of the vote, he’s out and would have to be chosen by one of veteran committees.  No sure thing there.

Competing with Edgar for votes are a couple of likely new nominees and a lot of hangers on.  Closer sans peur Mariano Rivera joins Edgar on the ballot.  You can punch his ticket to Cooperstown now.  Right handed starter Roy Halladay who dominated the big league for a decade, and was tragically killed in a plane crash a couple years ago begins his first year on the ballot.  I don’t know if he’ll make it this year, but it will be interesting to see how close Doc gets to election. Todd Helton, the Rockies first baseman is on this ballot.  He has great numbers, but fights the perception that Coors Field simply inflates statistics.

It’s very early in the public vote.  Those must be in by December 31st and they are trickling in to Ryan Thibodaux’s website.  24 votes counted, that’s about 5.8% of known ballots.  So far Edgar has had a really good series 24 for 24.   Rivera also has 100 percent.  Remaining nominees over 50% are:

Roy Halladay        87.5%

Mike Mussina       79.2%

Roger Clemens      75%

Barry Bonds          70.8 %

Curt Shilling          70.8 %

Larry Walker         58.3 %

Omar Vizquel        54.2 %

I’ve received my IBWAA ballot, and have pretty well marked up what I’m going to do. I haven’t sent it in yet.  I had no trouble choosing my votes.  Some may surprise you, but some not. Remember the internet writers have created a bit of an alternative universe in which Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Barry Bonds and Mike Mussina are already in, and Barry Larkin is still outside pounding on the door. Here are my votes for this year:

Lance Berkman–Berkman was not a good defender, but offensively he was great for a long time. His numbers remind me of-well-Edgar Martinez. I don’t know if Berkman can muster the pr machine to get him over the top, but I don’t want him to drop off the ballot.  Hopefully he hangs in there and conversation can continue.

Roy Halladay-Doc was great on the Blue Jays and the Phillies. He doesn’t have Tom Glavine’s counting numbers, but he was still 203-105, won a couple of Cy Youngs and placed in the top five four other times.  He led the league in innings pitched four times and complete games nine times.  This at a time when those accomplishments were becoming rarer and rarer. He was an iron man.  Threw a no-hitter in the playoffs.  You had me at hello.

Todd Helton-Helton is one of those guys I dismissed as a Coors Field product when I saw his name headed for the ballot.  But after reading Jay Jaffe’s Fan Graphs article, I think Helton deserves my vote if for no other reason than continuing a conversation about his career and how it fits in the context of the Hall of Fame.  We’ve got ten years to figure it out.

Fred McGriff–It took me some time to jump on the Crime Dog Bandwagon, and I’m really sorry for that.  McGriff should be in the Hall.  He’s seven home runs from 500, and a golden ticket to Cooperstown.  He was a clean player in the steroids era.  He missed time due to the 94-95 strike.  He was a consistent hitter and great teammate.  It’s his last year, and the chances slim, but my fingers are crossed.

Mariano Rivera-Mo was the gold standard for pitchers.  Strike out the tough hitters, Rivera did that. Pitch multiple innings, he did that too.  Longevity, Rivera was around a long time, and he leads baseball with career games finished with 952, and career saves with 652.  And he’s a terrific, humble person which does it for me every time.  Look I know there are voters who won’t cast a yes for closers, but this guy is the real deal. And I’m a lifelong Yankee hater.

Scott Rolen-Rolen was a wonderful combination of brilliant defense and good offense who played for the Phillies, Cardinals and Reds. He won eight gold gloves.  He finished with a career slash of .281/.364/.490.  It’s very good, but not quite great. He was tough as nails, played hard, played hurt, and he’s right on the edge. Jay Jaffe says this about Rolen’s candidacy.

Curt Schilling-Curt Schilling and I have a lot in common.  We both have an affinity for board games, and we kind of live for baseball. Okay, I guess the common part ends there.  He’s a loudmouthed conservative buffoon who has taken itchy Twitter-finger lessons from Donald Trump and he has alienated a great deal of the baseball community. But he belongs in the Hall of Fame. My nose is held.  My ballot is marked.

Omar Vizquel-Little O’s candidacy is aided by the fact that he had a great defensive reputation (11 Gold Gloves,) got close to 3,000 hits due to a long career, and played on some pretty good teams.  He began life as a Seattle Mariner, which always goes a long way with me.  But he stuck around a long time because he was a valuable teammate and could make the plays in the field.  Is that good enough to get him in the Hall of Fame?  Well, we’ll see.  He’s got my vote.

Larry Walker-Walker was one of those great players who left the Expos and landed elsewhere-think Tim Raines, Gary Carter, Vladimir Guerrero.  Hey those guys are in the Hall of Fame!.  Unfortunately Walker ended up in Colorado.  One strike.  He also had a ton of injuries and had difficulty staying on the field. Two strikes. Walker was a terrific player who simply lacks the longevity to compile the counting numbers. But he won an MVP in 1997, has seven Gold Gloves.  The voters have rallied to Walker the last couple of years, but he’s in his ninth year on the ballot.  If he can make an Edgarish jump this year, he might have a shot.






Reimagining the 2019 Mariners as a dumptser fire.

Dumpster Fire

Started writing this post last week as word was leaking out about Mets trade.  I rewrote this several times because as the deal was being finalized Trader Jerry made two more deals.

Do you remember when the season ended and Dipoto suggested  the team might need to take a “step back” in 2019 before returning to contention in 2020 or 2021. Later he suggested the M’s would “re-imagine” their roster.

Well, three trades later it’s been re-imagined and it looks a bit like a dystopian nightmare.


Mike Zunino C

Robinson Cano 2b

Jean Segura SS

Guillermo Heredia OF

Nelson Cruz  DH (contract expired)

Chris Herrman (waived)

James Paxton  SP

Nick Vincent RP (waived)

Edwin Diaz RP

Alex Colome RP

Juan Nicasio RP

James Pazos RP

Casey Lawrence RP-Released to Nippon Professional Baseball

Michael Plassmeyer SP (NW League Low A)


Omar Narvaez  C

Carlos Santana  1B/DH

J.P. Crawford  SS

Jay Bruce  OF/DH

Mallex Smith  OF

Jake Fraley Of   (High A Charlotte)

Dylan Moore  UT (AAA-free agent signing)

Ruben Alaniz  RP  (AAA-free agent signing)

Justus Sheffield SP/RP  (AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre)

Erik Swanson SP (AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre)

Dom Thompson-Williams OF  (High A Tampa)

Ricardo Sanchez SP  (AA Mississippi) acquired from Atlanta for cash

Jarred Kelenic OF (Rookie League Kingsport)

Justin Dunn SP (AA Binghamton)

Gerson Bautista RP

You can see the Mariners traded away or parted with huge chunks of their major league roster and got back-well a lot fewer major league players.  They got younger.  They are cheaper.  They are  more flexible.  They are years away from the majors.

Sometimes words have meaning, but perhaps a lot different meaning when they come from the mouths of major league general managers.  To me, I thought stepping back meant trading some key Mariners pieces to go from 89 wins to around .500, or maybe a little less.  I was fine with that.

If Dipoto had simply been frank and said, “look we need to tear this down and start over,” I would have been fine with that too.  The M’s have tried to paper over their weaknesses with ill-advised trades and free agent signings since 2003. The courage to be candid might have tempered my expectations a bit.  Bill Bavasi, Jack Zdurencik and Dipoto all showed the unique ability to paint a real world a bit different from their promises.

With four pretty substantial trades under their belt, however, it is unclear if the Trading Man is done.  Is Seager the next to go?  Will Dipoto try to trade Jay Bruce or Carlos Santana? Is Malex Smith now trade-able? Does Dee Gordon go, or will he play second base?   What roles can we expect for Ryon Healy and Daniel Vogelbach? Will Jerry now trade the “untouchables” Mitch Haniger and Marco Gonzales?  Why are they untouchable if Edwin Diaz was not? The M’s no longer have a back end of the bullpen. What does Jerry expect to do about this?

Any way you look at it this is likely to be a very different world for Mariners fans in 2019.  I’m sure that Sheffield and Swanson will see some time in the majors.  Bautista will likely make an appearance in the bullpen.  We’ll see Richards at shortstop by June (and no idea who would take his place before that.) Kiss the days of Robbie and Boomstick good bye.  This team may get on base a bit more (a good thing) but it’s hard to see how a team that struggled to score last year, scores as much in 2019.  The M’s will got into Spring Training with a rotation that is likely quite unsettled. And who closes out games? Auditions in the Center Field Market. Yikes.