Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Losing Ten Games In A Row Is One Way To Exit The Playoff Chase

Somehow the Seattle Mariners managed to score five runs in the first two innings tonight in Toronto. But then in typical Mariners fashion the team didn't plate another run for the next twelve before finally losing 4-2 in the 14th frame to the Blue Jays. Seattle's record is now 43-53. A week and a half ago it was .500 and Seattle was only a game behind the Texas Rangers. Since then the Rangers have won 11 straight and sit 12 games ahead of the free-falling M's.

Safe to say the Mariners shall not be playing a Game 163 this season. Heck they might not even get to 162 thanks to some early-season rain in the Midwest. Thus begins the delicate balance between being competitive and thinking long term. Completely tanking would piss off an already frustrated fanbase. A fire sale is not the answer. Then again Seattle's main concern is 2012 and beyond.

But what can the Mariners do?

Veterans like Jack Wilson and Jack Cust don't have roles on future rosters. If no teams are willing to trade for their services (and I can't imagine any would) they should be released. Mike Carp can fill in as the LH sloth for Cust and the Mariners have enough middle infield options. Getting rid of Wilson and Cust; these roster moves are the most obvious.

Speaking of the infield there's talk that teams have inquired about Adam Kennedy. While Adam is one of the few not-embarrassing bats in the lineup he's also on the wrong side of thirty. If the M's can snag a nifty prospect they should sign off that trade.

Barring a miracle/salary dump Figgins isn't going anywhere. Pray for Mojo. Rookie and rising star Dustin Ackley is the centerpiece of the M's future and essentially untouchable. Brendan Ryan is a fiery competitor with a great glove. He's also pretty cheap and provides good value at a position that's difficult to fill. Seattle will probably wait a couple years to make a change at SS. By then the front office will know if Nick Franklin is ready to take the reins. Justin Smoak & Kyle Seager will be given plenty of chances to prove themselves on the corners. Miguel Olivo and (a hopefully healthy) Adam Moore will return to form a serviceable duo behind the plate next year.

As for the outfield... yeesh. The next year and a half the M's are probably stuck with Ichiro and Gutierrez in right and center respectively. Seattle needs to really consider whether to resign Ichiro beyond 2012 -- and at what price. This appears to be a lost season for Franklin as his stomach illness severely sapped his power. At least he's still graceful with the glove.

Greg Halman completes the dire triumvirate. He's shown flashes of his five-tool abilities but likely shall be exposed by good pitching in the end. Ryan Langerhans deserves another shot and should take Jack Wilson's roster spot when he's released. No Peguero please.

As for the pitching... Felix isn't going anywhere and while Erik Bedard is the name mentioned most as trade bait it's probably not going to happen. By the time he returns from the DL it'll be too late to showcase him for potential buyers. That said the Mariners should not be shy about listening to offers for Michael Pineda, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister. Pineda, with his youth and explosive arsenal, would be a controversial sendoff but could bring in a small ransom that could replenish the system with young bats. Meanwhile Vargas' numbers are flashier than his skills and could net a nice haul in a market that's thirsty for starting pitchers. And finally if any team bites on the hard luck Fister the Mariners have his comparable replacement in Blake Beavan.

All-Star closer Brandon League probably isn't going anywhere now David Aardsma is out indefinitely. Then again if a desperate team wants to overpay... anyway, the M's bullpen has regressed quite a bit since dominating the league in the spring. Nothing is as demoralizing as a blown save and it's risky to throw another arm into the 9th inning fire. Expect relievers David Pauley, Jamey Wright and/or Chris Ray to garner interest. By August 1st at least one of them will probably be pitching somewhere else.

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