Now Here Is A Feeling I Didn’t Expect

Jeff Sullivan · February 22, 2014 at 4:17 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

When I was a teenager, I started working summers in a neuroscience lab, first as an internship, then because I wanted to. At that point I wanted to become a neuroscientist, and I loved the working environment, and especially my boss. I developed a number of pretty good personal relationships, and in time it turned into one of my social circles, and I’d look for reasons to spend more time at the institute. Sometimes a group of us would get together weekend mornings for work and pancakes. Sometimes we’d hang out after hours to watch a movie in the meeting room.

One Friday night we stuck around to watch a movie about Bigfoot while someone whipped up margaritas. I would’ve been 18 or 19. I didn’t get drunk, but I did drink, and shortly after the movie I got in my car to go home. It was a drive like any other, complete with casual speeding, until, blocks from my house, I saw lights go on behind me. It took a few seconds for me to realize that was about me, and I pulled over to the side, knowing I had been speeding, and worse. There could’ve still been alcohol on my breath. I knew there was a no-tolerance policy for underage drinking. My head wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but my heart was, and I felt this dreadful sense of imminent devastation. Surely, I was about to not be able to drive anymore. Surely, I was facing uncertain but certainly severe punishment. The police officer walked up to my window and it was like all of my organs chose to escape out the passenger side.

He asked for my license and registration, as you do, and I fumbled around for them in the glovebox. He asked if I knew I’d been speeding, and I nodded. He asked where I lived, and I said just two minutes away. He asked if I was in possession of any illegal drugs, and I said no, twice. I waited for the shoe to drop. Then he said he was giving me a warning, and I swear he almost smiled, and he sent me on my way. So I turned the car back on and drove home.

That’s basically how I feel about today’s Nelson Cruz news, except maybe in the end it has to be someone else getting pulled over and set free. Dread. Four solid months of dread. A couple weeks of accelerating terror. And then, abruptly, nothing. The Orioles signed Nelson Cruz. We were all prepared to hate whatever contract he was going to sign. They gave him a year and eight million. That’s…not so bad. That’s downright reasonable, considering.

All offseason long, no part of me wanted Nelson Cruz on the Mariners. Not for what it was certainly going to take. Now that he’s signed for what he signed for, there is actually a part of me that wonders, wait, should the Mariners have beat that? I didn’t think it would ever come to this, but here we are. The Mariners have Dustin Ackley in left and Logan Morrison at DH. Cruz probably would’ve made this team better. Would he have made this team at least $8 million better, plus a draft pick? I don’t know, but it’s crazy that I can even ask the question and have it not be ridiculous.

Ultimately, no, I still don’t think Cruz would’ve been worth it. But, man, he’d at least have been close. Relevantly, there are two considerations. One is that there were whispers a while ago that Cruz didn’t want to play in Seattle. Two is that, more recently, I’ve heard suggestions the Mariners’ alleged interest was overblown. That the Mariners weren’t as interested as the media said. Either or both would explain how Cruz wound up with $8 million, with reports that his own agents initiated the latest talks with Baltimore as if a market simply didn’t exist.

The Nelson Cruz inevitability didn’t materialize, and we don’t know how close it might’ve come, but given these final terms, the Mariners couldn’t have valued him too highly. Which is interesting, given what Jack Zduriencik said about Cruz the other week, but it’s possible he was just being nice. It’s also possible Zduriencik would’ve loved Cruz, for like five or six million. Zduriencik isn’t always nice, as evidenced by his recent comments about Jesus Montero, but then he’s trying to motivate Montero, who’s a member of the organization. Cruz is an unaffiliated stranger. There’s certainly no point in badmouthing a free agent.

So it’s interesting how Cruz wound up. It’s also interesting to hear the speculation about a Mariners reunion with Kendrys Morales. The Orioles looked like a great fit for Cruz or Morales, not both of them, so now Morales has lost a suitor. There’s not a lot left out there for him. There are rumors about the Pirates, but the Pirates don’t have a DH slot. There maybe should be rumors about the Rangers, but there aren’t. There are rumors about the Mariners, and the Mariners know that Morales can hit in Safeco Field.

It would be a weird fit, though. Right now, the Mariners are trying Corey Hart in right field, so the way things seem to line up is with Justin Smoak mostly at first and Logan Morrison mostly at DH. Re-sign Morales and you’ve got a roster squeeze, and then what do you do if Hart’s knees prove they can’t hold up? And the Mariners have made a somewhat big deal of trading for Morrison — just how low would they let that playing time go? He doesn’t make for an obvious platoon at first with Smoak. He’s hardly an outfielder. You could try to trade Morrison or Smoak, but there’s not much of a market, as evidenced by the Ike Davis talks, and as evidenced by the first Logan Morrison trade. If the Mariners signed Morales, he would make the team better instantly, but the roster would be confusing with another potential glut of 1B/DH types. It could all work out, but in ways that look weird given how the offseason has progressed from the start.

There are two reasons the Mariners might sign Morales: they know they can trust him, and there doesn’t seem to be a market for his services. He’d improve their odds in 2014. By how much, I don’t know. At what cost, I don’t know. Nelson Cruz cost a year and $8 million. For a while people thought he’d get eight or nine times that much. The FanGraphs community predicted 3yr/$32 million. Nelson Cruz dropped all the way to being almost a bargain. I’m going to stop trying to predict these things.

It seems like the Mariners might well be done making moves for the time being. It also seems like, the longer Morales is just sitting out there, the more the front office might try to figure out how things could work. They might even be able to connect it somehow to the Nick Franklin question that still demands an answer. Give the Mariners one thing: they keep it confusing, and confusion can be indistinguishable from deeply-felt interest.

Comments

36 Responses to “Now Here Is A Feeling I Didn’t Expect”

  1. coreyjro on February 22nd, 2014 4:32 pm

    Now that we didn’t get Cruz we could really use a RHH OF. What would it take to get Chris Denorfia? He’s boring, hits lefties, and has played all the outfield spots. I feel like he’s a perfect fit for what the Mariners could use.

  2. Westside guy on February 22nd, 2014 4:33 pm

    Honest question – how would Kendrys make this roster better? Wouldn’t signing him end up taking a non-trivial amount of value away somewhere in the outfield, one way or another?

    I think he’s a better fit than Cruz would’ve been… but, given the current roster, I don’t think either one was much of a fit.

  3. MrZDevotee on February 22nd, 2014 4:46 pm

    I actually had a similar analogy in mind, Jeff. We were about to get ticketed for going 5 mph over the speed limit, officer at our window, pen in hand, when a different car came flying over us, on flames, rolled over, and threw its passengers…

    “Uh, you can go,” said the officer as he ran off in the direction of Baltimore (the accident).

    Baltimore might have just made the best move of the Mariner’s offseason.

  4. MrZDevotee on February 22nd, 2014 4:55 pm

    The most ominous stat I saw regarding Cruz was his .240 avg and .740 OPS away from Arlington while in Texas. That’s replacement level. And while ON PEDs.

  5. Typical Idiot Fan on February 22nd, 2014 6:46 pm

    As the charter member and president of the Don’t Overreact To Shit Until It Actually Happens Club let me just let out a hearty “guffaw” and walk away holding my nuts.

  6. MrZDevotee on February 22nd, 2014 7:11 pm

    Yes yes, Typ-py… Luck makes many a genius in the 50/50 world. (laugh)

    Although the joy us doomsayers feel is actually bigger than your’s since we thought fer sure we were gonna get s-cruz-ed.

  7. Hutch on February 22nd, 2014 7:21 pm

    Does LoMo have any minor league options left?

  8. MrZDevotee on February 22nd, 2014 7:23 pm

    Interesting info from the M’s official site… Xavier Avery is in the mix for the starting outfield.

    The currents 1′s during practice are Avery and Ackley rotating in left, Saunders and Almonte in center, and Hart in right field. Hmmm… Small sample size, but 7 of Avery’s 21 hits for Baltimore were for extra bases– and small sample size noted, it still takes talent to pull that off in your first breath of life in the Majors… Also, 11 walks and 6 stolen bases, in fewer than 100 at-bats.

    He’s AVERAGED a .340 OBP, and 34 SB, his last 3 seasons in the minors.

    Interesting…

  9. Westside guy on February 22nd, 2014 8:09 pm

    Michael Morse hit seven home runs in the first ten games of 2013. Small sample size and all that…

    Also, Avery’s OPS was .645 during his brief major league stint with Baltimore. That’s not a power line, no matter which way you look at it.

  10. Adam S on February 22nd, 2014 9:20 pm

    Honest question – how would Kendrys make this roster better?
    Morales is a better hitter, or at least a more reliable hitter, than Morrison at DH. Plus, we get the better of Smoak and Morrison at 1B — we might get something in trade for one or have a plan B at Tacoma.

    But I agree the gain is small — you’re still replacing a 1 win player with 1.5-2 win player. And you lock up DH when Hart and Morrison seem like guys who would benefit from DHing once or twice a week.

    As for Avery, don’t believe everything you read. Except for Seager and Hart, none of the position players have earned a starting job. They want everyone to feel pushed in the spring. And for sure with Guti out, there’s a battle for the 4th/5th OF spot.

  11. maqman on February 23rd, 2014 3:05 am

    The outfield and rotation are my main concerns as they are dependent on prospects, rookies or short-timers living up to their supposed abilities and who can really tell how that might work out? Additionally, we still don’t know if GMZ is going to make some moves to bring in some additional ammo or if this is as good as it’s going to get. Well it should turn out better than last year, eventually. At least I sure hope so.
    You can pencil in Ackley as the leadoff hitter. He’s finally going to come good this year.

  12. MrZDevotee on February 23rd, 2014 5:43 am

    Westy-
    I wasn’t saying “power” hitter… Just extra bases based on speed… 1 HR, the rest were doubles and triple… I guess I wasn’t telepathing hard enough, just saying a .340 OBP, some stolen bases, and the ability to get to 2nd base out of the batters box sounds sort of lead-off-y to me. Not power-y.

  13. LongDistance on February 23rd, 2014 6:52 am

    For me, the weirdest feeling is because it would have been nice that the off season ended with a positive pro-active move, rather than just having dodged a meh-bullet. Adding to the malaise: Baltimore’s going, like, yeah baby… contention… blah blah woof woof woof (you stick it to yourself for that kind of money, you’re bound to have to want to deeply believe things like that…). Well, fact is, his meh sort of fits in over there with less meh, than here. But not much. In any case, even if we’d signed I-made-a-mistake we wouldn’t have been able to woof him up. At all. Make that two scoops of meh gone, therefore, elsewhere. Good riddance.

    2014

    Bring it on.

  14. eponymous coward on February 23rd, 2014 10:31 am

    He’s AVERAGED a .340 OBP, and 34 SB, his last 3 seasons in the minors.

    You know who else averaged a .340 OBP in the minors, and stole a lot of bases?

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=bloomq001wil

    Oh, and he also got off to a hot start when he came up to the majors. Good thing we signed this guy in the offseason, huh?

    A .340 OBP in minor league ball is nothing to write home about, when league average OBP for Avery’s leagues the last few years is around .330, and Avery is well below league average SLG. Doesn’t scream bigtime offense to me when your OPS is lower than your league’s. I’d rather see if Ackley’s late 2013 performance is real as opposed to a mirage.

    In fact…

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=avery-001xav

    .261/.329/.356 as opposed to .285/.341 /.380? Not exactly a big difference here.

    Pardon me for not getting excited about a version of Willie Bloomquist that is primarily an OF. Unless he plays OF like Guti, which would make him the new Endy Chavez, I guess, which WOULD be good (we’d have a +defense CF, which we don’t right now, the current version of Endy Chavez we have isn’t a plus defender any more). The problem is that if he’s part of the LF rotation… doesn’t sound like he’s a stud with the glove.

  15. djw on February 23rd, 2014 10:46 am

    Xavier Avery was an extremely below average hitter in AAA last year, and he was repeating the level. He only hit enough to be remotely promising after being demoted to AA. As you would expect for a player traded for the privilege of a month of the baseball stylings of Michael Morse, he shows no signs of being a major league talent. Let’s not start cherry-picking stats to pretend otherwise. This organization has a bad habit of falling in love with non-MLB talents because they do one intriguing thing well (Peguero) or have an appealing story (WFB). Let’s make a decision to be smarter than that.

  16. Westside guy on February 23rd, 2014 11:25 am

    But I agree the gain is small — you’re still replacing a 1 win player with 1.5-2 win player. And you lock up DH when Hart and Morrison seem like guys who would benefit from DHing once or twice a week.

    That’s the thing. I understand Kendrys is a better DH than what the team currently has – in isolation. But, with this roster, it seems like signing him would force other moves that probably negate at least some of that .5-1 win advantage. I don’t think Hart belongs in the outfield at all, but it’s already pretty certain a starting job in right is his to lose. As you point out, Kendrys means more of Hart’s time coming in right field, which (among other things) probably isn’t going to do his knees any favors, which probably means Hart’s bat will be completely out of the lineup more often as the season progresses.

  17. MrZDevotee on February 23rd, 2014 12:36 pm

    RE: Avery

    Sorry everybody, I guess I was making him sound like the 2nd coming of Christ? Which wasn’t the intent. My point was Avery has speed and gets on base. And, like I already said, the extra base hits weren’t about power, I don’t know why anyone is mentioning power, when I never did? I guess the assumption is if the word “extra base hits” is used, he’s being called a power hitter? I was seeing them as evidence that he has decent speed via triples and doubles… We don’t have that anywhere else in the lineup, really. Cano, yes, but not like I was seeing– because, YES I KNOW, Avery isn’t a power hitter (1 HR… I had no delusions of power there…)

    I wasn’t calling him a Hall of Famer– I was calling him the type of player I didn’t realize we actually had on the roster. And a glaring need in this lineup. IE, someone who profiles as a leadoff type guy (via his .OBP), that can steal a base or two.

    And I’m sorry, league average OBP guys would be nice on this team, versus the past few seasons. Leave average LOTS of talents would be nice to see on this team. We’re not going to the World Series, I’m trying to find something interesting and baseball-y to watch on this team. That’s all.

    (geesh)

  18. eponymous coward on February 23rd, 2014 1:24 pm

    someone who profiles as a leadoff type guy (via his .OBP)

    league average OBP guys

    Slightly above AAA-league average OBP guys are not MLB-average OBP guys, they are in fact BELOW-average MLB OBP guys when you account for a) park effects and b) caliber of competition. Go look at Avery’s Fangraphs projections if you’re confused on this point.

    Avery would need to be a WELL above average hitter in the minor leagues to be the kind of hitter you think he is. Think Kyle Seager or Brad Miller. You need to be one of the top OBP guys in your league to be a decent OBP guy, not just 10 points better than your AA league. Good hitters rocket through the minors (again, think Seager or Miller). Organizational filler does things like… Avery does.

    In other words, what you are proposing is, in effect, putting Willie Bloomquist in LF and leading him off every day. Even the Mariners decade ago weren’t insane enough to try that back in 2003, back when he was the same age as Avery is now.

  19. eponymous coward on February 23rd, 2014 1:56 pm

    Also… Dustin Ackley, post ASB:

    .304/.374/.435

    That’s probably not going to hold with a .358 BABIP, but if it dropped down to a .320ish, that’s probably an acceptable leadoff man.

    Not to mention the fact that you can legitimately put Miller or Seager in the top part of the lineup (and you probably should). A top 3 of Miller/Seager/Cano isn’t terrible.

  20. djw on February 23rd, 2014 2:44 pm

    I wasn’t calling him a Hall of Famer– I was calling him the type of player I didn’t realize we actually had on the roster.

    The type of player he is is a type that every major league organization has in spades: minor league roster filler.

    a glaring need in this lineup.

    league average OBP guys would be nice on this team, versus the past few seasons.

    Two fallacies we’d do well to avoid are:

    A) Focusing on what a player (presumably) does well rather than the player's total value overall and

    B) Translating slightly above league average OBP in the minors to the majors. Oliver has him at 287. Steamer, generously and puzzlingly assuming his K rate wouldn't rise in the majors, gives him 305.

    You're still letting yourself be talked into believing minor league roster filler is something more than that. Don't do that.

  21. MrZDevotee on February 23rd, 2014 3:09 pm

    Sorry, I’m willing to let a guy who steals bases and gets extra base hits at a good clip have a shot at succeeding, before writing him off. A commodity this team lacks. He was a .340 OBP in 3 different leagues, so you can hold tight to that, but to what end? How many points above average is actually allowed to be called “above average?” Please inform. And what, are we just dying to make sure we finish fourth instead of fifth? DON’T TAKE ANY RISKS…

    They see something in him, or he wouldn’t be in the top 5 rotation already– “insane” decision already being attempted… They’re giving him a shot. Spring training doesn’t matter, so let’s see if the kid can hit better pitching. Or pee himself. So what? If he can’t pick up the ball, no loss.

    Dustin Ackley is not a leadoff hitter. He’s not. Especially at .240 BA. But yeah, his 2nd half last season was nice– so was the past few season’s of Justin Smoak… Maybe he should bat cleanup? And… Ackley’s not gonna score for you from first base on a Cano gapper… He might not even be a STARTER in the outfield, yet you’d rather pencil him as your leadoff guy? You use small sample size AGAINST one guy, and then small sample size FOR another guy. Ackley’s OBP was no better before Avery’s before his final year in AAA… Which suddenly jumped almost 100 pts, which I think has been proven as a fluke related to BABIP. Same with Nick Franklin (.310 OBP his first stop in AAA… Robinson Cano had a way WORSE OBP before his 5th year in the minors).

    Anyways, yeah, I got it. I see your point. But I still want to see what the kid can do. With that thinking, no one but a top prospect should ever get a shot at succeeding, if he’s only 10 points above average? And even when those top prospects DON’T succeed, he should still get the shots, not anyone else? Got it.

    So we toss Zunino back and start John Buck? Zunino has a .365 OBP in the minors, but only .297 in AAA.

    I like that McLendon says he doesn’t care what the young guy’s reputations are, the best guys will be on the field. He hasn’t bought into anyone. And, low and behold, Avery is out there with the starters getting a shot to see if he can play with the big boys.

    Odds are, you ARE right. But so what? I don’t care about playing the odds, I care about finding something interesting to watch. It’s Spring Training. If he’s the one to buck the trend and start to figure it out at age 24, in a new organization, with new coaches, I say put him out there. If he fails, well obviously you go a different direction. Not like we’re crippling the team in the process. Putting the already NOT successful guys out there in LF and hoping they play better this time hasn’t proven very fruitful either.

    If a playoff caliber LF falls out of the sky and divots into left field, hooray, and no one will ever complain. Me included. Yet, it appears THE MARINERS DECISION TO SEE IF XAVIER AVERY CAN BE IN THE STARTNG OUTFIELD ROTATION is already made.

    I was just recognizing the situation, sharing the info, and trying to figure out WHY they might be interested in seeing him out there.

    Glad it could be a moment of “I’m smarter than you”… He’s still out there, and I’m watching and wondering, like a good baseball fan does.

    And, sorry, I’d prefer a team where Dustin Ackley is both NOT our starting LF and not our leadoff guy.

  22. MrZDevotee on February 23rd, 2014 3:14 pm

    djw-
    That last post was in response to Eponymous, but I guess I covered a bunch of the same stuff you were pointing out.

    If he fails, no loss… But why not see WHAT’s out there in our minor league outfield. We don’t have a major league outfield already, so he might fit right in.

  23. roosevelt on February 23rd, 2014 3:18 pm

    Cruz wanted to play in a hitters park. That describes bird stadium. He’s off PED’s now (???) and it helps his psychological well being to have warm east coast air.

    Also, I don’t think Morales wants to play at Safeco. Sadly, that may be his only choice.

  24. djw on February 23rd, 2014 3:43 pm

    I’m sorry, pretending minor league roster fodder is major league talent isn’t a recipe for success, nor is chasing a “need” (really, stop thinking like this. We need better players. The particular skillsets that produce that betterness are largely irrelevant) and ignoring the package that need comes in. This is the kind of thinking that leads to Peguero, who as I recall you also talked yourself into believing in.

    If he shows real growth in AAA, fine. But the strategy you’re suggesting–giving non-MLB talent a role on a major league roster, because they vaguely resemble the type of player we’d like to have, and f*ck it we probably suck anyway, is the kind of lazy roster construction that’s been one of Zduriencik’s worst features.

  25. eponymous coward on February 23rd, 2014 5:22 pm

    Odds are, you ARE right. But so what? I don’t care about playing the odds, I care about finding something interesting to watch. It’s Spring Training. If he’s the one to buck the trend and start to figure it out at age 24, in a new organization, with new coaches, I say put him out there. If he fails, well obviously you go a different direction. Not like we’re crippling the team in the process.

    Making bad decisions with regards to talent is part of what has brought us to this pass in the first place. A strategy of “we can throw random AAA talent into the lineup based on spring training/small sample size theatre and ignore any advanced analysis” is a classic example of those bad decisions.

    We have two players on this roster who make 50 million between them, and are at their peak (one of them is over 30). I’d like to see the organization maximize the talent around them.

    That being said, they haven’t played any games yet. If Avery and Franklin break camp as full time starters and Miller and Ackley are back in AAA, we can start the eye-rolling and “because Mariners” then.

    If he shows real growth in AAA, fine. But the strategy you’re suggesting–giving non-MLB talent a role on a major league roster, because they vaguely resemble the type of player we’d like to have, and f*ck it we probably suck anyway, is the kind of lazy roster construction that’s been one of Zduriencik’s worst features.

    Yeah, and if it turns out McLendon has a case of this disease, too… ugh.

    I’d like some good decision making, please. So far, the offseason is not giving me confidence; the obvious holes in the major league roster (rotation, OF) are still holes, and we made a huge “win now” investment in a good player and forgot to surround him with, well, players who can win now. We did some decent low risk pickups in guys like Buck, Rodney and Baker, and we have a bunch of cheap low risk DHs instead of more expensive DHs, so there’s that… but I’m not sure that’s enough.

  26. unkrusty on February 23rd, 2014 5:54 pm

    Well, I AM sure it is not enough. And nice post, EC.

  27. casey on February 23rd, 2014 6:22 pm

    just curious who you want to sit from the current outfield – Ackley, Saunders, Hart, Almonte if you acquire more non-cruz-like outfielders?

  28. Westside guy on February 23rd, 2014 7:12 pm

    BTW if we’re going there…

    Michael Saunders post all star break .251/.350/.440 – that’s a wRC+ of 118

  29. heyoka on February 24th, 2014 10:37 am

    I usually want to see a plus defender in center.

    Don’t know how well Almonte or Avery roam out there. Doubt either is a major league bat, but Almonte inspires more confidence.

  30. californiamariner on February 24th, 2014 1:56 pm

    Didn’t expect this to become a full fledged Xavier Avery discussion!

    Apparently, there is something to a Nick Franklin to the Mets trade:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/mets/post/_/id/81609/mets-acknowledge-potential-seattle-match

    I wonder what the Mariners would be looking for in return. I’m not going to pretend to know anything about the Mets, but outfielder Juan Lagares is apparently a good defensive player. Or perhaps a pitcher?

  31. casey on February 24th, 2014 3:14 pm

    I’m not sure about Lagares – crazy defensive numbers last year but do we really want the M’s trading Franklin for a Brendan Ryan who plays center field?

  32. Wolfman on February 24th, 2014 7:03 pm

    Listening to the radio today, they said the rumor is said to be the Mets top pitching prospect. The kids name is Montero. When I heard that name, I almost drove off the road! Hopefully, this one would turn out better. :)

  33. Westside guy on February 24th, 2014 7:29 pm

    The Mariners have no leverage – if they are offered a top pitching prospect, they should do it.

    Despite any issues they’ve had with that previous top prospect named Montero. ;-)

    Just be careful with that distracted driving, Wolfman. :-D

  34. californiamariner on February 24th, 2014 9:53 pm

    They shouldn’t hesitate to get Montero if they can. I don’t see them having much leverage though so it’s probably not going to be easy.

    Ah hell let’s get ALL THE MONTEROS one has to be good.

  35. Wolfman on February 25th, 2014 9:34 pm

    “Despite any issues they’ve had with that previous top prospect named Montero. ;-)

    Just be careful with that distracted driving, Wolfman.” :-D

    “Ah hell let’s get ALL THE MONTEROS one has to be good.”

    LOL! I think we may be on to something here! Go get ‘em, Mr. Z! :D

  36. mrb on February 27th, 2014 12:32 pm

    Then he said he was giving me a warning, and I swear he almost smiled, and he sent me on my way.

    Damn it’s nice to be white.

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