The Mariners And Jason Hammel

Jeff Sullivan · June 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Lately, a couple things have been plainly obvious. One, the Mariners are still very much alive in the playoff race. Two, the Mariners could badly use some help. With that in mind, a note of interest, from Gordon Wittenmyer:

Sources say the Cubs already have had trade talks with multiple teams regarding Samardzija and right-hander Jason Hammel. The Braves, Mariners and Blue Jays are among the most interested, with one source suggesting offers already have been made by at least two teams.

And one major-league source said he expects Hammel to end up in Seattle.

At first look, Hammel is a curious target. He’s a career .115 hitter, with only one home run, and he hasn’t played the outfield or infield professionally. Back in high school, he almost opted to play soccer, so it’s not like he has a track record anywhere of being a successful position player. But at 6’6, 225, he definitely has the frame of a guy who can swing with real leverage, so maybe this would be a scouting move.

Yeah, so, Jason Hammel isn’t a hitter. The Mariners have been most hard up for hitters. Hammel’s a starting pitcher, and the Mariners have been okay in that department. The natural initial response is, “THIS ISN’T ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM, MORONS.” But, it would address the problem of the Mariners not having enough talent. And also, turns out teams aren’t limited to making only one move. The market, right now, has pitching available. Not so much hitting. With the second wild card, there aren’t many teams behaving like they’re out of the race. Those who are out of the race aren’t dealing with a surplus of bats. You can only acquire that which is made acquirable.

Some things about Hammel: he’s 31. Right-handed. One-year contract, modest salary. Went to high school in Port Orchard! But he’s five years younger than Willie Ballgame. He’s had a pretty good year to date. Some rankings:

ERA-: 16th out of 99 qualified starters
FIP-: 20th
xFIP-: 37th

Hammel, this year, has been good. Hammel, last year, was bad. Hammel, the year before, was good. The rest of the way, Jason Hammel should be either good or bad, or okay.

Something I didn’t know is the Mariners actually drafted Hammel in 2000. He didn’t sign, but the players who did sign went on to accomplish fuck-all. All the players the Mariners drafted that year have combined to post 8.7 major-league WAR. Of that, Jason Hammel is individually responsible for 8.7 major-league WAR. In the 34th round, the Mariners drafted a right-handed high-school pitcher named Chris Way. In the 35th round, the Mariners drafted a different right-handed high-school pitcher named Chris Way. On that basis it seems evident the baseball draft needn’t continue beyond the 33rd round.

The idea behind adding a pitcher would be this: simply, you can never have enough starting pitching. Really, I kind of embrace the idea, because the Mariners could act like they’re comfortable if they wanted to. Felix and Iwakuma, obviously, are good. Elias has been a surprise and Young has maintained a low ERA, and Walker is close while Paxton is back to throwing. The Mariners could try to justify standing pat, but, think about it. Right now they’re starting Erasmo Ramirez, and they don’t want to be doing that. Elias, professionally, hasn’t exceeded 148 innings, and Young’s ERA is at least to some extent a mirage. Walker’s been close before, and he has yet to appear this season. Paxton recently had a setback in his shoulder. If you don’t think there’s room for a starting pitcher, you are the most positive-thinking person in the world, and the most positive-thinking person in the world wouldn’t root for the Mariners, so you don’t exist. Obviously, Hammel could fit. He’d presumably help. In the best-case scenario of having too many good starters, the Mariners could nervously wring their hands all the way into October.

But what would an addition like Hammel cost? Remember, one-year contract, with an inconsistent track record. Helpfully, the Cubs have done this before. A year ago, the Cubs exchanged Scott Feldman for Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, and some international spending money. The year before, the Cubs exchanged Paul Maholm for Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino. In both instances, the pitchers were accompanied by role players, but this conveys the idea. Arrieta was a talented project. Vizcaino was a talented project. The Cubs targeted former good pitching prospects who’d lost some of their sheen. What would that look like, here? Erasmo Ramirez? Brandon Maurer? Danny Hultzen? Maybe the Cubs would look for something else, but Hammel would cost something of possible long-term value. When you sell a guy like Jason Hammel, you can get something you actually want, beyond salary relief.

Perhaps the bigger question is this: should the Mariners even be in the market for upgrades? Should the Mariners even think about giving up long-term value for shorter-term value? They have about a 4-5% chance of winning the division. They’re within a couple games of the wild card, but even the Astros are only 5.5 back. The wild card plays a one-game playoff, meaning it could be one and done. No matter how you play with the numbers, the Mariners are more likely to miss the playoffs than they are to make them. How much do you give up to improve that kind of team, given that realistic improvements can’t adjust the odds all that significantly?

It’s not the kind of question that’s easy to answer with numbers. On the one hand, the Mariners aren’t very good. On the other hand, you don’t have to be very good to win the wild card, and the Mariners are in that sweet spot, or thereabouts, on the win curve, where additional wins have tremendous value. So there are different ways to argue this. Based purely on feel, the Mariners shouldn’t sell out to make a major splash, like David Price or Jeff Samardzija. But with more minor parts, right now I’m okay with the idea of losing potential future help. I could probably rationalize a Jason Hammel trade package. I’d have more difficulty rationalizing a Jon Lester or James Shields trade package. Assuming, of course, the returns would be wildly different.

In theory, things could pick up soon — the Cubs moved Feldman last year on July 2. It’s exciting to have the Mariners relevant, and it’s exciting to be able to think about midseason upgrades. It’s also positively terrifying, but it’s a new and unfamiliar kind of terror, and, whatever gets your heart racing, right? If the Mariners wanted to make this easy on themselves, they could extend this current losing streak. So, that’s one option. It’s not the best option for the long-term, maybe.


6 Responses to “The Mariners And Jason Hammel”

  1. Westside guy on June 14th, 2014 2:31 pm

    I’d hate to see Hultzen go in such a deal, but that may be more my own frustration talking than anything else.

    I understand the idea that the team’s current record is already in the bank, so to speak, and you need to think about what they’re likely to do going forward working from that base. But my concern is it seems like some of this record has been smoke and mirrors. Because that’s my opinion, I’m not confident going forward they’re going to be a .500 team – plus I think it’s likely a few of the “bad” AL teams (based on current run differential) are going dramatically improve. The current AL landscape is just bizarre – it just can’t be reflective of the true state of affairs, talent-wise!

    I guess that’s my long-winded way of saying I agree with Jeff’s gut feeling – trying to get some better role players makes some sense, given the current standings, but I don’t want to see any big splashes because I’m worried the bottom may still drop out. Plus I no longer have a lot of confidence in this FO’s ability to correctly evaluate major league talent.

  2. LongDistance on June 14th, 2014 3:12 pm

    A couple of things, because this team really does represent an interesting situation of regression to the mean. And although that’s dreary, not too hopeful, it’s surprisingly nicer than what we’ve known. But it means that, with no effort to improve the team, what passed for the mean, .500, earlier, is going to slide as other teams begin the process of mid-season adjustments. We haven’t seen this. We’ve seen recycling. But not moves.

    The holes, both offensively and defensively, have been known knowns for so long that it would be impossible to believe the FO isn’t equally aware. What sucks, of course, is the knowledge that within the wood panelled echo chamber higher up, they banter around all the reasons why they don’t need — now at this point, in this season — to make any more hits on the projected profit line.

    I think, unless they make a couple of streaky, well-above the mean, runs here in the next 5 weeks, we can expect them to stand pat.

    Of course, knowing the clock’s ticking on Cano, we can expect a firework or two next winter.

    Go M’s.

  3. _Hutch_ on June 14th, 2014 4:24 pm

    I’m not Epstien or Hoyer or anyone that matters, but I’ve got a hard time seeing Hultzen and his hamburger shoulder as a centerpiece for anything. TJ may not be as big of a deal anymore, but a torn labrum, rotator cuff and anterior capsule is another monster. I think most FOs are going to want to see the kid pitch again before getting anywhere near him.

    The Cubs don’t have a whole lot in moveable offense, but I’d like to see the M’s ask on Justin Ruggiano. Career .835 OPS vs lefties, a little RH pop, some speed, passable defense in LF/CF. Not a game changer but his upside is basically a right-handed Saunders. Shouldn’t require a king’s ransom – just the sort of move they should be looking at.

  4. msfanmike on June 14th, 2014 4:54 pm

    The Mariners are what we thought they were. They will probably over-think any/all possible moves to improve, watch the team continue to play mediocre baseball (a 6 game losing streak is seemingly within their grasp at any moment), retain roster cloggers and shuck and jive their way around the trade deadline just in time for it to be too late to do anything of substance.

    I have seen this movie. I have heard this song. Hammell schmammel … Who gives a rip. When they finally shit-can Smoak, Ackley and whatever the hell a Montero is pretending to be, they may eventually have a chance to improve their team.

    Actually, I still have some faith in Ackley. I am not sure why. It may be remaining Kool-Aid residue that has not yet cleared my system. However, he can’t help a team win with his offense his defense or his way overhyped speed, so I am not exactly sure where the residue of faith is based.

    Quite a rant … And I have been having an absolutely awesome day. Not sure what words might have oozed out of my fingers if I posted last night – in regard to the Mariners. The wife and I are driving up there to watch Tuesdays game against the Padres. I am sure everything will be fine by then. Especially if they can land some of this extra special talent they are rumored to be pursuing.

  5. Eastside Crank on June 14th, 2014 5:09 pm

    I do not share the enthusiasm for becoming a wild card team. The goal needs to be a little higher than saving Zduriencik’s job another year. We just saw last night that even King Felix can only do so much for a team that has trouble scoring runs and preventing the other team from doing same. There are too many holes in defense, offense and pitching to worry about this season. Any trades should be made with a longer term view of the team. From that perspective, the only Mariner who should be considered untouchable is Felix; but not to get a half season rental.

  6. Woodcutta on June 15th, 2014 2:52 am

    Well, therein lies the problem. Hammel was very available during the offseason and considering they spent more than anyone thought they would during free agency on one player, he should have been a Mariner instead of a Cub. Chris Young is a smoke and mirrors pitcher that might bring back another young project before he blows up. Hammel could have been another stabilizing presence in the M’s rotation for this season and possibly the next two or three years. Trading for him would make a lot of sense, something this front office seems to lack, but they should have signed him in the first place.

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