Game 107: Mariners at Rangers – Catching Up on the Deadline + Gratuitous Beltre Appreciation

marc w · July 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Cole Hamels, 5:05pm

Happy Felix Day! Take an extra well-deserved sigh of relief/pint of beer as baseball’s trade deadline has now passed, too. The M’s, to no one’s surprise, did not land Sonny Gray. Instead, the erstwhile Athletics ace will head to the Bronx in exchange for three highly regarded but red-flag-laden prospects. The Rangers just traded Yu Darvish today, and sent C Jonathan Lucroy and RP Jeremy Jeffress out for prospects last night, as they are clearly playing for the future and not 2017. Both the Yankees and Red Sox ended up getting pitching help, which is relevant to the M’s, who’ll have to pass whichever of the two doesn’t win the AL East, and the Astros got creative in patching an emergent black hole in their bullpen by adding Francisco Liriano. Still, the story of this series for many M’s fans isn’t Texas’ role as spoiler, but rather celebrating Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre, who notched his 3,000th MLB hit yesterday, becoming the first Dominican-born player to do so.

Beltre’s tenure in Seattle was an odd one, as Safeco’s dimensions crippled his power production, but he became something of a fan favorite by being, well, himself. He was the perfect antithesis for Ichiro’s effortless cool. He was the animated, funny, almost goofy partner for Felix while Ichiro calmly made play after play and got hit after hit without displaying emotion of any kind. Both Beltre and Ichiro attracted the irrational kind of hate from fans who are frustrated at a team’s lack of progress and aim their brickbats on players who are playing well, as opposed to those who aren’t. At the same time, Beltre was always set up to fail, as he was one of the biggest free agent signings in M’s history (given his age, you can make the case it was a bigger ‘get’ than Robinson Cano) for a franchise that had no idea how to build a winning team. That wasn’t Beltre’s fault, of course, but when he put up a .303 OBP in his first year, many blamed him anyway. Beltre was, by far, the best defensive third baseman the M’s have ever had, which is no slight to the Gold glove winning Kyle Seager. He’s clearly one of the top defensive 3Bs of his generation, and he overlapped with some all-timers, including Scott Rolen. Given the value of his defense, he’s tailor-made to be underappreciated (again with the Ichiro parallels), and that’s what he’s been. The 3,000 hit plateau isn’t intrinsically magical; it doesn’t make him a hall of famer (in my book, he was an inner-circle guy already), but it’s a tidy bow on a remarkable career, and one that’s remarkably back-loaded in terms of performance. When he left Seattle, he seemed destined to be a Kenny Lofton player – a true great who gets very little recognition for it, or worse, a guy who’s unfairly categorized as a one-season wonder. Instead, he went out and built an unassailable hall of fame resume. I don’t like the Rangers, but I’ll be cheering for Adrian Beltre today. And most days, if I’m honest.

The M’s made a series of personnel moves while I was gallivanting around Mt. Rainier yesterday. After taking a Jacob DeGrom fastball to the face, Mitch Haniger returns to the DL, and, as you saw yesterday, has been replaced by Leonys Martin. To get Martin a 40-man spot again, the M’s DFA’d their 2013 first round pick and one-time top prospect, DJ Peterson. Peterson’s production tailed off upon promotion to AA back in 2014, and then utterly collapsed in 2015, a year that’s looking more and more important in M’s history. Despite taking the highest-floor bat at worst and best college bat, period at best in 2013 and then the consensus best high-school bat in 2014, the M’s watched them flail miserably in 2014 and could never really figure out why, or help them out of it. The fact that Alex Jackson immediately started hitting this year for the Braves system may just be a coincidence, but while Peterson’s earned this DFA with 2.5 years of marginal play (with the possible exception of early 2016 in Jackson), I won’t be shocked at all if he starts hitting again somewhere else. Do you blame the Zduriencik era PD group who supervised a collective faceplant by the M’s top prospects? Is it the new regime, who saw some improvements but weren’t able to overhaul Peterson/Jackson last year? What then to make of Tyler O’Neill, who developed nicely under both groups? How much blame to the players themselves need to shoulder here?

However you apportion the blame out, that 2015 season seems pretty pivotal in hindsight. Peterson’s flameout meant that the M’s didn’t have high-minors depth to turn to in their playoff run in 2016, and the lack of development from Jackson and Luiz Gohara meant that their value in trade wasn’t all that high; they’d be moved in the offseason instead. Daniel Missaki got hurt, then shipped to Milwaukee in a deal for Adam Lind that presumably neither fanbase looks back on fondly. Austin Wilson didn’t hit. Ryan Yarbrough took a step back, Gabby Guerrero was so-so and then traded, and all of this was preceded in March by the death of Victor Sanchez.

The M’s DFA’d SS Tyler Smith, who’s been picked up by Texas, and they’ve recalled RP Casey Lawrence from Tacoma. To presumably add depth in the Rainiers’ pen, the M’s have also picked up ex-UW player and Everett native Aaron West. West had been with Fresno in the Houston system before being released a few weeks ago. This may shock you, but he’s a command/control righty who’s put up absurdly low walk rates in the minors working out of the bullpen. He’s a fly-ball pitcher who’s managed the rare feat of keeping the ball in the park, too, so his fangraphs page scratches many/most of Jerry Dipoto’s personal itches. And like many such pitchers, a lack of an outpitch has made him somewhat hittable in the PCL, as he’s yielded 72 hits in 43 2/3 IP. Again, the problem for the M’s is that their competitors have all made sizable upgrades, as New York now has Sonny Gray, and the Red Sox improved their bullpen by picking up Addison Reed from the Mets. The Astros and Indians got bullpen help too, making them a bit more formidable for whoever manages to win the Wild Card game. As good as they are, and as well as they’ve played against Boston/New York (thank you Big Maple!), the M’s are still stuck right around .500. A few weeks ago, that was enough, but since then, the Royals essentially haven’t lost, the Yankees won so much they took over the AL East lead, and even the Rays made some pretty big additions. The M’s are a talented, exciting team, who now need to string some wins together. The August schedule has them on the road nearly the entire month. That unfortunate, but it can’t be an excuse. The M’s need to go on a run, particularly as they’ll face their big wild card rivals in Kansas City and Tampa this month.

1: Gamel, LF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Heredia, CF
8: Martin, RF
9: Ruiz, C

With Peterson’s DFA, LookoutLanding’s Ben Thoen noted:

Batting line of the night in the system goes to Everett 1B Onil Pena who hit his 6th homer and went 2 for 3 with 2 walks in a loss to Spokane. Gareth Morgan also homered and went 2-3. Slim pickings for pitching lines, but we’ll go with Oliver Jaskie of Everett, who really needed a good outing, and put up 3 hitless innings with 5 Ks.

Today’s match-ups are headlined by the Rainiers in Oklahoma City, where ex-Dodgers prospect Chase de Jong faces off with Dodgers current #1 pitching prospect Walker Beuhler, who’ll be making his 3rd AAA start. Beuhler and de Jong never played together in the Dodgers system, as both moved up fairly quickly, and Beuhler’s a 2015 draft pick.

Loved this quote from Jerry Dipoto in this Bob Dutton story regarding the Marco Gonzales trade:

“Clearly, we like Marco Gonzales better than the mainstream media,” Dipoto said, “but the mainstream media hasn’t been familiar with Marco Gonzales for a year-and-a-half. “You know what happens? Sometimes pitchers have Tommy John (surgery), and sometimes they come back and they’re good.”

Logan Davis’ tweet alerted me to the quote, and like him, I think the candor here is great, especially after the famously tight-lipped Zduriencik regime. But I’d point out that when you believe you have an information advantage, something few know, that should obviate the need for an overpay. The M’s and Cards have so-so farm systems, and the M’s sent their #2 prospect for the Cards’ #15-16, and the reasoning here seems to be that he’s better than people think after major arm surgery. He’s defending the deal, as he should, and he’s pointing to a specific reason Gonzales may be undervalued right now by the like of, well, me, and that’s great! I’m not entirely convinced, but this is way more detail and specificity than I’m used to getting from quotes like this. Kudos to Dipoto, and also to Dutton.


3 Responses to “Game 107: Mariners at Rangers – Catching Up on the Deadline + Gratuitous Beltre Appreciation”

  1. Grayfox3d on July 31st, 2017 5:50 pm

    The Rangers might be looking forward into the future but they are still here ready to kick around Felix and The Mariners.

  2. mrakbaseball on July 31st, 2017 6:02 pm

    I don’t want to sound like a “get off my lawn” type guy, but I’m not a fan of Felix hugging Beltre before an at bat, especially after just giving up a 2-run homer. Time and a place for congratulations, and that was not it.

  3. demon777 on July 31st, 2017 8:59 pm

    Well that was an interesting game. Balks and Errors won that for us. We were definitely lucky to walk away with a win tonight.

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