Game 110, Mariners at Royals – Competitive Windows

marc w · August 3, 2017 at 4:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yovani Gallardo vs. Trevor Cahill, 5:10pm

The M’s begin their biggest series of the year against the team currently in control of the 2nd wildcard, the Kansas City Royals. The Royals were in an odd spot this year – they faced the looming departure of most of their core players in free agency after this year, but they didn’t have the prospects to go all-in one last time. After they an atrocious start, it seemed like the final year of the Cain/Davis/Moose/Hosmer Royals would be a quiet one. But a blistering June/July pushed them back into playoff position, and so they’ve made some small moves to improve their odds this year, like picking up Trevor Cahill from the rebuilding Padres.

The Royals opening day payroll this year was $143 million, just a tiny bit less than the Mariners’. But while the M’s will return most of their core – their vets signed long contract extensions, and they’ve got a group of pre-arb players as well – the Royals are hurting. They owe a combined $59 million next year to the less-than-inspiring group of Ian Kennedy, Alex Gordon, Joakim Soria and Danny Duffy. Duffy, Sal Perez and Jorge Soler are all under reasonable-ish extensions (especially if Duffy can stay healthy), but pretty much everyone else is either unmovable (Gordon, Kennedy) or bad (Brandon Moss). They have holes all over the roster, and it’s not clear how they’ll fill them. All of that’s next year, though. For now, they’ve upgraded their rotation with Cahill and their bullpen with Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter. They don’t look like a contending team on paper with a worse-than-average offense AND pitching staff, but then, that hasn’t stopped them in recent years. They have one more year to perform one of their odd Royals magic tricks, and then it’s over.

The Royals predicament reminds me a bit of what the Rangers might be facing. For years, I’ve seen them as a formidable organization due to great player development married with elite amateur and pro scouting. It’s not enough that their prospect coffers always seemed to be overflowing, it’s that they’d go out and get diamonds in the rough from other orgs, too (Nelson Cruz comes to mind). If their prospects couldn’t quite turn potential into production, or if they got hurt, they could trade their prospects for Cole Hamels or whatever else they needed. That gave them a tremendous advantage, and they used it to go to the playoffs 5 out of the past 7 years. It wasn’t enough that they’ve been consistently, easily, better than the M’s – it’s that I couldn’t figure out when it was POSSIBLE for the M’s to overcome that deficit. It’s pretty clearly happened, though, as the Rangers magic touch with their farm system doesn’t appear to be working anymore. Trades for guys like Hamels, Jonathan Lucroy and others have shipped a ton of production elsewhere, and injuries to guys from Jurickson Profar to Chi Chi Rodriguez have played a role as well. After the trade of Yu Darvish, they have essentially no rotation outside of Hamels, and their top 4 prospects – *all* of whom were in BP’s top 101 – have struggled this year. Hamels, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Rougned Odor are signed long-term, but their flexibility going forward looks pretty constrained. I’m not trying to bury them; Jon Daniels is a capable GM, and things looked bleak a few years ago. But the team was able to keep turning high-risk, high-reward prospects into hugely valuable trade chips, and if that’s not true anymore, or LESS true than it was, they’re in a bit of trouble. Nomar Mazara’s essentially repeated his rookie year, Odor’s OBP is .259, Martin Perez remains below-average and Profar seems destined to be a utility guy. The Astros emergence would’ve made it essentially impossible for the Rangers to keep controlling the West, but it really looks like their run as perpetual contenders is over.

All of this stands in contrast to the M’s push for controllable players. I haven’t liked all of Dipoto’s deals, but it is absolutely to his credit that the M’s have a better 2018-2020 outlook than they did before he got here. I mentioned the looming crisis last year, in that the M’s would lose several players to free agency, and clearly didn’t have replacements ready on the farm. Their core was/is aging, and it’s not clear that they’ll get star-level performances from Felix or perhaps even Cano in the years to come. But the emergence of Jean Segura, Ben Gamel and James Paxton means they’re not looking at a Royals-style apocalypse. They have plenty of holes to fill too, so it’s not like all is well, but the path from here to contention is navigable.

Enough about the future. Tonight, the M’s make a play for 2017 against the suddenly-vulnerable Royals. After a long winning streak, the Royals are coming off a sweep at the hands of the Orioles. The famously bad O’s rotation even shut them out yesterday. Trevor Cahill makes his second start in Royal blue; his first was something of a clunker, as he gave up 5 runs (and 2 dingers) in 4 IP to the Red Sox. Cahill came up with the A’s as a sinker/change-up/curve pitcher who got ground balls to overcome a lack of bat-missing stuff. He averaged 89 or so with the A’s in 2010-11, but his velo picked up by about 1 MPH after a trade to Arizona. Unfortunately, it didn’t help his results. After a great first year in the desert, he was hurt and then ineffective, and ended up losing his rotation spot in 2014. Time in the bullpen for Arizona and then the Cubs remade him, and he’s been a bat-missing expert since. His fastball velocity was up again in the bullpen, but he seems to have remade his change and curve, using them much more often and getting a lot more K’s. Even after moving back to the rotation this year, he’s set a career high in K% and K-BB%, and his change/curve combo is a big reason why.

He’s shown normal platoon splits over his career, but a lot of that is the result of two awful campaigns against lefties – one of them his rookie year of 2009. In many years, he’s been pretty even, and they’re even reversed a bit this year. That’s the power of a decent change-up, and it highlights that the M’s shouldn’t be too doctrinaire about platoon splits in setting their line-up.

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

Bryan Evans was staked to an early lead in NW Arkansas, but couldn’t hold it, giving up 3 HRs and 7 runs to the Naturals. That was enough for Josh Staumont, who’s still struggling a bit, but righted the ship after a tough first inning. CF Braden Bishop went 3-5, and is now batting .383 in AA in a bit more than 50 PAs.

Reggie McClain had a much-needed solid start in Modesto’s win over Rancho Cucamonga. McClain gave up a run in 5 IP, striking out 4.

Wisconsin edged Clinton 2-1, with Tim Viehoff a hard-luck loser in relief of Steven Ridings. Wyatt Mills K’d 2 in 2/3 IP, and has been lights out in Clinton the past few weeks.

Christian Bergman, Anthony Misiewicz, Tyler Jackson and Anjul Hernandez are probables in the M’s system today.


5 Responses to “Game 110, Mariners at Royals – Competitive Windows”

  1. okinawadave on August 3rd, 2017 6:22 pm

    Man, that home run sure looked to me like it bounced off the railing on the foul side of the pole.

  2. Grayfox3d on August 3rd, 2017 6:58 pm

    C’mon Mariners! this is basically a must win series if you want to keep any sort of play off pipe dream alive. Lets get going offense.

  3. Grayfox3d on August 3rd, 2017 7:18 pm

    Looks like Gallardo is hitting his wall, to bad they couldnt just keep him as a long relief because of situations like this.

  4. Grayfox3d on August 3rd, 2017 8:01 pm

    Ah well at least you guys kinda tried.

  5. mrakbaseball on August 3rd, 2017 8:26 pm

    Brandon Moss has been awful this year, so of course he would hit two homers tonight. Gallardo faded badly though.

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