The Mariners Begin to Build for 2021

marc w · December 16, 2020 at 5:15 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Going into the offseason, Jerry Dipoto was quite candid about what would be on his shopping list: bullpen arms, primarily, but they would investigate lower-cost, lower-risk deals if any presented themselves. In December, they’ve begun to execute that somewhat low-stakes plan, first by picking up reliever Will Vest in the Rule 5 draft, then by grabbing SP/RP Chris Flexen, fresh off of a successful run in the Korean KBO. This week, they traded for Rangers reliever Rafael Montero. Today, they picked up hard-throwing, TJ-rehabbing reliever Keynan Middleton.

There’s no real way to spin these as win-now moves, but they do address a real weakness of the 2020 team (the bullpen and the back of the rotation). We’ll get to the specific players here in a minute, but at this point, the moves reflect an interesting sort of line the M’s are trying to walk. Because, for the first time in a while, they have high-end prospects nearing the majors, they are very, very hesitant to bring in any higher-end free agent who could block one of their prized prospects. We see this in the rotation, to an extent, but they’re most acute in the outfield, where the M’s get Mitch Haniger back for 2021 and will need to fit in Jarred Kelenic before too long.

At a time when the Rangers are squarely in the midst of a rebuild, when the Angels’ haven’t had decent pitching in years, and when teams across the league seem to be cutting costs, this cautious, incremental approach the M’s are taking may be frustrating. The M’s bounty of prospects needn’t *prevent* the club from improving in other ways, and with players like Francisco Lindor to Blake Snell to Nolan Arenado on the block, it seems weird to sit back and content ourselves with the Keynan Middletons of the game.

A big part of this is that it feels awful to be uncertain all the time, a fact brought home to most of us on the evening of Nov. 3rd. What I mean is that it’s hard to ascertain exactly where the M’s are in their own rebuild, and how to evaluate its success. It’s harder than normal not simply because of the usual mix of encouraging and discouraging signals generated by the bizarre and brief 2020 season, but because MLB itself keeps frantically changing the rules around the playoffs and even the games themselves.

That the game is in flux doesn’t get the M’s off the hook. The M’s remaking their bullpen in the offseason has happened roughly every single season of the Dipoto era, and you can’t blame Rob Manfred for that. The issues surrounding the team predate the sudden expansion of the playoffs or the universal DH or the pitch clock. The M’s have continually tried to leverage their real improvements in player development to help the pitching staff wait for Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, and Emerson Hancock to be ready, and the record’s decidedly mixed. They’ve seen big breakouts from Austin Nola and Dylan Moore, but they’ve been balanced out by offensive collapses from veterans like Dee Strange-Gordon and Mallex Smith to newcomers like Shed Long and Evan White; it’s worth remembering that the M’s commercials last year featured Long, White, and Smith, a group who combined to hit [CENSORED] in the regular season.

It appears that the League is pushing strongly for the playoff format of 2020 to remain in place, with an extra round of the postseason allowing in a few more mediocre teams. I’ve been pretty adamant that this isn’t great for baseball and its regular season, and while it may gin up some TV money, I think it will depress the free agent market further (above what Covid already did). But if that’s going to be the way it goes, you can kind of see this as a season in which Dipoto gets to play with house money: if they fall short, well, that’s OK, we were always really building for 2022, despite public pronouncements about 2019, 2020, and 2021. If they grab a playoff spot – and they came kind of close last year – then Dipoto’s the guy who ended the drought and the rebuild gets a weird sort of validation.

But beyond the playoff drought, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a season in which public opinion on the state of club is so divided. Evan White either got his feet wet and won the first of a dozen gold gloves, or his 42% K rate and, frankly, disastrous batting line is the reddest of red flags (in case it’s not clear, I’m in the latter camp). Kyle Lewis’ Rookei of the Year award is either the feather in the cap of the development system from turning an injured, whiff-prone corner OF into a middle-of-the-order and middle-of-the-diamond beast, or they let their guard down, as the league dominated him in the second half. Kyle Seager’s solid season is either something to build around, or wasted on a team that still can’t reliably hold teams scoreless nor outslug teams like Oakland, Houston, Minnesota, New York…you get the idea. You can do this with JP Crawford, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Yohan Ramirez, and a big chunk of the prospects. The team is either right on track, or clearly in need of another infusion of experienced talent. The individual pieces can be debated, and what they all combine into can be debated. I know, it’s sports, that’s what we do, but I don’t recall such variance in where fans see the M’s in 2022-23 – everything from World Series champs to .500 to rebuilding again seems to have a side advocating for their view.

So no, these recent moves are not going to settle this. They will improve a bullpen that looked like it was in bad shape, though. Rafael Montero is already the M’s top projected relief arm by Steamer, for example. Let’s see what the M’s are getting, or at least, what the M’s see in the guys they’ve acquired.

1: Montero easily has the most big league experience. He came up as a starter with the Mets, showing brilliant control in the minors, which allowed him to move up despite middling raw stuff. That control did not follow him to the big leagues, however. His walk rate is over 11% for his career, and was worst in his starting role, before improving a bit in the Rangers’ pen. That transition to the pen greatly improved his fastball velocity, which went from 93 up to 96 in 2019. The other thing the Rangers seemed to do was to take a bunch of spin *off* of his fastball; his raw spin rates declined markedly when he moved from Queens to Arlington, and that’s despite the aforementioned increase in velo.

Given that change, the shape of his fastballs is a bit different, with his four-seam and sinker now showing increased sink/decreased rise. That’s an interesting decision, given that his best secondary pitch is a change-up. Now, to be clear, that change-up is still plenty good, and one of things I’d expect the M’s to do is to get him to throw it more often, the way he did in his breakout 2019. He has a slider, too, which seems perfectly fine, I suppose.

The problem with the drop in spin and drop in vertical movement on his fastballs is that the movement differential between his pitches – particularly the sinker and change, or sinker and slider – gets smaller. Everything comes up sinking, and I will always have flashbacks of this happening to Erasmo Ramirez. The velocity gap means this isn’t necessarily disqualifying, but I just think this makes things easier on the hitter, particularly for pitches that he’ll use in similar parts of the zone.

Montero’s a big fly-baller with HR trouble, and despite the damage that profile’s caused the M’s since 2016, the M’s still love to bet on regression towards the league mean. Makes sense and all, but given Montero’s batted ball profile, even post-sinkering, I’m not sure regression alone is going to solve it. That said, Montero has big league experience and cost the M’s a young pitcher who’d yet to throw a professional pitch plus a PTBNL. We don’t know who that is, but this seems like a decent bet, despite the fact that Montero hit 30 recently.

2: Keynan Middleton was drafted by Jerry Dipoto out of a Eugene, OR community college in 2013. Dipoto’s Angels drafts were not the stuff legends are made of, but Dipoto is nothing if not a loyal evaluator, having picked up Austin Adams, RJ Alvarez, and now Middelton after having drafted them with the Angels. Middleton’s carrying card is a 97 MPH fastball. It’s a pitch with decent if not-terribly-remarkable movement, and, perhaps relatedly, not terribly-great results. Batters have slugged .489 in Middleton’s career, which has been interrupted by injuries. He gets solid K rates with a hard slider, but he doesn’t have the kind of platoon splits you’d think of with a FB/SL arsenal. He does have a change-up he can throw to lefties, but he hasn’t made much use of it.

Like Montero, Middleton’s an extreme fly ball guy, and like Montero, that’s gotten him into trouble with long balls. Despite pitching in a home park that suppressed dingers, Middelton has a 1.32 HR/9 in his short career, and with GBs accounting for only about 1/3 of his balls in play, it’s easy to see why. Again, it’s not lefties who are hurting him: it’s right handers, and they’re doing the damage on his fastball. RHBs are slugging .550 with 8 HRs off of his four-seamer, and I’d think the M’s are going to try and figure out why.

He’s coming off of two years lost to injury, and he’s on a one-year, $800,000 contract. This is a riskless signing, really, and while I’m not sure that Middleton’s going to give you more than competent 7th-inning-guy stuff (despite the velo), it’s pretty hard to argue with it.

3: In Chris Flexen, the M’s have a potential rotation piece, which would merit a lot more attention than the rest of these bullpen moves. Flexen is another guy who came up in the Mets system with solid control only to see that control collapse completely in the bigs. Flexen has a negative K-BB% ratio for his career, due to a walk rate over 15%. He had a 93 MPH fastball with some rise to it, and a hard slider at 87, and he’d also play with a curve and change, but none of it seemed to work.

All of that changed in 2020 when he joined the Doosan Bears of the KBO. He posted a K/9 over 10 and, crucially, a K:BB ratio of 4.4:1. He was tough to hit in a hitter-friendly league, and essentially had the season of his life. The question is how it’ll translate back to the big leagues. The case of Merrill Kelly is an encouraging one, as the career MiLB guy took off in the KBO, as he posted good but not Flexen good K rates in the for years. Returning with the Diamondbacks, Kelly’s been a reliable middle-of-the-rotation piece with solid control. If the M’s get Merrill Kelly-liek results, they’d be thrilled.

In Korea, Flexen relied on the combination of his 93 mph fastball (quite firm for the league) and his curve, a pitch that may have been his fourth-best offering before. Despite his control issues with New York, he threw in the zone even less, getting whiffs on his curve that was set up by high four-seamers. We’ll see if this approach can work for him in MLB, or if batters will make him prove that he can throw the curve (or slider) for strikes.

Flexen signed a two-year deal for $7M guaranteed, making this perhaps my favorite of the four acquisitions we’ll talk about. There’s upside here that far exceeds even Montero’s, just given the innings he could log. And with the M’s confirming they’ll use a six-man rotation, there’s some room for him to do so. I’ve said it for years, but the six-man rotation and increased rest may be ideal for pitchers like Flexen and Yusei Kikuchi who’ve pitched in Asia, where starters typically get more rest than MLB’s five-man rotations offer. The M’s simply do not have the talent that many of their rivals do, and thus it’s incumbent upon them to get more out of the talent that they have. Taking a flyer that the KBO in some sense “fixed” Flexen, once the Mets #4 prospect, and pairing that with a six-man rotation, is a great way to try and do that.

4: Finally, the M’s again made a selection in the MLB Rule 5 draft earlier this month. They picked reliever Will Vest, who had been in the Tigers system. Vest was drafted in 2017, and has been up-and-down in his career in the Tigers’ system. That club has seen a player development transformation as well, with guys like Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, Alex Faedo and others give them a lot of near-majors pitching. I say that not only to highlight why a guy like Vest may have been available, but to highlight one of the things that’s made the Tigers system notable: guys pick up velocity.

Skubal, the old Seattle University product, is perhaps the big example, but it looks like it happened to Vest, too. He didn’t make his college team’s varsity squad until late, and into the draft, he was talked about as a low-mid-90s guy with some armside run. By early 2019, he was throwing 94-96 according to this YouTube video, and then showed up in instructs this fall touching the high 90s.

He’s got a hard slider around 88, and the workings of an interesting change (though, to me, most change-ups are interesting) in the mid-80s. I think this is an intriguing pick, and I hope he’s both able to stick on the roster the way Yohan Ramirez did AND have a bit more control than the ex-Astros farmhand showed. It’s simply not allowed to complain about Rule 5 picks, and Vest could be a solid member of the developing bullpen, particularly if he’s able to hit 97 more often.


29 Responses to “The Mariners Begin to Build for 2021”

  1. Stevemotivateir on December 16th, 2020 6:17 pm

    One of my biggest fears heading into the offseason was that they wouldn’t pick up a stopgap first baseman and tread carefully with White. They rave about his character and intelligence, decisions, etc. If that ends up being an excuse to handle him like Smoak, I won’t be happy. Marmolejos and his inability to hit breaking balls won’t cut it, either.

    Like many, I was hopeful we would see more invested in the bullpen, but I don’t really have a problem with these signings. If they see 2022 as a more realistic target date for contention and 2023 as the year they’re more likely to do more than just sneak in, it makes sense.

    That said, it is annoying to hear talk about possible contention, then see a bunch of rebound candidates, flawed, or inexperienced players brought in. The ‘pen has nowhere to go but up, but the bar is low.

    So, what’s next? There’s still a need for at least one fielder, but will it be a middle-infielder or an outfielder? I suppose they could use France or Moore at 1B, but it would be good to see a veteran brought in regardless of which area they favor/prioritize.

    Then there’s the rotation. If Flexen (who still hasn’t actually signed) was it, I’m going to be even more discouraged. He’s interesting, but it’s easy to see him ending up in long-relief and it’s easy to see Dunn either needing a demotion to work on things in AA/AAA, or a permanent move to the bullpen.

    I guess I’m simply not excited about what we’ve seen so far. Hopefully there’s more to come.

  2. eponymous coward on December 16th, 2020 11:56 pm

    It would appear that the M’s are going to slow play their talent and salary flexibility in a depressed environment for MLB revenue.

    As you might have guessed from my season-long commentary, I am less than surprised by this (though disappointed- the thing is adding good players and opening up the wallet in 2020 wouldn’t have hurt their chances in 2022 any more than adding ones in 2021).

    I would expect to see them keep Seager for 2021 unless they’re just blown away by a trade offer and let him walk in 2022 (unless they can make a one year contract with him that makes sense).

    I agree about the need to add a bat at 1B. I also think that Haniger is more likely to have a career path like Guti than as a full time OF (so that 1B bat might be a corner OF). I don’t think the track record for guys who miss a year plus of MLB and are on the wrong side of 30 when they come back is very good. If Haniger sees 100 games of action and contributes 2 WAR I think he and the M’s will be doing well.

  3. Stevemotivateir on December 17th, 2020 6:13 am

    Haniger should see his share of time at DH this season, I just wonder if he’s destined to get traded if he starts the season hot. I don’t really have an opinion on that, but I hope we don’t see Julio rushed in an attempt force open the window to contention. I’ve heard more than once that a late ’21 debut isn’t out of the question. I would argue it shouldn’t even be a thought.

  4. eponymous coward on December 17th, 2020 1:58 pm

    I don’t think the M’s are in any danger of having so much surplus offense that trading Haniger makes a ton of sense, unless the team just tanks it hard and for some reason Haniger fetches a super tempting deal.

    But thinking about this some more, the M’s are somewhere in the bottom of MLB for payroll, and their two biggest payroll commitments for 2021 are Seager (who drops off if they want) and Kikuchi (who also drops off if they want).

    Why give that up in 2021 for an uncertain revenue environment if you’re still on a Glorious Five Year Plan?

  5. Stevemotivateir on December 17th, 2020 6:36 pm

    It makes sense if they really question Haniger’s ability to stay healthy, or if the return equally addressed another area of need beyond 2022. That’s about it. Seattle doesn’t really need to worry about acquiring more prospects.

    Kikuchi’s player option for 2022 is 13m if (when) the team declines their multi-year option. It’s probably safe to assume he’ll be around, but that’s it for 8-figure contracts as of now.

    We’ve heard that Dipoto would still like to add a LHH. I can think of a few that shouldn’t break the bank and would come without a ton of flags.

  6. Stevemotivateir on December 18th, 2020 1:37 pm

    Major free agent signings or trade acquisitions were never anticipated on my part. But there are plenty of veterans that are seemingly affordable and valuable that remain available.

    Dipoto should be anticipating regression and/or limitations for a number of players. It might be in his best interests to commit Shed Long, Jake Fraley, Braden Bishop, and Evan White to a full season of minor-league seasoning and reassess next offseason.

    If Lewis and Kelenic need more seasoning than believed, and Haniger suffers any kind of setback, imagine the mess the outfield would be.

    Surely, more is to come, right?

  7. bookbook on December 19th, 2020 10:42 am

    If Fraley and Bishop don’t break into the majors next year, they probably never will. They are already old to be considered prospects at all.

  8. Stevemotivateir on December 19th, 2020 11:16 am

    Haniger was considered old as well.

    Bishop is the oldest of the lot, but the lacerated spleen certainly didn’t help his cause.

  9. eponymous coward on December 19th, 2020 1:14 pm

    Braden Bishop is going to be 28 by the time the 2021 season is over. He is what he is at this point – which is to say, a AAAA player but probably not ever a quality MLB player. The M’s don’t need replacement level talent (or slight improvements on it) in the OF- I would argue it’s essentially irrelevant if that talent is Braden Bishop or Tim Lopes. If they want to take steps forward they need actual good players.

    (Lopes might end up as the better than any of that group of Long/Fraley/Lopes/Bishop and we tossed him to sign Flexen, so I’m not real confident any of them have major value.)

    Sure, send the guys with options down to Tacoma because that’s what you do to fill out the AAA roster, but if it’s late July and we have an OF of Bishop and Fraley flanking Lewis running out there every day because Haniger is injured/ineffective, Kelenic isn’t ready, we’re probably out of it.

    White’s somewhat similar; I guess in theory should the M’s sign someone who could slide corner OF/1B they would cover options. A job share with France/Haniger/White/Signee covering DH/an OF/1B doesn’t sound terrible.

    If you think Kelenic is REALLY not ready you probably add another OF and make it five guys covering four OF/1B/DH positions.

  10. Stevemotivateir on December 20th, 2020 7:13 am

    Is anyone expecting Bishop to be more than a fourth outfielder? He arguably isn’t there yet, hence my suggestion that he should spend 2021, or most of it, in AAA. If he ends up like an Adam Engel, I’d call it a win.

    But what do they do if Lewis and Kelenic need more time AND Haniger is injured or ineffective?

    This is all part of the argument to bring in more veterans. Obviously they can’t bring in five, but two wouldn’t be a stretch.

  11. bookbook on December 22nd, 2020 11:31 pm

    If Lewis Kelenic and Haniger faceplant, you’re talking about the difference between winning 67 and 70 games in a lost season, and majors step back for the rebuild.

  12. Stevemotivateir on December 23rd, 2020 8:00 am

    I’m not talking face-plants, I’m talking about growing pains. It’s obviously not uncommon for players to need a little more time in the minors after their initial call up. Sometimes we just need a little patience as they adjust to MLB. Different situation with White. I think he clearly needs more time in the minors.

    If Lewis were to fall off a cliff and Kelenic never gets going, a heck of a lot more spending would be necessary to make this team relevant. Maybe a new GM would be necessary as well, though I wouldn’t anticipate any changes before 2023.

  13. eponymous coward on December 23rd, 2020 9:38 am

    There’s a number of players who would be more likely for a faceplant than Kyle Lewis such as Kyle Seager, Graverman, Dunn, Gonzales, Flexen, plus the guys who are already in the middle of faceplants like White and Kikuchi.

    The overall talent level here still is “not really good enough for contention”. I’m fairly certain adding Kelenic to what’s on the lot isn’t going to move the needle over to “real contention”. Basically the 2021
    roster’s chance at contention is (as currently configured) bets on White/Kelenic/Moore/France/Kikuchi/Flexen/Dunn/Bullpen Pile Of Arms to take steps forward collectively, Haniger to be his 2018 self, and none of the “core” regressing.

    This would probably be a more sound strategy if ownership was willing to commit 10-20 million more on the roster per year in salary for next couple of years to add talent to the existing talent base, so we’re not putting eggs into the basket of “sure, Mitch Haniger can spend well over a year not seeing live MLB pitching when he’s over 30 and we won’t see him regress much as a player”, but apparently no they’re not. M’s ownership has seen the future and it’s the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s.

    Here we are, where I thought we might be. I guess it’s Faith In The Jerry Process time again…

  14. Stevemotivateir on December 23rd, 2020 8:09 pm

    Kikuchi was better this year. The bullpen didn’t do him any favors. I’m not about to count him into the long-term plans, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being the best of the questionable arms currently in the mix. I reserve the right to change that opinion as there may be more questionable arms brought into the mix.

    Regarding spending, surely we’re going to see another fielder or two added, and if Tim Lopes wasn’t good enough to make the cut, you would think that anyone brought in would be better. Everything is conditional, of course, and I remain semi-pessimistic, but there is plenty of time and names available.

    Regardless of how much we see spent this offseason, it’s still easy to see Jerry splurging the next couple of offseasons. Building the team up on a slow, tapered path to resemble Tampa or Oakland (and it would be slow) would probably mean several more years tacked on to the drought and make an extension for the architect’s future unlikely. It would contradict the entire ‘step back’ sales pitch and leave fans even more enraged.

    That said, I don’t think contention in 2022 is a stretch if they hit on an arm or two from this offseason and see progress from guys like Kelenic and Gilbert in their second year of MLB. For the record, I think it’s far more likely those guys end up being significantly productive than just average players or busts.

  15. eponymous coward on December 24th, 2020 9:37 am

    If they hit enough on Kelenic and Gilbert (or whatever kids), and kiss goodbye to Seager without signing anybody major to replace him (just these Flexen kind of cheap deals), that’s basically a Tampa/Oakland path of low budget for 2021/2022, wait for the farm system. Kikuchi’s player option isn’t going to break them- that would be the most expensive salary on the team. Everyone else would be well under 10 million, unless Haniger goes crazy good in 2021 and gets a huge arbitration raise (and Jerry could just trade him if he wanted to go low budget).

    As for enraging the fans if they stay low budget for 2021-2022, how enraging is it going to be if they move some goalposts again? We’re already at 20 years. 2021 is still going to be problematic for attendance revenue even if we have widespread vaccines by 4th of July.

    The thing is this whole “we’re going to wait until X to spend” is so artificial. It’s really “we don’t want to add talent to our non contending team by signing expensive players”. Yes, they wanted to “step back” instead of tank (oops, it’s almost like you can’t plan this out as well as you think you can in the offseason), but the bottom line is “I have too many talented MLB players on my roster” is a problem MLB GMs would kill to have. The 2021 M’s are nowhere near having that problem, so this is really “we’re not ready to stop being cheap, we’re good with waiting for the farm system”. If they had signed some better players in 2019-2020 and been willing to take on some modest salary bumps (to ~ MLB average instead of in the A’s/Rays range) they would be in better position to contend now. The fans seem fine with it. So why not move a goalpost to 2022-2023?

  16. Stevemotivateir on December 24th, 2020 11:25 am

    We’ve seen exactly two top prospects graduate and look halfway decent, and one of them, Kyle Lewis, was only good for half of an abbreviated season. I can understand Seattle recognizing that waiting another year before investing heavily in pitching is probably the wise move considering the number of holes and questions heading into 2021, but that doesn’t mean they can’t invest in veteran role players for the field that could help them transition into 2022.

    It’s still very much a wait-and-see situation, but at some point they absolutely have to start adding stars.

  17. eponymous coward on December 25th, 2020 10:26 am

    I can understand Seattle recognizing that waiting another year before investing heavily in pitching is probably the wise move considering the number of holes and questions heading into 2021, but that doesn’t mean they can’t invest in veteran role players for the field that could help them transition into 2022.

    At this point it should be about adding talent. I mean, come on, you’d pass up a good veteran starting pitcher at a reasonable price because you need to give Nick Margevicius or Justin Dunn a full year in a MLB rotation when a) you’re going to run a six man rotation, which is 6 chances you’ll need a seventh starter (and let’s face it, decent chance of an eighth starter), b) your bullpen is a weak spot anyway, so having an arm there picking up a few MPH if they don’t go back to the rotation isn’t exactly a terrible idea?

    How often does “oh noes, we have too many 2-3 WAR starters” happen anyway? Not to mention that, hey, you could trade a 2-3 WAR starter and get something back (especially if you’re taking on salary). I hear Jerry likes to make trades…

    but that doesn’t mean they can’t invest in veteran role players for the field that could help them transition into 2022.

    Color me in agreement with this, just that at this point I don’t think the team is close to a finished product anywhere, or even a “just let the kids play another couple of years and then we’ll make some significant payroll adds”.

    I think this team going into 2020 where you can feel reasonably OK with three lineup spots (Lewis/Crawford/Seager). Three and a half to four if you think France is legit (OK). Everything else is some combination of

    – this guy is over 30, you’re counting a bounceback after missing a full season or more, which isn’t a solid bet (Murphy, Haniger)
    – you’re expecting a AAAA player who didn’t have a minor league track record to continue performing well past Small Sample Size Theatre (Dylan Moore)
    – we’re going to ignore 2020 (White)
    – c’mon kids! (Kelenic, Rodrguez if he shows up, Torrens)

    The thing is I think M’s management is actually at “just let the kids play another couple of years and then we’ll make some significant payroll adds”. The 2019/2020/2021 offseasons (so far for 2021) are dumpster diving/bargain basement and aren’t addressing the fact that the 2021 team is going to have a lot of the problems of the 2020 team (half the lineup isn’t really MLB caliber, the bullpen is still throw velocity or spin at a wall and see who’s actually good, the rotation lacks upper end talent and is thin).

    Thankfully the defense is better and the underlying talent is better (pipeline and in MLB), but this isn’t a team that should be super-choosy about adding players… unless ownership has just closed the salary books (and to be honest making the 2019/2020 teams better by FA signings and spending more cash was just as legitimate as making the 2021 team better now).

  18. bookbook on December 25th, 2020 9:57 pm

    It really depends on what player we’re contemplating for me. Adding a Walker or Paxton on a 2-3 year deal feels like a small step forward. Adding a Lindor with a negotiated 4-5 year extension feels like a meaningful addition to a potential championship club.

    When it comes to the non-stars, I’d rather this team be too cautious than too aggressive right now, because they’re more likely to block someone proving they can be an asset than provide a piece that will make a meaningful difference when the games count. It sucks, but we ain’t yet in the right place for mediocre adds to help us.

  19. eponymous coward on December 26th, 2020 11:07 am

    When it comes to the non-stars, I’d rather this team be too cautious than too aggressive right now, because they’re more likely to block someone proving they can be an asset than provide a piece that will make a meaningful difference when the games count. It sucks, but we ain’t yet in the right place for mediocre adds to help us.

    What does mediocre even mean in this context?

    The reason why the M’s aren’t in the right place is because they just spent two years running a lineup/rotation/bullpen out every day with legitimately bad players and cheaping out on salary to fix very obvious “this isn’t a major league roster” talent problems, instead of spending actual money on the 2019 and 2020 rosters for “mediocre” ones past Kikuchi, or any talent at all besides whatever they pull out of the dumpster or farm system. None of these moves are much different from the norm of 2019-2020: cheap, non-damaging salary deals, other team’s busted prospects we’re going to pull out of the dumpster and dust off.

    Going into 2020 with the Island of Misfit Toys as your corner OFers flanking Kyle Lewis was, well, deliberate- there was no reason why they couldn’t have put an actual corner OF on a 1-2 year deal out there instead of a bunch of utility IFers, failed prospects and waiver wire claims. Watching Evan White repeatedly fail at the plate was deliberate.

    Yes, you can wait for the minor league system to add cheap talent to improve the team. But it’s a false economy when your 2021 salaries are going to be around those of Oakland and Tampa, in the 70 million range, you really have zero long term major salary problems on your horizon, and you’re allegedly not a small market team. An extra 10-20 million in salary commitments for 2021-2022 isn’t going to be something that turns this roster into something full of overpaid veterans like the Bill Bavasi days. It wouldn’t even take the team to MLB average in salary (MLB average would be around 120 million or so).

  20. Stevemotivateir on December 26th, 2020 6:52 pm

    At this point it should be about adding talent. I mean, come on, you’d pass up a good veteran starting pitcher at a reasonable price because you need to give Nick Margevicius or Justin Dunn a full year in a MLB rotation when a) you’re going to run a six man rotation, which is 6 chances you’ll need a seventh starter (and let’s face it, decent chance of an eighth starter), b) your bullpen is a weak spot anyway, so having an arm there picking up a few MPH if they don’t go back to the rotation isn’t exactly a terrible idea?

    Keyword: Heavily. Adding someone like Bauer, who would cost a draft pick and a good 25m+ a year would be a stretch, but a Taijuan walker at 10-12m AAV? Paxton on an incentive-laden deal with an option? There’s room for a couple of starters, though I’m anticipating just one more.

  21. bookbook on December 27th, 2020 3:49 pm

    “The reason why the M’s aren’t in the right place is because they just spent two years running a lineup/rotation/bullpen out every day with legitimately bad players and cheaping out on salary to fix very obvious “this isn’t a major league roster” talent problems, instead of spending actual money on the 2019 and 2020 rosters for “mediocre” ones past Kikuchi, or any talent at all besides whatever they pull out of the dumpster or farm system.“
    This isn’t true. Short of the Yankees and Dodgers, teams can’t afford to buy a championship team. They almost all build around homegrown stars. We haven’t developed one since A-Rod, or Ichiro, if you’d rather. Until we do, we can’t make it work.

  22. eponymous coward on December 27th, 2020 6:50 pm

    Hi, have you heard of Felix Hernandez? And Ichiro was a finished product by the time he hit MLB. But tell me, who was the homegrown star of the 2001 Mariners? Freddy “I was traded from the Astros” Garcia? Joel Piñeiro?

    Anyways… the M’s aren’t at Yankee/Dodger salary levels. Haven’t ever been. Their decision to shed salary from where they were in 2018 is unequivocally why they’ve been bad even if “step back” turned into “tank job”, because they dumped MLB players for not ready ones and assorted crap like Mallex Smith. Paying someone $5-10 million to play corner OF instead of a bunch of AAA utility infielders or praying that Smith and Gordon-Strange was fixed wouldn’t have ruined this club’s finances last year or this year, and would improve this year’s team, and aside from draft position if you actually win games, doesn’t hurt your minors (and remember, we were told “step back” not “tank job”).

    Again, this team is spending like Oakland and Tampa. The difference is they’re not yet capable of winning like those teams are, and we’ve been told “we’re not a small market that can’t spend” and “oh, we’re planning on contending”. So spend a little and fix obvious holes like “your outfield sucks outside of Kyle Lewis”.

    But let’s say Kelenic and Rodriguez are ready in May, White is raking, France and Moore are fine, and you need to deal your shiny new reasonably priced FA bat you got to cover your bets. Oh dear. So… you deal him? How exactly is too much talent and adding 20 million in salary from a baseline of 70 million (still keeping you below MLB average) a problem?

  23. Stevemotivateir on December 28th, 2020 1:56 pm

    For whatever it’s worth, the 2001 Mariners featured a roster full of really good players (I wouldn’t use a stronger adjective here) they had acquired from trading a couple of their stars. But of course, bringing back Boone (whom they developed) and keeping Edgar did wonders for that team, as well as some of the other trades and FA signings. My personal favorite (signing) was Olerud.

    That was before ‘Moneyball’ and well before Tampa figured out how to win more than 70 games in a season, and they did it with a payroll right in the middle at number 15, if I’m not mistaken.

    We’ve seen Seattle make a *few trades. We’re seeing the farm starting to produce, though questions remain and the best of the best have yet to debut. That most certainly affects the timeline, regardless of what we hear publicly.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that they will spend on stars next offseason and in the 2023 offseason. Maybe we’ll even see a trade where Seattle absorbs a large contract. Seattle may never reach LA/NY levels of spending, but we have at least seen a willingness to push the needle, as you noted.

    But there’s really no excuse for not adding talent in the mid-tiers right now, players that could at least help open the 2022 window and make things more interesting in 2021. I’ll be ticked if what we’ve seen this offseason is more or less it for next season. I don’t think that’s the case, though.

  24. eponymous coward on December 29th, 2020 10:20 am

    So the Cubs just shot their 2021 chances in the foot by dumping Darvish and Caratini (and a whole lot of salary) for Davies and prospects.

    This is an ill wind that blows M’s fans no good if the superteams with hard or fan commitment (unlike this past 20 years of being ground into the dust) are trying to dump salary, given how 2019-2020 have gone so far (read: dumpster diving outside of Kikuchi). I think what you’re going to see for the rest of the offseason is maybe what you’ve gotten so far, and “oh, we’ll spend more later, jam tomorrow.”

  25. Stevemotivateir on December 29th, 2020 1:28 pm

    What the Cubs are doing doesn’t tell us a damn thing about Seattle. They play in a weak division. They might still sneak into the postseason without Darvish.

    KC has done more than anyone anticipated; SD is showing a willingness to spend excessively. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that nothing is predictable this offseason.

  26. MrZDevotee on January 5th, 2021 1:06 pm

    (oh my gosh- look what the cat dragged in… still wearing my embarrassing name tag)

    Howdy USSMariner diehards…

    Personally, I’m hopeful we’ll fall somewhere in the middle of these thoughts…

    The dumpster diving equivalent of free agency (rather than waiver pickups) is probably what we’re looking at… BUT, because fewer teams are going to spend money this offseason, the dumpers will be more like a Thrift Store this offseason (stuff still useable that nobody wants).

    As the offseason lingers on without tons of signings, mid-level FA’s will still be available, and I’m hopeful we’ll spend $10-15-million-ish on an outfielder, a 1B/DH type, and a rotation piece. (Currently, there’s no reserve on our roster for unexpected injuries/faceplants)

    It’s all speculation, of course, and honestly I don’t begrudge teams for being hesitant to spend in the current environment (will we play? how many games? when does the season start?)…

    I wouldn’t expect much though:

    Robbie Grossman?
    Rich Hill?
    Mike Fiers?
    CJ Cron?
    Amora Jr?

    Personally, I’d like to see something like Taijuan Walker, Nick Markakis, and Jurickson Profar (INF/OF)…

    A smattering of professional ballplayers, without spending much.

    How much would Chris Archer cost, probably 8 million-is? It’d be nice to see a couple guys who have been around the block and can help our young guys build careers. Plus, a couple names that non-diehard fans might recognize doesn’t hurt.

    I just think the prospect of not having fans in the stands again is daunting as teams look at the 2021 season (and why free agency is dragging along). Hopefully by being patient Jerry can take advantage of that.

  27. Stevemotivateir on January 8th, 2021 12:54 pm

    Dipoto suggested that Flexen would get a shot at the rotation, but he would probably fit better in the bullpen. I’d have no problem with them going after both Walker and Paxton, but at this point I’m not optimistic about another starter being added.

    I am, however, still optimistic about a fielder being brought in. There’s room for a couple, but like the rotation, though there’s room for two we’d probably be lucky to see one.

    If they’re pretty much set on giving Moore 2B, which Jerry also suggested (Hot Stove 710), then a corner fielder of some sort would seem likely.

    This is one boring offseason.

    Oh, and MrZDevotee… maybe you can amend your username to read ‘MrDDevotee’?

  28. marinerbullpen on January 18th, 2021 7:16 pm

    I love this site and check daily for updates.

    What is wrong?

  29. Stevemotivateir on January 23rd, 2021 6:00 am

    ^Nothing is happening, so there’s nothing to really talk about.

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