Once, Twice, Three Times a Mariner: Seattle Does the Most Seattle Thing Possible, Signs Raul Ibanez. Again.

Unless Ibanez returns to catching, this deal just doesn't add up.

Unless Raul Ibanez returns to catching, this deal just doesn’t add up.

So the Mariners missed out on Josh Hamilton? No problem, we got Jason Bay! Nick Swisher chose to sign with Cleveland over Seattle? Big deal! Welcome back Raul Ibanez!

I keep hearing that Jack Zduriencik has a plan. At what point does it include building a winning team?

Seattle isn’t going to make the playoffs in 2013; I think everyone agrees on that. The team appears to be committed to building through the draft and letting young players get at-bats, so why are they dishing out $2.75 million to a 40-year-old on his last legs?

Is it the mythical, unquantifiable quality of leadership? I can’t think of any other reason to bring in another player to add to the logjam at 1B/DH/OF. Didn’t we just do that with Kendrys Morales? Is the front office admitting that the deals that brought in Casper Wells, Mike Carp, and Eric Thames (players who will lose at-bats or a roster spot to Ibanez) were failures?

Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of Raul, and think he can still contribute as a bat off the bench, but he’s not what the Mariners need right now. Ibanez  hit .208 with a .365 slugging percentage (four points below Seattle’s team average last season) away from Yankee Stadium in 2012, and the last time he played full-time in the outfield he was worth negative 23 runs. That’s not just bad, that’s cover-your-eyes bad.

Could the Mariners hide his Benny Hill act in the outfield by keeping the majority of his at-bats at DH? Sure, but then better hitters like Morales, John Jaso, and Jesus Montero would be forced to the bench, and on days when Ibanez is in the outfield, Michael Saunders or Wells would lose playing time – how exactly does that help their development?

The Mariners don’t need leadership right now, they need talent. Ibanez doesn’t make Seattle any better in 2013, and the belief that his veteran presence will make the M’s young hitters better in coming years is ludicrous. Is Raul going to make Montero stop swinging at sliders in the dirt, or is Montero going to figure that out on his own with (gasp!) playing time? Seattle wants its young players to improve? Hire a good coach; don’t send them to the bench so a star of bygone days can parade in front of an apathetic fan base.

I used to joke that the Mariners would finish fifth in the A.L. West. Now, with Houston in the division and a front office committed to ineptitude, it seems like a very real possibility…

At least Raul can provide something for the Mariners...laughs.

At least Raul can provide something for the Mariners…laughs.

CLICK PICTURE TO ENJOY RAUL IN THE OUTFIELD

 

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Hasta La Vista Viva Las Vargas: Mariners Swap Southpaw Jason Vargas for Angels’ Superflous Slugger Kendry Morales

Jason+Vargas+Seattle+Mariners+Photo+Day+-9ic30UeLq1lThe walls are moving in and Jason Vargas is moving out.

In a typical tight-lipped Jack Zduriencik move that developed seemingly out of thin air, the Seattle Mariners agreed today to ship their number two starter to the L.A. Angels in return for 1B/DH Kendry Morales.

Vargas has been a serviceable starter for the Mariners the last three seasons, averaging innings and posting ERA’s of 3.78, 4.25, and 3.85. He’s a gritty pitcher with good control, but his so-so stuff, gopheritis (35 home runs allowed in 2012), and increasing salary made him a likely target to be moved this off-season. Vargas has always been a pitcher who benefited from Safeco’s spacious dimensions (2.74 ERA at home vs. 4.78 ERA on the road last season) and with stadium alterations in place for the 2013 season, the Mariners likely sold Vargas while his value was at its peak.

Trading within the division isn’t a common occurrence, but the Angels needed a starting pitcher to round out their rotation and had a glut of 1B/DH players on their roster, making Morales expendable. The switch-hitting slugger posted a triple-slash of .273/.320/.467 in 2012 and added 26 2B, 22 HR, and 73 RBI in his first season back from a horrific injury suffered in 2012 against, you guessed it, the Seattle Mariners. Morales finished 5th in the AL MVP vote his last full season (2009) and finished 2012 strong, posting OPS’s of .900 in August and .829 in September/October.

While the trade makes sense for both sides (and both players are free agents after the season), it doesn’t come without some inherent risks. The Mariners are leaving a gaping void in their pitching staff behind Felix Hernandez, and will be counting on young players like Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beaven or James Paxton to produce at the big league level. Los Angeles is gambling that Vargas can produce away from the friendly confines of Safeco Field and that Morales won’t return to his pre-injury form.

Seattle’s net gain is somewhere close to zero in terms of WAR, but the team does add some desperately need offensive thump to the lineup, and may be setting themselves up for another move with Morales/Smoak/Montero all competing for plate appearance at first and DH.

The Mariners might not be a better team today than they were yesterday, but at least they’re a bit more interesting. That’s about all we can ask for…

Bay-Watch: Mariners Sign Free-Agent Outfielder, Mets Castoff

Another Canadian outfielder? I dunno know about this...

Two Canadians in the same outfield? What, did Matt Stairs not pick up the phone?

After being linked to nearly every big name bat on the market (Nick Swisher, Josh Hamilton, Raul Mondesi Jr, Justin Upton, etc.), the Mariners left the Winter Meetings instead with a player that the New York Mets paid to go away — let that sink in for a moment. Then drink copious amounts of liquor and try to understand Seattle’s thought process. Afterwards, dial 9-1-1 to seek treatment for alcohol poisoning.

No, Jason Bay isn’t the worst player in baseball, but he also isn’t close to the player who hit 36 home runs for Boston in 2009. Bay’s averaged has dropped every year since 2008, bottoming out at .165 in 194 at-bats for the Mets last season (a year in which he was paid $16,000,000 to produce -1.3 WAR). There’s a difference between a reclamation project and a reanimation project, and I’m not sure even Dr. Frankenstein could shock life make into Bay’s cadaverous career arc.

The move doesn’t come with a lot of risk ($1 million + incentives) but neither does eating at Applebee’s and I’m not lining up to try their newest sizzlin’ skillet. Seattle already has a younger version of Bay on the roster in the form of Casper Wells, so Bay’s presence is redudant unless veteran leadership is the only thing missing from a World Series roster. Here’s a hint, it isn’t.

It’s not an awful move, it’s just such a Mariners’ move. We’ve been down the washed up player looking for a change of scenery route before and it hasn’t worked out. Eric Wedge has a track record of giving more at-bats to players with “experience” (happy trails Miguel Olivo) so keeping Bay on the roster may steal playing time away from prospects who could make a difference when the M’s are ready to contend. What’s the upside?

Attendance is dwindling, Seattle hasn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade, Ichiro is gone, and this is the answer?

We don’t ask for much as Mariners fans, but we deserve better than Jason Bay.

Your move Jack Zduriencik.