Looking for something bland and past its expiration date to add to your lineup?
The Mariners have just the thing!
Mike Zunino (B) The young catcher has been invaluable behind the dish for the Mariners as his stellar defense and pitch framing have been a major reason for Seattle’s staff success. At the plate Zunino shows above-average pop (13 HR) but his abysmal pitch recognition (11 BB/97) needs quite a bit of fine tuning.
Kyle Seager (A) After struggling out of the gate Seager has been nothing short of sensational over the past three months, launching himself into the upper echelon of American League players. He is currently third in the A.L. in WAR (trailing only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson) and is on pace for career highs in nearly every statistical category. Get that man a long-term contract!
Robinson Cano (A) The 240-million-dollar man has been as good as advertised in his first half season with Seattle. Despite a slight drop in power numbers there’s little to complain about with a slash line of .334/.393/.462. His presence in the lineup seems to have a positive effect on the rest of Seattle’s hitters and he’s no slouch on the defensive side either. Will he finally break the curse of Mariners’ free agent signings?
Brad Miller (C-) Miller had a forgettable April (.173) and even worse May (.136) before turning in a solid June (.298) at the plate. He has struggled at times defensively but the numbers show him to be above-average at short despite some costly errors. The Mariners showed unwavering faith in Miller throughout his slump and he looks to be on the verge of repaying their trust in him.
Justin Smoak (D) The sun might be just about ready to set on the Justin Smoak era in Seattle as the first baseman continues to show little of the promise that once made him a top 10 prospect in baseball. Although he still flashes some pop at the plate, Smoak’s ongoing lack of ability to make consistent solid contact grade him out as a below average corner infielder. It’s a make or break second half for the one-time first round pick.
Willy Bloomquist (C) Willy Ballgame has done a little of everything for the Mariners this season in perfectly mediocre fashion. Although his .269 average in 119 AB is almost entirely hollow (just 6 XBH and 3 BB) WFB’s ability to play multiple positions has been crucial to a team with major roster construction issues.
Michael Saunders (B-) The Condor was quietly putting together the best season of his career (2.0 WAR in 65 games) before shoulder inflammation and serious oblique injury landed him on the disabled list. Saunders was Seattle’s third best hitter before the injury but his inability to stay healthy has thrown a major wrench into the M’s lineup and outfield defense. Fans hope he’s not becoming Franklin Gutierrez 2.0.
Stefen Romero (D) Romero crushed the ball in Spring Training but couldn’t carry that success into the regular season as he slashed just .196/.236/.324 in 148 AB with a ghastly 4 BB/40 K ratio. Still just 25-years-old, he has a chance to be a part of Seattle’s future with improvement in plate discipline and in the field, but he shouldn’t play a major role in 2014.
James Jones (C+) The speedy outfielder has been a pleasant surprise since being called up to replace the struggling Almonte. A spark plug atop the order, Jones has tallied 17 stolen bases while being caught just once. The left-hander makes consistent contact but will need to show more patience at the plate (just 11 BB in 245 AB) to become a long term fixture in the leadoff spot.
Abraham Almonte (F) Almonte got off to a hot start but quickly cooled down once the league’s pitchers figured him out. The switch-hitting rookie was unable to make any adjustments (40 K’s in 106 AB) leaving him as dead weight atop the lineup for the better part of a month. Almonte also struggled defensively in centerfield leaving many wondering why he stuck around as long as he did.
Dustin Ackley (D-) The former #2 overall pick in the 2009 draft has the third most at-bats on the Mariners this season with just 4 HR, 3 SB and a -0.5 OWAR to show for it. His defense in left has improved to the point where he is at least average at the position (despite one the worst arms in the game) but the player who was supposed to be able to roll out of bed and hit is posting an anemic .616 OPS for the year. It might be time to pull the plug.
Endy Chavez (C-) Chavez probably shouldn’t be in the majors right now, and he certainly shouldn’t be hitting leadoff, but the gritty veteran hasn’t been a complete disaster filling in for Ackley and Saunders. The 36-year-old has struck out just 12 times in 127 AB but his unwillingness to draw a walk and lack of extra-base pop make him unsuited for anything more than a 4th or 5th outfielder. If he gets significant playing time in the second half, the M’s are in trouble.
Logan Morrison (C) LoMo has been adequate at first base since his return from the disabled list, but it’s not tough to look good when you’re replacing Justin Smoak. He’s playing better than his .230 average suggests (due in part to a .252 BABIP) and a strong second half may allow the former top prospect to carve out a long-term role as the Mariners’ first baseman.
Corey Hart (D+) The Mariners were hoping they got the player who averaged 24 HR between 2007 and 2012 when they signed Hart in the offseason, but the ageing slugger has shown a considerable amount of rust after missing 2013 to knee surgery. Since he can’t play the field anymore Hart is strictly a designated hitter so he had better start hitting before he’s designated (for assignment that is).
*Seattle – 2027*
A young Mariners fan carefully flips through a binder of his father’s old baseball cards as a thunderstorm rages outside their home in the shadows of Safeco Field. The boy smiles as he finds cards of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, players his dad cheered for in the halcyon days of baseball in the city and still speaks of fondly.
Those days are just a fairy tale to the boy who has never witnessed a winning season from the M’s in his lifetime. He sighs and continues to browse the cards for a sign that things might get better — for him and his beloved team — but finds none.
He starts to put the binder back in his father’s desk when curiosity gets the best of him. In the bottom of the desk is a binder covered in strange characters that reeks of pine tar and chewing tobacco. His father made the boy promise never to open the book, but what could one little look hurt? He glances to the next room to see if his father is watching before opening the binder…
The thunder rolls ominously in the distance as he stares at the lone card in the page. A chill runs up his spine as he reads the name of the strange creature with the beady eyes on the card. C-H-O-N-E…
“Dad, what’s a Chone Figgins,” the frightened boy asks.
A flash of lightning illuminates the man’s face in the adjoining room. His jaw is clenched and his hands are balled in fists at his side. He knew the time had come, that the boy was ready to know the truth, no matter how painful it was for him to recall. He takes a long swig from the bottle of whiskey he has been nursing all day and collects his thoughts.
“A Chone Figgins is a tiny, evil little goblin that haunts cursed baseball teams like the Mariners. It constantly complains and blames other people for its failures. It sticks around for years and costs millions of dollars to get rid of. It is evil incarnate.”
The boys furrows his brow. “Why would God make something like that?”
He wished the boy’s mother, Diane, was still there to help with big questions like this. He had never been able to deal with emotional issues. Maybe that’s why she left him and married Keith. Man he hated Keith.
“I don’t know son. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I just don’t know.”
The man takes another sip of whiskey and disappears into his thoughts. Why hadn’t he just thrown that dirty old binder away?
“We don’t have to worry about the Chone Figgins anymore…do we dad?”
The son’s words unleash a flood of deeply repressed memories to the father. His mind races back to that dreadful day so many years ago. He sees himself driving the wooden stake deep into the heart of the creature and remembers the terrible noise it made as it died and crumbled to ash. The father remembered the eyes. THOSE EYES. He didn’t know if it was fear or relief he saw in the waning seconds of the creature’s life, but he knew he would never be able to forget it. He also knew that he could never be forgiven for what he had done, but his son would never have to live in fear of Chone Figgins, and neither would the rest of his tortured city.
His thoughts return to the present and he realizes that his knuckles have turned white from squeezing the empty bottle of alcohol in his hands. He throws the bottle away and grabs two cans of Pepsi out of the fridge, handing one to his son.
“No. We don’t have to worry anymore.”
The boy breathes a sigh of relief and puts the binder away. “Can we turn on the game dad? It’s the season opener.”
“Sure thing kiddo.”
The two bask in the glow of the T.V. as Seattle’s leadoff hitter, a spindly rookie making his first big league start, lines a single into left field. Rain continues to fall on their roof, but suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so dark outside.
“Maybe this will be the Mariners year, huh dad?”
“Yeah,” the father smiles, “maybe it will be.”
“If you’re having run scoring problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a power hitting second baseman ain’t one.” –
Jay Z Jack Z
Seattle’s embattled general manager will have to drop more than just one fat beat to save his job and bring the Mariners back from the brink of irrelevance, but if Robinson Cano’s 10 year/$240 million dollar contract is any indication, Jack Z is just beginning to dust off the rhymes.
Let’s be clear about one thing — the contract is too much money for too long, but what choice did the Mariners have? Free agents aren’t going to come to Seattle for a chance to win a championship (not yet at least) or to improve their offensive numbers. Until the Mariners reverse 12 years of mediocrity, they’ll only come for the money.
This contract will probably look terrible in 5-6 years (although inflation will help offset this to a small degree) but signing Cano was about making the Mariners relevant NOW without worrying about what it would do to the franchise in the coming years. The only way Seattle made headlines the past few seasons was for utter chaos in its front office, and of course, that huge ass TV in centerfield. The time was right (as was the payroll) to make a splash, and in a limited free agent market, Cano was in a class by himself.
Power hitting second baseman who hold their own defensively don’t grow on trees (at least not in the northern hemisphere) and though he’s on the wrong side of 30, Cano is fresh off a 7.6 WAR season that included a triple slash of .314/.383/.516 (he would have led the 2013 Mariners in nearly every offensive category – shocking I know). In the last five seasons he’s never posted an OPS below .871, never failed to crack the 20 HR mark, and never played in less than 159 games — that’s consistency Seattle has been looking for since
Russ Davis Edgar Martinez left town.
Robinson Cano is a superstar, and the Mariners didn’t have to give away any prospects to acquire him (although the superfluous Dustin Ackley or Nick Franklin may be on their way out). It’s obviously risky putting so many eggs ($$$) in one basket, but it’s better than piddling away your payroll on a bunch of Michael Morses and Jason Bays. There’s still plenty of work to be done with the roster if Seattle hopes to make a serious run at the postseason, but they have more cash to spend and three studs (Cano, Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager) along with a bevy of potential stars (Mike Zunino, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, D.J. Peterson, etc.) to build around.
There’s something in the air in Seattle and it’s not rain…it’s excitement about the Mariners.
Better grab an umbrella…ella…ella…eh…eh.