Although the Seattle Mariners’ 2015 season has been a huge disappointment and the team will miss the postseason for the 14th consecutive year, the Mariners general manager (GM) job is a plum assignment that’s certain to have many suitors. Why? First, it’s only one of 30 such jobs in the world. There’s more to it though. Seattle’s a great market, ownership has been incrementally increasing player payroll – thanks to its regional sports network deal – and the major league roster has talent players.

Sure, the new GM will have plenty of work to do to turnaround the franchise. Seattle has areas of need at first base, catcher, center field, one corner outfield spot, number-two starting pitcher, and in the bullpen. But, it’s not an insurmountable task by any stretch of the imagination and the team could be a contender within a year – assuming the right moves are made. To see how quickly a team can turnaround, Mariners fans can look at divisional rival Texas Rangers as a possible prototype for a Mariners revival.

After winning 90 or more games for four consecutive seasons, the Rangers fell on hard times in 2014 by losing 95. Coming into 2015, few viewed the team as a postseason contender. However, they’ve already exceeded their 2014 win total with three weeks remaining in the season and now they’re in a hotly contested pennant race.

The roster needs addressed by the Rangers after 2014 were similar to what the Mariners will need to fix in 2016. GM Jon Daniels added three catchers, a center fielder, a number-two starting pitcher, and bullpen depth. Plus, his designated hitter/first baseman Prince Fielder returned from neck surgery. The moves made by Daniels and the return of Fielder have made the team competitive in September.

It’s important to note that the position players added by Texas were a smorgasbord of performers with varying degrees of skill, age, and experience. The best “addition” to the 2015 squad was Fielder and Rule 5 draftee Delino DeShields has delivered value while splitting time between left and center field.

LF Delino DeShields 22 98 393 2 .257 .343 .377 .720
DH Prince Fielder 31 130 567 18 .313 .381 .470 .851
LF Josh Hamilton 34 40 154 6 .257 .299 .431 .729
C Carlos Corporan 31 33 121 3 .178 .244 .299 .543
UT Joey Gallo 21 27 105 5 .204 .295 .419 .715
2B Hanser Alberto 22 34 102 0 .227 .242 .268 .510
C Bobby Wilson 32 21 61 0 .241 .300 .315 .615
C Chris Gimenez 32 18 55 5 .265 .321 .633 .953
LF Ryan Strausborger 27 19 46 1 .225 .267 .300 .567
LF Will Venable 32 13 38 0 .222 .447 .259 .707
UT Mike Napoli 33 16 31 2 .286 .355 .536 .891
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/6/2015.

As you can see, only Mike Napoli has performed well above league-average and he’s only been in Texas since August. Josh Hamilton’s return from the Los Angeles Angels earlier this season received a great deal of fanfare, but his contributions –  like most of the new additions –have been made on a limited basis.

The biggest improvements that Texas made since the end of last season were two starting pitchers who were acquired via trade – Yovani Gallardo and Cole Hamels. Gallardo arrived via a January deal with Milwaukee and Hamels was a late July addition from Philadelphia. Getting Hamels helped offset the loss of ace Yu Darvish – lost due to season ending elbow surgery in March. The nice part about the Hamels deal is that he’s not a “rental” and is under contract through at least 2018, with a 2019 team option. Throw in starter Derek Holland who returned in August after missing four months with a shoulder injury and the Rangers have a competitive starting rotation going into the last few weeks of the regular season.

Yovani Gallardo 29 11 9 3.27 28 0 0 159.2 3.98 1.347
Anthony Bass 27 0 0 4.60 0 7 0 60.2 3.69 1.352
Keone Kela 22 6 5 2.67 0 11 1 54.0 2.72 1.167
Sam Freeman 28 0 0 2.86 0 10 0 34.2 4.18 1.442
Cole Hamels 31 2 1 3.89 6 0 0 41.2 3.74 1.320
Derek Holland 28 3 1 2.37 5 0 0 30.1 4.13 0.857
Sam Dyson 27 2 1 1.93 0 4 2 18.2 2.72 1.018
Jake Diekman 28 0 0 1.88 0 0 0 14.1 3.21 1.047
Ross Ohlendorf 32 2 0 3.12 0 3 1 8.2 5.45 1.385
Luke Jackson 23 0 0 27.00 0 0 0 0.2 7.64 4.500
Andrew Faulkner 22 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0.1 3.14 3.000
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/6/2015.

Daniels added many new arms to his bullpen via trade, free agency, and his minor league system. The most successful newcomer has been homegrown player – rookie Keone Kela from Seattle’s Chief Sealth International high school. Despite the attempt to retool the bullpen, Rangers relievers have ranked near the bottom of the American League in fielding independent pitching, left-on-base percentage, plus strikeouts and walks per-nine innings.

In no way am I criticizing any of the player moves made by the Rangers. I’m merely pointing out that most of their deals have been game changers. Regardless of the bullpen’s mediocrity and the moderate upgrade of position players, Texas is in the playoff hunt on Labor Day. Couldn’t the Mariners make similar additions and be in the same position 365 day from now?

As I said earlier, the Mariners will have to do a lot of work to remodel the team’s roster. But, the following table illustrates that there are six position players with 250 or more plate appearances who are above league-average in at least one of the offensive categories highlighted in yellow. Plus, young shortstop Ketel Marte looks like a 2016 contributor. That’s a good starting point for the new GM. 

C Mike Zunino (40-man) 24 112 386 11 .174 .230 .300 .530
1B Logan Morrison 27 122 450 16 .228 .303 .394 .696
2B Robinson Cano 32 130 566 14 .280 .327 .425 .752
SS Brad Miller 25 122 432 9 .253 .329 .394 .723
3B Kyle Seager 27 135 573 22 .270 .328 .455 .783
LF Seth Smith 32 114 378 10 .257 .337 .465 .802
RF Nelson Cruz 34 131 566 39 .310 .380 .587 .967
DH Mark Trumbo 29 71 271 11 .247 .299 .410 .709
SS Ketel Marte 21 31 136 0 .280 .351 .373 .724
SS Chris Taylor (40-man) 24 37 102 0 .170 .220 .223 .443
C Jesus Sucre 27 32 90 1 .100 .133 .163 .295
UT Jesus Montero (40-man) 25 25 78 2 .200 .231 .347 .577
OF James Jones (40-man) 26 8 14 0 .000 .143 .000 .143
UT John Hicks 25 4 12 0 .091 .167 .091 .258
OF Shawn O’Malley 27 2 9 1 .833 .889 1.500 2.389
OF Stefen Romero 26 3 7 1 .429 .429 .857 1.286
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/6/2015.

Once the offense finally got on track, the Mariners pitching became their weakest link when it fell apart during the second half of the season. Regardless of its poor 2015 showing, the pitching staff can be greatly improved by Opening Day 2016. First of all, the starting staff will be anchored by Felix Hernandez and will have the young arms of Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Roenis Elias, and Mike Montgomery in the mix for rotation spots or as trade bait. Adding a number-two starter better than Hisashi Iwakuma will position the 2016 starting crew for success.

Felix Hernandez 29 16 8 3.65 27 0 0 175.0 3.56 1.171
Taijuan Walker 22 10 7 4.51 27 0 0 159.2 3.98 1.209
Roenis Elias 26 4 7 4.35 15 0 0 91.0 4.52 1.275
Mike Montgomery  (40-man) 25 4 6 4.60 16 0 0 90.0 4.68 1.433
Carson Smith 25 2 5 2.70 0 22 13 60.0 2.21 1.067
Tom Wilhelmsen 31 1 2 3.42 0 14 9 52.2 3.33 1.405
James Paxton (15-day dl) 26 3 3 3.70 10 0 0 58.1 4.29 1.303
Vidal Nuno 27 0 2 3.72 5 7 0 48.1 5.36 1.283
Danny Farquhar (40-man) 28 0 4 5.75 0 7 1 36.0 5.06 1.611
Charlie Furbush (15-day dl) 29 1 1 2.08 0 4 0 21.2 3.74 0.646
David Rollins 25 0 1 8.57 0 6 0 21.0 4.33 2.095
Mayckol Guaipe 24 0 3 6.89 0 1 0 15.2 6.21 1.915
Edgar Olmos 25 1 0 4.50 2 1 0 14.0 5.43 1.714
Tyler Olson (40-man) 25 1 1 5.40 0 4 0 13.1 6.37 2.100
Rob Rasmussen 26 2 1 13.50 0 3 0 10.2 3.80 2.531
Tony Zych 24 0 0 9.00 0 0 0 2.0 1.64 2.000
Jose Ramirez 25 1 0 0.00 0 0 0 1.2 1.94 0.000
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/6/2015.

Like the Rangers, Seattle’s bullpen certainly needs an overhaul. But, it’s not completely barren with Carson Smith, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Charlie Furbush under team control for next season. Whether all three – or any of the current relievers – are on the Opening Day roster or used in deals to upgrade the team, the new GM will have assets at their disposal during the revival process.

The hot stove will burn brightly this winter when it comes to discussing how the Mariners new GM could or should remodel the team’s roster. Maybe it’ll take more than one season to get the team back to the postseason, but the team’s newest executive will inherit players who can help return a winning team to Safeco Field.

I’m not saying that the Mariners have to follow the Texas prototype. Perhaps, the team will hire Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, who Prospect Insider Jason A. Churchill reports is normally mentioned as a top-10 candidate for GM jobs. Regardless of who Seattle hires, the Rangers have proven that a franchise can bounce back within a relatively short amount of time when its roster already has major league ready players – like the Seattle Mariners.


  1. Agreed, let’s talk Mariners baseball. But lets not talk about every aspect of the Mariners in one post. Sometimes less is more.

  2. Edman,

    Thank you for the life lesson. Its not at all ironic that you just wrote 200+ words, in two separate posts, to say that my comments are too lengthy.

    At the risk of speaking for everyone here, I don’t think anyone cares about your creepily intricate feelings about me. I certainly don’t. I’m really not that interesting. Far less interesting than the Mariners. Since this is a website about the Mariners – and not “Edman’s Unsolicited Life Advice Blog” – maybe we could refocus the conversation on things that relate to baseball?

  3. To be clear, Jerry, you don’t debate much, but you do constantly render your opinions, as if you are a contributor here. If you want to write for Jason, ask him. But what you consistently post is a myriad of your opinions. There are so many things to debate, it’s nearly impossible to respond. Debate a few things at a time, if you really want a debate. But I don’t believe you want a debate at all. Debate requires an acceptance of other opinions. If you’re unwilling to listen to other sides, then that is telling, not debating.

    You are an intense fan, I get that. But try to keep it confined and less a sermon. If you want to debate, then pick the greatest points. Most of the things you bring up, everyone here understands. We get it, but continuing to beat the same drum all the time has the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” affect. Some won’t even read what may be good points, because they have to pull away all the straw to get to the needle.

  4. I have no problems with a debate. What you post isn’t a debate, it’s a thousand word essay.

    Say more with fewer words, it goes farther.

  5. I’m sorry, but if you think this debate is annoying, you might want to stay off the internet for the next few months. This debate is far from over. Its just starting. I think its pretty easily the #1 issue for this team between now and spring training next year.

    Is this team close to contention? Should they go all in for ’16 or retool? Should they add to the roster, or shake things up? If they do exhibit a bit of patience (which I hope is the case), do they retool or blow up the team? If they do decide to add to the current core, how? Free agency? Trades? Should all the big-contract guys stay? Should they stick with a roster full of power hitters, or go back to a focus on pitching and defense? Should they try to get younger? Or double down and invest in more high-price free agents? Should they look for opportunities to deal guys Cano and Cruz while they still have value, and before they turn into negative assets?

    These questions will come to the forefront as the M’s look for a new GM. Whoever that person ends up being, they won’t be tied to the current roster like Jack was. Regardless of whether or not they rebuild, retool, or double down, I don’t think its unrealistic to expect a very active offseason, as the new GM looks to build this team with their own types of guys and their own vision of the future.

    Like it or not, but whether or not this team can and should try to contend in 2016 is THE #1 topic of debate. And it cerainly is debatable.

    Regardless of where you stand on the above question, the problem the M’s face is timing: they are currently set up to win now, with a lot of $$$ invested in Cano, Cruz, Felix, and Seager. Those guys are either in or past their primes. They won’t get better, and will likely enter decline phases soon. So the M’s either need to win now or retool. I don’t think anyone would argue for a middle-of-the-road approach. If they try to contend before that window shuts, they will largely have to do so through free agency, since the farm system is a wreck and we don’t have a surplus of talent to trade.

    All the other stuff – what happens to McClendon, Edgar, etc – are minor details. The real question is: what is this teams 3-5 year plan? The answer to that question will largely determine what happens during the tenure of the next GM, and will have a HUGE impact on the organization this offseason, and for the next decade.

  6. We can call a truce. However, please do note that you are also guilty of hijacking threads, to repeatedly re-state your same opinions, as Luke noted. You tend to drive every discussion back to the same conclusions. The more often you write them, does not make them more valid.

  7. Edman,

    If you don’t agree with my ideas, you are free to state your case. But I’d appreciate it if you could refrain from hijacking the discussion into personal statements about me and my motivations. You don’t know me, and its very presumptious (as well as a bit creepy) that you continually try to make every debate personal. I don’t really care what you think about me, and I highly doubt anyone else here does either. This website is about the M’s. I like to hear people’s opinions about the Mariners and what they should do going forward. Perhaps I’m a bit too wordy debating things. But we’re talking about a game. Simmer down. There is no reason to get personal. We’re all rooting for the same team.

  8. Jerry, how about being honest. You don’t hate beating the same drum, you love it. You think if your voice is the loudest and most often heard, you’ll win the debate. You’re like everyone else, you love your opinions, and think they’re bullet proof. There is no one way to build a winning team. It can be done a variety of ways. Judgement is often done using hindsight analysis. And some refuse to admit that luck is a factor. You can call it luck, fate, kismet, whatever you want, but there is no scientific method to create a winning team. If there was one proven formula, every team would be doing it.

  9. Rjfrik,

    While I agree that getting a high draft pick would be great, does this team really need to be signing the types of free agents that will command a QO?

    Looking ahead, the guys that will likely get a qualifying offer are Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Zach Greinke, Alex Gordon, Jordan Zimmerman, Jeff Smardzija, Chris Davis, Dexter Fowler, and perhaps Matt Wieters. All good players, but given the M’s position, would it be wise to add another older player to a multi-year deal?

    Even if the M’s do get a protected pick, they will still lose a second round slot. The current system – with the draft budget set for each team based on slot money for all picks – makes losing any pick costly. If the M’s punt a 2nd rounder, they lose ~1 million in draft bonus cash. That may not sound like much, but it severely limits their ability to maneuver and sign later round picks to over slot bonuses.

    Instead of chosing from that list, there are guys like David Price, Johnny Cueto, Yoenis Cespedes, Ben Zobrist, and Scott Kazmir, who won’t costs a pick. But I’d rather see the M’s focus on value guys and/or international signings. Guys like Matt Latos, Colby Rasmus, Tim Lincecum, Denard Span, John Jaso, Joaquim Soria, Yovani Gallardo, Justin Masterson, Brandon Morrow, and hopefully some international guys, like Kenta Maeda. Maybe we’ll have another good young Cuban hitter hit the market.

    Why those guys? They won’t cost draft picks or require long-term contracts. If they work out, and the M’s are surprise contenders…great. If they play well, but the M’s tank…..they are great trade chips. If they don’t work out… big loss.

    The M’s should be hoarding draft picks – e.g. Hisashi Iwakuma – not punting them. I hate to keep beating the same drum, but the top of free agency is the worst way to build a good roster. The M’s aren’t a team that is looking for that one last guy. They should be looking for bargains, and building for the long-term.

  10. The most valuable thing the M’s can do as of now, is make sure they get that top 10 protected draft pick. Whoever the new GM is, is going to want to bring in his talent and I’m sure that will include at least one FA who will have compensation attached to them. Get inside the top 10 so we can guarantee a good young asset added into the farm system.

    Really hoping they can slide to around the 6th pick, so one of the great OF of next years draft, might actually still be around. Kind of the way Jackson slid to us two drafts ago.

  11. Luke,

    I was simply trying to establish where the Rangers were last year and heading into this year, compared to the M’s this year and in 2016. You can’t just focus on what happened in hindsight, but the rosters and data that each team had at the point where decisions were being made. All teams will have injuries and poor performances, so you can’t just focus on what worked. Plans are formed without the benefit of hindsight.

    Again, I don’t think the comp is appropriate for these reasons, which I think are relatively straightforward:

    -The Rangers looked good heading into 2014, but tanked due to a rash of injuries. It was largely bad luck. That gutted a pretty good team. They could reasonably expect the same goup to improve just based on luck in 2015.

    -The M’s also entered this year with big expectations coming into this year, but they failed because of bad performances. The problem was failure for young players to develop into good players – Ackley, Morrison, Zunino, Walker, Miller, the pen, etc – and mediocre performances from most of the regulars. I think the M’s just aren’t as good as everyone thought. They can’t reasonably expect the same group to be substantively better in 2016.

    The difference: the Rangers could reasonable expect a bounce back season, as they were very unlucky. I don’t think thats true of the M’s.

    Besides, I don’t think using the Rangers as a prototype is a good idea. As much as they underperformed last year, they aren’t as good as their record suggests right now. They have a negative run diff, and lots of bad contracts. The Rangers have a great farm system, which should help them going forward and mitigate some of the bad contracts. But they aren’t exactly a juggernaut. If you want to follow the Rangers lead, it should be in player development. Not in trying to contend right away.

    The main reason I respectfully disagree with your appraisal of the team is that I don’t think they are in a position where they should go all-in for 2016. They have a ton of holes in the roster, and their only way to address those in the short term is free agency or win-now trades, which will further handicap an already decminated farm system.

    The M’s need to learn from their mistakes. The M’s biggest problems under Jack: they were unable to accurately gauge the talent on the team, which led them to short-term moves; and they suck at player development. They made decisions based on getting production right now. Thats fine if you’re winning. But the M’s haven’t. Those decisions will start to catch up to us soon. They can either start addressing the problem now, or double down on a bet that already hasn’t worked out. Fixing those problems won’t happen in a single offseason.

    I’m worried that the M’s will continue to go all-in, and further mortgage the future to win in 2016. The comments by Mather suggest that he views this club as very close to contention. But the M’s roster right now is too old, has many serious holes, and we don’t have a system in place to set us up for sustained success. The worst part is that their only real recourse to plug those holes is by investing in older, expensive vets. I’m concerned we’ll turn into the Padres: a team that rushed things too early, and now will have to deal with the consequences for years.

    The smarter path, in my opinion, is to follow the lead of teams like the Astros and Cubs. Both teams adopted a more long-term perspective, but rebuilt wisely and built contenders relatively quickly. The Red Sox also provide a good model: build from the base, rebuild when you aren’t winning, and double down when you’re legitimately close. The Blue Jays are similar: they focused on hoarding young talent, then went all-in when they had a good base.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the M’s are close. They don’t have a solid base, and the core of the team is old and expensive. Its a recipe for failure. Jason started a recent article with a quote by Einstein about the need to not repeat the same mistakes. Forcing contention in 2016 would be doing just that.

  12. Jerry,

    You’ve mentioned many things that were outside of piece’s focus or not relevant to the 2015 Rangers or 2016 Mariners.

    The goal of the piece was to compare the similar roster needs of the 2015 Rangers and the 2016 Mariners, while pointing out to fans that the Rangers COULD be a prototype to follow because of the major league talent already on the Mariners’ roster. That’s all. It wasn’t a “how to rebuild the Mariners position by position” piece.

    Profar…he hasn’t contributed in 2014 AND 2015. So, how does he fit into the conversation?

    Darvish missed time last year, but pitched into August and still made 22 starts. Shin-Soo Choo missed some time, yet had 529 plate appearances and – like Darvish – played into August. His last game was on August 23 and the Rangers were 30 games under .500. The 2014 Rangers were horrible with or without Darvish and Choo.

    You say that Joey Gallo and Chi Chi Gonzalez are ready to help right now, but they haven’t to this point. Gallo is batting .204 with five home runs and Gonzalez – as of today – isn’t even on the major league roster. How do these two players have anything to do with the 2015 season, which is what I was talking about?

    The bottom line is that no two teams are completely alike, but there are some similarities between the 2014 Rangers and 2015 Mariners. Seattle isn’t as far away from contending as their 2015 record indicates.

    Do the Mariners have decent foundation of good players? Yes. Do they enough good players? No. Do they have multiple needs? Yes. Is there a lot of work to do? Yes. Will it take more than a year to get on track? Maybe. But, all of that was covered in the piece.

  13. I do agree with your overall point that the Rangers are a decent model for the M’s to follow going forward. I just disagree with the timing aspect. I don’t see the M’s as a few tweaks away.

    Two problems with your comparison:

    First, the Rangers were disappointing in 2014 due to multiple injuries to key players. Prince Fielder and Yu Darvish – two of the Rangers best players – both missed a lot of time. They also had Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and Jurickson Profar miss substantial amounts of time. And Shin-Soo Choo missed a bit of time and wasn’t right all season. Coming into this season, the Rangers could reasonably expect that to change.

    This is very different from the M’s. Iwakuma was the only key guy who missed time this year. Paxton did as well, but thats pretty normal for him. The M’s problems aren’t due to injury. They just didn’t perform. The disappointment was due to unrealistic expectations entering the year, plus several players just not playing well. The M’s shouldn’t expect the same guys to be much better going forward.

    Second, the Rangers are – top to bottom – a MUCH deeper organization. They have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and have guys like Joey Gallo, Profar, Rougned Odor, and Chi Chi Rodriguez ready to help right now, plus a glut of high-upside talents in the upper levels of their system. That depth allowed them to trade for Cole Hamels without gutting their system.

    The M’s, on the other hand, have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and a well established curse that prohibits young players from developing into ML contributors. If Montero, Zunino, Ackley, Miller, Walker, Paxton, etc were emerging as solid players, things would be different. Obviously, the door isn’t closed on those guys, and Walker and Miller have at least been decent. Paxton is great when healthy. But the consistent failure to turn prospects into good ML players puts the M’s behind the 8-ball. It forces them to acquire talent – like Cano and Cruz – in the least efficient way, paying high prices for declining stars while punting draft picks. It also put them in a positition to do tempted to do stupid things, like the Trumbo trade. Its a vicious circle: patching holes exacerbates the problem.

    I generally agree with the list of needs you identified – first base, catcher, center field, one corner outfield spot, number-two starting pitcher, and in the bullpen – but would argue that addressing those needs will be harder than you suggest. We really need two reliable starters. Walker, Paxton, Montgomery, and Elias aren’t reliable, and it would be unwise to expect that group to fill more than two spots in the rotation. Felix is awesome, but that leaves two spots. I think Iwakuma is a good bet to resign, but will cost money and still leaves another hole. The market for #2 starters is about $15-20 mil/year. I hope Zunino figures it out, but the M’s cannot count on that. We need to add a catcher who can start ~100 games. Thats costly. Cruz should be DHing most of the time, and Miller is far from a reliable option in CF. Plus we need a platoon partner for Smith. Thus, we need three OFers: guys who can start in CF and RF, plus a platoon LFer. The one position where the M’s could roll the dice is 1B. They could see if some combo of Morrison, Trumbo, and Montero can hold down the fort. But you’re hoping for league average from that group. Then, they would need to address the bullpen, which is a unmitigated disaster. They don’t have a closer or good setup relievers. Smith, Wilhelmsen, Nuno, and Furbush are all solid, but they aren’t major components of a plus bullpen. Buying those types of arms in free agency is incredibly expensive, and the worst way to allocate payroll. Thats a huge list of needs.

    Unlike the Rangers, the M’s can’t expect to fill many (or any) of these holes internally. They don’t have Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder coming off the DL. The M’s also don’t have the talent to trade prospects for proven players. Their main option is to throw money at the problem. Both options would exacerbate their biggest problems: too much money invested in past-prime players, and not enought young guys to contribut to offset that problem. This perpetuates the vicious circle I mentioned above. They might contend in 2016, but it puts the M’s on a trajectory to turn into the Phillies: an old team with bad players on bloated contracts and a barren farm system.

    I think the goal should be building a consistent contender. Given the M’s current situation, they need to take a step back and rebuild to get there.

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