With 30 games behind them, the Seattle Mariners sit atop the American League (AL) West division standings with an 18-12 win-loss record. That’s right; the club that’s failed to be relevant for most of the last decade is actually off to a quick start.

Every sophisticated baseball fan knows that a good record with less than 20-percent of the season completed means nothing — especially with the Mariners.

For those not familiar with Seattle’s plight, the situation has become so frustrating that having a winning record on Mother’s Day is newsworthy. After all, we’re talking about an organization that hasn’t started this strongly since 2003, when they were 19-11 in 2003. But, it gets worse.

Mariner fans have dealt with perceived ownership indifference, plus a great deal of losing and disappointment since the club’s inaugural season in 1977. Seattle has recorded just 12 winning seasons and hasn’t appeared in the postseason since their record 116-win season of 2001.

Reasons for optimism
With the bar set so low for so long, it’s understandable that many fans are taking a wait-and-see approach with this year’s edition of the Mariners. Yet, there’s something going on at Safeco Field that’s been a rare occurrence for quite some time. The home team is playing good, fundamental baseball and — more importantly — they’re winning games.

There are several reasons for Seattle’s early season emergence. First, their offense is averaging 4.47 runs-per-game, which is second best in the AL entering today. Moreover, their pitching staff is in the top-five of every significant pitching category. This blend of productive offense and superb pitching could lead the club to postseason contention, assuming it lasts.

Whether the Mariners can sustain their early season success will be determined later — much later. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that general manager Jerry Dipoto’s approach to building a competitive major league roster has yielded early positive returns.

Dipoto’s efforts to reconstruct his club’s roster haven’t been limited to just pitching and hitting though. He’s added “layers of depth” and athleticism to his 40-man roster. Plus, his many deals helped improve another weak link that’s been as troublesome as the club’s run scoring in recent years — defense.

See ball, catch ball
So, just how bad was the club’s fielding and how much has it improved at this very early stage of the season? To get a feel, let’s do a year-by year comparison of how the team’s defense ranked — by position — since the 2011 season using defensive runs saved (DRS) as our comparative metric. As you can see for yourself, the Mariners have struggled with reaching, catching, and throwing the ball for several years.

Seattle Mariners Defensive Rankings (Based on DRS)
Year Team C 1B 2B SS 3B RF CF LF OF
2011 15 27 15 4 1 16 21 15 21 21
2012  9 25 12 5 1 21 5 30 17 23
2013 30 30 26 17 15 24 27 30 30 30
2014 19 26 22 18 11 4 13 20 10 13
2015 29 11 26 26 23 15 26 30 25 30
2016 16 25 9 8 14 12 21 5 20 13

DR what?
For those not familiar with DRS, it quantifies a defensive player’s value by expressing how many runs they saved or lost their team compared to the average player at that position. For instance, +10 DRS recorded by a left fielder means that he was 10 runs better than the average left fielder. If you having a craving for more detailed information about DRS, I suggest reading this article found at FanGraphs.

[pullquote]“We see ourselves as a run-prevention club. You can create a lot of advantage playing good defense.” — Jerry Dipoto[/pullquote]

The fact that Seattle fielders have already shown signs of improvement shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the Mariners general manager since his arrival in the Emerald City. When talking to David Laurila of FanGraphs in mid-November, the 47-year-old executive characterized the team’s defense as “our biggest area in need of improvement.”

So, what changes occurred between since last season that’s improved the defensive outlook in Seattle? A combination of familiar faces and new names.

Fixing the outfield
First and foremost, the acquisition of Leonys Martin helped transform Seattle’s outfield defense from the worst in baseball to league-average during the early days of 2016.

When Dipoto acquired the 28-year-old from the Texas Rangers during the offseason, he told Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune “I think we get one of the premier defensive center fielders in baseball.” There’s no doubt that Martin is an elite defender. Defensive metrics prove it and so does the eyeball test.

Why did the Mariners center field defense rank so low last season? After all, the general perception was that Opening Day starter Austin Jackson was a good defender. There were two reasons — Jackson was closer to average, based on DRS, and the club didn’t have an adequate replacement to fill in for him.

There were two points during 2015 when Jackson wasn’t the everyday center fielder for the Mariners — when suffered an ankle sprain last May and after his trade to the Chicago Cubs on August 31. Both times, the Mariners utilized use below-average defenders in his stead.

Look at the players who manned center field last season and their respective DRS. If you were initially surprised to discover that Mariners center fielders ranked so poorly last season, the following breakdown — by player — may help you understand.

2015 Mariners Center Field Defense
Player  Games Innings DRS
Austin Jackson 107  899 -2
Brad Miller 20 146 -10
Dustin Ackley 21 139 -1
Shawn O’Malley 14 90 0.0
Justin Ruggiano 15 88 -6
James Jones 20 82 -5
Ketel Marte 2 14 -1
Stefen Romero 1 4 -1

This is where Martin helps make the entire outfield better. First, he’s a superior defender compared to Jackson. Consequently, he covers a lot of ground — a prerequisite for Dipoto during his search. Being able to cover a lot of real estate in spacious Safeco Field is especially critical because the corner outfield spots are better, but still below average.

While the combination of Nori Aoki, Franklin Gutierrez, Seth Smith, and Nelson Cruz represents a slight improvement in the corner outfield spots, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dipoto added an outfielder who can both hit and play good defense if the club finds itself in contention.

Better around the horn
A healthy Robinson Cano has already been a difference maker at second base. Yes, Cano will occasionally make have a mental lapse, like forgetting the number of outs. But, to date, his defense is far better than last season when he was suffering with a number of physical ailments.

Starting the season with Ketel Marte as the regular shortstop has proven beneficial to the Mariners. The 22-year-old has also suffered a few mental lapses, which are traceable back to his youth. However, he’s delivered the best shortstop defense since the days of Brendan Ryan. Marte isn’t an elite defender like Ryan. Nevertheless, he’s proven far better than recent shortstops.

[pullquote] “To win, you’ve got to pitch. To have good pitching, you’ve got to defend.” — Mariners manager Scott Servais [/pullquote]

At this early stage of the season, Adam Lind and Dae-ho Lee have been better than the cast that patrolled first base last season — Logan Morrison, Jesus Montero, and Mark Trumbo. Lind has superior range to Lee, although the Korean import has proven to have good hands. This area is likely to be average, at best, as the season progresses.

Final thoughts
It’s too early to tell whether the Mariners defensive improvements — or their winning ways — can continue for an entire 162-game season. Yet, it’s encouraging to see the organization place a renewed emphasis on defense and immediately enjoy the benefits — albeit in small sample sizes – of adopting a more practical philosophy.

The Mariners defense has a long way to go before it becomes an elite unit — like the Kansas City Royals. However, if their defenders continue to be run-prevention assets — rather than liabilities — catching pennant fever in Seattle might be possible this season. Wouldn’t that be a welcomed change for Mariners faithful?

Jack 3 One of the biggest complaints that Seattle Mariners fans had with the Jack Zduriencik era — other than the multiple losing seasons — was the inability of the organization to produce top-notch prospects despite owning a top-three selection in three of the first four Major League Baseball (MLB) amateur drafts of Zduriencik’s tenure.

Whether draftees Dustin Ackley, Mike Zunino, Brad MillerDanny Hultzen, Nick Franklin, and Chris Taylor and acquired prospects Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero were bad choices or improperly developed is a debate that still rages on in Seattle. In the end, all that’s certain is that the Mariners’ lack of success in the draft — and the standings — ultimately cost Zduriencik his job.

When the draft gets underway on June 9, the Mariners will have a new general manager — Jerry Dipoto — at the helm for the first time in seven years. The 47-year-old inherits a minor league system that currently ranks number-28 — per Keith Law of ESPN.com — and continues to be a cause of fan angst.

New GM Jerry Dipoto has the unenviable task of keeping the big league club competitive while trying to restock the fallen system. — Keith Law of ESPN.

With that in mind, I thought it might be both fun and informative to review the draft record of Dipoto’s former club — the Los Angeles Angels — during his tenure as their general manager. At first blush, the impression isn’t good.

In the eyes of many Angels fans, Dipoto was a failure at the draft. They point to the fact the organization has zero prospects in the MLB.com top-100 prospect listing. Plus, Law rates the club’s system as the worst in the majors.

From a distance, it appears that Dipoto wrecked the Angels minor league system — that’s what the blogosphere contends. Should the disappointing Angels system be a red flag for Mariners fans? Let’s dig into the Angels draft history to find out.

For starters
Since Dipoto joined the Angels in October 2011 and departed in July 2015, he was present for just four MLB amateur drafts, which brings up a point to consider as we review draft selections. Unless we’re going to venture through a wormhole to the future, enough time hasn’t elapsed to judge the overall success – or lack thereof — for any MLB team’s 2012 draft. Please let me explain.

As of this week, only 69 players drafted in 2012 have spent any time in the big leagues. When I say “any,” I mean enough time to at least have a plate appearance or toe the mound. As you’d expect, even fewer players — 24 in total — have reached the majors from the 2013 and 2014 draft classes and no one from last year’s draft has even had a cup of coffee in “the show.”

Although most 2012 draftees haven’t broken through, there are recognizable names who’ve already spent time on a major league roster. A close look at the following list may help you identify the first significant challenge that Dipoto and his staff faced as they attempted to acquire top-level talent.

Certainly, there are several superb players on the list, including 2015 American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa. However, with the exception of just a few of the names, nearly all of the players were selected early in the draft. This is the initial problem that Dipoto faced during his first two years as Angels general manager; his club didn’t have a first round pick.

Hamstrung from the start
In 2012, the Angels lost their first round pick after signing free agent Albert Pujols. As the preceding table illustrates, the St. Louis Cardinals selected starting pitcher Michael Wacha with the number-19 overall selection, which would’ve belonged to the Angels if they hadn’t signed Pujols. Essentially, the Cardinals exchanged Pujols for Wacha.

Not only did the Angels lack a first round pick during Dipoto’s first year on the job, they also forfeited their second round slot by signing free agent starting pitcher C.J. Wilson. When the team finally chose a player in the third round, they selected right-handed pitcher R.J. Alvarez with the number-114 overall draft choice. By that point, all but two of the players listed above were off the draft board.

The following year, the Angels lost their first round choice after signing outfielder Josh Hamilton to an ill-fated free agent deal. Consequently, the club didn’t select until the second round — number-59 overall. Unfortunately, for both player and team, the draftee selected — pitcher Hunter Green from Warren East high school in Bowling Green, Kentucky — just retired due to chronic back problems.

On the surface, drafting later may not seem like a big deal; it is though. Of the 76 players in the MLB.com top-100 who were selected via the draft — the remaining were amateur free agents — 89-percent were either a first or a second round selection. The early rounds matter.

Obviously, it’s not just drafting early that helps an organization. As the Green injury demonstrates, unforeseen circumstances can influence the success of a draft class. However, Dipoto’s Angels started at a major disadvantage during his first two years at the helm.

Another factor that comes into play when considering the Angels’ draft record during the Dipoto years was the use of minor leaguers as trade chips. Some may argue that the club should’ve been more cautious when dealing away prospects. But, it’s never that simple.

Let’s make a deal
Every owner wants to win, but some want it more than others do. Those kind of owners don’t care what it takes to get to the postseason, especially, after they’ve seen their team thrive in the playoffs. Certainly, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno falls into the “win now” category.

General managers who work for such an owner face the uphill battle of winning right now, while trying to build a controllable, cost-effective foundation for the future. Undoubtedly, Dipoto performed this balancing act throughout his stay in Los Angeles.

Although he didn’t trade away any franchise studs when trying to put his team over the top, Dipoto did have to dig into his already shallow minor league talent pool to get needed help for the big league club. His most prominent deal included the very first draft choice of his tenure.

In July 2014, the Angels dealt Alverez, along with Taylor Lindsey, Elliot Morris, and Jose Rondon, to the San Diego Padres for closer Huston Street and fellow reliever Trevor Gott. Here’s a look at all of the players drafted during the Dipoto regime, who were subsequently flipped in trades. It’s worth noting that several of the deals happened after he left the organization last July.

Dipoto Draft Picks Dealt by LAA
Date Prospect Traded To
Comments Traded For Comments
Jun 2013 Kyle Johnson NYM Class-AA Collin Cowgill Purch by CLE (Dec 2015)
Jul 2014 R.J. Alvarez SDP Traded to OAK Huston Street Current LAA closer
Taylor Lindsey Class-AA Trevor Gott Traded for Yunel Escobar
Elliot Morris AZL Padres  
Jose Rondon #5 SDP
Nov 2014 Mark Sappington  TBR Class-AAA    Cesar Ramos  Free agent (2015)
July 2015  Eric Stamets  CLE Class-AA  David Murphy Free agent (2015)
Nov 2015 Sean Newcomb ATL #19 MLB Andrelton Simmons LAA starting SS
Chris Ellis #14 ATL
Jose Briceno Class-A+
Jan 2016  Kody Eaves  DET Class-AA Jefry Marte Class-AA 

It’s tough to argue with Dipoto’s rationale for trading away minor leaguers for a proven commodity like Street. I suspect that most Angels fans don’t have a problem with this deal since the club went on to win 98 games after acquiring their new closer. Nevertheless, the trade didn’t help the organization’s woefully thin minor league depth.

One transaction that did raise eyebrows was made after Dipoto’s departure from Anaheim. The Angels’ new front office dealt the first player drafted in the first round by Dipoto’s regime — Sean Newcomb — and fellow prospect Chris Ellis, along with veteran shortstop Erick Aybar to the Atlanta Braves for Andrelton Simmons and minor league catcher Jose Briceno.

The Angels got a starting shortstop — Simmons — who’s under team control through the 2020 season. However, they traded away their two top prospects to land the offensively challenged Simmons. While the 26-year-old is an elite defender, his addition — combined with Aybar’s departure — didn’t improve an offense that ranked near the bottom of the American League last year.

Time will determine whether dealing Newcomb and Ellis for Simmons was a wise move by the Angels. But, there’s no denying that the trade weakened an already diminished system.

Hitting rock bottom
As I peel back the Angels’ draft history, it’s clear that the poor standing of the Angels’ minor league isn’t a case of simply doing a bad job of drafting the right players. That’s a factor, but it’s far more complex.

Team ownership spearheaded the signings of several high-priced, overvalued free agents at the cost of payroll flexibility and high-round draft picks. Simultaneously, both Dipoto and new Angels general manager Billy Eppler traded away some of the organization’s future to acquire major league ready talent.

I’m not trying to absolve Dipoto of blame for the moves and draft selections made by the Angels under his stewardship. In the end, he was the man at the top and the buck stops with him. On the other hand, he wasn’t able to employ his baseball philosophy during nearly four years in Anaheim, while he’s already done so with Seattle in just seven months ago.

Turning the page
With the Mariners, Dipoto has complete control over all baseball and personnel moves. As a result, he’s been able bring in his own people and choose who to retain from the Zduriencik regime. Conversely, he inherited field manager Mike Scioscia and scouting director Ric Wilson in Los Angeles.

The history between Dipoto and Scioscia is well chronicled and doesn’t merit repeating. In the case of Wilson though, it’s worth noting that the scouting director is the person who actually runs the draft for an organization — not the general manager.

That’s not to say that Dipoto wasn’t involved in the selection process. Of course, he was involved. However, a general manager has to rely on the scouting director and his staff to do the “heavy lifting” when it comes to actually going out and seeing potential draftees in person on multiple occasions. In Seattle, the scouting director is Tom McNamara — a Zduriencik holdover.

Finally
Dipoto’s tenure with the Angels reminds me of an incomplete novel. The author had a vision, but his publisher didn’t give him enough time or artistic liberty. Consequently, he didn’t get to write the final chapter.

In Seattle, ownership will give Dipoto the opportunity to do a rewrite, on his terms, so he can see his story through to its natural conclusion. Whether Dipoto produces an epic tale that leaves Mariners fans wanting more or he delivers a clunker destined for the discount rack will be determined later. In the interim, I’d suggest that Mariners faithful consider two things.

First, don’t be surprised if Dipoto opts to deal young players to improve his ball club, assuming that the Mariners are in contention at the all-star break. He did it with the Angels and he’s already shown a willingness to part with minor leaguers such as Enyel De Los Santos, Nelson Ward, and Patrick Kivlehan in order to beef up his club’s 2016 roster.

In addition, it’s likely that we won’t see 2016 draftees at the big league level for another four to six years. That’s the typical time it takes prospects to reach the majors. That means that the next President of the United States will be running for re-election before we have any idea on how well Dipoto’s organization has performed in the draft.

If the Mariners general manager is still with Seattle in six years, there’s a good chance that fans will be satisfied with the organization’s draft and player development reputation, plus their win-loss record. Otherwise, they’ll be commiserating with Angels fans and looking for another author to write that non-fiction tale about October baseball set in Seattle.

 

 

 …

Dipoto
There’s just over a week remaining before the Seattle Mariners start their 2016 season and, as usual, fans have concerns about the team’s Opening Day roster. This year, speculation centers around who’ll fill out the club’s bullpen, and hold down the backup first baseman and utility infielder spots.…

In looking around Major League Baseball one might find a number of players that haven’t yet panned out, yet still sit on a roster — sometimes prominently — taking up space, and often times earning seven figures via arbitration. There’s a reason they’re still around, however, and that’s because there’s a glimmer of hope the once-promising talent will finds it’s way through the muck to the surface. Here are nine I’m keeping an eye on this spring and summer — four in the bigs, five in the minors.

Desmond Jennings, CF — Tampa Bay Rays
Jennings long has been a favorite of mine, based on a set of tools that includes above-average range in center field, an adequate throwing arm, on-base skills, speed and even a little pop. Now 29, Jennings is coming off yet another injury-plagued season that yielded but 28 games played in 2015. This season likely will be his last in Tampa, as he’ll earn $3.3 million in Year 2 of arbitration. A strong showing in the first half could get Jennings dealt to a club in need of center field help, especially considering the presence of Kevin Kermeier manning the middle of the outfield at the Trop.

Dustin Ackley, IF/OF — New York Yankees
Ackley never showed consistency at the plate in Seattle, only teases. He teased Yankees fans after the trade last summer, and while the ballpark fits him better — his strength is to his pull side as much as any player in the big leagues — a quieter front side suggested by a new voice in the Bronx may be the elixir Ackley needs at 28 years of age. He’ll earn $3.2 million this season with one more go of arbitration next offseason.

Wil Myers, OF — San Diego Padres
Myers has but two years of service time, but after a poor 2014 in Tampa took it up a notch in 60 games with San Diego — .253/.336/.427. It’s nothing to write home about, but if Myers can stay on the field and build on those numbers, he may live up to a good portion of the initial potential, which included words such as ‘all-star.’ He’s 25, and will be all year, and may see some time at first base with the Padres in 2016, though he can handle right field just fine.

Myers was supposed to be part of GM A.J. Preller’s big first offseason running the Padres, so hell get every opportunity to succeed.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF — Minnesota Twins
Arcia, 24, is a bit more like Myers than Jennings or Ackley in that when hes healthy he’s done enough at the plate to warrant more time. He batted .231/.300/.452 in 103 games in 2014 and managed just 19 games in the bigs in 2015 due to injuries. He did bat .276/.338/.379 during that time, but he didn’t get a shot to take his promising ’14 and run with it. He’s a left-handed bat with a good eye at the plate but a long swing; he’s going to strike out, but there’s 20-25 homer power in the bat and enough plate skills to get on base at a league-average clip. He also throws well and can play an average or better right field with regular time.

Arcia will have to perform to stay in the lineup as the Twins’ top prospects — Max Kepler, Byron Buxton — get closer to breaking through to the big leagues and pinning down everyday jobs.

Prospect Edition

Mikie Mahtook, OF — Tampa Bay Rays
Mahtook came out of LSU one of the more polished players in the class, ready to play some center field and perhaps within a year or so away with the bat. He had a cup of coffee in 2015 — 115 plate appearances: .295/.351/.619 — and looks ready to contribute regularly at 26. If not, Mahtook could be exposed in next year’s Rule 5 Draft.

Alex Meyer, RHP — Minnesota Twins
Meyer, now a reliever, has yet to command his plus fastball and slider, and his work on a changeup didn’t materialize into much over the course of four-plus years since draft day. This will be his first full season coming out out of the bullpen — maybe doing so will make a difference — but more strikes are necessary, which has been difficult for the 6-foot-9 240-pound Kentucky product.

Brandon Nimmo, OF — New York Mets
Nimmo was a first-round pick in 2011 but has yet to find a swing that fits his physical tool set. There’s still a chance he finds a playable level of power that plays in the majors, especially considering his overall lack of reps prior to the draft, but we’re four years into his pro career — he’ll be 23 in March) and he has 25 long balls in over 1,800 plate appearances. He does make contact and get on base, so there’s always the extra outfielder route, which is where he’s headed without a bump in extra-base production.

Zach Lee, RHP — Los Angeles Dodgers
Lee, now 24, was supposed to be an advanced prep arm when he gave up a chance to play QB at LSU to sign with the Dodgers. He was sitting low-90s in high school with command and a good changeup to go with big-time athleticism, but word is he’s stiffened up mechanically. Whatever happened, he’s now sitting 89-92 mph, the changeup is flatter than ever and neither his slider or curveball have stepped up to provide a swing-and-miss weapon.

Lee still throws a lot of strikes — he issued but 19 walks in 113 1/3 innings in Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2015 — but he isn’t locating well enough to make up for the lack of life and zip on the fastball and the absence of another high-quality pitch.…

Peoria Sports ComplexWhen pitchers and catchers from the Seattle Mariners officially report to the Peoria Sports Complex in just a few days, baseball will begin to re-enter the consciousness of many Seattle sports fan for the first time since the start of preseason football.

This annual “re-awakening” of the casual baseball fan from their gridiron hibernation will begin to take hold by the middle of next month. Spring Training is such an exciting time for fans of all teams. After all, everyone has a chance of winning before the regular season begins.

Mixed in with fans catching baseball fever are an unfortunate lot who’re susceptible to a more sinister illness that can be contracted by merely watching Spring Training baseball or reading box scores from the games. The principal symptom of this disorder is placing any level of importance on March statistics.

Steve Sandmeyer briefly touched upon the condition during the Vincent Askew” edition of the weekly podcast that he co-hosts with Prospect Insider founder Jason A. Churchill from Mulleady’s Irish Pub in Seattle. During that episode, Steve opined that he gets irritated when Spring Training statistics come into any conversation on who should or shouldn’t make a club’s roster.

I know that many fans agree with Steve. Perhaps, they’ve built up their immunity after succumbing to this illness in the past or they just know better. Sadly, others will inevitably fall into the trap of putting weight into Spring Training numbers.

It happens every year. A player will unexpectedly take the Cactus or Grapefruit league by storm and those infected with this malady will take to social media or call into a local sports talk radio show to express their optimism about this emerging superstar. Eventually, the regular season will start and it’ll become painfully obvious for this poor soul that Spring Training stats are nothing more than fool’s gold.

After hearing Steve’s comments about the silliness of Spring Training performance evaluations based on numbers alone, I thought it’d be interesting to look at some of the more bright and shiny Peoria performances that didn’t lead to regular season success. Since I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest since January 2009, I decided to narrow my focus to the seven years that I’ve been observing the Mariners.

To be eligible for consideration, a position player had to play at least 15 games during Spring Training. The position listed next to each player’s name is the position listed on the official MLB statistics for that particular Cactus League season. The only exception was Jesus Montero, who was still a catcher in 2013. I needed a designated hitter for my squad and he was my choice. Without any further ado, here’s my handpicked “Peoria wonder” starting lineup.

   Spring Training   Regular Season
Pos
Name Year
Hr AVG OBP
SLG   HR AVG OBP SLG
1B Justin Smoak 2014 3 .292 ,368 ,523   7 .202 .275 .339
2B Chone Figgins 2011 1 .373 .448 .490   1 .188 .241 .243
SS Munenori Kawasaki 2012 0 .455 .489 .523   0 .192 .257 .202
3B Alex Liddi 2012 1 .370 .453 .587   3 .224 .278 .353
RF Michael Morse 2013 9 .357 .439 .893   13 .215 .270 .381
CF Austin Jackson 2015 0 .333 .359 .467   9 .267 .311 .385
LF Dustin Ackley 2014 2 .382 .408 .603   4 .253 .319 .341
C Mike Zunino 2015 7 .352 .435 .852   11 .174 .230 .300
DH Jesus Montero 2013 2 .400 .438 .711   3 .208 .264 .327

This group should evoke memories – mostly bad – for longtime fans of the Mariners. If served truth serum, I’m sure that more than a few o the team’s faithful would admit that they were excited – or at least encouraged – by the Spring Training performances of at least a few of these players. Austin Jackson and Dustin Ackley were the only players to perform near league-average after Opening Day. The rest of the group had an underwhelming regular season after shining so brightly during the stupendously small sample-size of March baseball.

The players listed above weren’t the only Cactus League studs available for selection. Oh no, there were plenty of Peoria overachievers available for selection. Here are a few more notable examples of great March play that meant nothing once the regular season got underway. I hope that all of these lists won’t cause nightmares or give Seattle fans the urge to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

   Spring Training   Regular Season
Pos
Name Year
Hr AVG OBP
SLG   HR AVG OBP SLG
 1B   Chris Shelton  2009 3 .460 .534  .720    0 .231  .286  .308
LF  Cole Gillespie 2014  0  .433  .469  .533    1  .254  .312  .324
 3B   Matt Tuiasosopo 2009  2  .424  .453  .644    1  .227  .280  .409
1B  Justin Smoak 2013  5 .407  .455  .797    20  .238  .334  .412
1B  Justin Smoak 2012 0  .378  .479  .486    19  .217  .290 .364
 SS  Yuniesky Betancourt 2009  3 .400  .419  .683    2  .250  .278  .330
2B Josh Wilson 2011 1 .348 .423 .500   2 .224 .258 .353
 2B  Robert Andino 2013  1 .327  .413 .455    0  .184  .253  .237

Ironically, a few of the players listed above did well during several Spring Training seasons only to disappoint during the regular season. Most notably, Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Mike Zunino fall into that category. Smoak was a“Peoria Triple Crown” winner by playing superb desert baseball in three different years.

This Peoria-bred lunacy knows no boundaries and applies to starting pitchers too. Since there are fewer players vying for a limited number of rotation spots each spring, I selected only three Peoria Cy Young award winners for review. This trio looked so great in March, yet they couldn’t keep it going after Opening Day.

   Spring Training   Regular Season
Pitcher
Year GS
IP ERA OPP AVG   GS IP ERA OPP AVG
Erasmo Ramirez  2014  5 23.2  1.14  .212    14 75.1  5.26 .277
 Brandon Maurer  2013  4  24  1.50  .261    14  90  6.30 .311
Chris Jakubauskas  2009  4  22.2 1.99  .215    8  93 5.32 .254

Unlike position players, who play nearly every day in Peoria, starting pitchers get a limited number of opportunities to show their stuff. Normally, the most Spring Training starts a pitcher gets is five. To compound the evaluation process, pitch counts are limited as the hurlers build their arm strength. As you can see from the list above, all three starters pitched very well and logged just over 20 innings.

On the topic of bad performances, those fans enamored by Spring Training metrics will succumb to being anxious about the poor performance of an established player. My advice to those afflicted is don’t worry, everything will be okay. Look at these five Cactus League pitching performances to see what I mean.

   Spring Training   Regular Season
Pitcher
Year GS
IP ERA OPP AVG   GS IP ERA OPP AVG
Felix Hernandez 2013  12.1 4  10.22  .277    31 204.1  3.04  .242
Roenis Elias 2013  14.2 4 6.75  .426    29  163.2  3.85  .248
Doug Fister 2011  23.1 6  5.01 .275    31  216.1  2.83 .237
Felix Hernandez  2014  13.1  4  4.73  .250    34  236.0  2.14  .200
Hisashi Iwakuma  2013  19  5 4.26  .254    33  219.2 2.66  .220

Although Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma pitched poorly – statistically speaking – during Cactus League play, they went on to be finalists for the American League Cy Young award; Felix in 2014 and Kuma the year prior. Make sure to point this out to the inflicted if Felix stinks up the Peoria Sports Complex next month. He knows what he’s doing and the odds are good that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

If you encounter someone suffering from the Peoria strain of March madness, try logic first. Point out that an everyday player will typically get roughly 60 at-bats during Spring Training. That’s slightly more than half of what they normally log during a full month of regular season play. The sample size isn’t large enough to gauge performance. Maybe that will shake some sense into the person.

Another option would be to get the afflicted person to make frequent visits to Prospect Insider and faithfully listen to the Sandmeyer and Churchill podcast. Perhaps, constant exposure to common sense and good baseball judgement will help reverse the illness.

When all else fails, try to be patient with this soon-to-be tormented fan. Reality will likely crash down on their Spring Training dreams by Memorial Day and they’ll need a friend to help prevent a recurrence of their Peoria madness in March 2017.…

 

In recent years, the Seattle Mariners haven’t placed a high value on defense, especially in the outfield. This becomes particularly clear when you look back at their most recent corner outfield pickups, via the trade and free agent market. Since 2013, the team has used players with limited range like Nelson Cruz, Mark Trumbo, Corey Hart, Raul Ibanez, and Michael Morse to play left and right field.

Further proof of the low importance placed on outfield run prevention by the Mariners was their trial and error attempts of putting infielders Rickie Weeks, Brad Miller, and Ketel Marte. These experiments went particularly well, which is understandable. It’s hard to learn the outfield – or any position – on the job during big league games.

The organization’s disregard for outfield defense helped Seattle earn the distinction of having the worst outfield defense in the majors in 2015. Their -45 defensive runs saved (DRS) far exceeded the San Francisco Giants, who were the next worst team at -29 DRS. Conversely, the best DRS in the majors was the Tampa Bay Rays, who had 44 DRS.

Discussing DRS
For those not familiar with DRS, it quantifies a defensive player’s value by expressing how many runs they saved or lost their team compared to the average player at that position. For instance, a +10 DRS by a second baseman means that player is 10 runs better than the average second baseman. Here’s the FanGraphs breakdown of fielding ability categories for individual players, based on DRS. If you want to learn more about DRS, you read about it in this article found at fangraphs.com.

Gold Glove Caliber Great Above-average Average Below-average Poor Awful
15 10 5 0 -5 -10 -15

Forsaking outfield run prevention certainly didn’t help a Mariners organization that was offensively challenged during the first half of the 2015 season and possessed a below-average bullpen throughout the year. To make matters worse, most of the defensively challenged didn’t consistently contribute at the plate either. The Mariners outfielders weren’t just bad defenders, they were the best at being bad defenders. But, that’s about to change.

New sheriff in town
When New GM Jerry Dipoto was introduced on September 29, he stated that “the Mariners need to pitch, they need to catch it, and they need to be athletic.” He intends to build a club that takes advantage of Safeco Field’s reputation of being a pitcher’s park by playing strong defense and getting on base. Yep, defense is no longer going to take a back seat in the Emerald City.

Prospect Insider Executive Editor Jason A. Churchill also identified outfield defense as one of the top offseason priorities for the club’s offseason. Take a look at the Mariner outfielders who had at least 200 innings in 2015 and it becomes clear why Dipoto and Jason have mentioned outfield defense so prominently since the end of the season. I still think it’s possible that these two gents share a brain.

Player Position Games Innings DRS
Nelson Cruz RF  80 704 -8
Franklin Gutierrez ** LF  46 309  3
Mark Trumbo LF/RF  47 325 -4
Seth Smith LF/RF 120 798  1
Austin Jackson ** CF 107 899 -2
Dustin Ackley ** LF/CF  86 499 -8
Brad Miller ** LF/CF  41 253 -13
 ** Former Mariners

Change is needed
Going into 2016, I expect that Cruz and Trumbo will see limited outfield playing time. Both graded out as poor last season. Last season wasn’t a statistical outlier for either player, but indicative of their below-average outfield defense. Since 2012, Cruz and Trumbo have respectively registered -21 and -12 DRS, while playing the outfield.

Ironically, Trumbo has actually played more innings at first base during his career and has been an average fielder, while tallying 12 DRS since his big league debut in 2010. Assuming both sluggers are with Seattle on Opening Day, playing Cruz at designated hitter and Trumbo at first would equate to an addition by subtraction scenario.

Austin Jackson, Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller have already been traded away, Franklin Gutierrez is a free agent, and Seth Smith is a likely trade chip. So, it’s possible that the Mariners will have a completely new starting outfield. That’s assuming that Cruz and Trumbo aren’t primary outfielders and are only worst case scenario contingency options.

Wanted: defensive outfielders
So, who will the Mariners target? In his series of initial of offseason pieces, Jason has discussed several outfield options outside of the organization. First, he discussed players from this year’s free agent class. Plus, he’s just published potential trade targets for the club that included options for the outfield.

Perhaps, Dipoto will go after a high-profile free agent like Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, or Yoenis Cespedes, but he’s repeatedly stated since his days as Los Angeles Angels GM that he views free agency as an “accent move” rather than a foundation builder. Maybe he’ll trade for Carlos Gonzalez or Yasiel Puig. But, their teams aren’t going to give away their star outfielders. Trade demands would likely start with Taijuan Walker and then quickly escalate.

Jason’s “Reeling it In” piece before the World Series suggested to set 2016 outfield expectations by thinking “moderate bat, above-average glove.” That makes sense, especially after seeing the first two position players acquired by the new GM.

A hint of what’s to come?
Dipoto first position player pick-up was outfielder Dan Robertson via the waiver wire from his former team. The 30-year-old bounced around the minors until debuting with the Angels in 2014. During limited playing time, he’s posted a .274/.324/.325 slash with no homers during 277 career plate appearances. He’s played all three outfield positions, although he’s provided the most value in left field with six DRS.

The outfielder with the bigger upside was the recently required Boog Powell, who finished the season in Tampa Bay Rays’ system and currently ranks seventh among Mariners prospects. The 22-year-old provides speed, good bat-to-ball skill, with strong defense and is the prototypical player that Dipoto will likely target for his outfield and bench.

With that in mind, I decided to identify several players who have defensive skills and may be able to help with their bat. Some are capable of helping more than others and none of these players are necessarily final solutions at any specific position. But, they could either serve as a place holder or a role player for the Mariners in 2016.

Here are five examples of “moderate bat, above-average glove” outfielders who would be defensive upgrades over most 2015 Mariners and – in most cases – were better offensive players.

Player Position Team Age Bats Free Agt After Innings DRS BA OBP SLG OPS
Aaron Hicks LF/CF/RF MIN 26 B 2019 761 2 .256 .323 .398 .721
Scott Van Slyke LF/RF LAD 29 R 2019 303 11 .239 .317 .383 .700
Kirk Nieuwenhuis LF/CF/RF NYM 28 L 2019 278 6 .195 .270 .375 .645
Matt den Dekker LF/RF WSN 28 L 2019 216 2 .253 .315 .485 .800
Shane Robinson LF/CF/RF Free agt 31 R Now 458 5 .250 .299 .322 .621

None of these players are flashy, but they could help the Mariners and wouldn’t be costly. These are not the only choices on the market, just examples of who Dipoto could be looking at to increase depth and athleticism, plus improve outfield.

Aaron Hicks
Hicks was one of the outfielders that Jason recently mentioned as a possible trade target for Seattle. In that piece, he mentioned that Byron Buxton will eventually become Minnesota’s starting center fielder and Hicks could be dealt depending on other moves made by the club. Since Jason’s piece was released, the Twins won the right to exclusively negotiate with Korean star Byung-ho Park, which could have major implications for Minnesota’s roster.

Signing Park could lead to the team trading third baseman Trevor Plouffe, so they can turn the position over to Miguel Sano, who has been asked by the team to spend time in left field during winter ball. Minnesota already has another youngster – Eddie Rosario – who played in left field. The club has the “problem” of having a roster teeming with young talent. Considering his age, remaining club-control, and the shortage of inexpensive center fielders, Hicks is certain to have trade value.

The potential signing of Park combined with having first baseman Joe Mauer and Sano diminishes the trade of value of Trumbo or Seth Smith if the Mariners opted to use either as part of deal to get Hicks since the Twins wouldn’t necessarily have a clear vacancy at first base or designated hitter.

Like Jason, Hicks is my favorite choice for the Mariners. He’s a player who could hold center field until Powell is ready or hold down the position if the youngster regressed. When Powell is ready, either he or Hicks could move to a corner outfield spot. How nice would it be to have an outfield comprised of three players capable of playing center field?

Scott Van Slyke
The son of former Mariners first base coach and five-time Gold Glove winner Andy Van Slyke certainly has the pedigree to be a good defensive outfielder. The younger Van Slyke’s career .253/.337/.442 suggests he can also be an asset at the plate. One factor that could influence the Dodgers’ willingness to deal the 29-year-old is Puig’s future in Los Angeles.

Although Van Slyke’s better against southpaws, the right-handed hitter’s .242/.306/.402 slash against righties isn’t atrocious and suggests that he’d be a good platoon option who could occasionally play against right-handed pitching.

Additional aspects to Van Slyke’s game is the fact that he has some pop – 11 home runs in 246 plate appearances during 2014 – and he’s played first base. This kind of versatility would fit in nicely on any team.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis
The 27-year-old hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with being a third-round draft pick. Since debuting with the Mets in 2012, he’s bounced back and forth between Class-AAA Las Vegas and the big league club with mixed results. In May, his contract was purchased by the Angels. But, the right-handed hitter returned to New York via the waiver wire in June and was part of their postseason roster.

Based on his career .149/.260/.184 slash against southpaws, the left-handed hitter is best suited to face right-handed pitching. Nieuwenhuis represents another potential platoon player. One drawback is the fact that he’s out of options. Thereby, he’d have to clear waivers before he could be sent to the minor leagues.

Matt den Dekker
The 28-year-old is another former New York Mets draftee. The 2010 fifth-rounder was was traded to Washington just prior to the season when the Mets were desperate for left-handed relievers. den Dekker split his time between Class-AAA Syracuse and the big league club in 2015. The third-year player’s career .243/.322/.366 slash qualifies him as one of those “moderate bat, above-average glove” outfielders.

The left-handed hitter has been primarily used against righties and has been league-average during his small sample sized career. Unlike his former Mets teammate Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker isn’t out of options.

Shane Robinson
Hicks’ former teammate is the only free agent on my list. The versatile outfielder demonstrated that he could play all three outfield positions and even pitched a scoreless inning in 2015. Robinson’s numbers were relatively close to his modest .237/.302/.313 career slash. The right-handed hitter’s career platoon splits actually favor him against righties, although they’re still below league-average.

Primarily a corner outfielder last season,  Robinson has the ability to fill in as a center fielder. He isn’t a candidate to be the starting outfielder for the Mariners, but he could help serve as organizational depth.

Going forward
None of the players I’ve mentioned are going to make Mariner fans forget Ken Griffey Jr. or Mike Cameron as defenders. But, they represent relatively low-cost upgrades who can provide organizational depth at a relatively low cost.

The Mariners can ill-afford to have another below-average outfield in pitcher-friendly Safeco. Doing so would be counterintuitive for a franchise with a stated goal of taking advantage of their spacious outfield dimensions. That’s why acquiring players similar to the ones I’ve discussed makes sense for the team in 2016.

Discussing who Dipoto acquires and/or he should acquire is the best part of Hot Stove season. Perhaps, he’ll bring back fan-favorite Franklin Gutierrez as a role player. If the Mariners GM can snare a bigger name at a reasonable price, I’m sure he’d make the deal in a heartbeat. But, my expectation is that we’ll see more players like Robertson and Powell joining the Mariners between now and Spring Training. That’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a refreshing change from the past.

 

I’m not a native of Seattle and I only moved to Washington in early 2009. So, the most vivid highs and lows in the history of the Seattle Mariners aren’t embedded into my psyche like they are for so many Pacific Northwesters. The team’s trade of Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez’s departure via free agency, and the infamous late inning melt downs of Bobby Ayala don’t make my blood boil just like the Mariners’ historic 116-win season isn’t the first thing that I recall about the 2001 baseball season. Perhaps, that’s why I was indifferent to the June hiring of former Mariner great Edgar Martinez to be the club’s hitting coach.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that Edgar should already be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Moreover, my wife is a life-long Mariners fan and she’s thoroughly briefed me on his importance to the franchise and its fan base. Even if I wasn’t married to a die-hard Mariners and Edgar fan, it’s not hard to figure out what he means to the local community.

Considering that the 52-year-old has a Safeco Field cafe named after him and there’s a street outside the stadium bearing his name, it’s pretty clear that Edgar is a Seattle fixture. Regardless of his stature with fans, his Hall of Fame worthiness, and my bride’s passion for “Gar,” I’ve remained ambivalent to the hiring.

There’s no disputing that Seattle hitters performed much better after the all-star break, which commenced shortly after Edgar’s hiring on June 20. The club had more hits, slugged more home runs, and walked more often despite having fewer at-bats in the second half. Plus, they had significantly better triple-slash numbers. That’s why it’s understandable if a casual observer linked the team’s resurgence with the five-time Silver Slugger award winner’s arrival.

Yes, the numbers show that the Mariners’ offense was far superior after Edgar arrived. But, should the credit go the team’s new hitting coach or was it something else?

Split AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1st Half 2993 312 705 130 14 93 245 713 .236 .296 .382 .678
2nd Half 2551 344 674 132 8 105 233 623 .264 .328 .446 .773
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/7/2015.

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Out with the old
As the Mariners’ bats sputtered during the early months of the 2015 season, former GM Jack Zduriencik tried his best to tweak the 25-man roster prior to the July 31 trading deadline in hopes of jump-starting the team’s ineffective offense. Most notably, he parted ways with three players – Willie Bloomquist, Justin Ruggiano, and Rickie Weeks – via the designation for assignment (DFA) process. All three were gone by July 6. Shortly thereafter, Austin Jackson and Dustin Ackley were traded away to postseason contenders.

Name G AB H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS
Austin Jackson 107 419 114 18 3 8 .272 .312 .387 .699
Justin Ruggiano 36 70 15 4 0 2 .214 .321 .357 .678
Dustin Ackley 85 186 40 8 1 6 .215 .270 .366 .635
Rickie Weeks 37 84 14 1 0 2 .167 .263 .250 .513
Willie Bloomquist 35 69 11 1 0 0 .159 .194 .174 .368
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2015.

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With the exception of Jackson, the group performed woefully at the plate. Even with Jackson’s league-average level of production included, these former Mariners produced a combined .234/.279/.328 triple-slash while accounting for 28-percent of the team’s first-half at-bats. Replacing these five players with better options played a pivotal role in boosting the team’s production at the plate.

In with the new
Four players – Franklin Gutierrez, Ketel Marte, Mark Trumbo, and Jesus Montero – were the key position player additions to the major league squad in 2015. They joined the Mariners at different times, but their arrival helped usher out the five players previously mentioned. The “new guys” accounted for 33-percent of the team’s second half at-bats and their .269/336/481 slash helped rejuvenate an offense that scored the second fewest runs scored in the American League during the first half. Conversely, Seattle ranked number-five in runs scored during the second half.

Name G AB H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS
Franklin Gutierrez 59 171 50 11 0 15 .292 .354 .620 .974
Ketel Marte 57 219 62 14 3 2 .283 .351 .402 .753
Mark Trumbo 96 334 88 13 0 13 .263 .316 .419 .735
Jesus Montero 38 112 25 6 0 5 .223 .250 .411 .661
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2015.

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Of the four new players, Trumbo was the only big league regular when Edgar arrived. During his first month with Seattle, the slugger was terrible with a .151/.184/.205 slash and one home run. Fortunately for the 29-year-old slugger and the Mariners, he bounced back by slugging 12 homers and posting a .295/.351/.479 slash for the remainder of the season.

Couldn’t Trumbo’s resurgence be a by-product of Edgar? Sure, but I’m not ready to say Trumbo’s bounce back was due to his new hitting coach because the right-handed power hitter is known to be a streaky hitter. A comparison of his 2015 totals to his career averages illustrates that he didn’t do much more than perform at his career norms.

Mark Trumbo 2015 vs. career averages

Year Tm G PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2015 TOT 142 545 133 23 3 22 36 132 .262 .310 .449 .759
162 Game Avg. 162 648 150 28 2 31 42 161 .250 .300 .458 .758
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2015.

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Strong finishers
Another factor in the Mariners’ rebound was the second-half turnaround of two of Trumbo’s teammates – Robinson Cano and Brad Miller. Cano was easily the most disappointing Mariner during the first half. He was under-performing in most offensive categories and wasn’t contributing at the level expected for a player who earns $24 million annually.

By now, it’s well known that the 32-year-old struggled with stomach-related issues earlier in the season. Since opening up about his health struggles in early July and getting his gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) under control, the six-time all-star – like Trumbo –  “flicked the switch” and began delivering outstanding numbers after July 1.

Name G PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS
Robinson Cano 70 305 92 11 1 15 .331 .387 .540 .926
Brad Miller 60 203 49 9 1 3 .274 .338 .385 .724
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2015.

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Miller’s defensive struggles at shortstop made the 25-year-old the one of the more scrutinized Mariners during the 2015 season. But, his fielding miscues were exaggerated as were his alleged issues with the bat. Miller was a good – although inconsistent – offensive contributor. Like Seager and Cruz, he had two bad months. In Miller’s case, it was May and July. Interestingly, he struggled most during the same two months in 2014 before finishing strongly with Howard Johnson as his hitting coach.

Steady performers
There were a couple of Mariners who played at relatively the same level throughout the season – Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. Imagine how bad the first-half offense would have been without this duo? Cruz was the team’s big free agent signing last offseason and he performed well above the expectations of many in 2015 and will likely receive votes for American League Most Valuable Player award. He won’t win the award, but he certainly was the Mariners’ best offensive performer.

Name G PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS
Nelson Cruz 65 293 77 9 0 23 .294 .365 .592 .957
Kyle Seager 73 330 79 18 0 14 .264 .327 .465 .792
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2015.

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Seager was – once again – a strong presence in Seattle’s line-up. The 27-year-old performed near his career averages despite June and August struggles. Like Cruz, Seager could be counted on to play virtually every day; he only missed one game in 2015. Thanks to Cruz and Seager, the Mariners had two hitters who stabilized the lineup, while accounting for 22-percent of the team’s at-bats in 2015.

Help needed
Although I was unmoved by Edgar’s hiring and contend that his presence wasn’t the reason for the offense’s strong second half, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that his expertise isn’t needed. There are several Mariners who could learn from the two-time batting champion – if the players are willing to listen and learn.

When Edgar assumed the role as the Mariners’ hitting coach, the player most mentioned as a candidate for reclamation was the team’s catcher – Mike Zunino. The right-handed hitter is a superb defender behind the plate who possesses immense power with the bat. Unfortunately for him and the team, he struggled mightily throughout 2015 and became a boo-bird target.

How bad was it for Zunino in 2015? Former manager Lloyd McClendon opted to have a player with above-average extra base power sacrifice bunt 10 times, which tied him for sixth most in the American League. Yes, Zunino’s former skipper would rather have him bunt despite the fact that he could “run into” a ball and easily hit it over 400 feet.

On the surface, it initially appeared that the 24-year-old was turning a corner under the tutelage of his new hitting mentor after he hit .222 in July. Another sign of how bad it was for Zunino in 2015 –  a .222 batting average for a month created optimism.

Mike Zunino monthly splits

Split G PA H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
April/March 22 70 8 1 0 2 3 6 27 .129 .214 .242 .456
May 22 81 18 5 0 5 12 2 29 .237 .275 .500 .775
June 25 86 10 0 0 2 3 8 31 .130 .212 .208 .420
July 25 89 18 5 0 1 8 2 25 .222 .256 .321 .577
August 18 60 7 0 0 1 2 3 20 .130 .175 .185 .361
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2015.

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The former Florida Gator’s improvement didn’t last though. In late August, Seattle Times beat writer Ryan Divish described via Twitter just how badly Zunino had regressed. The next day, the power hitting receiver was demoted to Class-AAA Tacoma and he didn’t return when rosters expanded on September 1.

In retrospect, May turned out to be Zunino’s best month when he had a better batting average and far superior slugging percentage. Perhaps, Edgar’s guidance will take hold with the young backstop in 2016.

Another underachieving Seattle regular who could use Edgar’s help is first baseman Logan Morrison. The 28-year-old started off very poorly in April, although he showed signs of returning to form during May and June. Regrettably, the combination of a bruised thumb and Montero’s arrival significantly reduced his second-half playing time at first base.

Morrison did bounce back in September and made sure to give his hitting coach credit when he told Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle “Shoot, I have a new swing. He’s been trying to get me to do this for like a month now.” Only time will tell if “LoMo” can sustain the improvement he enjoyed during the last month of the regular season.

Logan Morrison monthly splits

Split G PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS
April/March 21 80 15 1 0 1 .197 .238 .250 .488
May 28 116 27 3 2 5 .273 .379 .495 .874
June 26 107 25 3 1 3 .253 .308 .394 .702
July 21 80 9 0 0 3 .129 .225 .257 .482
August 22 55 10 5 0 1 .204 .278 .367 .645
Sept/Oct 28 73 17 3 0 4 .266 .342 .500 .842
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2015.

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Two others who spent time with Seattle this season who could benefit from Edgar’s expertise are infielders Marte and Chris Taylor. Although Marte hit the ground running in Seattle, “Gar” may be able to help the switch-hitter with his hand placement, which is different from each side of the plate.

Like Marte, the right-handed hitting Taylor could also benefit to changes with his hands. Prospect Insider founder Jason A. Churchill noted in August that Taylor’s “hitch in his swing makes him late on good velocity and perhaps later than is ideal on offspeed stuff.”

Coincidentally, hand placement is something that Edgar emphasizes. During a wide-ranging conversation about hitting, the seven-time all-star told David Laurila of FanGraphs.com that “how you position your hands is important.” Marte and Taylor are just two examples of young Mariners who can learn from the Mariners icon.

Finally
Edgar Martinez has been a positive influence on the team’s hitters – Morrison’s comments reinforce that point. But, that doesn’t mean that the greatest designated hitter in the history of the game was the impetus behind the Mariners’ second-half offensive surge.

Even Edgar acknowledged the difficulty with hitters making in-season changes when he told Laurila “breaking a habit is difficult and it takes time. It’s hard to make an adjustment like that – a bigger adjustment – in the middle of the season.” His own words appear to confirm that the Mariners’ second half had more to do with the players than their guru.

At best, all a coach can hope to do is maximize a player’s potential. Edgar isn’t going to turn Zunino into Buster Posey. On the other hand, it’s plausible that Edgar might be able to kick-start the three-year major leaguer’s career before it’s too late. That, in itself, would be an impressive feat.

Having the time to work with Zunino, Marte, Taylor, and other youngsters when there aren’t any games will help because, as Edgar puts it, “it’s not easy to make a change, because they’ve done the same thing for so long.”

Fortunately for Edgar fans and the Mariners, he’s been afforded the opportunity the stay with the club as their hitting coach despite the fact that they have a new manager in Scott Servais. GM Jerry Dipoto has made it clear that improving as a player is a career-long process and not just a minor-league function when he stated that “player development at the major-league level is never ending.”

Who better to help usher in young hitters than a should-be Hall of Famer who has the designated hitter named after him? Having Edgar around the batting cage, in the clubhouse, and in the dugout will certainly help the Mariners’ offense in 2016. However, Dipoto getting better hitters will help the offense much more than any coach could – even if their name is Edgar Martinez.…

The major league non-waiver trading deadline has passed and now, there’s time to reflect on the moves made by both buyers and sellers leading up to Friday’s 4 pm ET deadline. In Seattle – much to the chagrin of their fans – the under-performing Mariners are on track to miss the postseason for the fourteenth consecutive season. That’s why going into this week, Seattle was poised to be a seller with several veterans – Austin Jackson, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mark Trumbo, Fernando Rodney, Tom Wilhelmsen, Mark Lowe, Joe Beimel, J.A. Happ, and Dustin Ackley – who could have some degree of value to contenders.

Prior to this week, Prospect Insider founder Jason A. Churchill suggested that Seattle should strategically trade major league talent – be buyers and sellers – in order to get an early start on making improvements for next year. The team did that to some degree this week by making three deals –- Ackley to the New York Yankees, Happ to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Lowe to the Toronto Blue Jays for prospects. Jason gives Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik a satisfactory grade for the moves he made, while giving the organization a failing grade for holding on to Iwakuma – their most valuable deadline commodity

The team’s moves acknowledges that they know that the season is lost and will further energize fans who’ve been debating on the approach that the Mariners should take to transform the themselves into contenders in 2016 and beyond. There’s an segment of the Mariners’ fan base that doesn’t agree with Jason – who has suggested a “remodeling” rather than a complete rebuild. They’d prefer to “blow up” the roster and start over from the ground up.

In the eyes of some, the term “rebuilding” equates to “blowing up” an organization at both the major and minor-league levels. In reality, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to getting a franchise back on track. Some teams need to go the “blow up” rebuilding way, while others can go via the “remodeling” route. So, which approach should the Mariners to use become a serious contender and not just a team that lingers on the fringe of contention?

I’m the son carpenter, so I tend to relate fixing a major league organization in the terms of home improvement. As with a home, re-doing a baseball franchise depends on its existing condition, desires of the owner, and financial flexibility. With that in mind, lets look at a few teams that used different approaches in order to become relevant once again.

Razing the foundation – Chicago Cubs
When Theo Epstein assumed the duties of President of Baseball Operations in 2011, the Cubs were coming off a 91-loss season and the roster consisted of aging, high-priced veterans who were under-performing and there wasn’t any immediate relief in their minor league system. Despite not winning a World Series in over a century, Cubs’ ownership was willing to accept a massive rebuild – which takes time – because Epstein and General Manager (GM) Jed Hoyer was to planned to build a sustainable winning organization.

To say that the Cubs “blew up” the roster is an understatement. Only one player – Starlin Castro – on the team’s current 25-man roster is a holdover from the previous regime. Chicago incrementally parted ways with major leaguers in order to maximize value and restock their minor league system. Players like Scott Hairston, Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Jason Hammel, Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Cashner, Welington Castillo, and Sean Marshall have netted Chicago eight players who are currently on their big league roster – including Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, and Dexter Fowler.

Thanks to the combination of trades, amateur drafting, and amateur free agent signings, the Cubs have transformed their minor league system into one of the best in the majors. Their top six prospects – including recent call-up Kyle Schwarber – rank among the MLB.com top 100. Throw in draftee Kris Bryant – who debuted this year and is already an all-star – and Cuban free agent Jorge Soler and you can see that the Epstein/Hoyer tandem has built a strong foundation of young major leaguers and prospects to build around or use as trade commodities.

How Cubs Were Built
Draft
Int’l Amateur Free Agency Trades Rule 5/Waivers
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The future looked bright going into this season, although most of the team’s bright minor league stars weren’t ready for the majors. So, the Cubs added a marquee free agent – Jon Lester – plus other prominent names such as Miguel Montero, Jason Hammel, David Ross, Rafael Soriano, and Jason Motte via free agency and trades in order to let their prospects continue their development and simultaneously field a competitive team in 2015. The Cubs’ strategy to supplement their core group of dynamic, young, players with inexpensive veterans has helped the team into playoff contention and – for the first time in years –the team playing on the north side of Chicago was relevant at the deadline .

Remodeling with a shoestring budget – New York Mets
After the 2010 season, the Mets hired Sandy Alderson was hired as their GM to help reinvigorate a franchise that lost its direction after appearing in the 2000 World Series and 2006 National League Championship. Like Epstein, Alderson had a proven record. Contrary to Epstein’s situation, Alderson inherited a minor league system that – entering this week – supplied 18 of the 37 players on their 25-man roster or on the disabled list. Many of those 18 names are familiar names.

Key Mets Inherited by Sandy Alderson
  David Wright
Matt Harvey Jacob deGrom
  Jon Niese
Lucas Duda Daniel Murphy
  Steven Matz Juan Lagares Wilmer Flores
  Bobby Parnell
Jeurys Familia Jenrry Mejia

With so many players already in place, there was no need to “blow up” the roster. So, Alderson built up the team’s foundation by shrewdly making several deals that have landed valued assets. As I discussed in June, the Mets acquired starting pitcher Zack Wheeler by flipping pending free agent Carlos Beltran at the 2011 trading deadline. Alderson then boldly traded the reigning Cy Young Award winner – R.A. Dickey – to the Toronto Blue Jays for starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who will be vital to their playoff aspirations during the remainder of this season and beyond.

Although the Mets play in a big market, they’ve maintained a small market budget during the Alderson era due to the reported financial hardship that their ownership has experienced. Accordingly, New York has strategically added several lower-tier veterans with relatively short contracts – Bartolo Colon, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Cuddyer. In the days leading up to Friday’s deadline, Alderson has continued to improve the team’s roster by adding veterans Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Tyler Clippard to help jump start the team’s offense and improve their bullpen. Now, the Mets are poised to play meaningful games in September.

A rebuilding team can amass talent in four different ways – amateur draft, international amateurs, international and major league free agency, and the trades market. The Cubs and Mets have used these options differently because one had a good foundation and one didn’t. Yet, they’ve arrived at the same position – contenders on July 31. There are other situations when patience is in low supply and teams want their rebuilding effort completed sooner than later. In those cases, a more aggressive approach may be applied.

Quick fixer-upper – San Diego Padres
When Padres GM A.J. Preller took over last August, he wasted little time in giving his roster a facelift. Unlike the Cubs and Mets – who took years to renovate – the Padres opted to make a series of headline-grabbing changes that immediately altered their appearance and the perception of the team, but they didn’t necessarily do much to reinforce their long-term infrastructure.

Preller traded for multiple recognizable names like Justin Upton, Melvin Upton Jr, Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, Craig Kimbrel, and Will Middlebrooks, plus he signed starting pitcher James Shields to a four-year/$75 million deal. Of the 31 players on the 25-man roster or the disabled list, 14 weren’t with the team in 2014.

Noted Padres Added By A.J. Preller
 Matt Kemp
Justin Upton
Derek Norris
 James Shields
Craig Kimbrel
Wil Myers
 Shawn Kelley
Melvin Upton Jr.
Brandon Maurer
 Clint Barmes
Brandon Morrow

Acquiring big names created a groundswell of excitement, but it came at a cost – in both talent and dollars. San Diego parted ways with several of their highest-regarded young players – Dodgers’ starting catcher Yasmani Grandal – and two MLB.com top 100 prospects – Washington’s Trea Turner and Atlanta’s Matt Wisler. Moreover, another nine prospects traded are now top-30 prospects for the teams that they were traded to – Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Philadelphia Phillies. Only one of Padres prospects – outfielder Hunter Renfroe at number 37 – is in the MLB.com top-100 and he’s currently playing at Class-AA level.

The Padres’ win-now approach looks to have fallen short, although Preller’s hasn’t given up on 2015 – he added reliever Marc Rzepczynski and kept his pending free agents. It’s unclear how he’ll address his fixer-upper project after the season if the team doesn’t jump back into the race. I’m not going to second-guess the Padres’ GM because his turnaround effort isn’t over yet – he’s merely transitioning to another phase of the process. Hopefully for Preller, his rebuilding project won’t result in a condemnation by ownership and fans. Unlike San Diego’s improvement plan that tried to do a major refurbishment quickly, a winning team may have good curbside appeal and still need more improvements. 

Doing an add-on – Kansas City Royals
The defending American League champions had a great 2014, but GM Dayton Moore had his work cut out for him after game-seven of the October Classic – the team ace Shields, designated hitter Billy Butler, and outfielder Nori Aoki to free agency. Since the Royals are a small market team, they opted to not sign the threesome and decided to add lower-tier free agents.

Although the team’s offseason acquisitions have produced mixed results, the totality of the new players – combined with holdovers – have buoyed the team to the best record in the American League. Although the décor looked good, Kansas City entered July with a few issues that needed attention. Specifically, right-hander Yordano Ventura’s struggles after a breakout 2014 combined and the recent loss of southpaw Jason Vargas to season-ending elbow surgery left the starting rotation as an area needing improvement.

Key Changes to 2015 Kansas City Royals
  Notable Losses
 Notable Additions
  James Shields
 Edinson Volquez
  Billy Butler
 Kendrys Morales
  Nori Aoki  Alex Rios
  Raul Ibanez
 Chris Young
  Scott Downs
 Johnny Cueto
   Ben Zobrist

To make sure that his master plan didn’t lose momentum, Moore added a pitcher with game-one starter stuff – Johnny Cueto. Moreover, he added Ben Zobrist who can help at second base – where Omar Infante has struggled – or in the outfield, while injured all-star Alex Gordon recovers before an expected September return. Thanks to the team’s strong foundation of young players, the Royals have been able to quickly update their appearance and have gone from wild card wannabe to World Series contender in just one year.

Conclusion
The 2014 Mariners were better than most expected – including me, but they’ve regressed in 2015.  The Ackley, Happ, and Lowe deals signal that the team is ready to make changes. It’s true that multiple changes will be needed in the offseason, but the Mariners aren’t a “blow up” candidate. Unlike the 2011 Cubs, they have veteran and young players who can be either used as a foundation or flipped in deals to help reinforce that foundation.

Doing a massive purge in Seattle – if that was the correct choice – requires complete buy-in by the organization. That means that no Mariner would be untouchable – including fan favorites Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager who would reap the most value in trades. I don’t believe that most “blow up” proponents wants to see the departure of “King Felix” and Seager.

The Mariners would best served to “remodel” – as the Mets have done – by parlaying select veterans into future contributors, retaining key pieces, strategically adding veteran acquisitions and excelling at developing prospects. Seattle should also adopt the Cubs’ business practice of acquiring veterans – via trade and free agency – who can serve as bridges until their heralded prospects are truly ready. This would help the Mariners feeling compelled to rushing prospects like they’ve done with Ackley, Mike Zunino, and Brad Miller.

The team’s moves prior to the Friday’s deadline sets the stage for an interesting offseason for the Seattle Mariners. Player value won’t be the only element of the organization’s structure that will be scrutinized –- team ownership will have to evaluate their front office and decide whether to stick with the current leadership or make a change. As with any big remodeling job, the Mariners’ choice of overseeing foreman will be the most important factor in changing the Mariners’ on-field fortune. 

What seemed inevitable in recent months has come to fruition: Dustin Ackley has been traded. The New York Yankees are betting prospects Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez that the former No. 2 overall draft pick is just a couple fixes away from being a consistent major league hitter again.

Ackley, 27, has been more or less a fixture in the Mariners lineup since summer 2011 when he burst onto the scene. Drafted as a can’t-miss hitting prospect, the left-hander immediately left a mark with a .273/.348/.417 slash line and 117 wRC+ in 376 plate appearances through the end of that season.

Major League Baseball adjusted to Ackley in 2012 though as the then second baseman posted just a 75 wRC+. Still, as a sophomore who played reasonably good defense up the middle, it wasn’t an unacceptable season. In fact, between his 2011 and 2012 seasons he was worth 4.6 fWAR. That’s similar production to what veterans Marco Scutaro and Omar Infante produced over that time, both of whom had full 2011 seasons.

Ackley would struggle some during a 2013 season that required a demotion to Triple-A. It was also the beginning of his conversion to full-time outfielder as he spent nearly 500 innings in the outfield for the M’s.

Then, in the winter of 2013, Seattle signed Robinson Cano to take over second base indefinitely and Ackley would be transferred to left field completely.

The now former infielder made great strides in the outfield under the tutelage of coach Andy Van Slyke and had turned himself into a capable outfielder. He also managed to turn a red hot July and August stretch into a 97 wRC+ on the year. Ackley finished the season with 2.0 fWAR and was actually an average major league contributor. Not the perennial All-Star the M’s hoped was being drafted following Stephen Strasburg, but far from nothing like the result of many draft picks.

Entering 2015 the Mariners picked up another former second baseman in Rickie Weeks whom they hoped would form a platoon with Ackley, who had better success against right-handed pitching throughout his career.

The Weeks experiment wouldn’t last. After the addition of Mark Trumbo, Ackley and his 77 wRC+ were often found on the bench or coming into the game late as a defensive replacement. The return of Franklin Gutierrez, who’s proven to be a capable fourth-outfielder type, also lessened the need of Ackley on the current roster — he had started just four games since the All-Star break.

The good news, is that the Mariners didn’t get rid of Ackley — who was slated for free agency following the 2017 season — for nothing. Instead they picked up a pair of prospects that add some depth to an empty system at the upper levels of the minors.

Flores, a 24-year-old outfielder, made his big league debut this year for the Yankees after spending six years in the Bronx Bombers’ system. He has nearly 600 plate appearances at Triple-A between this year and last and he has hit throughout his minor league career. Flores appears to be about ready for a real test in the major leagues, but his skill set likely limits him to being more of a situation player than an everyday bat.

Across the board Flores has average tools aside from power, which is below. He has enough arm strength to work in right but his range likely will keep him from playing any meaningful role in center field. His plate discipline is regarded as being strong and he’s regularly posted walk rates around 12 percent in the minor leagues.

Flores may be able to fill the role Ackley held immediately as a late-inning pinch runner or defensive replacement, though his bat will probably be less effective this year. He’s somewhat of a complement to James Jones, who can play a decent center field and is probably the best base runner in the organization, as a corner guy with a little more pop and a better eye at the plate. Nevertheless, it’s more outfield depth.

In terms of stuff, Ramirez, a 25-year-old right-hander, is very well regarded. His fastball has hit 100 MPH and he’s flashed an above average changeup in the past. He began his professional career as a starter, but after battling command problems he’s been exclusively a reliever for the past two seasons.

Ramirez’s fastball sits in the 91-to-95 MPH range with some life and can still touch 98 at times. There’s enough in his secondary offerings as well that he could wind up as a set-up man or higher leverage reliever. The command is the real issue and until that resolves, he’s best suited for mop-up work.

One thing the addition of Ramirez does do is add to the stockpile of younger arms that Seattle has drawn from in trades for batters recently. Yoervis Medina, Dominic Leone, and Brandon Maurer have been dealt since December. There’s also some concern over whether or not Danny Farquhar will be able to solve his command problems as well; 2015 has been a messy year for the right-hander.

The dealing of Ackley offers a disappointing reminder to what could have been. But in return, the Mariners are getting an outfielder who conceivably could be just as good as Ackley in the present, and an intriguing arm who could fill a role in next year’s bullpen. Add the fact that they are saving about a million dollars in salary that could be redistributed to other means in the organization.

It was reported last night that the Mariners had rejected an offer from the Yankees for Ackley that included Flores and Benjamin Gamel, another outfield prospect. On the surface, it looks like playing hardball has payed off for the M’s who are getting a prospect with higher upside in Ramirez.

Don’t be surprised to see Ackley turn things around in New York. Yankee Stadium is built for his swing and a new set of voices on the player development and coaching side will probably do him well. We’ve all heard about the problems with the current Mariners player development procedures, or lack thereof.

Whatever the case, as much as it hurts some to see Ackley go, it was a move that needed to happen and the return was solid. Now, if only the Mariners would change their stance on Hisashi Iwakuma as we enter the final hours before the trade deadline on Friday.…

With the trade deadline only days away and the Seattle Mariners currently on the outside looking in, much space has been put towards dissecting what exactly the team should do this week. Should the M’s be sellers? Could they be buyers? Sitting 9.5 games back in the division and 6.5 games back of a wild card berth entering Tuesday’s games likely suggest the former more so than the latter.

Whatever the case, getting a head start on filling holes for next season should be more important than attempting an incremental upgrade for the season’s final two months. There’s enough talent on the ball club that a hot stretch in August could put them back in the wild card race, but not enough performance to merit another acquisition to bolster the club in 2015 alone.

The players most often discussed as being pieces to sell — Hisashi Iwakuma, J.A. Happ, Austin Jackson, Fernando Rodney, and Mark Lowe — are free agents. Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill mentions Brad Miller and D.J. Peterson among other names that have been brought up in conversations.

Starting with the rotation, the potential departures of Happ and Iwakuma open two spots. Despite his prolongued stint on the disabled list, Iwakuma has played the crucial role of No. 2 starter as recently as last year and has flashed glimpses of having his stuff back since returning. Happ has been excellent in the back-end of the rotation and owns a 3.77 FIP in 104 and 1/3 innings of work.

Felix Hernandez isn’t going anywhere while Taijuan Walker should have one of next year’s rotation slots essentially locked up at this point. Both Mike Montgomery and Roenis Elias have had success in the big leagues this year and are solid options. James Paxton is still on the disabled list with an injured finger and a return doesn’t appear imminent.

A rotation of Felix, Walker, Montgomery, Elias, and Paxton has plenty of upside, but none of the non-Felix pitchers really stand out. Walker could presumably take another step forward as a solid No. 3 starter but Elias and Montgomery project more as back-end guys. With the potential loss of Iwakuma, there will be a hole in the rotation, particularly in the No. 2 spot.

A healthy and effective Paxton can fill that role, though he has thrown barely over 130 innings since Opening Day 2014 — the track record simply isn’t there.

Seattle will need more out of what’s been a league average rotation this year and an additional veteran starter will be required as well as the usual depth.

The bullpen has almost literally gone from first to worst. What was a strong point last year has been a weakness this year. Rodney has turned into a pumpkin — though he may have been tipping his pitches — while Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Farquhar have taken their turns heading up and down the I-5. The Bartender has been better of late, though, and his peripherals suggest he’s outperforming his earned run average.

The good news is that Carson Smith has adapted nicely to his role as closer and has been excellent. Vidal Nuno and Charlie Furbush are doing well enough in their roles.

Gone are Yoervis Medina and Dominic Leone, dealt for Welington Castillo and Mark Trumbo respectively. The dealings of relievers for bats, including Brandon Maurer in the winter, have eaten away at the depth that existed in 2014.

If Lowe leaves as a free agent, the Mariners will need to find eighth inning help, which never seems to come cheap in free agency. The bullpen likely needs an additional major league arm or two as well. It’s possible Nuno competes for a rotation spot but has otherwise worked out well enough in the bullpen.

The infield picture is a little more clear with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager both locked into long-term extensions. Seager is in the midst of another excellent season while Cano is enjoying a red-hot July and finally showing signs of life after a terrible first half. Miller is also having a solid season and has a firm grasp on the starting shortstop job with Chris Taylor still waiting in the wings.

As has been the problem for more than a few years now, first base needs an upgrade. After showing progress with the bat last year, Logan Morrison holds an 87 wRC+ and has been replacement level. Mark Trumbo has been better recently, but his season performance is still below league average. Both players are under team control through 2016 so it’s unlikely Seattle seeks a significant upgrade, though there’s an argument that it’s still needed.

Behind the plate Mike Zunino has still played solid defence and picked things up with the bat this past week, but has struggled to hit his weight throughout the season. A trip to Triple-A has been suggested as a potential antidote the struggles at the plate. He’s still only 24 and could very well be the catcher of the future still, but the team needs a second catcher capable of playing three times per week — that’s the real issue. Doing without is only hurting Zunino in the short and long-term.

The outfield picture will become even less clear with Jackson set to depart. Seth Smith is under contract for another year and is enjoying an excellent season as a platoon bat in the corners. Nelson Cruz has played right field more than anyone is comfortable with and that will probably continue next year. If manager Lloyd McLendon is smart it won’t, but it’ll likely depend in part on his other options.

Rickie Weeks and Justin Ruggiano were brought onboard to solidify a pair of outfield platoons but are no longer on the big league team. There’s an increasing chance that Seattle will move on from Dustin Ackley before next spring. Franklin Gutierrez has had a nice return but is likely best-served as one-half of a platoon. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, but it’s not difficult to envision him being kept in the fold beyond.

Assuming Smith, Cruz, and Trumbo are returning and the others not, Seattle will need an outfielder capable of playing center field and another corner bat. Smith and Cruz can probably handle right field duties and Trumbo isn’t really an outfielder. Talk of turning Miller into a super utility player a la Ben Zobrist has cooled but there is a real possibility shortstop prospect Katel Marte could eventually convert to an outfielder.

Prospect Insider’s Luke Arkins was on hand to see Marte’s outfield debut for the Tacoma Rainiers and opined that the youngster is going to need time to make the defensive adjustments. By many accounts his bat is big league ready, but we probably won’t know how viable of an option he is until Spring Training.

By my count, when constructing the 2016 edition of the Seattle Mariners there is at least one need in the rotation, a couple holes to fill in the bullpen, perhaps help at first base and definitely behind the plate, and two-thirds of the outfield will need to be revamped.

Seattle lacks the type of players that command high prospect prices at the trade deadline which makes them a less traditional seller. There’s no reason to think that Jackson and Iwakuma couldn’t net a couple decent prospects — probably nothing that helps the M’s immediately. If neither player is part of the future plans, there’s no reason to let them walk for nothing when they could be traded for something. Even Happ would be an upgrade for a club in need of some short-term pitching help and you can’t forget about Lowe as a potential trade piece — teams are always looking for bullpen help this time of the year.

It won’t be easy for the Mariners to admit defeat on a season that was riddled with expectations, but it’s not as though the window for a playoff berth has closed. The core of the club is in place long-term. But as we can see, there are several holes that need to be filled — some remaining from this past offseason.

If possible, the Mariners should be looking to get a head start on filling those holes. Now is as good a time as any and selling the pieces that are about to become free agents can help solve potential problems in 2016 and down the road.…

LoMoYou can find exit velocity — miles per hour off the bat — in a lot of places, including Statcast via MLB.com. I used some of those resources, including PitchfX, to answer a question I had. We often hear and read about exit velocity, usually on home runs. But sometimes balls hit very hard do not leave the yard or even land for hits. I wondered how often balls that leave the bat at certain velocities do indeed fall for hits.

Rather than search and calculate for the entire league over multiple seasons, I focused on the Seattle Mariners and the pre-break 2015 season. I also added the same data for two star right-handed batters and two star left-handed batters, for comparison’s sake.

Hit Percentage on Exit Velocity at 95 mph or higher
Robinson Cano: 46 hits on 97 balls hit 95 mph or higher (47.4 %)
Kyle Seager: 42 of 74 (56.8 %)
Nelson Cruz: 48 of 96 (50 %)
Dustin Ackley: 24 of 51 (47.1 %)
Austin Jackson: 23 of 55 (41.8 %)
Brad Miller: 36 of 68 (52.9 %)
Mark Trumbo (SEA only): 8 of 20 (40 %)
Seth Smith: 36 of 59 (61 %)
Mike Zunino: 22 of 41 (53.7 %)
Logan Morrison: 32 of 86 (37.2 %)

For comparison:
Mike Trout: 60 of 94 (63.8 %)
Albert Pujols: 49 of 94 (52.1 %)
Stephen Vogt: 31 of 53 (58.4 %)
Joey Votto: 42 of 73 (57.5 %)

Hit Percentage on Exit Velocity at 90 mph or higher
Robinson Cano: 49 of 111 (44.1 %)
Kyle Seager: 53 of 112 (47.3 %)
Nelson Cruz:55 of 93 (59.1 %)
Dustin Ackley: 25 of 67 (37.3 %)
Austin Jackson: 26 of 72 (36.1 %)
Brad Miller: 37 of 80 (46.2 %)
Mark Trumbo (SEA only): 11 of 30 (36.7 %)
Seth Smith: 40 of 74 (54 %)
Mike Zunino: 25 of 53 (47.2 %)
Logan Morrison: 39 of 113 (37.2 %)

For comparison:
Mike Trout: 63 of 115 (54.8 %)
Albert Pujols: 54 of 129 (41.9 %)
Stephen Vogt: 39 of 79 (58.4 %)
Joey Votto: 47 of 96 (49.0 %)

Ackley ranks No. 16 in Major League Baseball with an average exit velocity on all hits of 93.5 mph. Morrison ranks No. 41 in the same category at 92.1 mph. Cano, Seager and Cruz are not ranked in the top 50.

What I don’t have the answers to are questions such as “at what velocity most struck in Major League Baseball do balls end up as hits?” and “exactly why does one player with the same exit velocity statistics, totals, hit percentage, average, etc., produce at a drastically lesser level”?

What we do know, partly due to data such as the above, is the more often balls are hit hard (if hard is 90 mph or higher) the more likely a batter is to get a hit of some kind.

We also know that Logan Morrison is either incredibly unlucky, or he hits too many of his hard-hit balls on the ground and into the shift. I think it’s a little of both, more of the latter than the former.…

"SeattleThe 2014 season for Jesus Montero could be best described in one word: forgettable. Between the rough Spring Training entrance to the ice cream sandwich related exit, it couldn’t have gotten much worse. It couldn’t have, if his 2013 season didn’t involve a PED suspension, injuries, losing a starting job and being sent down to the minors.

But all that appears to be in the past for the former top prospect, we hope.

Montero impressed his superiors by showing up to camp this spring in excellent shape and reportedly losing the 40 pounds he was supposed to the previous year. It was going to take an extraordinary showing during Cactus League games to get the right-hander into the Opening Day roster, though, if that was even being considered by management.

It didn’t help Montero’s case that the Seattle Mariners beefed up the right-handed side of the lineup with free agent acquisitions of Nelson Cruz and Rickie Weeks. The pair were expected to take up the DH at-bats with Weeks seeing regular time in left field. Of course, things didn’t quite go that smoothly as Weeks struggled with the transition to part-time outfielder and was released while Cruz became the mostly-regular right fielder. But with Logan Morrison at first and Willie Bloomquist under contract, Montero still found himself on the outside looking in from the get-go.

And so, with a change in attitude, and pant size, Montero began the 2015 season with the Tacoma Rainiers and immediately began to hit.

The right-hander posted a 126 wRC+ for the month of April. May was a little less productive with an 89 wRC+, but he did double his home run total on the year to six. Montero then exploded for a 153 wRC+ and .950 OPS in June. At the time of his call-up he held a .332/.370/.529 slash line.

Mike Curto, the Rainiers play-by-play announcer, detailed Montero’s season to date and dispelled several of the perceptions that surround the slugger’s improvement. No, the 25-year-old is not directly benefiting from hitter-friendly road parks. Neither is he only pummeling left-handed pitching.

It appears that what we are seeing is Montero finally making adjustments as the season goes on. One particular portion from Curto’s piece stood out:

“If you are a scout and you saw Tacoma for five days, June 21-26, you would have seen Montero go 3-for-24 with 10 strikeouts, swinging and missing at pitches low-and-away from right-handers. If you saw Montero this past week, you would have seen him lay off those pitches and get ahead in the count.”

Sluggers can be streaky players. Look no further than Nelson Cruz or Mark Trumbo, as PI’s Luke Arkins recently examined. More often than not, over the course of a full season these types of streaks will even themselves out and we get a better picture to look at.

With the adjustments, Montero has managed to improved his ability to hit for contact and it resulted in him leading the Pacific Coast League in hits with 115 before his re-call. He’s more or less been able to maintain the power numbers he produced in 2014 only with fewer doubles and more triples — imagine that.

His .370 BABIP suggests he’s had some help in piling up the singles but it’s unfair to discredit the adjustments he’s made in favor of luck. At the same time, we are talking about a guy who has over 1500 plate appearances at Triple-A and he wouldn’t be the first to have solved PCL pitching while not succeeding in the majors.

Alas, Montero is now 25. He is no longer riding the top prospect tag. The Mariners were kind enough to comment that, entering Spring Training, expectations for Montero were non-existent. And truthfully, he has done just about everything possible to sabotage what projected to be a solid major league career. Seattle wouldn’t be the first team to give up on a player that didn’t seem to care enough about his on-field success.

With a strong first half performance, and a struggling Mariner offense, Montero finds himself on the big league squad. It could, and probably will, be short-lived as the club will need to make roster room for starter J.A. Happ who was optioned to High-A in order to make room for the right-handed bat. Dustin Ackley has been heating up and is unlikely to be the odd man out. It also doesn’t sound like the club is unhappy with the performance of Franklin Gutierrez either.

I’m not going to advocate dumping a particular player in order to make room for Montero. The club has done well to move on from Bloomquist and Weeks, and while many have been calling for Ackley’s dismissal, his ability to play center field is needed with the uncertainty surrounding Austin Jackson.

We knew that Montero was talented, it was just a matter of whether or not he was willing to put it to work. It appears that he has and the Mariners — or another team — need to give him that chance at the big league level. Picking up a single and a walk in nine plate appearances is not going to cut it for Montero, but he is going to need more than three games to prove himself in the majors.…

Trumbo
Yesterday, Mike Ferrin from MLB Radio Network’s Power Alley spent a few minutes as a guest on The Steve Sandmeyer Show on 1090 The Fan to discuss the Seattle Mariners’ offensive woes with Steve Sandmeyer and Jason A. Churchill. During the conversation, the Power Alley host shared a few interesting comments about the newly-acquired Mark Trumbo.

When Churchill asked Ferrin about Trumbo’s early struggles in Seattle, Ferrin referred to the 29-year-old slugger as a “really streaky guy.” After hearing Ferrin’s take on the Mariners’ newest acquisition, I decided to take a deeper look at the slugger’s career stats. It’s not that I didn’t believe the Sandmeyer show’s weekly guest – quite the opposite. Ferrin’s cut on Trumbo provides a path to better understanding the slugger and should help establish realistic expectations among the team’s fan base.

When I first heard the phrase “really streaky guy,” I envisioned a hitter who went without a hit for an extended period time on numerous occasions and and that’s not really the case with Trumbo. I was surprised to discover that he’s gone hit-less for more than four consecutive games only once during his major league career – he went without a hit during a seven-game stretch in September 2013.

Even during his markedly slow 16-game start in Seattle, Trumbo has registered a hit during seven of nine games. Unfortunately for the veteran slugger and the team, his overall numbers since arriving in the Emerald City have been underwhelming – he’s 10-59 with one home run for a .169 batting average. So, what should Mariners fans expect from their new right-handed bat in the future?

First and foremost, the former Diamondback and Angel is a slugger who has averaged a home run every 19.1 at-bats – he’s currently maintaining a 23.3 per at-bat rate for 2015. He’s not “streaky” hitter as I initially thought, but the slugger does experience peaks and valleys in the power department as alluded to by Ferrin. Since his first full season in 2011, Trumbo has gone 10-or-more games without a home run on 14 different occasions. His longest home run drought during his previous four seasons has varied between 12 and 18 games, except for his injury-marred 2014 when he went 32 games without going deep. His longest power output for this season was 15 games, which included his first 13 games in Seattle.

Although Trumbo will normally avoid the long base-hit drought, he’s a frequent strikeout victim who doesn’t walk often. Since 2011, he’s struck-out nearly 25-percent of his plate appearances, while only walking six-percent of the time. In 2015, he has only one more walk (11) than home runs. To put this into perspective, two struggling Mariners – Mike Zunino and Dustin Ackley – have twice as many walks as home runs. This explains Trumbo’s career .295 on-base percentage, which is well below the typical league-average of .315.

Certainly, Trumbo’s slow start with the weak-hitting Mariners is a disappointment for all involved. But, I suspect that that right-handed hitter will get on-track very soon and will provide the power that General Manager Jack Zduriencik was searching for when he acquired Trumbo earlier this month. But, his power production will be “really streaky” as Ferrin suggested.

 …

Smith RuggianoIn an effort to receive some kind of consistent production out of one of the corner outfield spots this year, the Seattle Mariners picked up a pair of players who, if utilized to their strengths, could do exactly that. Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith, acquired in seperate trades this winter, were the heirs to the right field throne to start the year. Fast forward to June and things have changed some.

Ruggiano, to his credit produced a 135 wRC+ in 43 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. He was exposed to right-handers frequently, though, and thus owned a .214/.321/.357 slash line before being designated for assignment at the beginning of the month. Many argued that Ruggiano never really got a fair shake with Rickie Weeks and Willie Bloomquist regularly seeing at-bats against lefties. He was outrighted to Triple-A but has yet to appear with the Tacoma Rainiers.

Ruggiano’s better half, Smith, has faired much better this year. In fact, he’s been one of the Mariners best hitters.

In 213 plate appearances Smith owns a .258/.329/.474 slash line with a 126 wRC+ entering play on Sunday. He’s hit six home runs, 17 doubles and owns strikeout and walk rates along the lines of his career marks. The 32-year old has also played reasonably good defence in the corner spots and is credited with 1.6 fWAR two weeks before the season’s numerical midpoint.

The 32-year old has given the Mariners a solid option in the No. 2 spot in the batting order as well as behind the heart of the order in the No. 6 spot.

A closer look into Smith’s splits will reveal that he’s been used almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. Only 14 of those 213 plate appearances have come against left-handers. In those 14 at-bats he’s collected five hits including two doubles and a home run off Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. The question has been asked as to why Smith hasn’t had more opportunities against southpaws if he’s having some success.

Well, the 14 at-bat sample size is hardly enough to draw any conclusions from — unless you’re manager Lloyd McClendon looking at player vs. pitcher numbers. Add in that, for his career, Smith has struggled against lefties to the tune of a 67 wRC+. Compare that to a 122 wRC+ against right-handed pitching and there’s a reason why Smith has seen 84 percent of his career plate appearances against righties.

So, long story short, Smith hasn’t had success against left-handed pitching in the big picture and McClendon has done everything to protect him — and it’s worked. The question then points to Ruggiano and why he wasn’t utilized in a similar fashion.

The former Chicago Cub actually has less of a career split than Smith does — a 128 wRC+ against lefties compared to a 93 wRC+ against righties. That 93 mark would be more relevant if his 55 wRC+ against right-handers this year wasn’t equal to what Dustin Ackley also has produced against right-handers in 2015. But, hitting right-handers wasn’t what Ruggiano was brought in for. The puzzle appears to be missing a few pieces.

Back to Smith. It appears that the Mariners are extracting something close to the maximum value that the outfielder can provide. He’s spending about one quarter of his at-bats at designated hitter and doesn’t appear to be overworked in the field, and most importantly, not seeing left-handed pitching.

There is some thought that Smith should be used more frequently against southpaws given the small sample of success from this year. The short-answer to that is no, he shouldn’t be. But the truth is that he probably could stand to receive some time in the box against lefties.

It goes back to the concept of overexposure. Nelson Cruz is a capable outfielder if he’s used in the field sparingly. Whether or not that’s currently the case is a different debate. Smith is probably capable of seeing a few starts against left-handed pitching.

However, the need to do so was made less dire with the acquisition of Mark Trumbo and resulting dismissal of Rickie Weeks. For the time being, Seattle should continue to do what they’re doing with Smith and maximize his platoon advantage. This is what’s working right now, and we see what will likely happen when the sample size is increased.

Bloomquist has a 27 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this year despite a 90 wRC+ for his career. You can’t tell me that giving a few of those at-bats to Smith instead would result in a net loss.…

Jones
The best word to describe the Seattle Mariners offense may be “enigmatic.” That’s been especially true in the month of June. During 14 games this month, the team has scored two or fewer runs – including four shutouts – in nine games, while scoring five or more runs in three other games. The end result is a team with a 5-9 win-loss record and an increasingly frustrated fan base.

This level of offensive unevenness isn’t a new challenge for an organization that’s sputtered at the plate for over a half-decade. When you break down the team’s plate appearances by handedness, it becomes readily apparent that the Mariners’ difficulties rest on one side of the plate. Entering today, Seattle’s .230 batting average against right-handed pitching is the worst in the majors – the current league-average is .253. Yes, that’s right, the Mariners are worse than 15 National League teams who permit their pitchers to hit on a regular basis.

The root of the Mariners’ problem against right-handed pitching is their league-worst .200 batting average by their right-handed hitters. The only Mariners right-handers who are above league-average against right-handed pitching are Nelson Cruz (.291) and Austin Jackson (.261). Seeing these stats won’t stir optimism in any fan who’s desperately looking for any glimmer of hope for a season that seems to be slipping away.

Despite the struggles of Robinson Cano and Dustin Ackley – who are hitting a combined .225 with 19-percent of all team at-bats against righties – the Mariners’ left-handed hitters rank 18 of out of 30 teams against right-handed pitching with a .251 batting average – six points above the league-average. Naturally, the left-handers should outperform the right-handers. But, not by such a large margin.

Unlike their right-handed counterparts, the Mariners’ left-handed hitters are not dead last in the league when they face a handedness disadvantage at the plate – they also rank 18 of 30 against southpaws. To some, this could be viewed as an encouraging sign. On the other hand, imagine how bad the offense would be if the lefties were as unproductive as their right-handed teammates?

Regardless of where the production comes from, the Mariners have to perform better against right-handed pitching or they’ll continue to languish at the bottom of the league in all offensive categories. So, where does Seattle go from here to improve? Let’s look at the key regular players who matter most to the team’s run production.

The good guys
Up to this point of the season, the team’s offensive success has been highly dependent on the performance of Cruz. But, he’s been cooling off during the last month – .269/.327/.366 slash and only two home runs in the last 28 days. Fortunately for the team, Kyle Seager and Logan Morrison have combined for eight home runs and a .306 batting average during that time-frame and Seth Smith has also contributed a .270/.372/.473 slash.

Austin Jackson – who struggled after arriving in Seattle last year – has done well since returning from a sprained ankle in last month, registering a triple slash – batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage of .305/.337/.439 during the last 28 days. Jackson has also performed well against right-handers in with a .261/.305/.338 slash. It’s realistic to expect that the 28-year-old can maintain that pace since his .261 average is actually 18 points below his career-average against right-handers.

Brad Miller’s .231 batting average isn’t great, but he’s performing well compared to his peers. Entering today, his .711 on-base plus slugging percentage ranks number three in the American League among shortstops who have at least 200 plate appearances. His weakness has been against southpaws – he’s only hitting .114 compared to his .259 batting average against right-handers.

The rest of the bunch
There are several players on the 25-man roster who may be able to help to the Mariners offense, if they can return to their career norms. One is vital to the team’s success, while the others aren’t likely to make a season-changing impact against right-handed pitching.

Robinson Cano
The team’s highest paid position player is experiencing the worst start of his 11-year career. By his standards, hitting .249 against right-handed pitching is abysmal – especially after hitting .327 against righties in 2014 and maintaining a .316 average during his career. Prospect Insider founder and co-host of The Steve Sandmeyer Show – Jason A. Churchill – discussed a change in Cano’s foot placement during his swing that Mariners’ manager Lloyd McClendon recently noticed during last week’s OFP Report.

If Cano’s tweak to his batting stance truly leads in a return to form, the Mariners offense will certainly improve. This team can’t possibly have consistent success against right-handed pitching without their star second basemen being productive. With that said, there are many holes in this team’s offense and they’ll need more than just the six-time all-star to contribute.

Dustin Ackley
To date, Ackley’s 2015 season has been a huge disappointment. For the first time in his five-year career, the 27-year-old has been part of a platoon. As a result, he’s only had 10 plate appearances against southpaws. Unfortunately for Ackley and the Mariners, the left-handed hitter is only hitting .190 against righties compared to last year’s .259 and .241 lifetime averages.

Ackley’s 154 plate appearances against right-handed pitching constitutes 14-percent of the team’s at-bats against righties. The former North Carolina Tar Heel will either need to dramatically improve soon or the team will be forced to go in another direction. Perhaps, the team is already changing course. Since the acquisition of Mark Trumbo, Ackley has started in less than half of the team’s games and has been used in several games as a late defensive replacement.

James Jones
The return of Jones from Class-AAA Tacoma has the potential to be nothing more than a minor upgrade. Yet, Jones – who played 108 games with the Mariners in 2014 – possesses two distinct attributes that should help the team.

The fleet-footed Jones can put a team’s defense on edge and bring a charge of excitement to the team’s fan base whenever he’s on base. Last season, he successfully stole 27 bases and had a league-best 96-percent success rate for players with more than 25 stolen bases. The addition of a player who had 15 stolen bases in the minors certainly helps, but Jones’ speed isn’t the only vital component to the left-handed hitter’s game. The second attribute that Jones possesses is simple and was just stated – he’s a left-handed hitter.

No, the 26-year-old isn’t going to put the team on his back and carry them to the postseason. But, entering today, Jones’ 2014 major league .250 batting average against right-handed pitching is better than the 2015 numbers of Cano and Ackley – who stands to lose more playing time to Jones.

Mark Trumbo
The newly acquired right-handed slugger has struggled since arriving. But, it’s reasonable to expect that he’ll be able to repeat his .241 career average against right-handers. That’s eight points below league-average, but would rank third on the Mariners.

Where to turn?
If the Mariners have any chance of being taken seriously as postseason contender, it’s clearly obvious that getting the offense on-track is paramount. Sure, the second wildcard lets teams perpetuate the notion that they’re still in contention well into September. But, the Mariners can’t be a realistic contender if they don’t score at a higher rate for a sustained period of time and hit close or near to league-average – especially against right-handed pitching.

That’s why the acquisition of Trumbo is so puzzling to me. In fairness to the 29-year-old, his .402 slugging percentage is 16 points above the major league average. But, the team needs hitters who have been more successful against right-handed pitching. His skill set – he rakes against southpaws and has power – is nice to have, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee a significant improvement.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, their minor league system has little available in terms of players hitters who could help the team get out of their offensive doldrums against right-handers. Several players with varying degrees of success against right-handers like Jesus Montero (.289), Patrick Kivlehan (.240), Stefen Romero (.266) and Franklin Gutierrez (.337) are most frequently mentioned by fans as possible fixes to the team’s woes.

Montero (.226) and Romero (.164) have not performed well against right-handed major league pitching and Kivlehan isn’t doing well at Class-AAA. “Guti” is a fan favorite and his ongoing battle with health issues are inspirational and he may be able to provide some value. However, he can no longer play on an everyday basis. That’s why the team will likely need to turn to the trade market and waiver wire to significantly improve their fortunes against righties.

About three weeks ago, Prospect Insider founder and co-host of The Steve Sandmeyer Show – Jason A. Churchill – provided several possible fixes to the Mariners. All of the players suggested by Jason – Michael Brantley, Carlos Gomez, Gerado Parra, Josh Reddick, Will Venable, and Ben Revere – would represent an immediate improvement against right-handers. Each player presents a different level of risk and reward, which Jason covered in great detail in his piece.

Final thoughts
There are a few reasons for fans to maintain guarded optimism – or at least hope – for the remainder of the Mariners’ season. Their best hitter – Cano – is the most likely player on the team to improve, Trumbo and Jackson will probably have career-average years, and Miller and Morrison are on-track to have career-best years. Unfortunately for Mariners fans, hope is not a management strategy that wins championships.

While it’s clear that the team can’t succeed in 2015 without a better version of Robinson Cano, the Mariners need more than just their 32-year-old star to reach the postseason. They have to minimize the ineffectual Ackley and Jones may help in that regard, but he’s an unproven commodity. The Mariners can either “hope” that Jones is up to the task or they can opt to add two more players who are more proven against right-handed pitching to complement Jones and the rest of roster. Otherwise, the chances of Seattle making the postseason for the first time in 2001 will fade away.…

Well you can’t blame the Seattle Mariners for trying, but the Rickie Weeks experiment simply hasn’t worked out. The veteran was designated for assignment on Saturday to make room for reliever Danny Farquhar who was re-called from Triple-A Tacoma.

Weeks, signed to a one-year, $2 million contract this winter, has produced a .167/.263/.250 slash line in 95 plate appearances. His 53 wRC+ is third-worst on the team — minimum 50 plate appearances — and is trailed only by Chris Taylor and Willie Bloomquist. Weeks hit two home runs but only managed one other extra-base hit, a double.

The 32-year old was signed to form something of a left field platoon with Dustin Ackley. He holds a career 127 wRC+ and .828 OPS against left-handed pitching and holds a 100 wRC+ in 52 plate appearances against lefties this year. The purpose of his signing was to bring in a lefty-masher, but any value gained from his platoon splits was offset by his overexposure to right-handed pitching — a -5 wRC+in 43 plate appearances — and poor defensive play. He’s credited with -0.7 fWAR on the season.

All-in-all it may have been too much of a transition to ask of Weeks who, for the vast majority of the past nine seasons, has been an everyday second baseman. Outfield coach Andy Van Slyke has worked wonders with Ackley’s fielding and Weeks is a good enough athlete that he was expected to be competent in the outfield, or at least not disastrous. But to go from hitting everyday to pinch-hitting and platoon appearances can be difficult for some players.

Despite showing monster power in Spring Training, Weeks was never able to hit a groove this year. Hard to do without receiving regular playing time that wasn’t going to happen.

The Mariners have ten days to trade, release or waive Weeks and try to slip him down to Triple-A. It’s plausible that he would pass through waivers unclaimed given his production this year, but less likely he would accept a minor league assignment. If released, he should be able to fetch a minor league deal with the M’s responsible for what’s owed on his $2 million salary less the pro-rated major league minimum if he is called-up to the majors.

At the time of Weeks’ signing, most were applauding general manager Jack Zduriencik for making a low-cost depth move and pushing the payroll into the $120 million range. Obviously this is a move that didn’t work out and should have had the plug pulled weeks ago, but Jack Z does deserve some credit for being willing to move on as we’ve repeatedly seen the opposite from him.

To some degree, we can look at the move as swapping Weeks for Mark Trumbo, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a multi-player deal last week. Both are right-handed power bats and slated to received time at designated hitter and a corner outfield spot. Obviously Trumbo is the superior hitter, despite the poor start to his Mariner career, but the defensive improvement is likely negligible between the two.

Where the move gets a little more tricky is in how Nelson Cruz is affected. Originally signed to be the club’s DH, Cruz has appeared in 38 games in the outfield compared to 22 at DH. Limiting Cruz to DH is simply an effort to maximize his offensive value and minimize his defensive shortcomings, but also aids in preserving his health over the full season.

Cruz missed a couple games this past week with back spasms that could be related to him spending an increased number of innings in the outfield, but that’s just speculation.

Both Trumbo and Cruz will be in the lineup regularly, but at least in the early-going, it looks as if Cruz will see more time in the outfield — which is not a positive outcome. Trumbo can also play some first base and should be used to spell Logan Morrison from tough left-handers with Cruz taking DH duties.

Taking the place of Weeks on the roster is Farquhar who had been working through some early-season issues at Triple-A. He pitched 9 and 1/3 innings across five appearances, including one start, and allowed seven earned runs. Three home runs are the culprit of the high ERA and FIP numbers he has in the time spent with Tacoma — 6.75 and 6.57 respectively. Farquhar struck out ten batters compared with three walks and manager Lloyd McLendon commented that he was able to work on his control.

The re-call of Farquhar gives the Mariners an eight-man bullpen which was needed after Felix Hernandez only lasted a third of an inning on Friday night against the Houston Astros. Seattle did use an eight-man bullpen at times last year but this figures to be a short-term move as the club has Bloomquist, Ackley and Jesus Sucre on the bench. Taylor and James Jones figure to be options when the change is made.

In related news, outfielder Justin Ruggiano has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A. He struggled in limited playing time this year too, but will give the M’s a veteran depth option.

Long story short, Trumbo is superior to Weeks, and this is a move that needed to be made. Next up on the seat that just got even hotter: Dustin Ackley and Willie Bloomquist.…