Of Stars, Scrubs ... and the Civics in the Middle
Pictured below: 0.5 WAR in 2016



What are the odds of these three things happening (again) in 2017?

(1) Robinson Cano hitting .300, with 30-35-plus homers -- HIT and PWR galore -- while playing 161 games?

(2) Nelson Cruz hitting 43 homers!, with everything else he does at the plate (147 OPS+) -- that is, remaining baseball's #1 home run hitter?  155 games?

(3) Kyle Seager slugging .499 with a 133 OPS+?  For 158 games?

(4) Only a handful of the Mariners' 25-odd position players being liabilities in the least?

It was a starry night out last year, especially down the stretch.  The forecast for tomorrow night's skies?



I'd give you about 20:1 odds against those four things happening again quite that way, and I'm guessing you'd want the FAIL side of that bet even at those odds.  Is Nelson Cruz old enough that you can pretty much pencil in a big slide for him next year?


Jerry DiPoto said, on Drayer's blog,


Nelson Cruz will not require surgery on his wrist. Dipoto said there doesn’t appear to be anything structurally wrong and that rest would do him good. Cruz played through a tremendous amount of pain in the final weeks of the season, something Dipoto marveled at.

“What he was able to do, watching him swing at the high ball, it looked painful. It’s like he had to get back in the box and breathe so he could actually see again, and then he’s hitting the ball 500 feet,” Dipoto said excitedly. “It was absolutely phenomenal and again, a testament to a guy who did not want to lose. Maybe as much as anyone in that clubhouse, he and Robinson (Cano), the way they led, it was phenomenal to watch.”

For a third straight offseason, the middle of the Mariners’ order will not have to be addressed. This time around, though, the needs around it are more defined.



I'll take that as a YES for Nelson Cruz hitting 4th next year.  And a 30 HR, 100 RBI type expectation.  The Mainframe Says?  Cruz is year to year, and we have to chop 10% off his performance in assuming next year is the beginning of the decline.  But look here, friend, Nelson Cruz is going to be drafted very high in fantasy leagues, and very high in all of the championship leagues.  The smart money will be on Nelson Cruz to produce next year, and it's not like any other player in the major leagues is a guarantee.


SCRUBS A+, Dept.

DiPoto justifiably pointed out that the players with [NEGATIVE WAR] went way, way down.  He's right.  Only a few guys posted negative WAR, and those who did, only posted like -0.2 WAR.  

Here, check this table out, and sort it by WAR.  Ben Gamel had -0.2 in 47 plate appearances, Dan Vogelbach had -0.3 in 13 PA's ... but usually the liabilities for Seattle are -0.6, -0.9, and there are a dozen of those.  

Under DiPoto's meat cleaver, Chris Taylor failed to play well, had 0.0 WAR ... but then again only got 3 at bats.  ;- )   Vogelbach didn't look great, and we're talking three games before DiPoto said "Uhhhhh let's shoot for next year."  Three games!  That was the way with DiPoto.  Stefen Romero had -0.3 WAR ...and therefore only 19 at-bats.  LOL.

Shawn O'Malley, Moe Dawg's guy, kept it positive at +0.3 WAR ... and therefore received 232 at-bats.  

Contrast that with Mike Zunino's bizarrely tortured 2014 season under Zduriencik.  You might call the Iannetta 1H / Zununo 2H the defining call of Jerry DiPoto's season.



 Look at the b-ref.com table again.  You've got three monsters at the top, combining for 19 WAR.  You say, we better not figure that for more than 14-15 WAR.  I'll /cosign that.

I'll also co-sign that DiPoto can't really out-do himself for limiting the -0.2 WAR damage at the very bottom of the roster.

But!  Consider the roster slots 4-10.  They were very, very improvable.  After the Big Three, there were a couple of guys at 1+ WAR, and then the rest of them had 0.5.  Adam Lind actually had -0.3.  The Honda Civics on this roster simply did not deliver.  That's understandable.  We've got to give DiPoto some time to get that talent pyramid rolling.

And this is where DiPoto has an EASY job, improving the production in 2017, right there in the Honda Civics section of the roster parking lot.  The team OPS+ was only 106.  A target of 110-115 is reasonable, and 106 should be the minimal expectation.  You got a lot to work with in the 1-3 and 11-20 slots.





Address those spots and we're cooking with gas.  I'll make the point again, that O'Malley was actually a better fielding SS than Marte.  Weird.  Marte is a question mark, a big one.  His career 82 ISO is Brendan Ryan-esque (81) and only a bit better than Willie B.  I'm not all in on Ketel.  

And we've addressed the COF issue elsewhere but I will say I'm a big Gamel fan.  He even hits lefties better than RHP, or did so for the past two seasons.

BU catcher will have to be considered.  Is Sucre the guy?  I have no concernes about Vogelbach. Give him the bat and let him get comfortable.  Houston does that so well with their top young players.  "Go play kid.  Hit the ball!"  Vogs will be pretty good sometime early next year.


Strong up the middle.

Therefore, the most glaring need is a reliable shortstop, preferably with plus range, but you've simply got to at least have reliability there. And you need him to not be a black hole in the lineup. Add a 100 OPS+ good fielder to the shortstop position to Zunino, Cano and Martin and you're strong up the middle. Can Marte become that guy? I'm not convinced after this year. O'Malley might be better, but would he be overexposed in a full-time gig at short, both on the field and at the plate?

I would love to see Dipoto solve this position over the offseason in such a way that we don't have to worry about it for several years.


It sounds like they want to give Marte the Paxton/Zunino treatment: send him to AAA for most of the 2017 season and coach him through the many lessons the league applied to his noggin in 2016. Cozart makes a ton of sense in that scenario. 


And at this point, you'd be almost surprised if DiPoto did NOT take an option similar to that.


But my 2 favorite possibilities don't necessarily fit in the locking down the position for years category. 

Cozart would be good if you want to develop Marte in AAA a bit longer.  The possibility for an extension might even exist, though it's much more likely he becomes a FA and I'd think he'll probably be worth the qualifying offer.

Ian Desmond could be moved back to SS with the same idea, kept in a Corner if you think Marte is progressing as needed or moved as needed between them.   It would probably be best to have him in a set spot going in to spring but the possibility of him becoming a super sub seems to me to exist.  Even if he's split between a corner and SS that's added value.  In any case, him Marte and O'Malley would combine to make me feel pretty secure about SS going into '17.


What would Phil say?


You being a Gamel fan ... DiPoto raved last week about Heredia, "He's going to have a career in this league."  What are your own feelings Moe about a spring competition between Gamel and Heredia for one corner OF job?  And bring in a big stick for the other spot?

See youse guys shortly ... thanks for the smokin' ideas ...


In 514 PA's, Heredia has 24 XB hits.  435 AB's. 

That's in AA-AAA-MLB.  Almost equally split between MiLB and MLB.

Marte's lack of pop concerns me and he's a SS:  He had 24 XB's in 466 MLB PA's.  437 AB's.  

Heredia is going to play a corner OF and he has (this year) less pop than Marte. He better hit .300 if that's the cse.  He did that once in Cuba.

He's a glovey 4th OF, unless he goes and plays CF.  He played CF once for Seattle.

Gamel had 40 in 590 PA's.


I totally get and agree with what you're saying.   Down the road a year or 2 we may need that COF pop.   Right now we're coming off a season where outfield defense was among the biggest problems while pop was among the biggest plus'.  I think the difference between Heredias possible future development and what most seem to see may be sizeable.  Those PA you listed are ALL of his PA stateside.  Going in to spring it would possibly be best to plan on him going to AAA with all that in mind, but him being already at his ceiling seems highly unlikely to me. 


I'm not down on Heredia.  I just want him to hurt the ball, some.  I like the guy, but not as an everyday OF right now.  

Aoki is the type of guy he might become.  Minus his rookie season, Aoki has never been north of 32 XB hits.  That was this season, btw.  But Aoki hits .290 and walks 65 pts.

Even if you take a way Aoki's bashing rookie season, he's had an XB hit in 6.5% of his AB's.  Heredia was at 4% in the bigs and about 5.5% overall this year.  If he develops a bit more pop and hits .280 then he's a pretty good player.  His eye really helps!  A reminder, he had 1 AB in '14 and didn't play at all in '15. 


If imagining misfortune for division rivals makes you happy (I plead guilty) you'll probably like this piece on the Rangers.


Key pull quotes:

The 2017 Rangers are currently projecting at 77.5 wins.

The 2007 Mariners were almost a mirror image of the current Rangers, leading to the famously ill-fated offseason that followed: the Bedard trade (shedding both Adam Jones and Chris Tillman in the process)...

Yes, Houston's got a lot of young talent.  But Correa was not MVP, as many expected. Only the Rays struck out more.  Here are the FIPs for their rotation:

McHugh 4.35

Fiers  4.48

Keuchel  4.55

Fister  4.64

McCullers  (elbow)

In fairness, both Felix and Walker were worse than these numbers.  (But for Doc, Karns was 4.05).


I would almost be willing to bet cold, hard $$ that DiPoto trades one of the young starters. Probably Walker or Karns. It's going to be a sellers market and Jerry will not be able to resist. 


That bats are far cheaper than arms at the moment.  I think it helps explain Monty for 'Bach +.

I don't necessarily like the idea of moving one, but what are the offers?   There's a certain point of return that I could definitely understand trading...anyone, really.  With the market leaning that way recently, it makes perfect sense that one could be dealt.  I think they need more depth there though so it's hard to say whether it should be done without seeing how the depth can be filled.

Taro's picture

I think going into the offseason you have to assume the baseline of talent is somewhere around .500, meaning if you want a playoff contending team you need to be looking to add 6-8 wins to the roster. 

Not going to be easy, but doable. If the Ms don't have the balls to go for it, they need to aggresively rebuild while many of their vets are still highly touted. Either scenario would require balls. 


Are usually a combination of MOTO/TOR are getting too old and there's no replacements on the horizon.

Some of our MOTO may be approaching that, but there's O'neill, 'Bach, Zunino who may help around there in that window.  No certainties but there's possibilities that may be close.

Same thing with the TOR and Paxton, Walker, Karns.  The holes the team has can be fixed without blowing it up and the age of the 40 man drops as soon as the Series is over and the 4 Free Agents are no longer on it.  Kuma and Cruz are 35, Cano 33, Wilhelmsen 32, Cishek and Felix 30...The team is already mostly under 30 at that point.  Adding more talent that can be productive for several years makes the most sense to me.   I don't agree that there's any 1 or 2 year window, 6 players over 30 is a small group and the particular names aren't ones I think we should be concerned about falling off a cliff. 

Taro's picture

The problem with the Ms is that the core is old. The vast majority of the production comes from Cano, Cruz, Seager. None of them can fall off. None of them can get injured. None of them can have down seasons.

The team will stay relevant as long as ALL three are still chugging along, but you are playing with fire on a year to year basis IMO. Its already happening with Felix and Iwakuma. If either player was still in their primes we'd be a playoff team right now. Now that both have declined that window is just getting narrower. 

This team CAN contend, but they probably should be rebuilding. I look at this roster and I don't see how you stretch it much beyond 2017. In my mind we have 1+ year left to really go for it and even then it feels a bit desperate. This is more of a fringe contender than a strong one.

We really need a strong offseason to get back into it.


I can agree with a lot of it.  It was very stars and scrubs this year with practically no in between.  If there becomes more in between then the stars don't need to be as bright.  For that matter stars aren't just left over from last year's roster, many are developed, traded for or signed.  We're not limited to what's already here, in the state it's previously been in.   Finding replacements for guys before they do fall apart can extend the window and being able to see it and move on the best you can seems like traits Dipoto possesses.

Felix and Kuma may decline, does that stop Paxton Walker or Karns from improving or even just staying healthy to contribute near the same level but longer?

I don't see Dipoto not continuing to improve the roster just because it's more complete than a year ago.  Maybe not as many moves but that also means that resources can be combined for more impactful moves. 

I'm not saying it's in perfect shape, just that I don't see a shrinking window but an expanding one. 

Taro's picture

The Astros are the team to beat in the division from next year on. They are loaded with tradable assets and free money that they can just deal for SP.

Texas will drop significantly and actually probably need to think about rebuilding. 

Very important offseason for the Ms.

Seattle Sports Outsider's picture

As the Mariners, if you want to win, what better time than now?

You have all your major talent with the MLB squad. No superstars in the minors, no group of great young prospects on the rise - all the big talent is already on the squad. You have big time hitters (Cruz, Cano, Seager), big time pitchers (Felix, Diaz, Paxton/Walker), and money to spend this offseason. We don't have a squad that's going to be filled superstar for the next 10 years. But we do have a squad that will be filled with superstars for the next 2, maybe 3. 

I'd spend double or even triple what the proposed extra cash in the budget is - if the Mariners don't win in the next 3 years, it'll be another decade before that compete again (as evidenced by history), so save money then. Time is now. Spend it now.

We are wasting a great core of talent if we don't. 


This should be an interesting off season, if nothing else.

We should learn if Dipoto is one that takes each season one at a time and as individual building block - building the team and the farm as best as he can each and every year... or is he looking at the winning window and has we gotta win in the next year or three.

If Dipoto sees a window, then definitely Wishhiker and Grizz are correct that Karns or Walker (or even Miranda or Paxton) will be dealt this off season... and possibly two.  I mean looking at the farm system currently, there really is not that much new that we have not seen that is ready to contribute in 2017... and there really are not that many trading chips capable of getting Dipoto a Yelich, Springer or Bryant.

Thus, the best way to get more depth in the system then may be to trade young pitching for younger pitching and bats - like the Monty trade, and spend money on a couple filler SP's like Kazmir, Holland or such to get reliable results.


By raising the floor of production Dipoto took a weak system and a 74 win team, added depth to the farm already while improving by 12 wins.   If the focus continues on improving what's upgradeable and there's still improvement on depth and getting younger at the same time, why can it not continue?

Some mistakes have been made but in total the last year and change has seen improvement to nearly everything about the team without having a pythag strange win total.  Pythag was a win above the actual total on a team that had 1 Starter miss less than 8 starts, only 3 that made more than 20 and the general meltdown of Miley.  Several younger and controlled players were brought in while not trading any known valuable stars.  To say that it can't be done is to ignore Karns, Powell, Gamel, Heredia, Vogelbach, even Martin (27 when acquired) and several minor leaguers who could make impacts in the next few years.

The history you use as evidence is from GMs who have never done what Dipoto has so far (including Pythag being nearly even;2009 Pythag: 75 wins, 2007 Pythag:79 wins).  To say Dipoto is limited to their resumes seems like selling him short.  


It sounds like the Ms are interested in trading for Cozart still. That is a great move - give Marte a chance at Tacoma to improve out of the spotlight a la Zunino, and, if Drew Jackson proves he can hit upper-minors pitching, the timing looks good even if Marte never improves. Larry Stone hints that Ian Desmond is on the M's radar. An FA signing, which there should easily be money for as long as it's in the 4-6 year, <$12-15M/yr or so range. Heck, I might go a bit higher, given his age, proven skills and versatility - he's enough to replace Guti, give Martin breaks against LH, and play LF *much* better than Aoki, or even Smith.

The other trade I'd like to see, even if it means dealing prospects (D.J.?) to the Orcs, is to get Stephen Vogt. A BU catcher that plays a decent 1B and bats LH seems like a nice fit for the Ms. He hits Arbitration this year, so he'll get expensive for Oakland (their All-Star the last two years). Trade for him, pay him decently (i.e., about what you'd otherwise pay Ianetta), and play him for 100 games, Zunino for 100 games, and Vogelbach for 100 games and see what happens.


The other need is for a LH reliever. TNT speculates the Pirate's Tony Watson is of interest, but he would require a trade. Like Vogt he's 1st year Arb, so maybe Pittsburgh will worry about the expense and trade for some 'spects (Nick Wells?+?). Otherwise, Mike Dunn is an FA in Miami, so he'll be significantly more expensive in salary, but no 'spects required. That choice might depend on the price for Cozart and Vogt, if they go there first. Anyway, the whole off-season promises some fun. But from here, it looks like all these moves (trade for Cozart/Vogt/and maybe Watson; sign Desmond/and maybe Dunn) are doable from present resources or a small bump in budget, and without gutting the revived Farm.


Finally, Dutton and MLBTR are speculating on the possible fit of Steve Pearce, another FA. I wanted him last year; as a RH bat with versatility, he would have been a nice benchie. With Vogelbach the primary 1B, having Pearce instead of Lee as BU would give ~equal offensive capability and far more defensive flexibility. A bench of Pearce, Vogt, O'Malley, and Freeman behind a lineup of Cozart  SS - Desmond LF - Cano 2B - Cruz DH - Seager 3B - Gamel RF - Vogelbach 1B - Zunino C - Martin CF would give Servais plenty of options - his BU catcher and BU 1B can play other positions - almost a Maddon-like roster - but a boost in budget seems inevitable to do it.


I'd like to see things along those lines.

One thing though is Desmond has been my "if not Cozart" pick because he can play a pretty good SS and outfield corners.  His bat isn't what I'd prefer in a pure corner OF but his limited OF defense stats look strong enough that maybe it's worth it.  If his Corner defense is really that good I'm happy with him there and he's an option for SS in '18 when Cozart walks.  Still the positional flexibility has a good chance of helping down the road.  I hadn't considered both much before now but it's not a bad idea. 


Thought it was interesting on the Toronto-Texas game coverage that they characterized Desmond as a "plus" CF/LF with a "plus-plus" arm with excellent accuracy. Being able to OPS .800 batting #2 makes him a good COF, but not a star. Unless he just wants to play CF, he'd fit nicely in the M's lineup and roster. And, since Cozart is an experienced, though not premier, lead-off guy if his knee is right, the M's could have a strong 1-2 to lead into their already strong 3-4-5, and let Gamel, Martin, Vogelbach, et al hit farther down where they can get less ABs, but plenty of experience.

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