D&B Podcast Episode 15 – Nohtani

Grab a drink and let’s go exploring

Fresh off HELL WEEK for the Mariners, and all Seattle sports, Nathan, David, and Scott take a dive into the mire and try to scrounge something worth salvaging out of the Mariners’ offseason.

0:00-40:21 – DID YOU KNOW, that Shohei Ohtani signed with the Angels? He did, he signed with the Angels, and it was very bad. This leads to a discussion on the wisdom of building a plan designed around acquiring a specific talent through free agency, Jerry Dipoto’s future in Seattle, and the man behind the man behind the man behind the throne.

41:00-1:00:05 Let’s chat about where we go from, but also get sidetracked because man, this still really sucks. We talk about the Mariners best offseason being one that will feel……..like……a total failure to the average fan. That’s right you guys, the only thing that may save the Mariners is them failing to execute their plan. So, no worries then right? RIGHT?!

(Music credits: Iron Chic, Sufjan Stevens, The Weeknd

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If you’re so inclined you can rate us 5-STARS on iTunes right here. The SoundCloud feed is here. We are ever so grateful for you listening to our little podcast all year, and if we don’t record before the holidays hope you have a Merry Christmas with all those whom make your life its best.

So You’ve Been Rejected

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Hello Seattle Mariners. I am publicly addressing you as anything that I say to you tonight won’t be any more humiliating than what has transpired this afternoon. So, I figured I could give you some unsolicited advice because when something like this happens, everybody comes out of the woodworks to tell you what they would do in your spikes.

There are a handful of ways to approach this, and there’s no right way to deal with rejection, but I can just tell you what has worked for me in the past. Move on, and move on quickly.

We get it, we’ve all been there before. This time it’s going to be different, we’ll change the game, we’ll make our intentions clear from the start, we’ll stick Nelson Cruz in the outfield more than once every 140 games, we’ll start going to church, etc. The fact remains, that you shouldn’t change who you are in order to fall in line to make somebody happy. You are setting yourself up for a lot more problems long term.

Use this as an opportunity to play the field and see what’s out there. This Dee Gordon that you just picked up seems nice, smart, charming, and willing to adapt to suit a very glaring, overlooked need. That seems nice. Maybe take a few meetings with some other eligible starters and see if they can’t help you along your way to self-improvement. Even if it’s just an invitation to Spring Training, it’s still something to help you get your mind off of him. Look at it as a way to really prioritize what’s important to you. As a ball club.

If there’s anything I know about you as an organization, it’s that you have never been haunted by your past and you’re always moving forward. So I know you’ll make your way through this. It seems scary right now, but I know we will end up stronger and smarter in the end.

At the end of the day, we are your friends and we want the best for you. You’re going to run into a lot of people reaching out for the next 7-10 days that will say this, but please know that I mean it when I say that if you need anything let us know.

Shohei Ohtani signs with LAA Angels

The worst-possible outcome has happened. Let’s think about what that means.

In what is likely the worst-possible outcome for a Seattle Mariners team hoping to compete for a wildcard spot, Shohei Ohtani announced today he will sign with the LAA Angels. Following this announcement, and assuming the transaction gets the all-clear from the MLB FO, one thing is certain, the Angels are acquiring a potentially transcendent talent at the lowest possible risk.

Shohei Ohtani has yet to face an MLB hitter or an MLB arm, but if the scouting report holds true, he is a likely top-end starter with at least an average bat. If the hype is true, the Angels may have essentially just added a second Mike Trout at the cost of pre-arb Willie Bloomquist who can pitch and hit (imagine ’98 Pedro with Frank Thomas’ power). This sort of player has never really been in the conversation before, ever, in the MLB.

A million articles will be written about this move over the next few days and weeks and months, less about the impact on the Mariners, but let’s touch on this briefly. Ohtani arriving with an ALW rival is the worst-possible outcome for the Seattle Mariners in their current build. The M’s need pitching bad, needed the West to get worse, and need to spend all sorts of money in an inflated pitching market. This plays directly against their hand and in likely the largest way possible for a playoff appearance in 2018 and even worse in ’19.

The time has come to start to consider the current window shut and while Dipoto likely will not, and it is not the ONLY way out, the current MLB roster needs to be seriously evaluated for what other organizations may want in exchange for bolstering Seattle’s farm. Use the newly acquired international slot money to find the next generation of Mariners. It’s time to sell.

The new era of the Seattle Mariners should begin today, and while it isn’t the one we wanted, it’s the one we have.

 

Mariners acquire Dee Gordon, Ohtani Bucks

There. The stove is on. Are you happy?

As the holy scriptures say, shooters shoot. While at times he resembles me during the last five seconds of pop-a-shot at the local arcade, Jerry Dipoto’s time as General Manager of the Seattle Mariners has had one constant: A total lack of fear.

Here’s the trade, as it was announced: The Mariners are (from what I have heard) trading Nick Niedert, one of the very few arms in the minor leagues with anything remotely resembling major league potential, and two other as of yet unnamed minor leaguers for Marlins 2B Dee Gordon.

Now, wait. Second baseman Dee Gordon?!? The Mariners have a second baseman. He’s pretty good! Well, yeah, this is pretty crazy. Dee Gordon has appeared in 685 games in the field in his major league career. Every single one of them has been at 2B or SS. But from what I’ve been told the Mariners are going to try and convert him to centerfield. It’s a huge risk, and its outcome is impossible to predict.

I’m not going to try and forecast Gordon’s performance as a centerfielder here. Position changes, particularly mid-career are fraught with peril and unknowns. For now I’ll simply point out that one of the most important aspects of good outfield play is foot speed, and only three players in baseball ranked higher than Dee Gordon in raw foot speed last year. Not coincidentally, all three derive a large portion of their value from excellent outfield defense. Dee Gordon is one of the fastest baseball players alive and, while a huge unknown, the raw ingredients for a quality major league centerfielder should be there. Hopefully he’s aware of the situation, and amenable to it, because with Robinson Cano and Jean Segura locking down 2B/SS for the ~$38 million remaining on Gordon’s contract through 2020, there’s nowhere in this infield to put him.

It’s a risk, a big risk, but one with big upside both in on field performance, and potential savings. The Mariners had no realistic replacement for Jarrod Dyson coming into 2018. Without him the last two months of 2017 saw the outfield, as a whole, collapse. Mitch Haniger is an exciting player, who can play center in a pinch, but he should never be an everyday player there. Gordon’s speed allows for the possibility of not only another year with a plus glove in center, but without the financial outlay needed for a premium FA a la Lorenzo Cain. This, theoretically, allows the team the financial flexibility to spend liberally to fill other needs like STARTING PITCHING GET STARTING PITCHING JERRY DO IT.

The second, and potentially even more consequential portion of this trade is the addition of still more international slot money to dump on top of the head of Shohei Ohtani. Combined with the $1 million received from the Twins last night, in exchange for C David Banuelos, the Mariners have almost doubled the amount of money they can pay Ohtani. As of this second, that amount (roughly $3.6 million) is more than any other team.

No one, and I mean no one seems to have any idea what Ohtani is thinking, or what his priorities are. While an optimistic reading of this trade would be that Ohtani had agreed to come to Seattle pending them freeing up enough money to satisfy him, I’ve heard from sources that confirm something like that, and sources that claim that’s not the case. Like I said, no one knows a thing with certainty here.

However, this deal wouldn’t be made if the Mariners didn’t feel they were at least one of the “finalists of the finalists”. From, again, SOURCE, the Mariners left their meeting with Ohtani feeling confident in their ability to sway him. If an extra $1 million up front was what was needed to cement the agreement, and Ohtani does indeed come to Seattle, then this trade is a no questions asked win of the highest order for the franchise.

Should they eventually miss out, it’s going to suck. However, Dee Gordon successfully converting into a centerfielder should hypothetically allow the Mariners the flexibility to trade for as much talent as they gave up to acquire him, if It All Goes Wrong.

The farm is further decimated, but it was already decimated. While continuing to gut your future for a few seasons of Dee Gordon is a questionable move, Shohei Ohtani may have more WAR in his rookie year than every member of the Mariners farm does for their career. Combined. He is the rare commodity worth the risk, and despite my long held preference for a total rebuild, this is a path I can get behind. Hall of Fame talent is Hall of Fame talent.

It was clear before, but this makes it even more so: The Seattle Mariners are going for it in 2018. The addition of Dee Gordon and (cross fingers) Shohei Ohtani changes the face of the franchise moving forward. Additionally, the team should still theoretically have the payroll space to add another starting pitcher. It allows us to dream, and that is all we’ve ever really wanted.

 

An Offseason Plan: The Road Goes Ever On

All we have to decide is what to do with the team that is given us

In the introduction to this three-part series I stated that the Mariners are “at a crossroads.” The MLB roster is too old, expensive, and declining to reap the prospect harvest necessary for a quick rebuild. There’s also not quite enough talent on hand to realistically compete for a 2018 playoff spot without further, massive financial commitment from ownership.

The first two parts of this series set out to examine high-reaching paths on the outer edges of possibility. I said it in those posts but I’ll say it again, for emphasis: The Mariners are not committing to a full rebuild prior to 2019 at the earliest, and they aren’t blowing payroll out beyond the luxury tax , as their recent acquisition of High Prince of Whelm Ryon Healy can attest. Between these two extreme routes lies the deep, wide valley of realistic possibility. This post’s purpose is to venture down into that valley, and see what we find.

I’m going to break up the previous pattern of this series to look first at what I think Jerry Dipoto’s vision for this offseason may entail, at least the major beats, before humbly offering my own vision for a realistic 2018 roster. The response to this series has been very positive, and for those of you who stick with us during our dry spells, and offer encouragement for our little blog, know you have my deep, deep appreciation. Having people engage your writing, especially on a topic I love as much as baseball, is a dream come true for me personally.

Ok, gratefulness and framework out of the way. Onward.

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The Presumed Dipoto Plan

Jerry Dipoto is not a dumb man, and he does not run a bad Major League front office. Whatever Dipoto’s public face and stated beliefs are, he almost certainly is much, much more attuned to the precarious situation he and the roster find themselves heading into 2018 than I am. I’m sure he falls asleep every night fantasizing about a $250 million dollar payroll that allows him to scoop up every needed free agent around, but he knows that won’t happen. Realistically, the Mariners headed into this offseason with two glaringly obvious opportunities to improve, and one lesser one: Starting pitching, first base, and center field.

Acquiring the middling but cheap Ryon Healy makes it clear that Dipoto has set his sites on starting pitching, and the recent trading of Thyago Veiera for international slot money further makes clear what the long-presumed number one priority of the Mariners’ winter is:

Sign RHP Shohei Othani. Somehow. Someway.

I won’t bother going into the details of Ohtani here. If you’re reading this you know all about him. He’s Japan’s Babe Ruth, but the cool hipster Boston Red Sox Babe Ruth; swatting dingers and hanging out in the outfield on the days he’s not breathing hellfire 60’6″ from home plate. While it’s almost certain that Othani could never live up to the hype surrounding him, his age (23) coupled with the absurdly low cost to acquire and pay for his first few years in MLB makes him the dream acquisition of the offseason for many teams.

It’s hard to overstate how important acquiring Ohtani is to the Mariners assembling a playoff contending roster for 2018. If he’s 80-90% of the hype then the team has acquired a legitimate number two starting pitcher for relative peanuts, not just for next year but years afterwards. Should he be allowed to hit as well? The team has little to no place to put him, and the injury risk and lack of recent precedent makes it logistically an unwise, and unlikely idea. However, if Ohtani can be swayed by promises of even 5-10 PA a week then the Mariners are not in a position to be picky. You can’t pay him what he’s worth, but you can give him what he wants. You have to. Nothing else about this offseason works without him. If you must, let Ohtani hit.

Sign RHP Yu Darvish to a 6 year, $175 million dollar contract

The sole cross-alignment of my “spend to the hilt” plan and here, I think the Mariners have every intention of making a huge offer to the enormously talented right-hander.

Unless a team is capable of re-capturing the magic of last decade’s Rays, a low-budget model that has had less and less success as the analytical playing field has evened over time, massive contracts in baseball are simply part of doing business. While I’m sure Mariner ownership would prefer to wait until the Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez contracts are fully off the books before making another huge commitment, the contention window demands action now. Darvish’s age (31) and spotty injury history are a concern, but he has top 3-5 in all of baseball stuff, and can dominate a game in ways few can.

Put together, a rotation of Darvish-Paxton-Ohtani-Leake-Hernandez has the makings of the best in the division, and the best in franchise history. It turns a huge organizational weakness into a massive asset. It’s a table flipping, landscape altering pair of moves.

Timing of these two acquisitions is crucial, and may be very difficult. Acquiring Darvish without also acquiring Ohtani is simply a half-measure; an exciting but insufficient improvement. If Ohtani signs with another team, I would encourage and expect Dipoto to steer clear of the sort of contract that Darvish will command. Of course signing Darvish early may, may just be the tipping point to convincing Ohtani to come to Seattle. It’s an impossible quandary. Don’t you wish you were a major league general manager?

Add OF depth

This fucking guy

I was tempted to repeat “re-sign Jarrod Dyson” here, but given that Dyson is almost certainly seeking top dollar for his last realistic major payday I’m concerned that the Mariners will simply not have the money to retain the speedy center fielder.

While Jerry Dipoto is talking about Mitch Haniger being the team’s every day center fielder on Opening Day, that not only feels like a miscasting of the promising Haniger’s skillset, but fails to take into account his thus far fragile health. The team needs a center fielder, and Braden Bishop, fun though he his, isn’t a part of a contending team in 2018. Realistically this feels like a classic Dipoto Trade situation, although I remain hopeful that a fully-recovered Guillermo Heredia can provide enough with his bat to be an asset at the position.

Should the team fail to acquire Darvish or another, comparably high-priced starting pitcher, the idea of shifting the money to Lorenzo Cain, to potentially lock down center in a way the team hasn’t had since Mike Cameron is a very realistic one. Either way, bolstering the outfield is necessary.

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There are dozens of other possibilities and permutations to the ones I’ve outlined above. (As we speak Dipoto is currently roaming the streets of Mercer Island, trading a handful change for its equivalent in various foreign currencies. They’re just so different and new and, and, and shiny, you see.) There’s no firmly pinning down a manic entity like Jerry Dipoto. But for better or worse the 2018 roster is largely set. There are only so many things he can do without drastically altering the franchise, and he has shown no interest in doing that in his time as Mariner GM. He has been building TO this moment, not trying to avoid it, and I don’t expect him to alter course now.

Dan 2

Nathan Bishop, Seattle Mariner General Manager

For the Mariners to make the playoffs in 2018 many things will have to go right, and the potential downside to another expensive failure are massive. I’ve hammered on this but I’ll repeat it: The Mariners, heading into year three of Jerry Dipoto’s regime, still have arguably a bottom five farm system in the game. They will, at some point, need to address this with painful sacrifices, be it international bonuses, trading from the major league roster, or most likely a combination of the two.

Rather than commit to another massive contract to Yu Darvish, and make the inevitable rebuild even more challenging and difficult, an attempt at constructing a reliever heavy, potentially off-loadable roster that retains a modicum of upside may represent the wisest path forward. Rather than drastically alter course, or double down, the most advisable course of action is for the Mariners to let their current hand ride, give or take a few minor additions. As such:

Sign Shohei Ohtani

For all the reasons I stated above. Ohtani costs, in major league terms, nothing, and his age potentially helps lay the foundational keystone for the next great Mariners team. Nothing about this changes. He is the fulcrum of the entire offseason, but in this scenario failing to acquire him (a very, very realistic possibility) is endurable.

Sign RHP Brandon Morrow to a 2 year, $14 million dollar deal

I am, admittedly, very uncomfortable trying to anticipate the reliever market, and hohohoho does this name bring back some memories, but here we are.

The idea, loosely, is to replicate the 2014 Bullpen of Death that helped an otherwise mediocre roster get within a game of the wild card. The Mariners bullpen, 2017 performance aside, is underratedly filled with potentially lethal relievers. In Edwin Diaz, David Phelps, Dan Altavilla, James Pazos, and Nick Vincent, Seattle has a collection of arms you can squint and see having a great 2018, whether from recent track record or high velocity potential.

Depending on a bullpen to carry a team is needing a 17+ on a D20 saving throw, but the potential upside allows the team to keep its flexibility while helping relieve the pressure on what would, even with Ohtani, be a thin, injury prone, and average-ish starting rotation.

Brandon Morrow was nothing short of excellent with the Dodgers in 2017, and while a multi-year deal for relievers is generally considered a no-no, his high velocity stuff allows for visions of the Mariners locking down practically all games they lead after five with a succession of pitchers throwing 97+ MPH fastballs. Imagine the 2017 Yankees, but minus Aaron Judge. And Gary Sanchez. Ugh, I hate the Yankees.

Various Jerry Dipoto Style Acquisitions

Honestly, I’m not going to bother trying to lay this out. The team needs to churn a few spots; backup catcher, INF depth, OF depth. Depth. You get the idea. This is where Jerry thrives and I have no doubt he can figure a way to get fungible talent for 97 cents on the dollar while rounding out the roster.

The Rationale

While ticking every box of the Dipoto Plan above makes the Mariners a legitimate playoff contender, the one thing we all want, the likelihood of it happening is, um, not high. The Mariners need to attract two of the five or so most desirable available talents, and arguably the top two pitchers, to come to Seattle. This in a market where other teams looking for the same talent include, but are not limited to, the Cubs and Dodgers, two of baseball’s premiere organizations. It’s a huge challenge facing Dipoto.

In lieu of that unlikely outcome building the bullpen allows for a limit in financial commitment, while offsetting the team’s rotation, which would be still the weakest part of this roster. Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager will need to regain their 2016 form, and Mike Zunino will need to hold onto his 2017 gains. Mitch Haniger will need to stay healthy, and James Paxton and Felix Hernandez need to limit their missed starts.

A lot needs to go right, but the same can be said for all but the very best, most expensive, deepest rosters. While the chances are maybe 1 in 5 or so, a roster like this has potential 90-win upside, something that hasn’t happened in Seattle since 2003.

In the relatively likely case that injury, age, and under-performance conspire with the Astros to make 2018 another lost season, a bullpen-heavy roster with no new longterm commitments still allows the team the flexability to sell, should they see it as prudent. I do not have data to back this up but I would argue that no position sees its value bubble at the trade deadline more than quality bullpen arms. Nothing about this plan keeps another middling Mariner team from trading James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, David Phelps, even Kyle Seager, and kicking off the long-looming rebuild.

I admit I find the plan, to be blunt, annoying. The Mariners seemingly are willing to spend through the nose to avoid being truly terrible, but never seem able to endure the commitment necessary to build something truly great. Having 75-85 win talent year after year after year is an exhausting experience. I am ready for change, be it spending what is necessary for excellence, or enduring the losing necessary to build a farm capable of same. However, the reality is the Mariners as an organization are simply not ready to walk down either path for 2018.

Headed into the last year of his contract I have little doubt that Jerry Dipoto is operating under a playoffs or bust mandate, but without the financial flexibility to maximize those odds. As such, I advise he swing for the moon on a potential generational acquisition in Shohei Ohtani, and otherwise build around the possibility of a deadly, high-heat bullpen, and let it ride. With some good fortune, it may just work, and there’s no franchise more overdue for some good fortune than your Seattle Mariners.

Pax Happy 2

 

 

 

An Offseason Plan: Paying the Price

Push in those chips

“I think it has been difficult for us to make clear that our No. 1 objective is to get this team into the World Series,” he says.

-Howard Lincoln – Mariners CEO December 12, 2004

(Part I of this series is found here)

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the unfairness of history. The judgments of our actions and our character are never enough on their own merit. All our words and actions seem to do is provide another data point for historians to compare us to other, better, more accomplished people.

In our living days we exist within the daily inheritance left us by our forebearers. People learn, and they remember. Whatever titles, responsibilities, or privileges we accrue through time we wear as mantle, laden by the words and deeds of all those who shared those accolades throughout time. It’s a lot more than one human can counteract on their own.

“The goal has always been to go to the World Series,”

Chuck Armstrong – Mariners President, January 23rd, 2014

It’s not fair to compare John Stanton and Howard Lincoln, Pat Gillick and Jerry Dipoto. In 2002, when Lincoln and Lou Piniella were getting in shouting matches at the trade deadline, Dipoto was in his first year in a front office, working with Dan O’Dowd in Denver. Populist rabble-rousing instinct is to label Stanton as just another billionaire suit, but to do so risks falling into much of the diminishing thought and language so easily found in our present times.

John Ellis

The Mariners’ current leadership has, in the grand measure of it, very little connection to its past. But telling fans not to draw that connection is an impossible task. When the Mariners lost in 2005, and 2006, and 1985, and 1998, and 1979, and on and on and on the current executives weren’t here. But we were.

We Mariners fans have lived through Carl Everett, and Carlos Silva. We have endured 2010, and Bill Plummer. We have witnessed the wasting away of the career of Felix Hernandez, of a core of inner circle hall of famers that couldn’t even make it to a World Series.

It’s not fair that we hold the sins of previous front offices against the current one. But it’s not fair we have spent four decades of fandom and support with zero World Series appearances, and the sport’s longest playoff drought to show for it. Maybe when there’s unfairness for everyone, there’s fairness for all.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians

The Plan

With all early indications this offseason the Mariners will attempt to make 2018 a contending season, simply rounding out the fringes of the roster will not do. 2014-2017 represents the window of opportunity for the core of Kyle Seager, Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and (starting in 2015) Nelson Cruz to push this team to the postseason. Counting on those four at their current ages and coming off 2017 production levels to drive a 90+ win team is foolish wishcasting. The team needs additions, and core ones.

Most obviously the starting rotation, despite encouraging Septembers from trade acquisitions Erasmo Ramirez and Mike Leake, is in desperate need. While one can hope that Jerry Dipoto’s ceaseless back-end rotation arm churn turns up the next Charlie Morton, planning on it is, again, foolish. As such:

Sign RHP Yu Darvish to a 6 year, $175 million dollar contract

The 31-year old Darvish is, in many ways, a right-handed James Paxton. Featuring plus-plus stuff, a checkered injury history, and the ability to dominate and disappoint in equal measure, Darvish represents the clearest and most direct path to acquire another ace-like talent. His age and aforementioned injury history makes a huge, long term contract a difficult one to commit to, but this is the cost of attempting to contend without any help from your own minor league system. Darvish’s peak is as high as any pitcher in the game. He is a foundational, landscape-altering acquisition for 2018.

Acquire RHP Shohei Otani

Otani’s posting is filled with unknowns. I’ve written about this already, but no one knows exactly why he may choose to forego $100+ million to come to MLB now, rather than wait for unrestricted free agency in two years, when he would still only be 25. What we do know is that his talent, and the initially low financial cost to acquire represents an opportunity that all 30 major league franchises should be interested in pursuing. It’s going to take a recruiting push that would make an SEC football program blush, but if the Mariners could land him a top three of Paxton-Darvish-Otani would anchor probably the best, and deepest rotation in franchise history.

Sign 1B/DH Carlos Santana to a 4 year, $68 million dollar contract

In the real world of budgets signing Santana, or any position player, to this kind of contract probably puts the Mariners completely out on acquiring an ace pitcher through free agency; but this plan is about being “all-in”, and acquiring Santana’s bat in addition to the above moves would indeed be a Parade at Edgar and Dave kind of acquisition. Santana’s excellent plate discipline, and switch-hitting more than compensates for a so-so glove at first base, and moving beyond next year, he can easily transition to DH to replace Nelson Cruz once his contract expires.

Re-sign CF Jarrod Dyson to a 2 year, $20 million dollar contract 

Baseball writing has a fun way of making you look dumb. This past summer I wrote that the Guillermo Heredia, Ben Gamel, and Mitch Haniger outfield looked like one ready to lead this franchise forward. Well, Heredia collapsed, Gamel’s BABIP regression could reveal him as nothing more than a fringe major leaguer, and Haniger needs to show the ability to stay healthy and productive.

Dyson’s bat is far from an asset, but coupled with baserunning and exceptional centerfield defense he is a very useful player, and at a position the Mariners have suddenly, and once again, very little depth.

While other moves will clearly need to be done (hello Kirk Nieuwenhuis!) to round out the roster, Jerry Dipoto has shown finding slightly below average roster filler is not a problem for him. None of these acquisitions prevent Dipoto’s maniacal churning from pressing onward, ever onward, ceaselessly beating away at the mania of inactivity.

Otani2

The 2018 Outlook

The addition of three all-star level talents realistically adds somewhere between 8-12 wins to the 2018 Mariners. If you feel like 2017’s 78 wins was a bit below the team’s true talent then it would appear this is a roster capable of producing only the franchise’s sixth 90-win team in forty-one years.

Even with these acquisitions, however, significant risk remains. The overall organizational lack of depth will put this team on a tight rope for the entire season. Mike Zunino’s breakout needs to hold, Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and James Paxton need to remain healthy and productive, and the Edwin Diaz Coin needs to land on heads a fair amount of the time.

Without compelling, young talent above the high minors any holes in the roster will be difficult to fill at the trade deadline. Any significant time missed by any of the team’s stars will lead to a glaring loss of production. Even after hypothetically winning the offseason in a way that no Mariner team has ever done, this still stands as a very rickety, rapidly aging, top-heavy organization.

Still, this would stand as one of the most talented rosters the Mariners have ever assembled, and certainly the most talented since the 2003 team won 93 games. At their best they are absolutely a pennant and World Series contender.* That’s something we all want, and something that has recently felt very, very far away.

*Also, did we mention the payroll? It’s going to require an astronomical commitment from the Mariners’ ownership; we’re talking $200 million, luxury-tax approaching, Dodgers/Yankees/Red Sox/Cubs levels of spending to assemble this roster. Just consider it a Fan Tax guys, part of our win-redistribution program for all these decades of bumbling around.

The Rationale

“The fact that there are comments about this ownership and leadership group not caring about winning, but caring about making money, it’s patently false,”

-John Stanton – Mariners CEO, November 4th, 2016

The Mariners, as a franchise, are excellence-averse. In their 40 years of existence they have won 90 or more games only five times. Four of those were consecutively achieved from 2000-2003, literally the only period of time the Mariners resembled anything close to a “good” organization.

John Stanton

Many, many times many, many men have assured us that the Mariners primary goal is to make it to a World Series. But over the long arc of history results matter more than words. The fact is that too often the Mariners have come into a season with a best case scenario of simply squeaking into a Wild Card spot, a level of achievement that in some franchises gets the manager fired.

The team has made it clear they have no intention of rebuilding through the acquisition of young talent, my preferred path to building a consistent winner. As such, with the farm system unlikely to produce a star-level major leaguer prior to 2020 at the earliest, the only way up is by digging down into the pocketbook and signing the talent necessary to show us that, indeed, winning at the highest level is the burning, first priority of the entire franchise.

If ownership is unwilling to show the patience, planning, and competence to build a sustainable winner, then winning now through maniacal spending is the fastest and surest route to success. I’ve often wondered how I’d have felt about being a fan of the 1997 Marlins, who maxed out payroll for an aging roster of stars, only to sell them all off before the rings were even handed out, but I’m willing to give it a try.

If ownership does not spend as necessary, or put a rebuild plan into place soon in a manner that shows clear vision and action for the short and medium term, the next time John Stanton gives an interview and claims the World Series to be this franchise’s driving ambition will be weighed against all the times we’ve heard that before, and the final judgment will not be kind. But it will be fair.

Podcast Episode 14: Dome & Goldy, Pt. 2

Grindin’ meat, talking food, La Croix, and your Seattle Mariners

Despite (excellent) advice from his publicist, Mariner Play by Play Announcer, beef aficionado, maple lemonade connoisseur, and #verified La Croix stockholder Aaron Goldsmith returns to the show, joining David, Scott, and Nathan for a little chat.

Topics include: The 2017 Mariners, the future, Kevin Cremin, Mike Blowers, where to get the best sushi in Seattle, and a whole lot more.

(Subscribe and rate us a million stars on iTunes. Soundcloud is here. Thanks for listening.)