A quick programming note: Todd Dybas has the game tonight. I will be covering Tuesday’s game. And after that, Todd and Don Ruiz will handle the bulk of the last four games before the all-star break. I’m headed back to Big Sky Country for my class reunion. I will still be around to help handle any news that breaks or any roster moves that might be made.
One of my favorite radio shows is done by Tony Kornheiser in WashingtonD.C. It’s a show that’s sort of about sport, sort of about other stuff and mostly about Mr. Tony. I’ve been listening for years. He has an almost cultish following.
When he has beat writers on from the Nationals and Redskins, he always asks this question first: “Where are we at right now?”
So in reverence to Tony, I figured I’d answer: “Where are the Mariners at right now?”
Coming into Monday, they are still 10 games under .500 at 39-49 and in fourth place in the AL West, now 4 ½ games behind the third place Angels.
Right now as the all-star break approaches and the July 31 trade deadline looms, they are in baseball purgatory. They probably aren't buyers, and they haven't become sellers … yet. After the three-game series at Safeco Field against the Indians on July 22-24 - or even before that, we should have a pretty good idea.
It’s a weird balancing act for the Mariners. They have a ton of guys on one year deals or in the final year of their contract. Oliver Perez, Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez have the most trade value followed by Michael Morse and Joe Saunders and then Brendan Ryan, Jason Bay and others.
All could be dealt. Some might get a return, others won’t get much. But here’s where it gets interesting. The Mariners made no secret that they wanted/expected a winning record this season.
If you trade the bulk of those veteran players, that gets a little more difficult to achieve. Yes, the kids like Nick Franklin and Brad Miller and Mike Zunino have invigorated this team with their energy. They will struggle at some point in the second half. It’s baseball it happens to everyone. But if the Mariners dump a good portion of these veteran players, the return likely won’t be major league talent, but minor league prospects.
So then you have to look at who they would bring up to replace those veteran players on the 25-man.
Obviously, the easiest fills are starting pitching with Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer waiting. The Mariners could easily stretch out Blake Beavan or Hector Noesi as well. Because of overall innings limits and lack of experience, I’d be surprised if Taijuan Walker made an appearance in Seattle this season.
The bullpen situation is mildly tricky. Stephen Pryor could return after the all-star break to add some depth. Lucas Luetge and Noesi are available as well. But there isn’t a ton of help on the 40-man. Logan Bawcom could be an interesting candidate, and there could be room made on the 40-man for him with a trade.
As for the position players, there isn’t much to call up because they’ve already been called up.
Carlos Triunfel could be called up as a utility guy. Though I think the Mariners want him to play every day, so that means everyone’s favorite – Robert Andino – could make an appearance if Ryan is dealt. Carlos Peguero is still there and swinging wildly at everything. Abe Almonte is at best a fourth outfielder. Nate Tenbrink is an interesting player. But his bat has cooled off significantly. Stefen Romero looks like a good hitting prospect that could help. But none of them are guarantees.
I guess what it’s taken me so long to get around saying … if you dump some of these veteran every day players, losses should be expected. The talent level will take a drop. The production isn’t going to be replaced. Remember at the end of 2011 when all those young kids were playing? There were some ugly games.
And that leaves Zduriencik in a quandary. Will he get enough talent in return for trading some of these guys to justify the losses that would likely follow in the second half of the season?
Salvaging a winning season wouldn’t be easy, but it wouldn’t be impossible based on the type of baseball we’ve seen from the Mariners the last week.
But how much does that matter to the Mariners’ fan base? How much does it matter to Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong? How much does it matter to Zduriencik’s job future? How much does a winning record – with several players who won’t be back next year - matter to you?
Ok, well now that I used about a 1,000 words to answer that. Let’s get to some even more meandering thoughts.
Dustin Ackley’s throwing arm from center field was exposed in Saturday’s loss to the Reds. He’s never had a great throwing arm since coming off of Tommy John surgery in college. And a few scouts told me that his arm wasn’t great before that.
But you saw two guys score from first base on balls that didn’t get by him.
The poor throwing arm is a partial reason. But if you look at the replays, Ackley was also playing extremely deep on both hits. That’s a function of not being exactly comfortable in the outfield. It’s much easier to run in and make a catch on a short fly ball than it is to go back on a flyball and make that catch for a person who hasn’t played a lot out there.
Ackley admitted he plays deeper than Gutierrez or Saunders because of that.
So that was a factor.
Also if you watch closely, he didn't do a great job of moving toward the infield as he fields the ball and use the momentum of the body on his throw. He’s so focused on making sure the ball doesn’t get behind him. That’s a function of just not trusting himself out there.
It’s not always going to be that way. The more he plays, the more comfortable he will get. The Mariners were forced to rush him back to the big leagues. Had Franklin Gutierrez not been, well, Franklin Gutierrez and gotten hurt immediately, Ackley would likely still be with the Tacoma, learning in a pressure-free situation.
When the Kansas City Royals sent down a slumping Alex Gordon (3rd overall pick of 2006) and he was trying to fix his hitting approach and convert from third base to left field, he was there for 68 games at Triple A Omaha.
I really think because of lack of arm strength Ackley is more suited for left field. But the Mariners have Ibanez there and you really can’t play him anywhere else. It’s an odd situation the Mariners find themselves in. Also for Ackley, it seems as though it’s easier to read balls coming off the bat in center field, which is why they are keeping him there.
As for Ackley’s hitting, he had three hits in the last two games. There are signs. When he gets his front foot down early and stays on the ball it looks good. When that front foot is late and glides into the pitch, he leaks the front shoulder out and pulls off the ball. It’s why he fouls off what looks like some great pitches. It's a process. It doesn't just happen over night. Unfortunately, that process is being done against big league pitching.
Carter Capps is really struggling. He was far from good and the numbers against left-handed hitters are too put it bluntly … abysmal.
He's a liability against a lefty in a close game. The lack of a success is a function of less than perfect fastball command and hitters not respecting his off-speed stuff to not sit on the fastball.
His slider and curve aren’t great pitches right now. They show signs of being plus pitches. But there is not enough consistency. And the change-up which would really help against lefties, has been non-existent.
So hitters look fastball. Capps’ command hasn’t been great and they are hitting it.
Ideally, this is something you address at the Triple A level. But the lack of open roster spots makes calling up Logan Bawcom an issue.
What helps the Capps situation is the return of Tom Wihelmsen. If he can be consistent, Wedge can work Capps into some non-high leverage situations. The return of Stephen Pryor, hopefully sometime after the all-star break would help.