On the heels of last year’s wildly successful (and chaotic) Cubs preview, Brandon Lee, Dan Epstein, and Darius Austin brought back the Facebook chat preview to discuss the 2018 Seattle Mariners.
Darius: I think the obvious starting point is: what did Jerry DiPoto do?
Or should that be Dipoto? I always forget.
Dan: I think the capitalization of diPoTo changes with every trade he makes.
He made two wacky, unexpected signature JD moves this winter. 1) He started a podcast, and 2) trading for Dee Gordon to make him a centerfielder.
Brandon: I don’t know if signing Ichiro was a wacky one, but I’d add that to the list of moves that defined the Mariners offseason
(Along with the big non-move of missing out on Ohtani)
Dan: I’ll consent to calling it wacky to sign a 44-year-old singles hitter.
Missing Ohtani really cramped their off season. It seems like they were more crushed by losing out on him than most of the other teams.
Brandon: And to lose him to a division rival makes it even worse!
I’d love to know what Jerry REALLY said/did/thought when he heard that Ohtani was going to the Angels
Darius: I’ve felt for the last few years that they were a bit stuck in the middle – not bad enough to tear it down, especially with Cano’s deal, not good enough to be anything more than a possible wild card team. Ohtani felt like he might have been that push they needed.
Dan: After using 17 starting pitchers a year ago, stabilizing the rotation should’ve been the top priority. It seems like they had no plan B for this after they lost Ohtani
Darius: It’s not a great way to build a team, really. I think they need a big bounce-back from Felix and good health from Paxton to really keep up now. Gordon is the big wild card now – if he’s actually great in the outfield then maybe he gives them that edge.
Dan: After a 78-84 season, I just don’t see a big move that puts them up with the Astros, or even the Angels. Even if Gordon works out, he’s probably not a lot better than Jarrod Dyson.
Brandon: They also don’t have a lot in terms of internal reinforcements who can help the big club. This farm system is baaaaddddd
Hoping for bounce back seasons from dudes over 30 isn’t optimal in terms of snagging a wild card spot
Dan: So if they’re 5-10 games below .500 in July, who gets traded to rebuild the farm system?
Who’s not signed for a long time?
Darius: Bullpen pieces seem like the obvious starting place, but Diaz hasn’t even hit arbitration yet.
I can see Nicasio being one of the first out the door if he can maintain his level.
A contender would probably want Cruz for a half-season, but they won’t get much. J.D. Martinez didn’t bring back a whole lot.
Brandon: I gotta imagine everyone who doesn’t have veto power would get traded. I mean, who on the roster right now will even be part of the next Good Mariners team?
There’s a few dudes who wouldn’t get traded, I guess, cuz they’re post-hype dudes who would soak up most of the playing time post-exodus (Vogelbach mostly)
Dan: Well, Seager and Cano are locked up for a long time. They’d better hope the next good Mariners team includes them, because otherwise it’s a long wait.
Darius: Yeah, Cano, Seager, Leake, Segura, and Gordon can all be under contract through at least 2021 if options are exercised.
Some of those deals aren’t bad, but you wonder how many teams want to take on these guys who are locked in to their mid-late 30s.
Dan: That’s not a bad core, but again, pitching is the biggest problem here and I don’t see a solution anywhere, other than going for better health
Darius: Before we get into the pitching, as Brandon mentioned Vogelbach and we have some Cubs expertise here, I wanted to touch on him: what is going on there? They really seem like they hate him and I have no idea why they went out and got him in the first place.
Brandon: The Montgomery-Vogelbach trade seems to get progressively worse for the Mariners. I think the M’s jumped on him before we really knew that something was going on with the power spike and they felt like it was a good investment in a young power hitter.
It was a good move to get him into the DH league (he wasn’t a great 1B and with Rizzo , the Cubs didn’t have anywhere to play him) but yeah the Mariners really don’t seem to like him.
Seattle could really use someone like Mike Montgomery right now on this pitching staff.
Dan: Now that they have Ryon Healy, Vogelbach needs to make the team as a backup 1B, which doesn’t exist anymore.
Darius: That was a weird trade. I think Healy has good power and decent contact skills, which is not really enough for me to say ‘let’s definitely go and get this guy to play ahead of Vogelbach’.
Or indeed Mike Ford, who I think went straight into their top 10 prospects after the Rule 5 draft and has basically hit everywhere.
I guess this is Cruz’s fault too, as there are few more locked-in DHs than him.
Brandon: That said, I would be all about seeing 2018 Nelson Cruz get regular reps in the outfield
(He played 28 innings out there last year!)
Darius: The Orioles are still putting Mark Trumbo out there. How much worse can it be?
Dan: I don’t know. If you hope a guy can be as “good” as Trumbo in the outfield, he probably doesn’t belong there.
Mike Ford was already returned to the Yankees, so at least Vogelbach has that working for him.
Darius: I missed that. I was wondering if Vogelbach’s hot spring was going to rule him out. I think we’ve also spent a long time talking about a guy who probably still isn’t going to play, so let’s talk about a guy who hopefully is. James Paxton: over/under 140 innings?
Brandon: Over but not by a lot. I’d take under 160 innings
He’s increased his innings by a little every year, but at a career high with 24 gs last year.
Dan: I’ll take they over just because we’ve been too negative I think
Darius: FanGraphs Depth Charts has gone for the very aggressive 172. PECOTA’s 148 sounds about right to me.
Dan: Will he lead the team in IP?
Darius: I think Leake will. I feel like that’s his primary skill. Leake might be the anti-Paxton.
Brandon: Yeah my money is also on Leake
Darius: 30-plus starts six straight years, never above 7 K/9.
I know at least one member of the BP prospect team does not like Paxton’s mechanics at all. I don’t know if that makes me any more concerned, but it reinforces my concern.
Brandon: If the Mariners are in the Wild Card hunt at the deadline (say they’re part of a cluster of teams who are within say 3 games of the second spot). What’s gone right for them so far?
Dan: Health, for one thing
Darius: Yeah, I think Paxton has stayed on the field, Felix has too and figured out how to be at least a three-win guy with his diminished stuff.
Probably more of a 2016 Robinson Cano than 2017 too.
Dan: Success from their question mark positions, like 1B and catcher
Darius: At the risk of incurring Meg Rowley’s wrath, how good is Mike Zunino?
Brandon: Zunino is only 27 and I’m always surprised by his relative youth
I think he’s Good
Dan: It varies year to year
Pretty good for a catcher? The position as a whole is super weak right now across baseball
Darius: The bar is not high, and his framing is good. Although he’s no Austin Hedges or Tyler Flowers (now a six-win player, apparently).
But even in the current environment, I look at a 36.8% strikeout rate and get a bit queasy.
Dan: Me too. Between the 36.8 K% and .251 AVG, one of them has to drop, and it’s probably not the strikeouts.
Darius: Yeah. That said, he’s projected as a 2.5 win player by Steamer with a .298 OBP without adding the framing value, so I guess that speaks to his defensive game overall and how little it matters at catcher if you have some pop.
If the Mariners are in it, what can Dipoto do to improve this team? Where does he trade from?
Brandon: I’ve been trying to think about that. Considering the state of their farm, I think it’s either taking on salary or Dipoto identifying a guy who they can improve
I think it’ll end up being something where the Mariners swap 40-man guys with another team hoping the guy they get shows some upside for 2 months
Dan: They certainly can’t make a big addition via trade, but then again, this is DipOtO we’re taking about so anything is possible.
Brandon: How close are they to the luxury tax?
Dan: Maybe if Healy and Vogelbach crater, they trade for a CF, move Gordon back to 2B, and Cano to 1B
Darius: Not that close. They’re at $160M right now according to Spotrac.
Brandon: So they can add some salary here
Dan: At least theoretically. Ownership may have their own cap
Brandon: (Which I guess they already did with Leake)
Darius: They have $125M already committed for next year, and the likes of Paxton and Zunino going to their third arb year. So maybe they’re not going to be all that keen to take on a lot.
Dan: Their roster is pretty inflexible right now. If they get out of the 75-80 win doldrums, they’ll have to do it largely on their own merit.
Darius: That’s the thing with half this team. They can’t bench Cano, Cruz, Felix etc. They just have to hope they’re great.
That lack of flexibility makes the Ichiro move all the weirder to me.
What are they going to do when Ben Gamel comes back? Can they really just release him?
Brandon: Yeah. The veteran core gives them a pretty high floor (as long as multiple of them don’t completely bottom out) but not a lot of upside
They can’t release Ichiro
Darius: So is someone like Guillermo Heredia or Andrew Romine (who’s out of options) going to get shuffled back to the minors? That seems to be it as far as options go.
Brandon: Could be that Ichiro and the Mariners have a handshake agreement. Ichiro has sometime with the big team (until Gamel comes back) then he gets a nice send off in Seattle
Dan: Someone will always be hurt.
Brandon: It’s the MLB equivalent of the retiring NFL player’s 1-day contract
Dan: There’s your dark thought for the day
Brandon: And who knows, it might be Ichiro (maybe)
Dan: Most likely it will be Jeff Sullivan.
Darius: Where is Franklin Gutierrez? I feel like it should be him (after two weeks of insane production, of course).
Dan: Hey there’s room on the DL for everybody!
Brandon: What’s “success” for the Mariners this season?
Darius: From a purely objective standpoint, I think being in the wild card race to near the end qualifies.
From a fan/team perspective, I don’t think just missing the wild card again actually would.
Dan: Playoffs are possible. The team isn’t bad. It’s just rather unlikely.
Darius: Yeah, I think anything above second wild card is unreasonable for designating minimum ‘success’.
So I guess I’ll say that. And the good news on that front is I don’t think any of those other teams – Twins, Angels, maybe the Blue Jays – is going to run away with it.
Brandon: I guess I’m in the boat of thinking too much has to go right for them to really be in it for WC2
If it requires unrealistic health AND a throwback season from someone
Darius: I pretty much agree. I’m just having a hard time saying that like 83 wins would be a success, which it would in terms of outperforming the projections.
Brandon: Ok ok “success” IS contention for WC2, BUT this comes with factoring in DipoTO rather than viewing the team as static
Dan: It’s actually spelled “DIpOt..O”
Brandon: sry sry jerry
Darius: I feel like we’re verging on Spongebob meme territory here.
Dan: Should we do win projections then?
Darius:We should (because I will make you do them anyway if we don’t do them here).
Dan:That’s exactly what I was going to say. A little bit better health gets them to.500
Brandon: Dipo<annoyed grunt>
Darius: I would genuinely not be surprised by anything between 74 and 85. I will get on board with 81 to save me splitting the difference.
I wonder if Jerry has done a prediction on his podcast.
Brandon: Is it bad luck to predict your own team?
Darius: I feel like it happens relatively often, although maybe not as specific as an actual win total.
The real question is what’s DIpOTo’s favourite dinosaur?California Tie-Breaker: Not the End of the World
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