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September 20, 2010

Kiss'Em Goodbye

Seattle Mariners

by John Perrotto, Kevin Goldstein and ESPN Insider

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Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in September (or before), the League Division Series, League Championship Series or World Series. It combines a broad overview of this season from Buster Olney, a take from Baseball Prospectus, a look toward an immediate 2011 move courtesy of Rumor Central and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview. You can find all the teams on one page by going here.

Now, it's time to kiss the Seattle Mariners goodbye.

---

The overview

The fragile equation that had served the Mariners so well in 2009—strong defense and pitching making up for the lack of consistent offense—fell apart this year, and Seattle went on a downward spiral in the standings. Cliff Lee was hurt in spring training and unable to start the season on time; free-agent signing Chone Figgins was a complete bust; Ken Griffey Jr. was brought back despite the fact rival scouts thought his days as a productive player had ended, and the problems related to Griffey Jr.'s decline eventually led to the demise of manager Don Wakamatsu; the back end of the Mariners' rotation was erratic. Even when the Mariners flipped Lee in a trade for prospects, getting more in return than what they gave up to get Lee, the acquisition of a prospect with a very dark criminal history led to late-season turmoil in the front office.

Felix Hernandez somehow seemed to improve over his Cy Young-caliber season in 2009, maturing as a pitcher—and thankfully for the Mariners, he has made no noises (yet) about wanting to escape the team's dysfunction. Ichiro Suzuki is having a typical Ichiro season, but because of a lack of power and production in the middle of the Seattle lineup, Ichiro's many hits have gone to waste.

The firing of professional scouting director Carmen Fusco is being taken within the organization as a sign that GM Jack Zduriencik is on shaky ground. The Mariners might require a bounce-back season to prevent another round of change, and the problem is that Seattle appears to lack the kind of talent that can affect the necessary turnaround. The best hope for the 2011 Mariners might be that Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley establish themselves quickly in the big leagues and help Seattle develop a functional offense. Short of that, the forecast for next year is not good. —Buster Olney, ESPN Insider

Baseball Prospectus' take

What went right: Hernandez proved once again he is among the top five starting pitchers in the game; his American League-leading 7.4 support neutral lineup-adjusted value above replacement (SNLVAR) figure much more indicative of his season than his 12-11 record. The Mariners showed good glove work as they are fourth in the AL in defensive efficiency, turning 70.4 percent of balls in play into outs.

What went wrong: The offense was awful and the Mariners are last in the majors with an average of 3.20 runs a game. Griffey Jr.'s second season in his second stint in Seattle ended badly as he failed to homer in 108 plate appearances, was caught napping in the clubhouse during a game, then abruptly retired. Wakamatsu was fired a year after being hailed in his rookie season for changing the attitude in the clubhouse and on the field.

The key number: 35. The number of times that the Mariners have scored five or more runs this season.

What won't happen again: The Mariners won't be rocking the baseball world with a big trade this upcoming winter as they did last December when they landed Lee from the Phillies. The Mariners' 85-77 record in 2009 was a fluke, as they allowed more runs than they scored and this year's 57-92 mark is quite indicative that they are more than one star pitcher away from winning a pennant. —John Perrotto, Baseball Prospectus

Rumor Central: 2011 options

The plan is key: With a plethora of holes, limited payroll space, and a franchise pitcher in desperate need of not only run support but quality rotation mates, the Mariners appear as if they'll be in the market for a lot of offense and at least one starting pitcher. But it all depends on which path the club decides to take. If they choose to use 2011 to further develop catcher Adam Moore, outfielder Michael Saunders, and Smoak, while awaiting the arrival of prospects Ackley and right-hander Michael Pineda, Zduriencik may seek the short-term stopgap, such as another year of slugger Russell Branyan or other similar veteran hitters. If the club chooses to stay on course—an attempt to contend while keeping an eye toward building a long-term contention window—names such as Jim Thome, Magglio Ordonez, or Lance Berkman may become options.

The starting rotation could use an experienced starter behind Hernandez, which might put Aaron Harang, who may have his option declined by the Reds, or Carl Pavano on the M's radar. It does not appear as if the club can afford to make Lee a competitive offer, however. Adding a veteran catcher such as Bengie Molina may not be out of the question, either, depending on cost and how much playing time the veteran would require.

Money, money, money: Unless the ownership group approves a significant payroll spike, Zduriencik may not have the flexibility to be active on the free-agent market, which likely means the club will be busy once again putting together trade proposals to land impact talent. If 2011 is to serve as somewhat of a developmental season, however, it will give the front office a chance to find answers at third base and designated hitter, and an opportunity to assess the futures of the rest of the roster.

Trading Figgins may be a top priority this winter, after the 32-year-old suffered a tough season at the plate and had a run-in with Wakamatsu. Shedding some of what is still owed on Figgins' contract—$26 million with a vesting option that guarantees another $9 million—could change the landscape of the franchise's offseason.—Jason Churchill, ESPN Insider

Keep up with Rumor Central year-round here.

Organizational future

Right-hander Daniel Cortes was seen as one of the better arms in the system when acquired from the Royals in the Yuniesky Betancourt deal last year, but inconsistency led to a 5.00-plus ERA as a starter. A massive, gangly power arm with complicated mechanics, Cortes' delivery would vary wildly from start to start, as would his velocity and command. A move to the bullpen late this season changed everything, as pitching from the stretch in short stints Cortes just let it fly, and the result was an unhittable fastball that got into the upper 90s. While he has his fair share of youthful indiscretions, they pale in comparison to Josh Lueke's situation, and with stuff being about equal, that alone puts him ahead on the depth charts for the Mariners' 2011 relief staff.—Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Seattle Mariners,  Mariners,  The Waste Land

18 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Simon C.

If you're keeping score at home, this is the second time that the ESPN Insider has brilliantly offered up Bengie Molina as some sort of solution (check the Royals' Kiss'Em Goodbye if you think I'm joking). Trading for Ryan Doumit and sticking him back behind the plate makes way more sense than that, and I came up with that idea in about 2 minutes...and that idea isn't even a good one.

We're BP subscribers because we want the opinions of BP writers. Why are we getting the lame drivel of ESPN Insider? This is the definition of brand dilution.

Sep 20, 2010 00:55 AM
rating: 3
 
CRP13

1 year of a cheap Molina is a much more sensible solution than trading a valuable prospect for a catcher who can't field any positions at an even average level. Both are terrible ideas, except that Molina would automatically be the 2nd biggest bat in that lineup, after Branyan. And isn't that sad?

Either way, it seems you're just looking for reasons to rip ESPN. Just not necessary.

Sep 20, 2010 06:54 AM
rating: 1
 
Simon C.

I think you're underestimating just how awful Molina has been - 5 HRs, ISO of .076 - not sure how that's a big bat anymore. How is this much different than what they're getting from Bard/Moore/Johnson this year? Plus, you put Molina's right-handed bat in Safeco, and any remaining power will vanish like a magic trick.

I was also under the assumption that it wouldn't take much to get Doumit...

Sep 20, 2010 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

I never said he would be a big bat. I said he would be the 2nd biggest bat in Seattle's lineup. That's a slam on the Mariners, not a compliment to Molina.

Sep 21, 2010 10:25 AM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

Not so sure the Doumit idea is a bad one at all. Depth at C/OF/DH, 20-HR potential, he's hit better since going 'utility', probably could play some 1B and probably reasonably priced --- I think Simon C. should give it another two minutes and see what else he can come up with.

Sep 20, 2010 10:24 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

That's all sorts of ridiculous. Doumit is 29 years old and has never hit more than 15 home runs in his 6-year career. Maybe if he got full-time play, but that's not good production from a corner outfielder or DH at all, and his power would be negated by Safeco also.

In 2010, Doumit had a -2.2 UZr at 1B, -0.9 at RF, and -8 Defensive Runs Scored at Catcher.

His position "flexibility" only applies to fantasy leagues, as he is a complete liability everywhere he plays.

Sep 21, 2010 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Last year you could've picked up Miguel Olivo, John Buck, and quite a few other catchers who are better than Molina for cheap. Why pay anything for the privilege?

And yeah, the ESPN stuff sucks and it is necessary to rip on them.

Sep 20, 2010 16:52 PM
rating: 0
 
T. Kiefer

Dear BP,
What do you think the odds are of trading Felix Hernandez for a smorgasborg of top-level prospect talent? The Yankees would seem to be the logical partner.
Thanks!

Sep 20, 2010 08:04 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

Top-level unproven prospects don't sell tickets. King Felixes do.

Sep 21, 2010 10:34 AM
rating: 0
 
T. Kiefer

Winning sells tickets. Plus Ichiro is their marquis name anyway. Good point though--it works for KC and Zac Greinke.

Sep 21, 2010 10:39 AM
rating: 0
 
zstine1

JZ had a short run as the darling GM. It seems like every few years the Mariners overachieve, trade for an ace left (Bedard or Lee), crash and burn, then contemplate getting rid of their GM.

Sep 20, 2010 08:40 AM
rating: 0
 
bflaff1

Complaining about ESPN content on here is as boring and predictable as posting "FIRST!" in the comments section.

It's already understood that paying for a BP subscription makes you a better, smarter baseball fan than the rest of the rabble out there. So posting something that draws attention to the fact that you are smarter and superior to the 'drivel-writing' analysts at ESPN actually makes you seem less smart and superior. If you're really cool, you don't need to tell people you're cool, right? So when ESPN walks over and wants to chat, you just grab your PBR, frown, and quietly move to where the real baseball fans have congregated. Contamination minimized!

Sep 20, 2010 08:42 AM
rating: 5
 
pobothecat

rabble, rabble, rabble.

Sep 20, 2010 10:26 AM
rating: -1
 
bflaff1

On topic, I selfishly would love to see Ichiro in a pennant race, playing for a contender. Please set him free, Jack Z.

Sep 20, 2010 08:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Isn't "massive, gangly" something of an oxymoron? One seems to say something like 6'8", 270#, and the other something like 6'8", 210#. What's Cortes really like, physically?

Also, count me among the people who think Bengie Molina might actually make sense for this team. Something that stabilizes the relationships between the pitchers and everyone else has to be helpful given all of what has been going on in Seattle, and the Brotherhood of Catching Molinas definitely has the reputation for doing just that. I'd rather see this as an example of Olney noticing something that a purely statistical analysis misses, rather than lambasting BP for including him.

Sep 20, 2010 09:28 AM
rating: 0
 
Simon C.

Of all the things that have gone wrong - and clearly, there are plenty - isn't one of the few bright spots the step forward that the starters have taken this year? Besides Felix, Fister and Vargas have been as good as anyone could have possibly hoped. Wouldn't that imply the current catchers on the roster have handled the pitchers rather well?

Sep 20, 2010 10:38 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

Yao Ming.

Sep 21, 2010 10:35 AM
rating: 0
 
Sacramento

The Molina suggestions have been by Jason Churchill, not Buster Olney.

Sep 20, 2010 09:42 AM
rating: 0
 
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The Week in Quotes: Se... (09/20)
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Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Houst... (09/17)
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Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Washi... (09/20)
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Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Washi... (09/20)

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