The lack of competitive fire lay squarely on the shoulders of one Lloyd McClendon; however, the team that was put together so shabbily, rests on Jack Zduriencik.
Now this article is not intended to bash Mariners management (for that please click on our Youtube channel, where we do plenty of that ) rather this article explores why it may be in the best interest to stand pat.
I believe that this team needs to look at 2016 rather than 2015. Conventional wisdom is to burn everything to the ground during a rebuilding process. What if we do not do that? What if we keep the strong and jettison the weak in the offseason?
Fundamentally, the Mariners do have a core of good players. Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Felix Hernandez, and Nelson Cruz. Where the team has failed is adding role players who are utilitarian and can operate at even average level.
Due to contract you cant trade Cano, Seager signed and extension at a relatively modest pay, and Felix is the Seattle Icon.
Cruz would be the one person you could trade; but here is why I would not. With this strong core, there is an opportunity to contend next year. What we would get for Nelson Cruz in return most likely comprises hit or miss prospects and a journeyman or two. Cruz is under contract for 2016, we will not find a better player in the free agent market than him; Best to keep him.
The Role Players
Hisashi Iwakuma is the most likely to be traded. However, the 34 year old is prone to injury and what the M’s will get back will be lower level prospects due to the injury risk.
J.A. Happ was a strong contender to be traded, but the lefty has looked mortal this season (4-5 4.31 ERA) and with no club control after this year, he will not command much in return. The better value is in the M’s to allowing him to leave and earn a compensatory draft pick.
Mike Montgomery (4-4 3.20) is an interesting case. He is doing well enough to setup as a 4th or 5th pitcher in the 2016 season. An innings eater, Montgomery will never win 20 games. But with club control, the M’s have a guy who could be a contributor in 2016.
Austin Jackson lives in the same world as J.A. Happ. An average player (.254 5 HR, 23 RBI) he has an expiring contract. Due to this, the better value is allowing him to walk as the value in return will be nominal compared to the compensatory pick.
Dustin Ackley, Fernando Rodney, Mark Trumbo, and Logan Morrison have had such disastrous results, performing so far below the league average, it might behoove to M’s to Designate for Assignment or outright release them. Each of these players lack the consistency, the fire, and ability to show up in the clutch that this team needs from these role players. It isn’t that they have had just one bad year, each of these players have shown serious regression for a while, and other teams in the MLB are aware of this.
The Young Ones
The M’s have other under-performing players such as Brad Miller, Chris Taylor, Mike Zunino, and Jesus Montero but I would recommend not getting rid of these position players as Miller, Zunino, and Taylor provide defensive value, and Montero may have some offensive production value going into the 2016 season. Furthermore, all of them have options left such that we can relegate them to the minors. If/when they are capable of playing in the big show, we can recall them as needed.
Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are two up and coming starting pitchers. Where they position in the starting rotation is up for debate as Walker’s erratic starts and Paxton’s injury history make them hard to project. I would think keeping them and betting that one of the two will be an All-Star is the best possible move.
The concept here is to keep the players who have value rather than allow Jack Zduriencik to get fleeced yet again. Trades that he has made in the last 7 years involved him giving away average talent for lesser players. Too often it seemed like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic rather than a bold or shrewd maneuver to fill gaps.
I advocate letting the failing pieces walk rather than take on other teams problem players. In the offseason (with a new GM), attack the Free Agent market; then make trades during that offseason when time is not a pressing issue.