Seattle Mariners: 2016 Winners and Losers

Seattle Mariners baseball ended in somewhat disappointing fashion as Seattle finished just three games out of a playoff berth.

The Mariners were in it right up until the second to last day of the season.

Despite the season ending without a long-awaited return to the playoffs, there were plenty of positives to be had.

Here are the winners and losers of the 2016 Seattle Mariners season.

Winner: Edwin Diaz

Edwin Diaz certainly made quite the impression in his rookie season. The flame throwing reliever pitched to a 2.79 ERA while racking up 18 saves in 51.2 innings pitched. He also struck out 88 batters. If you do the math, that comes out at 15.3 punch outs per nine innings. So yeah, this Diaz guy is pretty good.

Diaz will likely continue to close games in Seattle for the better part of the next decade.

Loser: Adam Lind

Acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for a trio of minor-league prospects, Lind had an opportunity to establish himself as the team’s first baseman for at least the next few seasons.

However, the former Brewer and Blue Jay hit just .239 with a sub-par .286 on-base percentage. It didn’t help that the veteran’s RBI total dipped from 87 in 2015 to just 58 this past season.

Winner: Mike Zunino

It seems that Mike Zunino is once again in Seattle’s plans. The slugging catcher collected 31 RBI, 16 runs scored, 12 home runs and seven doubles in just 55 games. While his .207 batting average isn’t much to write home about, the backstop did produce a career-best .318 on-base percentage and a 1.8 WAR.

Loser: Chris Iannetta

Like Lind, Iannetta was brought in to start. The backstop started his fair share of games (94), but ultimately lost significant playing time to Zunino.

Winner: Ariel Miranda

Acquired for Wade Miley, Miranda turned in a string of quality performances for the M’s down the stretch. The 27-year-old could be a long-term piece in the Pacific Northwest if he continues to put up numbers similar to the 5-2 record and 3.54 ERA he posted in 2016.

Miranda’s performance looks even better when you consider that the pitcher he replaced in the rotation and was traded for, Miley, owned a 4.98 ERA and a 4.76 FIP. Miley also did all that after being traded for both Carson Smith and Roenis Elias.

Losers: Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma

Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma didn’t have the best seasons compared to their high standards. The duo, who have All-Star Game appearances and numerous Cy Young votes to their name, struggled in 2016. Hernandez’ FIP sat at 4.63, while Iwakuma’s wasn’t much better at 4.27.

Seattle will need the two back at their best next season in order to make a push for the playoffs.

New Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s First Priorities

The Seattle Mariners wrapped up a disappointing season on a positive note, claiming a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. The attention now shifts to the offseason, where new general manager Jerry Dipoto will be tasked with turning the team around.

Dipoto has already made it clear that he’s keeping hold of, and building around, “core” players Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez.

Thankfully, none of those four players will be leaving the Emerald City any time soon. If the M’s finished 76-86 with that quartet, who knows how they’d fair without the foursome? Odds are it wouldn’t be pretty.

Dipoto has his work cut out for him, but if he can creatively fill some of the team’s needs without losing much either in a trade or in salary, the M’s have a chance to contend next season.

Among the most prominent needs is at catcher. Per Baseball Reference, Seattle catchers collectively finished last season with the worst wins above average by any backstop grouping in the league. Mike Zunino and company were worth -3.9 wins below average. No other catching group was worse than -2.6.

The problem with the situation is that Zunino is only 24-years-old. The Mariners aren’t going to bail on the former third-overall pick that quickly, but he has to start improving offensively. Zunino has a career .193 batting average in 1055 plate appearances. This simply isn’t going to cut it. Adding another catcher to the roster in the same vein as the Wellington Castillo transaction.

In addition to a catcher, Seattle needs a leadoff hitter. Ketel Marte performed atop the order, hitting .283 and stealing eight bases in 57 games. However, the team may find easier to find an outfielder who hits atop the order. Mariners’ center and left fielders both were below league-average in terms of wins above average. Seattle left fielders were worth -0.2 wins below average while centerfielders were worth -1.3 wins below average. Only four teams had worse production from their centerfield groupings, so perhaps someone like Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, or even Rajai Davis, could make sense.

(RELATED: Analyzing Jerry Dipoto’s Top 14 Career Trades).

The M’s could use stand to score more runs. Only six teams scored fewer runs in the league. Another bat would certainly make sense. Mark Trumbo showed flashes of the talent he showed in Anaheim, but only managed to hit .248 against right-handed pitching. Logan Morrison was supposed to fill that role, but he hasn’t hit much either (.241 against righties, .190 against lefties). Justin Morneau could hit free agency and would be a fit. The former Minnesota Twin hit .316 with an .850 OPS in 184 games for the Rockies over the past two years. He’d be a great fit alongside Trumbo, especially considering he’s a career .297 hitter in over 4,000 (4,169) plate appearances against right handed pitching.

Last but not least, Dipoto must fix the bullpen. Generally a strength for Seattle, this year’s bullpen was often an eye soar.

Going back to the “Wins Above Average by Position” leaderboards, the M’s relievers finished fourth-worst in the league. The relievers were worth -3.4 wins below average. The group may get better simply by subtraction. Fernando Rodney has already departed while a number of ineffective relievers could, and should, be jettisoned.

A number of quality relievers (Tyler Clippard, Joakim Soria and Darren O’Day, just to name a few) could hit the free agent market, so Seattle will have its pick should the team chose to spend. Additionally, effective relief pitchers are found on the waiver wire every month, so there’s plenty of options for Dipoto to fix the bullpen.

New M’s general manager Jerry Dipoto has his work cut out for him, but he’s shown he can make shrewd trades. Seattle has a number of issues, but if Dipoto can fix them, the team has a chance.

Seattle Mariners: Mark Trumbo’s Early (Lack of) Impact

The Seattle Mariners offense is struggling. Despite the offseason addition of Nelson Cruz and the presence of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, the M’s offense is in a rut. Entering the week, only the White Sox and Phillies had scored fewer runs.

Given all these factors, the addition of Mark Trumbo would seem like the best early Christmas present known to man. Yeah… not so much.

Trumbo’s early impact, or lack thereof, has been staggering considering the slugger’s track record.

The former Angel was a massive hit for his hometown team, averaging 32 home runs, 94 RBI and a .251 average over three full seasons with the Halos. The M’s needed that Trumbo, not the one they acquired. The first baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter (he basically plays every “power” position on the diamond) had a rough go of things in Arizona. With the Diamondbacks he tallied 23 bombs, 84 RBI and 128 strikeouts in 134 games. Those aren’t that awful numbers, but when you consider the stats were accumulated over the course of two seasons, it encourages pause.

The Mariners certainly gave up some quality pieces to bring a player who once finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and appeared in an All Star game during his first two seasons.

Out went Welington Castro, Dominic Leone and minor league prospects Gabriel Guerrero and Jack Reinheimer.

(It should be noted that reliever/swing man Vidal Nuno made the move north with Trumbo in the transaction, so the M’s upgraded their bullpen to some extent).

Losing Castillo is the most prominent negative here. Yes, Leone had his moments last season in relief, but he struggled this year and Nuno is likely an upgrade over the now-former Mariner.

Seattle’s catching situation is pretty straight forward. Mike Zunino is the starter and Jesus Sucre is the backup. However, Zunino is hitting .158 with a .230 OBP while Sucre is scuffling with the bat. His batting average, OBP and slugging percentage are all .043. He owns the rare distinction having an OPS under .100. Yes, that’s right, Jesus Sucre’s OPS is .087. Yikes.

So why is this being mentioned? Because Welington Castro happens to be a career .251 hitter, who at his best hits somewhere in the .260-.270 neighborhood.

Why he was dealt for a struggling Trumbo is puzzling.

Trumbo put up half-way decent numbers (9 home runs, 23 RBI, .805 OPS) in 46 games in the desert prior to the trade—however, Seattle was already well-stocked in the first-baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter areas. In fact, they had a log jam on their hands. Logan Morrison was/is entrenched at first base, while the pre-Trumbo corner outfield/DH candidates included Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, Justin Ruggiano and Dustin Ackley. James Jones has also received at-bats in the outfield.

Adding Trumbo to this mix makes sense if the Trumbo in question is the one who suited up for the Angels. However, sacrificing an above-average offensive catcher (Castillo) and two prospects for the Trumbo who suited up for the D-Backs is, in layman’s terms, a bad deal.

Losing Castillo hurts catcher production, while adding Trumbo to a position where there is a surplus only rubs salt in the wound. While Zunino is clearly the starting catcher, he’s struggling with the bat, as is his cover, Sucre. Sacrificing offensively behind the dish is fine trade-off when you acquire pre-Diamondback Mark Trumbo, but sacrificing behind the dish for a player who hit entered the week hitting .179 as a Mariner… well, then you have some problems.

The Mark Trumbo acquisition will be a win for the Mariners if the slugger can regain the form he displayed with the Angels, however if he continues his downward trajectory, the M’s may soon come to regret the trade.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Seattle Mariners Acquire Welington Castro: Breaking Down the Trade

The Seattle Mariners made a move bolster their offense and production at the catcher position, bringing in veteran backstop Welington Castro from the Chicago Cubs. The M’s traded reliever Yoervis Medina to Chicago in return.

On the surface the move seems reasonable. The M’s could use reinforcements behind the plate thanks to the offensive struggles of Mike Zunino (.179 batting average) and Jesus Sucre (.067).

For his part, Castro will provide an upgrade over Sucre, and is at worst a time-share option with Zunino.

The now former Cub’s best seasons came in 2012 and 2013 when he hit .271 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI over 165 games. That’s all fine and well until you consider his stat line since: 134 games, 15 home runs, 51 RBI, 114 strikeouts and a .229 batting average (including a .163 mark this season). Castro had a WAR of 4.5 in 2013, but has been worth a -0.1 WAR this year.

Even if Castro doesn’t return to his 2012/2013 form, production somewhere between that and his struggles this season should provide the M’s with an upgrade at catcher. The price paid to bring in that potential upgrade was… interesting.

Yoervis Medina, owner of a sparkling 2.82 ERA over 137 innings pitched, was moved to the Windy City in the transaction. Granted the reliever hasn’t been himself this year with lower strikeout rates, an increasing walk rate and more hits allowed per nine innings. Additionally, his WHIP and FIP are both up from last season. Basically Medina’s numbers have gone up in all the places you’d like them to go down and down in all the places you’d like them to go up.

Still, Medina has a 3.00 ERA this season in the big leagues and a 1.59 number with Triple-A Tacoma. It would be a different story if the M’s bullpen was the well-oiled machine that it was in years past, but this year it simply hasn’t been as stellar.

Carson Smith and Charlie Furbush have both put up numbers reminiscent of past year’s bullpens, but after that there are question marks. Fernando Rodney remains the team’s closer, but is sporting an ugly 5.65 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched. He has nine saves. Danny Farquhar isn’t far behind with a 4.74 ERA. Other ERA eyesores include Tyler Olson and Dominic Leone (5.40 ERA each). Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel and Mark Lowe all have ERAs under three, but have collectively thrown 14 innings.

Despite Medina’s dip in certain statistical areas, he would still provide a better option than some of the M’s recent options, including four pitchers with ERAs over 4.70.

The addition of Castro is a solid one, one that will pay dividends for the Mariners, but you can’t deal a promising reliever, minor struggles and all, when the rest of the bullpen is performing… well, how they’re performing.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

This post can also be seen on Kingdome of Seattle Sports, a wonderful website dedicated to Seattle sports. You can see it by clicking here. You can find Kingdome on Twitter here.

The Mariners Need to Stop Going After Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Justin Upton and the Like

The latest news out of the Emerald City in sports besides Brandon Browner’s suspension or the ever-evident hatred of David Stern (see basketball season, team not in Seattle) is the fact that the Seattle Mariners are kicking the tires pretty heavily on multiple free agents. Those free agents not being the retired Ken Griffey Jr, Milton Bradley (the board game and the player, seriously the M’s could probably use the money) or Jamie Moyer (although that last one wouldn’t be terrible). No, the Mariners are going after the most high profile guys out there. Josh Hamilton. Michael Bourn. Nick Swisher. There are even reports that lead us to believe that the Mariners would trade for Justin Upton.

Let’s let that all set in for a moment before we move on. WHAT!?!?!?!?!

Does anyone who has even bothered to listen to the Mariners-themed section of the news remember Richie Sexson? Adrian Beltre? Carlos Silva (who then turned into Milton Bradley)? Miguel Bautista? These were ridiculous contracts that Seattle gave out. The first two to try and repair a dismal offense. Sexson had two years where his contract was probably deserved, but then he completely fell off the map and had two horrendous years. (Though I will say this, the Sexon TV commercials were pretty good.)

Beltre was solid for a couple years in Seattle and the sputtered to a dismal ’09 season. Because of that he had to go to Boston to reestablish his career and is now an MVP candidate with the Rangers.

What I’m getting at is that while Beltre and Sexson had some decent years in Seattle, the pair produced zero playoff appearances. One or two players don’t build a team. Continue reading