I downloaded my preview copy of OOTP 16 and naturally chose to take Jack Zduriencik's post with the 2015 Mariners to simulate the 2015 season. What unfolded is epic enough to split into three posts. This is the second post in the trilogy. You can read the first one here.
I left off in part 1 mulling a massive deal. The Diamondbacks offered me 1B Paul Goldschmidt for 2B Robinson Cano and OF Alex Jackson.
I started playing with the trade proposal. I was comfortable dealing Cano for Goldschmidt straight up. I could go with Brad Miller, Chris Taylor, and Ketel Marte in the middle of my infield for years to come. Sure, the offense would take a hit without Cano, but would it in the end? Goldschmidt was a clear and obvious upgrade at first base and could immediately become the center of my lineup for years to come.
I was unwilling to part with Alex Jackson. The Mariners are thin on outfield prospects and power hitters. Jackson fills both needs. I wanted to offer up DJ Peterson in Jackson's place but, alas, at the time Peterson was injured so I was not allowed to try the proposal. I offered Patrick Kivlehan but Arizona would not agree to the deal. So, I backed off, and rejected the deal altogether.
Of course, Robinson Cano got injured the next week. He was gone for a month. Austin Jackson also hurt himself, so I called up a revitalized Franklin Gutierrez to take his place. He promptly got hurt a week later. Rickie Weeks, my Cano replacement for the time being, also decided to hit the DL during this time. Lastly, Hisashi Iwakuma must have felt left out, because he came up with a finger injury too. I was without all of these players for the majority of June.
It was time to tread water and hope for the best. The good news was that all of these key players would come back with plenty of the season left to go. I figured if I could go about .500 and stay within a few games of the division lead I would be okay.
Rickie Weeks came back from his injury first, but Lloyd McClendon didn't plan to play him above Chris Taylor in Cano's absence. Weeks hadn't hit much in his few at-bats to date anyway, so I decided to shop him around and see if I could pick up a serviceable outfielder with my glut of injuries. The Tigers surfaced with a somewhat surprising offer. I got Rajai Davis for Rickie Weeks straight up. Davis, thankfully, came over to Seattle and caught fire for the first month, right when I needed someone to do some hitting. Slowly but surely the team got healthy. More importantly, my bizarro Mariners never fell out of first place. I was starting to feel pretty good about the team.
Howard Lincoln was less enthused about the team - more specifically, one position. He remember his goals for me, and acknowledged that the team was doing better than he hoped. However, I hadn't done anything about shortstop. He really, really wanted someone besides Brad Miller or Chris Taylor or Ketel Marte at shortstop. I grated my teeth, forced my best grin, and went about making Lincoln's dreams come true.
It was really hard to find an upgrade at shortstop because Brad Miller was quite good. He established himself as the third best position player on the team behind Cano and Kyle Seager. Miller was having one of the better years out of a shortstop in baseball. Moreover, the Mariners were starved for runs, and only Cano had produced more at the plate than Miller.
I found one candidate that could work though: Brewers shortstop Jean Seguera. He was young, pretty cheap, and under team control for a while. He was also one of the few shortstops in baseball with a better OPS than Brad Miller. I needed to find an offensive upgrade, and Seguera would provide that while also getting Howard Lincoln off of my back. I went into trade discussions with Milwaukee, hoping to protect players on my 25-man roster plus D.J. Peterson and Alex Jackson, clearly my two best hitting prospects.
Milwaukee agreed to a 4-for-1 swap on July 9. I got Jean Seguera, they got SS Chris Taylor, SS Ketel Marte, OF Austin Wilson, and 1B Ji-Man Choi. I'm not sure why Milwaukee wanted both Taylor and Marte but at the end of the day I decided this deal had to get done. I had my guy. Actually, it is more accurate to say that Howard Lincoln got his guy.
Lloyd McClendon, bless his heart, put the greatest exclamation point on this deal. I was a little irritated by Lincoln's meddling, and apparently Ol' Lloyd was too. McClendon installed Jean Seguera as the starting DH and kept Brad Miller playing shortstop every day.
McClendon's shortstop solution opened up a new problem. Seguera took Nelson Cruz's playing time. Cruz led the team in home runs but that's about all that could be said about his production. He had been a mild disappointment and was on pace for about a 0.5 WAR season. The benching made sense, though it worried me gravely as general manager. Nelson Cruz, at 35 years old, was on my bench with three and a half years left on a $57 million deal. I needed to trade him ASAP - and by trade, I mean dump him. I was willing to take nothing in return if some other team was willing to take on his contract.
The Orioles decided that they missed Nelson Cruz too much. A week before the trade deadline I shipped Nelson Cruz to Baltimore for Alejandro de Aza straight up, no cash involved. While de Aza was not an amazing player he fit the roster pretty well at that point. He was right-handed and could play a serviceable left or center field. He was also a free agent at the end of the year, which was a perk to me. I wanted some financial flexibility heading into the offseason.
If you've been tracking all my moves in this season you probably realize already that I had collected a small army of mediocre outfielders. I had acquired Sam Fuld, Jae-Hoon Ha, Rajai Davis, and now Alejandro de Aza without trading away an outfielder (unless you count Nelson Cruz, which I don't). The offense still stunk and I had just traded away my most powerful right-handed stick. I needed to find a rental slugger and wondered if I could package a mid-level prospect or two with one of my mediocre outfielders to get the job done.
It turned out to be really hard finding a match, but I found a good enough one with the New York Yankees. Austin Jackson was having another rough year with an OPS hovering around the wrong side of .700. He was an impending free agent and I knew enough by July 26 to know I was highly unlikely to re-sign him. I shipped him back to the team that drafted him in the first place, along with John Hicks and Mayckol Guaipe, for OF Chris Young. Young could still play some center field but replaced Nelson Cruz's bat to some degree. The only way I was going to get someone better was if I used Alex Jackson or DJ Peterson, but even they weren't getting nearly enough in return.*
*True story: I tried to acquire the Braves backup first baseman (not Freddie Freeman). I thought this would be easy. Atlanta kept saying no to my deals so I finally asked them for a list of players they would consider. Their response? Only Robinson Cano. Not even other normal suspects like Peterson, Jackson, or Taijuan Walker would do. This is how brutal the trade deadline market was for hitters.
The trade deadline hit. I was still in first place, where I had been since late April. The Mariners had weathered a small barrage of injuries in that span, and while they still couldn't score runs too well, the pitching staff was phenomenal. Both King Felix and Taijuan Walker made the All-Star team. Felix, Walker, and Brandon Morrow (?!) had the top three ERAs in the whole American League, thanks in no small part to the best defense in the American League. The 2015 Mariners were clearly elite run preventers. I worried about the offense but decided to cross my fingers with hopes that Jean Seguera and Chris Young would be just enough to support my dominant pitching staff. So, July 31 came and went without any rumblings out of the Pacific Northwest.
It was time to hold on and hope for the best through the dog days of August and pennant chase in September.