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Minor Leaguers of Note, June

It's time for another glance at the activity down on the Mariners farm. Here we go:

Where are they now?

Looking back at the first post from April here are some updates worth mentioning about players highlighted then.

Chris Taylor and Mark Lowe both got promoted to the majors. Taylor struggled and got sent back down, but Lowe has stuck and been a revelation in the bullpen. I wrote that his triple-digit heat isn't returning, but I was mistaken.

Stephen Landazuri was promoted from AA Jackson to AAA Tacoma but has struggled mightily. I haven't had a chance to see him in Tacoma yet so I don't know exactly why he has been so bad, but AAA has been a rude awakening for him.

Tyler Marlette, Edwin Diaz, Trey-Cochran Gill, and Gianfranco Wawoe all earned promotions up to AA Jackson since April. Diaz in particular is enjoying a bit of a breakout season. He will represent the M's in the MLB futures game in a few weeks and has cemented himself as the M's best pitching prospect at the moment, or at least the most promising one close to the majors.

Now, time for some new players of note:

Tacoma (AAA)

  • Leon Landry, OF - Landry was acquired from the Dodgers a few years ago with a similar skillset to James Jones and (if you remember him) Abe Almonte. He was stuck in AA and seemed destined to be nothing more than organizational depth. However, he got an early promotion to AAA this year and has hit well, particularly with a bit of surprising power. Maybe he is having a lucky year, or maybe he has taken a step forward.
  • Forrest Snow, RHP - Snow is enjoying the best season of his pro career. He has been a great organizational depth pitcher for the M's, though he does have a nice, lanky 6'6" pitching frame with a fastball that sits in the low 90s. I think it would be a nice gesture for the Mariners to bring him up for at least a cup of coffee in the majors at some point, and this September would be a logical time.
  • Tyler Smith, SS - Smith, unlike almost everyone else in the M's minor league system, has plate discipline! He walks a ton and plays a premium defensive position. His tools fall short of other M's shortstop prospects - namely Ketel Marte (who somehow I haven't written about extensively yet) and Chris Taylor - but he provides organizational depth with some upside to be a decent option as the 25th guy on a roster.
  • Anthony Fernandez, LHP - Fernandez just had his first start of the year and I wouldn't be surprised if he is in Tacoma soon. Fernandez is working back from Tommy John surgery. He's never been a high-profile prospect, but he had an assortment of solid breaking balls with good command pre-Tommy John surgery. He could easily be an option at the back end of the M's rotation going into spring training next year, which is why I'll be tracking his starts closely the rest of the way.
  • Tyler O'Neill, RF - O'Neill is raw but producing in his own way. He is a violent free-swinger, with 10 walks, 83 strikeouts (!!), and 26 extra-base hits (including 15 home runs.)  The power is impressive for a young man who just turned 20 years old a week ago. He has major work to do on his plate discipline and/or contact rate, but he has time and at least one tantalizing tool (that power) to work with.
  • Paul Fry, LHP - Fry recently participated in the California League all-star game, and rightfully so. He has racked up 62 strikeouts in 47.2 innings. He doesn't throw incredibly hard, and is a bit old for the league, so his results are a product of his refined command and off-speed offerings. Still, results are results, and he has emerged as a lefty relief prospect.

I've got nothing for this team. Nothing. It's been a bizarre year in Clinton. The players of note have either been demoted to Everett now that their season is underway or promoted up in the system. It looks like a long summer in Clinton.

I'll devote a post just to the short-season teams in the near future. Stay tuned.

Walker's Progress

The Taijuan Walker that shut down the Angels last night is the not the Taijuan Walker that took the mound in April for the Mariners. His early season struggles were well documented, and now his hot streak is garnering just as much attention. I, for one, said that he needed to stay in the majors when he was struggling because his biggest problem was how well hitters were doing when Walker was ahead in the count. He needed to figure out how to put MLB batters away, and I wasn't convinced AAA hitters would provide enough of a challenge for Walker to take this next step.

Here are what Walker's count maps look like now. A reminder that the map on the left shows wOBA by count with red bad and green good. The map on the right shows frequency of counts, with darker shades occurring more often:

Right now Walker is on an incredible walkless tear, with only three this month (!!) However,  I could go out on the mound and walk that few batters in a month by simply grooving pitches. Sort of similarly, throwing strikes wasn't really Walker's problem early in the season. His inability to put away batters once he got ahead was his main problem, so part of the reason he walked more batters was because they hung around long enough to draw four balls if they couldn't find a way to square up a pitch before that. Now, Walker is back to destroying batters when they get behind, and his walk rate has predictably plummeted.

However, that is only half the story. Walker has also improved his command slightly but noticeably. 0-1 continues to be his most frequent count, but both 1-0 and 1-1 counts have diminished while 0-2 and 1-2 counts have increased. So, not only is Walker much better in pitcher's counts, he is also forcing batters into more pitcher's counts.

Some of Walker's turnaround is probably some simple regression to the mean. He flashed dominant ability when ahead in the count in his cups of coffee with the Mariners the last few seasons. Now his 2015 numbers look more like that version of Walker too. He will likely have some wild starts between now and the end of the season where he looks more like the April pitcher that had so many worried, but now his overall body of work this season looks more like what was reasonable to expect at the start of the season.

Taijuan Walker has undeniably found his identity again. There's no reason to think he can't keep up the good work as long as he is blessed with his golden fastball, and just as importantly, above average command of it. Walker's secondary stuff, particularly his changeup of late, is good enough to flummox batters once he is ahead in the count, but the high wOBA averages when he gets behind suggests that batters can make Walker very one dimensional when he gets behind. So, his next area of growth is harnessing an offspeed pitch (or two) enough to really start mixing up pitches in all counts. If he can do that, then he'll take another step forward and be a true front-of-the-line starter. However, even if he can't figure that out, he'll be what he is now - a good pitcher that gives his team a chance to win when he's on the mound.

Mariners Could Exploit a Seller's Market

The Mariners remain in a precarious position, to say the least. Although they did not play yesterday, the A's did, and won - which puts the Mariners in the AL West cellar. However, Fangraphs still projects the Mariners to have the best winning percentage in the AL West the rest of the season. Of course, this is simply an analytical way of saying what any fan has easily noticed so far: the Seattle Mariners have badly underperformed so far this year.

Interestingly, Fangraphs still places the M's playoff odds at 18.4% - basically suggesting that if this 2015 M's team, from the position they are in right now in the division and league they are in right now, would find a way to make the playoffs about once in five attempts.* Frankly, that's a higher percentage than I expected. It speaks to how good the Mariners could (and should) be because the projection assumes that the Mariners revert back to that team projected to be the best in the AL West from now to the rest of the season.

*Some of this is due to the extreme parity in the AL. The top four playoff odds at the moment all belong to NL teams, which is especially amazing when you consider there are only five playoff spots up for grabs in each league. This includes three NL Central ballclubs (Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs) with odds ahead of every AL team.

I remain worried that Jack Zduriencik will feel some heat on his job and make some deadline deals to go for it and make the playoffs this year. The playoff odds suggest making the postseason is not an impossible task for the Mariners, but bolstering the roster is a different story. The following tweet came from respected MLB reporter Ken Rosenthal today:

The trade deadline market projects as an extreme seller's market because so many teams think they have a shot at the playoffs. In an odd way the Mark Trumbo trade already looks better than expected in hindsight, even with Trumbo's mighty struggles, given that the Mariners completely one of only two significant trades during the season so far. The other also included the Diamondbacks, who shipped Bronson Arroyo and top pitching prospect Touki Toussaint to the Braves for Phil Gosselin. Gosselin is basically a glorified version of Willie Bloomquist. Advantage: Braves in a landslide. The Mariners gave up nobody of Toussaint's caliber to get a (theoretically) superior player in Trumbo.

Perhaps the Diamondbacks are just dumb, but even if that's the case, at least the Mariners took advantage.

Both logic and reports like Rosenthal's strongly suggest that whoever decides to sell players and build for the future will get deals they almost never would get in other markets, particularly in the offseason. Even though the Mariners have an outside chance at the playoffs, I believe there is some wisdom to exploring and exploiting this trade market to reload for 2016. I'm not suggesting that this team needs to get blown up. What I am suggesting is that the 2015 Mariners have some players that contenders might like to have who do not ruin the M's chances in 2016 - especially depending on who the M's can get back in a trade.

Here are five Mariners who could get traded at the deadline that might not harm the M's chances of competing in 2016 at all, especially if the Mariners can acquire some talent in return:

'Kuma is an impending free agent
(image posted on Wikimedia commons by LiAna Davis)
Hisashi Iwakuma - Iwakuma is a free agent at the end of this season. Moreover, the Mariners all of a sudden have a bit of a glut in the starting rotation with the emergence of Mike Montgomery. Although Iwakuma would be a rental for a contender, he comes with a track record of success, a very affordable contract, and his injury this season might work in his favor. It has limited Iwakuma's innings, which means if he can have a couple of solid starts between now and the trade deadline, other teams should have confidence that Iwakuma won't lose any gas in a potentially deep playoff run.

J.A. Happ - Similar to Iwakuma, Happ is a free agent at the end of the season. Safeco Field makes him look a bit better than he actually is, but that hasn't stopped teams in the past from acquiring Mariners (remember when the Tigers traded for Jarrod Washburn at the deadline?) It wouldn't make sense to trade both Happ and Iwakuma away unless one of those deals netted a decent starting pitcher in return. Then again, Vidal Nuno could jump in the rotation for the rest of the season and a guy like Danny Hultzen could add depth in 2016.

Austin Jackson - Jackson will become a free agent at the end of this season. This limits his trade value, but the whole point of going into the market is because it's an extreme seller's market. Jackson might still demand something more than usual. Trading him away would only make sense if A) The Mariners get a center fielder back in the trade or B) They decide to get creative from within their own ranks. A three-way trade which brings Ben Revere from the Phillies could make some sense, or perhaps giving Brad Miller an audition in center field which would clear room for Chris Taylor and/or Ketel Marte at shortstop for an audition between now and the end of the season.

Willie Bloomquist - A popular target to get DFAd, maybe somebody in the National League wants him for his defensive versatility and veteran presence. He is another free agent at the end of the season, and with the M's infield depth in the minors I don't see a spot for him moving forward. Might as well ask around and see if anyone would give up a player for his services.

Fernando Rodney - Hey, if Rodney gets hot and a team sees him as closer insurance, why not? Rodney is a free agent at the end of the season anyway. I doubt he nets much in return in a trade, but you never know until you ask.

Perhaps none of these impending free agents appeal to other clubs, but if the market is as devoid of available players as it seems to be, I would think a few of these players would generate some interest. None of them would create holes for the Mariners that do not already exist (with the possible exception of Austin Jackson). Again, this isn't about blowing up the team and starting again. It is about prepping for 2016 a little early and exploiting a market where the vast majority of teams are hungry to bolster themselves for a pennant chase this year.

I doubt the Mariners would get major prospects in return, but I like their chances to get a few useful role players that they do not have at the moment. That may not sound huge, but then the Mariners would have a little bit of time the rest of this season to season some rookies and find out what they have going into 2016. Moreover, a little more organizational depth in the right places (like catcher...) would allow Zduriencik and company to focus on one or two major additions this offseason. Assuming this year is a fluke, which both traditional scouts and statheads agree could be the case, the Mariners could be in line to win something like 90 games next year.

Or the Mariners could blow all their depth in trades to try to squeak into the playoffs this year and then lose a fifth (or more) of their roster in free agency and scramble for replacements. Or, perhaps more likely, the Mariners could stand pat at the deadline and hope their current roster catches fire and passes up the rest of the American League, then worry about replacing all their impending free agents in the offseason.

I know which path I would explore at this point.

Death To Flying Things Returns

The Mariners made another feel-good move today. They promoted Franklin Gutierrez from AAA Tacoma and sent James Jones back down to make room. Guti erupted for a monster season back in 2009, and stayed pretty good with amazing defense until ankylosing spondylitis* made his joints ache to the point he couldn't really move. It turns out it is hard to play baseball when you can't move your joints, and by hard I mean impossible. Guti missed all of last year learning how to manage the condition.

*I haven't thoroughly researched MLB injuries for any other players diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis but I am pretty certain Gutierrez is the first MLB player ever to play with the condition, at least diagnosed. Fun fact?

Gutierrez signed a minor league deal this past winter to try to make a comeback. He played sparingly in spring training, and has played as able in Tacoma. In 48 games he amassed a healthy .317/.402/.500 triple slash, and there is something sabermetrically lush about that 3-4-5 triple slash. It suggests contact, plate discipline, and power.

I heard an interview with Jack Zduriencik last week on the radio (710AM, the M's flagship if I remember right) where Guti came up. Z mentioned that Gutierrez wasn't up because he wasn't certain enough that he could play every day with his condition. Now, in pregame remarks, Lloyd McClendon references the string of left-handers the Mariners about to face in the next week and a half as the reason to bring Guti up now. Neither of these reasons ring all that true to me. Gutierrez can't be optioned back down because of his MLB service time, so he's not up here for the next week and a half. Moreover, how much does Guti have to play to contribute? So what if he can't go every day? He just replaced James Jones, who got a whopping total of 8 at-bats over 7 games, in part because Jones was often a late innings defensive replacement who didn't get an at-bat.

I'll look past the fact that Franklin Gutierrez pretty much has the same skillset as Justin Ruggiano, whom the Mariners DFAd less than a month ago, and just bask in the happiness of this move. There are reasons to believe that Gutierrez will legitimately help the Mariners if he can play frequently enough, so obviously that's exciting. Beyond that, there is the emerging storyline here of a nice comeback.

The Mariners under Jack Zduriencik seem to have a knack for reclamation projects. Tom Wilhelmsen was a bartender, and Steve Delabar a substitute teacher. Arthur Rhodes squeezed a few more years in the majors out of an M's invite to spring training. Right now Mark Lowe is a revived soul and maybe better than he ever. The M's also stuck with Erik Bedard as he worked through all his arm troubles and ultimately put together a few more decent seasons once he got back on the mound.

I don't know if the Mariners have a better rate than average on reclamations, but they seem to have a certain patience and perseverance to see these kind of projects through. Either that or they find themselves in desperate positions enough to give reclamation projects a chance. Whatever the reason, Gutierrez hopes to be the latest Mariner to rise from the ashes under Jack Zduriencik. I hope Guti is the latest Mariner to make a comeback too.

Edgar Returns

The Mariners re-assigned Howard Johnson to the minor leagues. This move is mildly surprising. HoJo, the M's hitting coach, has probably been a dead man walking for a bit with how moribund and hopeless the Mariners offense has been, especially in June. These kind of woeful performances tend to cost hitting coaches their jobs. To a degree, this is what happened to Johnson, but he's actually still employed by the Mariners! That's sort of interesting.

Still, nothing the Mariners do or don't do to or for Howard Johnson could overshadow his replacement. Edgar Martinez is back in the Mariners dugout.

Let's be reminded why nothing could overshadow Edgar. Skip ahead to 4:00 in the video if you want to see only Edgar, but I personally enjoy savoring the bottom of the 11th in game 5 of the 1995 ALDS in its entirety:

That inning above remains the high water mark in all of Mariners history. It will remain the best moment in Mariners history until the Mariners make the World Series. It might even take the M's winning the World Series to top The Double. Even then there might be room for debate, depending on how a future M's World Championship unfolds.

More than anything it would be really nice to have this debate. Really, really nice. But for now nothing touches The Double. Nothing.

Long-time readers of this blog know my feelings about Edgar. His outline is the one I use for the little icon that shows up in your browser tab. Every January I look for a way to trumpet his case to make the Hall of Fame. Quite simply, he is my favorite baseball player of all-time, and at this point there is a good chance nobody ever topples his place in my own heart and memory. It probably helped that he came along in the back half of my childhood, that part where you are still very impressionable but start to figure out your own favorite things.

I latched on to Edgar even when the M's still had Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, and all those guys you just gotta love (except Bobby Ayala and a host of other unfortunate pitchers). He was quiet, almost stoic in the way he went about his business. He let his bat do the talking, and it spoke plenty loud enough. As my fandom matured and I opened my eyes to sabermetrics, I appreciated Edgar on new levels. Then, he stuck around longer than the rest of that late '90s team - outlasting some guys like Buhner and Wilson, and sticking around while other M's stars flew to new heights elsewhere. Edgar left his impression on my heart and mind as I grew up and became the baseball fan I am today. This is why I'm pretty certain nobody will ever touch him in my own little baseball fandom world.

So OF COURSE the thought of Edgar back in a Mariners uniform is exciting! It gives me all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings. I'm sure it gives many people really good feelings. This is not a normal midseason coaching replacement.

Unfortunately, Edgar isn't about to hit for the Mariners again, and that would be quite helpful at this moment. Furthermore, nobody on the Mariners roster right now is a budding Edgar Martinez, so that's a problem too. An MLB hitting coach isn't useless - I think that's harsh - but they can only do so much. Edgar's most tangible tools are a hitting tee, a pitching machine, tennis balls with numbers on them, and whatever time players are willing to put in with him. It sounds a bit more like the context for a good finale to a MacGyver episode than the kind of move likely to alter a team's fortunes.

With that said, there are reasons to think Edgar will be a good hitting coach. He wasn't a great hitter in the same way that, say, Vladimir Guerrero was. Could you imagine Vlad the Impaler as a hitting coach? It would be hilarious! He would be so confused as to why none of the hitters under his tutelage can hit dingers with broken bats or fish pitches out of the dirt for doubles.

Edgar worked very hard at his craft. He didn't have particularly great eyes by MLB standards, so he had pitching machines fire tennis balls at him with numbers on them. It helped him train his eyes to identify seems. He placed balls on tees in all sorts of tough to hit positions, and worked on making sure his swing path could get to those places and hit those pitches hard. He studied pitchers mercilessly. Martinez was obviously a gifted hitter, but what truly made him great were practices and a mentality that other can learn and implement on their own.

Still, let's get real about this move: It's not about to save the Mariners offense. These are pros who have had multiple batting coaches throughout their life. Batters by the time they hit the majors are only so impressionable, and only so much can be seen in the remaining 300-400 at bats most of these players have left in this season.

The best part of Edgar Martinez becoming the M's hitting coach is having Edgar back in the dugout. Nobody has worn 11 since he retired, and it will be back. That's really cool. Martinez might not have any real impact the rest of the season, but I don't care. I'm excited - not so much about the future of the 2015 Mariners, but just to have Edgar back around. I've missed him. It's great to have him back.

Mariners Should Give Up

As of today, the Mariners are 30-37 and stand 9.5 games behind the surprising Houston Astros. It is easy as a fan to romanticize this upcoming weekend series against Houston and see it as a springboard to rebound. After all, the Astros weren't supposed to be as good as they have been! They are bound to cool off and show their true colors, just like the Mariners are bound to warm up and show what they are actually made of.

my face as I write this part of the post
I kind of, in an awful, self-loathing way, hope the Astros destroy the Mariners this weekend (just like they did in Houston). The best thing that could happen to Seattle's season at this point is the painful realization that this season is not worth saving.

The Mariners sport a -50 win differential, which is among the worst in the Major Leagues. The Mariners haven't had bad luck this season; if anything they are lucky to have won as many games as they have. The rule of thumb is that roughly every 10 runs is worth a win. A team with a perfectly even (0) run differential would be .500, so -50 should mean 5 wins short of .500. This actually equates to a record 10 games below .500 because 5 less wins also accumulates 5 more losses - a team either wins or loses, after all. The Mariners sit only 7 below .500 at the moment.

It's bad enough that the Mariners have played so poorly, but they find themselves in a very bizarre landscape. They are one of only four teams in the American League with a negative run differential. The other three are the White Sox (-69), Red Sox (-57), and Indians (-20). Notice how none of those teams play in the AL West. While it is true that the Athletics are below the M's in the standings, they have a shockingly good +36 run differential. Oakland is easily the unluckiest team in baseball this year because the way they have played on the field suggests they should be challenging Houston for first place.

For comparison, the National League has a much more typical run distribution. Eight NL teams have a negative run differential, with seven positive. In fact, the NL East has four teams with negative differentials all on their own - the same amount sprinkled across the entire American League.

Realistically, the Mariners would have to play about 6 wins better than they have so far just to keep pace with this year's contenders, and then on top of that make up another 5 or 6 games in the standings to make up for their poor start. That totals 11 to 12 wins, which is about what one season of Mike Trout is worth. Now, with only a little under 100 games remaining, that's basically asking the Mariners to come up with the equivalent of two Mike Trouts to make the playoffs.

Furthermore, this back-of-the-envelope calculation doesn't take into account the staggering 11 AL Teams with positive run differentials. That's a ton of pretty good teams. It's perfectly reasonable, and probably even safe to assume, that a few teams in this group will get hot and either win more games than they should or just turn out to be better than they are right now.

The 2015 Mariners, plain and simple, are incredibly unlikely to make the playoffs. This season is just about impossible to save, and frankly not worth saving at this point. I am a product of the 1995 Refuse to Lose miracle, the team 13 games back in August, but that team got Ken Griffey Jr. back after his huge wrist injury and the good fortune of an epic collapse from the California Angels. There also weren't as many other teams the leapfrog. Even though the 2015 Mariners are supposed to be good, behind a surprising Astros team, and fewer games back with many more games to go than that 1995 squad, I would still argue that this team's chances are significantly worse than that '95 team faced.

I am terrified that the Mariners are about to set themselves back another 4 or 5 years, and long enough to completely ruin King Felix's prime. Jack Zduriencik must be able to feel the heat. He is in the type of position where GMs try to preserve their job at an incredible cost. Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz were signed to significant contracts in back-to-back offseasons, and even the Mark Trumbo trade signals a "win-now" attitude, plus gives of a hint of desperation. It is easy to imagine a trade deadline where Z grabs whatever slugger he can at whatever prohibitive price - and saddling the Mariners with another big contract and falling well short of the playoffs.

However, the Mariners could take an alternative route. It might suck for the next few months, but could lead to a quick rebound.

The blessing of the M's cursed position is how many pretty good teams are ahead of him. In fact, 21 of 30 teams in baseball are within five games of a playoff spot right now. Translation: the trade deadline should have way, way more buyers than sellers.

I hope the Mariners identify themselves as sellers. In my heart of hearts I don't think the Mariners are really as bad as their performance so far suggests, but here they are. Scrambling back into the race would take a nearly impossible effort. On the other hand, this is still an organization with three MLB-caliber shortstops in AAA or the majors. J.A. Happ is only signed through this year. Willie Bloomquist and his gritty versatility might have some value to another team, especially in the National League. Logan Morrison and Mark Trumbo might generate some interest in a market thirsty to acquire anyone. Austin Jackson is also a free agent at the end of this season.

The basic economic concepts of supply and demand suggest that whomever decides to sell players will get loftier returns than normal, because so few are expected to sell and so many expected to buy. The Mariners can maintain faith in this star-crossed season and overpay for veteran upgrades that won't get them in the playoffs, or wave a white towel and see what they can stockpile for a run at the postseason in 2016. One of these options looks more appealing than the other.

Big Holes, Small Solutions

Last night's drubbing in Houston felt huge. The Mariners had a chance to make a statement. A slumping Astros team with King Felix on the mound felt like a recipe for success. Then Felix threw the worst start of his career and got outpitched by Jesus Sucre, the first M's position player to take the mound since the immortal Jamie Burke nearly a decade ago.

Maybe the worst part is that Felix's disastrous start didn't really matter in the end. The Mariners haven't scored since Wednesday, and recently completed a homestand where they never scored more than three runs. This is a team with problems.

I decided to take a look at Fangraphs team leaderboards and legitimately analyze the problems. I classified Mariner position groups in three tiers: strengths (top 10 in baseball), just fine (middle 10), and holes (bottom 10). Since the Mariners are so bad and frustrating right now, this post will focus on the holes, but include a few comments about the other areas on the team. Here is where the Mariners stand as of right now:

STRENGTHS: Right Field, Designated Hitter, Third Base

Basically the M's strengths are Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. Cruz's torrid hitting as a DH and in right field buoy the overall production for the Mariners in both spots. Seth Smith has also played some right field and is among the M's more productive position players. He also ranks as a better defender in right than left, for what that's worth.

JUST FINE: Starting rotation, Shortstop

Frankly, the numbers suggest that the Mariners should keep Brad Miller at shortstop. He is one of the better ones in baseball, despite his streaky hitting and propensity for errors on defense. His power at the plate and range on the field more than make up for his deficiencies. The subpar play of Chris Taylor and Willie Bloomquist at short drag the overall value of the position down, so just sticking with Miller might make this a strength. Similarly, the M's rotation ranks as average despite injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton, plus the very rough start to the season by Taijuan Walker. These are areas that could emerge as strengths without any moves.


Center Field
Mariners: -0.5 WAR ~ Median 1.1 WAR
The injury to Austin Jackson didn't help, and this hole should become less glaring as the season wears on. However, the depth behind Jackson was stunningly absent. Interestingly enough M's center fielders are tied for 7th most home runs hit by center fielders and rank right around the middle of the pack in ISO despite being the 28th best unit at creating runs. The unit also ranks 28th defensively in run prevention.

Mariners: -0.7 WAR ~ Median 0.6 WAR
Mike Zunino's offensive woes are that bad. He still ranks as an above-average defender, and the M's ISO and home runs from catchers both rank around the middle of the pack. So, Zunino is just fine in several areas, but to date he does absolutely nothing else. When a player does absolutely nothing else but defend and hit home runs, even at catcher, that's a problem. The Mariners should seriously consider sending Zunino down to AAA to work on his hitting and find a replacement level catcher. The problem is that Zunino is still the best catcher the Mariners have because they never bothered to get at least one replacement level catcher. I guess they tried when they signed John Baker to a spring training deal, but how the team didn't have a legitimate backup and a serviceable backstop stashed in AAA blows my mind. That's bad roster construction.

Second Base
Mariners: -0.3 WAR ~ Median 1.1 WAR
You can't blame Mariners management for this hole. Robinson Cano has been a stunning catastrophe so far this season. This was supposed to be a position of strength for the Mariners and it is one of their largest liabilities. It makes sense to keep trotting out Cano and hoping he looks a bit more like his old self.

First Base
Mariners: 0.1 WAR ~ Median 1.1 WAR
LoMo isn't focused on as a problem, but he is relative to other MLB first basemen. His offensive production is decent - right around league average - but first base is typically a position that teams get above-average production from. Hence why this is a spot where the Mariners lag behind the pack. The Mariners would be wise to start splitting time between Morrison and Mark Trumbo at first base.

Left Field
Mariners: 0.0 WAR ~ Median 0.8 WAR
This is a tale of two left fielders, the productive Seth Smith and horrific Dustin Ackley. They have cancelled one another out, so just playing Smith more regularly (as McClendon is doing) will move this position into the "just fine" range. Ackley was a league average starter last year in left field, so his drop-off is a surprising and unfortunate twist this season.

Mariners: 0.3 WAR ~ Median 1.0 WAR
The Mariners bullpen would be serviceable with two reasonable adjustments that have already been made. Tyler Olson accumulated -0.4 WAR in his month in the majors, and Fernando Rodney has been worth -0.4 WAR so far also. Replace those performances with replacement level ones (0.0 WAR) and the bullpen ranks as league average. Olson never should have made the team, despite his phenomenal spring. Nothing about his background or stuff suggested he could make the jump from AA and be a good reliever. Rodney has always been a bit of an adventure, but his drop this season is unexpected and stunning. The Mariners should have always banked on regression from this unit given how crazy good they were last year, but to expect this kind of fall was unreasonable. My biggest bone of contention is giving Olson an opening day spot, but that was remedied pretty quickly.

The Mariners path to a rebound is surprisingly straightforward. They need to hope that Fernando Rodney and Robinson Cano start to look like something resembling Fernando Rodney and Robinson Cano. They could also use one good defensive outfielder that can hit at least enough to be even a below average starter, plus a shot in the arm at first base. That could come from Mark Trumbo if he wasn't going to be played in the outfield. A halfway decent catcher would be good too. Then, beyond all that, getting healthy and staying healthy.

Lots has to go right for the Mariners to improve, but that shouldn't be too surprising with the hole they have carved. However, quite a few things have gone wrong this season that were unreasonable to expect, without an equal number of pleasant surprises performing beyond what could be expected at this point. Really only Nelson Cruz is performing beyond expectations and he has cooled down a fair amount in recent weeks (unsurprisingly right in line with the whole offense tanking).

There are some moves the Mariners could make to help themselves out, and that could make for another post in the near future. However, their best bet to get back into contention is to take a reality check in their own clubhouse, look around the room, and realize that the guys they already have are their best bet to get better in a hurry - and there is some reason to believe a few players could turn their seasons around. They better soon though, before the season is 100% gone. It's pretty close to gone. About the only thing keeping the Mariners afloat is the mediocrity of the American League as a whole, but even that will only keep them afloat for so long without some improvement.

2015 Mariners Draft Recap

By now you regular readers of the Musings have probably figured out that I scaled back my draft coverage this year. It's simple an awful time of year with my work to put together something so extensive. The draft started on my first day of summer break - which means the prep would have had to entirely been finalized during my most intense time of the year as a math teacher. So it didn't happen.

Recaps don't hit the same problems though, so here we go! The Mariners draft so far, complete with grades. I will update periodically as picks come in:

2 (60) - Nick Neidert, RHP, Peachtree Ridge HS (GA) - This is a solid pick. Neidert has a good fastball, a surprisingly good change-up, and a clean delivery that bodes as well as anything for future health and command. Neidert likely slid a bit on draft boards because he lacks prototypical size (at "only" 6'1") and some tendonitis near the end of the year sidelined him and hampered his productivity. Neither of these issues are huge concerns over the course of whatever career Neidert will have. Plus the Mariners have a bit of a track record developing prep arms under Zduriencik. Taijuan Walker and Brandon Maurer come to mind. Grade: B

B (72) - Andrew Moore, RHP, Oregon State - Moore is an undersized college righty with fringy stuff. His fastball is MLB average at best. His change-up might be slightly better. His breaking ball is something he can get over for strikes, but that's about it. With that said, Moore was a three-year starter at Oregon State, a perennial powerhouse in college baseball at this point. Moreover, Moore improved significantly each year. His profile reminds me some of Andrew Carraway, a prolifically productive pitcher in the ACC before getting drafted by the Mariners. Carraway topped out in AAA. Obviously the Mariners think Moore is a bit more by drafting him this early. He should progress to the upper levels of the minors rather quickly, and then we will find out just what kind of prospect he is. Grade: C-

3 (94) - Braden Bishop, CF, Washington - Scouts agree that Bishop can defend center field, and defend it very well. That's huge for the Mariners, who have very few prospects in the system that might become viable MLB center fielders. The question is how much Bishop will hit. The most encouraging thing I notice is his walk rate steadily improving, which suggests better and better plate discipline. Bishop's power also spiked this season, but the NCAA changed bat rules this year so power was up across the board. Bishop profiles as a slap hitter with marginal gap power, and since that's what he is he would do well to cut down on his strikeouts. Bishop's skillset is reminiscent of James Jones. Grade: C

4 (125) - Dylan Thompson, RHP, Socastee HS (SC) - Thompson pairs nicely with Neidert as far as this draft class goes. Thompson lacks the pure power of Neidert, but also possesses clean mechanics with a body that promises to fill out and add some velocity in future years. Thompson has an advanced feel for his offspeed pitches, most notably a change-up. It is interesting that the Mariners nabbed two prep arms with advanced change-ups, given that finding one with a change-up is rare enough. I would have liked him at pick 72 (where Moore went), so I love him here. Grade: A

5 (155) - Drew Jackson, SS, Stanford - The Mariners have done well picking college infielders under Jack Zduriencik, especially ones that flew under the radar a bit. Brad Miller, Chris Taylor, and Kyle Seager all fit this mold. Unfortunately, Jackson won't be joining this list. I am highly skeptical of his  hitting. Jackson has no power, and except for this year's Stanford campaign, never hit for average either. Personally I think his hitting was inflated by an unsustainable BABIP rate. Major reach here. Grade: F

6 (185) - Kyle Wilcox, RHP, Bryant - The Mariners are digging pretty deep with this pick. Wilcox had an overall pedestrian career at Bryant, which plays ball in one of the weakest division I conferences in the nation. However, underneath the overall mediocre numbers are a couple interesting trends. Wilcox always had rather high walk rates but balanced that with low hit rates. He seems to be a bit wild, but to also possess some good stuff. This is further reinforced by his Cape Cod league numbers, where both his walks and strikeouts skyrocketed. Wilcox needs to improve his command drastically and perhaps a move to the bullpen would suit him well. Grade: D-

7 (215) - Ryan Uhl, 1B, Indiana (PA) - Uhl is a 6'6", 230 lb hulk of a first baseman that hit very much like a hulk his senior season. He slugged 29 home runs in only 142 at-bats, which is INSANE even at a small college like Indiana University Pennsylvania. Interestingly Uhl had only hit 13 home runs in his previous three seasons combined, so Uhl could be a one-year wonder. This draft did not have much in terms of power prospects, and the Mariners are thin at first base, so Uhl is a guy worth taking a flyer on. Grade: B

8 (245) - Cody Mobley, RHP, Mt. Vernon HS (IN) - I can't find a ton on Mobley yet, but I like what I've found. He is listed at 6'3" and 185 pounds, which suggests some room to grow. He also has played some shortstop in his prep career, which suggests some good athleticism. Scouting reports suggest velocity in the upper 80s and he also combines that with an above average breaking ball. He has a commitment to Evansville which was firm enough that it was assumed he would go to school unless drafted in the first ten rounds. Although the M's have gone college-heavy so far, the three prep arms they've picked so far will define how successful this draft class is. Grade: A

9 (275) - Conner Hale, 3B, LSU - Hale lacks power, but he amassed a track record of hitting, particularly in his junior and senior seasons. Hale hit in the vaunted SEC and also the prestigious Cape Cod League this past summer. Hale strikes out more than would be ideal, particularly with his questionable power, but this is round 9. Overall, there are lots of tools to like at this stage in the draft. His real path to the majors will be adding defensive versatility and learning to pinch hit well. Grade: A

10 (305) - Darin Gillies, RHP, Arizona State - Gillies pitched out of relief for the most part with a few spot starts his senior year. He broke out a bit as a senior as his rate states (Ks, walks, hits) improved quite a bit across the board. Gillies also possesses good size at 6'4". He is probably organizational relief depth, but you never know. Grade: B

11 (335) - Dylan Silva, LHP, Florida State - Silva is a reliever that has always lacked control, but the control has improved. It still needs to improve quite a bit more. However, Silva also strikes out a ton of batters. This is a solid spot in the draft to take a chance on a relief prospect. Grade: B

12 (365) - Logan Taylor, 3B, Texas A&M - Taylor is a solid hitter and has flashed solid hitting across several seasons, including the prestigious Cape Cod League. He doesn't have an obvious strength or weakness. His profile reminds me some of what Stefen Romero looked like coming out of Oregon State. Another solid pick at this stage in the draft. Grade: B

13 (395) - Matt Clancy, LHP, St. John's - Clancy is another southpaw reliever. He has produced in every season (and league) he played in. Interestingly, his strikeout rate spiked in summer league play, which tends to mimic pro ball more than college baseball because of the use of wooden bats. Lefty relievers never make top prospect lists, but they have value. Grade: B

14 (425) - Jio Orozco, RHP, Salpointe Catholic HS (AZ) - The consensus is that Orozco is better than this draft slot suggests, which means he likely slid due to signability issues. The fact that the M's picked him here suggests that they think they have a chance to sign him because this is a little early to take totally long shots to sign. Orozco, like other prep arms the M's drafted this year, has an advanced change-up for his age. It's hard to argue at this point that wasn't a point of emphasis in the organization, which is interesting. Do they think they can coax one of these prep arms to learn Felix's deathly change-up? I like this pick as far as talent goes, but I worry about the odds of Orozco signing unless the Mariners can't get one of their other prep arms signed. Grade: C

15 (455) - Ryne Inman, RHP, Parkersville HS (GA) - Really hard to find stuff on Ryne specifically, though his baseball team is legendary in Georgia. Inman is tall at 6'5" and appears to throw in the mid to upper 80s. The Mariners likely see the potential for more velocity with strength and maybe even some mechanical adjustments. Seems like a bit of a reach, particularly when considering possible signability issues of high-schoolers picked in this range. Grade: C-

16 (485) - Ricky Eusebio, OF, Miami (FL) - Some scout dug real deep for Eusebio. He was a backup his whole career at Miami, which means he got some playing time, but rather little. However, this past season he seemed to take a major step forward that might be legitimate and not just small sample size luck. Eusebio could return to Miami for his senior season and that would seem to be wise if he has a path to a starting job and is a bona fide pro prospect. So, I wonder about Eusebio's signability, but there is little doubt somebody really likes him within the Mariners organization. This was quite a dig. Grade: D

17 (515) - Joe Pistorese, LHP, Washington State - Local picks are always nice, and Pistorese flew a bit under the radar thanks to an injury this season. He's a senior, so he will sign. Pistorese also lacks strikeouts, so he looks like organizational depth. But, at least he is local organizational depth and a lefty. This still seems a bit early to take a player like this. Grade: D

18 (545) - Anthony Misiewicz, LHP, Michigan State - Misiewicz has largely been a good lefty reliever during his time in college. He also can return to Michigan State for his senior year, though I wonder how much that would improve his draft stock. He just might sign, and if he does, this is a nice pick. Grade: C

19 (575) - P.J. Jones, C, Washington State - Another local pick, and a senior to boot! Catching depth is always needed, and Jones provides that. He doesn't hit for much average or power, and his sleight 5'9" frame doesn't promise much future power. However, Jones guns down baserunners at a good rate, so he brings some defensive value. Grade: C+

20 (605) - Parker McFadden, RHP, Yelm HS (WA) - The Mariners are raiding the Cougars! McFadden is a WSU commit. McFadden is short but throws very hard, as high as 97mph according to some readings. He will have an interesting decision to make, especially if he has always dreamed of playing for the Mariners. Is McFadden true to the blue? Grade: B

21 (635) - Rob Fonseca, 1B, Northeastern - Fonseca hit for his entire college career, which included a successful stint in the Cape Cod League this past summer. As a college senior he will sign too. Terrific pick at this point in the draft. Grade: A

22 (665) - Joey Strain, RHP, Winthrop - Strain is a tad short and a tad light to have an ideal pitching body, which probably helps to explain why he has been overlooked. Moreover, he has been hit pretty hard in relief roles, though combines that with high strikeout and low walk rates. Strain might be the rare pitcher who is a little too aggressive in the strike zone. He also had a successful year working out of the bullpen in the Cape Cod League this past summer, which further makes me wonder if he will fare better against the wood bats he'll face in pro ball. Grade: B

23 (695) - Art Warren, RHP, Ashland - Fun fact: Warren is the first player drafted from Ashland (it's in Ohio) since 1989! Ashland is a small school even by small school standards. Warren transferred from Cincinnati though. He was relative effective in Ashland's rotation, though he had a ton of walks. He also walked a bunch of batters at Cincinnati. This looks like a huge reach. Grade: F

24 (725) - Lance Thonvold, RHP, Minnesota - Never broke through with the Golden Gophers thanks to significant control problems. He was wildly effective in the Cape Cod League though, which might be worth a little something. Thonvold is a college senior so he should be an easy player to sign. I suppose he has that going for him too. Grade: C

25 (755) - Joseph Peeler, RHP, East Rowan HS (NC) - Tall, lanky prep arm with ability that goes beyond this pick. He already throws in the low 90s with a feel for some breaking pitches. He has signed with UNC-Wilmington. I would assume he goes to school, but a glance at his Twitter feed does show just how exciting and huge getting drafted is. Grade: C

26 (785) - Ljay Newsome, RHP, Chopticon HS (MD) - Newsome is another prep arm, but at least as of late May had not decided where he was going to college. Perhaps he is not going at all at this point. He also had a performance for the ages in the 3A state championship baseball game, so he's a gamer for whatever that is worth. Newsome just might sign, and he just might be good. Intriguing pick. Grade: A

27 (815) - Michael Rivera, RHP, Colegio Hector Urdaneta (PR) - Rivera's video reminded me some of Erasmo Ramirez. Rivera is similarly stiff and upright in his upper body with a short arm motion, though he is a fair amount taller than Ramirez. Rivera also broke off a couple breaking balls with some depth, suggesting a feel for spinning the baseball. It's hard to imagine his body filling out much more, but he might add some velocity with refined mechanics. Grade: B

28 (845) - Taylor Perez, SS, Saint Leo - Another small school selection, Perez at first glance looks like he can hit a little bit. However, all his hitting stats are below the team cumulative averages, so I doubt he hits much as a professional. Perez is also a junior so he could return to school too. He is probably a great defender to get drafted this early, but all things considered this seems like an unnecessary reach. Grade: F

29 (875) - Jared West, LHP, LSU-Shreveport - While LSU-Shreveport is an NAIA school (even below D-III), West transferred from the University of Houston. He was also a fairly productive starter for Houston, and was just as productive at LSU-Shreveport. You would think a 6'6" lefty able to get outs in D-I would dominate in NAIA, but West did not. Still, a tall lefty with success is worth a flyer at this point in the draft. Grade: C+

30 (905) - Augustus Craig, RF, Columbia - Any Ivy League player named Augustus! How can't you love this pick? He appears to go by Gus, which is still pretty cool. Craig is a senior and has hit well both the last few years. He is also a senior, and even hails from Oregon, so is rather local. Grade: A

31 (935) - Logan James, LHP, Stanford - James is an undersized lefty reliever with bad control that could go back for his senior year at Stanford. Logan, if you are reading this, stay at Stanford. It's an amazing school. That degree is worth waiting a year to start your pro career. James isn't much of a prospect. Grade: F

32 (965) - Colin Tornberg, RHP, UT-Arlington - I have no idea what the M's see in Tornberg, partly because there is little info available on Tornberg. However, what is available on the internet paints a picture of significant room for improvement. He is a senior though so he should sign. Grade: D

33 (995) - Julius Gaines, SS, Florida International - Gaines can't hit, but middle infield depth is necessary in any minor league system. Gaines is a senior so he will sign. Grade: B

34 (1025) - Kyle Ostrowski, LHP, Lincoln Way North HS (IL) - Ostrowski has a letter of intent to go to Purdue, and it is generally a safe bet that prep players picked this late decide to go to college. If Ostrowski signs, he'll bring a nice pitching frame with clean mechanics that promises to gain velocity. He is a nice pick if he signs. Grade: D

35 (1055) - Gianni Zayas, RHP, Florida International - Junior righty with obvious control issues. He might not sign, and doesn't look like much without significant improvement if he does sign. Grade: F

36 (1085) - Matt Walker, RHP, Weatherford College (TX) - Walker is a bit of a project, but worth a chance this late. He stands plenty tall at 6'6", and struck out lots of batters, but also walked more than you would like to see. However, tall limbs are hard to wrangle and use to command a baseball. Perhaps Walker can improve and become a bullpen piece. A longshot for sure, but at least you can imagine a path to the majors with this pick. Grade: B

37 (1115) - Colton Sakamoto, CF, Westview HS (OR) - Sakamoto commited to the University of Oregon before his senior season even started. That, plus this late of a pick, suggests that Sakamoto won't sign. He played football in high school too, so he's a good athlete. The Mariners could use some centerfielders in their system too. Sakamoto probably won't be one of them, but at least the M's tried to address a need here. Grade: C

38 (1145) - Dalton Kelly, 1B, UCSB - Kelly likely got drafted thanks to a very strong showing in a summer league, though he carried his success into the college season too. He broke out to a degree, but is still just a junior and might be wise to stay in school and try to get drafted higher next year. Not the worst pick talent-wise, but I don't see a big reason that he would sign. Grade: D

39 (1175) - Dante Ricciardi, SS, Worcester Academy (MA) - Ricciardi is a rare left-handed hitting shortstop (but throws right, because literally every shortstop throws right-handed). His head moves a bit too much for my taste in the batters box, but his swing is level and stays in the strike zone a long time. He has a commitment to Georgetown, which isn't particularly noted for its baseball program, so perhaps he chooses to sign if he really wants a career in pro ball. Grade: D-

40 (1205) - Mike Rojas Jr., C, Gulf Coast HS (FL) - Rojas comes from a baseball family, as his grandpa is former MLB All-Star Cookie Rojas, and his father (Mike Rojas Sr.) has coached in the majors. Rojas, according to his family, has all the tools to make the majors. However, his .153 average in high school is quite the counterpoint to said confidence. His commitment is to Chipola junior college, a juco baseball powerhouse, because he wants to be a pro. He might jump at this opportunity now, because the advantage of the juco route is that it is not subject to the NCAA agreement where players do not become draft eligible until they are juniors. Grade: D

Weighted* Draft GPA: 2.29 (C+)
*Weighted so that earlier picks are more valuable. This is done by taking the reciprocal of the overall pick and then averaging the sums. So, pick 60 is worth 1/60, while pick 70 is 1/70. So pick 70 is weighted less than pick 60, but differences become smaller and smaller as the draft wears on.

Final Comments: The Mariners just drafted a draft class. It's fairly pedestrian, all things considered. Maybe slightly disappointing in my book, but neither a disaster nor all that great at first glance.

The early prep arms picked - Nick Neidert, Dylan Thompson, and Cody Mobley - will ultimately decide the fate of this class. They have the most upside and will likely eat up most of the bonus money the Mariners have available. This will be a successful draft if one of those three becomes an MLB starter. If two of them become MLB contributors this will be an especially good draft.

It might be fair to criticize the dearth of position players in the M's draft class, especially the lack of power, but power prospects were few and far between in this draft. I would much rather that the Mariners stay true to where they saw talent on the draft board. They dug for a few guys who flashed power in obscure places among the college ranks, and that's satisfying enough for me in this draft class.

No Z In Defense

Happy trails, Justin Ruggiano. We hardly knew ye.
(Source: Wikimedia, uploaded by user UCinternational)
Yesterday's Mark Trumbo trade left a hole at backup catcher, which today was filled by recalling Jesus Sucre from AAA Tacoma. This is not surprising. More surprising is that Sucre took Justin Ruggiano's spot. Ruggiano was designated for assignment to make room.

Ruggiano was essentially a fourth outfielder - technically a platoon partner for Seth Smith, but as the righty in the platoon he would face lefties. That means less playing time. He accumulated 81 at-bats across 36 games so far this season, and produced 0.1 WAR according to Fangraphs. Ruggiano, for all intents and purposes, was a replacement level bench player for the Mariners this year. So, it is hard to get all that angry over the move today.

With that said, the move suggests a fatal flaw in the logic of Lloyd McClendon and Jack Zduriencik. The Mariners are down to two legitimate outfield defenders on the roster (Austin Jackson and Dustin Ackley). That's concerning when you have three outfield positions to fill. 

It is particularly remarkable that Ruggiano got cut loose instead of Rickie Weeks, given that Ruggiano has outperformed Weeks so far this year and also has a skillset that is a better fit for the current M's roster. I think Weeks is a better hitter than he has shown so far, and also has some upside defensively as he learns the outfield, but why try to coach one player up when another already fits the roster spot better? The Mariners fancy themselves a contender, and contenders tend to think about winning ballgames sooner rather than later.

I will be surprised if the Mariners make the playoffs at this point. The Ruggiano DFAing put me over the top. Jack Zduriencik and company may very well continue to acquire talent, but the M's are ripping open wounds to fix non-existent problems. The Mariners do not need more dingers. They need men on base and an outfield that allows pitchers to take advantage of spacious Safeco Field. They are hacking away from these weaknesses to add home runs at the moment.

It is one thing to get frustrated when a player like Robinson Cano doesn't perform well. It is another thing to watch a team take a flawed approach to building a roster, amplify the problems, and then wonder why they aren't winning more ballgames. The Mariners are going to have to outpace their own decision-makers to make playoffs, which is a mighty tall order.

Trumbo Acquried

Mark Trumbo, playing where he should
photo taken by Keith Allison, uploaded to Flickr
The Mariners, fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Yankees, have solved their offensive woes. Or at least changed how the problem looks. They acquired Mark Trumbo from the Diamondbacks, along with LHP Vidal Nuno, for C Wellington Castillo, RHP Dominic Leone, SS Jack Reinheimer, and OF Gabby Guerrero.

My hot takes on each player involved:

Mark Trumbo - Trumbo fits the Jack Zduriencik mold - light-tower power without much else. Trumbo has limited contact ability and patience, and is also a rather limited defender. He isn't all that different than Nelson Cruz, for better and for worse. The Nelson Cruz we've seen in Seattle so far isn't really Nelson Cruz, by the way. The real Nelson Cruz doesn't bat well over .300, at least for a whole season. Trumbo certainly improves the M's offense, but the real question is if his power outweighs all of his other limitations.

Vidal Nuno - Nuno will join the Mariners bullpen. He has been quite effective in a few innings for Arizona so far this season, and small sample size cautions should be in full effect. For instance, Nuno currently sports a K/9 over 11 in the majors, but never struck out over a batter an inning in the minors. His average fastball velocity is around 88mph too, which usually doesn't suggest high strikeout potential. However, Nuno doesn't rely on his fastball much, given that he has thrown more sliders than heaters in the majors this year. Long story short, Nuno is a more advanced version of Tyler Olson.

Wellington Castillo - We hardly knew you, Wellington! The recent acquisition from Chicago is now bound for the desert. Castillo wasn't going to get too much playing time behind Mike Zunino, and his questionable defensive abilities wiped whatever value his bat might have brought in a reserve role. The Mariners could still use a legitimate backup that could push Zunino to hit a bit more, but Castillo never struck me as a great fit on the roster.

Dominic Leone - It will be interesting to see how Leono fares in Arizona. He is worse than his remarkably good 2014 suggested, but also better than his 2015 struggles so far. At the end of the day Leone is a bullpen arm worth having around on a roster, but replaceable, especially when you play in spacious Safeco Field. The Mariners probably got Leone's best season out of him though, despite how young he is.

Jack Reinheimer - Reinheimer projects as organizational depth in the middle infield, with the "upside" to be a utility player. He simply does not hit enough to make it in the majors, though reports on his defense are pretty good. Reinheimer's chances of breaking through in Seattle were especially slim, given the presence of guys like Brad Miller, Chris Taylor, and Ketel Marte.

Gabby Guerrero - Guerrero is the only player with the potential to make this deal feel bad for the Mariners. He is struggling in AA, but at least is only 21 years old. He has some time to figure things out. Guerrero is overly aggressive, just like his famed uncle Vladimir Guerrero, but not even other family members are Vlad the Impaler. Gabby, like other mere mortals, will have to develop a little plate discipline and some awareness of holes in his swing to make the majors - much less make an impact.

The best player involved in this trade is Mark Trumbo, without a doubt. The next best could very well be Vidal Nuno, though an argument could be made for Leone I suppose. So, this trade certainly is not bad for the Mariners.

However, it is not a good deal, either. The main issue are the roles the newly acquired talents find themselves in. Mark Trumbo's offensive value is likely to get eliminated by his suspect outfield defense. He projects to play right field mostly. This will hurt a pitching staff already wounded and shaky.

At least Trumbo pushes Nelson Cruz to more full-time DH duties probably. I shudder at the thought of Cruz and Trumbo in the same outfield, especially Safeco's outfield with its spacious gaps. That's a recipe for disaster, and I hope Lloyd McClendon realizes that.

The Mariners already had power. What they lack most are on-base skills and outfield defense. Trumbo adds to the M's strength, and also exacerbates their weaknesses. I suppose that makes him True to the Blue.