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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.