The Seattle Mariners, 11-17 as they prepare for a weekend series versus division-rival Oakland, can’t wait for struggling players to figure it out as the spring turns to summer in the coming weeks. The club is too heavily invested in the peak years of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez to hope; hoping Dustin Ackley does something he’s never before shown he can do; hoping Jesus Sucre is good enough to be Mike Zunino’s backup for an entire season; hoping Danny Farquhar and Yoervis Medina can get back to what they were a year ago in terms of ultimate results; hoping Willie Bloomquist justifies a roster spot.
The Mariners should be aggressive now, both in terms of in-house improvements — and they do exist right now down in Triple-A Tacoma — and especially looking outside the organization. I’m not suggesting Cole Hamels should be on the club’s radar — I don’t believe that kind of deal makes sense for Seattle; the player does, the cost does not. Finding veterans that can be relied upon to perform to acceptable levels isn’t all that difficult, and it doesn’t have to come in July or August.
Generally the cost to trade for talent in May or June is higher, sometimes significantly, than it is in late-July when clubs have a much better idea whether or not selling or buying is the right move for their franchise. But the Mariners shouldn’t be looking to add Hamels, Ryan Braun, Johnny Cueto or Carlos Gonzalez. At least not right now. They should be after another Seth Smith type bat for left field, a legitimate No. 2 catcher and perhaps a bullpen arm, though that may be the one area they should wait since relievers are so ridiculously expensive more often than not.
If they act sooner rather than later, however, such talents can be had and will not cost big-time young talent. Smith was acquired in return for right-hander Brandon Maurer. Justin Ruggiano was had for minor league reliever Matt Brazis, who may never be a major league arm. Catching is pricey, but Sucre simply isn’t a major leaguer, and the more some of the other spots in the lineup struggle at the plate the more Lloyd McClendon rightfully is going to call on Zunino, because he can, has and will run into power production.
Brad Miller may or may not be part of the left field solution at some point this season. But cloning Smith can only help, and still would allow McClendon the flexibility to play matchup at shortstop as well as the two corner outfield spots, if not center, too.
It’s not time to panic, by any means. Not for fans, and the front office never should act in panic mode. But standing pat with Ackley, Bloomquist and Sucre — presumably waiting on the players and/or the market, or relying solely on in-house fixes, is not the act of a team destined for the postseason. Waiting for July to do something isn’t, either, and doing something between today and, say, mid-June, gives the club that much more time to evaluate what else they may need to do to supplement the roster. First thing’s first, though. Replace those that clearly cannot consistently help the team win. The evidence is abundant. Next up: execution.
And yes, I’m not going to make such a strong statement without suggesting some answers, ideas, alternatives. That’s next.
– Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
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