The Seattle Mariners are winners of eight consecutive games going into play on Wednesday, a streak that has drawn them to within four games of the break-even point. The recent run of success has them re-considering their assumed position as sellers with the non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching.
teams that have checked with #mariners lately say they’re not selling at all right now. cant really blame ‘em.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 24, 2013
Heyman might not blame them, but I do.
Seattle’s recent hot play has moved them ahead of the Angels and into third place in the AL West, though the deficit is a steep 10 full games. They are a tad closer in the Wild Card hunt, now 8.5 games out of a playoff spot. With perhaps the best one-two punch at the top of their rotation of any in baseball, the Mariners have some reason to think they can compete for a Wild Card spot.
The reasons to think they can’t, however, are far greater and the decision to hold ground — neither selling nor buying– at the deadline is a decision that not only sets this team up for failure in 2013, but beyond.
The Mariners are an improved team, but not one without significant holes. They’ve handed the reigns to many young players and while the returns on some have been outstanding, most notably with Nick Franklin and Kyle Seager, Seattle has gotten below-average contributions centerfielder Dustin Ackley and virtually anyone they’ve tried behind the plate.
Veteran hitters such as Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay could draw interest on the trade market and the Mariners have a bullpen full of interesting arms. They could, if they so chose, sell off some of the spare parts and bring back younger players to help continue the process of building the winner in Seattle they’ve been craving. Ibanez, in particular, is 41-years-old and is enjoying a career-year. Even if he doesn’t choose to retire at the end of the season, it’s far-fetched to think he could reproduce the magic he’s shown at the plate this year.
When you’re a team that isn’t expected to compete for the playoff, you sign guys like Ibanez and Bay to bridge the gap on the big league roster while waiting for young talent to develop. A mid-season winning streak is nice, but the Mariners shouldn’t let it cloud their judgement about their own team. Those veteran players certainly provide leadership and hopefully they produce enough to make them valuable to other clubs come trade season. This is why you signed them. Don’t change course now, not when you aren’t really contending for anything.
Even if selling isn’t the option chosen by GM Jack Zduriencik, standing still never should be. It’s not as if the M’s are in first place by 11 games and don’t feel as if they have weaknesses that could be addressed. Deciding not to sell is deciding that you can still win this thing this year, or it’s deciding not to improve your team for 2014. Zduriencik, it’s been rumored, is feeling the heat of Seattle’s disappointing run over the past few years and a GM desperate to save his own job sees value in playing .500 ball – value that doesn’t really exist.
By not buying, Zduriencik is saying that he thinks his club is good enough right now to reach the post-season. While they have won eight straight, it’s important to remember that a team is never as good as their winning streak suggests, nor usually as bad as they look when on a skid. Can they, as currently constructed, walk down the A’s?, the Rangers?, the Orioles or Rays or Indians? They might catch one or two of those teams, but to reach the post-season they will either have to make up the 10-game lead that Oakland hold, or jump over four clubs en route to a Wild Card appearance. Unlikely is an understatement.
Sure, you can always try to push a trade through waivers in August, but the chips held by Seattle are veterans on one-year contracts and those types of guys are the ones that get claimed, thereby blocking trades.
If you are not a legitimate post-season contender, or better yet a World Series contender, you should always be looking to put the organization in the best-possible situation for next year. Doing that means to move players who have even a little value but who don’t factor into long-term plans for the franchise.
By deciding not to sell and deciding not to buy, Jack Z is hoping to save his job by neither improving this year nor next. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.