Are We Looking At The Future Of Safeco Field?

** Not much has changed for the Mariners (or their fans) since 2012, has it? **

Originally published January 13th, 2012

How have the Mariners closed the book on 10 consecutive years without a playoff appearance, struggling and decreasing attendance, and a growing apathy from their fanbase?  By not doing much of anything.  When you examine the Seattle Mariners 4 “big moves” you get an assortment of declining talent, retreads, and one potential gem.  It’s hard to argue against the M’s pickup of Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakama, but the rest of the signings are a head-scratcher that has me wondering for the first time since Jack Z came on board.  Are the Mariners holding payroll to make a high profile move or signing, or are they rapidly and quitely becoming the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates of the league?  Let’s look at the M’s high profile signings:

– Hisashi Iwakuma:  The gem of the group.  30yr old pitcher w/a sub 2.00 ERA the last 2 years and a 2.67 lifetime ERA.  This is  a “money signing” w/a rotation that already includes Felix, Pineda, Vargas and TBD.  Signing Iwakuma is a statement that we’re serious about pitching — until you get to the next two pickups.

– George Sherrill:  Sherill is the kind of signing that M’s fans that don’t know a whole lot other than that he pitched for the Mariners, will be happy about.  It’s akin to the Mariners going out and resigning JJ Putz.  Oh yeah, I remember when he was good w/us!  Then you get into his stats.  Sherrill went from 3 years of closing down to relief.  Solid 3.00 ERA for a National league team in 2011 after a horrible ERA that was just shy of 7.00 in 2010.

– Aaron Heilmann:  Another pitcher w/name recognition.  You remember the name because he was here for 5 minutes last year.  They put up his poster, then traded him so he could pitch at a stunning 6.88 ERA.  That’s a huge departure from the near Cy Young year in 2010, you know, the one w/the 4.50 ERA.  Yikes.  I don’t know how anyone can be excited about a pitcher with a lifetime 4.40 ERA — But for some reason, Jack Z is.

In case you thought the Mariners were content with signing mediocre pitchers (Iwakuma excluded), we’re happy to sign position players on the downslide of their careers too!

– Munenori Kawasaki:  This guy wants to play with the Mariners.  He made it clear that he wouldn’t sign with any other team than the Mariners, and he was willing to sign a minor league deal — Um, OK.  I guess you take a risk on a guy with zero negotiating skill to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle — But in this case, the lightning in a bottle hit .267 last year and averages 20 doubles a year.  In Japan.  You’re not bringing this guy in to drive in runs, you’re bringing him in to potentially hit singles and steal a base here and there — Don’t we already have that in Ichiro and Figgins and Ryan and Seager?

I like some of the young talent that we have on the team.  I look at our starting pitching as a HUGE strength that has a lot of potential upside.  The problem though is that we haven’t been able to grow a farm system of hitters.  Dustin Ackley is a definite major leaguer, but I don’t know if his development is going to lead to power.  He’ll hit for average, and he’s going to hit doubles, but he’s not going to be the HR threat.  Justin Smoak is a legitimate HR threat, he has power to all fields.  The issue for Smoak has been his ability to stay healthy and to break out of prolonged slumps.  He won’t be the bust player like Jeff Clement at the major leagues, but I also don’t know if he’s showing anything that says he’ll be a star or long-term solution.  Seager at 3B hasn’t shown anything that says he’s a major leaguer, let alone an everyday third basemen.  What about in the outfield?  Ichiro is clearly on the downside of his career, Franklin has been inconsistent and unhealthy, and LF has been a carousel of 4AAA players.  Where is the power for this team going to come from?  How is the team going to score runs?  Is there anything on our roster that scares you as an opposing pitcher — and certainly is there anyone on this roster that’s going to step up and lead this team?  Look at the Mariner’s tentative opening day lineup:

1 – Ichiro (RF)

2- Dustin Ackley (2B)

3- Justin Smoak (1B)

4 – Mike Carp (DH)

5 – Franklin Gutierez (CF)

6 – Miguel Olivo (C)

7 – Brendon Ryan (SS)

8 – Casper Wells or Trayvon Robinson? (LF)

9 – Chone Figgins (3B)

Yeah, I could probably end this post there…

I don’t know how Mariners fans can look at this offseason as anything other than a stunning and colossal disappointment. In an offseason where the Angels and Rangers have both made moves to get better (and in the Angels case substantially better,) the Mariners have been content to stand pat. Speculation that the Mariners were the #1 contender for Prince Fielder have been fading more each day.  This year is truly going to come down to one thing: Are the Mariners going to show they’re committed to winning now?  They haven’t yet, and this could be a make or break year for a city that’s shown they will support exciting and winning baseball.  But how many wins do you see with this current roster?

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