Originally published March 26th, 2013
Is it “addition by subtraction” or “addition by addition”? In the case of the Seattle Mariners, the answer is clearly both. After an array of offseason moves, Jack Zduriencik has the Mariners in a position they haven’t been in since 2001, in a legitimate hunt for the American League West title.
Let’s be honest, it doesn’t take a whole lot for a sports blogger to make wild predictions leading into the season. Somewhere, someone is picking the Houston Astros to win the West — I mean, we all know that person is completely insane, but on the internet things like that happen all the time. So I understand if you’re happening on this post and thinking this is just another one of “those”, but it’s not. This is where you’re probably saying, “But the Mariners finished in last place in the West! They were almost 20 games out of first!” Bear with me.
Addition By Subtraction
Alex Rodriguez hit 54 Home Runs and had 156 RBI in 2007. He was MVP of the American League, and it was his 11th year as an All Star. The Seattle Mariners lost an “All Star” at the end of 2012 too — 34 Home runs and 157 RBI. One helluva player, right? More like 7 players. Think about that for a minute, I’ll wait. It took 7 players to equal the production of just one guy in 2012. Sure, the one guy was undoubtedly (or is it allegedly <cough, cough> ) on a mix of HGH and other enhancers, but still… That’s where “addition by subtraction” comes in:
- Chone Figgins — .181 BA, 30 Hits, 2HR, an OBP of .262 and one roster spot.
- Munenori Kawasaki — .192 BA, 20 Hits, 0HR, an OBP of .257 and yes, another roster spot. (It’s OK, I liked him too, but he didn’t deserve a roster spot.)
- Mike Carp, Trayvon Robinson, oh, and Ichiro. Odds that Carp produces for the Red Sox: High. Robinson, total non-factor for Baltimore and already sent down. Ichiro was revitalized by the move to the Yankees, but he wasn’t producing here, and now that the Yankees have been decimated by injury (and age), you have to wonder if Ichiro will show the same improvement he did at the end of 2012.
- Miguel Olivo and John Jaso accounted for 22HR and 79 RBI. Solid production from these two players, but it makes the other stats that more glaring — 22 of 34HR came from 2 of 7 players, and they accounted for half of the RBI bench production.
How do you field a winning team when 7 of your roster spots are taken up by players showing little to zero productivity? Yes, that’s not completely fair to players like Ichiro, Olivo, and Jaso — But Figgins? Kawasaki? Trayvon Robinson? If you want to take Ichiro, Olivo, and Jaso off the list, fine, go ahead and replace them with Thames, Alex Liddi, and Casper Wells: A collection of players hitting under .230. Thames and Liddi are in Triple-A, and Wells has failed to secure a spot with the team hitting under .200 in Spring Training; his chances of making the team are slim. Addition by subtraction.
Addition By Addition
The Mariners offseason wasn’t “sexy”, but it was effective. Zduriencik could have overpaid for Hamilton, but he was able to fill 3-5 slots with the savings. By re-signing Felix Hernandez to a long term extension, the team made a vocal commitment to their fanbase and the team. Seattle is the Tampa Bay Rays of the West. We’ve built a farm club of up-and-coming talent, shown that we’re committed to keeping them with the team, and now Jack Z is surrounding them with the right kind of veteran presence:
- Kendrys Morales — .273 BA, 22HR, and 73 RBI. By trading for Morales, Jack Z replaced all of Olivo and Jaso’s production with one player. Better than that, Morales bring the two-base threat that Olivo and Jaso didn’t. 26 2B in 2012 is a solid year. The best part about trading for Morales, which at the time I wasn’t sold on by the way, is that he’s shown he can be even better. .306 BA, 34HR, 43 2B and over 100 RBI in 2009 and now he’s in a contract year?! Yes and please. If that wasn’t enough, Morales has 3 seasons of post-season experience, which was a constant to most of Jack Z’s offseason moves.
- Raul Ibanez — I didn’t want Ibanez last year. Ibanez hasn’t gotten better with age, but he’s one of those players that makes others around him better. It’s a tired cliché, but he knows his role. His 19HR and 60RBI is already better than every player we traded or let go during the offseason, and like Morales, he’s a post-season veteran.
- Michael Morse — Morse is a wild card. Which Morse do we get? The one that hit 31HR, 36 2B, and had close to 100 RBI in 2011, or the one that hit between 15-18 HR and 40-60RBI from 2010 and 2012? And does it matter, because like Ibanez, Morse brings playoff experience from last year’s run with the Nationals, and his numbers, like Ibanez, are already better than every player we traded or let go. Seeing a trend?
- Kelly Shoppach — Not much of a threat, but a solid backup at Catcher with yes, more postseason experience to add to the roster.
- Joe Saunders — A serviceable replacement for Vargas that’s good for 10-14 wins. Postseason experience, including 2 games in 2012 with the Orioles.
With just 3 players, the Seattle Mariners picked up close to 60HR and around 200 RBI — That’s a 30% increase in RBI production from 3 players vs 7 players from last year. That doesn’t account for a dark horse like Jason Bay, and it doesn’t account for existing/carryover player improvement and development! An immediate increase in power, an influx of playoff experience, and players like Morales and Morse in the final year’s of their deals? Addition by addition.
The Rest Of The West
The Angels are the favorites for the West, Texas is still a force to be reckoned with, and Oakland won the West last year. Oh, and the Astros, but let’s be real. How do the Mariners leap-frog from 4th in the Division to 1st?
- Angels — Yes, they added Josh Hamilton after what was statistically, outside of batting average, the best season of his career. But Hamilton collapsed in the playoffs and looked mentally fragile by the end of the year. How will Hamilton respond now that he isn’t playing for a contract? Pujols saw a production drop and a rash of injuries looks to limit the start of his year. Trout was outstanding and looks superhuman, but will he have a sophomore slump? Is this all a stretch? Yeah, a little bit, but the Angels were picked to win the West last year and didn’t make it then either.
- Rangers — The Rangers are a mystery to me. Can someone explain to me how a team that loses 75HR and 251 RBI from three players is going to get better? They couldn’t get Grienke to pitch, they failed to get Justin Upton via trade. How are the Texas Rangers better than last year, when they lost the American League West to the Athletics. They aren’t.
- Athletics — Everyone loves an underdog. It’s easy to root for the Oakland Athletics. They won the West last year after going 74-88 in 2011. Sound familiar? What’s the saying? Oh yeah, it’s “Why not us”.
Am I a homer? Absolutely. But I try to be realistic too. I didn’t write this last year, I didn’t write it the year before. I’m writing it now, I’m writing it today, and I’m writing it because I believe it. The Mariners are playoff bound in 2013. We’ve cut players that didn’t belong on any team last year and we’ve added a core group of veterans with playoff experience and a history of productivity. The team has looked hungry in Spring Training and they’re playing with an attitude and a confidence that hasn’t looked anything like the Seattle Mariners we’ve seen in a long time.
It’s time to Play Ball! Go Mariners.