I know I’ve spoken about the Seattle Mariners A LOT over the last two weeks, but I just can’t help myself. I promise, this will be the last time, but I’ve got some things I would like to get off my chest.
I love tanking in Major League Baseball. It’s remarkable when it’s done the right way. When I look back at the early 2010s and see how deep into the shit teams like the Cubs and Astros went, only to come out clean with world championships when all was said and done, it legitimately brings a smile to my face. What the White Sox have done over the past few seasons, and, to an extent, what the Marlins did last offseason, almost brings a tear to my eye. I love when teams have the realization that they simply aren’t good enough, so why even try to field a competitive team? Now, at the same time, I don’t advocate for what the Orioles and Royals have done this past season, because they were terrible before the season began. They were bad, not as a result of trades in order to purge their roster and bring back prospects from which to build around, but by simply being horrible down to the roots. There’s a fine art to tanking in baseball. The Cubs and Astros would constantly bring in players of value via free agency, only to move them so they could bring back younger players with higher upsides. The Orioles and Royals just had a competition of who could fill a roster with actual garbage “better.”
But when I look at what Jerry Dipoto and the Seattle Mariners are in the process of doing right now, I get vivid flashbacks of the Astros and Cubs, and it warms my soul.
The Mariners won 89 games last year, which, by normal standards, is a pretty good year. The only problem was that they played in a division with the Astros and Athletics, who both won more than 98 games.
The Mariners were the American League’s middle man. They’d would constantly finish with a record over .500, but they wouldn’t come close to making the playoffs in the extremely top heavy AL. With an aging roster and money becoming suddenly tight, Jerry Dipoto and the M’s ownership went ahead and hit the big red tank button.
Mike Zunino stinks and is going to need a raise soon? Send him to Tampa Bay for young center fielder Mallex Smith.
James Paxton is 30 years old and is heading towards arbitration where he will earn gobs of money? Off to the Yankees for top prospect Justus Sheffield and two other minor leaguers.
Alex Colome is a pretty good reliever, Right? Trade him to the White Sox for catcher Omar Narvaez.
Edwin Diaz is coming off a 57–save season and will likely want an extension soon, and Robinson Cano is making how much money until he’s 40?? Send the two of them to the Mets for Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak, along with 3 pretty good prospects.
Jean Segura is locked up for 5 years more years with a $14 million AAV? Trade him to the Phillies for J.P. Crawford, a washed up Carlos Santana, and some filler.
This. Is. What. I. Love.
This is what the systematic destruction of an MLB roster looks like at its finest. Going into this offseason, the Mariners payroll was over $120 million, which for a non-playoff team, is a lot of dough. They also didn’t have a single prospect in the Top 100 rankings, saddling them with one of the worst, if not the worst farm systems in all of baseball. By trading away Paxton, Cano, and Diaz, the Mariners have netted themselves three Top 100 prospects right off the bat, one of which is ready to pitch in the majors right now in Justus Sheffield.
Additionally, when you factor in the moves that the Mariners have already made this offseason, it’s pretty likely that much, much more is still to come.
Recently acquired Jay Bruce is still owed $26 million over the next two years, and will most definitely be on the move before the 2019 deadline. Mike Leake is under contract until 2021 and is making over $15 million for the next three years, and is reportedly on the chopping block as well. Kyle Seager is entering the 5th year of his 7–year, $100–million contract and is coming off of a down year. You can bet the club will be handing out fliers on him, too. Dee Gordon is owed $26.5 million over the next two years, and will probably be playing for a different team come 2020. Carlos Santana, just picked up from the Phillies, is probably already being shopped by the team, and he hasn’t even gotten to Seattle yet.
You may look at all these theoretical moves and say “There’s no way they’re going to get rid of ALL those guys.” But why wouldn’t they? Why would the Mariners waste valuable spending money on 30–year–old veterans making over $10 million a year? Also, with 8 of the 15 teams in the American League having sub .500 records, why half ass a rebuild and risk ending up with a mid first round pick? If you’re going to tank, you might as well shoot for the bottom.
Additionally, if the Mariners were to ditch all the players above, the amount of money they would free up, coupled with the haul of young players they’d bring in, they would be in a far superior position going forward than they are right now.
In baseball, as well as in all sports, there is no worse fate than mediocrity. The Mariners have realized this before it was too late, and, by mere coincidence, have a roster full of adequate veterans just ripe for playoff hungry teams to overpay for. This team was tailor made to be blown up.
The only thing that stinks about the Mariners rebuild is that Felix Hernandez will have to be part of another failed season. Hernandez is entering the last year of his contract, and, as he is earning $27 million this upcoming year, is basically impossible to move. King Felix’s final days in Seattle will be a sad affair. It’s a shame that Hernandez, undoubtedly one of the best pitchers of the 2010s and one of the best in Mariners franchise history, will never get a chance to pitch in a playoff game for Seattle.
While you could argue that another American League team tanking is objectively bad for the game (and you wouldn’t be wrong), this is still the right direction for the Mariners franchise to head in, integrity of the league be damned. This team needed significant changes, and I applaud them for having the guts to do it right, so far.
The Seattle Mariners are the new Houston Astros, mark my words.
I’m serious about this one.
*Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images