The names still haunt the dreams of Mariners fans: Jason Varitek. Derek Lowe. Shin-Soo Choo. Asdrubal Cabrera….(brace yourself) Adam Jones.
All were traded in pursuit of a quick fix and instant glory that never materialized. Those departed players, meanwhile, provided years of long-distance torment by blossoming into productive – in some cases, superior – players.
Now I’m here to tell you: Forget about it. Let it go. Just because bad trades were made in the past doesn’t mean that the Mariners should be paralyzed into inaction forever.
Yet as July 31 nears, I am being inundated with messages from people scared to death that the Mariners will make another deadline gaffe. That’s understandable, and a reasonable fear. But just because there have been past mistakes doesn’t mean the ballclub should run from the right deal, even if the cost in prospects seems heavy.
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Not with the situation currently facing the Mariners. They are a team with tremendous strengths (the top of the rotation and the bullpen) and one big, fat, glaring weakness (run production). And they are a team that, despite its issues, has put itself in a solid, attainable playoff position.
These opportunities have been exceedingly rare for a franchise that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2001. This is one it can’t let slip away – at least not without making a strong effort to maximize its chances.
It’s a slippery slope, of course, and a debate that will rage every July for perpetuity: How much of the future do you mortgage to go after a title?
The Mariners, after all, are realistically facing a situation in which they are chasing a wild-card berth, considering the strength of the Angels and A’s above them. That means they would be placing all their hope on a one-game playoff – quite possibly on the road.
But as long as they are not reckless with their trades, and bring back players who can help them not just this year but next, this is a good year to go for it. If they can just get into the postseason, wouldn’t you love to see what a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and … dare I say it … David Price could do in a short series, or three? And for a whole season in 2015?
For the record, I love the idea of a Price addition, as long as it is accompanied by one, preferably two bats. Now, this might be a moot point, as the streaking Rays work their way back into playoff contention. But there are those who feel they have no choice but to say yes to the right offer for Price, no matter their place in the standings.
And the Mariners have the pieces to make a compelling offer for Price, starting with Taijuan Walker as the centerpiece. I know the thought of giving up Walker, a blue-chip pitching prospect who has been heralded as the Next Big Thing for years, is daunting, but my thinking has evolved on this. Looking at the epidemic of arm injuries, and the long history of busted pitching phenoms – not to mention the fact the amateur ranks are brimming with power arms these days — it’s a risk I’d be willing to take.
The one proviso: Hold on to D.J. Peterson at virtually all costs (I say “virtually” in case the Marlins unexpectedly make Giancarlo Stanton available, which by all accounts is a total pipe dream). Peterson is precisely what the Mariners have long coveted, and on the verge of being big-league ready. Given the scarcity of power bats in the industry, this is one player they should cling to.
But there aren’t many other untouchables in the organization. The Mariners have some intriguing bats and arms, particularly at the lower levels of their farm system, but we’ve learned, repeatedly, how hard it is to make that final step. How many deals have the Mariners thwarted over the years to keep “can’t miss” prospects who, indeed, missed?
This is a Mariners’ team brimming with possibilities. It’s also a team filled with easily identifiable holes. Just imagine what they could do with increased production in the corner outfield, designated hitter, first base and shortstop. Just imagine what they could do if the top two spots in their batting order didn’t have a cumulative on-base percentage under .300, and if their cleanup hitters didn’t have a .225/.309/.360 line?
There doesn’t appear to be an overflowing supply of top-flight hitters on the market, but there are bats that can help a ballclub with the lowest OPS in the league. Lloyd McClendon was asked Monday if the weekend series with the Angels – so close to being a sweep, instead of two losses in three games – highlighted the need to bolster the offense. He gave a long pause before answering.
“My job is to manage the players I’m given,’’ he said finally. “I’m not trying to dodge the questions, but I don’t argue for my limitations. I just take what I’ve got and go out and do the best I can.”
I’ll argue for him. McClendon’s Mariners are on the verge of going to places they haven’t been in a long time. Now’s not the time to get timid.