Mariners fans seeing players having post-Seattle success sends searing bitterness into their system — sometimes at the player but more often at the Mariners organization.
OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s a trend that can drive fans crazy with regret and frustration. Seeing players having post-Seattle success sends searing bitterness into their system — sometimes at the player but more often at the Mariners organization.
And yes, some players do get better when they experience a change of scenery and a new organization. For some, it’s a comet-like year of success followed by regression to the mean — think Michael Morse. For others, it’s a sustained success that stays from season to season — think Adrian Beltre.
Here’s a look at a few recent Mariners who are wrapping up big seasons.
Mark Trumbo, OF, Orioles
It wasn’t impossible to think Trumbo would have a good season in the hitter-friendly parks of the American League East when he was traded to the Orioles last offseason for backup catcher Steve Clevenger.
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Many fans remember the inconsistent month of June after the Mariners acquired Trumbo from the Diamondbacks and how well catcher Welington Castillo played for Arizona after that. But from July to the end of the 2015 season, Trumbo hit .302 with an .849 on-base plus slugging percentage with 12 doubles, 12 homers and 36 RBI in 74 games.
Still, Trumbo’s uber-success this season is a little unexpected. Using some changes to his swing he started with Edgar Martinez last season, he is having the best season of his career. He currently leads all of baseball with 41 homers. While his average has dropped to .253, he still has an .845 OPS with 22 doubles, a triple and 98 RBI for the Orioles. Not a bad time to have a breakout when you are a free agent after the season.
In retrospect, the deal that was made to clear up salary space to acquire Adam Lind and others looks to be regrettable considering Seattle’s struggles against left-handed pitching this season.
Michael Saunders, OF, Blue Jays
There was little question about Saunders’ talent. It was just a matter of if he could stay on the field enough for it to show consistently. Saunders is finally healthy, and that talent is starting to show. He is hitting .266 with an .849 OPS, 30 doubles, three triples, 23 homers and 54 RBI as the Blue Jays contend for an AL East title.
Saunders missed almost all of last season after tearing his meniscus in his knee during spring training. He had surgery and tried to come back and play, but the knee wasn’t strong enough. He’s remained healthy this season, playing in 122 games and on pace to appear in more games than he has in his career.
Drafted and developed by the Mariners, Saunders grew frustrated with a lack of playing time at the end of 2014 and later by comments by general manager Jack Zduriencik about his conditioning. He pushed for a trade and the Mariners moved him to Toronto for J.A. Happ before the 2015 season.
J.A. Happ, LHP, Blue Jays
Speaking of the Saunders trade, Happ has flourished since the day Zduriencik traded him to the Pirates for right-hander Adrian Sampson at the trade deadline in 2015. Happ helped lead Pittsburgh to the postseason in 2015, going 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts.
He signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Blue Jays early in the offseason. Several baseball executives complained it was a massive overpay by the Blue Jays for a middling left-hander who didn’t strike out many batters. For the first season of the deal, Happ has been worth it. In 27 starts, Happ has a 17-4 record with a 3.34 ERA for the Blue Jays. The team is 20-7 in his starts. In 1641/3 innings, Happ has struck out 144 batters while walking 49. He’s held opposing hitters to a .237 average with a .695 OPS.
Brad Miller, IF, Rays
Back when Miller was a rookie, then Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he could be a 25-homer guy at the big-league level. It seemed a bit optimistic considering Miller had never hit more than 15 homers in a minor-league season. But McClendon said Miller’s bat had that kind of pop.
Well, in his first season away from Seattle, Miller has 26 homers for Tampa Bay. On the season, he’s hitting .251 with a .798 OPS, 25 doubles, five triples and 69 RBI.
This season hasn’t been without struggles for Miller, who hit .185 for the first month. For the third consecutive year, Miller has lost his starting job at shortstop because of defensive inconsistency. He has committed 14 errors in 98 games. The Rays decided to move him to first base a month ago. As he did with shifts to the outfield in Seattle, Miller contends he is a shortstop.
It was the struggles at shortstop and the lack of a true position that provided some impetus for the Mariners to trade Miller, Logan Morrison and Danny Farquhar to Tampa in exchange for pitcher Nathan Karns, outfielder Boog Powell and lefty C.J. Riefenhauser.