Jack Zduriencik may well have to do some more repair work to fix the leaks that have cropped up. And then cross his fingers that all their underachieving and injured pieces straighten it out. It’s a tenuous blueprint. But at this point, it’s all the Mariners have.
Mark Trumbo remembers being highly impressed with the Mariners’ lineup when his Diamondbacks team played Seattle in spring training.
“You look at the potential and possibility, it’s pretty jaw-dropping,’’ Trumbo said.
The on-paper potential of this year’s Mariners team, however, has so far been unrealized – in demoralizing fashion. The possibilities that in March seemed limitless – a playoff berth and beyond – have disintegrated into the same mess of maddening offensive shortcomings that seem permanently attached to the Mariners.
And now, when Trumbo lugged a Diamondbacks duffel bag into his new clubhouse at about 4 p.m. on Thursday, accompanied by reliever Vidal Nuno, he was joining a team fighting to stay in sight of contention.
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The Mariners hope Trumbo is the piece that jump-starts their moribund attack. Asked if he thinks Trumbo’s arrival can spark the ballclub, manager Lloyd McClendon replied, “It sparked the hell out of me.”
Much is riding on a Mariners’ revival — like the future of general manager Jack Zduriencik, who pulled the trigger on the Trumbo trade on Wednesday. The cost wasn’t exorbitant – a backup catcher, struggling reliever and two prospects – but it accentuates that the Mariners remain in win-now mode.
The makeup of this Mariners team has turned out to be flawed in ways unforeseen amidst the hype of spring. Not fatally, but Zduriencik may well have to do some more repair work to fix the leaks that have cropped up – like perhaps another bat, and a bullpen arm.
And then cross his fingers that all their underachieving pieces, starting with second baseman Robinson Cano, straighten it out, and injured pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton return with a vengeance in the second half.
It’s a tenuous blueprint. But at this point, it’s all the Mariners have. Thursday’s 2-1 loss, yet another glaring failure of clutch hitting, dropped them six games under .500.
In Trumbo, Seattle gets a piece that fits the Zduriencik mold to a tee: tremendous power, streaky run-producing ability, lots of strikeouts, not many walks (ie, low on-base percentage) and mediocre defense.
Nevertheless, Trumbo represents an undeniable improvement to the Mariner lineup, because now they will see far less of Dustin Ackley (a late addition Thursday when Logan Morrison came down with back spasms).
And no more of Justin Ruggiano, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, ending a lackluster two-month stint in Seattle. The fact that four DFA candidates – Rickie Weeks (whose role on this team is not readily apparent), Ackley and Willie Bloomquist in addition to Ruggiano — were speculated after Trumbo’s acquisition is an indication of Seattle’s troubling lack of depth.
Trumbo, who singled twice and struck out twice in his debut, will help in that regard, and may finally give McClendon the pieces for a more-or-less set lineup.
“Obviously we’ve added another professional hitter to our lineup,’’ McClendon said. “It stretches our lineup out. It gives us much, much better balance throughout the lineup and some much-needed punch in the lineup.”
But as far as fixing this team’s chronically low on-base percentage, well, Trumbo’s career OBP of .298 is one point higher than the Mariners’ season mark of .297 (last in the American League, 28th in MLB).
In other words, he fits right in. If you believe that a streaky power hitter who doesn’t get on base much (and whose power will be somewhat negated by Safeco Field) is what this team needs – and it will definitely be a boost when he’s on those streaks – well, then Trumbo is your man.
Trumbo has heard trade rumors for awhile, so the deal was not a surprise; only the destination. And it was one that delighted him.
“When I found out this was the team I was going to, I couldn’t have been happier,’’ he said. “I’ve loved coming here when I was with the Angels. It’s one of my favorite places in the country, or the world, for that matter. Just really excited for the opportunity to start here and contribute to an excellent ballclub.”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Trumbo, one of the physically strongest hitters in baseball, isn’t intimidated by Safeco Field, either.
“I’ve had no problem with it,’’ he said. “I see the ball pretty well, and ultimately, that’s what I really care about. At times, I know the perception is it plays pretty big, but I look forward to the challenge of taking it on. I’ve seen plenty of guys have productive years here.”
But only a precious few this season. The Mariners hope Trumbo can change that, either by example, osmosis or chain reaction. McClendon said Trumbo will rotate among designated hitter, first base and a corner outfield position.
“I think if we can get things clicking a little bit, and I can contribute whatever way I can, I think opposing pitchers are going to have to work,’’ Trumbo said.
That’s the way it looks on paper, anyway.