Believe it or not, Mariners fans, it can get a lot worse. Beat writer Ryan Divish looks at how the M's (soon-to-be extended?) playoff drought stacks up historically in this week's mailbag. Plus: Already looking ahead to the hot stove, updates on Safeco Field's lease and naming rights, and more.
PHOENIX — Perhaps it was from the Arizona heat and the resulting dehydration, but a “chilling” thought came to mind when pondering the start of this week’s Twitter mailbag — the Mariners will be reporting to spring training for the 2019 season in just over five months.
Of course, there is still one crucial month left to play in 2018 and the Mariners’ hopes of snapping a playoff drought dating back to 2001 fade a little with each passing day where the A’s don’t lose. Until then, the mailbag rages on.
As always, these are real questions submitted by my Twitter followers — muted and unmuted — for this mailbag.
Get your questions in by tweeting at @RyanDivish
September 23 | Searching for prospects and bright spots from 2018 season
September 2 | Why didn't M's go all-in before August waiver deadline?
Sometimes a question can be found even through the muting process on Twitter. The Mariners probably don’t look at windows quite the way you do. But then again determining “a window” is relative to the person opening it, closing it and evaluating it.
The Mariners aren’t young, but they aren’t ancient. They have an odd mixture of very old and only one sub-25 player on the roster. Their “core” guys are certainly older and showing signs of it. The average age of their roster is 29.1 by a recent calculation, which is also the same average as the Astros’ roster.
You could also argue that core is different now. For many years it was Nelson Cruz (39), Robinson Cano (35), Felix Hernandez (32) and Kyle Seager (30). Cruz is a free agent after this season, while Hernandez’s contract is up after next season. A team’s core could and should evolve. Realistically, you might consider players from the group of James Paxton (29), Jean Segura (28), Marco Gonzales (26), Mitch Haniger (27), Mike Zunino (27), Dee Gordon (30) and Edwin Diaz (24) as part of that evolving core since they are all under club control for multiple years going forward.
The Mariners’ farm system is thin, but with only Cruz, David Phelps and rentals Adam Warren, Cameron Maybin and Zach Duke headed for free agency next season, a large portion of the 25-man roster returns for next season. So the need for the farm system to supply immediate help in 2019 isn’t quite as needed.
As for the all-time record for missing the playoffs, a quick Google search reveals that the Mariners’ current postseason drought of 16 seasons — going on 17 — is seventh-longest of all time. And they aren’t even close to reaching the longest drought.
Here’s the list:
1. Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals — 30 seasons (1981-2012)
2. Kansas City Royals — 28 (1985-2014)
3. Milwaukee Brewers —25 (1982-2008)
4. Toronto Blue Jays — 21 (1993-2015)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates — 20 (1992-2013)
6. Detroit Tigers — 18 (1987-2006)
7. Seattle Mariners — 16 (2001-current)
8. Los Angeles Angels — 16 (1986-2002)
Yeah, the Mariners have a lot of work to do to catch the Expos/Nationals’ record. That’s a lot of time to vent on Twitter ’til then. The Expos would have made the 1994 playoffs if not for the strike. Would that have somehow changed the fortunes of the franchise and kept it in Canada? It’s important to note that during the Pirates’ 20 straight playoff-less seasons, they also didn’t have a winning record in any of those seasons. Also the Expos/Nationals and the Mariners are the only two teams to never play in a World Series. So they’ve got that going for them …
This is a common practice for a lot of teams in baseball. While Jay’s number hasn’t been retired by the organization and probably won’t be, it’s also not issued to any players at the MLB level. It’s kind of a respect thing that teams do for players that had a long run with the organization. Even before Edgar Martinez’s number was retired last year, it was not issued to another player even when he wasn’t on the coaching staff. Lou Piniella’s No. 14 has not been worn again by the Mariners, while the No. 51 was never given out even when Ichiro was not in the organization. And when Felix Hernandez leaves the organization, it’s unlikely they will issue his No. 34 to a player without some blessing from him.
A recent conversation with John Stanton, the Mariners managing partner and chairman of the board, didn’t reveal an exact timeline. But Stanton did hope that they would have an announcement before the season ends, though he admitted it could take a little longer.
It does seem like the naming rights of Safeco Field or whatever it will be called going forward isn’t quite as lucrative as it may have been even 10 years ago. It’s a major investment for a company and the number of local companies that would be an ideal partnership with the Mariners is more limited than people might believe.
The lease situation is a little less settled and that process could be delaying any finalization for the naming-rights agreement. Beyond the team’s success on the field or lack thereof, which should be logically irrelevant but isn’t for some fans, the Mariners’ request for $180 million in public funds isn’t uncommon in its nature.
The stadium is owned by Public Facilities District, which is municipal corporation created by King County and the Washington State Legislature, and leased to the Mariners. In most lease situations of commercial properties, the day-to-day operational costs are paid for by the entity/business leasing the property. So the Mariners pay for that aspect. But usually in longer lease agreements, the owner of the property is still expected or contracted to pay for some “capital” improvements in building upkeep. The Mariners negotiated this with Public Facilities District to be the $180 million, which was agreed upon in the recent lease agreement.
Of course in the current political and economical climate, the idea of public funding of any sort for a stadium — Mariners, Seahawks or NHL — is far from ideal, particularly with the other woes facing the city and the county. It’s understandable for citizens to be displeased with any amount of public funding to aid any professional sports franchise. And it’s logical for politicians to then react to that sentiment.
The original agreement for the 25-year lease that was announced on May 23 doesn’t seem like it will go into effect. It will have to amended and renegotiated. That doesn’t mean the Mariners are suddenly going to be moving somewhere.
It’s important to remember the Mariners now have a local ownership group that has no interest in leaving the area or relocating to another city. The county also has a building in Safeco Field that is baseball specific — well, with the exception for a few concerts I can’t attend — and can’t really be used for another capacity. So the partnership is based on mutual needs and will be resolved eventually but likely under different terms.
Like all teams, the Mariners place players with large contracts like Seager, Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake and more on revocable release waivers in August. It’s a standard procedure after the July 31 deadline. Another team can claim player and the Mariners would have the right to negotiate a trade, accept the claim or pull the player back.
The odds of a team claiming Seager were slim. For all the reasons that some fans don’t want Seager on the team any longer, those are the same reasons why no general manager would put a claim on him, particularly Seager’s remaining salary owed. Well, unless that general manager is looking to get fired.
Seager is under contract for the next three seasons with a club option for 2022. He’s owed:
- 2019: $19.5 million
- 2020: $19.5 million
- 2021: $18.5 milllion
That’s a total of $57.5 million for a player that is having one of his worst statistical seasons in terms of batting average (.221), on-base percentage (.271) and slugging (.406). The constant swing changes and the desire to overcome the shifting have sapped his production. That’s not good business.
Many people bring up White Sox GM Kenny Williams claiming Alexis Rios, who was still owed $50 million on his contract, from the Blue Jays in 2009. Instead of maybe working out a trade to get Rios with some salary relief, Toronto just accepted the claim and the idea of no longer having to pay that contract. It dumped Rios and his contract on Williams and the White Sox.
The thinking is different now with teams wanting to stay younger and avoid hefty contracts to players over 30.
The best thing for the Mariners would be for Seager to rediscover a viable swing, stop tinkering with it and provide value that offsets some of the cost.
His contract, his age and his downward trending production also makes it difficult for the Mariners to trade him and receive any sort of value in return.
Felix Hernandez is owed $27.5 million for 2019 — the final year of his contract, while Seager’s money owed was mentioned above. Given their struggles, it’s difficult to imagine any team willing to trade for them and assume even half of the salary owed.
Hernandez isn’t the type to just walk away from the game, particularly with how much money he is guaranteed for next season. He won’t want to go out on such a frustrating season. He also believes he can continue to pitch and rediscover his level of effectiveness.
There might be a handful of teams that have the financial flexibility to take on Seager’s contract or even half of it. But why would they invest in it unless there was an absolute need?
It would be viewed as a regretful waste of a star pitcher’s prime by an organization that had a leadership group with no concept of how to win or find people that could teach them how to win.
Unfortunately, there’s still a large portion of Hall of Fame voters that still use pitcher’s wins and losses as a defining measure. His career record of 168-125 won’t move the needle for those voters. He has just the one Cy Young award, which is something else voters consider.
Speaking of pitchers’ wins and losses, there were 34 times where Hernandez pitched seven or more innings, allowing one run or fewer and came away with a no-decision. There were six times where he took a loss in that situation. Hernandez would need to rediscover some level of success and pitch for much longer to accumulate some of the counting stats that influence HOF voters.
It seems unlikely that the Mariners will go out and spend the $250-plus million needed for Manny Machado or Bryce Harper or even the $150-plus million for Josh Donaldson. The best starting pitcher available will be lefty Dallas Keuchel, who is 31.
The Mariners already have $127 million of payroll committed for next season for eight players on big-league contracts. That doesn’t factor into any of the club-controlled players or arbitration eligible players. So taking on another $20 million per season for one player would be limiting in terms of a payroll budget.
Also given Seattle’s geographic location, the subsequent travel and the lack of postseason success, the Mariners have to overpay to get players to sign free-agent deals.
I’m assuming that the hashtag means The Season Is Over. Let me counter with #IHateHashtags and #AllEmojisShouldBeBanned. Yes, I’m a grouch. When I look at the offseason now, the team’s roster or free-agent prospects don’t fill my thoughts. Mostly Montana’s mountains and rivers come to mind when the concept of the offseason is discussed.
General manager Jerry Dipoto will be busy, but as mentioned above, it seems unlikely that they’ll go after a big-name free agent. Dipoto has always preferred the trade route for acquisitions. If you look at the roster, a large portion of it returns next season, including the entire starting rotation and basically the everyday lineup besides Nelson Cruz.
They have to make a decision about Robinson Cano’s future position. Is it second base? Is it first base? And will Dee Gordon move to back to center for a full-time conversion or remain at second base? That determination could weigh into roster adjustments.
The obvious and most attainable need is for more bullpen help, particularly right-handed relievers. Juan Nicasio hasn’t pitched as expected and could be headed for knee surgery, while Sam Tuivailala won’t be ready to go for opening day. Another left-handed reliever will also be needed for next season.
The Mariners’ first-round pick from the 2018 draft is recovered from mono, underwent successful toe surgery and is in Peoria at the Mariners’ spring-training complex. He’s working out and getting ready for the team’s high-performance camp in September
Because the weather outside is just a few degrees less than standing on the sun.
If that were to ever happen — and the Mariners wouldn’t be big fans of a Portland team, regardless of what they publicly — the ownership group in Portland would be wise to start its own regional sports network or buy Comcast Sports Northwest or whatever it’s called now. That way you would have the added revenue from the Blazers. Of course, the Blazers could also buy the network and then benefit from having the baseball team on its broadcast. Whatever RSN you have a TV deal with, the important thing is that it has to be on DirecTV to be fruitful. So you probably don’t want Larry Scott helping you negotiate that television deal.
Jeopardy is the single greatest game show ever. It’s on a list by itself. After that, I would go with Family Feud, Singled Out, Double Dare and Wipeout.
They are an eclectic mix like fans in other cities. I will say this over and over that Seattle sports Twitter doesn’t represent Seattle fans in general. It’s a small, vocal, and sometimes unhinged portion of a much larger group that wisely chooses to avoid social media. The fans that I do interact with face to face have always been enjoyable and friendly.
You, sir, are a heathen that should have his Twitter account shut down for such a blasphemous assertion. That show was a foundational piece of many people’s youth. Obviously the reasoning that they all had the same classes together was that Zack Morris used Screech Powers’ robot “Kevin” to hack into the computers at Bayside High School to manipulate the schedules, allowing Zack, Screech, Slater, Kelly Kapowski or as I used to call her — the future Mrs. Ryan Divish — Lisa Turtle and Jesse Spano to be in all the same classes. And Mr. Belding wisely never said anything, knowing that the collective group made for a better Bayside, which is what made him such a good principal.
I love my job. There aren’t many things I dislike about my job other than extra innings, the poor soda options at Safeco Field and Microsoft Word’s issues with my Macbook. I commute from Tacoma. But it’s rarely at peak traffic hours. So about 45-50 minutes each way. I usually get home around midnight. I recommend listening to a good podcast — like The Extra Innings Podcast — for a similar commute. No, The Wheelhouse is not in my podcast rotation.
You would expect me to say Big Sky Brewing or Kettlehouse Brewing in Missoula — two places that I do like a lot. But my favorite brewery is Triple Dog Brewing in my hometown of Havre. Try the Fresno Wheat. It’s delicious.
Magnum P.I. is the only show that should be mentioned. Thomas Sullivan Magnum was my hero. And this remake of it should be banned from television before the pilot airs.
Like Lou Piniella having an umpiring crew of C.B. Bucknor, Angel Hernandez, Joe West and Balkin’ Bob Davidson for an entire series.