ANAHEIM, Calif. – Much like the new Star Wars’ Galaxy’s Edge experience down the road at DisneyLand, reservations are being taken for people’s questions to be submitted to the weekly Twitter mailbag. Yes, the demand is that high. But unlike DisneyLand, you won’t have to take out a second mortgage to pay for this experience.
As always, these are real questions submitted at request from the collection of evil Imperial troops and courageous members of Rebellion also known as my Twitter followers.
Is it a coincidence the stories about clubhouse spirit and team chemistry get written about when a team is rolling and winning? Probably not, because it’s an easy storyline to push from players, management and media outlets. But really there is no quantifiable measure of such things and no empirical data that says it’s a key to success. Th old school baseball people still want to romanticize it as a necessity for winning, while the saber crowd often says it has no meaning whatsoever. I think it’s somewhere in between — not as important as some thing, but something important enough to be acknowledged.
With all of that being said, I really haven’t seen a significant difference in this clubhouse. Obviously when they were 13-2, the pregame and postgame was pretty light-hearted with lots of music and laughing. During this month and a half of losing, the postgame has been pretty quiet as expected. But I haven’t seen anything that says the losing is driving the team apart and creating cliques and divisions. Then again, there’s been so much turnover on the roster that it would be tough to have that sort of issue. But check with me again in July and August when the roster has been turned over again.
Well this is the second time I’ve covered this injury. Back in spring training before the 2008 season, Adrian Beltre discussed winning his first Gold Glove. It was sometime near what was supposed to be the end of an interview that he revealed he doesn’t wear a protective cup. This led to many questions about the decision, his safety and his sanity.
“Why do I need a cup? I have a glove,” he said.
Well, he later found out in the 2009 season that a glove shouldn’t be the only line of defense when he took a hard one-hop to the groin area, suffering a ruptured testicle and had to have emergency surgery. He said later that it had swelled to the size of a grapefruit.
Braden Bishop’s lacerated spleen is one of the more unique injuries I’ve covered in baseball. It happens in football or even boxing, but baseball? It’s uncommon and very scary.
I didn’t cover the Mariners when Kaz Sasaki fell up the stairs with his luggage. From everything I’ve heard it’s a true story and not made up. But nobody has discussed Sasaki’s physical state at the time of the injury.
The other weird injuries were more about how they occurred than the injury itself.
Last season, Nelson Cruz suffered a sprained ankle after hitting a home run and slipping on the stairs of the T-Mobile Park dugout as he celebrated with teammates. The dugout steps now have a different surface because of it. About a week later, after Ryon Healy hit key double in a win over the Twins and suffered a sprained ankle in a postgame workout. We were waiting by his locker to interview him when we saw a trainer and another player carry him out of the weight room and into the training room.
Back in 2016, Felix Hernandez suffered a strained calf while jumping around in the dugout and celebrating a home run from close friend Franklin Gutierrez. It amazing since Hernandez doesn’t appear to have any muscle in his calf area.
And of course there was James Paxton’s “un-athletic moment” where he tripped and fell during an agility drill and injured both of his forearms during 2015 spring training.
He will. He was released from the hospital on Saturday and is resting at home. He’ll be fine. Pretty certain that I wouldn’t be.
As of Saturday, the Mariners have three viable candidates:
Edwin Encarnacion: .240/.353/.498, 7 doubles, 17 homers and 42 RBI
Daniel Vogelbach: .253/.386/.544, 8 doubles, 15 homers, 36 RBI
Omar Narvaez: .282/.360/.460, 4 doubles, 9 homers, 23 RBI
If they stay on current production levels, my guess is that Encarnacion will be the Mariners’ lone representative. With players voting now and their reliance on counting stats like home runs and RBI, Encarnacion would be a logical choice. Plus, he’s known veteran with an established reputation. The MLB.com ballot has him listed as a first baseman and that might even work to his benefit. He leads all first basemen and DHs with 17 homers and is second in RBI with 42.
Narvaez is an interesting case. His production numbers at the plate aren’t eye-popping. But in comparison to other catchers, he’s got the fourth best offensive WAR per FanGraphs at 7.7 for catchers with more than 130 at-bats. If they carry three catchers on the roster like most years, he might fit into that last spot. His deficiencies on defense likely wouldn’t be factors in a selection. Gary Sanchez of the Yankees is a lock to make the team, while Robinson Chirinos of the Astros and James McCann of the White Sox have put up solid numbers. Minnesota’s Mitch Garver seemed like a lock before an injury put him on the injured list for three weeks. He’s just coming back now, but will his ridiculous production at the plate return? Narvaez is a longshot but not an impossibility.
Domingo Santana is having a nice season, but the American League outfield is stacked.
The fact that the Mariners were able to unload Cano’s contract, even with paying $20 million to the Mets and taking on the contracts of Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak (roughly $21 million) it was still a net win. They escape from $100 million of the $120 million Cano was owed while also moving an aging player off their roster. It would’ve been a financial burden that hindered the roster. There’s a chance that the would’ve released him in the final two years, paying $48 million of the deal. Giving up Diaz was difficult, but he would have been wasted this season and his value could only go down from last year.
In return, the Mariners get three young players in Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista. Dunn has been solid for Class AA Arkansas, Bautista just returned from injury and Kelenic has been better than expected, which is difficult considering the initial hype. He legitimately looks like the first prospect in the Mariners organization that has the potential to be a superstar since Alex Rodriguez. He’s just 19. And he’s tracking to be in the big leagues by age 22 at the latest. Even if Kelenic only becomes a solid everyday player and Dunn is a back of the rotation pitcher, getting out from under what was a financial and roster burden in Cano is a win.
This isn’t like the outlet mall. Opposing teams aren’t really going to be enticed on a BOGO of veteran players. If they don’t really want to give up much of a prospect for one player, throwing another one in of lesser value isn’t going change their mind. Always put yourself as an opposing general manager in the situation, which players would you really want from the Mariners? How much better do they make your current team? What are you willing to give up?
When you do that, the Mariners trade situation becomes a little more complicated and less than fruitful.
Minor league results don’t necessarily guarantee Major League success. And basing your big league decisions on them wouldn’t be prudent. Even with his injury and his down season, Haniger’s value is vastly higher than Santana or Narvaez because of their defensive deficiencies. Of the three, Santana is probably the most likely to be traded because of the glut of young outfielders coming up through the ranks. He’s also got two more years of arbitration before free agency. Haniger and Narvaez have enough club control that even if you keep them for another season, they still have value.
I think it will be largely similar to what the Mariners got in return for Bruce. Dee Gordon, playing at an optimal level, might yield more from a team. He could be a great finisher for a postseason caliber team. Leake isn’t the type of starter that generates a massive prospect return, but it’s also forgotten that the Cardinals paid a large portion of his remaining contract so that changes the perception of his value to the Mariners and other teams.
Encarnacion is curious. If you look at Houston, he could be a great finishing piece for that team. He’s better than what they are using at designated hitter right now. And he’s been serviceable at first base when needed. If the Mariners eat every bit of his money and the option cost, perhaps it yields an A-Ball prospect with potential.
But much of it comes down to the market and what a team needs. And the Mariners can’t control that aspect.
The only player that might generate a Top 30 prospect in baseball is Haniger and that trade value has decreased with his unfortunate injury and his avalanche of strikeouts. If Gordon can return to his early form following the injury, he might bring back a decent prospect in an organization’s Top 30, but that will also depend on how much money the Mariners are willing to eat and how much a team needs Gordon’s services.
The players that the Mariners will be scouting for these possible trades will be playing in short-season leagues starting next week.
As general Jerry Dipoto has said often, any player is available for the right price. Given the Mariners organizational depth chart at the catching position and Narvaez entering his first year of arbitration eligibility next season, there isn’t a rush to move him. He’s proven to be a quality hitter for the position. His defense isn’t great, but the Mariners are willing to live with it. Seattle’s catchers – mostly Narvaez and backup Tom Murphy – have slashed .283/.349/.488 with eight doubles, 14 homers and 35 RBI this season. Per FanGraphs they’ve produced a 10.9 offense WAR, which is the second best in MLB behind the Cubs. Obviously, the defense leaves a little to be desired.
But realistically, would trading Narvaez net a prospect that would be better than the production he’s provided and could provide going forward? Seattle’s catching depth is lacking after Narvaez and Murphy. Cal Raleigh is talented, but still playing at High A Modesto.
Bringing up the players from Class AA and starting their service time clocks before they are really ready to contribute would be unwise from a development and business, particularly in a lost season that is trending toward 100 losses. Recent minor league signings like Mac Williamson, Kelby Tomlinson and Jaycob Brugman could be called up to fill out MLB roster spots. If Gordon is traded, Shed Long moves to full-time second base. If Leake is traded, Tommy Milone will remain in the rotation until they decide to bring back Erik Swanson or Justus Sheffield figures something out.
I’m pretty certain Pitbull invented Garlic Fries since they are as bad as his “music.”
It’s hard to predict how Dipoto is going to fill out a roster. He certainly doesn’t follow a typical path. The Mariners took on some veteran contracts as part of their slew of offseason trades. It’s difficult to see that happening again since they don’t really have any expense pieces to trade in the offseason. Unless, they carry Mike Leake and Dee Gordon all season and try to move in the offseason.
But looking at the roster, there are many players that will return. Dipoto would likely fill out the rest with low-cost free agents on one-year deals who are looking for bounceback seasons. It would make them expendable when the prospect group in Class AA Arkansas is ready to be called up and play every day.
The record for most players used in a season was set by the Rangers in 2014 with 60. The 2019 Mariners have used 49 players this season and it’s only June. When right-hander Taylor Scott appears in a game, he’ll be the 50th player used this season. Given the expected midseason trades, the possible call-ups for prospects due to injuries or attrition and Dipoto’s general restlessness with his roster, that record is going to be broken.
You shouldn’t be as worried as the Mariners’ front office. This isn’t just a month-long trend. This has been a season-long problem that really has shown minimal signs of improvement. The lack of fastball command, the inefficiency with his pitches and the walks are glaring issues not a product of PCL hitting or his age.
When the Mariners acquired Sheffield, two opposing scouts warned of his inability to consistently to throw quality strikes, believing that and a maximum effort delivery on a shorter frame would force him out of starting and into a bullpen role. As the key piece in the trade for James Paxton, that would be failure for the Mariners.
Sheffield has made one start that seemed fitting of his talent and expectation, tossing seven innings and allowing one run on seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts on May 22 vs. Fresno.
In the three starts that followed, he’s never made it past the fourth inning. He’s only made it 2 2/3 innings in his last two starts. Over that span, he’s pitched a total of 9 1/3 innings, allowing 15 runs on 11 hits with 11 walks and 12 strikeouts. Of his 11 starts this season, only three have gone more than five innings. He’s made 11 starts and one relief appearance with the Rainiers, posting a 2-5 record with a 5.74 ERA with 40 walks and 46 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings pitched. A 6.8 walks per nine inning rate just doesn’t work.
His timetable for a full-time spot the big leagues has obviously been sidetracked. The Mariners can’t bring him up when he’s pitching in this way. Unless something drastic changes, it’s difficult to imagine the Mariners relying on him for a spot in the starting rotation to start next season. And that’s not part of the “step-back” plan.
If he continues to produce at this level, I’d expect Fraley to be in Tacoma by July 1. He’s currently slashing .332/.399/.551 with 14 doubles, two triples, nine homers, 42 RBI and 14 stolen bases.
Comparing his situation to Jarred Kelenic’s situation isn’t necessarily the same since the move from Low-A to High-A isn’t quite as dramatic as Class AA to Class AAA. Also, Kelenic appears to be a phenom that isn’t comparable to anyone in the Mariners’ system.
It’s instructive to remember that this is Fraley’s first year at the Class AA level. There should be some caution in overreacting to the early numbers. But if he continues to rake for another few weeks, then he will force them to make the move. With Braden Bishop out, the Rainiers outfield is essentially filled with non-priority outfielders.
The Mariners like the idea of keeping Fraley, Kyle Lewis, Dom Thompson-Williams, Evan White and Justin Dunn together as a group, believing it helps their development. But it seems like Fraley and Dunn may be ready for a promotion.
Not sure my thoughts on Miller have any influence on his promotion. But it became clear when he wasn’t invited to MLB spring training this year that Braden Bishop had passed him on the organizational depth chart.
Miller’s slash line coming into Saturday was .296/.348/.505 with 21 doubles, two triples, six homers, 35 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 55 games. Those are solid numbers. The 21 doubles are the most in the Pacific Coast League, while the 16 stolen bases rank second. He played winter ball to work on some swing changes and seems to have carried them into this season. There really isn’t any more he can do.
But when the Mariners likely bring up a fourth outfielder from Class AAA next week, there’s a good chance it could be Jaycob Brugman, who they recently picked up, instead of Miller. Brugman does have 48 games of MLB experience in 2017 with the A’s.
We are privy to the internal conversations that go into these decisions. And often the on-the-record comments, don’t provide the real truth.
I’ve seen on Twitter comments like Miller has paid his dues or has earned the call-up, unfortunately it doesn’t work that way in MLB. Teams make decisions based on other aspects. Miller’s best chance might come somewhere else. He’ll be a minor league free agent after the season and may look for a different organization.
Basically on this timeline, you’d be asking first-round pick George Kirby and other college pitchers selected in last week’s draft to be ready to contribute in less than two seasons of professional baseball. That would be a pretty high leap. While advanced college pitchers can often progress to the MLB level quickly, it’s not particularly common. And you certainly wouldn’t want to rely on them for typical MLB production.
Many of the college pitchers selected this year will have limited usage for short-season Everett or for the Arizona Rookie League Mariners due to their usage in the college season. All teams take into account the innings and pitches thrown by a pitcher before they are drafted and then try to develop a usage plan that works. Kirby pitched 88 1/3 innings for Elon this past season. The Mariners might only have him throw 20 more innings with the Aqua Sox. The initial plan is for two or three-inning starts.
Next year, when he’s likely pitching for High A Modesto could be determinant on his timeline. His innings progression could build to 120-130. Perhaps he advances to Class AA Arkansas in the season. But then you’d be asking for him to jump to Class AA to the big leagues for 2021 and he’d still be on an innings limit to keep him healthy.
Could a pitcher taken in this year’s draft help out in 2021? Yeah, it’s possible. A reliever could fast track and get there. Or maybe even a starter gives you a handful starts during the season. But expecting them to be ready to build a rotation or a bullpen around wouldn’t fit a normal timeline.
Since I’ve never been to Modesto, I asked a pro scout who has worked the Cal League for many years. His response: “Wait till they are playing in San Jose.”
1. East of Eden – possibly my favorite novel ever written.
2. Travels with Charley – It’s my dream to travel the country with a dog without an agenda or plan.
3. America and Americans – the collection of his work, including some of his articles as a journalist. It’s a fascinating mixture that displays his ridiculous talent.
4. Grapes of Wrath – I didn’t really love it the first two times I read it, but it was possibly because I didn’t care for the literature teacher and how she taught.
5. The Red Pony – The first Steinbeck book I read. So it holds special meaning.
There are other bars in Ellensburg besides The Tav? I didn’t know they existed, nor do I see any point to visit them since The Tav provides all that I could need or ever want. Give me a “Hungry Mother” without bacon and a pitcher of lager, and I’m happy.
We do seem to be overrun with IPAs, double IPAs and now hazy IPAs. It’s not my preferred choice. The hop bomb stays in my chest and it feels like I’m drinking the equivalent of a pork chop. I wouldn’t miss them. And I certainly wouldn’t miss people discussing, analyzing and debating different IPAs whenever they order and consume one.
So many possibilities with a Japanese mom, who is a fantastic cook and loves to watch people eat her food. Not sure I have just one dish.
1. Chicken Fried Steak – We get a side of beef every year, she has her own secret breading and makes crispy hashbrowns to go with it. And leftover chicken fried steak sandwiches make me happy.
2. Bacon Fried Rice – Fried rice using the grease from the big chunks of local bacon with some onions, carrots and even peas. You can have it with eggs for breakfast or with dinner.
3. Sukiyaki – It’s sort of a Japanese stew with thin sliced beef, vegetables, saifun noodles and tofu in a sauce of soy sauce, sake and sugar. Many families have it hot pot, my mom doesn’t trust us to make such decisions because there’d be no vegetables or tofu in it.
4. Tuna fish casserole – Ahhh, growing up in a Catholic family during Lent. This made Fish Friday tolerable. It’s simple and comforting. The crushed up potato chips on top make it even better.
This question provides the perfect amount of snark, sarcasm and knowledge of one of my biggest pet peeves on Twitter – complaints of using a closer in a tie game at home after the eighth inning and people’s refusal to understand that there is no save situation.
If the decision was made to end the mailbags tomorrow, this is on the only question it could end upon.