Drayer: What will be the result after Mariners put their ‘re-imagination’ into hyperdrive?
A Thursday evening tip that the Mariners were not just ironing out details of the blockbuster Robinson Canó/Edwin Díaz trade to the Mets but were also involved in action on multiple trade fronts was intriguing. It was tough to envision, however, that barring any unpleasant surprises, the Mariners would have jettisoned four players from their big league roster by the end of the day Monday.
The names not a surprise – it was a good bet Alex Colome would be dealt and almost a sure thing Jean Segura was on the way out, too – but the sheer speed in which those players were moved was, in a word, stunning.
Deep-breath time if you haven’t already done so. The majority of the players who will take the field this spring in Peoria will be unrecognizable to most Mariners fans. If you were okay with perhaps losing James Paxton and maybe, just maybe Díaz too, this no doubt has been a rude awakening. Paxton, Díaz, Canó, Segura, Colome and Mike Zunino are all gone – with perhaps more to come.
The step back is a full tear-down. The Mariners have gone from applying band-aids each season in hopes that enough things will break right to lead to a playoff appearance, to ripping the Band-Aid off and starting over. Where does that leave us? Well, square one of course.
To use his phrase, general manager Jerry Dipoto has re-imagined a new team. There is no halfway right now – he has jumped fully into the deep end of the rebuild, and while we won’t know for years what the end story will be after the demolition of the 2018 Mariners, what we do have now is clear direction. It will be interesting to finally hear from Dipoto if this direction is what he has always had in mind, that he still views this as a step back working on the same two- to three-year timeline, or if something prompted him to go further.
One thing is certain, he has the full support of his organization to do what he feels is appropriate right now. Franchise players like Canó and Díaz aren’t moved without approval from above. Like the deal with the Mets or not, it would appear everyone is on the same page, and while it may not look like it on the surface, actual dollars are being spent on this tear-down. Yes, Canó’s salary is eventually going away, but in 2019 the Mariners will actually pay more to two of the players they’re getting back from New York, Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak. There are reports that they will take on salary in the Segura deal as well. In both of these deals, they are in effect buying prospects.
The Mariners almost certainly will save money the next few years as they get out from under the contracts they are taking on and the team will be made up mostly of young, controllable players. If they up the payroll coming out of the development phase of the rebuild, it will be hard to say that this was about the money. If it truly was about the money, I would think ownership would be content to keep applying the Band-Aids rather than take a multi-year hit that is almost sure to come with a team that is not expected to be in contention. The Mariners will be a tough sell.
It’s funny, a number of people on Twitter have been expressing everything from concern to condolences to me for what is coming up next season. I’ll admit, I’m not big on change and the first couple of trades did not feel good. It didn’t take long, however, to start embracing the change and the possibilities that lie ahead.
There’s a lot of unknown, a lot to be learned. There is the possibility of seeing something special come together like it did recently with the White Sox, Astros and to some extent the Brewers as well.
The first year I imagine will involve more measuring the team and individuals against goals rather than the rest of the league. Progress will equal success, and for the first time in many years we will have a vested interest in what is happening in the minor leagues.
The re-imagination applies to the farm system as well, and we will get into the changes there as the week goes on. For the big league team, bumpy roads are no doubt ahead, but we know what lied ahead on the road this team has followed the last 18 years. A new path at least has the potential to leave those bumpy roads in the rear-view mirror.