Exploring the Mariners’ options to bolster their offense, rotation
We’re all concerned about the Mariners’ lineup. Can it produce often enough to get Seattle into a wild-card playoff game?
I look at the trio of James Jones, Endy Chavez and Dustin Ackley and wonder if there’s another starting outfield in baseball as power-less as this one? Yes, I love Jones, too, but Chavez and Ackley? Come on.
The Mariners need to get Michael Saunders back from the disabled list as quickly as possible. They also need Corey Hart to get it going in the next week or so; he could still be the right-handed bat the Mariners are seeking in a trade, and he’s already here and won’t cost them a thing.
If Hart doesn’t work out, I’ll keep banging the drum for Jesus Montero, who’s hitting .286 overall for the Rainiers and .380 against left-handers. You won’t lose prospects with him either, you just get him on I-5 and put him in the lineup as your every-day designated hitter. Montero has a 1.184 OPS over his last 10 games.
I’m not convinced that the Phillies’ Marlon Byrd is the answer, but I could be talked into Mark Trumbo of the Diamondbacks, recalling what a long-ball force he was with the Angels. Trumbo is returning from a fractured foot, but he still had seven home runs in 96 at-bats before the injury and averaged 31 home runs with the Angels from 2011-13.
I know this: you could designate both Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley for assignment and improve the team through addition by subtraction. To still think that they’re going to come around is crazy. Continue to give me Logan Morrison at first and ABA in left field – Anyone But Ackley.
To this point, the Mariners have been able to scratch out a lot of low-scoring wins because of their rotation and bullpen, but I’m concerned about the starters and relievers in the second half of the season.
There’s nothing to worry about with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, but the No. 3 starter, Chris Young? You really think he’ll hold up the rest of the way? I don’t, even though he’s done nothing to suggest that he’s about to collapse any time soon.
Young has thrown 111 innings this year after not pitching at all last season while recovering from an arm injury. He threw 115 major-league innings in 2012, 24 innings in 2011, 20 innings in 2010 and 76 innings in 2009. I don’t expect him to maintain a 3.15 ERA as the season goes on.
We’ve already seen the wear and tear catch up to No. 4 starter Roenis Elias, who has given up 16 earned runs over his last three outings. Elias has thrown 113 innings; his high-water mark was 148 innings at Single-A High Desert in 2012. He threw 130 innings last year at Double-A Jackson.
Maybe the All-Star break will help, but there are more reasons to think Elias will be shaky than solid in the final two and a half months.
Then there’s the fifth starter, Taijuan Walker. He’s looked more like Erasmo Ramirez in his only two starts this season. The Mariners were so unimpressed that they sent him to Tacoma rather than have him face the A’s last weekend.
Presumably he’ll be called up to face the Mets in next week’s homestand, but Walker is not a good short-term bet. You have to hope that James Paxton returns by the first of August and looks like he did in April before he got hurt.
With the likelihood of uneven starts from Young, Elias and Walker, relievers will be taxed more than they were in the first 95 games, lessening their chance to be consistently effective.
Consequently, you could make a case for trading Walker, Nick Franklin and another prospect or two for Rays ace David Price. I wouldn’t be all in for that deal because I want to see what Walker will be like in the future, but if it happened the Mariners would be tough to beat in the playoffs – regardless of their lineup – with three of the best starters in the game.
If I were general manager Jack Zduriencik, here’s what I’d do: I’d continue to explore the Price trade while hoping the Rays lose so they’ll quit thinking they have a shot at the playoffs this year.
I’d hope that Hart comes around, and if he doesn’t, I’d call up Montero. Plan B involves Trumbo. I’d cross my fingers with Young, Elias and Walker and hope that all of it’s good enough to earn a wild-card playoff berth.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.