Three things: Time for Mariners to move on in left field?
The Mariners (36-33) have looked at home on the road for the most part this season, but they head into a four-game series in Detroit having gone 2-4 on their current trip out east.
Here are three things to keep in mind this week about the M’s:
1. Jerry Dipoto is in Jerry Dipoto mode.
By that, I mean the Mariners general manager is assessing where the Mariners need help with the trade deadline less than a month and half way, and he’s already starting to make moves from what he deems to be a position of strength to shore up depth issues. That was the case on Sunday when minor-league infielder Chris Taylor, who has had more than a cup of coffee with the big club in stints over the past three seasons, was shipped off to the Dodgers for minor-league pitcher Zach Lee. Ketel Marte has shown enough with the Mariners that Dipoto was comfortable trading away one of the two pieces of insurance Seattle has behind him on the shortstop depth chart. As for Lee, he was blocked in L.A. by a crowded starting rotation, but he’ll be an immediate option for the Mariners with Felix Hernandez and Wade Miley both on the DL, Taijuan Walker being nagged by a foot injury, and Adrian Sampson coming up with mixed results in his first career MLB start Saturday.
2. The left-field conundrum.
Speaking of trades, the Mariners might need to start looking at different options in left field. The 34-year-old Norichika Aoki has yet to find his footing in the batter’s box with Seattle, entering Monday with a slash line of .245/.322/.315, all career-low numbers. Combine that with his adventurous style of outfield defense, and it’s really hard to justify keeping him in the lineup. For the interim, the Mariners could start both Seth Smith and a suddenly hot Franklin Gutierrez in the corner outfield spots, with Aoki filling in when they need a spell, but a more long-term solution in the form of a trade might be in the cards. Dipoto brought Aoki to Seattle to be one of the players consistently on base for Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager to drive in, but Marte and Leonys Martin have proven themselves capable in that role. That could afford Dipoto a chance to get another run producer to man left field.
3. Time to watch the Wild Card race.
The unfortunate thing about the Mariners’ recent swoon – they’ve gone 6-12 since June 1 – is that it has coincided with the Texas Rangers catching on absolute fire. Texas entered Monday with an 8.5-game lead on Seattle in the American League West, with their current six-game winning streak a big reason, and the fact that they’ve won 23 of their last 29 an even bigger one. The gap between the M’s and the Rangers isn’t insurmountable as the season has yet to reach the halfway point, but for now the more realistic goal for the M’s is one of the American League’s two Wild Card playoff berths. For that, they’re just two back of Kansas City for the second and final spot.