Mariners remain in interesting position as trade deadline looms

Jul 31, 2016, 10:56 AM | Updated: 12:39 pm
General manager Jerry Dipoto has implemented new processes in the Mariners' minor-league system. (A...
General manager Jerry Dipoto has implemented new processes in the Mariners' minor-league system. (AP)

CHICAGO – The Mariners are not making their trade-deadline decisions simple. Club officials believed the team’s last road trip would illuminate where the team was and which direction they were headed in the short-term. Instead, Seattle continues to flirt with the possibility of promise, reminding everyone that when this group is good, they are very good.

A month ago, coming off a 7-2 homestand that included a four-game sweep of the Orioles, it seemed that the club could be gearing up for the run it had been looking for since the end of June. While injuries have created significant holes on the roster throughout the year, the M’s seemed to hang around just close enough to keep the ‘wait untils’ going. Of course, they followed that 7-2 homestand with a 2-5 roadtrip heading into the All-Star break. Disappointing, yes, but at one game above .500 and Felix Hernandez coming off the DL, there was enough of a glimmer to keep general manager Jerry Dipoto from pulling the plug. Nothing drastic, mind you. Dipoto is on record saying (thankfully) he is not a believer in the five-year plan but would perhaps consider moving a starter and/or the closer – transactions that certainly would impact the rest of the year.

We haven’t seen that – yet. Perhaps we could have seen that prior to Saturday’s game. Back-to-back losses where the team was outscored 22-2 could have been enough to convince Dipoto to trade Wade Miley but, no, instead Miley made his start looking like a Cy Young winner during the 4-1 win over Jake Arietta and the Cubs. And let’s take a look at Miley, a pitcher who had frustrated fans for the majority of his short tenure by posting a 5.58 ERA during his first 14 starts. In his last five games, he has given up two, four, three, two, and one runs, while eating the innings the team expected he’d consume when Dipoto traded for him this offseason. Does Saturday’s seven-inning gem make Wiley more valuable to the Mariners in the rotation than as a trade chip? Did the time on the DL and the changes he made with his delivery really do the trick?

There is at least one deal on the table for Miley from an American League team. I suspect it has not been made because, as always this time of year,  the Mariners continue to flirt with the possibility that they have enough talent to play into October. They still need a run, the still need some luck, but if the pitching is there, they have a shot. The biggest indicator over whether to hold tight with the current squad or sell will most likely come down to what we see from Felix on Sunday night. If Felix looks like he did in his two starts since coming off the DL, the call will be easy. This team can’t make a run without him. You can roll the dice on the rest of the rotation, but Felix needs to be moving in the right direction. I’m not talking Cy Young Award winner Felix, but a healthy Felix who feels comfortable with his changeup and can keep his team in games. For me, it is as simple as that.

Of course, there is no guarantee that even if Felix looks closer to his 2015 self – and it appears that the Mariners will not be making any kind of ‘all-in’ Cleveland Indians type deals, nor do I think they should – that standing pat could still be seen as a “going for it” move. There is plenty of talent on this roster as is. For now, they remain in a very interesting position.

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Mariners remain in interesting position as trade deadline looms