Three things: Trade deadline passes without Mariners adding a shortstop
Aug 2, 2016, 8:59 AM | Updated: 9:00 am
The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Mariners still find themselves hovering around .500, struggling to break out of the third tier of American League wild-card contenders.
Here are three things to consider this week about the Mariners.
1. This is the team. Despite an attempt to get veteran shortstop Zack Cozart from the Reds, the Mariners didn’t make any trades on Monday before the 1 p.m. deadline, leaving them with a mostly untouched team to take into the stretch run. And before I go on, yes, Seattle did make a number of moves in the past two weeks, but none that drastically altered the direction the team is headed this season. Wade Miley, shipped off to Baltimore, was coming off his best start of the year but had mostly been a disappointment, and the Mariners have other back-end rotation options that could produce an ERA similar to the 4.98 that Miley owns this season. Right-handed reliever Drew Storen, the return from Toronto for Joaquin Benoit, has had similar issues to Benoit this season but is 10 years younger and has a higher ceiling as a former 43-save closer. The biggest subtraction for the Mariners was Mike Montgomery, who had pitched well in several roles this year. But he was more of a utility pitcher than anything for Seattle – starting when needed, mainly serving in long relief but even used as a setup man at times – so his loss takes a little away from multiple areas but not a lot from any single one. And the haul Seattle got for Montgomery and minor-leaguer Jordan Pries – chiefly slugging prospect Dan Vogelbach – was too good to turn down. Simply put, the Mariners made a couple minor “seller” moves but left the core of the team intact. They were in great shape after the first two months of the season, so if they can get healthy and back on a roll, the playoffs are still well in reach.
2. So … about shortstop. The one true downside to the way the trade deadline worked out for the Mariners is that they didn’t answer a big question at short. There’s still not much known about how long Ketel Marte will be on the disabled list with mononucleosis, and considering he’s lost weight during the illness, you’d have to think that time will need to include a rehab assignment in the minors to get his strength back. That leaves Seattle playing matchups with Shawn O’Malley and Luis Sardinas, both of whom are essentially light-hitting utility men. The Mariners picked up another utility player on Monday by claiming Mike Freeman, but he’s headed to Triple-A and it’s very doubtful Seattle expects him to be any kind of answer, either. The addition of Cozart would have gone a long way. With Marte out, Cozart would have been a confident presence who could have taken pressure off the 22-year-old rookie when he returns, much like Chris Iannetta does now for Mike Zunino at catcher. That’s a moot point, though, and the Mariners have to hope they catch lightning in a bottle with O’Malley or Sardinias until Marte is healthy.
3. Command Issues: The 2016 Felix Hernandez story? The Mariners suffered an absolutely gut-wrenching loss on Sunday night in Chicago, and while Felix performed better than in his previous two starts after coming off the disabled list, he couldn’t make it past the fifth inning. He kept the Cubs scoreless through four frames, but Chicago was able to push two runs across in the fifth as The King struggled with his command, even hitting a batter to force in a run for the first time in his career. He walked five in the outing and was up to 103 pitches before handing the ball over to the bullpen, which couldn’t keep Chicago at bay. The most important thing is that Felix couldn’t get into – let alone through – the sixth inning, which has been crucial for the Mariners and their overtaxed bullpen all year. It cost them in the end. It wouldn’t be so worrisome if Felix had shown better command throughout the season, but he’s walked two or more batters 10 times in 13 starts. A year ago, he did that 16 times in 31 starts. In 2014, 14 times in 34 starts. The Mariners need quality outings from their starters to make a run, and that especially goes for their ace.