The Mariners find themselves at the crossroads, and the devil is nowhere to be found.
I grant you that GM Jerry Dipoto might give of his eternal soul in exchange for a world championship banner to wave above Safeco Field, but Major League Baseball is far too practical for that.
It’s going to be a grind.
The M’s 89-73 record in ‘18 might suggest strength, might summon phrases like “one player away” or “you gotta spend to win”, but you’d be fooling yourself to believe it.
Most of the American League either entered or narrowly advanced into the early stages of rebuilding this past year, thus fattening the record of the “we’re going for it” M’s, who finished the season with a staggering -34 run differential. (The 77-85 Mets finished -31). More to the point, despite a summer fling with the postseason, the Mariners finished eight games shy of the wild card, and a game behind Tampa and their league-low 68-million dollar payroll (92 million less than Seattle’s).
Sorry Seattle. But once again, it’s time for change, good change. It’s time to make some uncomfortable decisions.
Dipoto doesn’t want to rebuild. Truth is, with numerous untradeable contracts on the roster (Felix, Cano, Seager & Gordon), the team really can’t rebuild. But Dipoto can start putting in place the pieces to win a championship and not just fixate on ending the sport’s longest playoff drought.
So, today, we launch my 7-part blog series entitled…
“7 CHAMPIONSHIP MOVES THAT WILL UNDOUBTEDLY MAKE MARINER FANS UNCOMFORTABLE.”
MOVE #1: LET NELSON CRUZ WALK
I predict the Mariners will be following the already blazing analytical path of limiting starters’ innings and emphasizing bullpen. Should Dipoto go with thirteen pitchers on his 25-man, the bench will be limited to three bench players—catcher, infielder, outfielder.
At which point, can you afford to then have a DH-only option?
Robinson Cano will still play second base in 2019, but the transition to DH must start sooner than later, if the M’s expect to preserve his productivity for the length of that massive contract.
A rotation at DH will keep players fresher and give Scott Servais greater flexibility. I mean, are you watching what Dave Roberts is doing with the Dodgers?
Furthermore, and this mustn’t be underestimated, the door for playing time can then open wide to younger players who stand a better chance at contributing to a championship Mariner team, even if that title push is placed years down the road.
Of course, THE most important thing to future success for a frustrated, and frustrating, organization is the development of young baseball talent. This lowest-ranked farm system sh*t has to end!
Why they shouldn’t let Cruz walk
He’s been an excellent Mariner and shows little sign of slowing.
I arrived in Seattle days before Nelson Cruz first suited up for the Mariners. Plenty of people were questioning a 4-year, 57 million dollar deal for a 35-year old rightfielder with one foot in the DH-only coffin.
A fast four years later, the contract is up. Cruz averaged 154 games per season, 41 HR, 104.5 RBI and a slash line of 284/362/546. Incredible.
He’s been a straight-A student for the M’s and deserving of far more than what I’m offering, which sadly is nothing but a handshake and the freedom to sign with a legitimate contender.
But, as the headline forewarned, uncomfortable decisions must be made.
Where will Cruz land & for how much?
I wish I had better news for you… Houston.
It just makes too much sense. Evan Gattis is a free agent, and Cruz gives the Astros the cleanup hitter they need to top Boston next post-season.
And we already know he’s looking for multiple years. 2 years 25 million?
The Mariners can’t rebuild, but the organization must get younger, more athletic, deeper, more versatile and, financially, the deck must be clear for when the team actually is ready to “go for it”. And not for a mere playoff spot but for a world friggin title.
Unfortunately, the great Nelson Cruz doesn’t fit any part of this description.