The Mariners like to take risks, though spending $240 million on a ten year contract with a no trade clause to Robinson Cano is by far the biggest financial risk they have taken. Usually Seattle takes lite risks, like bringing in over the hill veteran pitchers or bringing in D-list players who can’t hit, never could, but fill a roster spot and a place on the bench.
Two wounded ducks are Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Hart as had microfracture surgeries on both knees and missed all of 2013 rehabbing. But he was, and still could be, a power hitter. He can DH or play first base. It is a one year contract with many incentives making the risk worthwhile. Morrison hit 23 homers in 2011, but a tendon problem in a knee limited him to part time duty the past two years. He can play the outfield and first base. Seattle needs outfielders, but more than that they need a right handed bat besides Hart and Morrison is a lefty. The Mariners gave up a young arm in Carter Capps, who had a plus five ERA in 2013, but the Mariners have a lot of young arms waiting to take his place.
So the Mariners have some knee problems, but the potential upside is good. Hart is 31 with a lot to prove and Morrison is only 26 and a new environment may be good for him.
The winter meetings are over, but I doubt the Mariners are. Nelson Cruz, a big right handed power bat would be a perfect number four hitter. He is 33 and can hit 25-30 homers. Maybe Robinson Cano can call Nelson and say, “Seattle has money for you, why not come up to the Pacific Northwest. Do you like salmon?” Cruz could DH, Hart play first, and Morrison, if healthy, the outfield.
Seattle still needs a lefty in the bullpen, a reliable closer, a starting pitcher, another outfielder, and a cheerleading squad called the Seamaidens. The pieces are falling into place and the improved lineup is a start, though having Seamaidens would surely increase attendance more than Cano, Hart, et al. I told the Mariner front office of my idea and volunteered to fluff the pompoms. For some reason I was escorted from the premises. I guess they didn’t want to take the risk.
Mariner closer Tom Wilhelmsen has lost the helm of the Good Ship Mariner, struggling with location and control. Though he may regain his form and get his closer job back, he is not the only reliever on the M’s staff floundering in the choppy Elliot Bay waters.
Kyra Sedgwick pictured above new how to close.
Carter Capps has gotten knocked around recently. He has given up 35 hits in 30 innings. His strike out numbers are good with 36, but his ERA has climbed to 5.16. Partly his fault, and partly relievers who replace him and let in runners he put on base.
Danny Farquhar, though pitching 14 innings with 20 strikeouts, has seen 11 of the 18 base runners he allowed (13 hits, 5 walks) score. Again he put them on base, but also when he was relieved, the runners he left ended up scoring thanks to the pitcher who replaced him.
Blake Bevean when he was recalled looked great, then tanked in a recent outing.
Some of the pen is doing the job. Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush, and Yoervis Medina have done well, though tend to walk batters. But the bottom line is who can be trusted out of the pen. Right know, no one. With a struggling offense, pitching and defense must keep the team in the game, and in the last two games the M’s have been blown out. The pitchers could hardly be overworked based on innings pitched. It is just another omen involving the cursed Mariners.
There have been stretches during losing streaks where the Mariner hitting was awful from top to bottom. Now the bullpen is getting knocked around. Had Steven Pryor not been injured he may have taken Wilhelmsen’s closer job. Pryor was the closer in waiting as Wilhelmsen was the closer in waiting for Brandon League.
There is no happy ending to this story. The Mariners have made recent changes to their starting lineup with Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino. Making changes in the bullpen is not as easy. They must simply get better or sink the ship.
When the Mariners picked up Aaron Harang shortly before the season began he had not pitched in close to two weeks. But now he has six starts from the watchful eyes of the crows nest and you don’t need binoculars to see he is a disaster. The batting average against him is .317, his earned run average is 8.58, and his won-lost record is 1-5.
The Mariners with a still woeful offense can not afford throwing away games with a starting pitcher who can not keep his team in the game. In his six starts he has gone 28.1 innings, less than five innings per start. That taxes the bullpen, which outside of Tom Wilhelmsen, Oliver Perez, Carter Capps, and recently recalled Yoervis Medina, are struggling.
The question is who would fill Harang’s spot. It would have been, were he not on the DL, Danny Hultzen with a 3-1 record and 2.78 ERA. In Tacoma they have another veteran pitcher on the downside of his career in Jeremy Bonderman. He is 2-3, 3.79 with more hits than innings pitched. Not an improvement. One of the Mariners big four young guns, James Paxton is 2-3, 4.35. Andrew Carraway is 4-1, 3.19 and would be worth a look. So to would Blake Beavan, who was sent down earlier this season for being ineffective, his numbers being similar to Harang’s. But he is 2-2, 3.70 and pitching better. And what happened to Hector Noesi? He was effective in an emergency start for Harang when he had a back problem.
There are options here and the Mariners must make a choice. They came within one game of .500 before losing five straight. Three were tough losses in Cleveland, but Mariner fans want to see improvement, want to see success before summer when they are more likely to attend games. The Mariner front office have more patience than Mariner fans, but replacing Harang is a solid baseball move. If it isn’t working, fix it.