BY Art Thiel 07:00AM 07/13/2011

Thiel: Mariners need to move Ichiro, Felix now

The overwhelming mediocrity throughout MLB presents a great opportunity for the M’s to get well at several positions. All it takes is guts.

The market for Felix Hernandez may never be better. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

Entering the second half of the season, Mariners management has two choices.

Do nothing of significance to the roster.

Do damn near everything to the roster.

Anything between – such as trading still-injured pitcher Erik Bedard for a B-level prospect – is just fixing with Spackle instead of putting up fresh drywall.

Each of the big choices has merit. I advocate three words:




Much as it seems counter-intuitive, given the semi-feel-good first half, getting sustainable success out of this roster is like attempting to make three meals a day out of potato chips and ice cream.

Which is not to say there’s no nutrition here. There’s no point in dealing Dustin Ackley or Michael Pineda.

One other untouchable: Manager Eric Wedge’s mustache. It was the most consistent performer in the first half. The fear is that he will come back from the break having traded it for Ben Broussard or Eduardo Perez.

Just about everyone else is in play.

If desperation-pickled opportunity arises, trade Felix Hernandez. Trade Ichiro. Trade Brandon League. Even Justin Smoak.


It’s not so much that general manager Jack Zduriencik has proven his brilliance or that the team is awful to watch. Agonizing, yes, but not awful.

The reason is that few are the times in Major League Baseball history where mediocrity is so rampant. With about 20 teams in contention at the All-Star break, there is much foolishness across the fruited plain that convinces teams they are one or two players away from being good. Even Pittsburgh, which hasn’t been a contender since Barry Bonds’ hat size was smaller than Saturn’s rings, is giddy.

The fun-house-mirror effect means some among these general managers, at or before the July 31 trade deadline, are going to feel compelled do something, and that something has a good chance to be stupid.

At about 4.3 runs per game in the American League and 4.1 in the National League, the Great Depression of baseball offense, worst in several decades, is warping the game’s strategies and thinking. Regarding offense, few are sure what constitutes the new normal.

For a change, let it be the Mariners who benefit from chaos instead of contributing to it.

The Mariners have just enough pieces to take advantage in order to heal themselves at multiple positions.

The truths about this lineup are that catcher Miguel Olivo and utility man Adam Kennedy are career downsiders having good final years. Shortstop Brendan Ryan is average, Franklin Gutierrez is no longer effective and/or fit, and left field remains the franchise hole as it has for most of 20 years. Edgar Martinez, seven years retired and in street clothes, can hit better than the current DHs.

The Mariners often play with a 21-man roster, getting little to nothing from infielders Chone Figgins and Jack Wilson, DH Jack Cust and reliever Jeff Gray. Milton Bradley is still on the books at $12 million.

Wedge has done a good job to get this disjointed outfit this far, thanks to the stupendous starting pitching. But with a team OPS of .621, the offense is last in baseball, nearly 200 points behind the lead of the Boston Red Sox.

The lineup does not requiring tinkering. It requires a cigarette and a blindfold.

Let’s start with Ichiro. At 37, the too-old theory is easy and popular. But consider that his peak year, 2001, when he was rookie of the year and MVP, will be celebrated Saturday, because it’s been 10 years since the franchise was good.

How depressing.

Particularly during the 2009 World Cup representing Japan, after which he took time off to recover from stress, Ichiro has done and said enough to establish that he is an emotional guy. He’s just not demonstrative about it.

During his time here, it’s fair to speculate that the biggest issue affecting his performance is all the turmoil and losing. The Mariners’ failures have to eat at a guy whose professional standards are so high.

Nearly anyone with his talent and options would have been long gone. But his Japanese sense of company and personal loyalty, particularly to majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, is too intense for his own good. If he were to ask out, however, his request would be honored.

At $18 million, he makes way too much money for a singles hitter. But remember, baseball is warped right now. If Ichiro were packaged with a pitcher such as League, and the Mariners agreed to eat some salary, the roster would reap a return of at least two 2012 starters from a desperate team, plus prospects.

More painful would be the departure of Hernandez, because of his youth. But his talent puts him nearly in the Alex Rodriguez class, which means he’s destined for a big market.

In 2000, rather than trade one of the best players in baseball history, the Mariners let Rodriguez go into free agency, hoping to out-bid suitors for his return. Instead, they were woefully under-armored, and received nothing for him. That was a franchise wound that gave much blood.

No matter his nice words about Seattle and the Mariners, Hernandez is fated to be traded. There may never be a better market for his services than in the next couple of weeks. He’ll also net at least two more near-term starters, plus prospects.

Such moves would be dramatic, controversial and risky – three things rarely in the Mariners playbook. But the celebration Saturday of the 2001 team of 116 wins puts into sharp relief how far the Mariners have fallen, how irrelevant they have become, nationally as well as locally. This year, they are also without a great number of their most loyal fans, who finally quit on their season tickets.

Time to bust some moves.


  • Michael Kaiser

    Makes some sense, which is why you can be sure the Mariners will do none of it.

  • Bringing up A-Rod borders on irrelevant unless you advocate trading franchise players prior to playoff appearances. “That was a franchise wound that gave much blood.” Keeping A-Rod led to the playoffs in 2000 and established the early-ought Mariners as a winning franchise. The year after he left, we won 116. Those $3m+ attendance years led to the free agent signings of Beltre and Sexson, the true missteps. 

    Don’t force the narrative.

    • Michael Kaiser

      “The [VERY] early-ought Mariners as [having] a winning [season] (not franchise).”

      • Get a grip.

        In the four seasons from 2000-2003 they won 393 games and packed Safeco consistently. They were in the upper echelon of MLB franchises during that time period, which is about half a decade—and obviously not just a season. 

        • Michael Kaiser

          How many people pack Safeco field clearly has never had any substantive correlation with Mariners’ success, because the Mariners never have had success, at least any success that other parts of the country–the non-homers– would cite.  And the Mariners never have been in the “upper echelon” of anything except for number of fans turning out for the latest bobblehead giveaway.  

          • Wins/MLB Attendance rank
            2000: 91/10th
            2001: 116/1st
            2002: 93/1st
            2003: 93/2nd

            And the two ALCS appearances, of course.

            If that isn’t success, I can’t help you.

        • Thank you to a person who understands context and the nuances of history. True, we did not make the playoffs in 02/03, but it is kind of hard to criticize two seasons in which we played very solid, well rounded baseball and won 90+ in each. At the time the AL West was one of, and perhaps could be argued the, toughest divisions in baseball.
          No post-season, but you could hardly call those two years failures.

          • Artthiel

                The 116 win season was one of the epic feats in baseball history. The salute Saturday is richly deserved. Nor has anyone said 90 wins was a failure. But the Mariners are now 50 percent of the teams who’ve never been to the World Series.  

        • Artthiel

             Indeed, it was a good run. But they had to be better than only three other teams to make the playoffs. Couldn’t do it. There is no counter-argument. 

    • Artthiel

         The Mariners gambled they could re-sign him after their 2000 run to the ALCS. They were wrong. They weren’t stupid, just wrong. But the loss of blood is still the same, and franchises outside of the big media markets can’t afford to lose that much blood.

  • Sean Boyd

    Ichiro is a 10-5 guy.  The M’s can’t unilaterally decide to trade him. It’s pointless to offer up a trade of Ichiro as an amelioration of the team’s current woes when there is no evidence he would want to be traded.

    • Artthiel


        That’s why I said, “If he asked . . . ” Neither you nor I nor the American or Japanese media who follow him know what he really thinks. 

  • Kmusicman09

    Sure missed you when you left the PI.. Love your columns! Anyway I have had the same feeling for over a month, but when I put my thoughts in a (unnamed) forum, I get blasted. The formula for a winning team, is far more than a young Cy young winner, and an aging HOF Ichiro. As I said before.. JUST DO IT!! Can I say that, or am I going to get a waffle in the face?

    • Artthiel

         Ask for the strawberries and whip cream.

  • ivan

    Art, should I call the Lost and Found for you and see if they have your marbles?

    • Artthiel

      I quit marbles at 10. I quit believing in playing every season to win a title about a Carlos Silva ago.

  • Gdawg

    I would love to see two valuable pieces paired with Figgins, and clear the deck, getting a couple of prospects in return.  Bedard + League + Figgins to NYY for Montero and a pitcher or to another big market team looking for a good starter, good closer/reliever and a salary to eat.  Losing Felix would be tough with 3 more years left on his contract. 

    • Ellard Souza

      Montero is a top 5 prospect, the Yankees would laugh in a GM’s face with that trade.  maybe Felix for Montero….

  • Dallen35

    I approve. In fact, I believe that the Mariners, to become a more profitable and interesting business, should become one of the baseball franchises that blows up its roster every year, in perpetuity. In other words, the GM should assess the talent every year, and trade the club’s best players–year after year. Under this system, the fans and scribes can mire themselves in joyful pleasure of guessing who is the next to go. Lord, I get excited just thinking about it. 

    • Artthiel

        As you may have noticed with the Mariners, it is blow up, or be blown up.  

  • Matt

    “More painful would be the departure of Hernandez, because of his youth. But his talent puts him nearly in the Alex Rodriguez class, which means he’s destined for a big market.”

    Trade him because he’s too good? Are we that pathetic here that we can’t have a superstar Player?

    • Artthiel

         Well, yes. Or did you miss the point that Griffey, Rodriguez and Johnson forced their departures?

  • Everyone is so down on Ichiro saying he is old on on the downswing, but I challenge you to find a better conditioned athelete in baseball. How quickly we forget. You think this person who calls Japan home, might not be just a bit distracted from a game while his country tries to recover from the -STILL ONGOING- worst industrial/nuclear disaster in the history of well, history?

    Give the man a break, his home grows toxic and we get upset that he may not continue his already record setting steak of consecutive 200+ season.

    • Arttthiel

        Fair point, except he hit .328 in April. He, his nation, and baseball fans would be relieved and enlightened if he shared his burden. 

  • Brett

    “At $18 million, he makes way too much money for a singles hitter. But remember, baseball is warped right now. If Ichiro were packaged with a pitcher such as League, and the Mariners agreed to eat some salary, the roster would reap a return of at least two 2012 starters from a desperate team, plus prospects.”  
    I feel like the entire article is based on this statement, which holds absolutely no truth at all.  Who are these mysterious scouts and GMs that are willing to give up two starters for a 37 year old outfielder and a closer with a low strikeout rate?

    • Arttthiel

        The impulse buy is human nature, whether you’re at the blue-light table or the Yankees’ front office. 

  • Anonymous

    Trading Felix Hernandez would be witless.  The only area of strength the Mariners have had the last TWO years is their pitching, and you don’t play to your strength by trading it away…especially when it’s a 25-year-old pitcher with 79 wins, a Cy Young Award and three years to go on his contract.  Jeez, Art, I know columnists are supposed to be provocative, but think a little.

    My solution is to stay the course:  The best thing the Mariners could have done for themselves is lose five in a row heading into the All-Star Break.  Now the unrealistic hopes for a division title can be laid to rest, underachieving or contract-expiring veterans can be put on the trade block and attention can be returned to where it belongs: Developing young players in the minors before bringing them up.  I’d have brought up Tuiasosopo to play 3B instead of Seager because Kyle could use more time in Tacoma (Tui has been up before and, at 25, the clock is ticking on his future…let him play his way into the M’s lineup or out of the organization unless he’s willing to be AAA roster-filler like most of the Rainiers are).

    With apologies to George Allen, the future is NOT now; the future is in Tacoma, Jackson, Adelanto, Everett, et al.  Does anyone argue that Peguero (.199), Carp (.200) and Seager (.083) are not yet ready to play at this level?   Let the kids develop on the farm and bring them up in September.  We’ve got some talented youngsters in the system.  Why rush them?

    • Artthiel

      There is a decent argument for staying the course. Just as Neville Chamberlain had an argument for peace in our time. If the reference is obscure, JFGI (just f——- google it).

      • Anonymous

        You can’t seriously be comparing a continued commitment to building a baseball team via its own prospects and minor league system with capitulating to Hitler through appeasement.  BTW, I didn’t need to Google it…Some of us great unwashed who read SportspressNW know who Neville Chamberlain was.  But thanks for the condescension.

  • Jwarnick


    Griffey, Johnson and A-Rod were before Safeco. We had no money then. We do now. Ichiro makes $18 million! We have King signed until after the Ichiro contract expires! We will have plenty of $ to keep him once Ichiro is off the books and unlike the other 3 he has expressed no desire to leave. Let’s stop with every columnist trying to convince the team and public he should.

  • Josephkabel

    One great article!!!!!…….None of us have forever……And you’re right….the Lincolns and Armstrongs of this world are not risk takers……as they say in Vegas…..”they’re just not players”……and we deserve better….

  • “general managers, at or before the July 31 trade deadline, are going to
    feel compelled do something, and that something has a good chance to be

    Yep,  and I’m betting that it will be ours that does it.  I’m not opposed to trading for players,  I just don’t trust the people that brought us Chone Figgins and Jack Cust to be able to pull it off no matter who they trade.

  • Stay the course.  That’s a good one.  I love this ‘Titanic” course were on.  We shoul have stayed the course when Pat Gillick was here.  But the resident geniuses (Lincoln and Armstrong)  ran him off.

  • Lou Novikoff

    You are right, Art, about the need for a real shakeup.  Trade Ichiro?  You bet.  His hits now are flares and grounders thru the infield.  He no longer squares up on the ball and his outfield range has shrunk.  Felix, though, should be added to the list of untouchables.  You also underrate the benefit of a stable Smoak/Ackley/Ryan/Seager infield over the next several years.  But anyone else on the roster should be made available in trade.  If he can’t be traded,  Figgins should simply be cut and his ridiculous contract eaten.
    Jack Wilson, Cust, Kennedy, Pauley, Laffey, Wright, Ray and Gray conceivably could be of use to a contending team.   Their value will only go downhill from here.

  • Jerryj

    It seems as though the idea of blowing up the Mariners comes up every season.  Even after they lost to the Yanks in their fabled 2001 season there were those who wanted to do a team makeover.  
    It is a fun thing to imagine, but in reality, I think it is just a way of venting frustration.  It is kind of like these religious fanatics who want to cleanse the world of its imperfections by ending it. 
    But, as fun as that might be (blowing up the roster,) the truth is that we would end up with another rebuilding season where about half the moves would turn out to be a bust and the Mariners’ fans would be demanding to blow it up again.

  • LJW

    I am in total agreement, have been for sometime and get looked at like I am a crazy SOB when I talk with way… Ichiro, have always had the feeling that we are paying way to much for him… All Star status the last few years and a few amazing defensive plays have blinded the fan base. This year you see the real Ichiro, a 37 year old singles hitter who is past his prime. I would see only a couple teams reaching out and making an offer for him, the Red Sox are an example of a team that may take him. Package him with League and get him out of here please…

    Next is Felix, it pains me so much cause he is young and talented, but I agree with you, think about the value in return… Every team that thinks they are 1 pitcher away will jump at him and he would yield a 4 to 5 player return with majority 2012 ready!

    This is also killing me, Wilson and Figgins, the saviors of the infield are sitting the bench watching younger more talented players doing the job… Releasing is not an option, and not team may take the chance, unless you got a team that is really in need of a better SS… ie Milwaukee may take a chance on Wilson, the price will be super low for them and he will be back in the NL Central playing against his old team the Pirates. Figgins is just a mess, he can’t field, he can’t hit, and to watch him you know he hates it in Seattle, trading him to the Campeche Pirates of the Mexican League may be the only option… I would rather have a dozen chickens over Figgins right now…

  • Anonymous

    This is an understandable position, but I don’t believe I could pull the trigger if I’m Jack. Bone fide number one starters are hard to come by. Felix is insanely special. While pitchers come with a lot of risk, they also come with a lot of upside. The workload Felix has taken on, with the great consistent results, is just not something you can give up for prospects easily.

  • TedsFrozenHead

    Whats up with you Art? Are you crazy??!!!

  • Danfwtwilson

    Ichiro Suzuki should still stay with Seattle Mariners. Without him, it won’t be the same.

    • Michael Kaiser

      I sure hope it wouldn’t be the same.

    • Austman14

      screw ichiro he just plays for himself his career is over 

    • Allynchevalier

      Same, meaning we will always be losers?

  • Quinn Kelly

    The Mariners have one of the best pitching staffs in the American League. All they need, in my opinion, are a couple of big bats (at DH and the outfield). Management continues to make lousy decisions re: which free agents to sign (Byrne, Bradley, Cust). I should think that a couple of worthwhile free-agent power hitters could be persuaded to sign with the M’s as the missing ingredients in what has the potential to be a playoff team. I say act soon while the pitching is dominant. Many of these 2-0, 1-0 losses could be turned into 5-2, 4-1 wins. 

    • Dickrgt

      It’s going to take a lot more than 2 or even 3 guys to make the team relevant to the post season again. Sadly almost every batter they have is just barely at .200 level, not good. Unless they fix there many batting issues they will be the same ol’ team of mediocrity.

  • Sandul

    untouchables: Pineda, Ackley, Felix, Smoak.  plus minor leaguers like nick franklin and such… everyone else… trade for bats haha.  keep bleavan too.

  • Davis Jones

    I don’t like you. You don’t trade Felix. He is a young piece we actually have in place for the future. Whats the point of back tracking again.

  • Angry Raccoon

    “Cigarette and blindfold”…excellent idea for a bobblehead!

  • Ellard Souza

    Ichiro, Over-rated…. totally self absorbed and just wants his stats….. a terrible lead off hitter, he never walks..just the weak little left field singles…. not respected by his peers, what does that tell you?  Zero trade value…

  • Ellard Souza

    Bad owners never win…. they hire bad mangers, GM’s and VP’s… the Mariners have crappy owners…..they don’t get it and never will….. you can’t teach someone to be “funny” or “witty”  you either are born that way or are not. 

  • Stephen_f

    Trading them would be pointless as getting 2012 ready prospects would not help. There is no guarantee they will produce soon or at all. With Felix we at least know we will have a young ace that is better than most pitchers out there and will be better than any prospect we can pick up. And its not like the Mariners are too broke to pay for their salaries.

  • Ww

    When you pay one player too much, there’s not enough money left for other good players.  The Rangers found that out when they had A-Rod and the Mariners are finding that out now with Ichiro.  

  • Yes, let’s trade a top 5 pitcher in the MLB– the one player that is guaranteed to be all-star caliber on the Mariners for years to come (who wants an extension beyond 2014 mind you!) for a bunch of minor league talent, who more than likely will not pan out, will come to be mediocre, or leave Seattle 2 years after because there are more fruitful opportunities elsewhere. The roster plan for the Mariners is not a hard one. Cement great pitching for many years into the future, and acquire bats that can put up 4 runs every night. We do that, we win 90 or so games for all those seasons. We are honestly a couple good bats away from contending next season. We put those guys in the lineup and allow guys like Smoak to drop to 6 in the order every night and it’s a whole different ballgame for the M’s offense.

    Blowing up this roster would be ridiculous. Give me a break.

  • Steve

    Here is my trade proposal, and I’m a Tigers fan: Trade Miguel Cabrera, Rick Porcello, and Andy Oliver to Seattle for King Felix, Jason Vargas, and Adam Kennedy. With the trade, Seattle picks up two quality starters and arguably the best hitter in the league, and the Tigers bolster their rotation with a Verlander-Felix tandem at the top of the rotation. I understand Justin Smoak is your first baseman, but he’s no Miguel Cabrera. With the move, you can put Cabrera at first, and make Smoak your DH, or vice versa, and make that lineup one that opposing teams don’t want to face. And as a Tigers fan, I’d like to see them make this deal, if Seattle is willing, then go after Prince Fielder in free agency.

  • Paul C.

    I know I’m late to this post but you really want to trade Felix?   I’m not sure the fans could handle that.   What do you get for him that could possibly make it a smart move?   Please educate me…

  • Yahoo

    So you wanted to trade them for major league ready players now? What the guys we got aren’t major league ready?

  • Jmartinson8

    Art, I thought you might be interested in this Corbally Professorship in Public Service story from the online UW News, since part of his work is with the Pac-12 and NCAA Conferences, and he  has a sports blog, as well.
    — Fan of yours from KPLU on Friday mornings!