BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 07/07/2017

Ex-Mariners MLB team an impressive group

Now that Justin Smoak and Jason Vargas are All-Stars, it’s time for another look at the current All-Ex-Mariners team. It’s impressive — or debilitating, depending on your perspective.

Justin Smoak joins the lengthy list of Mariners’ emigre All-Stars./ Getty Images

The appointments of 1B Justin Smoak and LHP Jason Vargas to the American League All-Star team bring up that favorite time of the season for Mariners cynics: The All Ex-Mariners team. For a franchise with four playoff appearances in 40 seasons, take your traditions where you find them.

As always, fans understand that every team has similarly scattered regrets across  baseball’s apocalyptic landscape of transactions. But only two teams have never made the World Series, the Expos/Nationals and the Mariners, and no current team has been out of the playoffs longer than the Mariners’ 15 years.

So until those distinctions change, the Mariners stand above all in deserving to be singled out, spotlighted, hectored, scolded and subjected to extreme vetting for the hash they have made of their personnel.

Seattle fans also understand that general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have been at it only a year and a half. Still, Thursday night’s 7-4 loss to the tepid Athletics (box)  was the eighth consecutive loss at home, and the storylines of this 41-46 team have the familiar arc of the annual franchise death spiral.

Smoak had all the makings of quality during his tenure in Seattle from 2010 to 2014, but never quite made it to quality until being waived and picked up by Toronto as a free agent. His first two years in Canada weren’t that great, but his year-30 season has been maple syrup-smothered poutine (.300 BA, 23 HR, 55 RBIs, .961 OPS).

Vargas, an even later bloomer at 34, started Wednesday for Kansas City at Safeco Field, only to be shelled by his former team for six runs in six innings. But the Royals won a 9-6, 10-inning crusher, the kind of sneaky win that helped Vargas numerous times in his Seattle tenure from from 2009 to 2012. He leads the AL in wins (12) and did lead the league in ERA before Wednesday.

He was traded in 2012 to the Angels for DH Kendrys Morales, who ironically also wound up going away from the Mariners — twice — to do better elsewhere. In 2015, the year after he left Seattle, he helped the Royals win the World Series with a .290 BA, 22 homers and 106 RBIs.

So let’s start there with the Emigre M’s of 2017, by position and current numbers:

DH —  Morales, Blue Jays: .256 BA, .771 OPS, 16 HRs, 47 RBIs.

C — Chris Iannetta, D-backs: .236 BA, .826 OPS, 8 HRs, 23 RBIs.

1B — Smoak, Blue Jays: see above.

2B –Nick Franklin, Angels: One hit in seven ABs after June 30 trade from Brewers for player to be chosen later.

SS — Brad Miller, Rays: .194 BA, .645 OPS, 2 HRs, 14 RBI. On disabled list until after All-Star break.

3B — Adrian Beltre, Rangers: .282 BA, .877 OPS; 5 HRs, 22 RBIs at age 38.

OF — Adam Jones, Orioles: .263 BA, .718 OPS, 13 HRs, 35 RBIs; Seth Smith, Orioles: .251 BA, .752 OPS, 8 HRs, 18 RBIs; Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers: .255 BA, .782 OPS, 12 HRs, 42 RBIs.

Starting pitchers — Jason Vargas, Royals (12-3, 2.62 ERA);  Taijuan Walker, D-backs (6-3, 3.30);  Michael Pineda, Yankees (8-4, 4.39);  J.A. Happ, Blue Jays (3-5,  3.47); Mike Montgomery, Cubs (1-5, 2.80).

Bullpen –Brandon Morrow, Dodgers (2-0, 1.38), Dominic Leone, Blue Jays (1-0, 2.97), Brandon Maurer, Padres (17 saves); Fernando Rodney, D-backs (21 saves); Tom Wilhelmsen, D-backs (1-1, 4.44); Erasmo Ramirez, Rays (4-3, 5.18 ERA).

Reserves — 1B Logan Morrison, Rays; 1B Luis Valbuena, Angels; OF Eric Thames, Brewers; OF Mark Trumbo, Orioles; C-1B John Jaso, Pirates; OF Ichiro Suzuki, Marlins; OF Nori Aoki, Astros.

Collectively, the group of ex-pats is more than respectable, with Baltimore contributing a an all-ex-Mariners outfield in Smith, Jones and Trumbo.

Would the best 25 beat today’s Mariners?

Take a look at the starting rotation, and there’s your answer.

Any one in the rotation among the emigre M’s would be a god-send to Servais now. Even Ramirez, who has been a starter for the Rays as well, would be welcomed.

The guy the Mariners miss most at the moment is Montgomery, who has been the same starter/reliever savior for the Cubs that he was in Seattle before Dipoto inexplicably traded him at midseason a year ago for 1B Dan Vogelbach, who has hit at every level so far except the one that counts.

But he’s in the Minor League All-Star Game next week at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium. So there’s that.

Obviously, the Mariners’ biggest problem this season has been poor health in the starting staff. But can that be a surprise to anyone familiar with the recent histories of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton? The season-long loss of Drew Smyly was unexpected, but the Mariners had no fall-back plan in the event the first three starters went to form regarding recent health histories.

It’s hard to imagine any regrets by Dipoto or Mariners fans for the trade of Walker to Arizona last winter that brought SS Jean Segura and RF Mitch Haniger. But there’s also no getting around the fact that Walker’s departure left the weakest part of the Mariners weaker.

Every trade/cut has its logic at the time it was done, and fans can drive themselves bats with the shoulda-coulda-woulda game. But the cumulative weight of the decisions by GMs Bill Bavasi (he let Beltre walk into free agency), Jack Zduriencik and Dipoto has left the Mariners at midseason on the fringe yet again, requiring miracles.

As the trade deadline approaches, they desperately need starting pitching. But so do about 15 other teams in contention, and most are in better shape with farm-system prospects to barter.

The Mariners had good starting pitching. But they’ve given so much of it away that they spend their days back-filling instead of moving ahead.

Dipoto entered the season knowing Hernandez and Iwakuma were sliding. Then he  allowed Smyly to play in the World Baseball Classic, where he was hurt. Some might suggest that is like smelling smoke in your home, and shutting off the water supply.

 


YourThoughts

  • Tian Biao

    and so it goes. every time a gm puts a wheel on one hub, another wheel falls off somewhere else. I mean, the offense is sort-of fixed (6th in AL in runs scored), but now they can’t pitch (12th in AL in runs allowed). yet, somehow, I remain hopeful. new ownership, new gm who seems to know what he’s doing (vogelbach notwithstanding), and the fact that teams these days can turn around in a hurry (ie houston). like the seahawks used to say, why not us?

    but hey: how about a little vitriol for Justin Smoak? I mean, the Ms carried this guy for five years, and he was essentially awful (.202 batting average his final year). but now, suddenly, playing somewhere else, at age 30, he finds his inner babe ruth? that is truly annoying.

    • art thiel

      I think they have solid franchise leadership, and if they had 50 percent fewer pitching injuries, they’re a wild card team. Every team gets injuries, but the Mariners, because a lack system depth, have no margin for hurts.

      • Bryan Clark

        I don’t know if I agree. I think their depth is the only reason they’re still remotely close or within striking distance if they catch fire in the second half . Seems to me it’s the lack of production when they do have (most) everybody in there that’s the really disappointing thing about these guys.

  • Alan Harrison

    Chris Taylor has been killing it for the Dodgers. And Brandon Morrow has resurrected his career there, too. Taylor: 10HR, 38 RBI, 11 SB, .295 AVG, .877 OPS; Morrow: 2-0, 1.32 ERA, 13.2 IP, 16 K, 0.66 WHIP

    • art thiel

      You’re right. Taylor is on this team ahead of Miller.

  • Steed

    I cannot believe that Smoak finally “turned the corner” after being on the infinite corner turning treadmill in Seattle.

    Dustin Ackley will probably win a batting title next. After his stint with the Salt Lake City Bees is over.

    • art thiel

      The Jays will pick up Dae-Ho Lee next season. MVP.

  • Tom G.

    I get that there’s some veteran players on this hypothetical roster (i.e. Beltre, Ichiro), but seeing a roster of talent like this just highlights to me why the M’s haven’t made the playoffs in 16 years.

    And that’s mostly a combination of bad drafting, bad player development and bad player acquisitions that were done in the name of adding “veteran presence”.

    Hopefully Dipoto can be the one to rebuild this well over the next few years. He seems to have a methodical plan for doing it, but it may take a while.

    • art thiel

      The curse of Jack Z’s tenure was not scouting, it was player development. That’s why some of the traded players have played better elsewhere. Dipoto has a system and a methodology that should pay off soon, but not likely the next three months.

  • Brian Holland

    Welington Castillo, Chris Taylor, Austin Jackson, the list goes on and on. They play better elsewhere because this team is cursed.

    • art thiel

      Worthy mentions, all.

  • ljstonebraker

    News flash! Mariners to play remaining home games in Tacoma! A team spokesman noted that the M’s have a 50-50 chance to win any games played there.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the fakenews, pal. Revenues are just a little shy of covering the cost of Cano’s spitoon.

      • ljstonebraker

        Fake news? Hey, it came straight from Fox!

  • Kevin Lynch

    It may be urgency the current roster lacks. Hard to create at midpoint of a 162 game season but in the world of sales nothing happens without urgency and baseball is similar. The team leaders have to be responsible for jacking guys up! There is not as much time as people suspect. Things get tougher in terms of opponents shortly after the all star break. You can’t have stars taking two months off for inflammation or soreness.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think there’s any issue with attitude or motivation. The young guys are desperate to succeed and the well-paid guys have solid reps for the full 162. And the coaching staff is full of guys who take their jobs seriously.

      The bosses took a risk on veteran pitchers’ health, and so far have lost.

  • Tman

    The Mariners, for years, have been a Yankees Farm Club. The players play to be traded.

    • art thiel

      Yankees? More like all of MLB.

      • Tman

        Remember the world series where it seemed half the starting lineups were ex mariners?