With the MLB trade deadline inching closer by the day, teams all throughout baseball are currently contemplating whether they should make a move to improve or stick it out with their current roster.
The Seattle Mariners, until recently, appeared past the point of wins and losses having much meaning in regards to their current standing within the AL West, but does their recent performance mean we should assume they will be cleaning house now?
In recent years, the M's have been sellers working from the cellar far too often, but this year, things are a bit more complex.
The good news is that fans don't have to read about trade rumors surrounding ace-starter Felix Hernandez for the first time in ages.
The bad news is that, beyond King Felix, there are only a handful of players one can consider safely off-limits within the Seattle organization, as the team continues to search for answers while once again rebuilding.
Honestly, I don't envy general manager Jack Zduriencik right now, as he will likely have quite a few tough decisions to make in the coming weeks, but for today, here's my take on what both the Mariners will do and should do before the deadline.
What the Mariners Will Do
For years now, Jack Z has taken the approach of exchanging his veterans for a combo platter of mediocre prospects.
If this were any other year, I'd expect more of the same. However, this year trading a veteran for another Casper Wells or Eric Thames isn't going to cut it, but the players the M's likely have available are unlikely to net a top prospect.
Unfortunately for Zduriencik, these next few weeks, both on and off the field, are critical to his job security. Right now, I would imagine the odds of him either surviving this year or getting axed are even.
So do desperate times call for desperate measures as Jack Z cleans house?
Or should the Mariners hold on to their current assets, as Jerry Brewer at The Seattle Times suggested, given their recent success?
Perhaps Jack Z will get creative and do something completely unexpected?
So far, he's managed to ship Alex Liddi and Eric Thames to Baltimore in two separate deals for very little in return, but with those deals and several other moves since the end of last season, I believe there is more to the story.
Ever so quietly, Jack Z has managed to send off the likes of Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Francisco Martinez, Vinnie Catricala and, most recently, Thames and Liddi.
What exactly is going on here?
To me, it appears that Jack Z is systematically trying to bury a few skeletons and wipe the slate clean for next year.
Yet without these players available to fill gaps in the field, can the M's afford to trade veterans like Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Kendrys Morales and Jason Bay?
Could Zduriencik be simply holding on to them to see how they fare in the coming weeks and judge whether or not to retain them for next year?
Over the weekend in speaking to The Seattle Times Larry Stone, Zduriencik hinted as much in saying, "In the end, I’m not in the mood to give anyone away," Zduriencik said. "What I’d like to do is get healthy and see how this goes. Who knows what will happen in the next 30 days?”
Initially, I saw this as your typical "canned" response to such questions before the All-Star break, but following the Liddi trade and the team's recent upswing, it seems to have a little more substance than usual.
In other words, if someone approaches Jack Z with a solid offer, I can't see him turning it down. At the same time, I can't see him actively shopping anyone with the hopes of getting rid of them—similar to how the M's tried to deal with Chone Figgins over the past few years.
Ultimately though, where this leaves us will probably matter more at the end of September, rather than the end of July.
What I mean is that based on my hypothesis, Jack Z is going to have the M's starting from scratch in terms of payroll at the end of this season, with only Felix eating up any significant portion of the budget. From there, Jack can determine which players and prospects are worth building with, and go from there based on what he's seen over the final three months, rather than simply guess over a four-week period.
Does that mean the M's will hold on to everybody?
No, but I'm a bit hesitant to predict a full house cleaning either.
What the Mariners Should Do
Honestly though, it's really tempting to clean house even with the team starting to show signs of life.
Ditch Mike Morse, Brendan Ryan and any of the veteran starters taking up space towards the back of the rotation, like Joe Saunders, and see if anyone can make solid offers for the likes of Kendrys Morales, Oliver Perez or Hisashi Iwakuma.
Of course, the problem with that approach is that the M's have done it so many times now since Jack Zduriencik took over as general manager and sadly have very little to show for it.
Yet with so many players with deals expiring, I still say the M's need to prioritize moving them.
For starters, get rid of Morse.
He's too old and hasn't been able to stay healthy. Honestly, how can you miss someone that hasn't been around the majority of the season? Could he go elsewhere and thrive? It's possible, but long-term, I can't see making him the focal point of what Jack Z, or whoever possibly takes over next, wants to do.
While we're here, I would also seriously listen to calls for Raul Ibanez. Whether you see the glass being half full or empty is up to you, but at 41, his success in Seattle can't last forever, right? Usually, I'm guilty of being sentimental in such instances, but one simple truth hangs over this team like a dark cloud.
That truth being the M's can lose just as many games either with or without Ibanez in the present, but players past the age of 30, or in his case 40, are far too risky to build around at this stage of the process if we are looking to do something meaningful long-term.
In other words, cash in on Ibanez, Ryan, Saunders and even Endy Chavez. Perhaps even package a few of them to see if that nets a decent prospect, provided some team gets desperate.
As for Morales and Iwakuma, keep them unless someone makes an offer that cannot be refused. Right now, the M's may want to consider keeping both over the long haul; therefore, trading them and then replacing each with the likes of Justin Smoak now, or prospects Taijuan Walker or Danny Hultzen come September, seems a bit shortsighted at the present time.
Summing It All Up
Unless the Mariners drop 10 in a row at some point, I think that both Zduriencik and Wedge will keep their jobs through the deadline and probably the remainder of the season.
At the same time, I'm not sure what to make of the team's recent performance, as the M's are holding their own while battling against some top-notch competition.
Prior to the last week-and-a-half, this season appeared lost.
Honestly I want to believe in and enjoy the team's recent success, but I have a sneaking suspicion that from here on out, what we will likely see in Seattle during the second half probably won't differ all that much from what we've seen thus far in the first half.
That is unless the front office is determined to phase out the veterans wherever possible and continue to allow the recently promoted top shelf talent to play everyday.
Bottom line, I think Jack Z will see what he can get for the vets with expiring deals, keep an open ear for players like Iwakuma or Morales who could net a decent package and continue to quietly unload all of the failed prospects with little to no shot in Seattle.
If everything goes according to plan, this team might inch back to .500 before the end of the season. If that happens I think Jack Z will likely keep his job along with Wedge while getting the chance to see if this group of youngsters can move the needle towards bigger and better things next year with perhaps the help of a few holdovers from this season worth keeping.
Time will tell, but suddenly the M's are worth watching and that's what has me both frightened and intrigued. I suppose it helps to keep an open mind about these things, yet I sincerely hope this isn't yet another false start for a team that has had far too many to count in recent years.