There are a couple of different ways to watch postseason baseball when your favorite team is spending their October playing video games and traveling in Europe with their families. One way is to feel bitter and move on to football. I’ve tried--and can’t--get into football, so this option is out for me.
Another, and I would guess more popular method, is to pick surrogate teams to apportion rooting interest to, ranked on levels of deserving quality and relative underdog-story probability. This is always good, except for when someone like David Freese does a stupid thing and hits a stupid home run after that team you were pulling for stupidly blows the previous game, wherein they are sent home across that stupid yellow bridge and off into the gray squalor mist of the stupid postseason. Stupid. Then, the next team you are half-assedly pulling for gets sent home by a former Cy-Young award winner who had a bad season but only needs to pitch one good game in the postseason, and well...it’s okay because you felt a little weird pulling for someone in your favorite team’s division anyway.
Finally, when nothing is left but the Red Sox and Cardinals, you can watch for some abstract offseason hope related to your favorite team. For me, this is repeatedly informing my patient significant other/best friend who doesn't follow baseball/computer screen that they are looking at Future Mariner™ Jacoby Ellsbury each time he is up at the plate even though he’s a Boras client and there is no guarantee he will be wearing a teal uniform next year.
We all know the Mariners’ current outfield situation has the biggest gap--three of them, perhaps--and we know that Ellsbury's name has been linked to the Mariners for quite some time. Scott and Logan have written about it right here, much more eloquently than myself. But what if Ellsbury signs elsewhere? Or, what if the front office suddenly decides they are okay both spending more money and moving pieces to get "proven" talent in place of more young kids? Ellsbury can't be the only plan. And he isn't.
There has been a lot of back-and-forth speculation over recent quotes by the front office and Wedge lately, and while it has split some of us here into dual camps of Relax, It’s Not The End Of The World and No, It's The End Of The World, I think the overarching point is that no one feels like they have any idea what Jack Z and co are planning to do this November, and that anxiety is manifested in a number of ways. Pessimism. Optimism. A weird combination of both.
The biggest debates haven't been over what Mariners should do in the offseason, but rather questioning what Jack Z is thinking and if Armstrong and Lincoln know what they are doing. I know I've been guilty of this myself. The truth is that we can’t change either of those things, and I don’t think having strong opinions either way make us shittier or better fans. We all want the Mariners to win.
So in place of prognosticating motive, I thought it might be interesting to crowd-source some roster moves for the team in the offseason--you know, the thing we actually look at when we watch and follow baseball games. What are the biggest holes, other than the outfield? Are there fits that are at least possible given both market and positional need? Rather than dumping info, let’s have a conversation. Rather than yelling at ownership for not doing things the way we want them to, let’s take a day to get a feel for 2014, see where we hope the M’s look to plug holes. We can’t blame everything on management. Questionable decision making can still earn World Series rings (see: Brian Sabean), and a lot of the M’s trouble has been both luck and market related.
First, we should look at what positions need a little help. Here's what seems to be a sure bet going into 2014, or at least what the M's will most likely stick with, according to the now 786th appearance of Lincoln's quote:
"If I go around the infield (Kyle) Seager, (Brad) Miller, (Nick) Franklin, (Justin) Smoak, (Mike) Zunino – I think that’s our future. As I look at the starting pitching, not only Felix (Hernandez), but (Hisashi) Iwakuma had a fabulous year. And we’ve got guys like (James) Paxton, Taijuan Walker and (Brandon) Maurer and (Erasmo) Ramirez – we’ve got a solid foundation there."
Not a single outfielder. Are they going to get three free agents? No, so it seems at least possible that they would move one of the above mentioned pieces of the foundation in a trade. Hell--they were willing to do this before for Justin Upton, even though they hadn't, at that time, decided on moving Franklin into Ackley's spot at second.
But, and this is where I think it could get creative: what infield positions are moveable? If the Mariners haven't given up on Smoak, they at least need a platoon partner for him. And while Kendrys' rejection of the Mariners' qualifying offer doesn't mean he isn't coming back, he is by no means a lock for the M's.
In short, we don't know. But I'm tired of complaining about the front office. It's depressing, somewhat counter-productive, and in the end, the same argument written in different words. So let's talk about the team again. Either that, or come on, Mariners. GIVE US SOMETHING NEW.
Questions for discussion:
1. What is--in your opinion--the Mariner's single biggest roster hole?
2. Aside from Ellsbury, or assuming he signs elsewhere, who should the Mariners' #1 realistic FA goal be?
3. What infield positions are the most moveable, and who should be available for Jack Z to make deals with?
4. Assuming the Mariners need their #3 starter to come from elsewhere, who do you hope they target?