Last winter the Mariners went and did a very strange thing in that they signed a second baseman to a ten-year, $240 million dollar contract despite already having two starting second basemen on their 25-man roster in Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin. This created a precarious situation in which some idiot claimed that the Mariners most assuredly would never stash Franklin in the minors while sending Ackley into the outfield, which is exactly what ended up happening right after the article got published. But as a direct result of this logjam, the Mariners now have a new starting centerfielder projected to be worth 2 and a half wins next season.
Well it's been a year, and the Mariners are still apparently making confusing roster decisions like making phone calls to free-agent shortstops despite already having two starting shortstops on their 25-man roster in Brad Miller and Chris Taylor--refusing to learn their lesson and go back to the draft to start over like the fools they are. Will they ever learn?!
Now, I'm not here to talk about Hanley Ramirez on the Mariners, because nobody knows if that rumor has any legs beyond being noise or an outward signal of wallet depth by Jack Zduriencik and Co. And anything beyond an actual signed and dated contact during the GM meetings is even more suspect than unsubstantiated rumors during December's Winter Meetings. But apparently there are multiple reports out of the New York media (yes, yes, red flags) that the Mets could be interested in either Miller or Taylor to fill their hole between second and third after signing Michael Cuddyer to a win-now contract three days ago. And the kicker? It's being tied to the M's interest in Hanley Ramirez.
Now before I get too ahead of myself here I should stipulate that all this seems to be conjecture from beat writers desperate to narrativize an offseason that only has two or three major transactions written down in the storybook. But the exciting thing is that I think it can expose a few crucial elements to the whole process of negotiating between teams that often goes unnoticed when reporters try and play GM: one being that front offices are given narratives too, and the Mariners just may have lucked into a "story" they never fully intended on in the first place.
Nobody knows why Hanley Ramirez received a call from the Mariners except for the Mariners and Hanley Ramirez' agent, but now that everyone knows the call was made, they seem desperate to try and figure out what the hell Jack Zduriencik is thinking of doing in 2015. You know, the man who just turned the Mariners into an 87-win team a game out of the playoffs despite watching their first baseman project walk to Toronto after having both of their 2013 DH projects dissipate into the ether in the process. The Mariners are exciting and trending upwards towards the talk of the league, apparently "primed for the playoffs." The right side of the narrative. Hell, even Justin Upton took them off his no-trade list.
So don't forget that it has been less than a year since the front-office expose painted the whole thing like a flaming, derailed train cascading into the depths of a bottomless pit with no hopes of survival. We all know what was in the article, but what made it feel so awful were the material results justifying the words we were reading on our screens: failed prospects. Bizarre positional logjams. Obnoxious fetishization of DH/1B guys. An itemized record of failure and a worn out farm system at the end of its tether.
Funny what a year does. Jack Zduriencik may still be criticizing fonts, but he probably isn't being laughed off the phone anymore, if he ever was. And that's the wonderful part about all of this: the plan failed. They clearly wanted Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero to hit 45 home runs a year, and have Dustin Ackley at second while Danny Hultzen struck out hitters that didn't even get balls hit into Franklin Gutierrez' glove. And you can justifiably freak out when that all blows up, as we all did. But instead of a blowing up, it has somehow turned into two consecutive seasons of productive prospect logjams, providing roster depth, trade flexibility, and somehow, industry buzz from writers, and, assuredly other GMs.
I don't have the slightest idea if the Mariners are going to trade Brad Miller or Chris Taylor this winter, and if history has taught me anything it's to shut the hell up about it. But this is a different offseason, with a weaker free agent class and a Mariners club that looks a whole lot different even though it kind of looks the same, when you think about it. The Mariners may go and do a very strange thing and sign a new shortstop to an expensive contract, or they may trade one they currently have. They may not do any of those things, who knows.
But they have the flexibility to do all of them if they want, and they don't even have to spend a year rebuilding. Jack the Drafter may not have created a superteam the way we all thought he would, but he got two stories pretty damn right this year.