Last week was a perfect example of why baseball should be considered a year-round sport. Never mind that games are played during just two-thirds of the year -- the other four months can be just as exciting in a different way.
Last week, the Padres completed five trades that totally overhauled their starting lineup. They depleted much of their farm system in an effort to win now. Meanwhile, the top outfield free agents on the market, Melky Cabrera and Alex Rios, signed deals with the White Sox and Royals, respectively. Scanning the transaction list from last week, the Mariners pop up just once -- their trade for Justin Ruggiano. There are some of us who are relieved that the Mariners made any move at all but there's a very vocal group of fans who were pretty disappointed after the Mariners ended up trading for just a role player and not a premier player like Matt Kemp or Justin Upton.
It can be hard to watch other teams acquire these big names while watching your own team do nothing. We might attempt to put together a comparable package of prospects that we believe could have made a better deal for certain teams. We might start second guessing the direction of the franchise. We might just say, "That's so Mariners."
These feelings are exacerbated by the obvious hole all of us can see on our roster. Despite trading for Ruggiano, we're still looking for an outfielder who can at least platoon in right field. So to see five big-name outfielders move without the Mariners involved can seem frustrating.
I won't be writing about a solution today. I'm sure Jack Zduriencik has some ideas and options on the table. I wanted to address how we, as fans, emotionally respond to an offseason that is as unfamiliar to us as winning has been these past few years.
I'm sure you've all see the tweets or looked at the depth charts; at various points during this offseason, the Mariners have been projected to produce the highest fWAR total (per Steamer) in the American League and projected to have the best record in the AL in 2015. We're rooting for a team who is projected to be one of the best in the league next year after missing the playoffs by one game last year.
With these sky high expectations and an almost-but-not-quite-there roster, the pressure ramps up each time another team makes a move. In the midst of a rebuilding project, we don't have to care about what other teams are doing because the moves they're making probably won't impact our team when they're ready to compete. Now that the Mariners are contenders, almost everything matters. A free agent outfielder signing elsewhere removes a potential target from the market. A major trade could bolster another American League team, shifting the balance of power.
The Mariners aren't finished. There are two months left before Cactus League play begins. James Shields, one of the big-name free agents this offseason, doesn't have a team yet. Hell, Fernando Rodney didn't sign until February 13 last offseason. Intellectually, we know this. Emotionally, we just want the Mariners to complete their roster as soon as they can because it would make thinking about next year so damn easy.
This is the tension we live in, the reality of now and the desire of the not-yet. It's the same tension you feel when there's something big on the horizon -- a job interview, a major presentation, your wedding day. The night before, you can't stop thinking about it. You lay in bed, eyes wide open, wishing that you could get it over with right now. You start running through all the possibilities, trying to prepare for every eventuality. We find ourselves in-between two outcomes.
As we wait for the Mariners' next move, remember that this tension we feel is normal and something we must learn how to navigate. We're entering unfamiliar territory as fans. But also remember that we've been on one hell of a ride over the last year and there are no signs of it letting up. The Mariners are contenders again, it's time we remember (or learn) how to be fans of a contender again.