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A Boxing Day MaiLLbag

Happy holidays, from all of us to you.

Mariners christmas

We made it, everybody! It’s finally here! After a full year of anticipation, we’ve made it to our favorite only-recognized-by-the-calendar holiday: Boxing Day.

Now, I’ll be honest: I have no idea what happens on Boxing Day. According to Wikipedia, it’s become something of a shopping holiday in British Commonwealth countries, akin to Black Friday in the States.

It’s also customary to have lots of sports (soccer football and rugby, apparently) on this day, so what better way to celebrate than with a mailbag?

Happy Holidays, y’all. And Go M’s.

  • Broberg, LL: Are there any year end lists you actually like?

ZS: The in-memoriams, because I can look at them and say “I win.”

  • the old wisdom, LL: Did the "C the Z" push really amount to anything?

Kate: At the minor league level, certainly. I would argue that the C the Z model transformed Tyler O’Neill as a prospect (net gain of almost 10% in decreased strikeouts and increased walks!). That’s the most dramatic example one could cite, but I feel confident that it’s working in other, smaller ways throughout the organization.

  • Edward Pullen, LL: Will the M's look for a veteran 1B or will we see our chubby AAA "slugger" and hope he is the new Babe Ruth or Prince Fielder?

ZS: The team already found one, his name is Danny Valencia. If you wanted to replace Vogey entirely, sure, guys like Pedro Alvarez and maybe Brandon Moss make some sense, but they’re not going to go that route.

  • zzhop, LL: Can switch-hitting be taught to minor-leaguers, or is it a skill that has to be started when very young?

David: If you don’t essentially start doing this in Little League, you’re never doing it as a pro.

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: The Star Wars franchise just made an entire movie out of one line from the opening crawl to the original Star Wars. What minor bit of "offscreen" backstory from the 2016 season, or last offseason, would you want to see a 2 hour movie about?

ZS: The Robinson Cano and Dae-Ho Lee buddy comedy.

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: What was your favorite Mariner-themed or baseball-themed gift you got at Christmas this year (or if you didn't, best all-time)?

Grant: This year, a beautiful 500-piece Mariners puzzle. I never got my all-time favorite Mariner gift, since it only lived on in a Christmas list my parents saved from when I was ~8. I asked for a Carlos Guillen jersey. No, I’m not quite sure why either.

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: At the time of this writing, in this hemisphere, it's the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year and deep in the heart of the offseason. What do you miss most about regular season baseball right now?

David: The heat. And the Sun. And drinking in the heat and the sun.

John: Consistently having a game to look forward to almost every night, in whatever capacity it might be.

Kate: oh gosh yes, what John said. Even when watching the games felt like a chore, I’d take a Wednesday morning game in Detroit right now.

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: Which player on the current Mariners 40-man roster, as a little kid, was the most likely to have ignored the toys and played with the boxes for the first day or so after Christmas?

Kate: I feel like the answer to this is Vogelbach, but I can’t explain why.

  • Freaking Rodney, LL: If you could take one athlete from any sport and turn him into a Mariners player, who would it be and what position would he play?

Grant: For comedic effect, Shaq at catcher. In order to win, it’s tough because baseball skills are hard to just pick up casually (unless Tim Tebow proves me wrong, which I don’t think he will). The most obvious area is pinch-running, so give me Usain Bolt as a pinch-runner, since I think you could teach him how to play center field to become a defensive replacement. However, Bolt is fast but not necessarily all that quick - he tends to close well. So maybe … Justin Gatlin?

John: Your question reminded me of this piece from BTB a couple years ago, looking to translate Lebron James’ influence on a game to what his WAR might be, assuming he played baseball at a commensurate level to his basketball prowess. Assuming a simple straight swap without skills translation, however, I would most enjoy seeing Giannis Antetokounmpo pitch. Beyond his great attitude and impossible athleticism, every pitch he threw would be a palm ball, and if they taught him the Carter Capps motion, he could release each pitch around 40 feet from home plate.

  • wyguy, LL: The Mariners probably have the biggest geographic area of any MLB team (unless Toronto gets all of Canada). Wouldn’t it be cool if the Mariners played a few games in Bellingham, Spokane, Portland?

John: Barnstorming is the shit and I love this idea.

Ethan: I have always loved ideas like this. Heck, I think it’d be awesome if each minor league team got a chance to play at Safeco similar to the Everett AquaSox last year. I realize there are several reasons this wouldn’t make sense, but I’d be up for it.

  • AndrewMcQ, LL: You've been tasked with adding a new feature to Safeco Field. This can be in or out of the field of play. What do you add?

Grant: Assuming I have a blank checkbook, an actual train you can ride around the perimeter of the stadium. It would go behind the flagpoles out in left and circle the entire place. Think something like the Disneyland monorail.

John: Warning moat.

Ethan: A hitting simulator where you get a chance to see what it’s like to hit against major league pitching. Hardest setting gets you 2014 Felix. Easiest setting gets you Horacio Ramirez.

  • mumoda, LL: What stat would you like an audience or TV viewers to see when a player walks up?

David: Most 6” pancakes eaten in one sitting.

John: Triple slash is fine, along with homers, wRC+ and all of the stuff they do for the Little League World Series.

Ethan: I’m with John. I would love triple slash, wRC+, and their ISO. I’m really not that bugged by the current AVG/OBP/HR/RBI model, though.

  • Hawksea, LL: Who is your least favorite player, and why? This can be answered as a Mariners player, player in general, or one of each.

David: Luis Valbuena and it isn’t that close.

Ethan: Surprisingly, I don’t really have a least favorite Mariners player. If I did, it would be solely because they’re a new guy who I’m just not very familiar with yet. In all of baseball, I’ll say David Price because A) that time he whined about the Mariners’ visitor bullpen on Twitter and B) he is a Vanderbilt Commodore and I still haven’t gotten over Cal State Fullerton losing to them because of a lightning delay in the College World Series a couple years ago. Yes, I realize I am a very petty man. [Note from Kate: also there was that time on Twitter he suggested women shouldn’t drive in the snow.]

John: Actively it is John Derran Lackey. His pack in Indonesia didn't let him stick around and I don't see why we should either.

Kate: Josh Donaldson, because he was salty when Seager won the GG over him, and he throws fussfits at the plate if he thinks he’s not getting good calls (remember that time he faked like he got hit by a pitch) and I think his hair is stupid. And fine okay I know he does charity work or whatever, and my dislike is 90% irrational, but the heart hates what it hates.

  • goyo70, LL: The Mariners at one point made defense and base running part of their manifesto of baseball competence and "getting more athletic". What do you think of their odds to improve in each of these categories from last year to this given roster moves and/or coaching emphases?

Ethan: I think getting Nelson Cruz out of the outfield and swapping his defense out with Haniger/Heredia/Gamel will help a ton. Same can be said of Seth Smith (who I still don’t believe will be on the roster come Opening Day). Dipoto mentions base running frequently during interviews, specifically with the Segura acquisition. I think we’ll see a lot of improvement in those areas from this year to next.

Kate: Side note: for everyone who (like me) was confused about why Heredia isn’t being mentioned in a starting role, it sounds like they are really concerned about his baserunning, and he might start in Tacoma to focus on that.

  • Matthew Swinkey, LL: Jose Bautista's market feels thinner than expected, does he make sense at a certain price point? If so, how much would that be?

David: At this point, if you think this team needs to add a bat in FA, it’s either him or Trumbo. Take your pick.

Grant: He absolutely makes sense at a certain price. Steamer projects him for a 128 wRC+ and worth 2.8 fWAR next year, which would make him worth something like $20-24MM. Given that he’ll surely want more than a one-year deal, I’d be willing to give him three years for $50-60 million. However, Bautista comes with a qualifying offer attached, meaning the M’s would also give up the #18 pick in the draft, a valuable piece for a team looking to replenish the farm. In the end, I think he’s certainly worth the deal, and it’d be fun to plug him in the middle of the lineup with Segura, Cano, Cruz, and Seager. Plus, though a first-rounder would obviously be nice, the M’s window is closing quickly with the current roster, as Cruz, Cano, and Felix won’t be super-duperstars for much longer (and in Felix’s case, maybe already). Strike while you can.

  • Matthew Swinkey, LL: What's going on with the Safeco HR park factor? Fangraphs Guts! 2010-2015 HR factors (fences moved in prior to 2013): 92, 92, 92, 98, 98, 98. The values for 2016 haven’t been made available yet but people are saying that Safeco is no longer pitcher friendly after this year’s home run spike. They didn’t move the fences in again, and as far as I know there’s been no new construction that would affect air currents, so what happened and can we expect the trend to continue?

ZS: I don’t think one year is the way to evaluate parks, barring a new construction change or the alike that would change results. The M’s ISO was just 0.07 points better at home than on the road -- entirely negligible. We’ve seen Safeco become effectively neutral, but it’s not as if it’s swung the other way.

Papa Chelmon, LL: Who’s the worst MLB starting pitcher you’d trade Edwin Diaz for?

Ethan: I would either want 2-3 years of a high-end starter or a MLB-ready prospect with mid-rotation potential. Obviously, there are probably more pieces to this trade than Diaz, but that’d be what I’m comfortable with.

  • Matthew Swinkey, LL: Does Diaz have more value than Paxton? And follow-up question: does any reliever have more value than Diaz?

David: I don’t think so. The list of relievers who can put 2WAR seasons together on a regular basis is very, very thin. That’s more to do with volatility of relief than anything else. So I’d say Paxton’s skillset is much more valuable than Diaz’s.

Ethan: I thought Goose’s answer to this in the original thread was pretty spot on. In case you missed it, here’s what he said:

His ceiling is a little lower than Paxton’s obviously. But 6 years of a 2-3 win 22 year old reliever with zero health concerns(so far) is much more valuable than 4 years of a 2-5 win 28 year old starter with tons of previous health issues.