We’re dropping the MaiLLbag on you in the middle of the week this time, but with a twist: Include questions for the next MaiLLbag in the comments! Again, we’re especially looking for questions on our AL West rivals, so asking about either the Angels or Astros would be topical and helpful.
Anyway, here are our readers:
- yoshi71: A lot has been said about JeDi’s handling to the minor league’s new approach (C the Zing and such). The results certainly looked better in a win/loss aspect but has the M’s minor league system improved overall under JeDi in your opinion? If so, How much and what kind of changes can we expect moving forward?
John: There's not much evidence that win/loss correlates from the minors to the majors, but mentality absolutely does. We can only go off of anecdotes and little rumors we hear, but things like the Ian Miller interview Kate did this weekend are evidential of an organizational shift in professionalism and cohesiveness. C the Z seems like a reasonably good plan in a vacuum, but even a bad plan that everyone buys into has a better chance of success than a good one without commitment. The “true talent” level has improved marginally, because that takes time to do, but the amount of that talent that is being accessed and actualized grew significantly last year. If that's a trend, we are in good shape.
- Chris (from Bothell): 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: I got a 500-piece Safeco Field puzzle, which goes nicely with my Mariners Santa hat from last Christmas...Sensing a theme?
Kate: I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED. I got this poster.
Ethan: I finally got a fairly neutral-colored Mariners beanie that I can wear with pretty much anything. As a lover of beanies, I am very excited. All of my other ones were pretty extremely colored.
John: I received two signed baseballs this year, one by Ferguson Jenkins, and one by Negro Leagues legend Wilmer Fields, which are now among my most prized possessions.
- Aussie Mariner: Most random interesting fact about a baseball player you can think of? Has to be off the top of your head!
ZS: Jay Buhner and I went to the same eye doctor.
Isabelle: Bob Lemon sent lemons to all the BBWAA writers to campaign for his own entrance into the HOF
Grant: When Babe Ruth became the Yankees’ right fielder, he actually replaced a Hall of Famer: George Halas, the future Chicago Bears coach.
Ethan: Bucky Jacobsen was an amazing swimmer. This one always blows my mind.
John: Tom Seaver’s dog was named Slider. He's adorable. You can buy a photo of them on EBay.
- Sweezo: Which "40 in 40" player do you dread writing about?
Isabelle: Technically we get to pick who we write about and personally, at least for this series, I like to pick guys who I don’t know much about/are more on the periphery of the roster. And if you’re late to sign up and got stuck with, say, Adam Lind (an old example since there’s no one this season who I abhor to the same degree) it’s kind of a fun challenge to do something more creative if you don’t like the player, or if they’re not particularly relevant (see: Paul Fry 1/9)
Ethan: One of us is going to have to write about Jonathan Aro. Not it.
- Orolo: Do you think Jerry is done making "big moves" for the offseason? (“Big moves” are defined as involving 1 or more players on the 25-man roster.)
Isabelle: I really hope not. With the starting rotation as shaky as it is, this feels like an utterly unfinished team to me. Without the addition of at least one more starter this team could well be looking at a 78 win season, if a few things don’t fall in their favor. I think Jerry’s a smart guy, so I have to believe he recognizes the major flaws in the current roster and will make at least one more “big move” this offseason.
***JERRY, YOVANI GALLARDO IS NOT WHAT I ASKED FOR
John: I am pretty pleased with this offseason, but that is all contingent on there being another starting pitcher acquisition impending. Hammel. Me. Please.
Grant: Done making “big moves?” Probably, though we’ll likely add a few 40-man options. But I don’t know if he should be done with big moves. Like John, I’m all about the Jason Hammel train, and he would really alleviate many of the rotation worries.
- JJ Keller: Is there a chance Jerry doesn't address the rotation anymore? Conversely, what are the chances he does so before you even get around to answering this?
ZS: There is a chance, but it depends on how you define “addressing.” There’ll be an NRI or two, and probably a low-cost MLB signing, but expecting a mid-rotation starter is going to leave you wanting, unless ownership is willing to open up the pocket books for a Jason Hammel -- which they absolutely should.
- sanford_and_son: How well would Dae-Ho Lee have had to have hit in 2016 to have earned a spot on the 2017 Mariners?
Kate: For someone who doesn’t tick any of the boxes on Jerry’s vision of “young, athletic, and cheap,” a slash line of .253/.312/.428 with a <10% BB rate and a >20% K rate and a pretty rough platoon split (20 BA points less against RHP) just wasn’t going to get it done. The slugging numbers aren’t bad but the consistency just wasn’t there.
- GrizBronc: If you were MLB Commissioner, would you consider ending the ban on performance enhancing drugs and/or drugs of abuse, so long as they were prescribed by a doctor? Conceptually, I have a very difficult time understanding how it is acceptable for a pitcher to have part of his hamstring tendon transplanted into his elbow in order to allow him to pitch again, but it is unacceptable for a doctor to prescribe a steroid injection to help the same pitcher recover from an injury to his elbow. Similarly, it is tough for me to accept that we draw an arbitrary line at alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine but we won’t allow marijuana, amphetamines, and other stimulants. Setting aside that we’d basically have to put an asterisk in the record books* and recognize that there will be better performances if we allow our athletes to take full advantage of what science has to offer, is there another problem with allowing our athletes to receive the best medication available to help their performance (properly supervised, of course)?
John: The biggest issue for me with PED’s has never been the disruption of the record books. We have different mound heights, we don't have multiple stadiums with fences <270 feet or >480, and people play baseball as their full time job in an international industry. The majority of the concern always has come for me with their disproportionate risk to younger players. If PED usage was fully public and legal, and regulated, I think the league would have a lot of uncertainty but would be better for it in the long run.
- ZZHop: With the M's playing the NL East this year, which teams are you looking most forward to seeing. And, how did a 4 game series with Colorado get in there? Are they the M’s new NL "rivals"? Because the Padres aren’t on the docket this year.
John: I would take four games in Coors every year.
Grant: Given that the Battle for Eddie Vedder isn’t actually a real rivalry, I’m very okay with playing the Rockies instead - I’d rather move around and get to take on new teams. But while we’re on the topic of our schedule, can I gripe about the M’s setup in August? I mean, look at this.
Seven home games in the entire month? Two straight weeks playing games on the east coast? WHAT DID WE DO TO YOU, SCHEDULE GODS?!?
- Hawksea: What is the worst sickness you have ever had?
ZS: Not to get too graphic, but imagine the A’s plumbing, only while sleeping.
Ethan: Getting mono during Finals Week in college was a blast. Losing twenty pounds in a month was even more fun. Literally being incapable of eating food for two of those weeks was peak joyness.
Isabelle: I went to South Carolina for Spring Break my freshman year of college and managed to come down with both mono and tonsilitis, so I have a little bit of sympathy for Ketel last season. Just a little.
- domenn: Which Oakland prospect is most likely to be called up mid-year & have a positive impact on the club? Seems like both Sean Manaea and Ryon Healy fit the bill last year.
Kate: I think this is the year we’ll get to see Franklin Barreto. He only played in four games at AAA last year but he certainly didn’t seem overmatched, and he killed in the AFL this fall. We will probably be cursing his name very soon.
Ethan: Since Kate went with Barreto, I will go with Matt Chapman. I spoke briefly about him in a State of the Farm piece last Thursday, but he’s essentially the third base version of Mike Zunino right now: unreal power and defense with a disastrous contact tool. He manages impressive offensive numbers despite the contact issues, but he’ll need to iron those out before he gets a legitimate look in Oakland.
- BenGardnersBoat: Does moneyball require actual money or a Stadium that isn’t a sewer heap to work consistently?
ZS: No, that’s the whole point!
- Sweezo: Who is your favorite former Cal State Fullerton player?
Ethan: This was a joke question, but I don’t care. I am going to answer it anyway. My favorite Titan far and away is Thomas Eshelman, a RHP currently in the Phillies organization. Eshelman didn’t get to CSUF until my last year there, but I got to watch him pitch live a few times and he was absolutely the most entertaining college pitcher I’ve seen live. His freshman year, he issued three walks in 115.2 innings (THREE WALKS). Over his 376 career innings with the Titans, he has a 0.43 BB/9. This wasn’t just him pounding the middle of the zone, either. He had the best command I’ve ever seen. In his second-to-last game at Fullerton, he came in on short rest in the Super Regionals and had the series-clinching save against Louisville, a heavy-favorite to win the whole darn College World Series. In his final game for Fullerton, he was pitching a gem against a loaded Vanderbilt lineup (Dansby Swanson, Bryan Reynolds, Jeren Kendall, etc…) in Game One of the College World Series before a lightning delay knocked him out of the game. Fullerton’s bullpen proceeded to blow the game when the delay ended. Eshelman is a legend. When the Astros drafted him, I was devastated. When they traded him to the Phillies, I went nuts.
- IncredibleSulk: If Seth Smith is going to be traded, would Michael Saunders be a good fit to replace him? Many of us may or may not have had some feelings about Condor in 2014, but do you think he’s going to be good next year? His reverse splits, HR/FB%, extreme failure in high leverage situations, and bad outfield defense all seemed fluky last year, would you be excited to have him on the roster for baseball reasons?
Grant: Well, this question is both prescient and outdated now! The thing about Condor is that though his reverse splits last year could be fluky, he’s only slightly better against righties than lefties for his entire career - compared to his overall career numbers, his OPS+ against righties is 103, while his OPS+ against lefties is 93 (where 100 is his career average). But I’m surprised that Saunders has languished as much as he has on the free agent market, because even with the injury risk he’s been good enough to provide value to a team.
- wyguy: Aside from acquiring a bonafide starter, what workaround would functionally improve starting pitching? Buy Neftali and shorten the game? Get two more four/five guys and rotate the back end of the rotation all season through AAA? Convert some current reliever into a starter? Unknown international free agent?
John: All. Reliever. Pitching. Staff.
- wyguy: Why is it that we almost never hear about Mariners off the field? Do we have an unusually respectful media? Is it because they’re all hiding in Bellevue? Do we only sign quietly monagomous players? I can’t really think of any bar fights, salacious gossip, etc… from the last five years. I think this is a good thing, but hailing from the NYC region, it feels odd.
Isabelle: This is multi-faceted question. We talk a lot about east coast bias during the season, but I actually think it plays to the benefit of the players when it comes to the media here. Local media tends to be fairly unobtrusive, in keeping with the general low-keyness of the area (a kinder way of phrasing the supposed “Seattle freeze,” which I’m not convinced is actually real).
There’s something to be said, also, for the fact that the 2017 Mariners are not a young team, and that likely negates some of the going out and partying mentality. Seattle isn’t Miami, and if there are nightclubs in this city I’m imagining them all to be comically empty. It’s also worth acknowledging that the M’s have not been playoff-level successful in years, and subsequently there isn’t the same kind of clamor for new news on Mariners players like there is with, say, Richard Sherman and the Seahawks.
- kennerdoloman: How much do the Rangers scare you in 2017?
Kate: If they get Tyson Ross, and he’s actually Tyson Ross, I might throw up. That being said, I’m still more scared of the Astros.
- wyguy: Which player from any time, living or dead, would most improve the 2017 Mariners? I think I’d want in his prime Satchel Paige.
Grant: I’m tempted to take Josh Gibson and see what he’d be capable of, especially since I’m not 100% sold on Mike Zunino this year. But the most pressing need on the roster is probably starting pitching, so I’d take prime Sandy Koufax, given that modern medicine & surgical practices could likely extend both his career and his effectiveness over a full season.
Isabelle: Gimme Nolan Ryan and his phenomenal durability circa the 1970s...actually, Nolan Ryan at any point in his 27 year career would be a major boost to this rotation.
Kate: Obviously, the answer has to be starting pitching. I’m hesitant to go too far into history because elite velocity is such a thing in the high-strikeout era, and I love a lefty pitcher, so I’m going to be a little cliche and pick Randy Johnson.
John: Give me Pedro. He would be so much fun, he would be great with this clubhouse, and his greatest stretch came in the era where pitching was a fool’s errand. A 313/37 K/BB in 1999 sounds like C the Z to me. Don't let the goofy man on TV and the “who’s your daddy?” ever distract you from the fact that Pedro was touched by magic.