October is over, and with it the MLB season. Many people are sad to see it go. After all, we have six more months until the next season starts. Some people, especially Mariners fans, might be relieved. After all, we have six more months to dream about made-up scenarios in which the Mariners miraculously become better than the Astros and finally make the playoffs.
It’s not impossible, however. But it won’t just happen. If these winning scenarios are going to be anything more than made-up, the Mariners have to do something. A trade may or may not be the answer, but we’ve got plenty of pretend trade proposals coming down the pipe throughout this week. For now, let’s delve into the land of free agency.
What notable free agent could the Mariners sign to help them turn the corner? Could the team pull an out-of-nowhere heist and somehow sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, similar to Robinson Canó signing before 2014? Or is the answer perhaps a more modest, but plausible impact addition such as A.J. Pollock?
Let’s think about what makes a player want to sign a contract. The money, obviously. For some players, it’s the prospect of playing for a winner. For others, it’s the allure of the bright lights and big markets that some teams can provide. For the players that will be wooed by the Mariners, it’s none of the above.
Do you ever look back on a time in your life fondly? Find yourself daydreaming about riding along in the car, you know, back then? Wistfully pining over the neighborhood you used to live in, or the food at the shitty diner you ate at way too often? Do you ever pull back for a second, and realize that those times weren’t actually that great, and that they were filled with the same types of stressors and issues that plague you now?
As Dolly Parton sang about, those were the good old days (when times were bad). Which brings me to my point.
If the Mariners can’t offer the money, or the winning, or the big city, what can they offer? Nostalgia.
Unlike the Harpers, or Machados, or even the Pollocks of the offseason, some players can be wooed on the basis of irrationally good memories they might have about Seattle. Let’s take a look at who that could be.
The Bad: Dustin Ackley
He’s a free agent! Again! This might be testing the unwarranted nostalgia theory to the extreme. If Ackley has a single good memory about Seattle, I’d be surprised. And yet, if I can feel nostalgic about crying in a Taco Bell parking lot in 2013, maybe Dustin can feel nostalgic about the first MLB team he ever played for. Would the Mariners want him? I sure hope not! Does Dustin even want to play any more? Who knows! It’s not a match made in heaven, but it’s technically a match of a Major League Baseball team and a Major League Baseball free agent.
The verdict: 0/10 “BRING. HIM. HOME.”s
The “Oh yeah, that dude.”: Phillippe Aumont
Aumont is a dude that I forget about for 525,599 minutes out of each year, but then remember vividly for that one other minute. “Right, that dude. First round pick, Canadian, threw hard, super tall. Traded him for Cliff Lee. Then he was bad.” The same facts, flashing in front of my eyes, like in Memento. Or something. It’s been a while since I saw Memento. Aumont has not really become better, but he has continued to pitch. He’s also somehow two years younger than Kyle Seager.
The verdict: 0/10 “BRING. HIM. HOME.”s
The Italian Stallion: Alex Liddi
Please, no. We all have a very limited time on this Earth, and I’ve spent far too much of my time thinking Alex Liddi was going to be good. When he was finally DFA’d after like, 10 years in the top 10 of the Mariners’ prospect rankings, it was like I was born again. I was finally free of an existence that included Alex Liddi. Please, please, don’t bring him back.
The verdict: 1/10 “BRING. HIM. HOME.”s
The “Okay, this might be an option”: Logan Morrison
LoMo might actually be the best example of the type of nostalgia I’m talking about. In my mind, this was the LoMo experience.
In reality, the LoMo experience was 0.8 fWAR over two full seasons with the Mariners. Could LoMo be a super cheap backup first base option and completely block Daniel Vogelbach? Sure. Should he be? Probably not.
The verdict: 3/10 “BRING. HIM. HOME.”s
The “Well, they need a center fielder...”: Austin Jackson
Austin Jackson is a player who completely challenges my thesis of “people have good memories about bad things.” I have only bad memories about Austin Jackson, and he might not actually have been that bad with the Mariners. He was, however, a full game below replacement level last season. Still, if the Mariners aren’t running back the Dee Gordon experiment in center, the answer probably isn’t in the organization.
The verdict: 4/10 “BRING. HIM. HOME.”s
The actually decent pitcher: J.A. Happ
I’ll be honest: I don’t actually like J.A. Happ very much. I’ll never forget that the Mariners gave up Michael Saunders for him. I’ll never really forget about how mediocre he was for the 2015 Mariners, and then how utterly dominating he was for the Pirates after being traded later that year. That being said, he’s been a solid, reliable pitcher for four straight years. He’ll be expensive, but being 36, might not be too expensive. He’s unexciting, but he could be what the Mariners need. And who knows, maybe he’ll have a fond memory of going to Pike Place Market one time like, three years ago.
The verdict: 6/10 “BRING. HOME. HOME.”s
The “They DO need a center fielder!”: Adam Jones
While Jones was worth a career-worst 0.5 fWAR this year, a lot of that might have to do with being a part of a largely uninspiring Orioles team. This is a reunion that would feel like a catharsis of the demons of the Bavasi years, even if it can’t give us back the years of Jones’ prime. I love Adam Jones. I love his game. I love that he’s competent at everything. I love that he refused to waive his no-trade clause last year. He fills a gap at a position of need for the Mariners. He might be a little cheaper after a down year or two. There’s a lot to like.
The verdict: 7/10 “BRING. HIM. HOME.”s
The lost connection: Denard Span
Few players have delved so deep into my heart in so short a time as Denard Span. He came to the Mariners with a relatable sense of trepidation. He essentially said “I didn’t really want to be traded. I liked being home in Tampa. Seattle is really, really far away from home.” Within weeks, it was like he’d been here forever. He adopted the same mannerisms as the team and he gave this website a personal shoutout! His OBP was above .340! He hit the ball the other way! He was like the antithesis of the players that the Mariners have subjected us to for years. We love you, Denard. Please love us back.
The verdict: 9/10 “BRING. HIM. HOME.”s
The obvious one: Nelson Cruz
The verdict: 11/10 “BRING. HIM. HOME.”s