Losing Robinson Canó is a disaster. There’s no way to sugarcoat that, or spin it positively. He’s the heart of the order, and of the team; a leader and a feared presence in the lineup. He’s so consistent you can set your watch by him; after an uncharacteristically poor 2015 it was revealed he was dealing with a double hernia, in addition to grieving the loss of his grandfather. He hadn’t spent considerable time on the DL until this year, when the crack of Blaine Hardy’s pitch hitting him on the hand opened a crack in the team that would then splinter wide open with the unfathomable news of his suspension. Now the Mariners have the unenviable task of trying to patch up this gaping hole as best they can. What is the best path forward for them? We examine the options.
Path One: Keep Dee in the OF, look externally for a second baseman
Pros: No lost CF development for Dee
Cons: 2B is a harder position to replace on the fly than OF
The LL Staff Advocates:
In order to have any measurable upgrade over Gordon Beckham/Andrew Romine/Taylor Motter, the M’s will have to look at the trade market. Possible candidates have already been floated with the name we’re hearing most often being Starlin Castro, himself traded to the Marlins in the Giancarlo Stanton deal. The Mariners would be Castro’s fourth team in four seasons, and he carries a pretty hefty backloaded contract (10MM this year and 11MM the next) for a 28-year-old infielder who’s hovered around replacement level with a few flashes of brilliance over his career. The upside of Castro is since his price tag is hefty, his prospect cost could be affordable for the Mariners, who also find themselves with extra money to pay him due to Canó’s suspension. The other name that’s cropped up a lot is Scooter Gennett, who’s currently riding a .372 BABIP to a career-high 133 wRC+. The Reds will definitely move Gennett this season, but probably closer to the trade deadline, when teams are desperate; they’ll also command quite a hefty payday in prospects for him, which the Mariners may not be able to afford without severely weakening an already-thin system. That’s a pretty expensive band-aid, but if the team suffers a severe drop in production without Canó, it might be the only way to remain afloat in a competitive AL West. -Kate
Path Two: Move Dee to 2B, look externally for an OF
Pros: Gordon has historically been an elite defensive 2B, M’s have more OF depth than any other position
Cons: Dee loses development time in CF, challenging to fit in when Canó returns
The LL Staff Advocates:
The free agent market is deeper when it comes to filling a hole in the outfield, although it depends on how much you’re willing to sacrifice offensively or defensively, and at some point the internal options look just as good or better than signing a possibly-broken José Bautista. The trade market gets a similar boost, especially looking at stacked systems that have outfielders just lying around like excess Christmas decorations in the attic. Travis Jankowski is a name floated by Corey Brock at the Athletic, as he faces a suddenly-crowded Padres outfield with the addition of noted Large Human Franmil Reyes. Unfortunately, Jankowski’s success--a wRC+ fifty points higher than career norms--doesn’t seem to be entirely sustainable, driven by a .440 BABIP against an ISO of just .109, and means his asking price will be artificially high, if the Padres are willing to part with him at all. A better approach would be to look for prospects in the upper minors who are blocked in their current organizations, as Dipoto did when scooping Gamel from the Yankees. One example: Jordan Patterson from the Rockies, a 26-year-old outfielder who has consistently performed well at Triple-A but finds himself lost in the shuffle behind multiple other left-handed bats in Colorado’s outfield. The Rockies are struggling hard with creating offensive production so might not be willing to let go of the 6’4” masher, who already has 11 homers on the season (although he plays in Albuquerque, so those numbers are somewhat inflated), but this is the kind of player the Mariners should be targeting if they’re trading for outfield help. -Kate
Path Three: Move Dee to 2B, run with Gamel/Heredia as primary OFers, rotate up whichever Tacoma outfielder is doing the best, use extra Canó money on pitching
Pros: Gamel looks improved at the plate, Heredia has been hitting well, Heredia is a defensive upgrade at CF
Cons: Tacoma’s outfield lacks power, which is the main thing missing in Seattle’s OF
The LL Staff Advocates:
Dee Gordon was an All-Star second baseman before the idea of him playing outfield was ever suggested. Obviously, if the team wants him as their long-term center fielder, stunting his outfield development for a few months of second base service is suboptimal. That said, if this team wants to be taken seriously as a postseason contender, it needs to utilize its best option at every position. With all due respect to Gordon Beckham, Dee Gordon is by far the best option at second base. Sliding him to the infield, with Guillermo Heredia in center and Ben Gamel in left, would seem to present Scott Servais with his nine best available players. I am admittedly skeptical about Guillermo playing every day, both for performance reasons and confidence reasons, but I’d really like to see the extra money go to pitching rather than an outfielder or second baseman. Because of that, this plan makes the most sense in my brain. -Matthew
To me, the conundrum of replacing Canó comes down to where the M’s can get the most bang for the buck. It doesn’t particularly matter that this team’s rotation is weaker than its lineup; instead, what matters is that the cost of acquiring pitching better than our worst starter is much lower than the cost of acquiring a hitter better than our worst regular position player. That’s why the M’s should reinvest that ~$11 million into pitching resources and use players freely available (either cheap free agents or within the organization) to plug the hole in the lineup. Sure, they could sign a 36-year-old Brandon Phillips to play second, but I’d rather move our Gold Glove-winning outfielder to the infield and use Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia every day. If you want a safety valve, sign Phillips and after he gets his feet wet in Tacoma, put him on the team over Gordon Beckham. Regardless, it’s time to let El Conde thrive. -Grant
Unfortunately, the best internal options for outfield in Tacoma replicate skills we already have on the major league roster, with respect to speed and defense. Jayson Werth’s bat has heated up as of late, but the 38-year-old is a defensive liability in the field; he’ll need to continue mashing before I’d feel comfortable using a roster spot on him. Ian Miller is top-20 in the PCL for average, and while his skills do overlap with ones already on the roster, he’d be a solid fourth outfielder who could create some real havoc on the basepaths late in games, where the Mariners have been doing the bulk of their damage. With the savings from not looking externally, the Mariners could try to pry a buy-low starting pitcher like Dan Straily from a salary-starved team like Marlins at minimal prospect cost. -Kate
Path Four, aka The Trupin Plan: Keep Dee in the OF, move Kyle Seager to 2B, move Ryon Healy to 3B, call up Vogelbach for 1B, use extra Canó money on another outfielder or pitching
Cons: Too many to list
The LL Staff Advocates:
Look, there is a visceral appeal to this idea. Sometimes you have to, as Taco Bell instructed us, think outside the bun. Baseball is weird and this solution is French New Wave cinema levels of weird, so maybe it’s weird enough to work? If the team is falling out of it after June and has nothing to lose by trying it, why not. (Answer: because it is costing both Dee and Ryon opportunities to learn at their new positions, takes one of the best defensive 3B in the league off his position, and is overall nutbars. But also, VOGEY.) -Kate
Path Five: Invest in cloning technology
Pros: Two Dee Gordons. Or two Robinson Canós, which could provide an invaluable opportunity to explore the true impacts of PEDs. It’s important to support the sciences.
Cons: Too greedy? Too much goodness? It might take too long for the technology to actually be legitimate enough to test on humans?
The LL “Staff” Advocates:
- Who says no to a Dee Gordon- Dee Gordon double steal? Not me. The M’s have $12 million to play with right now - more money than most of us could dream of - and any sort of player acquisition would require that they trade additional players of their own. We talked all offseason about the problems with the Mariners’ farm system (they scarcely had enough pitchers to start games in the low minors), and investing in cloning technology allows them to (someday) build up their roster without selling off the farm. Cloning: it’s good for the game of baseball. -No one signed this entry, surprisingly. Take your best guess in the comments.
Path Six: Acquire Chris Archer
Pros: Chris Archer
The LL Staff Advocates:
I have talked myself into not just the possibility, but the INEVITABILITY of the Mariners trading for Chris Archer. Has he been all that great this year? Nah. Would it rob the Mariners of every last bit of use in their farm system, if they could even compete with a pitching-desperate prospect-rich team like the Brewers, which they cannot? Yes! Do I care? NOT AT ALL. Look, Rays, you owe us for selling us a lemon in Drew Smyly, and Chris Archer loves reading, and he loves Seattle.
The air in Seattle is so crisp, so refreshing.— Chris Archer (@ChrisArcher22) May 10, 2016
This is the right thing to do, Rays. You know you want that sweet sweet eleven million dollars to buy yourself a position player upgrade next year, and you have a passel of young pitching prospects, plus Nathan Eovaldi just hanging out. Give him to us. Give him to us now. -Kate, and also the rest of the LL staff except John who is sitting over in the corner saying things like “realistically...” before Tim stuffs a Big Maple sock in his mouth.