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The Offseason MaiLLbag, Part I

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Y’all asked SO many questions that we had to split this up. Nicely done!

Maaaaaaaaaaail time! (This is for all my Blues Clues fans out there)

After a long season of our discontent, it’s the return of the MaiLLbag! And we got so many questions that we had to split this into two parts. If you have any other questions you’d like us to answer, drop them in the comments below. Now, to your questions!

What team is Dee Gordon/Domingo Santana/Mallex Smith going to be playing on at the start of the 2020 season? — Colin B.

Eric: The Mariners, more than likely. Mallex Smith is the only one of those three with any remotely strong trade value just on his speed/steals alone, but even that is pretty nominal and would most likely be a throw-in on a trade involving any major leaguers or perhaps for one top 150 prospect, but more likely two top 300 prospects.

John: I think the team has projected pretty strongly that both Domingo and Dee are going to be moved. That’s not to say they WILL be, since their likely returns will be small. Mallex can play all three outfield spots and all three of Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, and Braden Bishop could justifiably do with more time in AAA. Remember also, the rosters will expand to 26 players in 2020, so there’s a bit more space for part-time players.

Is Evan White close enough to trade Vogey? — Joseph M. (Facebook)

Eric: I don’t think the first thing has much to do with the second thing, as Vogelbach shouldn’t be relied on at any point to play a ton of first base (I would hope), and he also doesn’t have a ton of trade value given that only AL teams with a lack of DH options would want him and I can’t think of any that fit that bill off the top of my head. Please share in the comments if you know one. Anyways, Evan White should get his chance to win a roster spot in Spring Training, but I have a suspicion that there will be some other first basemen in the mix at some point in the offseason/ST just for some insurance and flexibility.

Grant: Agreed with Eric — trading Vogelbach is entirely possible, but since he’s not the first baseman of the future, I wouldn’t connect him with Evan White. I also doubt that White will start the season with the big club, since there are service time considerations in addition to the questions around whether he’s ready for MLB pitching yet.

If you have to trade either Omar or Murphy, which one are you trading? Following up on that, who are your ideal 2021 catching platoon mates? — Brandon N. (Twitter)

Eric: I’m inclined to want to keep Narváez because I think he will continue to be the better hitter over the next several seasons and I think/hope he can be taught and trained on how to be a better pitch receiver behind the plate. I’m not asking for crazy good framing, I just want to see him stop stabbing at pitches and doing downward motions particularly when catching strikes or borderline pitches. However, Narv has more trade value than Tom Murphy does, in spite of how much we all love Murph...I don’t see the rest of the league viewing him as having as much value as we see in him. Their loss, right? Maybe I’m wrong, but I really like Narv’s bat and would hate to lose it, especially as he could possibly transition to a DH/1B one day if the bat stays strong, but the catching skills don’t improve.

Thoughts on Danny Hultzen? — @cmccormick03 (Twitter)

Zach: Hard to be anything other than happy for him. The dude had horrific injury luck, and whatever player development staff was in place for the Mariners at the time is likely long gone. Hultzen’s story is incredible, and choosing to be cranky about it seems like a net negative for the world.

Eric: What Zach said. Incredibly happy for him considering everything he went through.

If you had to bet, would you bet on 1 Ms World Series win in the next 4 years, or 2 wins in the next 40? — Bryson O. (Twitter)

John: Two in the next 40. I think the more challenging question would be “playoffs in the next four or two World Series in the next 40?”, and I’m not certain where I stand.

Grant: I don’t have confidence in the Mariners making the playoffs more than twice in the next four years, so I think it’s much more likely than in the next 40 years, the team could go on a run where it makes the playoffs for 5-7 straight years. So I’ll agree with John and go for 2 in the next 40.

Do you think Kikuchi will rebound next year? He didn’t meet expectations in 2019. — @fluiddesign201 (Twitter)

John: No he did not! I was unabashedly excited for Yusei Kikuchi and his struggles, while understandable in several ways, were disappointing both in a personal and structural sense for him and the Mariners. I suspect he has a far better season in 2020, given his stuff clearly flashing the level of a quality MLB pitcher despite his struggles. Better consistency and familiarity with MLB, and an offseason to make adjustments can do wonders.

Tim: I just want to note that given some of the issues we’ve heard of with Paul Davis connecting with players, combined with the announcement of Pete Woodworth as pitching coach in the majors and Woodworth’s AA success, there’s a decent chance we get a rebound purely from that. How significant it will be is harder to predict, but no, I do not expect him to repeat as the worst starter in the major leagues.

Grant: It’s not hard to rebound from posting the 5th-worst FIP of all 113 pitchers with at least 100 IP! So yes, I think he’ll do better. I also imagine that it would be incredibly hard to adjust to a new country and a new league while also dealing with the death of one’s father, so I hope that he’ll be in a better headspace to contribute in 2020.

What ever happened with the Lorena Martin accusations? Have they been settled, dismissed or are they ongoing? — Chris W. (Twitter)

Tim: This is a hard one to answer in a mailbag-length form, but I’ll do my best. In short, nothing has changed from the initial decision of the court sending the dispute into arbitration. Dr. Martin appealed and I’ll spare the lengthy procedural discussion, but the appeal failed and the dispute remains in arbitration. It’s possible that’s even been resolved by now, but we won’t know that unless the parties tell us. All in all, it’s not a surprising result (that it ended up in arbitration), but it’s a disappointing one for anyone who was troubled by the allegations and would like a more full and fair factual accounting to make any sort of substantial judgment about it. As to a timeline for finding out more: I wouldn’t expect to find out more until Dr. Martin announces something about the process, and there’s no way of knowing when that might be or if it would happen at all.

Are there any free agents young enough and good enough to just go out and buy, money being no object? — Joseph M. (Facebook)

Tim: I think it depends on what you think the role of free agency is for a team like the Mariners, exactly, but compared to last year especially I think the answer has to be no. The youngest “high-end” (broadly defined) free agents this year are Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, and Yasiel Puig, all 28 or 29. The elite guys--Cole, Rendon, Strasburg--are almost or already past 30. There just isn’t a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado--or really anything close to it--in this year’s class. In fact, I’d say the guy I’d be most eager to go after as a relative bargain is the 31-year-old Yasmani Grandal. Even there, though, since he’s a catcher, would you really go above 4 years? We’re well beyond the young enough/good enough scope of the question now.

John: I think so, but only because free agency is not going to look better the next few years. Yes, we will likely see Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa hit FA in the next year or two, but things get THIN rapidly afterwards. This year is a mixed bag, certainly, but particularly given the rash of extensions being signed, nothing will look as good then as it does now even. At the same time, with the next CBA looming, I think it’s tough for teams to go big in free agency when the system could easily change by 2021.

Was there ever a point any of you strongly considered flipping fandoms, or abandoning Mariners fandom altogether? — John T. (Twitter)

Zach: No. I’ve tried for ten years to “decide” on a team to root for in the NBA. Without the geographical, familial, or emotional ties in which to root my fandom, nothing has lasted. It helps that the only other team in the MLB to which I have those ties is the Padres — perhaps the only team comparably depressing to the Mariners. As far as abandoning the fandom altogether, I am sad to report that my identity is firmly rooted in being a Mariner fan. Boy, that hurts to read back to myself.

Eric: It’s just not possible for me. I’m in far too deep. I’m 36 and my baseball fandom was defined first by Griffey’s ascension and then the die was cast for good in 1995. I will never log off.

Tim: can we just insert the gif of Lucille Bluth saying “I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.”

Amanda: I strongly considered not being a Mariners fan anymore when the Mariners traded Randy Johnson. He was my first favorite player and I was so angry at how the whole situation played out with him. The day the trade happened I took down all the Mariners posters from my wall. I listened to angry music and wrote (awful) poetry about this epic betrayal of trust. (This may have been a bit of an overreaction.) But, I got over it, so I guess I’m stuck with the Mariners.

LL has done a fair bit of pointing out the need for high-end pitching before the farmhands arrive. Who among those available would you most like to see in the blue and green and why? — @ChetUbetchaaaa (Twitter)

Tim: Gerrit Cole. Next question.

Grant: Regardless of cost? Gerrit Cole. In terms of what’s affordable to the Mariners, also Gerrit Cole. But just because he’s technically affordable (every team in MLB can afford him if they really want him) doesn’t mean the Mariners will actually spend the money on him. So maybe...Jake Odorizzi? Does he count as “high-end pitching?”

Kate: Every team could afford Gerrit Cole, but the desperation cost of the Angels will outweigh any other offers, I think. The Mariners need pitching, but they also likely need a third baseman in the future, which will be hard to acquire if they have a ton of money tied up in Cole. I would like to see them make a play at Zack Wheeler, although the qualifying offer makes that tricky for a club that’s trying to restock its farm in a particularly robust draft year.

How long til we get to see women playing in the MLB? — Nils D. (Twitter)

Eric: Not soon enough. We’re seeing the very beginnings of changes in the infrastructure of women’s baseball leagues, but I don’t know if there is a player out there currently playing that is going to be the one to break that wall down. It’s certainly possible that person is alive right now and will be the first one in the next 10 to 15 years, or maybe sooner, but such big systemic changes take time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to play softball, but since that’s been the only option for women to take their passion for the game to the next level in college play, there’s been decades and decades of all the talent being diverted into softball starting way back when players are 8-10 years old. Only in the last few years have there been more options popping up for women to play baseball at youth levels, college levels, and at the US National Team level. I’m very happy about the progress and if resource levels for women’s leagues (or just more encouragement of non-gender exclusive leagues at the lower levels) continue to level out (although let’s be real, they will probably never be equal), then I don’t see why talent levels wouldn’t eventually even out enough that we’d see women players who are 100% good enough to compete at the MLB level. Maybe that is overly idealistic, but a complete change to baseball’s infrastructure is what would need to happen.

Amanda: I’m going to be blunt. I hate this question (not you asking it, just the topic in general). It’s such a topic of conversation whenever anyone talks about girls and women playing baseball. I want women’s baseball to become a “thing”. I want there to be little leagues and adult leagues for it. I want there to be professional opportunities for women to play baseball. That requires a huge systematic change. The ideal of a woman playing in the major leagues is just a one-off showpiece held up as a way to make people think there has been progress, when it is just a distraction from larger systemic issues. Who cares if a woman ever plays in the major leagues? It would be cool and I would lose my mind over it. But it’s just not the point when it comes to professional baseball playing opportunities for women.

Kate: It’s not about talent levels evening out, it’s about girls and non-men being granted the same level of investment in their burgeoning baseball careers as their male counterparts. That touches everything from travel teams to training to being incentivized to stick with baseball over softball, when that’s where the scholarship money is. Like Amanda, I think the answer isn’t “put a woman in MLB” but “make an MLB for women,” or something where women have the opportunity to compete professionally so their playing careers don’t have to come to an end in college. At the bare minimum, it would be nice to see MLB do more to promote the WBSC, which women from around the world play in.