In honor of the Mariners’ most recent name change around their ballpark, this will now be known as the MailTridentBag. (Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.)
If you had the power to do one thing on the baseball side of the Mariners (trade a player, sign somebody, give someone their first taste of the bigs, make Marco pitch a whole game with nothing but knuckleballs, etc), what would it be? -abarrabarr
Kate: I would force them to draft a high-upside prep talent instead of the college pitcher they’re inevitably going to pick in the 2020 draft. Amanda did a great job selling me on Ed Howard, but I would also love Jordan Baker, Jared Kelley, Robert Hassell or one of the other exciting young outfielders in this class.
Eric: Bring back Dae-Ho Lee.
Matthew: Re-design the home jerseys.
Eric: Changing my answer to Matthew’s.
Nathaniel: I’d go out and get Chris Archer for sure; while I am happy with how the front office has gone about this rebuild, I would prefer a few more investments in higher profile bounce back guys like Archer. Even taking on money in a salary dump like Wil Myers for prospects and slot money is something I’d consider doing.
How about on the off-the-field side (a fan promotion, add a slip-n-slide to The Pen, buy a team plane, etc)? -abarrabarr
Amanda: Is it beating a dead horse to say lower ticket prices? I’d make them lower the prices significantly, far beyond what’s realistic. I’m talking $20 100-level seats. Get people out to the park. You can make money on overpriced beer and food.
Eric: (joins Amanda in vigorously beating said dead horse) I will never pay more than $5 for centerfield bleacher seats. I will absolutely pay $15 for a large beer. These are my love languages.
Grant: Bring back FanFest! Think creatively — what about a party in the stadium to watch the All-Star Game, with a few players around to mingle with fans? I would love more fan engagement to emphasize that the Mariners are a community treasure, not just a business that happens to be located in Seattle.
Not that you probably think about it often, but are there any players you really wonder “where are they now?” -abarrabarr
Grant: The first time I went to spring training, I remember getting Clint Nagoette’s signature and thinking, “Wow, this guy is going to be so good one day.” That might not have worked out, but I still think about him from time to time.
Eric: Would love to know what Jeff Gray is up to these days.
Amanda: I often wonder about the mid to late 90s non-star players. What’s Alex Diaz doing? How about Rickey Cradle?
John: I wrote a whole dang story on Antonio Pérez, who I was never able to get ahold of, though Nelson Cruz both remembered and kindly gave quotes about. So I wonder where Pérez is, and also where Nellie is because I want to make sure he’s safe and appreciated.
If you could splurge on JUST ONE free agent over the next couple years, who would it be and why? -btownfritz
Grant: I know the Mariners need pitching more than anything else, and we have a strong prospect pipeline in the outfield (knocks on every piece of wood within a one-mile radius). But I’d still like to see the M’s splurge on Mookie Betts. It’s a lot of money, sure, but this team prioritized financial flexibility, and Betts is the likeliest to deliver huge results for many years to come. He also allows Dipoto to get flexible with the specific OF configuration and trade for some controllable pitching.
Kate: I might be stepping on Matthew’s toes here, but I would love the Mariners to rescue Noah Syndergaard from the Mets. Also, this isn’t a splurge, but I think Chris Archer would be a fantastic Mariner, and also deserves to be rescued from the Pirates.
Matthew: If the Mariners sign Noah Syndergaard I will get banned from Twitter by the All-Star Break.
Nathaniel: I have long been a fan of Arenado to the M’s with his opt out after the 2021 season looking more and more likely and the M’s with no real answer in terms of prospects for the replacement of Seager. The thought of Arenado and J.P. manning a Gold Glove tandem in the left infield makes me dangerously happy.
John: I would be elated with all the folks named above. I would also like Corey Seager (both as a player and for double Seager infield) or Carlos Correa. Young infielders in their prime please and thank you.
What is your favorite Super Bowl party snack food? -btownfritz
John: Just… the largest possible amount of nachos. They are perfect.
Nathaniel: This most recent Super Bowl, I found myself overseas eating Domino’s pizza with far too much loose corn (is this a thing?), meanwhile, at home my brother prepared pulled pork, ribs, and mac and cheese. While the prosciutto-flavored Pringles I bought in preparation for the big game were a bit weird at first, it was a welcome twist on my usual favorite sporting game junk food snack.
As specifically as possible, what does a successful 2020 look like to you? -AndrewMcQ
Zach: Out of J.P. Crawford, Shed Long, Mallex Smith, and Evan White, at least two make significant strides to the point that I feel that they are more-or-less sure bets to be 2-3+ fWAR players going forward. The same goes for two out of Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn. I’d also like to see significant development and positive results for George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Julio Rodriguez, Noelvi Marte, and Jarred Kelenic, although the volatility of players as far away as they are makes me less comfortable with the “sure bet” designation.
Nathaniel: Yeah, I mean the easy answer for is development from our young players. While improvement from the young bats in the organization is crucial, I think that the real key to success lies in starting pitching, where we have the least organizational depth. Should the majority of our organization’s heralded pitching prospects find a role in the pen, the team’s rebuild could come crashing down before it even gets off the ground. Throughout the course of last season it looked more and more likely that Dunn and Sheff would be destined for a role in the BP; if they can reverse this outlook on their careers and find a way to be even backend starters, that would take a lot of pressure off of Gilbert and Kirby to reach their maximum potential. While, yes, the M’s could (and should) supplement their roster with SP signings, the teams in power all have ridiculously loaded rotations. No one is expecting a Verlander or Cole from the M’s farm, but Dunn and Sheff showing they can be mid to back end starters for years to come would be a huge boost to the outlook of this rebuild.
John: I need to see enough development that it’s reasonable to think the team will only need to make one or two major (read: 3+ win player) additions in free agency to fill holes. That means seeing 3-4 MLB caliber starting pitchers, 6-8 capable players in the field. That doesn’t mean they have to be that in 2020. A good year from Julio, for instance, would put him in AA or AAA with confidence he’ll be an impact hitter in the bigs, but he doesn’t need to be in Seattle starring to give me confidence he’ll be good the following year. Also, I would love to see another pre-emptive extension or two.
At the major league level, obviously this is more a development year than a W/L year, so what are specific benchmarks you’re looking to be hit on the major league level? Simply full seasons from Long/White/Sheffield/Dunn/Lewis? Two guys putting up average seasons from that group? Progress in specific areas across the course of the season? -AndrewMcQ
John: For Long/Crawford, I’d like to see sustained levels of average or better play. I’m enthusiastic at the prospect of them getting a full season to get comfortable as an infield duo. Seeing 10-15 HR power from both with around league-average K% and 8-10% walk rates would be really satisfying, especially if they can both improve their self-corrections and adjust when slumps inevitably come. Similar hopes for Fraley, along with health obviously. I think there’s MLB power there, but that’s been the question mark. He could be an absolute breakout with the ball as it is but he’s gotta be on the field.
For Sheff and Dunn, 140-160 innings, and for Sheffield in particular averaging >5 innings per start. Dunn I think may intentionally be used with like four inning outings at the outset so I won’t hold him to that, but it’s gotta be a showcase of three MLB pitches. For Lewis, honestly, I’d love to see him doing much of what we saw in September. He’s gonna strike out a lot, but he can clearly clobber the ball, and not compromising on his swings or getting cheated will give him a shot at 25-30 dingers and enough ISO to get a double-digit walk rate if he gets comfortable. Gimme that Good Mike Zunino offense.
Who is one former Mariner or Mariners prospect you’re convinced would have been successful if given a more extended chance? -AndrewMcQ
Eric: First person to say Chris Taylor gets kicked into the sun.
Amanda: Arquimedez Pozo. I remember seeing him in Tacoma a couple times in 1996. I loved his name and was really disappointed when he was traded. He never got much of a chance in the majors.
Matthew: John Jaso. The Mariners saw a left-handed hitting catcher with great on-base skills and thought, “Hmmm, what if we had the exact opposite of that instead?”
Eric: I’d also like to throw out that Jesus Montero maybe could have done better in the current Mariners development system, which, to my knowledge, is not openly hostile to its own players like it was under Jack Zduriencik. Just a thought.
Which outlet’s prospect rankings tend to align with your own feelings or evaluations? -AndrewMcQ
Kate: It depends what you’re looking for. For the 2020 draft, my top 10 is closest to FanGraphs, heavier to prep talent than Baseball America’s is. BA is the most reliable source for low-level IFA players, though, as they’re the only outlet I know of with a devoted DR scout. For current prospect rankings, I align more with outlets that rank on ceiling rather than proximity to the majors, even though I recognize the value of proven performers—but with that said, if you don’t put Wander Franco at the top of your list, I reject it out of hand. It’s important to know who covers what area most in-depth and what their biases might be. FanGraphs does a great job with anyone who comes through Arizona because they have boots on the ground there; BP has a pretty heavy east coast presence and some of the better Cal League stuff; BA is the best at college and amateur scouting. I tend to give a lot of weight to what people who cover the minors system for one specific team have to say, which is part of the reason I’m so proud of the work LL does; I really don’t think you can find more in-depth coverage on the Mariners minor league system anywhere else.
Which happens first: Mariners win the World Series, or the maybe never existent Seattle NHL team makes the playoffs? -towelrack
Grant: Hate to say it, but I’m going with the Seattle NHL team. I think the Mariners have a decent shot to make the playoffs before the Sockeyes/Kraken/Freeze even take to the ice, but winning a World Series is a much bigger step. Now, if you asked me to choose between the Mariners winning a WS and the Sonics making the playoffs...that one is tougher.
Matthew: It is an almost statistical certainty that the NHL thing happens first, given that 16 out of 31 teams make the NHL playoffs and only one team wins the World Series each year.
Eric: Making the playoffs in the NHL is something teams can do by accident sometimes, so yes, that will almost certainly happen for the Seattle NHL team before the Mariners win a World Series
Zach: To piggyback on Eric’s point, I think a team of 12 (or 8? How many people are on a hockey team?) random Lithuanian men would have a decent chance of making the NHL playoffs at some point. So I’ll go with the NHL team.
Eric: Only if their jerseys are tie-dyed, Gotty.
Will Daniel Vogelbach be a part of the next mariners playoff team? I know it’s unlikely but I want to believe. -towelrack
Grant: I’m not convinced Daniel Vogelbach will be part of this Mariners team by August. Given how little the team trusts in his defensive abilities, he’s either a positionless bench bat (not as damaging now that teams have 26-man rosters, but still far from ideal) or a DH, and I don’t think he’s going to hit well enough long-term to pull off a DH role.
Eric: Probably not and I hate that.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy a Mariners game? I’ve always found baseball as the perfect thing to have on in the background while playing a video game, pausing to watch when Dave Sims starts getting loud. -CVizzle
Amanda: I love a good baseball nap. Can’t beat snoozing on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with the game on. I also enjoy listening on the radio when I’m doing work around the house.
Matthew: I only really listen to the radio if I’m in the car, but driving around listening to Rick Rizzs do play-by-play on a sunny summer evening is one of the best things that can ever happen to a person. For watching on TV, it’s hard to beat the classic setting of a couch.
Nathaniel: I always enjoyed watching Mariners games on the bar TV while running food at work, nothing quite like getting paid to watch baseball.
John: CVizzle, that is exactly how I like to watch Mariners games. Let’s hang.
The Braves just signed a former Cy Young winner who is trying to compete for a spot in their rotation. Do you want to see him earn a spot in their rotation and get to pitch in Seattle one more time when the Braves come to town this season? -Sweezo
Eric: I would be both shocked if that happens and extremely happy for said former Cy Young winner.
Amanda: That would be the ultimate mixed feelings situation. It would be heartbreakingly hard to see him in another uniform. On the other hand, if he makes the rotation and stays in the rotation and his spot happens to come up in May? I would be euphorically happy for him.
John: I would be happy. It would be bizarre, unequivocally, but I just do want him to somehow creep into the Hall of Fame, and that requires a resurgence that starts now.
Do you see this year’s draft more like the Kyle Lewis draft, where some of the very top-tier projects could slip to 11 (or, really, just 6), or like last year, where there was no way that Rutschman and Witt, Jr. weren’t going 1-2? -BrianFromWA
Kate: I see it as a combination. Outside of the Big Three (Martin-Hancock-Tork), there’s no real top-10 consensus (and in fact, FG—who were Nick Gonzalez doubters earlier this cycle—just updated to put him in their top 3, knocking Hancock down to 4). That will change once seasons start up, but right now that’s the top tier, with the rest of the list ordered at the whims of the particular outlets. I foresee a lot of revisionist history coming once all the chips fall (“I always liked him!”), but there is a lot of flux with this draft in ways I don’t think there has been as much in recent years.
If you had to choose one player to play out of their natural position(s) for an entire season, who would you choose and why? -Staggin
Matthew: Daniel Vogelbach should be the closer.
Nathaniel: Dee Gordon playing CF would be a ton of fun, he’s fast and could make that work right? *checks notes* oh..... right......
Will JP Crawford exceed 2.5 WAR this year? Convince me! -Luke Mounger
Zach: Well, the lazy answer is that he had 1.3 fWAR last season in 57% of a season. Over a full season, that prorates to 2.3 fWAR, so he only has to improve by <10% to hit 2.5. So with no actual analysis or insight into his abilities, I’ll say yes.
Eric: Hi Luke! I think 2ish WAR is doable but 2.5 seems a bit steep.
John: If he’s healthy, yes.
How does a guy who hit over .330 in 40+ AAA games, and who is now a folk hero in the Dominican Republic after dominating the Round Robin and Serie Final to the tune of .400+ not get an invite to MLB Spring Training? Especially in light of the Haniger injury. As a corollary to this … Assuming any of Lewis/Fraley/Vogelbach/White struggle badly to start the season (or get injured) what would said player need to be doing at Tacoma to get a chance? Hit .500? Find a cure for Coronavirus? -ICANHIT
Kate: Hello, yes, fellow Eric Filia stan here. I have no idea why the Mariners purposefully didn’t invite him to Spring Training the first time around, especially after suggesting he’d improve his standing in the org by leaving his family behind and going to the DR, but am glad that for whatever reason—Haniger injury, likely—they’ve reversed course. That being said, I kind of hope Filia catapults his DR success into a fat overseas contract, where his contact-oriented no-strikeout play is an ideal fit (although maybe give him a shot to play in MLB first, Mariners).