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June 30, 2011 at 9:22 AM

The “don’t harm the rebuilding plan” argument for Mariners standing pat

Throughout the debate over whether the Mariners should go out and add some bats to rescue a comatose offense, one point of view keeps getting hammered home by the stand-pat crowd. Under no circumstances, they say, should the Mariners do anything to disrupt their ongoing plans to rebuild the ballclub.
On its face, this is an entirely reasonable request.
After all, we’ve been told, the Mariners have done untold harm to themselves by “going for it” in the past when they weren’t entirely ready to take a shot.
The most recent example often cited comes from 2006, when the Mariners traded away infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo for bat help in the form of Eduardo Perez and Ben Broussard.
These days, Perez is best known as a former ESPN analyst on Baseball Tonight now back in the dugout coaching the Florida Marlins, while Broussard last made news as the brother of a woman who was one of the main recipients of lewd photos from disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner.
Moving on, because I think we all agree that the main components of pitching and defense are far more ample on this year’s squad than that quasi-pretender from 2006…the last couple of times the Mariners contended beyond June and had the chance to add deadline pieces was in 2007 and 2009. in 2007, the team desperately needed relief help. And in 2009, the club needed bats.
Both times, the team failed to add pieces. Both times, the club fell out of the race.
On both occasions, the “don’t disrupt the future” crowd balked at trading away any players for a rental that could help the team win present-day.
In 2007, the Mariners were still feeling the sting of 2006 and a sizeable contingent of Mariners fans believed the team should start rebuilding long-term. By 2009, the rebuilding had begun and a sizeable contingent of fans and bloggers believed it was better to stay-the-course.
So, here were are in 2011 — four years after the team stood pat in 2007 and two years after it did nothing to help the 2009 squad win that year.
I figured it was time to take a look at where that “stand-pat” stance had gotten the team as far as rebuilding goes.
First, let’s take a look at the most recent aborted contention job, the 2009 team. Let’s look at the pitchers and position players that began the year with that squad who are still here.
Position players: Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez
Pitchers: Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, David Aardsma
Wow. Good thing the Mariners didn’t disrupt that rebuilding plan.
Photo Credit: AP

After all, we all know that adding a bat or two in 2009 would have certainly involved trading away Ichiro or Gutierrez, right?
Or, maybe the Mariners were going to deal ace pitcher Hernandez or closer Aardsma? Correct?
Um, no. Trade Bedard, perhaps? There was an argument for that. Oh wait, he was already hurt by that point. Not an option to deal.
Maybe Mike Carp could have been flipped. Possibly. He’s not exactly the glue holding this year’s team together, though. The letters “AAAA” get mentioned around him a lot. Hey, he’s one of the guys who could get dealt this summer, right? Oh wait, we’re not going to risk that. I forgot.
So, again, I ask you, where did all of the hysteria we dealt with two years ago come from? Where was the rebuilding plan going to be scuttled by trying to win in 2009?
All I know is, two years later, these are the core pieces left from that squad. Two years, a 101-loss season and no playoffs later.
Yes, I know, I know. The Mariners had already added starter Jason Vargas and relief pitcher Shawn Kelley to the team by the time the 2009 deadline neared. I’ll give you that.
As of right now, Kelley is on the DL, like Aardsma. Neither has contributed this year.
Vargas is still here. He has contributed.
Would Vargas have been part of a 2009 deadline package? Perhaps as a secondary component to one. Remember, back then he was a swing-man between the bullpen and rotation and between the majors and Class AAA.
So, there you go. There’s what the team salvaged for the presnt-day squad in its rebuilding plan by not going for it in 2009. Jason Vargas.
For some, that will be worth it. But the argument that the franchise would have been put in peril by taking a shot two years ago? Not seeing it.
Yes, the M’s did wind up making a deadline deal that year involving future players. It did trade away Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien and receive pieces designed to help the team finish that year off in non-contending fashion and build for the future.
So, of all the pieces received, who is on the current major league roster?
Jack Wilson.
In case you haven’t been following, Wilson won’t be here come 2012.
Yes, I know there are some minor leaguers left. Luke French and Mauricio Robles. Both are in the minors, where one is getting lit up like a Christmas tree and the other is coming off surgery.
Sure, we might see Robles blossom into something bigger than a spare part. But the point is, I’m still not seeing where the rebuilding plan seriously benefitted from not “going for it” in 2009 and taking the slow, steady, future course instead.
Who are the minor league guys from back then benefitting the team now?
Michael Pineda. Dustin Ackley.
Pineda was hurt throughout 2009 so he would not have been traded. Ackley was just freshly drafted in June of that year and didn’t sign until after the deadline. So, nix on both of those guys.
Who then? Adam Moore? Michael Saunders? Which is the AAA piece this team can’t live without?
I’m saying this not as a way of mocking those who advise caution going forward. I do think prudence is a wise course. Nobody wants to “mortgage away” the farm system for one rent-a-player.
What I’m showing you here is that the mass hysteria that often greets suggestions of a mid-season move is somewhat overblown.
Again, show me where not “going for it” in 2009 seriously benefitted this rebuilding plan?
If you want me to get real dirty, I can just pull out the names of those left over from the 2007 team that did not make a mid-season move. Not that the team was listening to the “caution first” folks that year. Bill Bavasi tried to make a move, but could not get it done.
So, who is left over from that 2007 squad?
Ichiro and Felix Hernandez.
Whoo-boy. Good thing the Mariners salvaged something from that core by not “going for it”, huh? Because we all know, when it came to guys who would have been traded away, Ichiro and Hernandez topped the list.
Dodged a real bullet there.
Hey, if the stand-pat gang can keep referencing the Bedard trade of 2008 as a cautionary tale, I can at least point out the fact that holding on to “the future” in 2007 gained the current squad absolutely zilch. Except for no playoffs. Except for more waiting until next year. We all know there was no chance Hernandez or Ichiro were ever going to be traded. So, what did not “going for it” in 2007 gain the franchise?
Gained it nothing.
Oh yeah, the Bedard trade of 2008. That’s the one thing any mid-season deal opponent keeps throwing out there, warning all M’s fan of the plague of doom that will descend upon Seattle if you try to succeed now rather than later. Always later.
We’ll ignore, for a moment, that the Bedard deal was a pre-season move involving a team that still had 162 games to play. Not one that is midway through a season within striking distance of first place.
And yeah, the M’s did give up five major league and minor league players to get Bedard.
Adam Jones is the one that hurts the most, though he’s not exactly the Ken Griffey Jr. clone his proponents touted him as. But he hurts. Though the team would never have Gutierrez if Jones was still here (no and you can sieze on that one sentence of this entire post if you want, but Gutierrez would not be here with Jones).
So, I’ll give you Jones.
George Sherrill is still kicking around. But the M’s have a good bullpen and have had one for three years. They don’t miss him. The minor leaguers? Jury is still out on Chris Tillman.
But hey, the M’s do have Bedard. Without him, this current team maybe doesn’t contend this year. Without that trade here, Bedard very likely is not pitching for the 2011 Mariners. Of all the places he could have gone, you think he would have signed with Seatte last winter had he not been exposed to the M’s for the first two seasons because of the trade? You do? OK, sure. Keep dreaming.
So, yeah, that “horrible” Bedard trade of three years ago is at least paying off in an unexpected way. It hardly decimated the franchise as some predicted, even if the M’s did lose the trade.
And it was not a July deadline deal. Please keep that in mind.
The purpose of this post is not to ridicule people who want to rebuild. I think there is a lot of merit to not losing your mind at the deadline. But I also think that a lot of the “mortgage the future” fear is unmerited.
Yes, it’s true that deadline deals do not guarantee division titles. But it’s also true that standing pat does not always gain you a Choo or a Cabrera for your team.
The one thing standing pat does guarantee? Another year’s wait for the post-season.
I just showed you what the M’s gained by not “going for it” in 2007 and 2009. And it’s quite possible the gains will be just as minimal if the team avoids taking a shot this year. The future, as we keep stating, has no guarantees.
Real, or imagined.



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