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July 2, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Halfway through a sacrificed 2012 season, this Mariners rebuilding plan yielding more questions than answers

We’re halfway through the 2012 season with the Mariners on-pace for 94 losses and the worst offensive production at home by any baseball team since the horse and buggy was dropped as the vehicle of choice.
Since this 2012 season was already sacrificed to the rebuilding gods back in December and January, the one bit of analysis we should do — outside of wins and losses — is take a quick snapshot of the AL West and see where the M’s are with their rebuilding vis-a-vis their closest competitors.
Because as onetime Mariners ace Mark Langston said last week, a good way to do proper analysis of rebuilding efforts is to see how they stack up with division rivals. Naturally, since those rivals are the ones you have to beat to get where you want to go, which is to a championship level. They are the ones standing in your immediate path.
As of today, looking at the core of young position players on their team the Mariners can feel reasonably good about, you come up with two names:
Kyle Seager — 113
Michael Saunders — 112
The score I’m using is OPS+, a park-factored measurement of how the on-base-plus-slugging percentages of each player compares with the rest of the league. A score of 100 is average. Anything above it is the percentage amount better than average.
Now, let’s look at the Angels:
Mike Trout — 161
Mark Trumbo –170
How about the Rangers:
Mitch Moreland — 116
Elvis Andrus — 109
And the Oakland Athletics:
Josh Reddick –132
Yoenis Cespedes –131
So, in terms of developing young, talented core pieces, it looks as if the rest of the AL West is producing them at about the same level as the Mariners. Sure, we can quibble about the defensive component, since Moreland is a first baseman, Saunders has played some very good centerfield and Andrus is a shortstop. But I’m not going to judge these guys on a half-season of Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which is unreliable. And unfortunately, the defensive component of WAR (Wins Above Replacement Level) for Fangraphs, is based on UZR, so we’re not going to use it. For now, we’re stuck with the more reliable offensive comparisons.
So, just throwing names out there, each and every team in the AL West can claim to have at least two MLB producing, young, core position players they are building around. Sure, the M’s have more they are auditioning, as do the other clubs. But not all auditioning players are going to make it. I’m listing the ones we think have a reasonably good chance of being here a long time.
The difference?
All the other teams I just mentioned are outperforming the Mariners on the field and have done so in less time.
The A’s blew up their last rebuilding plan this past winter and are now on to their latest reincarnation of one. The Rangers and Angels are both holding down playoff spots as we speak.
So, for the Mariners, what to conclude? That it’s time to get on it.
Time to switch this rebuilding plan into another gear.

Still not convinced? That’s fine.
Let’s look at something else. If the Mariners want to send a message to their players and do what other teams do, like, release a veteran or send a young guy down to Class AAA, who do they call up from the minors?
The sad truth that many ignore when they sit around pulling their hair out over why manager Eric Wedge has yet to back up his tough talk with any real punitive action is that this M’s team has nobody to replace the current roster guys with.
Who are you going to call up to replace an outfielder? Carlos Peguero?
What catcher is down in AAA if the M’s decided to, say, release Miguel Olivo? Adam Moore? He just got DFA.
Dump Brendan Ryan? For who? Nick Franklin has a week or two of AAA experience. Luis Rodriguez hits a little better, but not enough to make up the defensive difference and besides, L-Rod is not an everyday player. At his current age, that part has become crystal clear to anyone who evaluates MLB talent.
Jettison a starting pitcher? The AAA team has nobody to take his place. Maybe Danny Hultzen at some point in the second half. Maybe Blake Beavan if he develops another pitch. Like I said, you’ve got Carlos Peguero and company.
The AAA team’s two all-stars were a pair of minor league, AAAA types in Guillermo Quiroz and Luis Jimenez. Tells you all you need to know.
Once again, no rebuilding plan is perfect. There will be bumps and bruises along the way. But the Mariners continue to sacrifice season after season to losing baseball in the name of a rebuilding plan that, objectively speaking, is no further along than any other team in this division.
Prospect rankings are nice and tell you one part of a story about how guys are progressing at each level of minor league baseball. But it’s ultimately in the major leagues that any of it will truly matter.
Here’s one stat that jumps out, again, when it comes to the Mariners and the AL West.
Mariners — $84.9 million
Angels — $151.4 million
Rangers — $120.8 million
Athletics — $52.8 million
There are two halves in the AL West, the haves and the have-nots. And the standings reflect it.
Cot’s baseball did the numbers above and the M’s total includes a $1.7 signing bonus for Hultzen, so the M’s are really closer to an $83-million payroll. Take off $9 million for Chone Figgins, who rarely plays any more, and you get a $74 million payroll.
Look at the $18 million Ichiro makes, decide on your own how valuable that is and adjust the payroll accordingly. No other team in the division pays a guy that much money to produce so little offensively (again, take the half-season defensive UZR with a grain of salt, please).
The A’s are spendng as little as possible while they wait to try to secure a stadium deal by 2015.
The Mariners? They have their stadium, bought and paid for. They aren’t getting another one. What’s their excuse?
Nobody is saying the Mariners have to spend $150 million like the Angels if they truly believe they are a few years away. But it wouldn’t hurt to bring in a few more pieces that are more veteran and proven to help along a struggling young team that now can’t score more than a run or two per game at home.
Some pieces that might actually help fast-forward this rebuilding plan along.
We’ve said it many times before: the rest of baseball isn’t going to sit around and wait for the Mariners to rebuild. The rest of the AL West has been rebuilding and, in some cases, doing it on-the-fly while playing winning baseball in the interim. While playing interesting baseball in the interim.
Whatever else the M’s do in the second-half, they’d best get on it where this plan is concerned.
Because the baseball they are playing right now isn’t particularly interesting, it’s winning less than any other AL team and it isn’t really developing a future young core any quicker than other teams in the division.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins


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