Are the Mariners for real? Should they be buyers right now, or sellers? After running through the Mariners' weaknesses (left field, shortstop, third base, catchers) and their strengths (just about everything else), Larry Stone gets to the meat of the thing:
- It's a true conundrum. At this point, I'm in the midst of a transformation from the "sell" to "buy" camp. The Mariners won me over, to a certain extent, by holding their own on that road trip against the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, and by continuing to win. And even though the Angels are torrid right now, I don't think they're the same slam-dunk favorites they have been in recent years. Of course, if they land Roy Halladay or Dan Haren (that's something else Zduriencik has to weigh -- the Angels' potential for making an impact trade), then all bets are off.
I'd really like to see what this team could do with a little more offense. If Zduriencik can get a big bat -- and I won't even speculate on names at this point; that's a post for another time -- I'd go for it, though I'd stay away from "rent a player" types. I'd even consider trading guys like Jeff Clement, Greg Halman and, gulp, Brandon Morrow in the right deal (as well as Wladimir Balentien, no questions asked). But only for an offensive piece that will help them in 2010.
All that seems reasonable enough -- Larry Stone is habitually reasonable -- but I think a couple of key facts are missing from the analysis.
One, the Mariners have been outscored this season. They're 49-43 but they've got the run differential of a 45-47 team, and if they were 45-47 they would be seven games behind the Angels rather than four. Which seems pretty important ... until you notice that the Angels have been exceptionally lucky, too. The Angels are 52-38 but have the run differential of a 48-42 team. The Rangers are the only one team among the contenders that's hitting its expected record. Essentially, none of them have been world-beaters and all of them can realistically think about first place.
Two -- and here's the real point to my little essay, and it's a point I've made before -- the Mariners don't need to look far for "a little more offense." They've got a little more offense wasting away in the Pacific Coast League.
Mike Carp, who got a little five-game tryout last month, has a .273/.387/.466 line with Tacoma (he's slumped a bit since the M's sent him down) and might give the M's a little from the DH slot than they're getting from Ken Griffey Jr.
You can't bench Griffey because the fans love him? OK. But do the fans love Ryan Langerhans, too? If not, why is Langerhans playing left field when top prospect Michael Saunders has a .312/.381/.541 line with Tacoma this season?
The Mariners have a chance to win, and if I were a Mariners fan I would want them to try. But winning would require a fair amount of luck and getting all the organization's talent on the field for as many games as possible. And right now that's not happening.