As you well know, the A’s are in a bit of an awkward position. After a tough few seasons, there are rumors that the A's will move their best assets. However, with some solid major league pieces and some prospects knocking on the door, a 2017 run isn't out of the question.
A team's own personnel is obviously paramount to decision making, but every team’s chances depend on their foes, too. The AL West doesn’t boast the best teams but it does boasts depth, and making the playoffs is an even harder proposition when A) you’re playing above average teams on a nightly basis and B) the four other teams have the chance to take the division crown. Yes, I’m including the Angels in that because that’ll make it even sweeter when we witness their annual early summer pants-shitting.
With that in mind, let’s look at the offseason direction of our AL West foes starting with the Seattle Mariners.
2016 Record: 86-76
The Mariners were pretty darn good last year, and true to form, they missed they playoffs in large part due to being supremely unlucky. A late season surge couldn’t quite get them to the promise land, though there were plenty of positives stories out of the Pacific Northwest.
Those positives? Robinson Cano played at what could be considered an MVP level if Mike Trout didn't exist, Nelson Cruz mashed, Kyle Seager continued his unheralded dominance, and some formerly questionable pieces pieces found homes (Dae-Ho Lee, Mike Zunino).
There’s little doubt the Mariner’s window is closing, even if they’ve yet to squeeze through it. Prior to the 2014 season, they signed Robinson Cano to a ten year, $240 million deal. That steep price has easily been worth it so far as Cano is a legitimate MVP candidate. That said, it’s a few short years from being ugly, and the Mariners will be handcuffed in the future when they’re paying a geriatric Cano $24 million a year to likely be around replacement level.
Also aging is Nelson Cruz. He and Cano might be the best in baseball at their respective positions, and the Mariners have a formidable lineup largely thanks to their presence. However, one of these years they'll be past their prime, unable to carry a team. The M's are trying to play meaningful October baseball before that becomes a thing.
There's talent beyond those two within the lineup, and this team will score runs. In spite of playing in an environment not unlike the Coliseum, the M's ranked sixth in baseball in runs scored last season. Not too shabby. Their defense is questionable as they ascribe to a similar "here, take this glove and pretend to play defense" model the A's do, but the offense makes it worth it.
The biggest question mark comes with the rotation. Felix Hernandez is sadly no longer the Felix who threw destroyed the A's on opening day year in and year out. HIsashi Iwakuma is fine, but not exactly a number two and beyond that, the Mariners have slop. Figuring out who will start and how the team will eat innings is the question for the M's, one that'll be at the forefront of their offseason.
How will the offseason shake out?
General Manager Jerry Dipoto is a gambler, a slightly larger payroll version of our own front office. His blood is oxygenated by #trades and so is his team: there’s no major help approaching from the minor leagues so in order for the M’s to take the next step, they’ll have to look outside the organization.
They’re off to an active, albeit risky start. They traded for lefty mashing, overpaid DH bashing, defensive liability Danny Valencia. He’ll man the short side of the first base platoon, plugging a small but important hole.
Dipoto kept the ball rolling following that move, trading SS Ketel Marte and SP Taijuan Walker to the Arizona Diamondbacks for SS Jean Segura, OF Mitch Haniger, and RHP Zac Curtis. This is the kind of trade you can expect from Dipoto, especially with a window that’s slowly closing. The M’s have to take some chances, and this is one. It might pay off, it might blow up or like many a trade, it might be out of memory in a few short months. But it’s a move and movement is needed up north.
As of now, the Mariners are short on pitching in a time where it's not ideal to be short on pitching. Rich Hill is going to get a gajillion dollars to pitch maybe 100 innings and beyond that, the free agent pool is barren. As it stands, the Mariners probably don't have the arms to make it a full season and with Felix aging and Iwakuma firmly OK. Finding reliable starters is a priority for the already urgent Mariners.
How will the remainder of the Mariners offseason affect the A's?
As evidenced by the Danny Valencia deal, neither organization is shy about trading within the division. Interesting.
The A's miraculously have a wealth of options on the mound, though the old adage still holds true: you can never have enough pitching. The Mariners have little, and you have to expect the M's to part with talent to bolster their rotation.
Might another deal be in store for the M's and A's? While the Valencia deal does show both organizations are open to inter-division action, a bigger trade might be a different beast. But if there's a front office who might be willing to make a daring trade with a team they play 15+ times per year (other than the A's), it's Jerry Dipoto and the M's.