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More New Friends: Meet Your New Seattle Mariners

Saturday, November 14, 2015

 

Although the MLB offseason has officially begun, it doesn’t exactly feel like the stove is terribly hot. Those free agents who had the qualifying offer extended to them still haven’t let their respective teams know whether or not they’ll accept them (outside of Colby Rasmus, who will return to the Houston Astros after becoming the first player to ever accept the QO). The most notable free agent to sign with a team to this point is A.J. Pierzynski (who will be back with my hometown Atlanta Braves in 2016), and we’ve only had one significant trade.

Fortunately for those of us who cover baseball in the Pacific Northwest, that swap involved the Mariners. Seattle struck a deal last Thursday with the Tampa Bay Rays, their frequent trade partner (long time no see, Nick Franklin!), that sent shortstop Brad Miller, first baseman Logan Morrison and reliever Danny Farquhar to St. Petersburg. In return, the M’s received pitchers Nathan Karns and C.J. Riefenhauser as well as outfield prospect Boog Powell.

First, let’s discuss who we’ve lost. Miller never really delivered on the flashes of brilliance he showed in 2013, a year in which he only played 76 games but hit at a nice clip, compiling a .265/.318/.418 triple slash line. 2014 hit him hard, although he in turn did not: After posting a 110 OPS+ (a stat that measures a hitter’s efficacy relative to the league average; 110 means Miller was 10 percent better at the plate than his theoretical counterpart) the year prior, that number fell to 76 in 2014. Although he rebounded nicely in 2015, he was the odd man out up the middle between Robinson Cano and Ketel Marte. Like his once and future double play partner Franklin, the kindest thing you could say about his defense is that he played better than a mannequin or a corpse. That he wasn’t considered part of new GM Jerry Dipoto’s long term plan is not surprising.

Everything I just said about Miller could easily apply to Morrison as well. Coming to the team from the mercurial Miami Marlins before the 2014 season, Logan performed better that year than the three prior, posting his first OPS+ over 100 since 2011 (111 in 99 games). However, like Miller, his second year in Seattle was less spectacular; although he hit 17 homers in 146 games, he didn’t hit much otherwise. Never a great defender in left field, his -7 DRS (how many runs a player saves/costs a team; Morrison’s -7 means he cost the Mariners seven runs over the course of 2015) at first base left a nastier taste in fans’ mouths than imagining what an actual cup of LoMo would taste like. Since the Mariners have never had trouble finding first basemen/DHs, Morrison was obviously expendable.

It’s a little surprising to see Farquhar leave town. He came to the Mariners in the Ichiro trade and promptly posted two solid campaigns, with 16 saves in 2013 and a 2.66 ERA over 71 innings in 2014. The wheels came off last year when Farquhar posted a 5.12 ERA, although FIP had him pegged a little lower at 4.60. His strikeouts per nine innings slowly decreased as well, starting with a 12.8 figure in 2013 before dropping to 10.3 and 8.5 in the following seasons. Still, for all his drawbacks, Farquhar was an under-appreciated part of a terrible bullpen. His absence will likely be felt next year.

Now, let’s take a look at who we’ve gained. Karns started his career with the Washington Nationals before being traded to Tampa, ostensibly for Jose Lobaton. Between 2013-14, he pitched a total of 24 innings for those two teams in five starts, recording an unsightly 6.00 ERA and an even more worrisome 7.50 FIP. 2015 was a revelation, though – Karns pitched 147 innings of 3.67 ERA ball with 145 strikeouts. While his 1.16 home runs per nine isn’t stellar, moving from the cozy confines of Tropicana Field to an even more pitcher-friendly park in Safeco Field should help that number come down. If the Mariners don’t resign Hisashi Iwakuma, Karns will be a more than palatable number 3 starter. If Iwakuma returns, all the better.

Riefenhauser, aside from having a last name as complicated to spell correctly as Zduriencik, is something of an enigma. Although he tore through Triple-A hitters to the tune of a 1.40 ERA in 57 2/3 innings in 2014, the 5 1/3 innings he threw for the Rays that season led to a 8.44 ERA in the bigs. 2015 was a variation on the theme: Riefenhauser recorded a 2.86 ERA in 34 2/3 innings with Tampa’s farm team, yet he pitched to a 5.44 ERA in 14 2/3 innings with the major league club. As with Karns, pitching in Safeco (as well as facing AL West teams more frequently than those in the East) should provide enough of a safety net to dream on a bounceback. He’ll be a boon to the bullpen regardless.

Powell, son of the more recognizable Boog Sr., has yet to make his major league debut. A quick rundown of MLB stars whose sons also played in the majors does not portend well for the baby Boog, but he could still give the Mariners a little pop and some defensive versatility as he’s seen significant time at all three outfield spots. Never a power hitter – his career home run total in four minor league seasons is a whopping six – Powell is still competent at the plate, with a .307 lifetime batting average and nine triples across Double- and Triple-A last season. While he may not be the most tremendous defender, he can’t be worse than Mark Trumbo (fingers crossed).

Will these men succeed where their departed counterparts failed? Beats me. It’s difficult to call this addition by subtraction: While Miller and Morrison were becoming huge drags, they (and Farquhar) had seen better days with Seattle. There’s no guarantee that Karns, Riefenhauser and Powell will fare any better. I suppose that’s why they play the games instead of handing the Commissioner’s Trophy to whoever “wins” the offseason. Here’s hoping that stove gets a little hotter shortly, because this team still has a long road to contention.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Most Devastating Sports Injuries

Here is GoLocalPDX's list of Oregon's most devastating injuries that have occured within the past 10 years.

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James Rodgers

Oct. 2009 — Torn left ACL

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Marcus Mariota

Oct. 2013 — Partial MCL Tear

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CJ McCollum

Oct. 2013 — Broken fifth Metatarsal In Left Foot

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Alex Morgan

Oct. 2013 — Stress reaction in talus bone

During the 2013 season Morgan suffered an injury that doctors misdiagnosed as a mildly sprained ankle. After a few additional tests were performed it turned out that Morgan had suffered a far more serious injury. She actually suffered a stress reaction in the talus bone that put her immediate future with Team USA in question. After rehabbing for 7 months Morgan was able to make a full recovery.

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Bralon Addison

April 2014 — Torn left ACL

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Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

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Wesley Matthews

March 2015 — Torn left achilles

Just 2 months before Matthews suffered a torn achilles he had become the Trailblazers' all-time leader in 3-point field goals made. It looked as though the Trailblazers were poised to make a deep playoff run. Things took a drastic turn when Matthews was lost for the season. With the team in a 0-2 hole against the Memphis Grizzlies it doesn't look as though they will be making it to the second round of the playoffs this year.

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