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The Two 2015 Free Agents That Can Turn The Mariners (Back?) Into A Contender

Monday, October 26, 2015


David Price; via Wikimedia Commons

I’ll admit, the title of this post is highly inaccurate. Baseball isn’t like football or basketball, where any one or two guys can make enough of a difference to matter. It’s a collaborative effort, split evenly between the nine players on the diamond through the nine innings of regulation, that yields success in the national pastime.

That being said, two players whose contracts officially expire at the conclusion of this year’s World Series could be exactly what the Seattle Mariners need to deliver on the promise they supposedly had coming into 2015. Yes, those two players are exactly who you think they are.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the Mariners need any more frontline pitchers. They have future Hall of Famer Felix Hernandez, young phenoms Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, as well as a bevy of fourth and fifth starters who are capable of pitching adequately. If the team REALLY wants to make some noise in a suddenly power-packed AL West division, then the objective should be clear: sign David Price, then give the league pitching-induced nightmares for five or six years. 

Between 2013-15, Price pitched for three teams, all of whom made the postseason with him on the roster. In that time, he won 43 games (a .625 winning percentage), recorded 647 strikeouts in 655 1/3 innings, and pitched to a 3.01 ERA. His career ERA+ (a stat that normalizes league pitching and measures a starter’s value relative to the rest of the league) of 126 ranks him fourth among all active starters, just behind Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, and wouldn’t you know it, good old King Felix. 

Price’s detractors will be quick to point out his postseason struggles, both this season and in playoffs past, and say he isn’t the kind of pitcher on whom you can rely in a tough spot. More rational fans will recognize this as pure tripe. Those October numbers suffer from short sample size syndrome, and Price’s regular season stats – you know, the numbers he puts up every year to get his teams to the postseason in the first place – are superior to all but a handful of guys. Besides, I think Mariners players, coaches, executives and fans would much rather watch Price blow up in the championship round than have their team miss it entirely once again. His “inability to win” in the postseason is a problem Seattle would surely love to have.

Justin Upton; via Wikimedia Commons

That isn’t enough to turn the team around, you say? The lineup needs an upgrade as well, you’re telling me? Good, because I’ve got more. The Mariners have made no bones about their desire to land Justin Upton, as they tried in vain to deal for him during his tenure with both the Diamondbacks and Braves. Now, as the younger Upton brother enters free agency for the first time, this could be the Mariners’ best (and last) chance to bring him to the PNW. His move back to the NL West, albeit to the Padres’ cavernous Petco Park, gave him some nice numbers in his walk year. He’s likely to command the biggest contract given to an outfielder not named Jason Heyward this offseason. If only there was a team with a clear desire to improve their hitting, and they had proved they weren’t afraid to spend money by making a splash in both of the last two offseasons…

Upton, who has averaged 27 homers over the last three years in pitcher-friendly parks, would bring some right-handed balance to a leftie-heavy lineup. Moreover, he would provide the Mariners with something no other AL West team has: three competent hitters in the top half of the lineup. A 3-4-5 tandem of Upton, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz would be unmatched by any lineup in their division. The Angels have Mike Trout and Albert Pujols; the Rangers have Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre; the Astros have Evan Gattis and Carlos Correa; the Athletics have…uhh…hmm…Billy Butler? Something called Mark Canha? 

What are they all missing? A third home run threat. Upton, who would play the first season of his new deal at age 28, is still firmly in his prime. It’s possible we haven’t seen the full extent of his prowess. As Cruz himself proved this year, playing 81 games in Safeco Field isn’t automatically a death sentence for right-handed power hitters. Upton in Seattle could be highly beneficial to all parties involved.

Again, it’s foolish to say that Price and Upton alone are the solution to what ails this team. Everything seemed to be coming up Mariners prior to Opening Day, which just made the following six-month slog all the more brutal. Either way, the Seattle baseball club can only be massively improved by their presence. New GM Jerry Dipoto has a chance to make a statement in his first year at the helm, akin to how his first offseason in Anaheim brought Pujols and C.J. Wilson to town. Ignoring for a moment the current state of those deals, who would honestly say Dipoto can’t do it again?

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: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films. 

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#12 Rollerball

Some of the non-athletic scenes in this dystopian classic show their age, but Rollerball is a strangely prescient film that anticipated both the corporatization of sport and fans’ limitless taste for violence. Bonus points for the ominous intro music.

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#11 A League of Their Own

A comedy that looks back to the antithesis of corporate sport – a women’s baseball league during World War II with many memorable lines to choose from (e.g.,”There’s no crying in baseball.”)

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#10 Remember The Titans

Yes, filmmakers took liberties with some of the facts dealing with the integration of a high school football team in Virginia. But there’s a reason football teams often screen this film on the eve of big games. It’s a damn inspirational tale.

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#9 The Natural

This film has grown on me over time. Originally, it seemed slow and schmaltzy. Now, it seems well-paced and charming. Then and now, the re-created scenes of pre-World War II ballparks arrive like perfectly preserved postcards from the past.  

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#8 The Longest Yard

Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.  

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#7 Slap Shot

The Hanson brothers. Enough said.

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#6 Rocky

Often imitated, but never replicated. The definitive underdog boxing story featuring Sylvester Stallone before he became a self-caricature in multiple sequels. Impossible to hear the theme song without being motivated to get off the couch.

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#5 Seabiscuit

A fantastic book as well as a great movie. Like “The Natural,” Seabiscuit captures its Depression-era setting for modern-day viewers taken back to an era when horse racing actually meant something in America. 

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#4 Requiem for a Heavywei

A too often-forgotten film these days but a wonderful boxing drama that shows the sport’s underside with memorable  performances by Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn.

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#3 Hoosiers

Want to know something about small-town America in the 1950s and about Indiana basketball? This hoops movie does all of that with a healthy dose of redemption throughout. 

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#2 Bull Durham

There’s a pretty good case to be made this movie played a huge part in the rebirth and re-marketing of minor league baseball. As written by former minor leaguer Ron Shelton, there are many great scenes to choose from but this one is a favorite. 

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#1 Raging Bull

A rags-to-riches-to-rags story of boxer Jake LaMotta meets the actor born to play him, Robert De Niro. Not a false moment in this black-and-white powerhouse.


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