If you’re a Seattle Mariners fan who thought the team’s 2013 season was a little … disjointed, you aren’t alone.
Also of the opinion is skipper Eric Wedge, who will be making his less-than-amicable exit from the organization at the end of this season, which also concludes his three-year contract. While you could say that three straight losing seasons probably would have seen other shoe fall on him anyway, that he was adamant about not wanting to return to the team even if they did give him a long-term deal says a lot about the M’s troubles.
In short, it goes a lot deeper than just a failing manager, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.
Of the three losing seasons in Wedge’s tenure, this latest one probably hurts the most. After all, the organization was determined to make a splash in the AL West this season, shelling out cash to make Felix Hernandez the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history (if only for about a month) and adding sluggers like Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez on make-good deals.
This was supposed to be enough to make everyone around them better; Dustin Ackley was supposed to play like a burgeoning star in the middle infield again, Justin Smoak was finally going to break out with none of the pressure being on his shoulder, and Jesus Montero was finally going to learn how to catch and improve on his 15 home run from 2012.
Yes, this Mariners team was going to score runs, and King Felix was finally going to get some help. But you know what they say about best-laid plans …
The point of contention for Wedge may well have been the fact that the team went towards adding complimentary pieces to compete when the core players just weren’t ready, so the team had a disparity on the roster as guys like Morales and Ibanez just had nothing to compliment. Outside of a good month, Dustin Ackley was a bust. Jesus Montero isn’t going to catch another game, and top catching prospect Mike Zunino was perhaps rushed and not really establishing himself as being much better either.
So, the team will essentially be in another rebuild going forward as those one-year deals expire and the complimentary pieces go elsewhere, once again leaving the team with a pretty good rotation (the starters are tied for 10th with 12.7 fWAR in 2013) headlined by Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma that is ready to compete now.
But what can the team do? According to his interview with Greg Johns of MLB.com, Wedge seems to think that the team is missing “core” players, and “mid-career veterans on longer-term deals who are vested in the team’s future.” This may be true of the starting lineup, but the fact is that guys like these just aren’t lying around in FA or easily acquired via trade.
Basically, it’s not like there’s really an easy fix for the team here. The pitching staff and the bats are veering off into different directions, and the organization will somehow have to get them in line so that they can open a window of opportunity to compete.
Do they sell the farm in hopes of getting an impact player or two that the team can sign complimentary FAs around? Do they look to sell players like Iwakuma for future upside now while his value may never be higher?
It’s not a problem that is within Wedge’s domain, though the fact that the team seems to be spinning its wheels and not going anywhere may be why the manager quit on the M’s before the team decided he wasn’t the right man for the job.