There are only five teams in Major League Baseball with a worse record than the Seattle Mariners.
The M’s are 14 games behind the red-hot Texas Rangers in the division standings. They’re 13 games off the pace for the Wild Card.
The Seattle Mariners should be sellers at the trade deadline, right? Well, they just gave up two minor-league prospects to the Cleveland Indians for 34-year old Russell Branyan whom they declined to sign over the off-season.
Yes, we’re all trying to digest this one: An aging power hitter with a .233 career batting average who has had injury issues the last few years is what Seattle needs during this disappointing season?
Russell hit 31 homers for the Mariners last year and they wouldn’t even reward him with a contract because of injury concerns with a herniated disc that cut his 2009 season short.
Matter of fact, Branyan wasn’t getting interest from any teams and didn’t get a deal from the Indians until Feb. 20 this year. He started the year on the DL with a neck injury.
Now, the Mariners are giving up prospects to take on the free-agent contract he signed with Cleveland. Branyan does have 10 homers this season, which is three more than Seattle's Milton Bradley, who hit his team-leading seventh home run last night.
General Manager Jack Zduriencik won’t admit the Mariners are done for the year, but does believe winning some games the rest of the year is important to developing the young guys on the team.
"If you look at our team, as we move forward, just about every player who is here now will be here again next year,'' he said. "We're committed to the development of our players and that goal, that objective has never changed for us.
"But part of that development process is also winning games. We want our players to be able to experience winning games this year. And we're trying to do what we can to give them what they need to get there.''
Since the Mariners' offseason acquisitions have had abysmal outcomes, Seattle fans have been wondering what the team will do to right the ship for next year.
There are only seven games before the official halfway point of the season, and it seemed apparent the M’s would be finding a buyer for Cliff Lee and maybe unloading a couple of other players for prospects.
This move seems to dictate the Mariners are going to roll the dice and see what happens. Trader Jack is now becoming Gamblin’ Jack.
Zduriencik got a lot of credit for the moves the Mariners made and now he is getting some flak about how the new players have performed. Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley have been horrible. Ian Snell is in Triple-A.
Meanwhile, Carlos Silva has revived his career in Chicago and Brandon Morrow just pitched his fifth consecutive quality start.
Jack’s ego has taken a hit and he wants to prove this team capable of winning. If he can pull that off, he will be even more revered in Seattle.
If he can’t pull it off, he will have cost the Mariners a chance to gain valuable prospects from the trade of Cliff Lee as well as the prospects given up for Branyan and possibly another offensive piece coming soon.
Cliff Lee is a free agent at the end of the year, and though he is probably the most sought after and valuable trade option this year, teams aren’t ready to give up a bunch of top-level loot for a rental player.
The Mariners will still get compensatory draft picks for Lee if he signs elsewhere as a free agent in the off-season, so maybe Zduriencik believes it wise to keep Lee in the lineup for the year and see what happens if the Mariners can score a few more runs by adding some offense.
Maybe Jack’s idea is to right the ship for this year!
Seattle has a strong pitching rotation with Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Jason Vargas. They got Doug Fister back from the DL last night and Erik Bedard is due back, barring any setbacks, sometime in July. The Mariners rank ninth in the Majors in team ERA.
They are fifth in quality starts and third in complete games. They are only going to get better from this point going forward.
Adding Branyan is a good way to get some power in the lineup, but their offense is beyond pathetic, ranking 29th in runs scored, 29th in hits, 27th in batting average, and dead last (30th) in home runs.
Branyan is not going to correct those numbers by himself, so Gamblin’ Jack will need to get another bat in the lineup.
Rumors of players potentially becoming trade options before the deadline include Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, and Lance Berkman.
None of them seem to make sense now that Branyan has been acquired and all of them would require several prospects and, in Kemp’s situation, Major League-ready starting pitchers.
It was rumored that Seattle was looking for a catcher in any deal with Cliff Lee. Could Zduriencik pull off a trade with Pittsburgh (they have trading history) for Moses Lake, Wash., product Ryan Doumit?
Doumit would bring a veteran presence and a bat with some pop in it. He is a three-hole type hitter and along with Branyan, would revamp the middle of the Seattle batting order at a reasonable cost.
Doumit has also had some issues with Pittsburgh management that has landed him in the doghouse in the past. He is signed through 2011 with club options for 2012 and 2013.
Would a lineup of Ichiro (RF), Figgins (2B), Doumit (C), Branyan (1B/DH), Franklin Gutierrez (CF), Mike Sweeney (1B/DH), Milton Bradley (LF/DH), Jose Lopez (3B), and Jack Wilson (SS) be enough?
The Mariners have won seven of their last nine games, including a six-game winning streak, but they lost a half game in the standings to the Texas Rangers.
Texas is on pace for 98 wins. The Mariners would have to go 67-21 the rest of the way to win 98 games. Can they win 76% of their remaining games? It is unlikely, so they would need both the Rangers and Angels to stumble along the way.
Gamblin’ Jack may be looking for the right piece of the puzzle to get his team back in the race, but at his point it seems too late in the game.
If not, Branyan is simply a morale booster to help build some confidence that Jack hopes will carry over to next season.
Giving up two prospects for a 34-year old morale booster seems too costly, so look for the Mariners and Gamblin’ Jack to make another move very soon.