I'm not going to play the guessing game here. This list isn't about what the Mariners need to do to get back in the race, or what the Mariners need to do to progress their youngsters. It's just a list on 10 components that will improve the overall health of the organization.
The Mariners might catch lightning in a bottle and get back into the divisional race. The next four games will be a big part of that. However, that's not something we can count on.
The remainder of the season will be a chance for Eric Wedge to figure out what he's got. It will be a chance for Jack Zduriencik to see what he's got and what he'll give to Wedge to use.
There are some bright spots in the future, but there are also a lot of remaining questions.
Hitting balls a long way in batting practice is pretty cool, I suppose. For the early arrivals, it can mean a nice show and perhaps a cool souvenir.
Batting practice pitchers don't throw down and in sliders, though. They don't throw curve balls, they don't mix speeds and they don't utilize scouting reports.
Eric Wedge loves Carlos Peguero, even though he's just been sent down (finally). While I think the love-fest may be a bit exaggerated, it's quite clear something is there since a non-major-league talent is on a major league roster.
I personally don't think Peguero will ever be a good major leaguer. At age 24, he's already a liability in the outfield. He has a good strong arm and a thunderous bat, but piecing those tools with other important parts of his offensive and defensive game may prove difficult.
The thought is that Wedge thinks there's no better way for Peguero to learn than to be in the major leagues. Meanwhile, we were told Dustin Ackley wasn't ready and needed a few more weeks in the minors to learn.
I'm fairly sure they had things backwards.
I'm coupling these two guys together in this slide because they're both in the same boat.
They're young players with holes in their games, but both provide more value than the guy who is stealing their playing time.
Carlos Peguero continues to get the bulk of action in left field, despite being markedly worse than both Carp and Halman.
While Halman's swing has some big holes and he doesn't have the raw power Peguero does, he provides more tools in the way of his speed and defense. Carp doesn't have the power, speed or arm of either, but has the more polished approach at the plate. He's certainly a better fit at DH, but if you aren't going to play him there, it's inexcusable to give Peguero more of a look in left.
It will be interesting to see what the team does with these two. I don't think either of them, or Peguero, will be major league contributors with much significance, but the two with the higer upside are sitting around while the guy who takes jaw-dropping BP flails in the outfield and at the plate.
We know that Felix Hernandez is strong and has had several years to build that strength.
We don't, however, know how Michael Pineda can handle a 200 innings workload. He's never done it, and in fact, he's never topped the 140 in a season that he did last year.
Currently at 113 innings in the big leagues (114 if you toss in the All-Star game), one of the biggest decisions for a contending Mariners team was set to be how they'd handle Pineda's workload. Perhaps in a blessing-in-disguise sort of way, the club may not be forced to answer that question.
At an average of 6.2 innings per start, Pineda will hit 140 innings five starts from now, which would come the second week of August.
It's at that point the Mariners will need to decide what to do. If he finished off August, he'd start three more times, bringing his total to around 150 innings. Perhaps he goes two more in September to end around 162.
I don't know what the magic number is, but that seems about good enough to me. If the club is out of the race by then, this should be an easy decision. Don't risk the arm.
Dustin Ackley's first three weeks in the majors couldn't have gone much better.
He's hitting over .300, showing tremendous patience, playing solid defense and even hitting with some power.
While I don't know that the homers are something we should continue to count on, the average and gap power certainly is.
Ackley's BABIP of .316 during this spam is consistent with what he did in the minors. He was at .296 in AA, .308 during his 2010 AAA campaign and finished with a .324 line in Tacoma this season during that final stretch where he proved his talent had outgrown the league.
While we're only talking about 20 games in the majors and a couple hundred in the minors, it looks like Ackley could already be the hitter he's going to be.
Will he get even better as he gets used to balls with more break, tighter spin and better deception? Perhaps. Has this been a small sample of success with looming struggles ahead? Also perhaps.
It will be key to the Mariners 2012 season to see 2011 Ackley continue to build on his strong start confidently and show them he was the second overall pick they thought they were getting.
We all know the story about how Smoak got here, the other options the Mariners had and the middle-of-the-order expectations they have for him.
After a scorcing start to the season, one that included a gap while he mourned the loss of his father, Smoak has cooled off considerably.
The talent is there, and he's still just 24 years old. This isn't like Carlos Peguero, who came up too soon while not doing much in the minors. Smoak was clearly ahead of the curve in his minors career and needs to be in the big leagues continuing to face big league pitching.
I'll admit I'm a little concerned, but only a little. He's had flashes of excellence and the upside is still pretty high. Plus, I'd rather have him around trying to find his groove than the parts the Mariners sent to Philly that started the path to acquiring Smoak.
These next couple months will be key to Smoak's improvement and confidence to become a quality bat this team desperately needs.
We all know what kind of a defender Franklin Guitierrez is.
In half the innings this season, Guti's UZR is more than half of Brett Gardner's, and he's on pace for another historically awesome season as far as that statistic is concerned. He runs balls down, he closes gaps and he truly is "death to flying things."
Is that enough to make him a major league contributor, though? He's posted a +0.3 WAR in those 45 games, so ending the season under +1 wins would be something of a let down.
His patience at the plate has gone down. Perhaps he's forcing things, or perhaps Eric Wedge's thought that aggressiveness fixes everything has been preached here as well. I don't know, but there's a real problem with Gutierrez's approach that is compounded by his health issues and play to date.
At 28 years of age, Gutierrez should be in the prime of his offensive career. We saw flashes of hope in 2009 before the health issues took over. He's not old yet, and he has upside, but the clock might be ticking on his ability to be something more than a defense-only asset.
This club is in dire need of Franklin Gutierrez to have a strong second half that builds towards a strong 2012.
The Mariners aren't going to just dump Figgins, and there isn't a trade market for his services.
While most fans look at him as a sunk cost at this stage, teams don't generally toss out guys of his age, salary and time remaining on their contract. With two more full seasons ahead for Figgins, and the cost of a first round draft pick that went to the Angels, the Mariners have to find something there.
It might not be this season. It could be getting an extended look in spring training 2012 to start fresh. I'd challenge that thought, though, and say that the re-building of his trade value needs to start as soon as the club figures it's out of contention.
Kyle Seager, for all his hard work rocketing up the minors this season, might only be a utility infielder someday if you listen to scouts. And while I typically believe in playing the kids in lost seasons, there is plenty of reason to believe Seager was aided by a lot of luck in Tacoma and should still be down there improving on a consistent basis.
The idea to promote Seager and catch lightning while the team was but a couple games out of the division lead was an idea worth exploring. If the club exits this weekend eight, nine or 10 games off the pace, though, Seager needs to go down, and Figgins needs to start the path to a hopeful reclamation of his career.
Oh, the inevitable Ichiro discussion.
I'm not really sure where to start or what can be said. The guy is the highest paid player on the team, the face of the franchise for a decade and comes with lots of lovable yet strange quirks.
His journey on and off the field have been one of legend. People wondered when, if ever, age would render its ugly face. And while there are some indications in the numbers that he could bounce back from all this, we have to remember that he is 37 years of age and that decline was inevitable.
Many advanced stats have never liked Ichiro, so it's hard to look at anything and pin down if this is the cliff he'd eventually have to walk off of.
You have to start to wonder, though, if a team were to call and inquire about him, would this be the time the club finally listens and kicks around the idea?
With 3,000 hits a couple seasons away, Ichiro having full trade veto rights, his salary and the owership being what it is, I doubt this is reasonably possible.
So for the rest of the season, we'll have to hope Ichiro turns back into Ichiro.
There are two thoughts on this subject.
Cash in on League's value being higher than it has ever been, or hang on to a guy who can close ball games for you next season.
In the first case, League has stepped in and turned what was initially thought to be a month long interim job to an All-Star first half where's lead the league in saves.
Sure, saves are a pretty silly stat. League is not amongst the league's elite relievers, but Ron Washington selecting him for the American league squad shows you that some baseball people put great stock into the statistic. Why not capitalize on that and see what you can get for him?
The second case is one the Mariners will also consider. David Aardsma is not under team control next season, Josh Lueke and Dan Cortes have struggled in the big leagues, and the clock has struck midnight for guys like David Pauley.
League has one more year of arbitration eligibility. The saves piling up are going to give him a nice pay raise, which could be another reason to consider trading him, but one season of closing won't give him an arbitration boost that will put him amongst the league's highest paid relievers.
if the right deal comes along, I'd be in favor of moving. If we're only talking a C or low B level prospect, it might be worth it to hang on and see what you can get for him in the winter or at next year's deadline.
I, for one, would like to continue going to the King's Court. I'd like to continue to wish my friends a happy King Felix Day every five days. I'd like to see just how good this career could end up.
For every Nolan Ryan, there's a Kerry Wood. For every guy who worked in a three-man rotation and had as many complete games in a season as some have in a career, there's a guy with a knife slicing through his elbow.
Pitching workloads is not a science. While there are these magical numbers of 100 pitchers per start and 200 innings per season that teams like to see, each player is different.
All accounts are that Felix's mechanics are safe mechanics. The first six years of his career show he's strong and can handle heavy workloads. There have been no signs of concern, so why should we be concerned?
I believe in not pushing things, I guess. Could Felix throw 125 pitches every start and never need surgery? Sure. However, why even tempt the worst case scenario when you don't need to?
If this season becomes lost, it's time for the Mariners to take a serious look at limiting their big horse. They aren't going to trade him, no matter how many Yankee fans and Bleacher Report writers think they will, so they need to be careful.
There's no reason not to.