At the beginning of the season, and even through the first couple of months, most of us expected the Mariners to compete in the division and thus need to trade for a veteran slugger at the end of July. However, a historic streak dramatically changed things for the 2011 Mariners.
No longer are they in position to make a playoff run, so it isn't worth spending a lot on a big hitter who could only benefit the team in the near future.
With that plan out of the picture, the Mariners reverted to the grand scheme that was put in place not so long ago. Most of us know this as "rebuilding": tearing down the ramshackle foundation Bill Bavasi spent five years constructing and creating a new, stronger base from promising, young athletes. It is a long and painful process, but the reward is worth the wait—at least that's what we're told.
Before I go into the evaluation section, here's a look at what the Mariners actually did in the days leading up to the trade deadline.
July 27: Mariners sign Wily Mo Pena to a minor league contract.
July 29: Mariners trade OF Ryan Langerhans to Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations.
July 30: Mariners call up RHP Dan Cortes from Triple-A Tacoma.
July 30: Mariners send RHP Doug Fister and RHP David Pauley to Detroit Tigers for LHP Charlie Furbush, OF Casper Wells, 3B Francisco Martinez and one of three prospects to be named later.
Here are the three reasons the Mariners earned an A for this year's trade deadline performance.
You may think Wily Mo Pena is a washed-up, overrated, swing-at-everything type of hitter who's a foolish investment for the Mariners, and there are plenty of statistics that point you to that conclusion. But did you see that home run he hit back in June at Comerica? He can hit.
Wily Mo is preceded at every away stadium by his reputation of raw power. Scouts have been saying, since he was just 16, that he has more raw power than anyone alive right now. He experienced some success in his days with the Reds and Red Sox, but he's never really been able to hit anything except fastballs over the plate.
That lack of versatility is the reason he's been bouncing around so much in the past 10 years between the minors and the majors and several teams. He isn't the ideal fix for the Mariners' slugging problems, but we got him for free.
Prince Fielder would have been nice, but not worth the staggering price, especially in a season of non-contention for the M's.
Currently, Wily Mo is heading to Peoria, but he'll be playing for Tacoma after that. Maybe they can figure out how to unlock all of that power before the end of the season. He's only 29, though, so he's technically in his prime; we could see him benefit the Mariners in the near future as their prospects build up in the majors.
In addition to Wily Mo, we now have Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang in our system. Chiang is playing in (and will continue to play in) Double-A, and Robinson is playing in (and will also continue to play in) Triple-A, but both guys have a .900-plus OPS, with the heavier component being slugging percentage.
In contrast to Wily Mo, these guys are young, growing power (both guys are 23 years old). This season, Chiang is hitting .338 with 18 home runs and 76 RBI through 87 games. Robinson is hitting .293 with 18 HR and 71 RBI through 100 games. That's the sort of youthful potency we've been longing to see in the Mariners lineup.
I was really starting to like David Pauley. He was reliable, consistent and healthy—all things with which Mariners pitchers have been struggling. But Jack Zduriencik did the right thing by trading him. It's what Billy Beane would've done, at least.
Beane's idea is that relief pitchers, closers in particular, are expendable. It's easy enough to train a minor leaguer to pitch a few innings at the end of the game under increased pressure, but other "lazier" teams are willing to spend a lot on a reliever with solid stats. Beane used Jason Isringhausen. Jack Z used Pauley.
While the Seattle bullpen did lose its most valuable reliever, the trade opened up a spot for Dan Cortes, a promising, young flamethrower, as well as yielding other, fruitful young assets.
Josh Fields is the other reliever who the Mariners traded away. He doesn't necessarily fall into the same category as Pauley, since he hasn't yet reached the majors, but as a first-round draft pick from 2008, he already has a reputation.
Fields has shown remarkable consistency thus far in his minor league career, maintaining almost a perfect 9.0 K/9 ratio. Knowing that your reliever will come into the game and strike out one of the three batters he faces is a pretty nice asset. However, the Mariners have enough pitchers in the same situation as Fields that he was really just surplus.
Before the Mariners executed the trade with the Tigers, they sent OF Ryan Langerhans to the Diamondbacks for money. That action not only opened up a spot necessary for the unbalanced trade, but it also showed the Mariners' commitment to refreshing their ranks.
Langerhans is 31 years old and growing stale. He's been playing on and off with the Mariners since 2009 and hasn't really done anything during that span. He represents a larger group of players that are in the same position and who we're starting to see move out.
They're moving out to make room for the new, and the new have already started coming. Already this year, we've gotten to see Greg Halman, Carlos Peguero, Mike Carp and Dustin Ackley. They've all been pretty exciting to watch. We'll get to see them improve and take over starting positions over the next couple years.
Additional reinforcements Casper Wells and Francisco Martinez were brought in through the trade as well.
Note: It was Wells who watched Wily Mo Pena's bomb soar over his head back in June. Now, the two will have plenty of time to reminisce as teammates.
Wells has an .831 OPS over the course of his two-year major league career, and Martinez, the Tigers' fourth-best prospect according to Baseball America, is just 20 years old with lots of promise at the plate.
Seattle also sent out the 32-year-old, super injury-prone Erik Bedard. The M's never really got what they deserved out of Bedard; he never produced the career season that was expected after his 200-strikeout season with Baltimore in 2008.
Boston is probably a better fit for Bedard anyway. They'll give him a little more run support than the Mariners did.
As this year's trade frenzy comes to a close, fans in Seattle are granted new hope. The rebuilding phase may finally be coming to a close, and we could see the return of the old Mariners within the next few years. Go M's!