AL West: Buy, Sell Or Crawl In A Corner?

Normally, a look at the fate of a division starts with the top team or the bottom team…but not this time.

Why?

Because the Seattle Mariners are perhaps the most fascinating team in baseball.

Robinson Cano was suspended in May for a masking agent that is often used to hide performance-enhancing drug use. At the time, most people were more worried about his hall-of-fame candidacy and abandoned any hope for the Mariners chances in the 2018 season. This is should be forgiven considering the M’s were 22-18 at the time and were not exactly lighting the world on fire with Cano.

But an amazing thing happened. The Mariners started winning –at a .680 clip no less, and have been all over the Astros even though the Astros have had the best record in baseball since the end of May. So, we know the Astros should buy if prudent leading up to the trade deadline. Should the Mariners too?

Consider the following: Cano comes back mid-August, assuming he’s healed from the broken hand he suffered the day prior to his drug suspension. Shortstop Jean Segura, third baseman Kyle Seager and second baseman Dee Gordon make a formidable top of the order. Edwin Diaz has 75 strikeouts in 46 innings as their closer. The M’s are 28-11 in one-run games.

But also consider this: Second base could determine this team’s season. Gordon has struggled at second with his fielding. And it’s certainly possible Cano will be a huge distraction upon his return, so that’s not an easy decision whether to just plug him in. And is it really possible to continue winning 72-percent of your one-run games? No. Also, Felix Hernandez is now your fifth starter.

The smart play would be to see the first half for what it is: An amazing run of guys coming together behind four starting pitchers who are okay but not great to win a lot of one-run games. Wait for Hernandez to have one more flash of brilliance and trade him immediately for a couple of minor league arms who are a year away.

But, then again, ask the Washington Nationals about making plans this year based on what you might be able to do next year. You’ve got four capable arms which is one more than you need in the postseason if two or three of them get on a roll. Seattle’s bullpen has provided management with easy choices: terrible and really good. There has been little doubt who the studs are and the guys who aren’t cutting it are already out.

You’ve come this far. You’re this close. BUY!

For Oakland, the Athletics have a lot of the same characteristics as the Mariners. The team started slow and it almost looked like a repeat of the last three years as they struggled to stay above .500, veterans got injured, the rookies didn’t look ready and some of the pitchers that showed flashes of brilliance, but didn’t get the run support they needed.

But, something about this year has been different.

Jed Lowrie leads all second basemen in RBIs. That’s great. He also leads the rest of the team in batting average by an average of 40 points. That’s not good, typically. Five starting pitchers are on the disabled list and the guys who have filled in the best –really well, actually– are named Chris Bassitt and Edwin Jackson.

Negatives and all previous cracks at VP/Director of Baseball Operations Billy Beane’s expense aside, this team has taken a weakness: a gigantic ballpark where fly balls go to die, and turned it into an advantage by getting more guys who can hit the ball out than just about anybody else. They are fourth in baseball in home runs.

And their bombers not only hit home runs, but wear out pitches in the process. Hitters have seen the third-most pitches of any team and they are number four in home runs.

So, nice going Billy, though maybe some of the credit goes to David Forst? He is now in his third season as General Manager after all.

So, if you’re Beane and Forst, what do you do as the deadline approaches? You have a bunch of young guys ( six are 27 or younger) who hopefully will only get better and you have a couple of pitchers, including Trevor Cahill coming back from the disabled list. So, that’s essentially a trade for talent at the deadline without losing anyone.

And you also have a whole roster of guys (5) on offense with double-digit home runs (and another four who will) who can win you a game with a home run.

So, buy… if it’s a great deal. But, do so sparingly. This is one of those clubs that an addition could ruin the whole thing.

Speaking of ruining the whole thing, the loss of Shohei Otani from mound and the batter’s box seemed to send the Los Angeles Angels into a tailspin. They were in second place for a good portion of the first part of the season, but went 7-15 after the news Otani was going on the disabled list. Otani is back, but likely only as a designated hitter, which should help the Angels’ anemic offense. Andeltron Simmons and Mike Trout aside, the team is hitting .225. That said, their starting pitching has been really solid.

Look, it’s Trout’s last year. You don’t know if he’ll re-sign. If he were, he would have already done so. He’s a seven-time All-Star. The Angels have tried Albert Pujols and Otani to turn their fortunes around. Thats a gabillion dollars, so, it’s not like they haven’t tried. Even though I think they’re really close to being really good with Trout, they don’t have the offense to help him. The smart thing to do is BUY or call every able-bodied hitter up from AAA and AA and see what they can do and SELL Trout to the highest bidder if they aren’t in the Wild Card lead by the trade deadline.

And, finally, if you’re Texas, you crawl in a corner because you’re 11 games under .500 and you keep finding ways to lose. Hard to get to .500 if three of your starting pitching have ERA’s over 5.00 in the past month.

That said, I hate to say sell, because they have Adrian Beltre and first baseman Ronald Guzman has been on fire and two pretty decent starters…so, buy…and sell, Rangers. SELL Joey Gallo and his .192 average. I don’t care if he hits 60 homers. SELL Delino Deshields Jr. and his sixth-highest-errors-for-outfielders and .222 average and .292 slugging percentage and BUY two guys to hit .270 and BUY or call up three starting pitchers. I liked this team at the beginning of the year. I kinda still do.

UPDATE: This morning, Texas traded cash and a possible player to be named later for outfielder Austin Jackson and pitcher Cory Gearrin. Jackson has returned to earth (.242 BA)  after a career half-year in Cleveland last year.

Gearrin has a career ERA of 3.57. In years he has pitched to contact, his ERA has been around two. As the strikeout rate increases, so too does his ERA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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