Ah, yes. Exactly what the American League needed: Another team that isn’t going to be competitive.
It’s a shame to see the Mariners hitting the self-destruct button.
Seattle’s fire sale has sent Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to the Mets, James Paxton to the Yankees, Alex Colome to the White Sox, Mike Zunino to the Rays, and now, Jean Segura to the Phillies.
Talk about a total teardown. In a little over a month, they’ve gone from an 89-win team to one that looks like the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.
It’s hard to blame them
This isn’t a Mariners issue. It’s a Major League Baseball issue.
The talent gap between the haves and the have-nots has gotten so severe that good-not-great teams are caught in no-man’s land. There’s little incentive to stay there.
Seattle won 89 games and didn’t even sniff a Wild Card spot; they finished eight games behind Oakland. Looking up at the Astros, too, it’s easy to see why they decided to blow it up.
If the Mariners opt for a five-year rebuild, they should be relevant again as Houston’s window closes.
In the meantime, it just means more bad baseball.
The Marlins precedent
The Marlins had a similar self-inflicted implosion last offseason. They went from a solid team to one that finished dead last in the NL East. At 63-98, they drew an average of 10,013 fans a night.
The most noteworthy moment of Miami’s season was when they drilled Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. for hitting too many homers against them.
Teams that bad are horrible for the health of the game. There was no punishment for playing to lose.
The new normal?
Teams at the bottom of the standings can cut payroll, accrue high draft picks and promise the future to fans. The small-market teams can even collect on revenue sharing while they do it, so while attendance may be thin, the owners’ pockets still get fatter.
Because the league has done nothing to deter tanking, teams don’t have a problem playing to lose. They see the rebuild as a long-term plan, taking their lumps in hopes of winding up like the Astros or Cubs. Eight clubs lost at least 95 games last season.
Fans are taking notice. Last season attendance dropped below 70 million for the first time since 2003. It was down more than four percent league-wide from 2017.
The league has no problem punishing the clubs that push the envelope to win. Teams that spend excessively are hit with the luxury tax, forfeit international signing pool money and fall in the draft.
Why not punish the teams that are losing egregiously, too? The same penalties could apply to incentivize winning.
The luxury tax has been renamed “the competitive balance tax.” Haven’t every-player-must-go sales like Seattle’s hurt the competitive balance just as much — if not more so — than overspending?
There’s no need to kill first-time offenders, but teams that are repeatedly at the bottom and aren’t spending deserve to be punished.
Boston wise to sit out
As the Mariners began shopping Diaz — a young, controllable closer — the Red Sox were rumored to be interested.
Dealing for Diaz would have been foolish on a number of levels.
First and foremost, the farm system needs to be replenished, not pilfered from for a player that would have been a luxury — not a necessity.
The Red Sox already have the highest payroll in baseball, so it made little sense to take on Cano’s baggage contract, and there are plenty of free agents that won’t cost any prospects: David Robertson and Kelvin Herrera are strong options on the open market.
Beyond that, there’s quite a bit of risk in trading real assets for a reliever. While Craig Kimbrel was a success, Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith should serve as cautionary tales.
7. Paxton a worthy adversary
Paxton landing in pinstripes was predictable, and gives the Yankees rotation some of the bite it was lacking in 2018.
A hard-throwing lefty, Paxton has fared well against the Red Sox in his career — 2.49 ERA, 22 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings — but Boston did tee off on him the one time they saw him in 2018.
Health will be Paxton’s biggest question mark. At 30, he’s only eclipsed 150 innings once. If the season started tomorrow he’d slot into New York’s rotation as a No. 2 starter, but there’s a good chance the Yankees aren’t done.
8. Corbin coming next?
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Patrick Corbin landing in the Bronx sooner rather than later.
Brian Cashman has the Yankees in a great spot moving forward. He reset New York’s luxury tax penalties last season, so now they’re free to spend like George Steinbrenner again.
The biggest prize on the starting pitching market — the lefty went 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA during an All-Star 2018 — Corbin and the Yanks seems like a marriage waiting to happen.
9. Boston still in on Eovaldi
Over the weekend, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported that the Red Sox and Astros were the two frontrunners for Nathan Eovaldi’s services.
That makes a lot of sense, given his postseason run and his childhood home of Alvin, Texas less than an hour from Minute Maid Park.
Email comments to email@example.com.