During the MLB All-Star Game last night, there was a moment in the sixth inning where Rays’ catcher Mike Zunino hit a home run off Mets’ pitcher Taijuan Walker, who was being caught by Milwaukee’s Omar Narvaez. Dodgers’ outfielder Chris Taylor watched the ball soar over his head, as Zunino rounded the bases and returned to the dugout where he was met by Twins’ slugger Nelson Cruz.
Now, if you’re a fan of Seattle sports, you’ve probably heard one or two of these names… maybe even all of them. Why? Because at one point every single name I just mentioned was a Seattle Mariner or in the team’s organization. And that’s not even every former Mariner in last night’s contest: One of Milwaukee’s All-Star starters, Freddy Peralta, was signed by the Mariners back in 2013 before being traded away for Adam Lind, and Tampa Bay reliever Andrew Kittredge was also a Mariner. In fact, at one point in the game Kittredge was pitching to Zunino, while Peralta was pitching to Narvaez. Both All-Star batteries consisted entirely of former Mariners.
Most of the trades involving these players happened years ago when Seattle still had expectations to win despite an aging core. However, the Mariners never did. The earliest trade involving any of the above players happened in 2015. That season the Mariners finished 4th in the AL West with a record of 76-86, but that’s fine. The Mariners had so much talent in their farm system that they could either wait for them to develop and build a competitive team through homemade prospects, or trade them away to win right now. The Mariners opted for the second option, a totally normal strategy that several teams have done over the years. It’s how the Dodgers landed Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Mookie Betts, and many more. The key to this strategy though is getting actually impactful players. Adam Lind is not.
Obviously, Lind faced unexpected struggles in Seattle. The longtime Blue Jay hit for the third-lowest OPS of his career and worked the lowest walk rate of his career in his lone season in the Pacific Northwest. He did improve on his home run numbers, but that wasn’t enough to make up for his points of regression. I’m not blaming the Mariners for that. I am blaming Seattle for giving up three of its better prospects for Lind — a guy who’d never been a serious game-changer — in the hopes that he’d turn a 76-win team into a World Series contender. That was never going to be the case. Sure, the Mariners improved, but that wasn’t due to Lind’s bat.
It’s gotta be difficult being a Mariners fan. The team is currently in the middle of the longest active playoff drought in Major League Baseball, and is the only team in the league to have never appeared in a World Series. Despite having arguably the greatest team of all-time in 2001 and several future Hall of Famers such as Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki, and Felix Hernandez (as well as Alex Rodriguez, but I think we all know why he probably won’t be enshrined in Cooperstown), the Mariners have never won anything. That’s rough. It’s not to say that all of the aforementioned trades were bad. Some of them netted arguably positive results. The Taijuan Walker trade landed Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura — two players who both earned at least one All-Star nod during their tenures in Seattle. All the Mariners had to give up was Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte — two players who are younger, cheaper, and together have two All-Star nods for their new teams.
Seattle fans have noticed just how much All-Star caliber talent the Mariners used to have.
And the rain clouds continue to circle over the heads of every Mariners fan. I would like to tell you that Seattle’s front office has done better in recent years, but the Zunino, Narvaez, and Nelson Cruz trades have all happened within the last three seasons. It’s been a series of unfortunate events for the M’s — full of untapped potential from big name trades and untapped potential from players traded away. It’s unlikely that a string of poor outcomes like this happens again. Right now the Mariners have five prospects in MLB’s top 100.
However, seeing that the team is currently 48-43 and just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Mariners pulled the trigger on some of those prospects hoping to sneak into the playoffs in 2021. Don’t let that happen. The Mariners have a potentially bright future after years of disappointment. One playoff appearance where the Mariners get knocked out in the Division Series by Boston is not going to get fans excited for long. Don’t trade away six more future All-Stars. Keep them around this time.