One of the most shocking, short-sighted developments to pop up this week (a week full of shocking, short-sighted developments) is that the Seattle Mariners won't be looking to sell leading up to next Wednesday's trade deadline. Now, I can wholly understand the team not wanting to trade young players like Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager, Nick Franklin, and Mike Zunino…but what about all of those veterans currently sucking up playing time on the Mariners roster?
Seattle has won eight in a row and has leap frogged the Angels to take sole possession of third place in the AL West. But honestly, that doesn't tell you much of anything. Despite being in second place, the Mariners are still ten games behind the division leading Athletics, and they're still 8.5 games behind the Orioles for the American League's second wild card spot. Despite their recent hot streak, Seattle still has a -41 run differential on the season (better than just the Twins, White Sox, and Astros in the AL). Furthermore, it's not as if the Mariners are taking series from the cream of the crop in the AL. During this current winning streak, Seattle has swept the Angels and Astros, while taking the first two from the Indians. Only the Astros series took place away from Safeco Field. This streak might actually continue through the weekend, as the Mariners welcome the hapless Twins to Safeco Field once Cleveland leaves town.
Now, let's just go ahead and ignore the fact that the Mariners are winning games right now, because after the Twins leave Seattle, the Mariners get the pleasure of having 12 of their next 15 games against AL East teams, with nine of those 12 games coming on the road. They follow that stretch up with six straight on the road against the Rangers and A's, not a very pleasing scenario for any team. Sure, let's go ahead and buy into a hot streak against some second and third tier teams. That makes a lot of sense.
Furthermore, there's the issue of Seattle's roster construction. The Mariners have nine free agents next year, along with a pair of players with options (Franklin Gutierrez and Joe Saunders). None of these impending free agents are guys like Chase Utley, who would be worth a qualifying offer, or Robinson Cano, due for a huge payday this winter. Players like Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, and Aaron Harang are not part of the long-term solution in Seattle…yet GM Jack Zduriencik doesn't want to trade any of them and get some value? How does that make any sense whatsoever? Oh, right: because it would feed into the belief that Zduriencik's construction of the 2013 roster was an absolute disaster, and he'd be admitting failure by selling off pieces at the deadline.
It's silly for the Mariners to think they have a chance at contending over the last two months of the season. While the team has improved as of late, they're doing it against a weak schedule, and the Mariners have some solid (although unspectacular) assets that teams would have interest in. Francisco Rodriguez got the Brewers a solid prospect. What would Oliver Perez, a much better reliever than Rodriguez at this point in their careers, fetch for the Mariners? What about 30-year old Kendrys Morales, who is a DH and nothing more? The Mariners would be insane to hand him a qualifying offer of something in the range of $13 million this winter, yet they're keeping him because of some slim hope at contending in the last two months?
In 2009, the Mariners finished 85-77 despite a -52 run differential. The only player they sold at the trade deadline that season was starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn, who hasn't played in the majors since completing that season with Detroit. Adrian Beltre walked after the season, and has been an MVP candidate in three straight seasons. Seattle gave up their first round pick to make the disastrous Chone Figgins signing. They traded for Cliff Lee. In 2010, the Mariners finished 40 games under .500, Lee was dealt in July, and manager Don Wakamatsu lost his job. Hell, the same thing happened in 2007 when the Mariners won 88 games despite a -19 run differential. They moved no one in July, signed the horrendous Carlos Silva contract that winter, and made the franchise-altering Erik Bedard trade as well in February. They finished 40 games under .500 in 2008, and both manager John McLaren and GM Bill Bavasi lost their job.
Those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Despite two examples of flukish seasons in the last decade, the Mariners are once again being stubborn and refusing to dump old, expensive assets. With the new CBA in effect, Seattle can't cash in their free agents for draft picks, like they did with Beltre and Raul Ibanez in the midst of those ugly years. When the Mariners finish 83-79 with a negative run differential this season, make a big move in the winter, and have the bottom fall out next season, all we'll be able to do is nod our heads, because we've seen the way this movie has played out before.