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Mariners Didn’t Sell Because They Couldn’t

The Seattle Mariners didn’t sell many big pieces at the trade deadline. Is that because they didn’t want to, or because they couldn’t trade the pieces they have?

As things currently stand in the American League West, the Seattle Mariners are more than likely out of postseason contention. They sit in fourth place, just one game above the last-place Oakland Athletics and 12 games behind the first-place Houston Astros.

The Athletics were sellers at this years’ trade deadline, getting a good mix of top prospects who have already started to prove their value to their new club. The question is, why didn’t the Mariners become sellers as well? Or was the problem that they put themselves in a position where becoming big sellers wasn’t really a possibility?

Of course, some might still say they were sellers at the deadline. They did send second baseman/outfielder Dustin Ackley to the New York Yankees, reliever Mark Lowe to the Toronto Blue Jays and veteran starter J.A. Happ to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In return, they gained six young prospects in left fielder Ramon Flores, right-handers Jose Ramirez and Adrian Sampson and left-handers Nick Wells, Jacob Brentz and Rob Rasmussen.

May 2 2015: Seattle Mariners starting pitcher J.A. Happ (33) on the mound delivers the pitch during the baseball game against the Houston Astros.

Happ was one of few players dealt at the deadline by Seattle.

With Lowe, who is having a career year sporting a 1.83 ERA, being the Mariners biggest loss, it seems that they didn’t give up too much, yet they didn’t get that big of a return either. They’ll be using Rasmussen and Ramirez in their big league bullpen and likely calling up Elias Roenis to replace Happ in the rotation, while the other four pitchers will remain in the minor leagues for now. Jose Montero and Ketel Marte have also been called up from Triple-A Tacoma to fill-in the vacancy left by Ackley.

So the question must be asked: Couldn’t the Mariners have traded some of their bigger names for bigger returns? The answer, actually, is no – or at least, probably not. This answer has a lot to do with the contracts that they’ve committed to some of their bigger name players. It also has to do with the Mariners’ general manager Jack Zduriencik’s belief that the team he’s already built, the one that was predicted to be a huge force in the American League in 2015, is still a solid team that can and will eventually win.

The Mariners held onto their biggest names in Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, most likely because no other clubs would have been willing to take on their enormous contracts. Add to that the fact that besides Seager, both Cano and especially Cruz are beginning to age. Cruz, who is 35 and the oldest of the group, signed four-year deal worth $57 million with Seattle over the offseason. He, at least, has still been performing well for the team, having hit 29 home runs this season.

Cano, 32, has not exactly been playing up to the level the Mariners had hoped. Cano was signed to a 10-year, $240 million contract in December 2013. His numbers have waned over the past two seasons and he is currently listed as day-to-day with a grade one abdominal strain. He was expected to miss five or six days but as time has gone on, there is a chance he could hit the disabled list in the near future if improvement is not seen.

The Mariners’ third baseman Seager is young and in just his fifth major league season. He won his first Gold Glove and made his first All-Star appearance just last year, prompting the Mariners to extend his contract for another seven years with an option for an eighth, adding another $100 million to their payroll. While Seager hasn’t necessarily struggled this season, he hasn’t quite lived up to his 2014 stats, either, leading any team that could take on a salary that big (and few could) to question what exactly they were getting for their money and the players they would have had to give up.

01 Apr. 2014: Seattle Mariners (15) Kyle Seager in action during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim played at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Even if they wanted to deal a guy like Seager, his contract wouldn’t be an easy one to unload.

The Mariners essentially built a team that was supposed to succeed, yet has not. They were not in a position to truly be sellers at the trade deadline, as their most costly and normally desirable players were not what other teams were looking for, whether it was the contract they wouldn’t have wanted to take on or the risk involved with the player’s future potential and performance.

It’s not that the Mariners made a mistake in not becoming big sellers at the trade deadline; it’s more that they put themselves in a position where they could not be big sellers if the team they put together ended up failing. They did not leave room for error. There was no viable Plan B.

Unfortunately for Seattle there were errors made when they built themselves an expensive team that should have been a winner but has simply failed to be one. Now, rather than start over in many ways like the Tigers or Brewers or Reds, Seattle must instead fix what they have for 2016 and beyond. Good luck.

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