Hishashi Iwakuma led the Mariners to a 5th straight win on the strength of 13 strikeouts, while playing a team with the 3rd highest combined WAR on offense in the AL.
The Mariners proceeded to trade two relief pitchers for two prospects (from the Dodgers) and a serviceable outfielder in Eric Thames (from the Blue Jays). Thames is absolutely awful in the outfield (a -5 fielding rating), with much of his potential lying in his bat. He has a .243/.288/345 line, which makes him look like a current Mariners hitter. The difference is he’s 24 years old, and with the reports coming out this past weekend that the M’s wanted young, controllable hitters, Thames certainly fits that frame (under contract until 2017). USS Mariner’s Dave Cameron stated that this trade is hoping to “catch lightning in a bottle,” and its hard to disagree—Thames has never been fantastic in the majors, walking out too little and striking out too much. But with 24 year old outfielders, particularly one that looked as good as he did in his last two AAA stints, there’s reason to have slight hope for something useful.
The two minor leaguers the M’s got from the Dodgers look to be a future 4th OF, and a relief project who has a good fastball. We could see the reliever (Logan Bawcom) in Seattle in a year or two, and maybe see the outfielder (Leon Landry) later than that if he hits well. League was probably going to walk after this season, so its good to see the Mariners get something for him.
Last night’s trades lead into tonight’s game, which features a pitcher from the Mariners some thought could get traded—Jason Vargas.
Vargas has pitched well in his last 5 starts, lowering his ERA from 4.31 to 3.76. He did get to start twice against the Royals, which feels like cheating, but his starts against other teams have fared him similar results. He’s still giving up hits and a ton of fly balls (his last start being the exception), so playing against a high home run team like Toronto can make you understandably nervous. It being in Safeco can ease your nerves a little, as fly balls come to die here. If Vargas can strike some people out and keep his walks to 3 or under (his norm for the last five), then he should fare decently well again.
Toronto’s lineup is a lot like last night’s, with the exception of Travis Snider not being in it due to a condition called “being traded to Pittsburgh.” Snider is being replaced by a recalled-from-AAA outfielder named Moises Sierra, who appears to be a higher-K rate righty making his MLB debut. So that’s…..something.
The Blue Jays will trot out Aaron Laffey, whom I’m sure some of you remember from last season. He was that underwhelming left-handed reliever we wound up DFA’ing in August for younger guys to come up. He pitched some innings for the Yankees at the end last season, and bounced between AAA and the majors this year with Toronto before finally sticking around due to Toronto’s horrendous pitching health. Laffey is a sinkerball pitcher, so you’d think he’d be a groundball pitcher. In the majors, though, his flyball and groundball rates have been about even, so expect the same with him facing our offense that appears, anyway, to have remembered how to swing the bat all the way around again.
The Mariners are playing the traditional “a lefty is pitching so we’re starting a bunch of righties” routine tonight, which means we won’t see Thames on the field quite yet, and we will see both Miguel Olivo and Trayvon Robinson. Which is……ugh.
Overall, this game depends on whether Vargas can keep enough fly balls in the park for the Mariners offense to do something against a lefty that really just isn’t too impressive. Some people might want me to have a prediction, but I don’t want one and you can’t make me. I won’t do it. I WON’T.
Mariners win 5-4 (dammit).