Mariners mailbag: Trade chatter, Carlos Santana’s role, Jarred Kelenic’s development


Hey, friends. It’s time for another edition of our Mariners mailbag.

The team is, generally, playing better. They were 16-13 in June and continue to get very strong starting pitching. The month of July will be interesting, especially as we head toward the trade deadline.

Before we get to the mailbag, how’s this for a potential deal: Noelvi Marte for Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates? Feel free to add a comment below. I’d hate to move Marte, but also I think it’s time to make a move — a big move.

And now to your questions.

Jerry Dipoto has recently made “win-now” comments about this team. What moves can he realistically make that will push the needle — especially with the injuries and suspensions staring the team in the face? — Kyle. B.

Look, the Mariners are firmly in their win-now mode. This is their window and they realize that. I’d expect them to be more active between now and the trade deadline. They’ve already made one deal (Carlos Santana) and I would expect more to come — and possibly some bigger moves. They need another bat, and probably another reliever. I’m sure there are fits out there, but the cost is probably still too high. But let’s be clear: If you want to make a big splash, it’s going to mean moving more prospects or taking on a bad contract.

How much of an organizational shakeup do the Mariners need to generate any kind of hitting at the major-league level? They can’t claim developing Ty France and it seems like Julio is a generational talent. Most everyone else that they have “developed” hasn’t achieved their potential. Is this an organizational deficit, a major-league thing or something else altogether? — Matthew W.

It’s a tough one to answer, probably because there isn’t just one answer here. They’ve gone pitching-heavy in their last few drafts and have some interesting position players in the lower levels of the minors. In terms of this current team … well, few teams in the big leagues are really hitting. This isn’t a Mariners problem. Offense is down. I don’t think there’s anything organizationally they’re doing wrong in player development. They need an influx of hitters in the system, and there are various ways to do that (draft, signed international players, trades).

What is actually going on with Kyle Lewis and the concussion? I know head injuries are all unique but at this rate I am wondering if he will ever play baseball again. It must be a pretty serious injury. Where is Mitch Haniger in his recovery? — Wyatt J.

Wyatt, we covered both of these topics last week. Here’s that link. I think by the time you read this, Lewis is close to or has headed out on a minor-league rehabilitation stint. I think he had trouble shaking his concussion symptoms. No two concussions are alike (I’m not a doctor, BTW). It obviously lingered longer than he or the team thought. As for Haniger, I think his timeline is still the same, and that we’ll see him in the second half. He’ll need some at-bats in the minors as well in order to get his timing back, etc.

Should I regret betting the Mariners to win the AL West now? — Daniel S.

I guess that depends on what you bet, Daniel. Money, house, pets? This is still the Astros’ division, even if a lot of people (myself included) thought we’d see them slip some this season. That’s, apparently, not happening.

I know it’s asked every year after the Juneteenth game, and the answer is always the same. Seriously, when are the Mariners going to wake up and rebrand their everyday jerseys around that Steelheads wordmark/ aesthetic? — Peter C.

Peter, you’re not wrong in the sense that the Steelheads’ uniforms are really, really sharp. I’d like to see it more often. What if they wore them every Sunday home game? I think that would be a nice nod to the history of the team, and a reminder of their place in Seattle baseball lore. I don’t know if they need to wear them more than that, though. That said, I would like to see a rebrand to some degree for 2023. Maybe it’s good timing with the All-Star Game coming? I guess we’ll see.

The Mariners are crushing the league in stranded runners. Is this bad luck? Bad management? Historically, have teams improved through the season when struggling in this unfortunate category? — Troy G.

Here’s the thing I would be worried about, Troy — if they weren’t getting those guys on base and in scoring position in the first place. Then you’ve got a mountain of trouble. I think that in time, these things will even out, especially if the team continues to get guys on base and with guys like Ty France, Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis coming back, and the team being at full strength once the suspension boys have served their time.

At what point do the Mariners stop giving Abraham Toro nearly everyday at-bats? He’s not producing enough to get those opportunities. Additionally, what have you noticed with Luis Torrens’ bat this year? After last year I thought he would have shown more pop than he has so far this year, which has been none. — Brett P.

Brett, I’m surprised as well that Torrens hasn’t hit close to what he did a year ago. I still think there’s a useful player in there, as a backup to Cal Raleigh. But it just hasn’t materialized. I will say playing sporadically isn’t easy for any player. Maybe that’s part of it. As for Toro, I thought he would fare better as well. I think being shorthanded has pushed him into more playing time than he should be getting. He’s a nice player and can help a team out, but I think we’re at the point where he shouldn’t be getting everyday at-bats.

I was pretty excited when the Mariners signed Robbie Ray, and fairly excited when they traded for Jesse Winker. So far the results have been…mixed. Are these acquisitions closer to a failure, or players having some bad luck and growing pains on a young team? I’m still hopeful we can show some consistency and make a push. — James

I think there’s a lot of things in play here. I think we’re seeing the real Robbie Ray come out. Since he started throwing the two-seamer, he’s been lights-out. I don’t worry about him much. As for Winker, maybe some of it is coming to a new league, playing in a ballpark that is polar opposite than where he was in Cincinnati (hitter’s ballpark). His bat looked slow early on, but he looks like a different hitter in the last three weeks or so. The average is creeping up, he’s driving the ball more. It just looks different. I’m optimistic he continues to trend in the right direction moving forward.

Why is (2021 first-round draft pick) Harry Ford playing so many games as DH in Modesto as opposed to catcher? — David L.

Ford has been dinged up a little this season, nothing major. I think they want to keep him fresh and keep him on the field for a full season, and the best way to do that is to give him a day as the DH and keep him off his feet. That’s my guess. And remember, he’s already into uncharted territory in terms of games played this season. He was a senior in high school a year ago, and while he played in the Arizona Complex League, it’s nothing like your first full season. I saw this guy in person earlier this season: There’s a lot to like here.

Where does Santana play once France and Lewis are back? He’s a 1B/DH and those positions are taken in about a week. Does Dipoto just have him around until the trade deadline, then flip him again? — Byron S.

I think he stays, Bryon, but the bench looks different once everyone is healthy — if that indeed happens, because it’s sure easier said than done. You can steal him starts at first base and DH and certainly he would be a nice weapon to have off the bench (especially with his willingness to take a walk). I think he’s a good clubhouse guy to have with many of the low service-time guys (Julio, etc.).

Do we expect George Kirby to have inning limits placed on him as the season goes on? The +30 limit from season-to-season is often brought up, and Kirby is fast approaching this. — Kyle B.

I think they’ll be able to push that number some, but there’s no question they’ll have to be somewhat creative to keep him in the rotation deep into September. How do you do that? You start by reshuffling the rotation coming out of the All-Star break. Maybe he gets an extra day of rest the way the schedule lays out with off days? Maybe you begin to look at more five- and six-inning starts for him, though be flexible based on his pitch count, etc. And, for what it’s worth, I believe we will see Taylor Dollard at some point. I think he can get big-league hitters out right now.

Is ownership ready to dump Dipoto and Servais if we end the season below .500? As a fan, I’ve been patient, but feel ragged from all the trades and constant tinkering from Trader Jerry. It feels like the rebuild didn’t work and it’s time for a change. — Chris B.

I don’t know, Chris. I can’t say what John Stanton is thinking here. There’s no doubt this team has underachieved, but in the past month or so has played much better (16 wins in June). I think there’s room for more growth here. And I’m not at all willing to throw in the towel on the rebuild and call it a failure. That said, the time to move is now. Their competitive window is open now, but it won’t stay open forever.

Do you think we can get anything good for Mitch Haniger since he’s so injury prone? — Mike W.

I think he has more value to the Mariners in 2022 than anything on the trade market will yield. First, he has to get back on the field in order to rebuild his value. Teams would want to make sure he’s healthy again before asking about him — that’s good business. I still think that he can help these guys, and potentially a lot, in the second half.

Do you think Jesse Winker lost any potential earnings from raising his fingers at the Anaheim fans? My first thought was that image will be immediately brought up when he becomes a free agent in 1.5 years. — Preston M.

No. I think when he becomes a free agent, people won’t remember what he did in the heat of the moment — something even he admitted was wrong and apologized for. I mean, we’ll see, but his future value will likely be determined by what he does the rest of 2022 and next season.

Do you have any read on what changes Jarred Kelenic needs to make in AAA to be considered MLB-ready? Obviously, the team has goals for him that aren’t just “hit nukes off AAA pitchers”, but are there specific mechanical or pitch/zone adjustments they’re looking to see him make? — Nolan W.

I think there are a few things the Mariners asked him to work on: two-strike approach, getting better at hitting breaking balls and not chasing secondary pitches out of the strike zone. Really, these are the sort of things anyone in baseball would ask of a 22-year-old regardless of if he’s in Double A or, in Kelenic’s case, coming back to Triple A after time in the big leagues. He’s not a finished product by any means. And I think the team is still optimistic he can become a good, everyday big-league player. I can’t sit here and tell you what kind of player he’ll be in two, three years. No one knows, but I think this time in the minor leagues can be beneficial for him.

Why do we keep turning to guys like Upton, Moore, Toro and now Santana? Santana is definitely a step up from the others but is there no better options in minors or anyone we can reasonably trade for? I understand the need for versatility but there is more of a need for consistent offense. How much longer do we hope Upton, Toro, and Moore can turn it around? — Stephen E.

There aren’t better options in the Mariners’ system in terms of position players. There just aren’t. And if these players do exist elsewhere, well, they’re not going to be free. Trades? Sure. I’m game for that, and some of that may be in the works. We’ll see. I like Dylan Moore, and it feels he has a place on this team regardless of what the team does with the roster as we move forward. I think Santana offers something as well. We’ll see how this roster evolves this month.

(Photo of Carlos Santana: Alika Jenner / Getty Images)

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