The Major League Baseball All-Star week has finally gone by, marking the half-way point in the MLB regular season. Some teams find themselves miles ahead of the pack. The Los Angeles Dodgers are regarded as the best team in the majors, being the only team to reach 60 wins at this point. The New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros are all clear frontrunners in the American League, with the Atlanta Braves finally breaking away from the NL East division race.
Other teams are currently sitting in the middle, trying to prove their worth. The Oakland Athletics have been making a mid-season surge in the AL West, with the Cleveland Indians doing the same in the AL Central. The Tampa Bay Rays are holding fast to their strong position, despite being six games back from the Yankees. The Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres are both neck and neck for second place in the NL West, while the Washington Nationals hold the first wild card spot in the National League. Moreover, the entire NL Central division is just four games apart.
Other teams, like the Seattle Mariners, are falling far behind as their playoff hopes are quickly dissipating. The Mariners might be 39-55, good for last in the AL West, but they’re not miserable. In fact, four teams in the American League alone have less wins. That being said, they’re right there with the lower teams in terms of playoff hopes and are likely better off looking forwards towards future seasons.
That is exactly what general manager Jerry Dipoto is doing. This past offseason, Dipoto traded away a number of Seattle’s better players for young people most fans have never heard of. Mallex Smith, Domingo Santana, J.P. Crawford and Omar Narvaez were among a host of young players brought over from other teams for the likes of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Ben Gamel and Edwin Diaz. Furthermore, Dipoto went so far as to trade Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion in the middle of the season, two of Seattle’s best hitters.
It’s hard to tell if the intentions are as pure as simply pushing for younger prospects for the future. Rumors have spread about the front office’s decisions to simply trade away anybody making money, which would include Kyle Seager and Dee Gordon, among others. Seager is a rock at defense and Dee has been one of the most productive Mariners in the last couple of years. It’s honestly hard to read that and see it for a team that truly wants to get better.
That being said, it could simply be an attempt to shadow what the Rays and Astros did in their recent rebuilds. They used small contracts on young players and hit the jackpot on the talent they found, leading to incredible surges in success. The Astros even won a World Series through it. Surely not every team can be as lucky as the Astros were, but maybe it’s something the Mariners are willing to try.
When all the dust settles, the Mariners might have a chance to do just that. It will take drafting prowess and a substantial amount of luck, but they have a solid core of young players. Daniel Vogelbach was Seattle’s representative at the All Star Game this year in just his second year in the majors. Crawford, Smith and Santana have all more than filled their roles at the plate and they continue to improve in the field. Mitch Haniger provides star power to build a team around, and Dylan Moore has continued to improve as a utility player.
A bottom 10 bullpen in the league is what holds Seattle back, and that’s where Dipoto will need to make moves to succeed. They might be losing, and it might be hard to watch, but who knows what the future holds? The Mariners might just have what it takes in the next couple of years.