The Mariners' roster is what sunk Wakamatsu, not his performance

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We’ve heard multiple reports of problems in Seattle this year, from Milton Bradley being Milton Bradley, to Ken Griffey’s sleeping, to Mike Sweeney’s belligerence to the public dustup between Don Wakamatsu and Chone Figgins.  Any of those things could be evidence of a team lacking authority or a manager lacking control. Any of those things could, in and of themselves, make the case for a manager being fired.

But we really have no idea what goes on in a major league clubhouse, so we really can’t say how much each of those incidents stood as evidence a problem with the manager if, indeed, they did at all.  Bradley, after all, has a history. Griffey had, after all, apparently lost his motivation. Sweeney was, after all, brought in to at least try to be a leader.  Maybe that was all inevitable.

What we know for certain, however, is that for all of the press General Manager Jack Zduriencik’s offseason moves got, they weren’t moves that did anything to make the team better, and that’s ultimately what sunk Don Wakamatsu and the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners were famously inept on offense in 2009, and Jack Z. just didn’t bring in enough lumber to help out. Adrian Beltre left. Chone Figgins came in and has underperformed, but he’s been playing second base, not third, which means that there were other, unexpected holes. Bringing in Milton Bradley was a gamble and bringing in Casey Kotchman to fill the hole at first base went beyond optimism and ventured into the land of fantasy. While he’s been effective in spots this year, Mike
Sweeney really had no business breaking camp with a major league team, and the front office’s insistence on extending an offer to Ken Griffey Jr. was a function of desperation and denial.

Those were the cards Wakamatsu was dealt.  When they didn’t play coming out of spring training, rather than get new cards, the front office fired Mariners’ hitting coach Alan Cockrell.  As Geoff Baker noted a couple of weeks ago, that move set the mood for the remainder of the season, with the front office telling Wakamatsu that the pitiful 2010 Seattle Mariners were his problem and, if they didn’t do better, they would be his fault.

And now he has taken the fall.  He’s not a scapegoat as that phrase is commonly used — like I said above, there are many reasons to believe that he didn’t do everything he could to make a toxic situation any less toxic and ended up with a deeply divided clubhouse — but it’s simply not fair to say that the failure of the Seattle Mariners is all or even mostly Wakamatsu’s fault.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.