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What does it say that Aaron Judge was never a consideration for the Mariners?
The frugal winter was a bummer. What it means might be a bigger one.
It was never going to happen. There’s no way. What is this post? Freakin’ absurd. More nonsense from #payrolltwitter. Can we just stop drumming up this narrative and focus on the season?
Hey, I get it.
But in this season, Aaron Judge beating up the Mariners worse than cars beat up our roads (ayyy, urbanists) and reminding baseball fans here why he was the best hitter on the market this past offseason.
It’s kind of funny—that last fact almost never comes up with Mariners fans. Even I, myself, hadn’t thought about it as it related to the Mariners in months. Then someone pointed it out on Twitter and it hit me in an almost refreshing way.
Yeah. That’s right. We could’ve asked the Mariners to go even bigger than we already were. A great organization would’ve been in the mix, right?
A big part of it, obviously, is that Judge returned to the Yankees. When this happens, with any team but especially these marquee franchises, we tend to think the player was never really on the market. Which isn’t unreasonable.
But let me tell you something crazy.
There was this one time, the Mariners were in desperate need of elite talent—especially hitting. The payroll had kind of bottomed out and it was time to get it climbing back north again, in a big way, after years of saving. There were other good players on the market who’d be great to sign, and make the fanbase more than happy, but there was one hitter clearly above the rest.
He was a Yankee, though. He wasn’t going anywhere.
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I’m a big fan of Robinson Canó and the Robinson Canó deal, so hang with me for a second on the next paragraph.
The Robinson Canó deal went about as poorly as it could’ve realistically gone for the Mariners. No playoffs. PED suspension. Traded away years before the end of the contract.
And it was still a great deal.
Mariners ownership likely doesn’t feel the same way, and I’d assume it’s a not-small part of why they’ve been reluctant to venture into those waters again—in addition to there being, now, no majority owner.
But again, it went as poorly as it could realistically go. And they were fine. The organization was fine.
So here the Mariners were, in the most hotly-anticipated offseason in franchise history, in need of offense. They were last seen, yes, ending the drought—but being swept out of the Division Series on the back of 18 innings of scoreless ball from the lineup.
Momentum, still, was high. Fans were at a fervor. National media had its eyes on the potential of the Seattle Mariners.
Any one of the big four shortstops would’ve been a dream to land, but the Mariners ended up attempting to bolster their offense most with the acquisition of a right-handed power-hitting corner outfielder from the American League East, in the process making him their highest-paid position player.
It, of course, wasn’t the dude who hit 62 home runs last year. It wasn’t Aaron Judge, because of course it wasn’t.
And it isn’t so much that it didn’t happen, because again, of course it didn’t. The bummer is that it was never a possibility.
I’m repeating myself, but all the conditions were there. Franchises that aspire to be at the very top of the sport, franchises that have been at the top, go after the best hitter on the market and they go after him hard.
I’ve long respected what the Giants built in San Francisco and, even in failure, respect their ambition in this offseason and past one’s.
From a financial standpoint, from an ambition standpoint, the Mariners should be the Pacific Northwest’s version of the Giants.
They are not.
That’s why the offseason was so frustrating. I’ve mentioned it before—I became an M’s fan during an era when they were great, and it’s fair to ask for that greatness again. But when everything—and it felt like everything—lined up for the Mariners to show us they could and would reach for the game’s upper echelon, they declined.
Like, if it wasn’t going to happen then—if they weren’t even going to think or be thought of going after a player like Aaron Judge, what can we realistically expect and hope for going forward?
We know they’ll make a run at Ohtani. They’ll try. Of course.
But they’re really the type of team that, in a situation like this with an opportunity like this, says “We can only chuck one Hail Mary—we’re Seattle, after all”?
God that’s a bummer.
And it’s bummer because we, rightfully, feel foolish for hoping they could sustainably stay within a jab’s reach of the likes of the Dodgers and Yankees and Padres and Astros and so on.
We shouldn’t be hoping for that, let alone expecting it. They’ve said that.
So now, apparently, we just gotta deal.
To add to this roster, to capitalize on a year of immense opportunity (and the years all count), it’ll take an elite in-season trade and an improbable underdog run through the playoffs to get where we want them to go.
After that, it’s the Ohtani last-second heave from about their own 35-yard line.
It’s not nothing.
But it’s well short of everything we want.