Winter Meetings Recap: Seattle Mariners Get Better Despite No Deals


The 2014 winter meetings were particularly active, with major league pieces and prospects alike switching hands at a pace rarely seen in Major League Baseball. Some teams made out like bandits, improving their club at seemingly every turn. Other teams made puzzling moves that may set them back in the long-term. A few teams stood pat.

The Seattle Mariners, of course, were on of the teams in that third group. They made no deals, and aside from adding lefty reliever David Rollins through the Rule 5 draft, they’ll leave San Diego with the same team they came in with. Yet here we are, looking at a Mariners team that has significantly improved playoff odds over where they were before the meetings.

Yes, Rollins helps the team, but no, he’s not a big part of the M’s recent gains. This is also not to say that the Mariners are better off for having not completed deals with Melky Cabrera and Alex Rios. This is simply an acknowledgement of what’s gone on in the rest of the division.

It could be argued that the AL West is the toughest division in the game. Last year that much certainly seemed true, at least until the A’s collapsed and the Angels seperated themselves from the pack in a big way. But this division supposedly features four teams built to win now and another one on the rise. Given this reputation, the moves made by AL West clubs at the winter meetings can seem puzzling at face value.

The Oakland Athletics, coming off a season where they went all-in on acquisitions in an attempt to bring home a World Series trophy, spent the meetings trading away most of their high-profile talents, including Brandon Moss and Jeff Samardzija. This kind of wheeling and dealing is necessary for the team’s long-term success, and these moves (and the earlier Josh Donaldson trade) will help keep Oakland competitive long-term. But there’s no doubt this hurts their 2015 team.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made one of the most applauded deals of the week, swapping Howie Kendrick for Andrew Heaney. Yes, I think this is a good swap for the Halos. No, I don’t think this improves their 2015 team. Heaney gets a chance to contribute, but as we’ve all seen, it’s foolish to expect a young arm to reach his ceiling right away. Meanwhile, the starting second baseman is Grant Green, unless it’s Josh Rutledge. This, from the team that was sunk in part by Brandon Wood for so many years in a row.

The Houston Astros signed two very good relievers in Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson, but still project as the worst team in the American League. The Texas Rangers’ big move so far has been the addition of sixth starter Ross Detweiler. The Mariners have Nelson Cruz and money to spend.

Dave Cameron has a piece up on Fox Sports today about the relative parity in the American League right now. Included is a graph that shows projected team WAR for all fifteen AL clubs, and would you look at which AL West team has the highest bar? The Angels took a pretty steep downgrade in their middle infield in order to nab a premium prospect, while the A’s are no longer trying to be the powerhouse they were in April, May, and June. The M’s legitimately look like the best team in the West, despite their holes.

Even after the bungling of the Michael Saunders saga, the Mariners are having the best offseason in their division. They spent the winter meetings not getting worse, which means they did better than their two primary competitors. The two Texas teams haven’t done nearly enough to get themselves on Seattle’s level, and now the M’s are in strange, uncharted territories. They’re better now, relative to the competition, despite having made no moves. Odd path, but we’ll take it.