SEATTLE – This should be an interesting two months ahead for the Mariners as they fight to win not only games on the field but fan confidence as well.
That confidence was on the upswing as the team entered the All-Star break with its first series sweep, hitting like it hasn’t in years and riding a wave of enthusiasm over young players Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino.
And that’s why navigating the July 31 trade deadline will be challenging for the Mariners, who must balance the need to better a team that’s still nine games under .500 with a desire not to disrupt any positive momentum recently built. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, as he usually does this time of year, downplayed the importance of the looming deadline.
“In all fairness, I don’t think I’m going to be aggressive,” Zduriencik said before the break. “I don’t think I’m going to go out there and start shopping our players. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”
Zduriencik said his goal is to put “a healthy club on the field” once the season resumes Friday in Houston. He’ll still take calls from interested trade partners and consider options to better the club.
But right now, he said, he’s finally seeing the club he initially envisioned.
“We’ve been through a lot in the early part of this year between struggles, between injuries and setbacks,” he said. “So, we like what’s happened (in July), but who knows? I don’t have a crystal ball.”
Part of the problem Zduriencik faces is that some of his most marketable trade commodities are the very glue holding this team together. Few contending teams wouldn’t love to get their hands on Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez or Hisashi Iwakuma for a stretch run. But trading them could turn the Mariners from a team that just went 8-5 in a tough part of the schedule to one more like the club that was 12 games under .500 when that stretch began.
Even dealing away left-handed starter Joe Saunders at a time the rotation still seems shaky - with Aaron Harang inconsistent and Erasmo Ramirez getting lit up his first time out - could risk any improvements made.
The last thing the Mariners want is another 90-loss season as they struggle to win back public confidence in their plan. But they were on pace for 92 losses before sweeping the Angels and know just how fragile their reliance on youth could be.