Editor's note: The column below was filed during the early innings of the Seattle Mariners' 2-0 loss to Oakland Wednesday (July 6), a few hours before M's management indeed brought Kyle Seager to the big-league team from the Tacoma Rainiers. The M's on Wednesday got just two hits from the offense and sloppy play from Chone Figgins at third base, negating yet another splendid effort from a starting pitcher (Jason Vargas). These factors may have figured prominently in the decision about Seager.
Local box-score gawkers lately may have been turning the sports pages past the Seattle Mariners’ results and going directly to the daily accounting of how the triple-A Tacoma Rainiers played. The Seattle-Tacoma player pipeline, after all, has been a busy arterial during recent weeks, Tacoma boasting several early-season M’s starters and vice versa.
One name, even though it’s mostly been restricted to tiny type of box scores, surely has stood out like 48-point banner headlines during the recent week. The moniker belongs to one Kyle Duerr Seager. In the agate type it’s simply “Seager, 3b,” typically followed by statistics indicating why, after just 54 at-bats for Tacoma, the 23-year-old possible phenom has an on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) percentage of 1.173. By point of comparison, Toronto’s Jose Bautista leads the big leagues in that stat with a 1.154.
Obviously the comparison is dubious given Seager’s relative dearth of at-bats and his weaker level of competition. But the guy from North Carolina (isn’t that where Dustin Ackley comes from?) has had repeated multiple-hit performances so far. Even though he only went one for five Tuesday (July 5), bringing his average way down to .455, his hit was a three-run dinger that helped the Rainiers beat the Sky Sox, the hosts from Colorado Springs, with Tacoma prevailing 13-9.
M’s officials have been shuttling mostly outfielders between Tacoma and Seattle. Ackley, of course, is considered — for great reason — the second-baseman of the present and perhaps the protracted future.
Conspicuously, coincidentally, and conveniently, one of the M’s nagging deficiencies has been staffing third base. Once the home of veteran Chone Figgins, the position lately has been handed to Adam Kennedy in the absence of anything good happening with Figgins.
The club hasn’t really gotten steady offensive production from the position since the better seasons featuring Adrian Beltre and Mike Blowers. No one, nearly as I can tell, is claiming that young Seager has the potential to be great at the hot corner. During his two-plus pro seasons he’s had his share of errors at three infield positions.
It’s his “O” potential that already has bloggers slathering. This isn’t surprising given a desperate Eric Wedge. The field boss frequently has been forced to pencil in guys with low-.200-range batting average in the middle of the order and at designated hitter.
The risk of going to Seager too soon, reasoned blogger Keith Myers at the SoDo Mojo site earlier this week, could be that the kid obviously has “played all of 10 games at the AAA level. Sure, he’s hitting .480 (24 of 50) but it’s only 10 games. He should at least have to show it’s not a fluke over a couple months before getting a chance in the bigs, right?”
I tend to concur. Interstate 5 seems hazy with the ghosts of great triple-A hitters who came to Seattle and saw their production drop precipitously. Then, a Mike Carp, Ryan Langerhans or Mike Wilson returns to the Rainiers and hits the way he never did in the bigs. As to the latter, after waiting a decade, the eager Wilson made it to the majors in May only to be given just 27 at-bats, making the least of it with four hits before catching the southbound shuttle.
One can infer that M’s brass have thought about all kinds of short- and long-term options. All possibilities would seem to get down to short-term realities, mainly: How will the Mariners look pennant race-wise at the all-star break and what kinds of tradesies may be available.
If nothing else the decision-makers could have a lot worse options available than a 23-year-old property making Rainiers box scores must reading well beyond Tacoma.