I was getting out of work and grabbing a bus home last night and trying to catch up on Twitter, when it became abundantly obvious after reading the storm of posts from people I follow that the Mariners had done something, had made another move. Within a few seconds, I found out that that move was a straight-across trade, Michael Saunders for JA Happ.
I had hoped this would not happen, to the point where I just started to ignore people talking about it before yesterday. First of all, let me just get this out of the way; my love for Michael Saunders is completely irrational. He had some great moments at the plate, I liked his fielding, and he seemed like a good guy on the team; nobody complained, he did the utility thing without any (that I ever heard of) complaining, he was a low-key, no-drama guy. But we all know that does not a ball player make, and Saunders also spent a lot of time injured, and faced some criticism and scrutiny from the organization because they didn’t feel like he was spending enough time taking steps to help himself avoid those injuries. There is little anyone can do to prevent knocking into a wall while trying to save their pitcher a home run, but I guess there were some strength training issues or something. I prefer to remain in the dark about it. He earned his “Condor” nickname making those outfield wall jumps, but you can only do that so many times in so many places before you run out of tickets to play the wellness lottery, and it appears that Michael Saunders’ time in Seattle is up.
Per Ryan Divish, Saunders had this to say about the fans here:
I just want them to know how much I appreciate their support. I can never thank them enough. They stood behind me through thick and thin, good and bad. They always had my back. They are the one thing I’m going to miss the most. I consider them part of my family. They will always have a special place in my heart.
And he is right. We did. Saunders had his die-hards in center field, and he had folks in the upper deck waving signs and cheering him on. I did my part wherever I happened to be sitting when he did well, never booed him when he didn’t, always hoped that he would be able to play. I was aware of his troubles at the plate, but always felt warm and fuzzy when he was out in center. I am sad to see him gone, but I also know I was just ignoring the inevitable. The Mariners seem determined currently to mend holes in our offense and bolster our pitching, so Michael Saunders is headed back to his native Canada (though not his native province) to go play baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays (and familiar face Munenori Kawasaki!), and pitcher JA Happ comes here to fit into our pitching rotation. Or not.
I don’t know much about JA Happ. In fact, someone on Twitter asked me if he was a starter or a reliever, and I honestly had no idea. I felt like Happ might have been in relief the last time I saw him, and I may have, but he comes advertised as a starter. This is apparently not a move a lot of fans wanted; Happ has been pegged as a number 5 at best (unless you read this from Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs, and you should), and we need a Chris Young 2014 season replacement (preferably better). Happ is a 32-year old lefty who is still owed some $6 million, and while the 32-year old part isn’t the most sparkly thing I have ever heard, his Steamer projections for 2015 are also not the worst thing I have seen for a 32-year old pitcher. This may be a downgrade for the Mariners defensively, but it also doesn’t sound like they’re done yet, we still have Winter meetings upcoming, and the name Justin Upton has been tossed around a lot lately. I feel like Jack Zduriencik is going to start back up with the ninja skills here in a bit…
I’m not going to panic over any of this. What I am going to do instead is wish Michael Saunders the best of luck “back home”, and give JA Happ the benefit of the doubt. Given that I personally know very little about him, I at least owe him that, as a fan. I will absolutely miss Saunders, but things are looking very intriguing for the Mariners in 2015, and I have hope.