By Brent Stecker
The Mariners are no strangers to making splashy trade deadline deals. Over the years they've shipped out big names like Cliff Lee and Randy Johnson for packages full of prospects. But what they are strangers to is developing their own star position players.
As ESPN senior writer Jim Caple pointed out on "Bob and Groz" on Monday, the last position player the Mariners drafted, developed and then saw reach the All-Star game in a Seattle uniform was Alex Rodriguez, who was drafted all the way back in 1994.
Kyle Seager has a chance to become the first position player to be drafted and developed by the Mariners to play in an All-Star game in a Seattle uniform since Alex Rodriguez. (AP)
The Mariners may have turned a corner when it comes to developing productive hitters, however. Third baseman Kyle Seager is hitting a team-high .293 and will threaten to break his own personal highs in home runs and RBIs this season. Second baseman Nick Franklin has entered the Rookie of the Year conversation with 10 home runs, 32 RBIs and an .832 OPS in 52 games. And shortstop Brad Miller has looked confident hitting out the leadoff spot, as he has a .333 on-base percentage and 10 extra-base hits in 26 games.
Those players' contributions, among others, have Caple calling for the Mariners to stand pat through Wednesday's trade deadline, even though they have several veterans that could be enticing to teams looking to pad their lineups for the stretch run.
"If somebody overwhelms you with a deal, then make it. Otherwise, stay pat, play the young guys and see what happens," Caple said. "Then you have a better idea of what you're going to be doing next year."
The Mariners have made significant improvements over the last month, pushing their record to 50-55 and taking a hold of third place in the American League West. They may be out of time to make a run for the playoffs themselves, however, but Caple is encouraged with the team's future because of the play of their young hitters.
"There have been so many disappointments, not just from the current administration, but over the years," said Caple, bringing to mind top prospects that didn't pan out like Jeremy Reed and Jeff Clement. "It's really refreshing to see this."
Franklin's production has been especially impressive, and could be a reason why general manager Jack Zduriencik doesn't appear to be on the hot seat anymore.
"I would say that Franklin may have saved Jack's job," Caple said.
Seager looks to be the catalyst of the Mariners' newfound ability to develop young hitters. He joined the big club in 2011, and has a .271 career average, one 20-homer season, and a strong .838 OPS this year.
"There wasn't a whole lot of hype about (Seager), and he's been very productive for them," Caple said. "He's played nicely at third base, he's got a little bit of power – I like him a lot. It gives me some hope finally that these guys may actually develop into something. And with the pitching they have, it's not unrealistic to say next year might be a pretty good year for them. I think it is a little late right now for them this year, but just watching the kids develop could be pretty exciting."