For those unfamiliar with the BTB Sports “Win Now Challenge,” we’ve been choosing teams on MLB The Show 2020 and attempting to turn them from some of baseball’s worst into World Series champions in just one year. Thus far we’ve seen the Tigers, Giants, and Orioles all fail to win it all. For my first crack at it, I decided to go with the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners were 68-94 in 2019, finishing a cool 39 games out of first place in the AL West, good for dead last in the division. 68-94 is also meaningful because that equates to a winning percentage of .420, and you would have to be fucking high to think this team is a championship contender.
As you would expect, the roster that I started with was pretty barren. Let’s see what I was working with:
- Dee Gordon, 2B (77 Overall)
- J.P Crawford, SS (69)
- Mitch Haniger, RF (78)
- Daniel Vogelbach, 2B (74)
- Kyle Seager, 3B (80)
- Dom T-Williams, CF (69)
- Austin Nola, LF (75)
- Tom Murphy, C (82)
- Jake Fraley, DH (74)
- Marco Gonzales (79)
- Taijuan Walker (73)
- Yusei Kikuchi (69)
- Nick Margevicius (62)
- Justus Sheffield (63)
Key Relievers: Yoshihisa Hirano (77), Austin Adams (71), CL Carl Edwards Jr. (75)
Definitely not what you wanna see as a GM with the task of winning the World Series in Year 1. I knew I had my work cut out for me as I attempted to build Rome in one day. One thing about MLB The Show trades is that the money has to be even on both sides. Since the Mariners don’t have a lot of big contracts, I’ll have to trade my prospect capital for young stars on team-friendly deals.
The first move I wanted to make was for an ace. I set my sights on Luis Castillo.
No, not that one. This one.
It took three prospects, but one move in and we had our ace:
Mariners Get: SP Luis Castillo
Reds Get: CF Shaun Root, 2B Shed Long, 3B Patrick Wisdom
With an ace now secured, I decided we needed a face-of-the-franchise type player. Who better to fill that role than the best shortstop in baseball, Francisco Lindor.
Since Cleveland sports teams love making their fans miserable, the Indians were surprisingly willing to deal Lindor. All it took was two prospects and Kyle Seager to even out the money. They even threw in power-hitting outfielder Franmil Reyes for my troubles. This was a deal so good, even Billy Mays wouldn’t be able to believe it (RIP).
Mariners Get: SS Francisco Lindor, OF Franmil Reyes
Indians Get: 3B Kyle Seager, CF Jake Fraley, SS Noelvi Marte
They say great teams are built up the middle, so I wanted a starting catcher I could trust. I looked towards one of the league’s best last year in Mitch Garver, and it took a couple of other young catchers to get him:
Mariners Get: C Mitch Garver
Twins Get: C Tom Murphy, C Joe Hudson
My next move was to add some depth to the pitching staff. So I called up New York’s favorite little brother, the Mets, who were more than happy to oblige:
Mariners Get: SP Marcus Stroman, RP Seth Lugo
Mets Get: SS J.P. Crawford, 2B Dee Gordon
I scoured the league for more low-priced stars, I noticed one of the game’s best two-way players, Matt Olson. I quickly sent a package to Oakland in exchange for one of the top first basemen in MLB:
Mariners Get: 1B Matt Olson
A’s Get: SP George Kirby, SP Marco Gonzales, RF Julio Rodriguez
As if it wasn’t enough that the Target in Minneapolis is already in shambles, Target Field was about to be as well. The Twins apparently had no interest in repeating as AL Central champs, trading me another one of their big boppers in exchange for prospects.
Mariners Get: SS Jorge Polanco, 2B Luis Arraez
Twins Get: SP Taijuan Walker, SP Darren McCaughan, SS Cesar Izturis Jr.
I still felt that my lineup “needed some shit with some bop in it”, as DaBaby would say. Though I already had a first baseman, an opportunity to add another as good as Josh Bell could not be passed up. He would make a great addition to the lineup as the DH. So I sent a package of prospects to Pittsburgh for him:
Mariners Get: 1B Josh Bell
Pirates Get: OF Jared Kelenic, RP Yoshihisa Hirano, SP Connor Sadzeck
With two new first basemen, I traded two that I started with for some more pitching help:
Mariners Get: SP Yonny Chirinos
Rays Get: 1B Daniel Vogelbach, 1B Evan White
In one last move to improve my staff, I acquired the young and promising Aaron Civale from the Indians in exchange for a couple of infielders:
Mariners Get: SP Aaron Civale
Indians Get: 2B Luis Arraez, 2B Chris Mariscal
After acquiring OF Chris Taylor & SP Alex Wood from the Dodgers and signing a pair of free agents (Ben Zobrist to play second base and Collin McHugh to help anchor the bullpen), I decided I was ready to start the season. Here was the squad I sent out there on Opening Day:
- Francisco Lindor, SS (92)
- Matt Olson, 1B (82)
- Josh Bell, DH (88)
- Mitch Garver, C (84)
- Jorge Polanco, 3B (82)
- Franmil Reyes, LF (76)
- Mitch Haniger, RF (80)
- Ben Zobrist, 2B (78)
- Chris Taylor, CF (79)
- Luis Castillo (84)
- Marcus Stroman (81)
- Alex Wood (77)
- Aaron Civale (74)
- Yonny Chirinos (73)
Key Relievers: Carl Edwards Jr. (72), Collin McHugh (74), CL Seth Lugo (85)
A lot of these guys’ overalls drop a few points when they’re traded, but tend to make their way back up once they get settled in. I felt good about this group. The lineup had pop, and we had some quality arms in the rotation. I set out to simulate the season and see how we fared. We faced the Rangers on Opening Day… and lost 20-1.
Alas, we had 161 games left to prove ourselves, and thankfully things got better. As the trade deadline approached, we sat at 60-49, leading the division by 2.5 games. I set out to get the boys some reinforcements for the stretch run. Where was the first place I went? You guessed it, Minnesota.
Mariners Get: SP Kenta Maeda, RP Trevor May, RP Tyler Duffey
Twins Get: SP Alex Wood, SP Justin Dunn
The back of the bullpen seemed to be an issue, so I made one last move to bolster it:
Mariners Get: RP Jose Alvarado
Rays Get: OF Mitch Haniger
We managed to hold our lead and finish the season at 88-74, winning the AL West by three games over the Angels. We were going to October, baby!
Our ALDS matchup? The New York Yankees. I felt a little weird facing my favorite team in the playoffs because I just couldn’t help thinking what a nightmare it would be if the Yankees got knocked out by the Mariners this year in real life. But for the sake of the challenge, I had to do it. This also wasn’t your typical Yankee team – for some reason Gio Urshela was batting second and playing shortstop, while Miguel Andujar played third base and Gleyber Torres DH’d. The game definitely makes some weird moves, but it’s the same game that just traded me half of the Minnesota Twins for no reason, so I wasn’t about to question it now.
Facing Gerrit Cole in Yankee Stadium in Game 1, Castillo was able to keep pace. A solo home run by Gary Sanchez was the only mistake he would make all night, and when both starters had departed the game, the Mariners held a 2-1 lead. Reyes provided an insurance run with a home run in the 8th, and after a few dominant innings of relief from Alvarado, Lugo entered to shut it down. He did the exact opposite, imploding to give up three runs in the bottom of the 9th as we dropped a heartbreaker in Game 1, 4-3.
We bounced back in a BIG way in Game 2, as Luis Severino’s postseason woes continued (I was at the 16-1 game against the Red Sox in 2018 so this is an especially sensitive topic for me). The Mariners hit five homers off Sevy, including two from Bell, and rode a strong start from Stroman en route to a 10-6 win to even the series.
With the series shifting to Seattle, Game 3 looked to be another pitcher’s duel. Kenta Maeda and James Paxton were both throwing gems, until the Yankees ultimately took a 2-0 lead thanks to solo shots from Andujar and Aaron Judge. The Yankees were threatening with runners on second and third and one out in the sixth, I brought in Lugo for a chance at redemption. He immediately let up an RBI single to make it a 3-0 game, before striking out the next batter and then walking the bases loaded with two outs. Well, Gleyber hit an absolute cockshot of a grand slam on the first pitch he saw, extending the lead to 7-0 and effectively ending the game. I quickly gave Lugo the Ari Gold treatment as a 2-1 series deficit stared us in the face.
Matt Olson hit a solo shot in the 9th to prevent the shutout, but it was too little too late as we lost 7-1. Absolutely unrelated side note: Too Little Too Late by Jojo is a certified banger.
With our backs against the wall, we sent the 25-year old right-hander Civale to the mound. And he delivered. After an error led to an unearned run in the first, he cruised his way through six innings. Thanks to a leadoff homer from Lindor and another a few innings later, we were clinging to a 2-1 lead. Civale let up a one-out single to Giancarlo Stanton in the 7th, his first hit of the series (I can’t even begin to imagine how badly he would be getting roasted by WFAN callers if that were a real life scenario.) He struck out Sanchez for the second out of the inning, and I was about to pull him for an already warm Alvarado. However, once I saw that Civale had struck out the next guy, Aaron Hicks, twice today, I decided to leave him in for one more batter. Big mistake by me.
Hicks pimped a two-run shot to right, giving the Yanks a 3-2 lead. Alvarado came in and held them at 3, but my guys were too shook to respond. They failed to muster another run, and we lost by one. Our season was over.
That’s the beauty of the Win Now Challenge. Even when you start to feel like you have a chance, the Baseball Gods remind you that nothing is guaranteed in this game. Feel free to give it your own shot, and let us know how you fared.