As a complement to Griffin’s “year in review” series, I thought it would be good to look at the organization position by position. In this series we’ll be looking at the players that the M’s have at the major league and AAA levels, and examining the potential contribution for each of these players. We’ll start with the outfield:
Ichiro: Ichiro had a bit of an off year at the plate, putting up an OPS of just .754, That’s not too bad, but it’s not all that great for a corner outfielder. He also had an UZR of 15.6 which is outstanding, so his defense is still among the tops in the league. Overall his WAR of 4.8 wasn’t too bad either, and it’s safe to expect him to be back up around 6 next season. While he will never live up to his $18 mil salary, he’s still a good player and isn’t going anywhere. (and even if they wanted to trade him, who would take that contract?)
Guiterrez: Guti’s defensive stats took a step back in 2010, dropping to a UZR of 7.3. That was to be expected though, and we should also expect a rebound next year. Offensively he got off to a great start before regressing. I’m not sure if that’s an indication of his skill, or the lack of offensive talent around him. Still his WAR of 2.3 wasn’t bad, and we can expect him to remain a fixture in CF for years to come.
Saunders: Saunders took advantage of his limited playing time to put up a UZR of 1.5. Which is actually quite good, as it projects out to 17.0 over 150 games. The problem is that his OBP was just .295 and his OPS was an equally poor .662. This lead to a WAR of just 0.3, meaning he was easily replaceable. While many M’s fans think that Saunders will blossom into a good player, his chances to do so with this team are running out. The M’s tried to dump him a year ago in the Lee trade, and another poor showing in 2010 leads me to expect he wont come to spring training with this team.
Bradley: It’s hard to know what to expect the M’s to do with Milton Bradley. his WAR of -1.4 means that the team would actually be better playing a AAA call-up. He’s also owed 12 million for next season. I wouldn’t expect anyone to take him off the M’s hands unless they sent most, or all, of his salary with him. For that reason I expect him to be brought in to spring training as the projected starting LF. If you’re going to pay him anyways you might as well see if he can rebound, no matter how unlikely it is. Especially since if he fails he can simply be cut (and paid) and his roster spot can be used by someone who can actually help the team.
Figgins: We like to think of Figgins as a infielder, but he’s played plenty of outfield as well. The Braves wanted him at the trade deadline to play CF, so it’s a possibility that Figgins could be moved back to the outfield. I wouldn’t expect the M’s to come out of spring training with Figgins in the OF, but after Ackley gets called up Figgins may be a man w/o a position, and if Bradley starts the year in LF and plays like he did in 2010, the M’s will need someone to get some playing time out there.
Carp: Lets face it, Carp is a 1B/DH type player. Smoak’s presence caused him to get pushed out to LF, and he managed to not embarrass himself, but he’s not an outfielder. Still, he’s a 24 year old lefthanded bat who has a good OBP and should hit plenty of doubles. After a very slow start in Tacoma he still finished with an .844 OPS, so there’s reason to be optimistic. He projects as a 1-2 WAR player in the OF, so it should be counted out as a possibility that he’s at platoon partner in LF, while being a backup 1B/DH. Not likely, but not impossible.
Halman: Halman is an interesting wildcard. He put up a good looking .854 OPS, but he only posted a 3.10 OBP and struck out 169 times. He also hit 33 home runs in Tacoma and is only 23 and it was only his first season at AAA. He also plays a decent, but not great, CF, and thus could play all three OF spots. I bet he starts the year in Tacoma, but will be ready to come up if someone gets hurts or if LF needs a new face.
Langerhans – signed a 1 year contract and likely wont be back. He’s not a part of the team’s long term plans.
Wilson – Even though he has some power and has had a bit of recent success, he’ll be 28 next year and has bounced back and forth between AA and AAA. Hard to believe he’ll be in baseball much longer. I wouldn’t expect him to ever contribute to the Mariners.
Overall Analysis: Essentially the Mariners has 2 legitimate outfielders in Guti and Ichiro, and will need to look outside the organization to find a third. Though the jury remains out on Halman, I think he needs another part of a year in AAA to work on his OBP and strike out rate. That leaves a washed up Bradley or people playing out of position as the team’s only real options.
Prediction guaranteed to be wrong: Guti and Ichiro in CF and RF. (thats the easy part) Saunders and Carp will be traded this offseason in an effort to bolster the offense, leaving Bradley as the only real option in LF. He’ll put up poor numbers and land on the DL with a “mysterious injury” for most of the year and will be replaced by Halman as the everyday LF.