The Epic, Grand, Amazing King For A Day: Off-Season Edition


Below you are about to be absorbed into my own little world. One that I’ve taken the better half of … oh well… let’s just pretend it’s been two weeks and not the last two months, because that’s just sad.

This is strictly of my own opinion, take it at face value, which is worth nothing. I understand no one cares how I would improve the Mariners and that in general most of my theories for roster construction are really just a mish mash of other brilliants minds at work.

Be prepared to be completely disappointed. I, like many others, love talking trades. I love discussing how to make this team better simply because, My Lord they are awful this past year, but really I can’t believe they are as bad as they really are. As I’ve previously discussed my sole goal for this team is to do the following:

  • A)     I want to give this team a trampoline. The goal is to give them the opportunity to bounce forward from this point. Start this coming year as a 77-80 win team and give them the opportunity to better themselves to becoming an 85-90 win team. Next year starts this year.
  • B)      You can’t move forward without talent. I’m not just talking about acquiring talent either, it’s about cultivating and helping it grow towards being healthy and productive. The Mariners are never going to compete, let me reiterate this for everyone, NEVER going to compete again unless they can eventually grow internal talent. Doug Fister was good, Dustin Ackley is of course way better, but there needs to be less gap time between the time periods and more players. Really, what this team needs to figure out is how to grow position players and while you need to give them time you need to have the talent to step in for if those young guys fail.
  • C)      With growing talent it means keeping it. My goal is to keep as much internal talent possible while moving forward. This is extremely difficult and it relies on… more risk. You can’t get premier talent without giving up premier talent but you can acquire certain individuals that are available around the league for less than they potentially could be worth. This takes a lot of time and is a huge risk. But the important thing is all your giving away is at bats. The talent you have to give up to get them was hardly negligible. Bottom line: I hate giving away young cost controlled arms for risk/reward situations. There is a time to hold ‘em and a time to … well deal them. I see few moves that could should be made by dealing away any of the young arms the Mariners have collected to this point.
  • D)     I know Seattle fans are looking at the potential 20 million dollars and they feel like finally they can spend it. Oh they have the money free right now and it’s already starting to burn a hole in their pocket. The unfortunate truth is we can’t just throw that at the “best” guy possible. They have to spend it wisely or be doomed to repeat more of the mid -2000’s. Likewise it means acquiring talent that is on the mend that other teams have deemed “too much time to invest or too pricey due to lack of production” some call it dumpster diving others call it investing. We need to come away from this season with more money in our pockets next year. As I continue to say getting to .500 is easy. Once we’re there it’s going to take money or prospects to make that last push. We’ll discuss that more as we get into the free-agent section.

Without further ado I give you my EPIC king of the off-season post.

The 40-Man Roster, the Rule-V Draft and Free-Agency Prep:

I’ve given some thought on how I would do this and in light of the most recent events (David Aardsma’s release), I’ve come up with what I would do. A long with the 40-man I’ll be using Tim Dierkes arbitration calculator to give a rough budget for the upcoming season.

I’m using 91 million as the max amount the Mariners would spend this off-season. This idea was invented purely arbitrarily, I didn’t get it from anywhere, I have no insider knowledge and it was easy to come with that than wading through the Times and Geoff Baker’s posts (he’s really made me sad lately… very glum indeed… but never mind that.)

Waive: Ceasar Jimenez, Jeff Gray, David Aardsma, Chris Gimenez, Mike Wilson

Free-Agents: Jamey Wright, Josh Bard, Adam Kennedy, Wily Mo Pena

Non-Tender: Luis Rodriguez

Down to: 33 Roster Spots

Add: Carlos Triunfel, Fransico Martinez, Chih-Hsien Chaing

Final Count: 36 Roster Spots

$ Spent: $69 mil (per MLBtraderumors.com)

$ Cap: $91 mil

$ Left: $ 22 mil

 

Acquisitions:

Remember it’s my world, my rules, but I do try and attempt to keep things partially sane here.

 

Trades

Dan Cortes for Scott Rolen

The Reds have both Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen under contract next year while both Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco wait in the wings. I’ve seen several different sites float the idea of putting Rolen on waivers or trading him for for whatever they can get. I just am not sold with Cortes anymore he’s lost a lot of stock in my book and his off-the-field incident at the end of last year didn’t help things.

 

I hate giving up any people that I’m especially high or was at one time. But I feel like at this point Cortes is dangerously low on trade value and while it would be nice to keep him around I think flipping him at this point garner the Mariners a better piece for the immediate future rather than hoping that Cortes works out. The Mariners would end up only taking on only a third of the 6 million owed to Rolen.

Total free cash down to: $20 Million.

 

Miguel Olivo and Yoervis Medina for Will Venable:

Catching depth is at a premium right now Olivo or not and the Padres have little catching depth past Nick Hundley, who is also injury prone and while he had a great season last year is hardly a lock to do it again. Our old buddy Rob Johnson didn’t work out (surprise, surprise) and was released. Lastly, Jason Phillips, who barely should count in this type of conversation, filed for minor league free-agency.

Currently the plan as I understand it is heading into the season with the Luis Martinez as their back-up catcher. The problem with Martinez is, while he has a decent approach to the plate, he possesses little to no power and has no speed, add to that he’s not an especially good defender behind the plate and it kind of adds up not a real major league option.

I know we all hate Miguel Olivo, but let’s face it he’s not as bad as we all make him out to be. He’s only owed 3 mil left on his deal, making him a relatively cheap back-up and with a decent season he could still make type-B compensation status.

Also, while Petco is spacious it’s not nearly as harsh on right handed hitters as Safeco leading to the possibility that he could regain some the offensive status he lost last year. He’s also had a perpetual problem with pitches in the dirt, but has exceled at throwing out runners. Taking him away from Felix and Pineda (who both have wicked movement on their fastballs) and giving him a young strike throwing staff could give him some positive value.

A long with Olivo you are going to have to throw in something extra. Let’s face it the Padres need a back-up but they don’t need Olivo. Medina is the sweetner and while he’s starting now, I have a strong premonition that he’s going to be headed to the bullpen. I don’t think that’s a bad thing and I think he has the potential to become a quality reliever. Padres have dealt quite a bit of relief depth the past two years and having a young arm that has some helium could be a nice little net for what amounts to outfield depth.

Venerable is one of about 5 possible starting outfielders in 2012 for the Padres. He’s also going to be a super-2 (becoming more expensive than the rest), and while that’s hardly a deal breaker at this point for the Padres, they were already losing patience with him so the opportunity to turn depth into some needed pieces could prove lucrative to the Padres and while there are 5 possible starters now young studs such as Decker, Blanks, Cunningham, Darnell are coming fast behind him is only going to shorten the leash.

Total free cash down to: $21 Million (yes, we would make about a million off this transaction)

 

A TRADE I WOULD HAVE CONSIDERED:

Chone Figgins for Derek Lowe:

I can’t imagine that this wasn’t discussed at one time by our GM and I sincerely hope it was because it’s brilliant for the Mariners for a multitude of reasons. I would even be willing to include a C+ prospect such as Johermyn Chavez, Danny Carroll or even Andrew Carraway, in order to get a deal done. Here is why:

A)     While the contracts work out about the same, Lowe’s contract is up after the season freeing up 15 million dollars.

B)      In a bad year Lowe was still a capable 5th starter producing 2.5 WAR with an ERA over 5. But still had a FIP under 4, can you say disparity? If we were to player the over/under game using ERA as the metric and the number at 5 I’d take the under.

C)      Lowe is in line to still be a type-B free-agent which would give us a first round draft pick, assuming of course he gets a major league contract after 2012 season. (Wait doesn’t the world end in 2012?)

I really love what the Indians did and I’m just saddened that they beat me and the Mariners to the punch of working out a bad contract deal.

 

Guys I Considered Targets But Just Couldn’t Pull The Trigger For A Variety Of Reasons:

—Outfielders

Logan Morrison: Dislike – My biggest problem here is that the Marlins are going to try to flat rip off any team that acquires Morrison. They’ll act as if what happen this past season was hardly an issue and that they would “hate” to part with him. All that said Morrison isn’t really that much better in left field than my Grandma and should probably move to first base. That sounds like an insult but just a couple of years ago my grandmother climbed a flight of wooden stairs on a sharp incline with a shattered right knee and dislocated left ankle. My grandma owns and still walks 3+ miles a day.

Nick Markakis: Dislike – Look I like Markakis, I don’t like his contract that he signed with Baltimore. Not because he’s not a good player but 15 million dollars for a guy that fringe 2.5 WAR guy. The price tag is too much. Not to mention what the O’s would want back in return. Markakis’ deal is quietly bad and while he still provides value you’d be over paying, twice over, for his production. It’s just not worth it.

Shin-Soo Choo: Dislike – Look, Cleveland. We’ve got history. Sure we got Franklin Gutierrez from you for nothing. That doesn’t in any way make up for the trades in the past. I would have to look at this deal and be like: “Oh, that’s a total win for Seattle.” But the problem is they are going to want to near major league quality pieces back and I don’t think Michael Saunders really counts.

Denard Span: Vaguely Interested – If it means just throwing them Kyle Seager than I’m definitely interested. Span, when healthy, has the potential to be an above average hitter and an above average fielder.  Problem is, Span experienced serious head injuries last year and before I just throw something a solid piece their way I want to know that Span is healthy.

Nick Swisher: Not Available – I don’t think the Yankees are really going to trade Swish. That’s just the New York rumor mill at work, spinning, keeping busy, that way they aren’t force to talk all off-season about the lack of pitching options and how the Mariners are stupid for not trading them Felix.

That said, 10 mil for Swisher is reasonable as he’s one of the better right fielders in the league, he’s a hard working player, who’s style and approach would actually work really well here. Forget that off-the-field antics. That’s just part of being New York, it would hardly be an issue in Seattle. The only serious question mark would be compensation and I don’t think that New York values him as highly as they ought too. That said, I have no idea what I’d be comfortable giving up in return for him.

 

—Third Base

David Wright: Dislike – The Mets are lowering their fences and moving them in, he’s going to stay in NY and he’ll most likely be there for life. That said, he’s no longer sharp on defense and while he would help our line-up that’s like saying Jenny Craig would helped Fat Albert. Ugh, duh.

Mike Moustakas: Dislike – I kind of think he’s over hyped, don’t all stone me at once. But, I’m just not convinced he’s the left handed Evan Longoria that everyone makes him out to be. They’d likely want Pineda and I just think that’s too much. Is he worth a James Paxton? Sure, I’d give up James Paxton. But that’s not realistically going to get the job done. That said, who exactly said that Moose is the guy that the Royals are willing to part with. I tend to think that Billy Butler is the guy they’ll be trying to move this winter.

David Freese: Not Available – He was on my list at the beginning of the play-offs and then sadly, I knew there was no way we’re going to squeeze him out of their cold ringed feathers. Well at least until he trips and is on the DL for another month or two, that after the World Series celebration. He’s a solid third basemen but he’s not elite. At this point everyone is going to treat him elite, for the next year anyways.

Pablo Sandoval: Not Available - I would easily trade Paxton for Kung-Fu Panda. But to be honest I think it would take a lot more to entice the Giants to moving him. He’s back on the up-swing and the rest of the league should have bought low.

 

—First Basemen

Joey Votto: Not Available – I love Votto and I’d be willing to consider moving Pineda to bring Votto into the organization but he’s just not going anywhere. That trade deadline commotion that caused really hurt the Reds with Votto and they aren’t going to risk not being able to sign their guy long term so that they can shop him around. Not until they know for sure that he doesn’t plan on signing in Cincinnati.  

note: I wrote this prior to Dave Cameron’s off-season plan. I haven’t heard anything news wise that convinces me that Cincinnati is willing to talk about him. That maybe posturing. Maybe Dave knows more about this than I do. I’m willing to bet he does.

 

—Catchers

Ryan Hanigan: Not Available – I love Hanigan, he’s a great defender, a serviceable bat and all around great guy. There just isn’t a realistic way that the Reds ship him out right now. Not without paying some huge through the nose cost. If you’re going to do that get one of the prospects instead.

Chris Iannetta: Dislike – Look, I get everyone’s affinity for this guy, really, I do and he’s an interesting specimen with his on-base skills and pop. Here’s my beef, his home/road splits are Freddy Krueger scary and while he’s a very good defensive catcher he still struggles with passed ball/wild pitches. If I bring in a guy at this point to step in front of Adam Moore, he’s got to have that elite level defender tag along with whatever other bag of tricks he’s got. Iannetta is good, I’m not completely sold that he’s the complete package.

 

Free-Agents:

Sign David Aardsma to a 1yr/500k base but incentive laden deal:

Here’s how I’d structure the contract. I’d set a base of 500k, or whatever the league minimum currently is, then add 500k for each additional 10 innings he pitched, worth a max of $3 million for 60 innings (which he obviously would be highly unlikely to reach). Here is the kicker; I’d create a vesting clause that would add an additional year at $5 million should he reach 30 appearances.

Total free cash down to: $20.5 Million

 

Sign one of Dan Wheeler, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch or Shawn Camp to a 1yr/$5 million deal:

He is the easiest way to import fresh talent into your system. Buy a reliever that qualifies as a Type-B free-agent and sign him to a one year deal. If you haven’t yet put together the pieces here is why:

A)     Even if he has a bad season he’d have to be SERIOUSLY bad to drop out of the Type-B category. As a pitcher, in Seattle, I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

B)      Most likely he has instant name recognition, so when you sign him and he does work out you can trade him for what equates to a first round draft sandwich pick.

C)      More than likely they’re going to give you at least going to give you innings and that has value in and of itself. They can even do a bit of mentoring to the young relief squad.

Billy Beane is doing this down in Oakland and so is Alex Anthopoulos in Toronto, it’s the easiest way to add talent to your farm system and make no mistake about it, this is arms race.

Total free cash down to: $15.5 Million

 

Sign Chris Capuano to 1yr/$3.5 million deal:

Capuano, if you don’t remember, was someone Dave Cameron advocated for last year and was picked up by the Mets. While his numbers are pretty pedestrian, if you look at his peripherals you’ll see that he is one of the more under rated starting pitchers out on the Market. He’s a #3/4  pitcher in my book and I’d love to see him pitching in Seattle and even he could make for an interesting trade chip in 2012.

Total free cash down to: $12 Million

 

Sign Kelly Shoppach to a 1yr/$1 million deal:

Shoppach is a weird one because this depends on him being non-tendered. But, here is the thing; the Rays aren’t going to keep Shoppach because he hit two home runs in the ALDS. They have John Jaso as their starter and I flat out refuse to believe they are going to pay 3.6 million dollars for a back-up catcher when they have a capable one already.

Maybe the Rays will attempt to resign Shoppach after they turn down his option, I’m not sure. But, consider this: during their stretch run Joe Maddon was very open and honest about the fact that he was going to Jaso and Lobaton over Shoppach. I quiet don’t think he’s headed back and I think he’s going to pretty available based upon the fact he’s not a very good offensive catcher.

Total free cash down to: $11 Million

Total amount spent: $80 Million

Guy I Would Stay Away From Until It’s Clear He Has Few Options And Then Snag Him But It’s Highly Unlikely So Don’t Get Your Hopes Up…Unless You Hate This Option, Then Hate Away:

Josh Willingham, OF

Willingham is a guy I’d love to snatch up if he would be willing to listen on a 2 yr deal. I’d offer him a 2 yr/$18 million deal and see if he bites. Sure, that gives us too many outfielders but we can fix that quick fast an in a hurry. As for the first round pick, ours is protected and we’d be losing our second round pick. It’s a loss but one that I’d be willing to endure.

Thing is I think the Phillies are going to be all over him, crazy out of left field opinion,  and I think he’s going to get a deal that is more in the range of 3yrs/$33 million. That contract is, in my opinion, not going to be favorable to the team that signs him. If it’s not the Phillies than I’m sure a team like the Giants or even the Reds, in their quest to find a quality left fielder would be willing to dish out more dough than the Mariners to bring him into their fold.

Regardless, I would love to have Josh Willingham over Venable, I just don’t see that working out.

 

Guys That Could Make Sense:

Grady Sizemore, OF: Like – there isn’t much not to like in a Grady Sizemore signing. I just don’t see why he’d want to come back to Seattle, unless of course, Seattle over pays in which case I dislike that. But in the off-chance that the home town prodigy wants to come home and play in front of family and friends, it’d be a perfect match.

David DeJesus, OF: Like – If the Mariners were unable to Vernable the older version is going to be available in DeJesus. While I don’t mind bringing in DeJesus, he just feels like 2 yrs too late and not someone I would want sink 2 yrs of time into left field.

Casey Blake, 3B: Like – I like Blake a lot, the problem though is much like Sizemore, he’s going to want to go to a “winner”. He’s getting old and if he doesn’t retire he’s going to want to play for a team that can bring him a ring. That said, if he’s the free-agent version of Scott Rolen, if the Mariners convinced him to come out to Seattle for one year it’d be perfect.

Ramon Hernandez, C:Like – I like everything about Hernandez, forget about the fact he can hit. Even if he didn’t he’d be perfect for the Mariners. He’s one of the THE best defensive catchers in baseball and I could see the Mariners make a play for him this off-season should they ditch Olivo.

 

Stay Away From:

Vladimir Guerrero, DH: Dislike – Vlad the impaler is done. He needs to retire this off-season and no more speaking about how well he has hit in Seattle in the past. The guy is ancient and didn’t hit too well in Baltimore when in the line-up.  He’s had a heck of a career, it’s time he moves on.

Raul Ibanez, “LF”: Dislike – I’ve heard a few people talk about him as a DH option and it’s just a terrible idea. Let me say right now, “no”. He wasn’t a good hitter last year in the lesser national league, what’s going to make him a better here in the American League?  He can’t play defense, he’d be relegated to filling a hole that has been a hole for the Mariners for the last 7, 8 years and he’d only ruin what fans he had. I say he should retire.

Cody Ross, OF: Dislike – There is no point in having Ross around for the Mariners, he’s an average defender, with average power that works okay in San Francisco. I think he’d become a big asset to a team like Cincinnati but ultimately wouldn’t be much beyond a 4th outfielder in Seattle because of his skill set.

Jason Kubel, OF: Dislike – He’s a lesser version of Mike Carp. Before Mike Carp, I thought Kubel would be an interesting sign on a limited 2 yr deal if stayed in the DH slot. Thank goodness we aren’t forced to find out how that would be handled because the I don’t think the Mariners would handcuff this team with another ugly contract while we have someone that makes nearly nothing that does the same thing. Thank goodness for Jack Zduriencik.

Michael Cudyer, OF: Dislike – Yeah, no defensive ability, relegated in reality to first base or DH, I see no point in signing Cuddyer with the way I’ve constructed this year’s Mariner team. He probably would be an asset at DH but you have to think he’s the type that’s going to want to play defense and really he has no business out in left field of Safeco. He’s a richman’s Josh Willingham.

 

Just Not the Right Timing:

Prince Fielder, 1B – I like Prince Fielder, I do, I think his addition to this club would go beyond what his WAR would bring in terms of production. That said, I think it’s too much money to commit when there are easy holes to fill with the money that is available. It’s simple. It’s plain. And it may not be right but it’s my opinion.

But, just for a second let’s stop operating as if we know what the Mariners are currently operating with in terms of a budget. It’s been speculated an awful lot and I want to know if the budget got scalled back so quick in the past two seasons how could it not just as quick be rolled back out. What happens if Jack Zduriencik’s ace up his sleeve is that he’s got an budget that’s sitting closer to $110,115 million. All of a sudden all this talk about how much money and where it needs to be spent changes. We can do both, fielder and fill additional needed depth.

Jim Thome, DH –  He just isn’t going to play for Seattle. You can’t overpay him, he’s going to go play for a team that is committed to going to the playoffs. I could the Phillies, Red Sox, maybe even Yankees in on him. He’s not coming to Seattle.

 

It’s Above My Head

Yu Darvish, RHP –  We can argue whether or not Darvish is really going to be worth all the money that is involved in getting him posted and then signing him to a major league contract. The fact remains, it’s not a general manager’s decision. This is an ownership call at this point.

If it was up to me I’d pass, but at the same time if the owner wants him, hey it’s not my money. I’d tell him straight up that this would be a deal done that wouldn’t go again my budget.

I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll let everyone else run with it and when it comes back that we do or don’t get him than I’ll move on from here. Would he be an asset to this Mariners team, assuredly. But, again the price to me is just not worth unless ownership really wants to step up. In my reality if the President came to me and said “We can provide the money for the posting, his contract will come out of your budget. What do you want to do?” I’d tell him I’d pass. That’s just me.

 

Will They or Won’t They (Non-Tender Guys):

Landon Powell, C – Interested: I really like Powell, I think that he could be a better than a traditional back-up catcher. He might have gotten a better shot had the Athletics not had Kurt Suzuki in front of him on the depth chart. In the Mariners ever searching quest to find catching, Landon Powell is a younger better version of Josh Bard, except he gets injured… a lot.

Assuming he gets non-tendered, which I’m 80% certain that he will be, Powell could be a really interesting buy low guy.

 

Minor League Free-Agent Deals:

This is just a quick rundown of a few guys that I would invite to Spring Training or want to add as depth down in AAA Tacoma. It’s unlikely that any of them receive major league offers and the Rainiers wouldn’t be able to keep all of them but they are some names to put in your hat and remember.

 

Erik Kratz, Catcher – I’ve liked Kratz for a couple years now. I’d almost be willing to give him a major league deal if I knew he could hit a breaking ball. He’s perhaps of the biggest “why doesn’t he get a shot” questions behind the plate. With all the problems with finding decent catching, I’m perplexed that someone hasn’t given Kratz at least 100 at bats to see what he could do.

He’s consistently praise for his defense and his approach to AAA pitching is one that would lead me to suspecting he could be a major league asset.

 

Chris Gimenez, Catcher – I know he plays a lot of positions and he was really not that good this past year, especially as a right fielder. But, every year he shows up on the plus defense scale for catchers, published by Matt Klaassen. I think the team (or a team) needs to give him a real shot at sticking behind the plate.

 

Matt Antonelli, Second/Third Basemen – This guy is going to rake when he gets his chance. I don’t get it. He’s a former top prospect from the Padres organization who had a ton of medical issues but is finally reaching AAA and showing what he can do when healthy. This guy was a Top-20 MLB prospect and despite the fact he had a wRC+ of 134 over 350 Pas for the Nationals AAA team he couldn’t buy a September call-up.

I’d be interested in bringing him into the organization and just see how he looks at third. What does the front office continue to say, compition. “These spots aren’t just going to give the job to anyone, they must be earned.” What’s the harm in a minor league deal?

Kevin Kouzmanoff, Third Basemen – The Mariners need a third basemen, Kouzmanoff is on the outs. An invite for him wouldn’t kill anyone. In fact he could surprise. Maybe he’s the 2012 version of Jack Hannahan.

Shane Lindsay, Right-Handed Relief Pitcher – Lindsay is a MilB free-agent, who throws in the mid-to-upper 90’s. Of course that comes with the caveat that he has huge command problems but … spaghetti ya know, if you don’t know just play along.

Josh Kinney, Right-Handed Relief Pitcher – Kind of in the David Pauley mold, only with a slider instead of a curve, he could be an interesting add for a bullpen position. If nothing else he’s depth at Tacoma.

Leyson Septimo, Left-Handed Relief Pitcher – Tell me if you heard this one before: hard throwing lefty, no control. Anyone?

Raul Valdes, Left-Handed Relief Pitcher – Valdes should never ever see a right handed hitter… that said he could be a really, really good LOOGY. Career xFIP vs. LHB  2.57 with 6.17 K/BB ratio in 28 IP.

 

Final Positional Thoughts:

 

 

Catching Situation:

This is going to be a serious issue for the Mariners and 2012 isn’t going to fix anything. The purpose of dealing Miguel Olivo gets rid of a guy that can’t hit and doesn’t field especially well. Kelly Shoppach, isn’t exactly a “good” hitter, but he’s an increadible catcher and one of the most under rated in all of baseball. He may not be a worthy starter but his defense, especially on balls in the dirt, is an increadible step forward.

Adam Moore may or may not ever be the starting solution, but that’s why I’m bringing in a slew of defensive minded catchers who if nothing else work well with pitchers have great catch and throw skills and most importantly can block the ball in the dirt.

Next off-season we should know a lot better about what we have down on the farm in terms of catching prospects and it’ll help guide us in what to look in terms of where we are going in 2013. But bottomline these guys are going to be able to at least provide positive production as defenders and won’t absloutely kill you when they have a bat in their hand.

First Base Situation:

Justin Smoak is the first basemen here in Seattle and there is really little doubt about it. Outside of that I don’t really have much to say on the subject because for the most part Jeff Sullivan stole everything possible there is to really say.

I’m a fan of Justin Smoak. I’m not narcissistic and rather hopefully in a generic sort of way. Not in the “Gosh I really want to stab him in the face it’s too early for this crap” sort of optmistic way more of “Well that’s one way of looking at it”. You know, just generally without the snark that comes with it. That’s how I am with Justin Smoak.

The guy’s going to get all of 2012 to prove himself and most likely quite a bit of 2013 too. I’m fine with this. I’ve talked about this previously, I think there is still plenty of ceiling for Smoak and if he was on another team and the Mariners were stuck with… say, Daric Barton, Smoak is a guy I would be targeting and screaming up and down to buy low.

Is he going to slug 40+ home runs? Probably not, no, and yet that doesn’t mean he’s going to be a below average first basemen. The Mariners are in fine hands and should Smoak go down injuries (again), Mike Carp is a suitable step in for the time being.

 

Second Base Situation:

Two words. Dustin.Ackley.

What is there really anything more that needs said? He’s already become the corner stone of the offense and while that’s not especially a good thing for such a young guy, he showed last year that he can handle it. Even while slumping he was our best hitter.

As of right now I can’t help but over hype him. He was SO good last year. I don’t think most people would realize that he was on pace to produce +4 WAR as a rookie. He’s extremely good and right now I just have to stop here otherwise I could end up writing another thousand words on how great Dustin Ackley really is.

 

Third Base Situation:

The Mariners start out with having Kyle Seager and Alex Liddi. Seems easy enough? But, Seager didn’t show much in the way of defense and Liddi didn’t show much in the way of contact skills. If you were mishmash them together like Frankenstein we’d have a really good player. Unfortunately, experimenting on humans is illegal as well as unethical (robots?).

I’m not ready to say that either of these guys are unuseable or that they aren’t prospects. Both have interesting upsides and may proove to be useful. But there is a need to bring someone in to fill what was the surpisingly a huge void for the Mariners in 2011.

Many of us thought for sure that 2010 was just a bad year for Chone Figgins. A year off and some time in the cage, maybe even the help of moving back to a familar position and you’d start seeing some success. He even hit a home run in the first game of the year in Oakland, the were all signs were there.

But, no such luck and I’m hardly of the mind to expect Figgins to come out of this funk so again your going to need someone from outside the organization. Thus why I deal for Scott Rolen. Rolen is no doubt at the end of his rope and career but I’m not sold that he’s done quiet yet. He still drove the ball really well (21% LD rate in 147 PA) and was shown via advanced statistics (UZR, DRS and  FSRs) to still be an above average defender.

If Rolen provided above average defense with an slightly below average bat (75-90 wRC+) he’d be a plus contributor on this team. That’s not asking a lot and I certainly don’t think it’s asking more than what he’s capable of performing. The great thing about having him around is that you wouldn’t have to play him every day. Kyle Seager could even spell him from time to time and help keep him fresh and I’d probably try and keep Matt Antonelli around and use him at second and third.

Rolen only has a year left on his contract, this would hardly prevent him from being removed if he didn’t work out it’s not as if the Mariners don’t have internal options. Then again he’s only around for the

Shortstop Situation:

I certainly get that everyone isn’t keen on another year of putting up 550 runs and just being an overall pathetic offense. But going out and paying big bucks for either Jimmy Rollins or Jose Reyes isn’t going nesscarily fix any of that. Ryan, while hardly a offensive cog and a below league average hitter, is one that still puts together good at bats for the most part. I believe this is why people got so excited about him and didn’t. Even when he’s not good and he was going through the motions of decent hitters, people forget what decenet hitters look like and then even though he isn’t getting base hits he looks good producing outs.

Signing someone could potential block Nick Franklin who is young, but could see time as soon as the end of this year. While there is no need to rush him I could see him pushing his way forward and making a case for a very short appereance in September. That said, I could see him legitimately pushing for a starting job as soon as 2013 and what do you do at that point with an aging veteran who you already how a bunch of money too? I mean obviously a trade is in order but it just seems like a waste.

One other guy in the minors to consider is Carlos Triunfel. I’ve said it for two years and I’ll continue to stand by my eye. He’s a shortstop right now. How long he stays there is entirely on him and how hard he works. But when I saw him at the beginning of the season Chris Harris and I had a long talk about how much he had developed up the middle and both came to the conclusion that he’ll be able to pick it at the major league level. It’s not that I think he couldn’t move off and become a third basemen but I don’t think he’ll ever have the pop for it. Just my own thoughts.

 

Outfield Situation: 

There is so much here and I so don’t even know how to sort it out. I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin and if I seriously got into it this could quickly become a book. Greg Halman is no longer even a viable option. I’m not sure if he’s even an interest to someone else which is why you didn’t seem including him in a deal, but I would have for just about anything.

Saunders is barely a 5th outfielder at this point with the team and just like Halman I’m not sure if I’m really willing to give him at bats short of an injury. Casper Wells is able to hold down center should Guti’s health continue to go down the hill, he obviously won’t do it to the same epic efficiency as Gutierrez, but then again who can?

Going back to Casper Wells he would be my proverbial 4th outfielder, though in reality I’d have him splitting time between him and Venable. Both could compliment each other very well in the outfield.

Venable is basically the perfect “reclamation” project and is pretty much exactly what I had hopped Saunders would become. He’s young, some what cheap and has the perfect Safeco build (speed and a bit of power… .169 ISO away from Petco) and has a little just a bit of ceiling still left to him. If only because of how much Petco is so amazingly hard on left handed hitters (wRC+ 119 career away opposed to 93 wRC+ at home) I’d argue moreso than what Safeco is on right handers.

Franklin Gutierrez is someone that I’m not worried about. Even if he hits 50% worse than the rest of the league (like he did last year) he’d still be of value to this team (not that I expect him to continue hitting that poorly), that’s how good he is on defense. That said, outside of another health lapse I expect Franklin to come back and be somewhat productive, if not entirely average at the plate. Which would pretty much make him close to a 5-6 WAR guy that we thought we might have back in 2009.

Ichiro is Ichiro… and I don’t really have anything else to say on that. I think he’ll be better than last year. I hope so. That’s all I really have. It’s not like you’re going to bench him so you might well pull for him being better than he was last year.

Starting Pitching Situation:

1. Felix. It’s Felix now it’s going to be Felix 3 years from now. Write that down.

2. Michael Pineda. I get the elbow soreness happened a couple of years ago. I get that there are teams that would pay a good bit to acquire him and he may have even already reached his trade value peek. That said, I’m willing to bet that this coming year he’s at least just as good as his rookie season.

3. Jason Vargas. I like Vargas but something I realized in the past 6 weeks is that Vargas is an often over valued asset in the eyes of many Seattle fans. He’s provided a big old 5.4 WAR over his three years here. While he’s a good back-of-the-rotation pitcher he’s worth more to us than he does to the rest of the league until he can show he misses more bats.

4. Chris Capuano. I like Capuano and I have since Dave Cameron mentioned. He showed a year of being healthy and I think he’s a better bet than that of Erik Bedard. His real issue in New York was an above average HR/FB rate. This has been an career issue for Capuano but in a place like Safeco we’d be hoping it would be some what supressed though admittedly while split pretty even between the hand of hitter was high against lefties than it was right handed hitters.

That said, I like how many bats he misses and the fact that he’s gotten decent ground ball rates the last couple of years. I’m betting he’d be at least as valuable an asset as Vargas if not a bit more so (because of the strikeouts).

5. Blake Beavan. I think I’m made my… apprehensions for Beavan pretty clear. The problem is he’s the very best 5th starter option you have. I dislike the lack of missing bats and the absent ground balls since arriving in Seattle.  It’s a serious concern and I doubt that he’s a legit Major League pitcher.

That said in 97 innings he still was able to post 0.7 war giving me hope that he could at least hold down a rotation spot and not absolutely suck up the place for the first half of the season. I don’t think he’s good, but I’m willing to risk enough that he doesn’t suck.

Other thoughts: 

I have confidence that both Paxton and Hultzen are going to be very good pitchers. That said there is like a 5% possibility that either of them would start for me out of spring training.

In fact I would be rather adamant about giving them at least a handful of starts in AA prior to allowing either of them even sniff AAA.

It’s not because I don’t think they are ready but I wouldn’t want to rush them. I would want them to slow down and take time perfecting their pitches and working to become major leaguers than just pushing them into the role because they are the best available options.

 

Relief Pitching Situation:

I want to talk a bit about Charlie Furbush first. I have more that I want to talk about here in the coming weeks so I don’t want to steal and throw everything out right now but I think that this is a scouting report by Marc Hulet that I don’t think I threw out at the time of the trade.

I took time to think about recently and after watching him pitch over the last month and a half, I think he could still be a starting pitcher. Maybe not a great one but a good enough one to be a back-of-the-rotation pitcher on even a playoff team.

I think his stuff has a chance to play up in the back of the bullpen. That’s all I’ll say on the subject for now.

Josh Lueke, Chance Ruffin and Shawn Kelley are good relief pitchers and kind of excite me at the possibilities of how good these guys could potentially be. I’m trying not to be a homer, or overly optimistic, but I could see them blossoming into a real nasty tag team for a very solid starting rotation.

I added Shawn Camp because I think he’ll be the most available and cheapest to sign, some where in the January time frame. He’ll be the Jamey Wright/David Pauley figure that gets an ton of ground balls with the added upside that so long as he doesn’t have a bad season he’d give us a type-B draft pick (assuming he doesn’t accept arbitration).

We saw Tom Wilhelmsen spontaneously evolve right before our very eyes in to some sick early 90′s Cincinnati Reds throw back. I’m hopeful that this is the guy we’ll see in 2012 but I’m not buying into it just yet. Which is partially why I’m not dealing Brandon League.

League is extremely under rated and while he isn’t worth 5 or even 6 million dollars the young man is primed to make free-agency next year as a Type-A free agent. I can’t imagine he’ll be accepting arbitration next year assuming he makes another year of 30+ saves and throwing in the upper 90′s. He’s only 27 now and will be 28 going on 29 as a free-agent. I can only imagine that will play up big.

Unless you are packaging him up for a huge return he is way more valuable to us in the form of a 1+ WAR and 2 draft picks. Just my opinion.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Holy crap. I seriously didn’t mean to make it 8,000+ words but I just wanted everything to be out there. I’ve done my best to deliver short, entertaining and well written posts over the last year. My goal was to deliver good content without stealing a bunch of your time. But this is my chance to do this the way I wanted too.

This team according to WAR is a 79 win team. But with a possible Gutierrez step back up, Ackley continuing to be amazing, Smoak and Carp stepping up and a resurgence of Ichiro the possibilities of this team are closer to the 85+ land. Add in the coming talents of Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and a few other prospects that could be used to upgrade positions in 2013 and I think this team is closer to taking the fight to Texas than what some media agencies would have you think.

Texas is good, but I still contend that they are a bit over rated and are standing upon shaky ground. Their rotation certainly took a step forward but it’ll need to continue to get better with the soon to be departing C.J. Wilson.

Not to mention the consistent health issues of Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. It’s not hard to imagine the all mighty Rangers taking a step back next year.

That said, they are run by a brilliant set of mind (Jon Daniels) and short of replacing their manager there wasn’t too much that kept them from winning the World Series. (That was a joke I don’t really believe Ron Washington kept them from winning the World Series.) They have an as strong (if not stronger than) farm system than Seattle and are easily going to in the very at least contend for an AL West title the next two years.

My plan isn’t full proof but it lends itself to many advantages. The lack of any multi-year/long term contracts for any positions keep from preventing young players from competing for jobs in the very near future and the luxury to add as many as 5-additional first round draft picks (assuming that free-agency compensation doesn’t change…much) and no one excepts arbitration.

All-in-all I think this is a great trampoline and that’s really what the purpose of the 2012 season is to provide in my mind: a launching pad to 2013 and real contention.

Tags: Adam Moore Blake Bevan Brandon League Casey Blake Casper Wells Chance Ruffin Charlie Furbush Chris Capuano Chris Gimenez David DeJesus Dustin Ackley Erik Kratz Felix Hernandez Franklin Gutierrez Grady Sizemore Ichiro Jason Vargas Josh Lueke Justin Smoak Kelly Shoppach Kyle Seager Landon Powell Matt Antonelli Michael Pineda Mike Carp Prince Fielder Ramon Hernandez Raul Ibanez Scott Rolen Shawn Camp Shawn Kelley Tom Wilhelmsen Will Venable

  • dscharabin

    Mariners need hitting, beggars can’t be choosers.

  • dscharabin

    Mariners need hitting, beggars can’t be choosers.

  • Uncle Al

    It’s obvious you spent a lot of time on this and I do like the way you’ve laid it out. Cameron is catching hell for his write up on what a Votto trade would do but will have much better results next week in his without Votto scenario. It will be interesting to put all these ideas together as FA begins. I have always looked at the of season as to a budget so I could tell what kind of money they had available to upgrade. What was done last year pretty much set things up for this year and as of right now there is $15M left to spend on a $100M budget and the only places to make more available is to trade Figgins (9M), Vargas (4.5M), League (4.5M), or maybe Gutierrez ($5.5M). Both Vargas and League are estimated Arby figures. Any other FA additions will increase payroll.

  • Uncle Al

    It’s obvious you spent a lot of time on this and I do like the way you’ve laid it out. Cameron is catching hell for his write up on what a Votto trade would do but will have much better results next week in his without Votto scenario. It will be interesting to put all these ideas together as FA begins. I have always looked at the of season as to a budget so I could tell what kind of money they had available to upgrade. What was done last year pretty much set things up for this year and as of right now there is $15M left to spend on a $100M budget and the only places to make more available is to trade Figgins (9M), Vargas (4.5M), League (4.5M), or maybe Gutierrez ($5.5M). Both Vargas and League are estimated Arby figures. Any other FA additions will increase payroll.

  • maqman

    Well done Harrison, not that I agree with everything, but as Uncle Al says it’s better than Dave Cameron’s effort so far this year. Went out for dinner this evening so will add some commentary tomorrow. One thing on the 40-man count, they took 3 guys off of the 60-day DL and cut one, Aardsma, so the total of open spots is less than you’ve allowed.

  • maqman

    Well done Harrison, not that I agree with everything, but as Uncle Al says it’s better than Dave Cameron’s effort so far this year. Went out for dinner this evening so will add some commentary tomorrow. One thing on the 40-man count, they took 3 guys off of the 60-day DL and cut one, Aardsma, so the total of open spots is less than you’ve allowed.

  • Harrison_Crow

    @maqman I acted as if that hadn’t happened yet, but accounted for Moore and Gutierrez. My math may have been off, I was wearing shoes at the time, but had everyone in mind while making the moves.

    I’m interested in hearing your thoughts I think we’ve gotten to know each other well over the last year and I have really come to enjoy your commentary, even if we have descending opinions.

  • Harrison_Crow

    @maqman I acted as if that hadn’t happened yet, but accounted for Moore and Gutierrez. My math may have been off, I was wearing shoes at the time, but had everyone in mind while making the moves.

    I’m interested in hearing your thoughts I think we’ve gotten to know each other well over the last year and I have really come to enjoy your commentary, even if we have descending opinions.

  • Harrison_Crow

    @Uncle Al According to several sites, not least of which mlbtraderumors, after the projected arbitration increases payroll should be right around $69 million. This would include the Gutierrez’s slight increase and Felix’s huge increase.

    I gave myself $91 mil, which I pulled out of nowhere and would give me about $22 mil in spare change. Now you maybe 100% with the thought that the budget may end up closer to $100 million. But, I choose to take the conservative path, as I was sure to find the least resistance.

  • Harrison_Crow

    @Uncle Al According to several sites, not least of which mlbtraderumors, after the projected arbitration increases payroll should be right around $69 million. This would include the Gutierrez’s slight increase and Felix’s huge increase.

    I gave myself $91 mil, which I pulled out of nowhere and would give me about $22 mil in spare change. Now you maybe 100% with the thought that the budget may end up closer to $100 million. But, I choose to take the conservative path, as I was sure to find the least resistance.

  • Coug1990

    Yes, good job Harrison. None of us ultimately know (including Jack Z) what will happen, but it is interesting discussion. Thanks again.

  • Coug1990

    Yes, good job Harrison. None of us ultimately know (including Jack Z) what will happen, but it is interesting discussion. Thanks again.

  • Uncle Al

    Harrison

    I wasn’t trying to step on your toes on your $91M as it may be the correct figure this year. I was just giving you a good figure for exacty where things are right now before FA begins where I account for 25 players and where I use $500K for a player even though he won’t be on the roster when the year starts as there will be some upgrades. Cameron came up with $93.5M in salaries which would be the upper limit for salaries on a $100M budget as there would be another $6M to add on for the Contingency Reserve.

    I also remember where Zduriencik said he just couldn’t put together a deal for a big bat last year and the same thing could happen this off season. I think it makes the most sense to trade Vargas and League and sign two of Capuano, Bedard, or Moyer and wait and see what happens around the trade deadline and how Paxton, Hultzen, and others have progressed. Maybe even do a Pineda trade if the return is good enough. At least this year there is some money to spend and there are more trade chips to work with so it will be interesting to see what Zduriencik can do. Many small upgrades this year will make things much easier to finish in 2013.

  • Uncle Al

    Harrison

    I wasn’t trying to step on your toes on your $91M as it may be the correct figure this year. I was just giving you a good figure for exacty where things are right now before FA begins where I account for 25 players and where I use $500K for a player even though he won’t be on the roster when the year starts as there will be some upgrades. Cameron came up with $93.5M in salaries which would be the upper limit for salaries on a $100M budget as there would be another $6M to add on for the Contingency Reserve.

    I also remember where Zduriencik said he just couldn’t put together a deal for a big bat last year and the same thing could happen this off season. I think it makes the most sense to trade Vargas and League and sign two of Capuano, Bedard, or Moyer and wait and see what happens around the trade deadline and how Paxton, Hultzen, and others have progressed. Maybe even do a Pineda trade if the return is good enough. At least this year there is some money to spend and there are more trade chips to work with so it will be interesting to see what Zduriencik can do. Many small upgrades this year will make things much easier to finish in 2013.

  • Harrison_Crow

    @Uncle Al Not at all. I just was explaining in greater detail how I got to that number. If you needed clarification. Thanks for the feedback.

  • Harrison_Crow

    @Uncle Al Not at all. I just was explaining in greater detail how I got to that number. If you needed clarification. Thanks for the feedback.

  • Uncle Al

    Harrison

    Thanks for your clarification and I should give you a little more information to work with.

    I neglected to respond to your statement “According to several sites, not least of which mlbtraderumors, after the projected arbitration increases payroll should be right around $69 million.” as these sites are almost never correct until April when the 25 man rosters are set. Most of them don’t account for a 25 man roster and the payroll figure should be closer to $79M if you also plug in the rest of the minimum wage players to get to a 25 man roster. I also know that many of them omit the Prorated Signing Bonuses which amount to $5M this year. I already have templates for the next 3 years so I don’t miss anything and they are really easy to work with as you change players and salary. As of today, the M’s have $15M left to spend in the total amount of $94M in salary.

    The way in which you used the $69M and less than 25 players to get to your $91M and 25 players may be perfectly OK, but you have no way of knowing what you have to work with if those trades or FA signings don’t take place. Every hole that isn’t filled should still show a minimum salary for an in house player until the hole is filled. There are other accounting gimmicks that show up in some figures on these sites that screw up the actual figures for the payroll within certain years. Just be careful on how you use figures from these sites.

  • Uncle Al

    Harrison

    Thanks for your clarification and I should give you a little more information to work with.

    I neglected to respond to your statement “According to several sites, not least of which mlbtraderumors, after the projected arbitration increases payroll should be right around $69 million.” as these sites are almost never correct until April when the 25 man rosters are set. Most of them don’t account for a 25 man roster and the payroll figure should be closer to $79M if you also plug in the rest of the minimum wage players to get to a 25 man roster. I also know that many of them omit the Prorated Signing Bonuses which amount to $5M this year. I already have templates for the next 3 years so I don’t miss anything and they are really easy to work with as you change players and salary. As of today, the M’s have $15M left to spend in the total amount of $94M in salary.

    The way in which you used the $69M and less than 25 players to get to your $91M and 25 players may be perfectly OK, but you have no way of knowing what you have to work with if those trades or FA signings don’t take place. Every hole that isn’t filled should still show a minimum salary for an in house player until the hole is filled. There are other accounting gimmicks that show up in some figures on these sites that screw up the actual figures for the payroll within certain years. Just be careful on how you use figures from these sites.

  • maqman

    @Harrison_Crow Now that Vasquez is out-righted I believe the 40-man is at 35. There are probably 3-4 others that could be taken off if needs be. (Cortes, Medina, Cesar Jimenez, Mike Wilson). I think your $91MM payroll is close to what it will be. Their attendance dropped by nearly 10 percent this past season, that will impact payroll probably. Ichiro gets $17MM next season but $5MM is deferred until he retires. I absolutely agree in holding on to our present good farm hands as much as possible. I think Vargas might be a bit better next season so if he is traded I hope they do it at the trade deadline. I’m okay with letting League go due to his cost and the other alternative arms available. One of Capuano, Moyer and Bedard could be signed if they don’t think K-Pax or Hultzen will be a factor next season. I’m not a Furbush fan but I think Beavan could work out for the bottom of the rotation. I wouldn’t mind giving up Cortes for Rolen but I wonder what he’s got left in the tank and he’s due $6.5MM next year. I’d keep Olivo as he has raw power, the pitchers love him and he’s got true grit. Just until we see what we have to replace him after next season. I expect Z to bring in a vet reliever. I say no to Votto, Fielder, Wright, Pujols and all such high cost or short term help. Votto is only currently albatross proof but the cost in talent to get him and the fortune to retain him might appeal to Bavasi but I think not Z – or me.

    Thanks for the great input as usual Harrison. Kudos to Uncle Al for his insight.

  • maqman

    @Harrison_Crow Now that Vasquez is out-righted I believe the 40-man is at 35. There are probably 3-4 others that could be taken off if needs be. (Cortes, Medina, Cesar Jimenez, Mike Wilson). I think your $91MM payroll is close to what it will be. Their attendance dropped by nearly 10 percent this past season, that will impact payroll probably. Ichiro gets $17MM next season but $5MM is deferred until he retires. I absolutely agree in holding on to our present good farm hands as much as possible. I think Vargas might be a bit better next season so if he is traded I hope they do it at the trade deadline. I’m okay with letting League go due to his cost and the other alternative arms available. One of Capuano, Moyer and Bedard could be signed if they don’t think K-Pax or Hultzen will be a factor next season. I’m not a Furbush fan but I think Beavan could work out for the bottom of the rotation. I wouldn’t mind giving up Cortes for Rolen but I wonder what he’s got left in the tank and he’s due $6.5MM next year. I’d keep Olivo as he has raw power, the pitchers love him and he’s got true grit. Just until we see what we have to replace him after next season. I expect Z to bring in a vet reliever. I say no to Votto, Fielder, Wright, Pujols and all such high cost or short term help. Votto is only currently albatross proof but the cost in talent to get him and the fortune to retain him might appeal to Bavasi but I think not Z – or me.

    Thanks for the great input as usual Harrison. Kudos to Uncle Al for his insight.

  • Keith_12thMR

    Harrison, you’ve traded for Lowe, but then he’s not on your team in the end. Did I miss something? It would seem that you added Capuano for no reason, or did I miss something?

  • Keith_12thMR

    You didn’t include Figgy on the final roster. Even though he wont play much or help the team, he still counts against the roster spots.

  • Keith_12thMR

    Harrison, you’ve traded for Lowe, but then he’s not on your team in the end. Did I miss something? It would seem that you added Capuano for no reason, or did I miss something?

  • Keith_12thMR

    You didn’t include Figgy on the final roster. Even though he wont play much or help the team, he still counts against the roster spots.

  • maqman

    Probably because Figgy is so forgettable.

  • maqman

    Probably because Figgy is so forgettable.

  • Uncle Al

    All Harrison said was that this is “A TRADE I WOULD HAVE CONSIDERED.” The trade wasn’t made. The worthless pile of shit called Figgins would have been a DFA and still show up in the payroll figures but not on the WAR chart. I assume he is included in the $91M.

  • Uncle Al

    All Harrison said was that this is “A TRADE I WOULD HAVE CONSIDERED.” The trade wasn’t made. The worthless pile of shit called Figgins would have been a DFA and still show up in the payroll figures but not on the WAR chart. I assume he is included in the $91M.