Let Me Float An Idea By You

So Jack Zduriencik comes out and says that third base and veteran pitching is a the off-season priorities. That’s fair. I know I have my issues with the current back stop tandem but we’ll get more into that later (yes,that means I’m not done whining about it yet).

Zduriencik’s comments have only further fanned the flame on fan’s speculation on guys such as Sandoval, Gordon and Wright. Though, I believe that most fans believe like me if they are going to “upgrade” the position it should be done so in such a way that you’re not preventing any near ready prospects from contributing, which we obviously have a few.

Alex Liddi, Kyle Seager and Francisco Martinez all are interesting talents and all have promising ceilings but all have specific defects within their game. Before I float this idea by you let’s just cover our bases on two of these guys. I think we can all agree that Martinez isn’t likely to play a role in 2012, at least not a significant one at this point. That’s not a knock on the 21 year-old; he’s just rather young and has been pushed immensely hard by the Tigers organization the last couple of years. I think it wise to take it slow over the next few months and get him comfortable in the organization, just my two cents.

Of the trio, Kyle Seager is the closest to being big league ready but his lack of quick twitch reactions have made suspect at the corner, and continue the talk that he’s be a second division second basemen.  I think he makes for a wonderful utility man in 2012. I’m really not too worried about his bat. I think it’ll be useful off the bench. I don’t like his defense, but should his offense be enough to offset his lack of agility in the corner I could easily be convinced that he could start at third.

He’s never going to hit a ton of home runs but his gap power is intriguing as is his ability to make contact and work counts. Though the times he’s actually demonstrated those abilities at the big league level haven’t been as consistent as one would like and he’s struggled quiet mightily against left handed pitchers. That’s something he’ll need to correct if he’s going to be anything beyond a left handed platoon partner.

Liddi is a bigger issue. He’s got significant power potential and has made improvements at third in an effort to be a better defensive third basemen. While I think he has the potential to be an average defensive third basemen, I think he’s just too inconsistent. Right now he’s below average but not all together horrible. I think my biggest concern is how does that change in a matter of say 2 or 3 years?  Jose Lopez anyone? His defense could change substantially and it’s hard to depend on a below average defender.

That’s not taking his hitting into consideration.

There are two ways that I can see looking at Liddi’s 2011 September with the Mariners. Either you are extremely worried about the strike outs/swings-and-misses or you are extremely interested in whether or not he is the next Mark Reynolds.

The truth is that Liddi didn’t appear to have a very good 44 plate appearances while with the big league team. He swung and missed much too often, he was swinging at too many pitches outside the strike zone and he struggled in general with anything off-speed.

He did hit a lot of extra base hits. In fact 6 of his 9 big league hits in September went for extra bases, 3 2b’s and 3 home runs. His slugging is what took an OBP of .295 to a wOBA of .358 much like that of Mark Reynolds and his years in Arizona. If you could put up the strike outs, you could get potential above average offensive production.

The thing is I’m not so certain that would be the case. This is assuming that Liddi wouldn’t become a better hitter at only 23 years old, which seems mildly insulting. Looking at his year in Tacoma, Liddi struggled wildly at the beginning of the season. He spotted a horrible 34% strike out rate in 96 PA’s, similar to that of his first audition with Seattle. But Liddi continually got better as the season wore on cutting his strike out percent in every month and bringing his total percent to nearly 22% for the month of August.

I’m not saying that I think that Liddi is going to be the guy in 2012, but you can’t discount his potential and what abilities he has shown to be capable of displaying in the major leagues.

That said, it’s certainly possible that neither Liddi nor Seager are the right choice for the starting job entering the 2011 season and the Mariners will be forced to seek alternative means.

While I’m not necessarily in favor of it I started thinking today about Hiroyuki Nakajima. The short stop from Japanese NPB team Seibu will once again request his posting to MLB and while it’s still going to be a bit expensive to acquire him he could become an option.

While most people feel he’d be good defensive second basemen, I wonder what he could do at third. He’s actually played it a few times over his career and during the Olympics and I wonder with the likelihood of him having to move off shortstop on move to the MLB if he wouldn’t rather play third than second. Now, I realize I can’t know the answer to that but it’s an intriguing question, at least in my own mind.

On the hitting front Nakajima is considered by Patrick Newman to be the second best hitter in all of NPB behind that of CF Norichika Aoki. While looking at the stats one might draw that he has home run pop, but Newman in a few different articles believes that Nakajima has more gap power, should that be the case he’d be a much better fit in Seattle with gap power than he would someone that is trying to pull home runs down the left field line (as a right handed hitter).

Considering all the information above and that the Twins paid all a posting feed of  $5 mil to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a 3 yr 9 mil deal what would you think of the Mariners paying some like $7-10 mil and signing Nakajima to a 3 yr/$15 mil.

Obviously this is kind of exactly the opposite of what I just got done talking about. It of course signs someone to a contract that potentially ties that position up for a few years despite having multiple prospects that potentially could fill the spots internally, though not immediately helpful.

Looking at it from another angle it could give the Mariners an above average (though far from prototypical per position) offensive contributor at the plate, as well as a potentially solid defender at third. While giving them a chance to further develop their players inside the organization and consider what they have internally before forcing a move.

I’m not necessarily making the Japan player – Mariner tie out of nowhere either, as the Mariners were one of the teams that were interested in his services last year. Though that was prior to the Brendan Ryan acquisition

Again, I’m not saying I like the idea, though I can say I don’t hate it. If the Mariners could sign him for around $5-7 mil I believe he still could have enough surplus value that the Mariners could a long term asset. One that they could keep or deal after making key decisions about where Alex Liddi and even Francisco Martinez stand with the organization long term.  Should Nakajima show to be someone that can be affective as Mariners gather pieces together for their bid to take back the division, Liddi would certainly be an intriguing trade chip to a few different teams going forward.

It’s just a thought and I hadn’t seen it broached just yet. I thought I’d throw it out there and so who runs and tattles on me to Jason Churchill about it.

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Tags: Alex Liddi Brendan Ryan Francisco Martinez Hiroyuki Nakajima Jose Lopez Kyle Seager Mark Reynolds Norichika Aoki Tsuyoshi Nishioka

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