In light of the recent Morales for Vargas trade, I thought I would talk about the last move or two that I think the Mariners should, and possibly will make to make for a successful offseason.
First of all, I love the Kendrys Morales/Jason Vargas trade that went down a couple days ago. We traded from a position of depth in order to acquire a much needed middle-of-the-order bat that the team has lacked for years. Morales hit 34 homers just a few years ago, and had a very solid year last year coming back from what could have been a very serious injury.
The only “problem” that could come of this is playing time at the first base and DH positions. However, I think that can be very easily solved. Against LHP, Jesus Montero would catch, Morales would DH, and Justin Smoak would man first. Against righties, John Jaso would do the catching, with Montero as the DH, and Morales at first. Then once Mike Zunino is ready, whoever is hitting stays around. If Smoak bombs again, then he is gone and the Ms try to re-up Morales. If Smoak plays well, then Morales can be let go, and net us a pick in the process.
In my opinion, Seattle can’t stop here. Don’t get me wrong, Morales is a very good hitter and is a very big upgrade. But he cannot turn the team around on his own. The Ms need to continue to add on, and improve even further.
Two moves I think the Ms should make in order to have a successful offseason are as follows:
- Acquire an outfield bat
- A veteran starter or two to shore up the rotation
Those two moves would definitely make for a solid offseason, and if executed correctly, could get the Mariners to 85 wins. The lineup still lacks a bat in my opinion, and there’s no guarantee that Morales will return next year. Another bat that can be slotted in the middle with Morales and Montero makes a ton of sense.
As for the pitcher, I am not comfortable having both Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi in the rotation next year, which is how it looks right now. The team needs a guy that can be counted on to eat some innings and be at least a solid #3 or 4 guy, at least until the young guys are ready.
Some of the candidates for an outfield bat are Michael Morse, Jason Kubel, Andre Ethier and Nick Swisher. As far as pitchers, some names I like are Shaun Marcum, Joe Saunders, Erik Bedard and Chris Capuano.
Unfortunately, all of the bats have a fairly large down side, and none seem to be a great fit.
Morse is a solid right handed bat and is probably the most likely due to the possibility of him not having a spot if Washington signs Adam LaRoche as expected. However, he probably belongs at 1st base as he is a butcher in the outfield. Plus, he is also only on a one year deal, and there would be a chance that both he and Morales would be one year rentals.
If he were to be acquired, I would want to be 100% sure that at least one of he and Morales would agree to a 3 year deal, so we are not in the same situation again. I would hate to give up Vargas and whatever it would take for Morse (looks like a reliever such as Charlie Furbush or Stephen Pryor headlining) for only one year of each player.
That being said, if the team thinks he can be passable in the outfield, and can be sure to retain him or Morales, then I would be willing to give up a reliever for him every day of the week.
Kubel is in a similar, yet different situation. He too struggles defensively, but not quite to the extent of Morse. He is also signed for two years at $6 million a year, so there is a little more guarantee in that department. However, he is no where near the hitter than Morse is. He is above average, but not by a huge amount. He was aided by Chase Field, and struggles against lefties as well.
He is probably my least favorite option, but he may still cost more than the others. I am not really sure what the Diamondbacks are looking for at this point other than infield help, something the Ms do not possess, at least not when Kubel is the return.
Ethier is a very interesting guy, and is my favorite option, and simultaneously my least favorite option. He is my favorite because he is probably the best hitter of the guys I named, and is signed long term. But at the same time, he is lost against left handed pitching, below average defensively, and is owed $85 million over 5 years. He is essentially a massively overpayed platoon player.
The only way I would want him is of the Dodgers would eat $20-25 million of his contract. He is not worth $17 million a year, but he may be worth $12-13 million a year. I am not sure what the Dodgers would want, but it would probably be too much.
I may be alone in this, in fact I am not even sure I really believe it, but I think I would trade Nick Franklin for Ethier, Capuano and $20 million, as that would fill both of the team’s needs. I am bigger on Brad Miller than I am Franklin, and I think Franklin may have to move off of short anyway, thus taking away a spot for him.
It would also allow us to keep all of our young pitching to build a very strong rotation, possibly with some left over to acquire future needs. But as you can tell, I am very conflicted on Ethier, and am not sure what to think of him right now.
Lastly, there is free agent Nick Swisher. Some people have given up on Swisher as he did not meet with the Mariners, causing people to jump to the conclusion that he won’t play here. But Jack Z said in an interview that he has an offer on the table, which I believe is to Swisher. It would also fit with the report that two teams have offered Swisher a contract.
Unfortunately, Swisher isn’t perfect either. He is the oldest of the targets I named, and as Matty pointed out, he may not be as breakdown-proof as many of us want to believe. Guys tend to struggle when they reach their mid 30s, which is where Swisher will be in just a couple years.
He would also cause us to lose the 12th pick in next years draft, which is a scary thought in what looks to be a very good draft. I am not sure anymore than Swisher is worth $13-14 million a year and a top draft pick. He would fit nicely in the middle with Montero and Morales, and would fill the whole in right field with another switch hitter.
As you can see, all of these guys have their downsides, and there really isn’t a perfect fit like Morales was. Jack may have to get creative and take a chance here, but I think it has to be done.
I will try to be a little more brief with the pitchers, as I am already well over 1000 words, as I seem to be too often.
Shaun Marcum is the best pitcher out of the bunch, but he may also be the most expensive, and could very well command the most money, possibly for multiple years. I think a one year deal is ideal here, but Marcum may get 2-3 years. If he would come here for 1 year and $8 million or so (which he could do to regain some value and try again next year) then I think the Ms should jump all over it. He is basically a right handed, better version of Vargas, and would fit in nicely to the spot that Jason left.
Joe Saunders is in a similar situation to Marcum. He had a solid year last year, and while he hasn’t been talked about a lot, could end up getting 2 or 3 years, which doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Ms. Like Marcum though, if he could come in for one or two years at $5 million or so, then he could be a solid signing to try to improve the rotation until the kids are ready.
Erik Bedard back for another go around? It makes some sense if the team prefers the cheap route, and want a guy to battle with Beavan and Noesi for the back end rather than fit in behind Felix. He struggled last year, but when he was healthy as a Mariner, he was very effective, and could bounce back enough to hold down the fort until Danny Hultzen can join the rotation, hopefully during the coming year.
Last there is Chris Capuano, who I mentioned before. He would have to come through a trade, but the Ms were already linked to him yesterday, as the Dodgers have an excess of starting pitching now. He is under contract for 2 years at $4.8 million a year, which is very reasonable for someone who can do what he can. He would fit in very well between Felix and Iwakuma as an inning eating vet lefty. Very similar to Vargas, but better and cheaper.
Once again I am not sure what the Dodgers want, but if he can be had for a mid level prospect or reliever or something along those lines, I think he makes a ton of sense.
In conclusion, the Mariners can’t end here. Jack needs to go out and make a couple more moves to solidify this team. As you can see, there are no perfect solutions, so its up to Jack to assess all of his options, and see what makes the most sense for this team. I think its very realistic that both of these things can be done, and the Mariners have the money to do it. There is no reason to stop here. The Morales move is the kind that you build on.
If both of these things happen, I would give Jack an A for the offseason as the Mariners head into a very important and telling year. I know it is hard to wait, but we need to be patient and hope for the best. That is coming from the guy who is constantly searching for more news and rumors, and has a few different MLB video game franchises going, each with different options that the Ms have.
Hey GMZ, hurry up. I am going nuts. The Morales trade held me over for a while, but I am losing control.