The Mariners just won their first series of the 2013 season to improve to a lackluster 11-16. They benefitted from three great starts from Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Brandon Maurer and some timely home runs from Mike Morse, Jason Bay and Jesus Montero. Still, this team is a far cry from contending in the AL West this year. Here are three moves the Mariners can make to improve the team immediately.
1. Reinstate OF Michael Saunders from the 15-day disabled list, option OF Carlos Peguero to Tacoma
This one’s a no-brainer and might actually happen later today. Saunders started the season hot, hitting consistently and stealing bases, before running into the fence while chasing a fly ball and injuring his shoulder. The Mariners missed his consistent production, going 7-10 in his absence. The outfield combination of Bay, an injured Morse, Endy Chavez and Raul Ibanez hampered the Mariners over the past few weeks.
Peguero went 2-for-6 with a home run since coming up for Franklin Gutierrez on Tuesday. His home run measured 451 feet, the third-longest jack in Safeco Field history. He hit it basically off of his shoestrings, too. Maybe he has a future in professional golf. For now, he’s the most expendable Mariner and can be optioned to Tacoma without consequence.
2. Promote 2B Nick Franklin from Tacoma, designate UT Robert Andino for assignment
The Mariners won’t make this move, but as far as immediate improvements go, Franklin would be a better complement to Brendan Ryan in a shortstop platoon than Andino. Andino has proved to be a non-factor in all facets so far, with a sub-.200 batting average and inconsistent defense. Just yesterday, Andino nearly handed Hisashi Iwakuma a loss with a horrible error that scored the Angels only run. Ryan can’t hit a lick, but neither can Andino, and Brendan’s Gold Glove-caliber defense should earn him the starting job.
Franklin isn’t on the 40-man roster, but Andino’s DFA would remedy that issue. He’s hitting .382 with three home runs and 13 RBI. He’s also stolen four bases. Running Franklin as a platoon spell for Ryan and Dustin Ackley in the middle infield would improve the Mariners offense significantly. However, even though the move would improve the team, the Mariners should (and will) wait to promote Franklin, so as to not start his arbitration clock early and to maximize his reps in AAA.
3. Move to a six-man rotation where Joe Saunders only starts at Safeco Field
This one comes out of left field, and might not make a whole lot of sense on the surface. But look at Saunders’ numbers at home as opposed to on the road this year.
Home: 2 starts, 13.1 IP, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 strikeouts, .90 WHIP
Away: 3 starts, 13.2 IP, 0-3, 12.51 ERA, 5 strikeouts, 2.63 WHIP
That’s absurd! Joe Saunders is an elite pitcher at Safeco Field in 2013 and a double-A pitcher on the road. Sure, small sample size, but if Saunders rolls past the Orioles tonight, this will make more sense.
Hector Noesi has pitched well out of the bullpen recently. Give him the starts. Or give them to Blake Beavan. Both guys need career salvaging after horrible stints in the Mariners’ rotation. Saunders’ road starts are essentially throwaways at this point. Might as well try and win now.