The 2011 Mariners Are Currently In A Strange Position….


….In that the management doesn’t need to overhaul the roster.  Think about it.

Outfield: Saunders, Gutierrez, Ichiro.  [Changes necessary: zero]

  • Saunders could fail completely at the Major League level, but it isn’t likely, as he’s hit 7 home runs and 6 doubles, walked 16 times, put up a 4.0 Ultimate Zone Rating, and posted an ever-improving .718 OPS.  He’s a lock for left field next year barring a huge injury or Carl Crawford signing.
  • Gutierrez and Ichiro are awesome.  Both are on pace to be worth around 4 wins above a replacement-level player.  And they’re under contract.  Woo!

Infield: Smoak, Ackley, Figgins, Wilson, Moore.  [Changes necessary: 0.5]

  • Smoak and Ackley are fine young players.  Potential stars.  Let them hit and results will follow.  No issues on the right side of the infield.
  • Assuming Lopez is not on the 2011 roster, Figgins will move back to third base.  I really, really doubt that Chone Figgins will have another terrible season.  His career numbers say otherwise.  It’s, of course, possible that he’s on the (incredibly steep) downside of his career, but at 32, I just don’t see it.  Figgins is a nifty option for third base, and his 2010 season won’t persuade me otherwise —- yet.
  • Jack Wilson is also back for 2011.  Same deal as Figgins.  He’s been very good, and as long as he isn’t injured for too long, he’ll be fine.
  • Adam Moore is the only real question mark here.  I would advise giving him the starting job and refrain from making any serious decisions regarding his future until he’s garnered 350 or so plate appearances of non-sporadic playing.  And he is not Rob Johnson.  God, anyone but Rob Johnson.  Jack Z could end up signing a free agent catcher, but the market is pretty slim this year.  Greg Zaun and Gerald Laird don’t exactly make me shiver.

Starting Pitching: Hernandez, Question Mark, Pineda, Vargas, Fister. [Changes necessary: one]

  • Felix is other-worldly.  Moving on.
  • Doug Fister and Jason Vargas are cheap and effective.  They make neat fourth and fifth starters.
  • Michael Pineda isn’t a known quantity yet in terms of Major League performance, but he’s pretty good at each aspect of pitching.  He won’t put up the strikeout totals he has in AA and AAA, but he’s a good bet to limit walks and miss bats fairly frequently, so the Mariners’ front office would be insane not to pencil him in as their third starter until he proves he’s not ready over a large enough sample size.
  • The M’s clearly lack a #2 starter.  Call me crazy, but I’d like to see Jack Zduriencik sign Javier Vasquez.  He’s not had a stellar season this year, and he is 34, but he’s still missing bats and SafeCo would suit him significantly better than the minuscule Yankee Stadium.  If not Vasquez, then Jorge De La Rosa.  De La Rosa is another underrated guy that would fit SafeCo well with regard to his skillset.
  • Cliff Lee won’t sign with Seattle when the Yankees will offer him 25 million dollars a year.  Sorry.

Relief Pitching: Shawn Kelley, David Aardsma, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Brandon League, scrubs. [Changes necessary: Relievers are volatile. Who cares?]

  • Aardsma isn’t really this bad.  He might even luck into a good season and accrue some trade value.
  • Shawn Kelley is good.
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith has always pitched well out of the pen.  And he’s left-handed.
  • Chris Seddon, Brian Sweeney, Luke French, Garrett Olson are all bad with the potential to be good (although Sweeney’s impressed so far in 2010).  I don’t really like any of them, but I guess they’ll do.

Conclusion: The M’s need a quality starting pitcher and some cheap, effective bullpen arms.  Not too difficult to imagine an 85-win season.