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Investing In The 2011 Mariners


Over the weekend I wrote an article about Investing vs. Selling in relation to the Mariners 2011 season. Last night the Mariners won again and there is a lot of enthusiasm being spread about as to where this season could go. Now, I’m cautiously optimistic and think that with the division issues the Mariners could be headed for a third or even with luck a second place finish.

But the reality is they don’t have the present pieces to win the division. REPEAT AFTER ME: “The Mariners don’t have a real shot to win the division this year”. But as I wrote yesterday there is an opportunity.

If the Mariners want to take advantage of the situation presented they need to act quickly. While the Mariners are returning some key pieces to the 25-man roster in Franklin Gutierrez (this past week), Shawn Kelly (sometime soon) and will eventually see the arrival of prized prospect Dustin Ackley this team is still in need of upgrades in order to have a legit chance to win the division this year.

Jason Churchill wrote about this late last night/early this morning. I agree with his premise in that there is a pretense that the Mariners aren’t 80+ win team right now. But, there lies the potential to grab a few pieces and in enough time those pieces could make the difference between the Mariners winning 77 – 80 games to 85+ games.

I like a few of the names on Churchill’s list (Kubel/Ludwick/Nix) for a variety of different reasons.

The problem that I see with going after the possible upgrades in left are that Carlos Peguero has been making good progression at the major league level. This season was suppose to be about giving the young guys a chance and he has been hitting things extremely hard, taking walks and not striking out too much. While it’s a small sample size and he has been swinging way (WAY) too much at pitches out side the zone there is still potential there. I’m more for giving it time than going for any .

As for upgrading third base and Chone Figgins there isn’t much out in the league that works here. Sure you could go for an Aramis Ramirez but he costs prospects and the Cubs aren’t going to give up one of their “perceived” big bats for nothing. That said I’d feel uncomfortable about acquiring him at this point. While he’s a fit for someone like the Indians, Athletics or Blue Jays (should they stay in the mix) his skill set isn’t very conducive to Safeco. It’d be a repeat of Adrian Beltre, only in my mind worse.

Instead of acquiring someone I would either attempt to trade Figgins or just bench him in lieu of Luis Rodriguez. I think Rodriguez could potentially offer some upside that is cheap being internal and he is also a switch hitter. There has been a growing “#FreeLuisRodriguez” hash on twitter and I suspect it will only continue at this point. It also allows the Mariners to use Adam Kennedy as a pinch hitter for Brendan Ryan/Jack Wilson.

As Jason Churchill explained in his article there are a few reasons to hold onto Jack Cust. While he isn’t hitting home runs he’s not a black hole either and is still producing. I personally hold onto him. Maybe he comes around and you don’t have to make a move.

After I said that the Mariners have to act quickly it doesn’t seem like I think there are a lot of moves to make, right? Well, if the Mariners wanted to make a move these are two that I support.

Prior to the jump understand that I preface this with that fact I’m in favor of holding pat seeing what happens. I’d prefer to get something for Bedard and try not to push guys like Pineda and Ackley too far or hard.

But if Jack’s job depends on it and they feel they have to go for the division this year this is how I’d do it.

The first, Geovany Soto.

Soto has been shopped around the last year and half and is only hitting .226. So why would we want him when we have our own .222 hitting catcher?

A) He is one of the best defensive catchers in the league and is the best defensive catcher under 30 not named Matt Wieters or Buster Posey.While Miguel Olivo has a good arm it doesn’t make up for his issue with balls in the dirt. Soto is a pure all around catcher and one of the best in the league. Check out the latest advanced statistical rankings for catchers.

B) He is a solid offensive catcher behind the plate. While he doesn’t hit a ton of home runs he drives the ball with authority and is a gap power guy and has a legit hit tool. He’s basically the 2011 version of Dan Wilson. The only thing that would worry me is that he’s a dead pull hitter and for a right handed hitter that’s not very good in Safeco. His saving grace would be the fact that he has walked well above average for his career 12.5% over 1500 plate appearances.

C) This isn’t a short term fix. Soto is under club control until the 2014 season.

D) The Mariners have NO catching depth. Miguel Olivo only has a year left after this year and is easily flipped if needed. Adam Moore now has 2 knee surgeries and it’s unknown if he will even be able to catch after this latest micro-fracture surgery. The Mariners need someone.

Who would I be willing to part with. I’d be willing to give up quiet a few different pieces but I’d low ball them initially and try to get him for something like Blake Beavan and Gabriel Noriega. Most likely not going to happen but it’d be worth a shot. Basically a selective group of guys 10-20 guy + a selective 50-75 C- prospects.

A fair deal to me for Soto would be closer to something like a Blake Beavan (or Mauricio Robles if they prefer), Alex Liddi and a future reliever (Josh Fields, Brian Moran, Jonathan Hesketh). But I seriously question if they properly value Soto.

The second is Matt Kemp

He’s a guy I’d circle, but wait and watch what develops with the team as is. This might generate some rough scoffing but I think Matt Kemp is a potential long term solution for the  ariners.

Sit down for a second and read what I’ve written. Don’t go directly to the comments and flame me. What until you hear the whole argument and then flame away.

The Dodgers are going to be cutting pay roll. Maybe not drastically enough to not be able to keep the guys they want too but enough to where they are going to have to part with a few pieces and it’s been rumored for a while that the team and fans are becoming weary with Kemp.

A) While not as good of a fielder as he’s made out to be Kemp is athletic enough not to cause serious damage in left field and while I believe he is rather hazardous in center, there is the potential an average fielder in the corner. He has a good arm and could even fill in right field if needed.

B) His bat is good enough bat not to be killed by the evil that lurketh in left field (I feel it deserves a nick name) and make up for his defensive issues. Since 2009 he is in the top-20 in slugging percentage among out fielders and despite off the field issues that really hurt him last year he is one of the best young hitters in baseball, only 26 years old he is still getting better.

He is a solid spray hitter, using the entire field and while he would be hurt from time to time by the invisible monster in left field it could give the Mariners a #4 guy in the batting order.

C) I know I said that 2011 was about giving the young guys a chance. But, Kemp, again just 26, is under club controlled for two more years. This trade- just like the Soto deal- isn’t about just this year, it would be for multiple years. Pushing the team closer to the 2012/2013 competing date.

The only thing I question is weather the Mariners have the pieces to surrender in order to acquire Kemp. This obviously would be an effort as to not surrender either Dustin Ackley or Michael Pineda and I don’t know if that’s possible with a talent such as Kemp. While not an “A” list talent, he is still young and having an established track record I imagine they will want our very best for him.

A solid offer in my mind is something like

Nick Franklin, Mauricio Robles (if healthy), James Jones, Yoervis Medina and C+ bat.

But even that is really stretching it. Using the Roy Halladay trade value calculator you can take a look how this potentially comes out.

My estimated value/worth/predicted production for Kemp is about 32 m$.  Franklin’s overall value right now as a top-100 talent is roughly 12-16 m$. Robles as a “B” prospect is approximtely worth 7 m$. That leaving about 9-13 m$ left on the table. Jones could be argued to be worth about 4-5 m$ because of how well he is viewed around the league and prospect circles and then throw in a good secondary (Medina, Brandon Maurer, James Gillheeney) arm which is worth roughly 2 m$.

That leaves a balance of about 2-5 million on the table. You could make an argument that Rich Poythress or even a healthy Greg Halman could potential fill that gap. I’d even be willing to throw in either Michael Saunders or Carlos Peguero too, if that would make them happy.

It’s giving up a lot to go into contention. But the other side of the coin is that it’s not for a one year deal either. This is for a multiple year fix and it puts them immediately into AL West division crown territory.

Now, understand I’m not necessarily for throwing the farm system down the drain. but if they were going to do it they should do it with players in mind that will be here for multiple years and don’t project to lose talent but gain it (i.e. Prince Fielder). It also fills a void that the farm system may or may not be able to fill internally.

You could go after a few lesser names. I’ve been advocating Luke Scott for about a year and of course you could make a run at Alex Gordon too.  But it’s not like those guys are going to be discounted. You’re still going to have to give up someone for them. If we’re going to do this let’s do it right.

Kemp and Soto project to combine for around 9 WAR this season. You add that to a team that is teetering on the .500 level and it not only tips the scale it also puts us directly in position to fight for the AL West.

I thought at the beginning of the season that it would take about 90-95 games to win this division. Right now I think it could be as little as 86. Two players could be the difference.

If we’re going to try for this year let’s do it not just for this year but for down the road too. Even if they don’t make the playoffs they would put themselves in position for the future and that’s important.

Again, I’m not saying that I would make the deals. I’m just saying that if the club feels that it has a chance and wants to go all out for this year. This is the way I’d choose to do it.

It would be my evil plan to save the world.