Sodo Mojo’s Seattle Mariners Q&A: Ichiro, Young Pitching, Ownership
For the second time this month, we open ourselves up to take your questions on our Seattle Mariners. The slow-moving off-season is slowly starting to heat up, and Mariners baseball is less than 5 weeks away!
The Mariners still haven’t made a major addition since signing Juan Nicasio on December 20th. In fact, the Mariners have made just 1 notable move in the last month, adding Chasen Bradford on a waiver claim on Friday.
Bradford will join the competition for a bullpen spot, but has options remaining, so he will likely start the season in AAA Tacoma. A strike thrower in the minors, Bradford is a sinker/slider pitcher who will produce ground balls, but will struggle to miss bats. A middle inning guy is just depth at this point, but could play a role in the success of the 2018 Mariners.
Now, on to your questions. First up, we have a question about a former Mariners legend:
The answer to the question is yes and no. Could the Mariners make room on their roster for Ichiro? Sure. Will they? Absolutely not. In fact, it sounds as though Ichiro and his representatives already pursued a reunion, and the Mariners were not interested.
The simple fact is this: Ichiro isn’t a very good MLB player right now. Over the past 5 seasons, he has posted a total fWAR of 2.5, or just a 0.5 fWAR per season. There is also little to no evidence that Ichiro has the leadership qualities to be a “mentor” to younger players, a role that is already being filled by Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano.
In addition, Ichiro is not an ideal platoon partner, as Ben Gamel is a left-handed hitter, as is Ichiro. Plus, Ichiro slashed just .228/.294/.309 against RHP in 164 plate appearances. Ichiro did hit substantially better on the road than in Miami, and did post a .299/.384/.379 slash in his final 100 AB’s.
Ichiro is probably good enough to get one more contract with a big league team. However, it makes no sense for the Mariners to try to jam this square peg into a round hole.
Next we have a multi-layered question about the group of young pitchers who got their feet wet in 2017:
This is a question that is impossible to answer. However, experience in the big leagues can help this group be better in 2018. There is one name in particular that jumps out as a guy who can “take the leap” in 2018. Lets do an exercise called ” blind resumes.”
Player A: 53 IP, 10.90 K/9, 4.02 BB/9, 51 % GB rate, 3.65 xFIP,
Player B: 57 IP, 10.99 K/9, 4.08 BB/9, 41.6% GB rate, 4.05 xFIP,
Which player do you want? Regardless of who you pick, it is pretty close right? I’m guessing most of you picked Player A. That player is James Pazos. Player B is none other than closer Greg Holland.
Now, obviously cherry-picking stats isn’t the best way to compare players. Pazos had a real problem giving up the home run ball, with 17% of his fly balls leaving the ball park (Holland was at just 11%). But Pazos flashed some real dominace in 2017, and if he can become more consistent, he is a true weapon in the bullpen.
As for the group of young starters that came up to Seattle at various points of the 2017 season, it is hard to pick to trust at this stage. If forced, I would say Marco Gonzales is the guy that will take the next step in 2018.
It is easy to look at what Gonzales did last season and scoff at this notion. It becomes even easier when you remember the price they paid to acquire Gonzales. However, we must remember that Gonzales missed the entire 2016 season, and was still working his way back from that injury while pitching in 2017.
With a full season after surgery now under his belt, I look for Marco Gonzales to rebound into the type of starter he is capable of becoming. However, the Mariners will need all of the young arms mentioned above to succeed if they want to make the playoffs.
Andrew Moore, Marco Gonzales, and Ariel Miranda, will all make starts for the big league club in 2018. Rob Whalen, Max Povse, Chase De Jong, and Dan Altivilla will all be asked to contribute as well.
Our final question is in some ways connected to question 2.
This is an interesting question, and one I have personally wrestled with myself. Do I think the Mariners ownership believes they are a playoff team right now? No. I can’t envision any scenario, other than delusion, where any of the “baseball people” in the organization look at this roster and say, ” Yes, we can win a world series.”
Do I think they are ok with mediocrity? I don’t think they want to be mediocre, but I also don’t think winning is the only thing that matters to them. They cannot sell the idea that this team isn’t better without Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb. But what they can sell, is patience.
We are 3 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, yet there are still dozens of high quality options still available. The market has slowly come back to the Mariners, and prices should be dropping as we speak. There is a middle-class of starters, like Jaime Garcia, who are unlikely to sign until the big name guys go.
The longer the big names stay on the market, the longer the mid-tier guys stay too. It is this basic economic principle that could allow the Mariners to still improve their rotation before Opening Day.
Another possible scenario is that free agent starters aren’t all that interested in what the Mariners can offer. In this case, by not overpaying for a starter now, they can keep all their mid-season options open. By staying pat, they will say they can see where they need help, wait until July, and trade for what they need.
This is a dangerous games, as what the Mariners can actually buy at the deadline will be limited thanks to their weak farm system. If they aren’t out in the race, they can then set themselves up to be sellers at the deadline, and not burden their 2019 payroll with another unmovable contract.
Did I convince you? If I did, I will give myself serious kudos, because I still don’t buy that argument. Spending now is much easier than waiting and hoping the trade market doesn’t get to crazy in July.
Next: The Good, The Bad, and the Mariners
Well, there you have it. Our second Sodo Mojo Seattle Mariners Q&A is in the books. If you want to be featured in our next Q&A, send us your questions on Twitter ( @sodomojoFS) or on Facebook. We are almost there guys. Just 3 weeks until pitchers and catchers and 33 days until our first televised Spring Training game!