Yes, I am #madonline about last night.
This isn’t just about Ichiro, though. This is about the offense as a whole.
I’m terrified by the thought of another injury to one or two of the Mariners’ nine best hitters. Not just because, you know, I don’t want them hurt, but because there is a massive drop-off in talent from the lineup to the bench.
I mean, that’s natural, right? With every team, there will be offensive liabilities on the bench, or perhaps in the everyday lineup. This can be for many reasons: the player is a flexible defensive asset, he’s a good locker room guy, or he’s a washed-up 44-year-old waste of a roster space that you thought you could milk for ticket sales.
Sorry, I got ahead of myself there.
As for the Mariners, all three of these examples are fitting. However, with very little worthwhile offensive talent waiting in Tacoma, there is a huge problem if one or multiple Mariners go down.
Right now, Guillermo Heredia is the best bench piece on this team. The organization, however, doesn’t like to utilize Heredia’s abilities because, again, Ichiro. To play devil’s advocate, Heredia is a bit of an offensive liability as well. He’s a poor baserunner and, while his wRC+ remains at 167, he’s been an average-to-below-average hitter for his career.
Plus, those numbers are a bit inflated as he’s seen just 37 plate appearances.
Still, I like Heredia. He’s a fantastic defensive outfielder and has been clutch at the plate every now and then. He’s worthy of one-to-two starts a week. But, let’s be real: we’re only banging the table for him because of Ichiro.
Past Heredia, the Mariners have David Freitas, Andrew Romine, and you-know-who on the bench.
Romine has mainly been used as a late-game defensive replacement thus far. He’s only had 15 plate appearances in the first 29 games of the year but still hasn’t notched a single hit. I understand what his role is on this team, but he should at least be getting some more time on the field. Otherwise, he just feels like an unnecessary part of the roster.
As for Freitas, I really have no qualms. He did a nice job starting nearly every day while Mike Zunino was out. He’s a competent defender behind the plate, and that’s pretty much all you could hope for. You shouldn’t expect much offensive production from the backup catcher position, even on a perennial World Series-contending team like Houston (hi, Max Stassi).
Ichiro is a complete contradiction of what a proper Major League backup is. He’s a liability on both sides of the baseball spectrum. This reunion isn’t cute anymore. He’s just annoying to have on the roster at this point.
As I said, though, my main issue is the inevitable injury. Not a season-ending injury, but something that keeps a key player out for an important mid-season stretch. Playoff contenders have bench players that not only contribute solid defense but create matchup problems for the opposing team on a day-to-day basis, even if they’re not great hitters.
Even if an injury doesn’t occur, there is still a great opportunity here for the Mariners to get better. Their offense has been one of the best in the MLB. They are stacked one-through-nine in the order. Maybe it’s just my greed talking, but honestly, you need even more.
As we’ve established, Ichiro is wasting a roster spot. Romine, if they’re not going to use him, is also wasting a roster spot. Heredia and Freitas are fine bench pieces. But you have two spots that could easily be filled to maximize lineup flexibility and keep everyone fresh.
From what we learned this past offseason, the market for positional talent is ridiculously in favor of the buyers. A key bench contributor or two could be had through trade at a relatively low cost.
I’m not saying they should go out and get Jed Lowrie. Instead, two solid role players who are competent offensively and defensively would be nice. Think along the lines of a Denard Span or Shin-Soo Choo, who are having solid seasons on bad teams.
It’s the beginning of May, so nothing will likely happen for quite some time. If the Mariners are still competitive as they near the All-Star break, positional depth is an area of need that should be addressed.
Just get Ichiro off of the team.