Seattle Mariners should prioritize Alex Wood over Taijuan Walker
The Seattle Mariners continue to look for some starting pitching depth to help them survive the first half of the 2020 season. And while many want an ex-Mariner, another veteran could make more sense.
The Mariners and GM Jerry Dipoto have been very clear the entire winter that they will not be adding many hitters with an MLB track record of success as to not block their young kids. There is a good chance that only one player over 30-years-old will be in the Opening Day lineup and it is a strategy that can work.
What won’t work is relying on their current group of starting pitching candidates to get them through the majority of the season. Currently, Seattle’s starting 5 includes Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, two rookies who are far from sure things to make it through an entire MLB season. Even vets like Yusei Kikuchi and Kendall Graveman have serious questions surrounding them. Marco Gonzales is the only reliable option right now (although I do think Kikuchi and Sheffield are excellent breakout candidates).
But even if you want to write Gonzales, Kikuchi, and Sheffield in pen, that still leaves 2 extremely questionable options as the favorites to crack the opening day rotation. And while you can always find guys like Tommy Milone and Wade LeBlanc, they provide little upside and little “flippability” value.
Seattle needs upside arms on short-term deals, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Thankfully, there are still a handful of options out there and if Mariners social media is any indication, it is demanding Taijuan Walker to return to Seattle.
And for the record, I am 100% on board. Walker would be a great addition and exactly the type of arm Seattle should target. But perhaps a better option is still lurking? Is Walker the best arm to target?
Personally, if I had to choose just 1 new rotation member this winter, I would select LHP Alex Wood, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds. Wood, who celebrates his 29th birthday today, presents the same idea as Walker, but with a higher-upside.
Like Walker, Wood barely pitched in 2019 but has been relatively reliable for 4 of the past 5 seasons. Despite battling injuries, Wood has posted a career 3.49 FIP and a solid 13.6 fWAR in just 839 innings.
Wood has also posted a solid 1.23 WHIP with a 3.0 K/BB ratio or better every year since 2016. He is a safe bet to get 8.0+ K/9 numbers and, if healthy, is a good bet to return at least #3 starter quality. A healthy Alex Wood is extremely flippable and as we get later into the winter, is becoming increasingly cheaper.
Obviously, Wood has to have a desire to play in Seattle, but it is a good fit for him. He is basically guaranteed a rotation spot, and the ballpark works in his favor. If there is mutual interest, I would like to see Dipoto get something done, even if it means overpaying his current market considerably or adding an extra year to his contract.
Now obviously, I would be very excited if Seattle signed Walker. I genuinely like the guy and his fit in Seattle makes too much sense. But Alex Wood is just better. Or at least, he has a better track record.
But instead of debating which one the Mariners should sign, may I suggest a bold new strategy? Just go get both. You have more than enough payroll flexibility and the need for upside arms. You are likely looking at 1-year, low guaranteed deals. The more flippable assets you have, the better. And maybe, just maybe, you find a long-term piece in either guy that is a part of the next winning team.
I don’t know, maybe I am crazy. But it just seems like buying two highly probable lottery tickets when you can afford them is better than getting just one.