Seattle Mariners: Why the Team Should Trade for Matt Kemp

The Seattle Mariners reportedly had conversations with the Dodgers about incumbent outfielder Matt Kemp.

Kemp is reportedly not being moved, but the M’s should maintain interest in the two-time All-Star.

After the ambitious, low-buy acquisitions of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, the team’s lineup will look something like this-

  1. CF Dustin Ackley
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. DH Corey Hart (he only wears sunglasses when it’s sunny, just so we’re clear)
  5. 1B Logan Morrison
  6. LF Michael Saunders
  7. C Mike Zunino
  8. SS Brad Miller
  9. RF Abraham Almonte

That’s a pretty solid lineup. In terms of the division standings, that group would probably get you higher than the Astros, and should the pitching hold up, above the Angels. If Hart and Morrison can have bounce-back years, and (again) pitching forbid, the team has a good chance to surpass Texas.

Acquiring Kemp would vault them past Texas and the Angels. Something that seemed absurd four months ago. Oakland may be out of reach, but bringing in Matt Kemp would put the Mariners in a position to legitimately contend for a Wild Card berth.

The Dodgers’ outfielder would bring a perfect blend of, well, everything to the Mariners. Kemp’s defense would shine in still-spacious Safeco Field. Hitting him cleanup in the lineup listed above could be potentially lethal. Imagine this-

  1. RF Abraham Almonte
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. CF Matt Kemp
  5. DH Corey Hart (he still only wears sunglasses when it’s sunny)
  6. 1B Logan Morrison
  7. LF Michael Saunders
  8. C Mike Zunino
  9. SS Brad Miller

Almonte is the “projected” leadoff hitter only based on the fact that he has the foot speed to create at the top of the order, and Ackley can’t play right field. A leadoff hitter would probably be the next item on the Mariners’ to-do list. Ackley could be traded in an effort to get one.

The Yankees, among others, have inquired about the former first-round pick.  Ideally, Seattle could flip Ackley and one of their lesser relievers for one of their incumbent outfielders, Brett Gardner. Here’s another lineup prediction with Gardner (bear with me on this)-

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. CF Matt Kemp
  5. DH Corey Hart
  6. 1B Logan Morrison
  7. RF Michael Saunders/Abraham Almonte
  8. C Mike Zunino
  9. SS Brad Miller

That lineup would contend with Oakland for the division. Not only could that lineup, coupled with the Mariners’ underrated pitching staff, contend with Oakland, but they could compete with the best of them. Outside of Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles and a regressing (for the moment) Boston, Seattle could have the most talented team.

This isn’t even mentioning former top-prospects Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Nick Franklin, all of whom could be shopped to add to the M’s bullpen or rotation.

Getting to this point won’t be easy. Seattle’s going to have to take on some money as well as give up a solid player or two to acquire Kemp. The other trades won’t be cakewalks, but should the Mariners do it, they could be looking at a playoff berth for the first time in a long, long time.


Determining the Mariners’ Outfield of the Future

The Mariners probably can’t believe their luck with the embarrassment of riches they have in terms of young, exciting talent. Kyle Seager is already a bona fide star, Nick Franklin and Brad Miller continue to settle into their respective middle infield roles earlier than expected and Mike Zunino has showed well in a limited stint with the big boys. The future cornerstones of the team also include the highly heralded “Big Three” pitchers Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. The current season, while leaving much to be desired from a win-loss standpoint, has yielded the M’s a group of potentially useful relievers such as Yoervis Medina, Danny Farquhar and Brandon Maurer, the latter of whom could still be a major league starter down the road.

What’s missing, you’ll notice, is the mention of any outfield player. The questions surrounding the current group, even those in AAA, are numerous. Can Dustin Ackley establish himself as an outfielder both offensively and defensively? Does either Endy Chavez (35) or Raul Ibanez (41) have anything left in the tank after the conclusion of next season? Can Michael Saunders hit above .250? Can Carlos Peguero hit for contact? Will Franklin Gutierrez play 140 games in a season ever again? Or even 100?

These questions would be all right if the M’s had a handful of outfield prospects waiting in the wings. They don’t. DJ Peterson, the M’s most recent first-round pick, might be moved there to avoid being blocked by Seager, and while his bat will be strong in the outfield; he will never be Ichiro Suzuki. Austin Wilson, another recent draft pick, shows promise defensively in the outfield but is still, like Peterson, in his first season professionally. Not to mention they are both at High A Everett.

The Mariners’ biggest question is who will be in that outfield in the future? Potentially Chavez and Ibanez could be gone come next Opening Day. The alternatives are to make multiple trades for outfielders or sign replacement players on similar contracts to the previously mentioned trio.

Seattle needs to start finding itself an outfield that works now and later. Best case scenario, the team would probably like to see Guti return to the form he showed in his earlier days in Seattle and patrol center field. Next to him in right would probably be Saunders, showing the promise he has flashed numerous times. Over in left, for the short term, would probably be Ibanez, should he continue to hit home runs. Long term, Ackley or Stefan Romero could all be options if they can hit well enough to stay in the lineup.

The most likely case scenario will probably play out somewhat like it has this season. The M’s will tinker and mix and match with a group of low-risk, high-reward veterans on short contracts while they wait for prospects to come to the big club. Whether those be players like Peterson and Wilson or prospects acquired in a trade, the M’s future out field is a long ways away.

The Jason Bay/Casper Wells Post-Conundrum Analysis

The Mariners made no secret of their desire to beef up their middle-of-the-order in the off-season. They turned John Jaso into Mike Morse. That transaction, however early it might be, is paying off. They signed Raul Ibanez to hit for power and make sure Morse wasn’t the only new-old Mariner. They also signed Jason Bay.

The Mariners’ outfield was clogged to begin with. Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, Trayvon Robinson, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero and Wells were all fighting for a third of the outfield pie. You add the new power bats and some people are going to have to go.

Robinson was dealt to Baltimore and Thames and Peguero are playing in Tacoma, Guti and Grand Torrido (that’s Saunders, you can see my explanation here) are starting for the Mariners.

The final outfield spot, in the end, came down to Bay or Wells.

Bay, six years Wells’ senior who is on an expiring contract and hit .165 in nearly half of a season in New York.

Or Wells, the prototypical fourth outfielder who is controlled by the team longer, is younger and cheaper than Bay.

Wells might be one of the more cynically undervalued players in the league. He played well enough to get more ABs in Seattle, however, due to the crowded outfield (see above,) wasn’t able to get them. Wells is never going to be a mega superstar, but given a decent number of at bats, he could be a very solid contributor offensively and defensively.

Wells, again given decent playing time, is a plus defender who could hit around 20 homers in a full season.

But instead the team went with Bay, who if he plays well, is likely to garner a new contract next year from someone else.

That’s no slant on Bay, but in a situation like this when the spot up for grabs is third string corner outfield/DH position, then you should probably go with the younger, cheaper, longer controlled, better defensive player.

Oh, the travesties of baseball.

HELLO!!! It’s Really Early, Maybe Too Early, but the Mike Morse Trade is Already Paying Dividends

If you watched yesterday’s Mariner game, then you probably saw Mike Morse go bananas. One of Seattle’s newest, oldest Mariners (Raul Ibanez is the other,) ripped Oakland’s pitchers to shreds with a 2/4 performance that include two long balls and a total of four runs batted in.

This is significant not just because Morse outscored the A’s by his lonesome, nor because he nearly out hit them. But because of how good of a sign this is for the Mariners’ offense.

This was a big game from a Mariner hitter, something that was few-and-far-between for hitters on last year’s team, especially middle-of-the-order types.  The key here is that Morse turned in the first multi-homerun and/or four RBI (at the least) game of the season for Seattle. Something that took the M’s a little under a month and some late inning heroics from Michael Saunders to produce last season.

It’s a small milestone, but a positive one for the Mariners as they move to 2-0.

Projecting the Mariners’ Opening Day Lineup

Due to the Mariners hot start in spring training, it makes it just about as easy to predict a lineup where the whole team struggles. None the less, the M’s will likely feel good about themselves going into the season thanks to their torrid spring offense and lack of a terribly-long flight to Japan.

The Mariners have a lot to look forward to this year. They will likely contend for a playoff spot, or at least a seat at the final table to determine that spot. They will unveil a new, slugging-based offense. They will play in the same division as Houston. And they will play in the same division as Houston. Continue reading

Hey, the A’s Did it, How About Us?

The Oakland Athletics had an extremely successful season last year. Maybe you didn’t notice. In a discussion where the A’s were probably relegated to the kiddy table, while big-boys Texas and Anaheim were supposed to contend for the division, the A’s won it. LA of Anaheim missed the playoffs all together, and Texas went out in a pretty unceremonious way against Baltimore in the new-fangled one-game playoff.

The team’s supposed strengths going into the season were pitching and, well, pitching. Albeit in an enormously large ball park where a game of cricket can be played down the right field and left field foul territories.

Oakland’s strength ended up being not only pitching, but also a tendency to hit home runs. And lots of them. The A’s were one of the better teams at the art of the long ball (7th in baseball last year.)

Last year as well, the A’s got the bulk of their power from their first base/ corner outfield/DH spots from a mix-matched group of role players and journeymen.

(Sensing a theme?) Continue reading