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.

Why the Vetoed Justin Upton Trade Was a Good Thing

Last offseason the M’s almost acquired Justin Upton. Almost. The Mariners would have sent Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor.

Drink it all in.

That’s Seattle’s second baseman of the future, their two best bullpen arms, plus a potential ace.

Does that sound like the haul to give up for a player like Upton?

Justin Upton is not the player he was in 2009 or 2011. At least statistically he isn’t. He probably isn’t a threat to hit .300, but he will turn in close to a .270 batting average.  He may hit a lot of home runs, somewhere around 25 or 30, but that’s it. Also, he has never reached the 100 RBI plateau, an interesting fact considering the supposed stature of Upton as a hitter.

So, does a hitter with a .270 batting average, 20-30 homerun potential and less than 100 RBIs a year (last season he drove in 67 in 150 games) sound like the guy to trade for a future ace, second baseman, and two dominant bullpen arms?

The answer is a resounding, “No.”

I’m not disparaging Justin Upton’s talent as a player, I just think his market value at the time was overblown.

Put it this way, not only did the Mariners keep nearly a fifth of their future roster, they also found a suitable mish-mash of players to replace, and out produce Upton.

Meet Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse and the since-departed Jason Bay. Plans B, C, D, E, in no particular order. The M’s brought this group in to provide the same kinds of things Justin Upton would provide, a middle of the order presence. The team might have gone a different direction in filling out the rest of their lineup with Upton seeing as these four players are… four players, and Upton is just one. But at the end of the day, they play the same role.

And the M’s combination has done it better.

Justin Upton’s 2013 WAR with his new team, the Atlanta Braves, 1.9.

Kendrys Morales’ 2013 WAR, 2.9.

Raul Ibanez’ 2013 WAR, 0.8.

Jason Bay’s 2013 WAR, 0.5.

Michael Morse’s 2013 WAR, -0.6.

Collectively that spits out a WAR of 3.6. And while that may be four players’ output versus a singular player’s output, the different ways the M’s got that output is key. The price for Upton would have been two ace relievers, an actual ace and a second baseman. The price for the current M’s was a backup catcher, who was blocking the path of Mike Zunino, and a starting pitcher on an expiring contract who likely didn’t factor in the team’s long term plans.

It’s a good thing that Justin Upton vetoed a trade to Seattle. Yes, he would have brought star-power to the team, but since the veto, the M’s have found a much better solution for their lineup, statically and monetarily. Not to mention they keep the team intact for the long haul.

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

Can The Mariners Be Baseball’s Version of the Clippers?

Let me explain. Felix isn’t going to throw alley oops to Jesus Montero; Kendrys Morales isn’t going to get a never-ending highlight reel of clips for dunking on Ryan Dempster, and well you seem to get the point.

According the hoopsstats.com, the Clippers’ bench was in the bottom five in the league in terms of points, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage last year. The Clippers needed to improve the bench to get better.

Last offseason LA re-made their bench. They had 10 guys on the roster who weren’t regular starters last year. Only two of them are still on the team. The Clips main weakness was small forward depth, much like the Mariners lack of any power hitters. They went out and brought in Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes and Grant Hill among others. No one thought this would actually function and that the Clippers would struggle to give guys playing time, etc. But the Clippers have one of the better records in the league thanks to a bench that leads the league in bench scoring, and are in the top five in the league in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks.

The Mariners, you’ll remember, needed a new batch of power hitters. Middle of the order guys. Guys who could actually hit home runs on a consistent basis.

Seattle also wen the overkill route, dealing for Morales and Mike Morse as well as signing Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay. All of whom play some combination of the DH-First-Base-Left-Field Triple-platoon of positions all played by power hitters.

The Mariners are not only protected in case of injuries (which always seem to happen at the most inopportune times,) but are also able to play the mix-and-match game.

Eric Wedge can rotate Morse, Ibanez, Bay, Morales as well as incumbents Mike Carp and Justin Smoak through DH. He can also play all of them with the exception of Bay at first base, and all with the exception of Morales and Smoak in left field.

It gives the M’s the flexibility to lean on the hotter bats as well as easing off the colder ones.

So, can the M’s be baseball’s version of the Clippers?

It could happen.

What do you think? Could the Mariners be baseball’s Clippers with a mix-and-matching, strong-in-the-bench squad?

What Justin Upton Rejecting a Trade to Seattle Means for the Mariners

“HELP!!! HELP!!! OFFENSE NEEDED!!! NO ONE ELSE WILL SHOW UP!!! WE’LL TAKE ANYONE AS LONG AS HE CAN HIT THE BALL IN THE GAP.”

This is what the signs that are draped over every overpass on I-5 in Seattle read. The Mariners need offensive help and apparently Justin Upton is not interested.

The M’s supposedly agreed to send shortstop Nick Franklin, relievers Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of the pitching prospect trifecta of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton. Probably Walker.

The most interesting part to all of this is that Arizona actually agreed to it. I am in no way saying that these are going to be or are bad players, but if I was Arizona I would have tried to get one more of the “trifecta.”

Yes, all three are likely going to be starters in the Majors, but they all could be aces. I’m not overvaluing Upton or anything, but the asking price should be higher than stated for a few reasons. He’s young. He has the potential to be a dynamo offensive player, and Seattle is so very desperate for offense. We’re talking David-Stern-desperate-for-power-and-control desperate.

On the flip side of that is the fact that the Mariners could have potentially stolen Upton for cheap. Arizona probably should have asked more for Upton, but Seattle was going in not giving up too much in reality. Yes, Franklin could be special, but the M’s would have gotten a special player back in Upton. Yes, one of the “trifecta” could be special as well, but so could the other two. And if you haven’t noticed, the Mariners are starting to develop a very “Oakland A’s” kind of feel to them in terms of developing good relievers, so losing two wouldn’t be horrible.

It’s really a true shame that Upton didn’t accept the trade. I’m not sure why he doesn’t want to come to Seattle. It’s honestly one of, if not the best city in the world (I’m a tad bit biased seeing as I was born and live in the greater Seattle area.)

Can you imagine the Mariners’ offense had he accepted the trade? Upton, Morales, Seager and Montero are a pretty fantastic middle of the order. Add in Raul Ibanez, Dustin Ackley and a possible resurgent Franklin Gutierrez and you have the makings of a legitimate offensive team. Something we haven’t seen in Seattle in a very long time.

It is disappointing that the trade for Upton didn’t work out, but the big positive here is that the Mariners know that they have a package of players that would have acquired one of the premier players in the game. If that group of players could have brought in Upton, then they can certainly bring in someone else of his caliber.

What do you think about all this? Was Upton smart to stay in Arizona? Should the Mariners go after another player of his caliber?

Tell me in the comments section.

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