Oh, and Derek touched on it briefly, but since he got snubbed by the P-I this morning, consider this our official endorsement of Peter White and Mariners Musings. For my money, Peter’s been the best thing going in the M’s blogosphere for at least five months now, and he’s been extremely entertaining and insightful throughout the offseason. He’s articulate, well-read, and intelligent, but manages to avoid the cliches many sites fall into. While he’ll come to a lot of the same conclusions as other blogs, I always enjoy the way he gets there, and I never feel like I’ve read his stuff elsewhere, while many of the other blogs can run together.
Peter, you the man. Keep up the great work.
I see both sides of the fence in the Soriano argument. Everyone agrees that starters are inherantly more valuable than relievers, and you shouldn’t flippantly convert a starter into a reliever without cause. However, there are cases where it is obviously the right move-Francisco Rodriguez, for instance-and turns an average starter into a dominant force out of the bullpen. While 200 innings are certainly more valuable than 80 innings, I think people have underrated the value of an ace reliever. If you believe Soriano can throw 70-90 high leverage innings and post an ERA below 2.00, that is a tremendous weapon that has alot of value.
Essentially, the question becomes how good of a starter you think he can become. If you feel he’d be no better than average in the rotation, where his lack of a third pitch and stamina could become issues, then he’s more valuable to the team coming out of the pen. However, as Jason notes, 23-year-olds rarely have three major league pitches, and giving up on Soriano as a starter because he looks like a dominant closer today is short-sighted. Good organizations give their players a chance to improve on their weaknesses and develop into something better tommorrow than they are today. The Mariners have consistently focused on the shortcomings of young players, especially pitchers, to the detriment of their development. Soriano may belong in the bullpen, but putting him there permanently because he lacks a change-up at 23 is ignorant.
We’re going to face this exact same dilemma in a year, maybe less (usual caveats about health apply), when Clint Nageotte forces an audition. He also profiles better as a reliever, and will be categorized as a power-arm capable of dominating out of the bullpen. Converting both of your dominant upper-level pitching prospects into relievers, however, is a tremendous waste of resources, especially for one so intent on spending millions on proven closers. If the M’s believe that Nageotte will end up as a reliever in this organization, than it is even greater incentive to keep Soriano as a starter. People can talk about the depth of pitching all they want, and it is a strength of the organization, but this rotation could get ugly in a hurry, and the team can’t afford to be moving prospects to the bullpen while depending on the likes of Ryan Franklin and Gil Meche for 200 innings a year.
Ideally, they would have traded Franklin during the offseason to open up room for Soriano in the rotation, but they’ve made their bed and now have to lie in it. The current roster is best constructed with Soriano as the ace reliever, but that is as much an indictment of the way this roster was shaped as it is a declaration of his viability in the rotation.
I see also (wow, three posts in a row) that the M’s will add Jay Buhner to their Hall of Fame. About freaking time, is all I have to say to that.
Allow me to update my previous post — Soriano is now apparently out three to four weeks with a strained interior oblique muscle on his left side. That earns a big “ouch” from me, both for his injury and the team.
I still think he (Soriano) can start, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. He’s already got the fastball, and the consensus seems to be that his slider came along quite nicely last season. That gives him two pitches, which obviously isn’t enough to succeed as a starter (at least not for long). That said, how many guys come along at age 23 with much more than even a servicable changeup? Not many. I’d like to see them make his third pitch a focus this year, but I think there’s still plenty of time for him to learn, especially considering he’s not likely to be in the starting rotation when the season starts. It’s too early at this point to give up on him as a starter and commit him exclusively to relief, in my opinion.
Of course, there’s also the news that he’s suffering from some sort of abdominal strain, which means he might fall behind a bit in camp (not that he needs a good camp to win a job, or anything).
Oh, and a hearty “Welcome Aboard!” to anyone finding us today for the first time thanks to Angelo Bruscas’ article in the P-I (featuring our own Derek!). We invite you to take off your coat, have a look around, and stay as long as you like.
Soriano’s made some comments about wanting to become Mariano Rivera. I guess if there’s a reliever to emulate, the multi-inning work of Rivera isn’t so bad, but… if you’re going to dominate, dominate as a starter.
I’ll toss this out to my fellow deckmates here: Does Soriano have the repetoire and requisite strength to take a regular turn in the rotation, or is he destined for relief as many think?
From the rubbing-it-in department: the Pirates signed RF-R Raul Mondesi to a 1-year, $1.5m deal. Though a righty, Mondesi was a far better hitter than Ibanez last year, and cost many millions less to get. The M’s signing of Ibanez to an expensive multi-year deal continues to look like one of the crazier moves of any team this off-season.