Position Roundtables: Reserve Outfielders

Dave · March 13, 2005 at 6:14 am · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables 

Dave: Reserve Outfielders: Raul Ibanez, Willie Bloomquist?, Jamal Strong, Shin-Soo Choo

You thought the team was thin at shortstop? There’s a very real chance that the Mariners will field an opening day lineup with zero true outfielders sitting on the bench. Ibanez is the token fourth outfielder, but he’s going to DH nearly every day, so in case of injury to Winn, Reed, or Ichiro, it looks like Willie Bloomquist is going to be the guy trotting out to play the field.

Now, because the M’s starting outfield consists basically of three
guys who won’t be unbelievable awful in center and are all very good
in the corners, the team has more depth than it first appears. Boston
isn’t going to stick Manny Ramirez in center if Damon gets hurt, but
the M’s have the ability to interchange Winn and Reed if need be, and
Ichiro can obviously play anywhere.

The most interesting scenario might be to see what Hargrove would do
if Ichiro got hurt early in a game. Are you going to stick Willie
Bloomquist, who has at best an average arm for an infielder, in right
field? You certainly aren’t going to put Winn over there, and Reed
doesn’t exactly have a cannon himself. Pretty much any one of that
trio is going to be challenged first to third by any team that has
done their advance scouting, so the best decision may be simply to
forfeit the DH for the rest of the game and suck it up with Ibanez
moving to RF. The difference in hitting quality between Bloomquist
and the pitcher isn’t that enormous in one game, and at least Raul can
keep runners from circling the bases while our outfield of pop-gun
arms attempts 8 cutoff throws to get it back to the infield.

This is one of the reasons I think Shin-Soo Choo has a better chance
of making this club than Jamal Strong does. Strong is basically a
very poor copy of what the M’s already have; a decent center fielder
with no arm and no power who slaps the ball around and relies on his
legs. He’s what you’d get if you bought the generic brand of Jeremy
Reed at Wal-Mart, than had him shrink in the wash. Strong is what we
already have.

Choo, at least, provides something a little different. He’s got a
rocket arm and would provide a legitimate reserve right fielder, in
case Ichiro goes down. He has more power than any of the starting
outfielders, even though he’s not exactly a slugger himself. He’s not
a great defensive player-of course, he’s not the abomination he’s been
in camp so far, either-but you can live with him in right or left and
might be able to hide him in center for a few innings as well.

If Choo were right-handed, I think he’d have a great chance at making
the club as a balance to the lefty slap hitters that make up the
current starting trio. As a lefty, his chances are diminished
somewhat, and he could definitely use some more time in Triple-A. But
the M’s have to be hoping he develops pretty quickly, because right
now, having Willie Bloomquist as only backup outfielder on the bench
isn’t going to leave Hargrove much in the way of flexbility.

Jason: I like Choo, but I’d be pretty surprised if he made the club. Primary reason
being, they’ve always been very patient with him, moving him one level at a
time even when he’s played well. In 2001, he spent a full 51 games in
Arizona before a three-game trial at Wisconsin. The next season he played
119 games in Wisconsin, then the last 11 at Inland Empire. Each of the last
two years he’s spent full seasons at high-A and AA, respectively, without so
much as a promotion to end the season. I’m not arguing with this approach,
because he’s gotten better each season, but I just don’t see them suddenly
pushing him when they’ve moved him slowly thus far.

As it stands, the outfield options are slim to none and getting narrower all
the time. Ideally, they’d bring in a veteran reserve outfielder — Stan
Javier, where are you? — who doesn’t mind playing once or twice a week and
won’t hurt you in the field or at the plate. Billy McMillon, maybe someone
like Adam Hyzdu who’s never gotten a chance… Hell, Dustan Mohr signed a
one-year deal with the Rockies for less than $1M this winter. Dave’s buddy
Ben Grieve signed a minor league deal with the Pirates.

How did they not see this as a hole, and an easily filled hole at that?

In any event, I’m pushing for Strong because I don’t think he’s going to be
any better than he is right now, and they could use some speed on the bench.
Choo still has a chance to develop into the starting left fielder for next
season, and I don’t want him rotting on the bench this year.

Jeff: The questions for me regarding Choo are twofold: is he ready this
year, and are the Mariners ready to compete this year?

I think the jury is out on both, and like Jason says, it would be a shame to slow
Choo’s development by not having him in the lineup every day.

Strong is a lower-risk, lower-reward player, and there is one thing he
does bring to the table that the Mariners don’t have: a player off the
bench who can motor. Not that speed should be a primary or even
secondary factor when constructing a bench, but when the fastest
reserve you have is Willie Bloomquist, a player like Strong could add
value there, too.

Dave: the questions for me regarding Choo are twofold: is he ready this year, and are the Mariners ready to compete this year?

Well, if we’re wondering if he’s ready to be an upgrade over Willie Bloomquist as the team’s fourth outfielder, I’d say definitely. Choo’s MjEqA based on his Texas League performance last year was .242-not good, but better than Bloomquist’s .234. PECOTA’s weighted mean projection for 2005 Choo is .265/.334/.402. Again, not a great line, but better than anything we currently have.

If the “is he ready” question has more to do with how time spent in Tacoma would help him develop, I think the answer would be no. He’s not ready in the sense that he’s maximized his minor league growth and at this point would be best served in the majors. He would benefit from spending the year in Triple-A. He’s got a bit of improving to do before he lives up to his potential at the big league level.

So, the question is, do you stunt his growth by having him play a few times a week at the major league level rather than send him back to Tacoma and carry inferior players on the major league roster? I think sending him to Tacoma is the smart idea, but if the team plays well early on, it might not be the worst thing in the world to bring him up. The team could use a legitimate fourth outfielder, and right now, he’s the closest thing they have to it.

Peter: I’m just happy we’re not debating the merits of
Quinton McCracken in this space this year.


39 Responses to “Position Roundtables: Reserve Outfielders”

  1. John D. on March 13th, 2005 6:59 am

    This reserve OF situation seems to emphasize the short-sightedness of our FO. They should have realized that we had this hole, and done something about it. (Maybe they will–via the waiver wire–when teams make their final cuts.)
    At any rate (IMO), the trading of Randy Winn is a luxury they cannot afford.

  2. Bodhizefa on March 13th, 2005 7:58 am

    I’m not sure how this would be an issue if Bucky Jacobsen was absolutely healthy. Then we would have four legit outfielders in Winn, Ibanez, Reed, and Ichiro, only one of which is a rightfielder (Ichiro). But if Ichiro is hurt for any significant amount of time, I don’t think a back-up in right would’ve made a difference for us in terms of competition. If Suzuki gets hurt, we’ll have to deal whether that means Choo or Ibanez or whomever in right and we won’t be competing for a playoff spot if it’s anything more than 15 days. If Reed or Winn get hurt, then Ibanez steps into left without much (if any) defensive drop-off in left (he and Winn are very comparable in terms of BP’s defensive Rate system) and the non-injured of Winn/Reed goes to center. It’s not rocket science methinks. What would be nice would be a healthy Bucky Jacobsen. That would solve more problems than anything right now.

  3. Jon Wells on March 13th, 2005 8:03 am

    I don’t necessarily fault the front office for not addressing the reserve OF position with an established fourth outfielder early in the off-season. Remember, the club thought they had an extra outfielder when it looked like Bucky was going to be ready for spring training and be the regular DH this year. The surgery he had wasn’t originally supposed to take this long to heal. Yes, if Bucky were healthy they might have traded Winn or Ibanez but their plan in a trade like that might have been to get a cheap 4th OF type thrown into the deal.

    That said, earlier in the off-season I called for the M’s to give an NRI to a Tom Goodwin, Doug Glanville tupe who could play CF, that wouldn’t be paid much if they made the club. They have so few outfielders down here in spring traing that not only are Benji Gil and Ricky Gutierrez getting playing time in the OF, including some starts, but they’ve had to use the likes of minor leaguer Gary Harris in Cactus League games. By the way, Dave — is Harris much of a prospect?

  4. Josh on March 13th, 2005 8:14 am

    Bucky healthy and with the big club doesn’t help the situation of someone going down in the middle of a game though.

    If someone goes down for an extended time I’m sure Bucky would be called up to DH while Ibanez goes out to play in the OF.

  5. Rusty on March 13th, 2005 8:14 am

    Can’t Speizio learn to play outfield? (sarcasm intended)

  6. Dave on March 13th, 2005 8:43 am

    Gary Harris is an organizational player. If he ever makes the show, it will be in the Mickey Lopez cup-of-coffee kind of way.

    BP’s defensive metrics have some issues; Winn is a terrific defensive left fielder, Ibanez is a poor one. There’s definitely a dropoff in defense if Ibanez takes the field in place of any of the three starters.

  7. Todd on March 13th, 2005 8:55 am

    I like Choo for a couple of reasons. First, even though he bats left handed in a left handed lineup, the only bats for whom the M’s really need to pinch hit are catcher and Reese, both right-handed. Reed is the only lefty for whom I see the M’s pinch hitting. Secondly, Choo could take over the one role that Willie actually does well, pinch run. I have not seen Choo run, but his minor league SB numbers are impressive. He will probably start the season at Tacoma, but I hope that by the middle of the summer, when the pitching staff is hopefully reduced to 11, both Choo and Bucky are on the M’s bench.

  8. Digger on March 13th, 2005 9:05 am

    It helps to look at the integrated picture for the Mariners’ bench.

    On any well-run team, the bench is constructed to let the manager use situational hitting in the late innings. To do that, he needs one bench player who hits for above average power (ISO > .167) and another who handles RHP well (OBP vs RHP > .333).

    With a 12 man pitching staff and a backup catcher who satisfies neither of the above criteria, the Ms have to find that capability to start the season with only 3 players (not counting Wilson) from this list–giving their last year’s ISO/OBP vs RHP.
    Santiago .026/.243
    Gutierrez .029/.250
    Dobbs .076/.212
    Gil (2003) .080/.234
    Reese .082/.277
    Bloomquist .085/.243
    Spiezio .131/.294
    Leone .225/.306
    I include Reese but not Lopez on this list because if Lopez doesn’t make the team as a starter, he needs to be playing every day in Tacoma (the same is true of Choo!).

    What I infer from this (anemic) list is:
    (1) Bucky would have been a lock for the team if he was healthy–and still is whenever (July?) he’s ready.
    (2) Spiezio makes it even if they weren’t owing him so much $. We hope he can revert to his 2003 form (.188/.344) in which case he’d be a real asset on the bench.
    (3) Leone is the best (only?) current option for a power guy.
    (4) The one spot left has to go to someone who can play shortstop. That’s Reese if Lopez is the starter; Santiago or Bloomquist if Lopez is in Tacoma. Either way, this slot provides no usefulness in terms of situational hitting.
    (5) The only wild-card I can see here is Dobbs, whose spring numbers could over-rule the (small sample) numbers cited above.

    This gives us the following 2 possible scenarios:

    Leone or Dobbs

    Leone or Dobbs
    Santiago or Bloomquist

    Either way, it’s 2 guys on the bench who hit like pitchers. We keep Wilson because of his legacy to the team and one guy because he can play shortstop. That leaves only 2 who MIGHT be useful for situational hitting. Not a great situation.

    Dear St Patrick — Please get Bucky healthy ASAP.

  9. Taylor Davis on March 13th, 2005 9:33 am

    Bloomy will almost certainly make the team….unfortunately.

  10. Jerry on March 13th, 2005 9:46 am

    I don’t like the idea of Choo being on the bench. I like Choo a lot, and think that he could have a really good year in Tacoma this year. He really improved his power numbers last year, and if he continues to improve in this aspect of his game, he will become a very good prospect. He already is an interesting player, with speed, a plus arm, and good plate discipline. If he changes his approach to lift the ball a little more, he could be a really good player, and his offensive skills would be better suited to a corner OF spot.

    Thus, I think that 2005 will be a big year for Choo. A good comparion could be Jason Kubel. Kubel was a year ahead of Choo in his development, and has a little better plate discipline. However, Choo could have a similar jump in power like Kubel did in 2004. Choo already showed increased power last year, and hopefully he will build on that. However, he needs to do this in Tacoma, and sticking him in Seattle would be a mistake. Basically, Choo is a player who projects as a fringy starting OFer right now, but has a chance to establish himself as a legit top-tier prospect this year. Thus, they should let him play everyday in Tacoma.

    The issue of Ichiro getting hurt is not as important as some here suggest. If Ichiro goes down early in a game, Ibanez can play RF for that one game, and they can call up Choo from Tacoma. One game shouldn’t be the deciding factor in how the team deals with Choo. Ichiro isn’t a guy who takes time off, so this only is a factor in the event of a catastrophic injury. Choo will only be a few miles away in Tacoma, so this is not that big of an issue.

    I do think that the M’s would be wise to bring in a backup OFer, or just let Strong be that guy. He fills two roles as a pinch runner and backup OFer. Its too bad that the M’s didn’t go after Ben Grieve as a lefty bat and 4th OFer. Hopefully the Pirates will ditch him given their glut of OFers.

    One important issue that Digger brings up is the Lopez situation. It is beginning to look like Lopez could realistically win the starting SS job. If this happens, it would dramatically effect how the bench falls together. Perhaps this would be an interesting topic for another thread.

  11. Spiegs on March 13th, 2005 10:21 am

    In 2001 I thought Stan Javier contributed a tremendous amount to the team. I know his numbers weren’t gaudy but when he played, he played well and he did bring that “veteran presence” that is tough to quantify. Where have you gone Stan Javier?

  12. David J Corcoran on March 13th, 2005 10:45 am

    “the best decision may be simply to
    forfeit the DH for the rest of the game and suck it up with Ibanez
    moving to RF.”

    Put Spiezio in right, or Spiezio at 1st and Sexson in right for one game…

  13. Dave on March 13th, 2005 10:48 am

    Actually, in 2001, Stan Javier’s numbers were terrific. He hit .292/.375/.391, which was good for a .290 EqA. On a per at-bat basis, Javier in 2001 was just as good as Raul Ibanez was in 2004.

    It wasn’t just lame “veteran presence” that he brought to the club; he was a very productive player.

  14. David J Corcoran on March 13th, 2005 10:53 am

    What about Tony Alvarez… the White Sox signed him as a minor league free agent and already cut him from camp. He’s a decent player and would fill the 4th OF spot cheaply and effectively.

  15. Shoeless Jose on March 13th, 2005 10:55 am

    I believe they played Spezio in RF after pulling Ichiro in the later innings yesterday (the 12th). I doubt they would do that, even for laughs with a big lead in a cactus league game, if Hargrove wasn’t at least evaluating that as an option for the season.

  16. David J Corcoran on March 13th, 2005 10:57 am

    I haven’t seen Spiezio play OF, but it seems like he would be very similar to John Mabry (defensively) in the OF, which wasn’t that bad…

  17. G-Man on March 13th, 2005 11:33 am

    I’m not going to worry about what the team does if Ichiro has to come out in the middle of a game; that’s just too rare to plan for. OTOH, what they’ll do if one of the OF’s is out for awhile is another story. having Strong and Choo in Tacoma is the best plan for that.

    Spiezio played a little LF and RF for the Angels each year from 2000 through 2003, so I don’t think he’d be considered a joke out there. If he’s smart, he’s working on it this spring to possibly create some more playing time this season. I’m also loooking at Scott to bounce back enough to be a viable pinch hitter.

    I see a comment or two about the lack of hitting from Dan Wilson off the bench. Unfortunatley, not many backup catchers can hit much, and I think that should be different. Teams want a reliable defensive guy in that role, which one can understand, but they routinely sacrifice hitting to get that when they construct their rosters. When you only have 4 guys over there and you need to pinch hit, a guy who can swing the stick and still catch looks a lot better than a defensive specialist.

  18. David J Corcoran on March 13th, 2005 11:42 am

    Problem is that devoted catchers who can hit and field are usually starters. A Kit Pellow type who can hit, but is no more than a 3rd string Catcher defensively is as close as you can get, it seems. Matt LeCroy would be an exception(as he is at least an avg defensive c), and I would be thrilled if we could get our hands on him…

  19. Greg Pirkl on March 13th, 2005 12:12 pm

    First off to the guy who mentioned Gillick coming back…did you happen to notice we lost the AL West every year but once when he was running this club.

    Second…it bears repeating that Bloomquist is bad. Fields below average for a MLB player at 6 positions, cant hit his weight, not a legit base stealing threat off the bench, and an arm equivalent to Steve Garvey’s. Why is he even being considered for this team???? just because he has been around for a few years. they do not have the luxury of keeping a zero-tool player around if they are indeed going with a 12-man staff.

    Strong can run and play any spot in the outfield legitimatly–sure he can’t hit either but doing those 2 things alone make him more valuable than golden boy.

    Keeping Dobbs/Leone with an eye on them being able to get spot innings in left is a much better option.

    A bench of:
    Reese (with Lopez starting)

    gives you real options to try to win in late innings rather than just sending up guys for L/R matchups who are useless.

    The last thing to help the bench would be a nagging injury to Wilson so we dont have to watch him roll over to short with 2 on and 2 out.

  20. Rusty on March 13th, 2005 12:58 pm

    Strong can run and play any spot in the outfield legitimatly–sure he can’t hit either but doing those 2 things alone make him more valuable than golden boy.

    This is news to me. Did something happen in spring training to turn Strong into a non-hitter? He’s been a very consistent hitter thru his minor league career, while steadily improving on drawing walks as well. If you meant that Strong can’t hit for power, then all is forgiven.

  21. david h on March 13th, 2005 1:14 pm

    sorry this is off topic, but does anyone know when King Felix next takes the mound?

  22. David J Corcoran on March 13th, 2005 1:43 pm


    Speaking of off-topic… you’ll never guess who I just met! The guy drafted one pick before Ron Coomer!

  23. Ace of Spades on March 13th, 2005 2:34 pm

    I get the feeling that this conversation would be significantly different if Snelling were still healthy and playing in ST.

  24. David J Corcoran on March 13th, 2005 2:40 pm

    I am just hoping that some decent outfielder will get released by Opening Day (Alvarez, Grieve, Eric Freakin’ Owens, Bocachica, etc.)

  25. Pilots fan on March 13th, 2005 4:47 pm

    I don’t understand what is meant by “forfeit the DH for the rest of the game”. In the case of having to replace Ichiro for the remainder of a game, is it against a substitution rule that I’m not aware of to simply move Ibanez from DH to RF (retaining spot in batting order), and insert Spezio as DH, taking Ichiro’s spot in the order?

    That Q asked, I also think (barring some trade scenario in the next 3 weeks) Wilson/Spezio/Bloomquist are locks to make the bench. That leaves one spot until Bucky is ready (at which time we may go with 11 pitchers), with 5 or 6 guys competing for it.

    I’m not convinced that spot is going to Jamal Strong or some released outfielder when you’ve got Ibanez itching to play in the field as much as possible.

  26. David J Corcoran on March 13th, 2005 4:51 pm

    Re 25:

    The hitch with the DH is that you can’t switch its spot in the batting order. If your DH hits cleanup, you can’t swap positions with the left fielder and call it good. The left fieldder gets removed and the pitcher inserted.

  27. Dave on March 13th, 2005 4:51 pm

    If the DH takes the field at any point during the game, the DH is forfeited and the pitcher must bat in the lineup spot originally occupied by the player the DH replaced.

    And, really, regardless of Ibanez’s itch, its probably going to take an injury to get him a whole lot of playing time in the outfield. He’s clearly the worst defender of the four outfielders on the roster, and there’s no point in DH’ing any of the other three, unless Hargrove just wants to give them half a day off.

  28. ray on March 13th, 2005 5:21 pm

    I don’t think we have to consider Ichiro as a LHB when talking about LHBs. He hits LHP better than RHP. So, Choo’s being another LHB is not as much a concern. It should actually help him a Safeco, considering he’s developing more power. I wanted him to make the team until reading these posts. I think now he should be sent to Tacoma to develop more. I think by this time next year he will be seen as a great upgrade to Ibanez and they could trade Ibanez for what is needed at that time.

  29. Pilots fan on March 13th, 2005 5:29 pm

    Thanks for the clarification on if/when the DH takes the field. I did not know that the DH is treated differently than other substitutions would be. So in my scenario, it looks like we get maybe Spiezio in the OF somewhere for the rest of the game.

    Regarding Ibanez’s playing time in the OF — agreed, but that doesn’t change that I think he is/will be OF #4. If there is an injury, that changes things and you make a call up (Strong or Choo?) or a trade determined by how bad the injury is.

    BTW, I loved Stan Javier when he played, and did you ever see the legs on that guy?! Not sure he could pass steriod testing! 😉

  30. John D. on March 13th, 2005 6:08 pm

    Re (# 7) “Left-handed lineup” ? AFAIK, the line-up (batting order ?) without Choo is a Right-handed batting order (5-4). With Choo, inasmuch as he would be replacing a left-handed hitter (Winn *, Reed, Ichiro, or Ibanez), would still be right-handed (5-4).
    *I know. I know.

  31. jc on March 13th, 2005 8:10 pm

    #19 did you happen to notice how many games the club won when gillick was the gm?the best years this club has ever had sure the angels ans athletics won the division but if you win 90 plus games and dont win the division that is still a great year guy……bavasai got 63 year 1 and the mariners spent alot this winter im betting on not much better this year…i dont know but gillick looks alot better to me then the new group …right?

  32. Harry on March 13th, 2005 8:41 pm

    31: Yes, but every team Gillick has left fell apart soon after. I think he neglects the long-term health of the franchises he heads.

  33. Ralph Malph on March 13th, 2005 8:49 pm

    Hargrove has already said he is going to give Spiezio time in the OF in the spring to see if he can back up there.

    So clearly the backup OF’ers (aside from Ibanez) will be Bloomquist and Spiezio. Bloomquist and Winn can cover CF in a pinch and Spiezio can cover the corners.

    I don’t see any reason why Spiezio wouldn’t be at least adequate as an emergency LF/RF.

    And keep in mind this is only for an emergency; Choo and Strong are only a phone call away in Tacoma.

  34. vaujot on March 14th, 2005 12:20 am

    Obviously this discussion as well as the one on reserve infield would run quite differently if the club had retained either Carbrera or Boccachicca (spelling?). Which brings up the question: Was it a good idea to let go both of them?

  35. jc on March 14th, 2005 5:23 am

    #32 how many teams other then the ones who have 120-200 millon payroles stay on top?How many teams have the mariners had that had more wins then the years gillick was the gm?My momma once said you have to give a little to get a little….Lets face facts the mariners have been a losing team alot longer then they have been winners….saying that bring back gillick …..

  36. Zzyzx on March 14th, 2005 7:21 am

    Am I really supposed to be that worried about what would happen if Ichiro! went down in the middle of the game and then our RF for the rest of the evening was noodlearmed? That would cost us what? Two/three bases tops – how many singles to right with a runner at first who would only advance on a weak armed outfielder really happen in one game?

  37. Ralph Malph on March 14th, 2005 9:24 am

    Agreed, Zzyzx. Most of us can agree that Cabrera is a better player than Bloomquist but the difference might not amount to 1 win all year. It’s not worth getting excited about.

  38. Grizz on March 14th, 2005 12:00 pm

    The concern here is not just what happens during the rest of a game if someone gets hurt, but what happens the two or three times a year when a starting position player misses three or four games with an injury that is not serious enough for a DL stint. The “one phone call away” solution does not necessarily work because you cannot assume that the M’s could make the requisite roster move to clear a spot for a Tacoma call-up (sending the 12th pitcher down may not be an option if the bullpen is at less than full strength). When it comes to the last bench spot (assuming, as it appears, Wilson, Spiezio, and Bloomquist take the other spots) the critical question becomes which is the lesser of two evils: starting Bloomquist at 2B or SS for three or four games if Reese or Boone go down, or starting Ibanez in the outfield if Ichiro, Reed, or Winn miss three or four games. Considering that Ibanez overall is slightly the lesser of the two defensive evils (at least if Bloomquist must play SS) and that Reese and Boone are more likely to miss time due to nagging injuries, the M’s should keep an extra middle infielder over an extra outfielder. Hopefully, a better option than Gutierrez, Gil, or Santiago becomes available at the end of spring training through waivers or minor trade.

  39. nathaniel on March 15th, 2005 12:54 am

    I’m not sure why we would even be concerning ourselves about bringing in a cheap marginal OF’er to fill a bench role. It looks like we are going to have 4 capable OF’ers on the team, plus we have Strong or Jacobs to choose from if we want to add one more. Both of those players have definite strengths, and have nothing more to prove at AAA. Either one of those guys would provide as much off the bench as any player we could pick up off waivers.

    Choo has progressed steadily in the minors, but he is not ready yet. He will go back to Tacoma to continue his progression.