The Time Has Come
Early speculation is that Jeremy Reed has broken his thumb and is going to miss at least 4-6 weeks. This leaves the Mariners with exactly one real outfielder on the roster. Ibanez is a DH masquerading as a LF, and Willie Bloomquist is a 2B who gets used in center because he plays hard. Carl Everett can’t run, and isn’t even an option.
Ichiro is the only real outfielder the M’s have in the major leagues right now. The internal options from Tacoma include Doyle (.287/.392/.434), Choo (.316/.391/.477), and unfortunately, Mike Morse (.233/.283/.421). None of these three should be asked to patrol CF in Safeco Field. Doyle and Choo would both be fine in a corner outfield spot, however, and both would provide significantly better offense than anything they could expect from Willie Ballgame.
So the team is in a situation where they need to open up a corner OF spot and they need a legitimate defensive center fielder. They’ve spent years dancinng around the issue, but Reed’s injury pushes it to the forefront – move Ichiro to center.
It’s the best move, and it’s not even close. Reed hasn’t been hitting for the last 18 months anyways, and the Mariners best 9-man line-up in a playoff push wouldn’t include him swinging the bat. The team is in playoff contention, and they’ve got to figure out how to maximize every advantage they can. Ichiro has publically stated that he’d move to center if asked, though behind the scenes, we hear all kinds of rumors about how he wants an offseason’s notice to train for the new position.
At this point, though, you can’t afford to let Ichiro’s personal preference take precedence over the good of the club. The team needs him in center field. Putting Ichiro in CF allows you to move Ibanez to right, which minimizes his defensive liabilities in Safeco, and Doyle or Choo in left. Or, you could just put Doyle/Choo in right, as both have the arm for it.
If the M’s have the guts to make the move, Reed getting hurt could be the a blessing in disguise. The Mariners best team has Ichiro manning center field, freeing up a corner OF position to add offense. They’re not getting the offense they need from Jeremy Reed, and they won’t get it from Willie Bloomquist.
Odds are the M’s won’t do it. It’d be a pretty dramatic move to not only change Ichiro’s position but essentially cause Jeremy Reed to lose his job to an injury, but he’s played his way out of the line-up on his own. The M’s have internal options who deserve those at-bats, and this injury creates a perfect chance to maximize the talent on the roster and get the best possible line-up on the field.
Ichiro to CF, Doyle or Choo to the majors. Whichever one doesn’t come up now can replace Carl Everett when the M’s finally tire of him.