Scouting the 2007 Mariners
I started to kick this around today and it’s interesting, particularly with the trade deadline near. Bavasi’s thinking about this as he works on trade possibilities for this year, and you’ll see that some of the possibilities start to cascade into others.
I suspect many columnists, on and off-line, have macros or column templates they use on the looming, imminent fall of Ichiro. I’ll believe it when I see it.
2B: Jose Lopez
He’s here to stay.
SS: Yuniesky Betancourt
Same deal. Barring injury, those two are going to anchor the lineup for a while
C: Kenji Johjima
Under contract and a steal for the price
LF/DH Raul Ibanez
He’ll retire a Mariner unless the team’s sold.
Challenging at those positions:
C Jeff Clement but he’s not forcing the issue just yet.
LF/RF/DH Chris Snelling he can hit, he’s still only 24, but forcing his way into the lineup’ll be tough
CF Adam Jones
I’m still going to argue he was rushed. His defense is erratic, but we have to remember that he only converted from shortstop in the last Arizona Fall League – considering how long he’s been out there, he’s progressing well. Offensively, he’s obviously struggling, and I’d have let him spend more time in Tacoma working on both sides of his game… but he’s up now. If he’s overmatched all season, they might consider having him start 2007 back in the PCL.
CF Jeremy Reed
The only way I see him on the 2007 squad is if Jones does really badly for the rest of the year.
1B Richie Sexson
So they get the first, cheap year of his contract, get great production and now facing the remainder (which was, if you recall, what we were really worried about). Free-agent first-basemen are almost never a good deal, and finding replacements is not so hard. If there’s a chance to move him, would they take it?
3B Adrian Beltre
The enigma. There’s no one to take his place internally, and it’s a lot harder to find a good replacement. And yet — this too has to be tempting.
1B/DH Ben Broussard
If the team keeps him, he can be one half of a deadly platoon. He’ll likely only get a couple million in arbitration.
You’re starting to see where one of the weird problems is: Snelling, Broussard, and Ibanez are all looking at the playing time for two positions as long as Sexson’s still here. Defensively, you’re best off putting Snelling in left as much as you can and spotting Ibanez out there, but then you’ve still got one of the three on the bench every day, and they’re all good enough hitters that they should be playing versus right-handers.
Overall, though, you can see something really heartening: this is a much younger and improving team, especially compared to the decrepid debacles we saw for a couple of years.
Jamie Moyer will likely get offered a one-year deal again. If he wants to come back, it’s there for him.
Gil Meche leaves after the team offers him less than he thinks he can get as a free agent, and some dumb team wildly overpays for him.
Joel Pineiro’s gone if he doesn’t dramatically improve starting… well, now would be good. They could haul him to arbitration, but why bother? Really.
Let’s figure, for a second, that Moyer comes back. The team would have two spots open.
Obvious candidates, especially if they don’t reconfigure the fences, are left-handers like Barry Zito. Or that Daisuke Matsuzaka guy, who, if he’s available, will probably end up a Mariner.
Figure Daisuke Matsuzaka does come over. Then you have four: Felix, Moyer, Matsuzaka, and Washburn. There’s one spot to be filled through free agency or promotion from within.
We still might see Soriano challenge next year. It seems unlikely right now, given his nagging shoulder problem, but with more time between him and surgery and Putz firmly established in the closer role, he might go for it next year.
The only other pitcher I see pushing for a rotation spot next year is Cruceta, who’s been quite good (for stretches) in Tacoma this year, even as he’s struggled at times.
The bullpen’s going to be fine – I’m not worried about that at all. If both Soriano and Cruceta don’t head to the rotation, it’ll be even better, but there’s no need to look for additional help there, even if one of them did.
The whole picture
That’s a nice team. It’s certainly a lot younger, better, and more interesting to watch than some of the squads we’ve seen trotted out these last few years. While the 1B/LF/DH issue is likely more interesting to hardcore fans who worry about roster construction, it’s the rotation that will determine the outcome of the season even if they do nothing with the rest of the roster. If they make good choices on the free agent market, that’s a team that can compete and win a pennant. If they can make a move that gets them some more pitching, all the better.