The Mariners at the 2007 winter meetings
With the real rock-em, sock-em winter meetings starting, it’s a good time to go through the off-season roster construction exercise and think about what’s yet to be done.
So for format, I’m grouping the guys, doing a little individual commentary, and then talking about the the group as a whole.
We can assume that the 5th starter’s going to be available to Baek/Woods/whoever comes out of spring training. I still think the M’s lose the Schmidt bidding and land him for something ridiculous over four years. Or more. Don’t put it past them.
Winter meeting need: starters, any way they can get them. If they land Schmidt, they’re probably going to be shopping for cheap AAAA-type guys to make sure there’s something to throw into the 5th rotation and as insurance against injuries.
The bullpen’s solid and cheap. There’s been no need for the team to go shopping for middle relievers. They may even be shopping Soriano, which makes sense: he’s getting expensive and if they don’t believe he can start, they may be able to get something they covet for him, and then fill his spot with a warm body.
Woods, or whoever finishes second in the race for the back-of-the-rotation spot, will be fine as the long relief/spot starter guy. Realistically, whoever has a hot hand in spring training is still likely to about as good as the rest of the options for that spot.
I hope Mateo, the veteran presence in middle relief, is going to come back from his 2006, but I wouldn’t bet on it. As long as Hargrove keeps him out of important situa.. oooooh. Right.
We’re quite fortunate in the strength of the bullpen. It’s strong, deep, and durable enough to absorb some innings if the team brings in a short-yard starter, if things come to that. Heck, they did well with last year’s rotation, this has to be an improvement, right? Right?
The bullpen could be improved, certainly, and maybe tailored a little more to the park and to vary the skillsets, but the cost to do so is pretty huge on the free agent market. I’m not going to carp about this unit.
We’re assuming here that Hargrove uses at least 12 pitchers. He’s been known to carry 13, because he’s not a good manager. That leaves us 13 position players:
Except for Sexson, this is a really good defensive infield, which means you don’t have to carry a glove specialist or two for lead-protection situations. It’s a nice situation to be in, from a roster construction standpoint.
Could use a left-handed bat for variety’s sake. But wait…
Ideally, you get Snelling a day off at least once a week and DH him another day. You want him hitting as much as possible, but it’s entirely valid to be concerned about wearing his knees down and hope to keep him healthy by being smart about it.
The ideal defensive alignment clearly puts Ichiro/Snelling/Guillen out there, and pushes Ibanez somewhere else. Guillen’s likely to be unhappy in a 4th OFer role, and Snelling’s wasted. Hargrove’s likely to find some way to platoon with Snelling, even though it’s pointless.
The team’s backup centerfielder is playing for Tacoma. If Ichiro gets hurt, you can stick Bloomquist (or Snelling, for that matter) out there if you have to for a game, but they need a quality defensive centerfielder and besides Ichiro, they don’t have one on the short roster. If Ichiro’s hurt, they need to immediately fly Jones from wherever he is to wherever the team will be the next night even if it seems likely Ichiro’ll be able to play the next day.
That’s a reasonable solution, too. Earl Weaver used to say his backup shortstop was in Rocherster. Adam Jones needs his playing time more than the team needs him to sit on the bench in case something happens.
The rest (4)
Embarassing year at the plate. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Given the team’s general reliance on their eyes and their impressions of the player in front of them (even when visiting) it’s a little surprising they haven’t shown him the door already. (Bonus questions: will his struggles make him an even better musician, adding a little more angst and depth to his surprisingly good and catchy dude-strumming-guitar work?)
Plays decent defense around the diamond, hasn’t, can’t, and won’t ever hit.
What do you say about Morse? He’s a failure at being an anti-Bloomquist. Anti-Bloomquist would at least hit a lot better (and left-handed). Morse hits a little and doesn’t play defense at your choice of positions. At least Bloomquist carries a decent glove around the diamond.
Dobbs might get the call instead of Morse as a left-handed bat, but that seems less likely.
Rivera’s on the 40m right now, which gives him an advantage over Rob Johnson, but it’s likely either way the M’s aren’t going to try and squeeze much production out of the spot. A better backup option, combined with a better manager, might get Johjima more regular rest and possibly help Kenji’s offense.
What’s that all mean for the winter meetings and the rest of the off-season?
They need to sign a pitcher, a middle-rotation-or-better guy they can pencil in for 200 innings. This will almost certainly be Jason Schmidt.
For the rest of the roster, it’s surprising when you look at it this way: they don’t scream out for much. I don’t look at this set of guys and think “oh, they’re dying for a switch-hitting middle infield backup who can steal 15 bases.” There are, for a decent manager, a pretty varied set of tools that don’t require a lot of caddies or substitutions, which is good, because there’s no evidence Hargrove still knows, if he has ever known, how to do those things anyway.
You can immediately see the problem we’ve been waving our hands and screaming about all year: the team’s got too many corner outfield/1B/DH guys.
That’s the second big thing that is probably on Bavasi’s agenda: clear a spot. They need to punt Sexson, preferably, but it still seems more likely to be Broussard. Then they can push Ibanez to DH, Broussard to first, or whatever they work out. Even if they signed or traded for some weird first base piece – a defensive specialist first baseman, heck – they could still work them in with the rest of the mix. But as it stands, they’ve got an excess on the corners and 1B, and they’d be well-off to fix it.
We all know they’re going into the winter meetings looking for at least one pitcher. The interesting question is whether they’re looking to solve their other problem, and if they’re looking to move Sexson to one of the few teams that could take him (do it! do it!), if they’re going to try to move the less-expensive Broussard to the larger pool of teams that could take him, and which direction they end up going.