What the M’s can still do
To be entirely open, it hasn’t been fun for me here at USSM lately (just deleted-another “you faked results to advance your agenda” comment! Awesome!)(to be clear — that many-seasons thing was not a prediction, it was “hey, I spent a lot of time using DMB, and here’s the interesting stuff that came out of it”)(I suspect that train’s long left the station, though), so it’s time to geek out about one of my favorite topics, roster construction. Benches benches benches!
What does the team still need, and how might they still improve, assuming they’re dead-set on making a run for it?
First, the hitters. Let’s assume they’re not going to make any more major moves and dump any of these guys.
Nine spots burned.
Burke’s the backup catcher (#10), so that solves that piece. #11 is Bloomquist. Now you have 1-3 spots left, depending on how many pitchers the M’s carry. Let’s figure on 12 pitchers, so you’ve got two bench spots left.
What do you need that you could patch for on the bench? Horrible defense at first and left, and you’re hoping to get average defense in right out of Wilkerson. And you could really use a good pinch runner for those three and Turbo too. And if Bloomquist is your backup infielder, what you really need is two more backup outfielders who can chase flies like nobody’s business. A righty if you can manage it, to sub in for Ibanez or Wilkerson against lefty starters — and they don’t have to be that great to be better than them against lefties. And you could really use another bat off the bench, particularly a decent defensive replacement for Sexson.
If they’re not willing to go shopping, I think you have to go with Reed. His offensive performance was much improved last year in Tacoma, though his projections are not particularly good looking (PECOTA: .265/.321/.385, ZiPS .259/.312/.377) it’s a fine skill set to offer as a 4th outfielder: below-average but not horrible bad, good defense, particularly in the corners, not a base-stealing threat but a decent runner. Especially considering the question of Wilkerson’s durability, it makes even more sense. So I’d take Reed with the #12 spot.
Then what? It’s an interesting question, and I’ve got a couple of possibilities:
– You take Morse as a backup corner infielder/Sexson replacement
– Jimerson as a 5th OFer and pure defensive replacement and runner.
What you really don’t have any need for is a I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Bloomquist player like Cairo, who also can’t hit, but makes up for it by not being a good runner or fielder.
If you’re willing to spend, you’re not going to a lot better, really. None of Shawn Green/Trot Nixon/Reggie Sanders helps solve a problem you’re carrying. Corey Patterson would be a nice choice — he’s a glove, has some speed, might hit and might not, depending on which season it is. As a 4th OFer in spacious Safeco, he’s a nice choice. And likely comes with a high price tag. Kenny Lofton’s still out there, too, and you could certainly do worse.
There’s Bonds, if you want the ultimate in controversial and risky may-be-in-jail-on-perjury-charges choices. Then you push him into DH/LF as often as circumstances permit… but that’s not going to happen, so forget I mentioned it.
And surveying the field, Patterson’s a great choice if you can get him on the cheap, but beyond that, there’s not a lot to buy for your remaining bench dollar in the lineup.
So flip a coin (which will come up heads 90% of the time) and get yourself a #13 position player, and go on to the pitchers.
We’re at 19… and then chaos fills the remaining six spots.
Let’s figure if they’re willing to punt the future, they’re willing to spend another year of Morrow in the pen. Ding! #20. Can I get Aumont, too? I mean why not, right? Then O’Flaherty, sure, that’s your first choice to get a lefty in there. #21.
Looking at that rotation, what do you need? If history’s any guide, some long relief when Silva’s defense fails him and he’s knocked out early, Washburn’s going to need a consistent bridge for the 7th-8th, and you won’t always have Morrow around (or Putz, for that matter). Take Rowland-Smith for long relief (#22), assuming Baek’s your 6th starter in Tacoma, and Sean Green for bridging as RP-R (#23). Now McClaren’ll want another short-use lefty – Rhodes may will break with the team out of spring training if he’s at all effective (#24) though I’d argue you’re better off taking a better righty option if you have one… so you might go with both Huber and Lowe here (I’d love to see Lowe healthy and effective) though they’ll likely only need one (#25 and done).
I don’t see any point on spending more on the bullpen. It’d be costly and probably wouldn’t do much better. And this throws HoRam to the minors/the waiver wire/wherever, which the org is unlikely to do, so you have to drop someone, and that’ll be a substantial downgrade.
Anyway — we know the 2008 starters. The next interesting thing is how they use the resources at hand to try and patch for the squad’s obvious weaknesses.