The 2009 Core

Dave · May 22, 2008 at 10:43 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

After this series, I’d imagine that even the staunchest holdouts agree that this season is over. The Mariners would have to play .657 baseball, going 75-39, the rest of the way to have any realistic chance of winning this division. This team is just not capable of playing that well. They’ll be lucky to get to .500, honestly. The 2008 season is up in flames.

So, now, the question is no longer what the team should do to try to improve this year’s team. This year’s team is irrelevant. The 2009 team is now the one the organization needs to be building (and for the sake of this discussion, we’re ignoring the fact that the entire front office might get fired) – the nice thing about a losing season is that you get a head start on your competitors for the following year. With the resources and the talent on hand, this team can be a winner in 2009 if they make the right moves. We’re not looking at a long rebuilding project, where they should trade everyone and start over. They just need to import some talent, make some good moves, and build a team around the foundation that’s already here. It can be done, but first, they need to identify the core that they’re going to build around.

Here’s my take on who those guys should be considered part of that core.

Felix Hernandez, Starting Pitcher: He’s the franchise. Don’t trade him ever.

Ichiro, Center Field: If Felix is 1A, he’s 1B. Same deal – he retires here.

Erik Bedard, Starting Pitcher: The trade sucked, but he’s here and still good. Keep him.

Adrian Beltre, Third Base: Underrated, not really replaceable. Keep him.

And that’s the core. Everyone else is liable to be replaced by someone better depending on what you find available. There are other valuable players in the organization (Putz, Betancourt, Lopez, Clement to name four), but they’re not guaranteed jobs here. If someone wants to give you something for them that makes this team better, they go in a heartbeat. They’re all replaceable.

Now, the problem this presents is that if you’ve decided that your core is a center fielder, a third baseman, and two starting pitchers, you’ve got a massive amount of work to do to fill 21 spots around them before 2009 rolls around. Some of those will be filled internally, certainly, but you’re still looking at a pretty significant roster turnover. Where do you start with such a large job?

Well, to begin with, you figure out who isn’t part of your core and could have some value to a team trying to contend right now, and you figure out whether it’s worth it to trade them for 2009 help. This list is pretty short, unfortunately, since there are so many lousy players on the roster. Essentially, you’re looking at Raul Ibanez and J.J. Putz here. Both would bring in a decent return in trade as quality veterans with terrific contracts, but that return has to be weighted against the cost of subtracting them from the 2009 roster.

If Ibanez is willing to DH next year and be platooned against lefties, and he’ll re-sign for a reasonable amount of money, then he might be worth keeping around. If he’s not, then you have to weigh whether the players being offered are more valuable than the potential draft picks you’d get from letting him walk via free agency. Since this team is building for 2009, though, it’s likely that they’d be able to get some more immediate help in exchange for Ibanez, who has the reputation to fool someone into overpaying to get him for the stretch run.

Putz is a tougher call. When he’s healthy, he’s still one of the best closers alive, and he’s signed to a bargain contract through 2010. If the M’s are going to contend next year, they should be making their bullpen better, not worse. However, relievers have notoriously short shelf lives, and you can build a good bullpen very quickly. Trading Putz now and rebuilding the bullpen this winter could be a good strategy if you can get an everyday player that could fill a position on the 2009 team.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re doing with those two, you then need to answer the Jeff Clement question. Now that Johjima’s been re-signed through 2011, Clement isn’t a catcher in this organization anymore. He’s a good hitting prospect, but as a 1B/DH, he’s no longer a potential all-star, and he would have more value to a club that would stick him behind the plate everyday. Regardless of whether we agree with the Johjima deal or not, it happened, and it’s not going away, so Clement’s value to this organization might be highest as trade bait. If you could turn him into a similarly talented first baseman and get an additional player to boot, that’s a trade they should look at making. Call the Reds and ask them what they’ll give you with Joey Votto for Clement – if you like the second player, make the deal.

That’s where you start, but it’s certainly not where you finish. It’s a big job, but the sooner this organization gets started on a plan for 2009, the better.

Yes, we know, no one reading this wants this administration making the decisions on who will be here next year and who won’t. Put that aside and allow us to have a discussion that doesn’t center around your desire to see Bavasi fired. Thanks.


294 Responses to “The 2009 Core”

  1. LewLegend on May 23rd, 2008 12:46 pm

    Playoffs? Did he really say Playoffs? Playoffs?

    #250..agreed, competitive would be nice.

  2. bakomariner on May 23rd, 2008 12:48 pm

    “Playoffs?!?!?!?!? Playoffs?!?!?!?!?”

    Sorry…first thing that popped into my head…

    But the same sentiment…this team is not looking at the playoff without major changes…

  3. msb on May 23rd, 2008 12:53 pm

    the Royals just signed HoRam to a minor league deal.

    saaaay, if Dave is going to be on at 3:35, that means Gas will have to listen, and maybe learn something, too

  4. Tom on May 23rd, 2008 12:54 pm

    Paging Larry Beinfest. . .

  5. Mike Snow on May 23rd, 2008 12:55 pm

    Bakomariner, thanks for staying on topic, seriously I appreciate that. I just jumped on the Swisher comment as a symptom of the other problem these threads suffer from, which is randomly throwing names and wishlists out there without much thought as to them being realistic or practically useful toward the team’s construction. I could see some value in Swisher as a Sexson replacement (though it’s not happening), but that’s why I jumped on the part about him playing the outfield.

  6. bakomariner on May 23rd, 2008 12:57 pm

    253- Saw the Ramirez signing a couple days ago too…maybe yesterday…as shitty as he was in Seattle, I’m surprised it took this long for him to catch on somewhere…

  7. pygmalion on May 23rd, 2008 12:58 pm

    Our top priority needs to be a true relief ace; I just want to make sure that we don’t undervalue the position, since our ultimate goal – and really it doesn’t need to take that long – is getting back in the playoffs. Once we are there, there is every reason to try to maximize the number of games we can win. Hence, the problem with Putz is the short shelf-life on most closers. If we could be sure he would be around and dominant in three years I would say keep him and don’t trade him.

  8. Steve T on May 23rd, 2008 12:58 pm

    Don’t trade for anyone over 27, period. Not with valuable parts at any rate; I have no objections to filling a hole or two with a rent-a-fielder here and there. What I don’t want to see is Putz or Clement going for another big dumb 1B stud like Teixeira who’s going to give us a good year and then fall off a cliff. We don’t want any more $20m cliffs.

    Value defense above all. It makes your pitchers better, and it comes cheaper than any other aspect of the game. If we could get three CFs out there again it would be awesome.

    Some guys who understand the concept of the strike zone would be a pleasant change.

    Ibanez gets “DH or goodbye”, no further discussion period.

    And NO GODDAMN TALENTLESS WHITE LOCAL BOY UTILITY BOOBS, no matter how happy they make the KJR crowd. We’re trying to win some baseball games here, people.

    Seriously, we’re one star and three underrated regulars away from contending for real.

  9. pygmalion on May 23rd, 2008 12:59 pm

    Urgh. I meant to say, “Our top priority DOES NOT need to be a true relief ace.”

  10. bakomariner on May 23rd, 2008 1:00 pm

    Swisher would be good at 1B or in RF…could be had for a couple prospects and he is young and locked up for a couple of years…I think that if they stop playing over their heads in Chicago and they fall out of the race, Guillen will be fired and they will start to move players…but if he is one to be moved, I don’t know…

  11. pygmalion on May 23rd, 2008 1:01 pm

    That’s got to be the third time I’ve said the exact opposite of what I meant to say in this thread. I think that I’d better just stop saying anything at all before I begin asserting that we need to make certain that Vidro’s option vests and that Ibanez stays in LF. I could never live that down.

  12. bakomariner on May 23rd, 2008 1:02 pm

    259- I was about to jump all over you before you fixed that…lol…

  13. pygmalion on May 23rd, 2008 1:06 pm

    bakomariner: I would have deserved it, too.

  14. andrew23 on May 23rd, 2008 1:06 pm

    As a Reds fan, I’d like us to keep Votto.

    How about Bailey and Keppinger for Clement?

  15. Mike Snow on May 23rd, 2008 1:09 pm

    Chicago isn’t falling out of the race, they’ll be buyers rather than sellers, whether or not they should be. The 2008 White Sox = 2007 Mariners (in trajectory, not in composition).

  16. bakomariner on May 23rd, 2008 1:17 pm

    265- Good point…probably true…then the next question is what do we have that they want? What prospects or MLB regulars can we get from them for 2009?

  17. Wallingfjord on May 23rd, 2008 1:21 pm

    Wow, Craiglist is suddenly flooded with tickets for sale for the M’s/Sox series. Really good seats at face or below!

    Fans are bailing…

    Wouldn’t you want to see the Red Sox, though? I mean, in the “hella fun to watch” category, they are totally up there!

  18. Wallingfjord on May 23rd, 2008 1:23 pm

    PS I am not a broker and that is not a sales pitch. Just observing the very dramatic, sudden availability of seats to even the best games/series. I guess a breaking point was passed in Detroit.

  19. joser on May 23rd, 2008 1:25 pm

    I’ve said this before, but I would love to see the Mariners develop the rep as “closer U” — developing a guy for the role, having him demonstrate it for a year or two while training his replacement, then flipping him for prospects and starting over. Lather, rinse, repeat. Putz can show Morrow his splitter — Eddy Guadardo’s gift that keeps on giving — and then move on. I’m not wild about Morrow as a closer — not because I don’t think he can do it (see that awesome four out performance he gave against Texas on May 12, even if he gave up the winning HR), but because it would be a waste of a 1st round draft pick. But given that he’s even more of a waste as a setup man, I’ll take what I can get.

    Closers are overpriced in the market, and getting an assembly line set up to flip them at a steep markup would be one way to keep the farm system topped up (much as Beane does with starters).

  20. gwangung on May 23rd, 2008 1:37 pm

    I’ve said this before, but I would love to see the Mariners develop the rep as “closer U”

    It’s a very reasonable thing to say. I don’t mind hearing it again.

  21. smb on May 23rd, 2008 1:40 pm


    That’s an excellent idea, I’m almost amazed we don’t see one of the smarter GM’s implementing that already. I’d mark the likelihood of the Mariners being smart enough to do that somewhere ~1%. Nice.

  22. xxtinynickxx on May 23rd, 2008 1:42 pm

    Anyone see on the KJR site on softys page there is a spread sheet thats insane check it out.

  23. smb on May 23rd, 2008 1:45 pm

    And to add to that, count me in the camp that says we should try moving Putz. We’re more likely to get someone starstruck enough by him to give up young talent than with anyone else we have who’s potentially worth trading (everyone but Ich and Felix, IMO), exactly because of that common overvaluing of ‘elite closers’. Outside of Felix, Ichiro, and the suspended youngster Triunfel, it would be nice to be at least somewhat excited about a player at some level of the organization. Aumont, too, I guess, but beyond that, where is this “built-up” farm system I keep hearing about?

  24. Tom on May 23rd, 2008 1:47 pm

    Hey, I have a question. What do you think is the trade value of Johjima in spite of the fact he signed an extension?

  25. msb on May 23rd, 2008 1:52 pm

    Felix Hernandez, Starting Pitcher: He’s the franchise. Don’t trade him ever.

    per Hickey, The Franchise is being skipped this weekend– possibly because they are being extra careful with his calf

  26. coasty141 on May 23rd, 2008 1:55 pm

    Andrew 23. #264 I bet you wouldn’t have given up Bailey at this time last year. Has Bailey really fallen that far out of favor?

  27. Karen on May 23rd, 2008 1:56 pm

    Since the Friday game blog thread isn’t up yet:

    4:38 p.m. (EST): This from MLB:
    New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for his inappropriate actions, which included kicking dirt on Umpire Chris Guccione, during the bottom of the ninth inning of his Club’s game last night against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Girardi is scheduled to serve his suspension tonight, when the Yankees host the Seattle Mariners.

    Remains to be seen whether the Yankees play better WITHOUT Girardi egging on the hotheads, but this is a great chance to win against a club being run one game by the bench coach.

    Essentially that’s been the situation for the past year with the M’s themselves, which SHOULD even the playing field, right?

  28. coasty141 on May 23rd, 2008 2:01 pm

    274 I don’t think Joh has a lot of value. I could see us dumping him to contender if someone goes down with injury. But lets be honest with ourselves, the Mariners are not getting rid of Kenji.

  29. busplunger on May 23rd, 2008 2:03 pm

    I’m almost amazed we don’t see one of the smarter GM’s implementing that already.

    I believe Beane gave this a try for awhile; it was one of the subjects discussed in Moneyball. I’m summarizing from what I remember, but basically, he figured saves were overrated and that any decent relief pitcher could hold a lead in one inning’s work more often than not. So he’d run a guy like Jason Isringhausen out there long enough to rack up saves, then ship him off to another team for a handful of prospects… lather, rinse, repeat.

    But maybe he tried this with one pitcher too many; a couple years down the road he ended up with a bullpen that kept blowing leads late in games. He ended up paying prospects (Teahen) for Octavio Dotel to fix the problem, which was interpreted as a sign that he was finally conceding that the closer’s “role” isn’t quite as fungible as he originally thought.

    The hilarious ending to the story, of course, is that Dotel stunk, too. Just look at who sponsors his B-R page.

  30. joser on May 23rd, 2008 2:05 pm

    Even playing field… yeah, well, unfortunately ARod is back, and hitting homers (he would’ve had 2 last night if they hadn’t blown the call on one of them).

  31. Tek Jansen on May 23rd, 2008 2:06 pm

    #275, msb — Hickey also mentions that Silva and Wash will throw this weekend, on three days rest each. And Vidro is batting third tonight. Good times.

  32. busplunger on May 23rd, 2008 2:08 pm

    Of course, if I had a personal fact-checker, that individual would have pointed out that Isringhausen left as a free agent. Compensatory picks, maybe?

  33. msb on May 23rd, 2008 2:12 pm

    inappropriate actions, which included kicking dirt on Umpire Chris Guccione

    oh, that would never be inappropriate.

  34. irish on May 23rd, 2008 2:18 pm

    What do you think is the trade value of Johjima in spite of the fact he signed an extension?

    The ’07 Jason Kendall trade would make a good comparison:

    $4.54M (84% of the remaining money on his contract


    Rob Bowen
    Jerry Blevins

    In other words, if Kenji had only ONE year left on his contract, we could expect something like a decent relief prospect in return. That is, if we also paid almost all of his salary.

    To put it more succinctly, nothing.

  35. jryoung222 on May 23rd, 2008 2:36 pm

    RE: Felix, it was written somewhere (I think the Times), that the M’s have made some efforts to get him signed long-term, but Felix doesn’t want to. Sounds like he’s confident (and why not) and wants to go to free agency. (And with the direction of the team, why would he want to?).

  36. msb on May 23rd, 2008 2:41 pm

    RE: Felix, it was written somewhere (I think the Times), that the M’s have made some efforts to get him signed long-term, but Felix doesn’t want to. Sounds like he’s confident (and why not) and wants to go to free agency. (And with the direction of the team, why would he want to?).

    Jayson Stark. FWIW< his agents said they were willing to listen when the subject came up this spring.

  37. jryoung222 on May 23rd, 2008 2:53 pm

    Ah, yes, it was Stark. And I’m glad they’re willing to listen. It gives me some hope. Thanks msb.

  38. gwangung on May 23rd, 2008 3:12 pm

    I think Felix wants them to pony up a bit more money than a couple million a year….

  39. tankmansw on May 23rd, 2008 4:35 pm

    Counter the M’s falling ticket values with the fact that I just paid $92 for $28 CF bleacher seats at Fenway for a sold out game against Texas in August.

    Way to go M’s.

    I’m all for blowing this thing up – honestly should have been done a long time ago when Edgar retired – team got old and we had the village idiot in here trying to plug in replacements with no ability at all to judge talent, as well as blowing decisions on letting guys go with no compensation. Not to mention that the Morrow over Lincecum decision was just clueless. Come on – local kid – filthy stuff – big numbers on a good team in a good conference. Now we have a marginal middle reliever with command issues and they have a stud starter with the #3 ERA in the NL.

    I trade any and all of the vets with value and suck up the fact that we’re goign to be on a 2-3 year down cycle.

    Of course, I don’t trust the FO to execute any of this.

  40. Steve T on May 23rd, 2008 4:40 pm

    How can it be a 2-3 year down cycle when we’re already six years into it?

  41. paulkersey on May 23rd, 2008 6:21 pm

    At the risk of having this post deleted for sacrilege, why does Ichiro have to be untouchable? I think his trade value may outweigh his production going forward. He has no secondary skills and is bound to decline, fantastic conditioning or not. What if in 2010 he hits an empty .280 and can’t cover as much ground in center? I don’t think that is at all unlikely.

    Ichiro’s great and essentially unique, but I think it would be foolish to assume he isn’t subject to the same decline curve as everybody else. His value is tied up to a large degree in his legs, and they will fail him at some point.

  42. Seth on May 23rd, 2008 8:58 pm

    yeah, I think the plan was to sneak into the playoffs and then ride Bedard and Hernandez to the Series…hell, it worked for the ’05 Astros, who had a similarly old and anemic offense. The M’s are anemic-er, though. And the horrid defense isn’t helping.

  43. jlc on May 23rd, 2008 9:21 pm

    Dave, I just had a chance to read this. Dear God, are you suggesting an organizational philosophy? I mean, other than buying high and expecting career years? No wonder I love this site so much. Thanks.

    Defense is my favorite part of the game and “undervalued” seems like an understatement right now. I suspect as we get further from the steroid-induced HR-fests, it will take its rightful place again. Build on defense and besides helping pitchers, you may be gathering a talent that will be more highly valued over the next few years.

  44. Donovan on May 23rd, 2008 10:15 pm

    Some ideas:

    1. Trade Putz to the Rays for J.P. Howell, Reid Brignac, & Dan Johnson.

    2. Ibanez to the Tribe for Aaron Laffey & Jensen Lewis.

    3. See what it takes to get Mike Hollimon & Ryan Raburn from the Tigers. Not much, most likely.

    Howell & Laffey move into the rotation next year, giving you a formidable rotation.

    Brignac becomes your starting SS, a building block for the future.

    Dan Johnson provides league average offense at DH or 1b on the cheap.

    Raburn & Hollimon compete for the 2b job, and in Raburn’s case possibly an OF job, although I’ll confess I don’t know about his defense. In any event, both provide good multi-positional bench options in the worst case scenario.

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