The Starting Nine
After a night to sleep on it and a chance to talk to some people and find out what the two lower level prospects bring to the table, I’m now of the opinion that this is a fantastic deal for the Mariners. This is best illustrated by looking at the roster as a whole, as it stands right now. The offense/defense numbers that follow are position adjusted projections for ’09, and remember, +2 is league average.
1. Ichiro, RF, +5 offense, +5 defense, +20 replacement level: +3 wins
2. Lopez, 2B, -2.5 offense, -5 defense, +20 replacement level: +1.25 wins
3. OPEN, DH, -10 offense, +0 defense, +20 replacement level: + 1 win (this is a guess)
4. Beltre, 3B, +5 offense, +10 defense, +20 replacement level: +3.5 wins
5. Branyan, 1B, -5 offense, +0 defense, +20 replacement level: +1.5 wins
6. Gutierrez, CF, -5 offense, +10 defense, +20 replacement level: +2.5 wins
7. Clement, C, +5 offense, -10 defense, +20 replacement level: +1.5 wins
8. Balentien, LF, -10 offense, -10 defense, +20 replacement level: +0.0 wins
9. Betancourt, SS, -5 offense, -5 defense, +20 replacement level: +1.0 wins
Bench (this includes playing time projections based on their reserve status):
C: Johjima, -3 offense, +0 defense, +5 replacement level: +0.2 wins
IF: Shelton, +0 offense, +0 defense, +5 replacement level: +0.5 wins
IF: Hulett, -5 offense, +2 defense, +5 replacement level: +0.2 wins
OF: Chavez, -5 offense, +5 defense, +5 replacement level: +0.5 wins
Position Player Totals: -22.5 offense, -5 defense, +16.65 wins
There are some holes, obviously, but all those holes have legitimate upside. I’m not a big Balentien fan, as I have him performing at replacement level, but there’s definitely potential for him to get to something like a +1.5 win player this year if he makes some strides. I gave Clement a very harsh defensive rating, so maybe his work ethic allows him to improve faster than expected and he proves me wrong. I’m assuming the team is going to sign a stop-gap DH and get moderate production from that spot, but it’s pretty easy to find a guy who can mash and has some upside, and they could pick up another win there. Maybe Lopez doesn’t regress as much as I expect offensively or Betancourt finds his missing range somewhere. All of these won’t happen, but some could.
All told, I think it’s fair to expect the current crop of position players on the roster to be something like +15 to +20 wins above replacement. A contending team would get about +25 wins from their position players, so the pitching staff would have to be tremendous in order to get this group to the playoffs, but it’s a huge improvement over where this team finished 2008.
Yes, there are questions about where Heilman fits, how this affects Morrow, and how they sort out the pitching staff, but I’m pretty Zduriencik isn’t done, and we’ll look at the pitching staff once it’s settled. You build a franchise around position players, though, and Zduriencik has made sure that the starting nine that takes the field in 2009 is significantly better than the one that took the field in 2008.