The Starting Nine

Dave · December 11, 2008 at 7:18 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.


56 Responses to “The Starting Nine”

  1. bigred on December 11th, 2008 8:48 pm

    How much money does Zduriencik have left to play with? Can the M’s be players in some of the high profile bats still out there? Manny as DH? Texiera crazyiness?

  2. Breadbaker on December 12th, 2008 3:01 am

    Is there some reason, at this point, one wouldn’t DH Wlad and put Chavez in left?

  3. The Ancient Mariner on December 12th, 2008 6:38 am

    If we had to open the season with this roster, you’d probably be looking to put Kenji behind the plate and Clement at DH, with Wlad in LF; of course, we don’t, and much can change between now and April.

    As the OF goes, right now, I’m thinking we’re looking at a complex platoon in LF/CF, with Chavez playing LF when we have a pitch-to-flyball guy on the mound and CF for Gootz against tough RHP. (In cases where both are true, obviously, you pick one or the other, depending on how much you trust Wlad’s glove.)

  4. Alaskan on December 12th, 2008 11:50 am

    Is there some reason, at this point, one wouldn’t DH Wlad and put Chavez in left?

    Only that we could do better, at both positions, than Wlad and Chavez. I don’t think Endy has the bat to hold down the job, and Wlad’s value is also hurt by taking him out of the field. Given that Wlad is a RH pull hitter, and still learning, his offense isn’t ideal at the DH. I think giving Griffey (or someone similar, though no names come to mind) a one-year contract to DH, keep Wlad in LF, and work Endy as a fourth outfielder would be a more effective arrangement all around.

  5. mymrbig on December 12th, 2008 1:46 pm

    A few buy-low opportunities to fill the vacancy in LF for those who don’t like the thought of a Wlad/Chavez platoon out there. I’m probably forgetting a positions adjustment on my calculations, and if so I apologize. But even if I am, these guys represent a good potential value relative to their cost.

    (1) Matt Diaz, Braves – UZR/150 of 17.2 in 2006 and 18.8 in 2007, and he was +12 plus/minus both seasons. I thought he would be a terrible defender until I looked it up because I thought I read that about him somewhere. Not so much.

    Offensively, he hits lots of hard line drives. Most people seem to think of him as a platoon guy who doesn’t hit righties enough to justify a full-time gig, but I’m not so sure. Small sample size alert and all, but in 2006 he hit .358/.400/.477 against righties and in 2007 he hit .318/.350/.406. He isn’t a power hitter by any means and his numbers were inflated some by BABIPs of .373 in 2006 and .385 in 2007, but he also hits lots of hard line drives and is probably one of those guys that can be expected to sustain consistently high BABIPs.

    Last year he started slow and then blew out his knee, but he should be healthy in 2009 and might come cheap since he seems to have fallen out of favor in Atlanta and is arbitration eligible. wOBA of .354 and .373 in 2006 and 2007 before last year’s injury problems. Bill James (.354) and Marcel (.334) expect some rebound in 2009, and I think .350 is a better number if he is fully healthy. .350 wOBA over 525 PA makes him about +8 runs offensively.

    His skill set (plus defense, plus contact, minus power skills) is under-appreciated by almost everyone for a corner outfielder. The fact that his OBP is built on hard contact, rather than walks is also under-appreciated in stat and scout communities. Might be worth seeing if he could be taken from the Braves for a song-and-dance since he is arbitration eligible and they seem down on him.

    Upside: +5 offense, +10 defense, +20 replacement level: +3.5 wins

    Again, I really think he could be had fairly cheaply. The Braves never seemed very enamored with him and only begrudgingly made him a full-timer last year (when he crashed, burned, then hurt his knee).

    (2) Luke Scott, Orioles – I am an Astros/Mariners fan and was pissed when he was thrown into the Tejada trade. I repeatedly read about how the Astros’ front office didn’t like his defense. Career 9.9 UZR/150 in LF and 9.0 in RF. He scores similarly on plus/minus.

    Career wOBA of .361 makes him +14 runs offensively over 550 PA. He’s a lot stronger against RHP, but he is not so horrendous against LHP (.236/.340/.421) that a platoonmate is needed every single time a LHP is on the mound.

    Upside: +12 offense, +8 defense, +20 replacement level: +4 wins.

    The Orioles probably like Scott well enough, but if anyone values him as a +4 win player, I’d be surprised. I think he could be had for much less, particularly if a Teixeira signing pushes Huff off 1B.

    (3) Matt Murton, A’s – this guy pissed off the baseball gods somehow. Career UZR/150 of 11.3 in LF and career .345 wOBA. Another guys that should be +3 wins or so utilized on an everyday basis.

    (4) Austin Kearns, Nats – basically a RF version of Murton who has a hefty salary. Career 8.1 UZR/150 in RF and career .345 wOBA makes him a +2.5 win guy. Coming off an injury lowers his price and the Nats might give him up in a salary dump with such a crowded OF. Or maybe swap bad salaries and ship Batista for Kearns.

    I think the M’s would be smart to make inquiries on all 4. All 4 could improve the 2009 team by a couple wins while costing much less. I would be surprised if all 4 of these guys are properly valued by their teams and at least one of them should be availble cheap. My personal favorite is Diaz since I really think the Braves are down on him, especially with his injury and being arbitration-eligible.

  6. SeasonTix on December 13th, 2008 3:31 pm

    Not that it really means anything, but it’s nice to see the M’s show up as “Winners” for a change on the ratings of the baseball trades:

    SI “Winners and Losers in Las Vegas”

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