Lots Of News: Morrow, Clement, Walker

Dave · March 29, 2009 at 11:38 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Baker fills us in on a busy day in camp.

First off, Brandon Morrow has decided that he doesn’t want to be a starter anymore. He’s going back to the bullpen, full time, and presumably for the rest of his career. Baker has some quotes (including audio), where Morrow explains that he feels more comfortable in relief, especially with his diabetes. This is, obviously, bad news for the M’s. Morrow converting back to starting was the best case scenario for this franchise, and that hope is now out the window. This is yet another byproduct of the horrible way Morrow has been handled since being drafted. The Bavasi regime screwed the pooch on this situation from day one, and it continues to hurt the organization even after he’s gone.

This, obviously, effects how the pitching staff will shake out. With Morrow headed back to the bullpen, Tyler Walker was released, as the team had an abundance of right-handed relievers. Ryan Rowland-Smith will stay in the rotation. The team is now running low on right-handed starting pitching depth – of the top seven or eight starters in the organization, only Felix and Silva are right-handed. Look for the M’s to try to address that weakness via trade.

Who would they trade? That brings us to the second piece of news – Jeff Clement has been optioned to Triple-A, where he’ll begin the season. Rob Johnson has presumably made the team as the back-up to Kenji Johjima. Clement will continue to work on improving his defense behind the plate in Tacoma. As we talked about the other day, this is the option that I hoped the team would ignore. Clement’s been working on his catching for years. He’s already 25 and has had two surgeries on his knees. That he’s been judged as an inadequate defensive catcher at this point should be a hint that it’s just not going to work. If another organization still views him as a catching prospect, they should explore dealing him, because he’s just not going to ever live up to the defensive standards that this organization has for it’s catchers. Especially with how high they are on Adam Moore, 2009 stood as Clement’s last shot to prove he was a viable option going forward behind the plate for the M’s. That he’s not going to get a shot to do it at the major league level speaks volumes about his long term future here. Unless he’s willing to move off catcher, he doesn’t have one in Seattle. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was traded before opening day.

All in all, a day of news that can only be construed as not good. Morrow’s move to the bullpen downgrades the organization’s potential, and Clement’s days as a catching prospect in this organization are basically over. We’d been the leaders of the “this team isn’t that bad” bandwagon for the last few months, and I’d projected the team for about 79 wins. With these moves, that’s probably more like 77 now. This is a step back for the team both in ’09 and beyond.

Tough day.

Edit: And the news just keeps rolling in. Divish says the M’s just bought Chris Burke from the Padres for cash considerations. Burke’s a second baseman by trade, but has experience at pretty much every position and is well qualified for a utility infield position, and as I wrote over at FanGraphs, he’s a great rebound candidate. He was in camp with the Padres on a minor league deal, so he can be assigned to Tacoma to start the season. I’d call this move insurance in case the team trades Betancourt – they’d need a new utility guy if Cedeno became the starting SS, and Burke is a better player than Corona right now.


113 Responses to “Lots Of News: Morrow, Clement, Walker”

  1. DMZ on March 30th, 2009 8:48 am

    Oh, Andrew Miller. How I coveted him.

  2. coasty141 on March 30th, 2009 10:03 am

    “It’s pretty cool that you went back and found that article, cherry-picked the part that might possibly let you sneak in a zinger, but forgot to put in the very next line”

    The fact that FO was open from the beginning at using Morrow in relief and the fact that Morrow ended up in the bullpen within a year from being drafted is a better indicator to the intent of the front office.

    Sidenote: I don’t believe I’ve ever argued for Lincecum so don’t throw me in with that crowd.

  3. coasty141 on March 30th, 2009 10:29 am

    I’m willing to concede that we have a different opinion on what “Morrow wasn’t drafted with the intent to be a reliever” means.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you think starting him for one season in A ball counts as intent. Maybe I misinterpreted what you wrote.

    To me intent would not include discussing him as a reliever canidate when he was drafted and letting him become a reliever so early in his development (or lack of development).

  4. Dave on March 30th, 2009 11:43 am

    We’ve talked to Fontaine about the Morrow situation at length. We don’t have to guess at their intent when they drafted him. We know what it was.

    They saw him as a starter who could move to relief if starting didn’t work out. They did not draft him to be a reliever.

  5. Jeff Nye on March 30th, 2009 11:52 am

    I think that Morrow was viewed as being able to do either, but that the org saw that his potential would probably be better fulfilled as a starter, the same as we all did.

  6. coasty141 on March 30th, 2009 11:57 am

    Fair enough. First hand knowledge is better than what I’m bring to the table. My apologies Jeff.

  7. Edman on March 30th, 2009 12:01 pm

    Shame on some of you. Actually insisting that the Mariners should tell Brandon to be a starter, and disregard his Type I diabetes. Do you know how serious a condition he has? This isn’t Type II diabetes, which many Americans suffer from. Yet, some of you treat it like it’s something he can just get over. Wake up. This is a potentially life threatening condition. Brandon isn’t making this decision to spite you or the organization. He’s being honest with himself about what he can do, and what he feels he cannot. HE is the only one who knows, none of you do.

    Let’s say it was you with his condition. You have to work long hours and wear down easily. Constantly wearing an insulin pump and pricking your finger several times a day, just to be sure your blood sugars are correct. You go to your boss and tell him/her that the workload is too hard on you. And, his reply is, “I don’t care, do what I tell you or get out.”

    That’s exactly what some of you expect. Grow up and get over the “wahhhh, I want Morrow to the a starter” montra. He’s doing what he feels is best for himself and the organization. Respect his decision.

    Really, shame on some of you. This isn’t some game to him. This is his life. Imagine had the Red Sox told Jon Lester to worry about his cancer, when it’s more suited to the clubs needs.

  8. Jeff Nye on March 30th, 2009 12:07 pm

    No apologies necessary, and (even with my reservations about his mechanics and ability to have a long career) I’d obviously rather have Lincecum than Morrow after yesterday’s news; but at the time of that draft, there were plenty of people that liked Morrow BETTER than Lincecum, and I don’t think anyone would’ve told you at the time that Lincecum’s successes as of 2009 would be so much more impressive than Morrow’s.

    At the time, Morrow was a good pick. Maybe not the best pick, but calling taking him over Lincecum “epic fail” like someone did earlier in the comments here is pretty silly.

  9. DMZ on March 30th, 2009 12:12 pm

    I’m not seeing anyone insist that Morrow play despite legitimate health concerns — in fact, the only thing I read about that was sympathy. Or even much insistence that he be forced to start.

    I understand the sentiment in defending him, but I don’t know what you’re reacting so strongly to.

  10. sass on March 30th, 2009 12:32 pm

    Isn’t it possible that Morrow made this choice from a financial standpoint? Teams are still overvaluing the closer role, and a closer is likely to get paid more than a #3 starter, which is basically Morrow’s upside, here. I think we all agree he can be a pretty lights out closer, the way his fastball moves, if he can keep people off of the basepaths (walks, that is). It could just be a realization by Morrow that if he wants to be an all-star, he’ll have to close, because he’ll never be Felix. Or am I way off-base here?

  11. eponymous coward on March 30th, 2009 2:30 pm

    Teams are still overvaluing the closer role, and a closer is likely to get paid more than a #3 starter, which is basically Morrow’s upside, here.

    Go look at the salaries for the following players:

    Gil Meche
    Jarrod Washburn
    Carlos Silva
    Mariano Rivera

    It’s pretty obvious that Rivera is miles above those other guys as a pitcher- I think you can make a case that Mariano Rivera is the best stopper ever, given his incredible consistency through his career- but he’s sure not PAID like it.

    Now, granted, the market for mediocre starting pitching is adjusting a bit from a few years ago, but then the other side of the coin is that Mariano Rivera is something like the 99.99% projection for Brandon Morrow- the more typical career for a good-but-not-HOF closer is someone like, say, Troy Percival (who, BTW, has never made more than 8 million per year). The fact of the matter is that relief aces who throw 80 IP in late inning situations are more fungible than starters who throw 200 IP- since you can convert a failed starter with a good fastball + one offspeed pitch to relief ace, but I’ve never really seen it go the other way (ace reliever into top of rotation starter) in the modern era (with the exception of guys like Eckersley or Smoltz who were quality starters to begin with). In fact, Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers, HOF relief aces of recent vintage, didn’t do much as starting pitchers.

  12. scott19 on March 30th, 2009 6:26 pm

    I’ve never really seen it go the other way (ace reliever into top of rotation starter) in the modern era (with the exception of guys like Eckersley or Smoltz who were quality starters to begin with)

    EC — Not to be too nitpicky here, but Charlie Hough (albeit a knuckleballer) and Derek Lowe also both come to mind in that handful of guys who were able to make a successful transition from a set-up/closer role to starter.

    You’re right, though, there weren’t as many guys going in that direction…though I’ve wondered once or twice myself if “The Goose” (who threw 200+ innings out of the rotation in 1976) might not have gotten a second look in that role had he not been such a hard-luck starter on a mediocre Chisox team.

  13. eponymous coward on March 30th, 2009 11:23 pm

    Hough as a knuckleballer isn’t a great analogy (and I don’t think he was ever a top-of-rotation starter or great relief ace- he’s more like Tim Wakefield). Derek Lowe I’d give you (though he was a starter coming up). Maybe that’s what we can hope for…

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