Lots Of News: Morrow, Clement, Walker
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.
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.