M’s Officially Choose Sweeney

Dave · April 1, 2009 at 9:53 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The fight for the right-handed 1B/DH bench job officially ended today with the expected result – the M’s are going to keep Mike Sweeney on the 25 man roster, and Chris Shelton was assigned to Tacoma. He’s agreed to the assignment and will be with the Rainiers when they open their season next week.

Most of us feel that Shelton is a better player than Sweeney, but given the limited playing time that the role was going to offer either player, the difference in expected production between the two is pretty small. Sweeney got the edge due to his veteran leadership, and while we’ve been the leading proponents of the “talent is more important than chemistry” brigade, when the difference in production is this close, using off the field stuff as a tie-breaker is fine with me.

There’s also another aspect to this that hasn’t been touched on – if the team had gone with Shelton, Sweeney retires. He’d said from the beginning that he would hang it up and go home if he didn’t make the team. So, in reality, the choice was between having Shelton on the major league roster or having Sweeney on the major league roster and Shelton in Tacoma. What does the team do if they go with Shelton, Sweeney retires, and then Shelton gets injured in May? Morse is probably going to be lost on waivers, and there isn’t another obvious fit in the organization as a replacement for an injured Shelton in this role. With Sweeney on the team and Shelton in Tacoma, the team has a fall back plan if Sweeney gets hurt that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

So, there’s reasons to go with Sweeney. There are reasons to go with Shelton, too, and I think there’s a case to be made that this isn’t the optimal decision for a team looking to extract value from every spot on the roster. But, there are pros and cons to both sides, and this isn’t a case where there’s one obviously correct answer. It’s a coin flip. Can’t blame them for picking heads or tails.


24 Responses to “M’s Officially Choose Sweeney”

  1. scubascuba81 on April 1st, 2009 10:11 am


  2. gwangung on April 1st, 2009 10:11 am

    When there are that many decent reasons to select Sweeney, and when the predicted production is so close, this isn’t a decision to lament. Looking at it, there’s very little downside to picking Sweeney; other teams have habitually made decisions that hem them in and restrict their future decisions—this isn’t one of them and it seems to be a hallmark of decisionmaking for this regime (except for Clement…).

  3. wabbles on April 1st, 2009 10:14 am

    Yeah, that’s what I was thinking as well. I was disappointed at first but then realized this is a way to keep both of them. (I don’t think Sweeney was going to accept a Tacoma assignment, a la Pat Borders and now, possibly Jamie Burke.) And that was even before I saw how close their productions levels are.
    Ya know, it’s refreshing to debate these close calls versus pulling our collective hair out over no-brainers such as the Doyle/Vidro trade that never should have happened.)

  4. Mariner Melee on April 1st, 2009 10:18 am

    Well, congratulations to Sweeney. If he can stay healthy for the entire year then good. If not, well then there is always Shelton.

    I have known no other front office other than Bavasi…it’s weird giving the Mariners the benefit of the doubt.

    Wonder who claims Morse.

  5. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on April 1st, 2009 10:31 am

    I am a firm believer in choosing noticeably better talent over leadership and the like. I also agree that this decision probably was close enough to not make much of a difference either way. That said, I do think Sweeney has a lead by example approach that will have an impact so long as he’s producing on the field too.

    Went to the practice fields in Spring Training one day in Peoria last week for some autographs. Sweeney was approached by a little kid for an autograph, VERY politely. Sweeney was almost stunned, gushed over the kid, and found the kid’s dad, and complimented him on how well-mannered a kid he had. The dad later thanked him, and Sweeney said that he knew the kid was being raised right, and how sad he thought it was at how rude some of the youngsters had become when demanding autographs.

    Being a nice guy who cares about fans and other players doesn’t mean you are a good ballplayer. But if Sweeney can contribute something and show some of the guys how to be a class act, I am all for it. It doesn’t change my view of leadership – and leaders can’t be annointed – but Sweeney is different from a lot of folks who play the game. I’d hope he does well even if he was a jerk, but I will be pulling for him a little more this year had I not seen him in action. I don’t buy into a leadership premium, but if he fills his role well and gives a little extra to teach some guys a few things, that’s just gravy, isn’t it?

  6. RaoulDuke37 on April 1st, 2009 10:33 am

    If sending Shelton down helps maintain organizational depth, I have no problem with their decision.

    But I am curious, does Chris Shelton, at the age of 28, have a future with the big league club? Is he a relatively cheap guy that we could keep around for the next few years to be a RH caddy at 1B/DH, and pinch hit?

    If next year we bring back Branyan, promote Carp, or convert Clement, we’d probably still want a RH caddy/pinch hitter.

  7. joser on April 1st, 2009 10:36 am

    You know, wrt Morse, it’s kind of funny: essentially the M’s are going to be letting him go for nothing, and we’re mostly fine with that (I know there are hard-core Morse fans who think he “just needs a chance to be a regular” but there’s not many of them around here). So they could just as easily have thrown him in as part of the Putz trade, had they known how things were going to work out. But had they done that, a lot of people would be somewhat less positive about that transaction because the M’s would be giving up “more talent” in the deal. Yet the net effect is the same (it’s even possible, however unlikely, that the Mets or Indians will claim him). Of course that would be then, prior to Shelton or Sweeney or Griffey, and it’s always better to operate with a backup plan than do out on the wire without a net. It’s just funny to think about how the ordering of things affects our perceptions of them.

  8. joser on April 1st, 2009 10:41 am

    And that little kid is going to be all the more a fan if he gets to see the Sweeney who signed his autograph book play in a few games, so baseball wins. Yeah, I’m fine with that — when it’s a toss-up with no real downside (since Shelton sticks around as insurance) give Sweeney his chance to have one last season. Maybe it’ll make Griffey happier about, uh, certain other decisions that will hopefully be made, and maybe he will find ways to distract Baker every time he tries to corner Ichiro. Who knows, but it’s such a small thing in the overall scheme that I just shrug and move on.

  9. Logger on April 1st, 2009 10:42 am

    Mariners Fan in CO Exile – Well said.

  10. Soonerman22 on April 1st, 2009 10:58 am

    So now this raises a new question. I know there is “no such thing as to much talent.” But now the Mariners are backed up a catcher and maybe first base depending on what they do with Clement.

    Catcher you have…
    Clement (maybe)

    And at first you have…
    Mike Carp
    Chris Shelton
    Bryan LaHair
    Jeff Clement (Maybe)

    All at or about Triple A caliber. I know there is “no such thing as to much talent,” but does anyone else feel like we are playing Musical chairs waiting to see who gets left without one? How do you get all these guys playing time so they can continue to develop or stay sharp incase they get called to Seattle?

  11. eponymous coward on April 1st, 2009 11:08 am

    How do you get all these guys playing time so they can continue to develop or stay sharp incase they get called to Seattle?

    You don’t really care if Johnson or LaHair get playing time, because they aren’t really very good.

    Also, I think odds are pretty good that Sweeney and Griffey will be spending time on the DL this year(given their respective injury histories), so that could be part of it.

  12. ThundaPC on April 1st, 2009 11:18 am

    Works for me. With this decision we get to keep both players. I have no problem with the team establishing a “clubhouse police” for a year and as long as Sweeney produces, he’ll help clear out the nonsense that helped derail the last season.

    Also helps Wakamatsu establish order for the future after Griffey and Sweeney leave the team.

  13. batura on April 1st, 2009 11:36 am

    Given that Sweeney would have gone away, I view this is as a good decision. The second they feel comfortable with 11 pitchers, I could see Shelton come up as a late inning PH and general substitute. It appears that he doesn’t have an opt-out of his minor league deal, which is good news.

  14. joser on April 1st, 2009 12:39 pm

    I can’t help thinking of this. (Not that I’m comparing Sweeney to Ralph, just something about the post title)

  15. UpOrDownMsFan on April 1st, 2009 12:45 pm

    ditto the Shelton could be back up when the pitching gets resolved…

    i like the move, because shelton will get to play everyday (mostly) in tacoma, and is basically our understudy for any Griffey or Sweeney trips to the DL…

    losing Morse saddens me a bit, not to see him play, but to see him get packaged as a valuable tack-on to making a Silva or Washburn trade (where we inevitably have to eat part of Silva or Washburn’s salary).

    there was a good discussion on KJR yesterday about how overpaid/underperforming players SHOULDN’T be kept just because you owe them a lot of money… afterall, you owe them the money whether they loose 16 games for you, or not. (i’d rather eat some of it, and be able to put Jakabauskas out there… he’s earned it.)

    plus, somebody out there has to have an undervalued left handed reliever, who also needs an infielder/outfielder and a veteran #4/#5 starter…

    that’s my hope for morse (or same deal with balientien) rather than end up having to lose one on waivers…

    Jakabauskas is gonna be a tough decision. i’m waiting to see what happens with that one.

  16. DMZ on April 1st, 2009 12:51 pm

    There were at least 11 errors in that comment, not including debatable ones like whether someone has earned a roster spot. Please, if you could spend a little more time on the comments, it’d be greatly appreciated.

  17. G-Man on April 1st, 2009 1:07 pm

    I agree with keeping Sweeney over Shelton if the choice is just between the two, but I guess I still have a foot on the Morse bandwagon. I would rather have seen them keep him in Seattle and Shelton in Tacoma, with Sweeney retiring. I am not convinced that Shelton>Morse. Mike is more versatile, even though that just means that he can stand at more places on the field with a glove. I see opportunities for RH pinch hitting where Morse would fit in better.

    I suppose there is a better shot at passing Mike through waivers at this time than later on, so I’ll hope that works.

  18. msb on April 1st, 2009 1:11 pm

    Morse made it through waivers.

  19. joser on April 1st, 2009 1:32 pm

    Which tells you how valuable a “tack on” he’d be in any trade. (Granted, this is the one time of the year when every team has more fringe-y players than they know what to do with, but still).

  20. Breadbaker on April 1st, 2009 1:44 pm

    If I’m Mike Carp, I’ve got to be pretty happy about my future. If I go out and bash a few home runs, I’ve got a major league job waiting for me and no one long term in front of me. I hope he responds to the opportunity.

  21. gwangung on April 1st, 2009 2:08 pm

    I agree with keeping Sweeney over Shelton if the choice is just between the two, but I guess I still have a foot on the Morse bandwagon

    Um, why? He’s shown that he’s not versatile at all and he’s shown very little at the plate.

    I certainly didn’t fall in love with him after a freakishly good start in the majors, and Shelton’s shown a lot more in the minors than Morse has.

  22. ppl on April 1st, 2009 3:25 pm

    Atleast Shelton stays in the organization, unlike Greg Norton who was shipped off last year early on. But there is still a chance Shelton might be let go. With Sweeney and Griffey having such extensive histories of injuries, right up until last year, he could be back in the bigs with a chance to produce again within weeks. So I hope they keep him. Morse is no surprise, even if he hit like last spring, it wasn’t going to happen for him.

  23. UpOrDownMsFan on April 1st, 2009 6:06 pm

    i’m not a morse or balentien fan… but we’ve spent enough time trying to make them an asset that it’d be nice to at least get something back for them, before cutting bait– that was my only point. same with washburn or silva. rather than ride out the bloodletting until they simply leave, i’d rather swallow half (or all) of their contracts and get someone else in return (i consider them “trade at any cost” type guys).

  24. joser on April 2nd, 2009 8:06 am

    Well, in his interview during the game, Zduriencik said he was “surprised” Morse made it through waivers (though you wouldn’t expect him to basically say “No, we know he sucks and so does everybody else, so we thought it was pretty likely no one would bite”). He did point out that a team claiming him now would have to place him on their 25 man roster, not just their 40, and there’s a lot of reluctance to do that at this point in the year.

    So it’s quite possible those guys could be part of a deal later even though no team is interested at the moment. I still think they’re going to be throw-ins with some other, bigger name. Nobody has a guy get injured, looks around on their 40-man without seeing a replacement, and says “You know what we really need? A guy like Mike Morse.”

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