True, but…

Dave · April 5, 2009 at 9:49 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

“There’s no such thing, in the big leagues, as too much depth at any position,” Zduriencik said.

Mariners Depth Chart:

Right-Handed Relievers:

Brandon Morrow
Mark Lowe
David Aardsma
Shawn Kelley
Roy Corcoran
Miguel Batista
Chris Jakubauskas
Randy Messenger
Chad Cordero
Josh Fields
Jesus Delgado
Luis Pena
Marwin Vega
Stephen Kahn
Eric Hull

Right-Handed Starting Pitchers:

Felix Hernandez
Carlos Silva
Gaby Hernandez

I think it’s fairly easy to argue that the Mariners currently have a surplus of right-handed relievers and a remarkable shortage of right-handed starting pitchers. Moving Aumont to the bullpen doesn’t give the team more depth – it just moves organizational depth from an area of scarcity to an area of abundance. Okay, it accelerates Aumont’s path to the majors, but the marginal increase in value added by having Aumont on the roster as a reliever is extremely low. Trying to get right-handed relievers to the majors more quickly simply should not be an organizational goal right now.

Sure, there are scenarios where this pays off. Maybe Morrow can’t find his insulin pump, Lowe’s arm falls off again, Aardsma proves he’ll never be able to throw strikes consistently, Kelley gets exposed as a righty specialist, Fields doesn’t develop any command, Cordero’s shoulder problems persist, Pena, Delgado, and Kahn all flame out as big armed Triple-A guys, and the team finds itself badly in need of a relief ace to help push the team over the top down the stretch of a pennant race that miraculously occurred in spite of the total implosion of the bullpen. And maybe I’ll win the lotto tomorrow, buy the team, and order this move rescinded. Both scenarios are about equally probable.

The whole point of stockpiling live armed, no cost relievers all winter was so that you could build a bullpen without using significant assets. I’m all for organizational depth, but this is just robbing Peter of his mortgage money so Paul can order everyone a round at the Met.

After Felix, the cupboard of right-handed major league starting pitching is barren. Meanwhile, the M’s could have an entire bullpen of guys who threw 95+ if they wanted. They could almost have two entire bullpens stocked with flamethrowers!

Yes, Phillippe Aumont might be one of those guys whose stuff plays up in relief and his most valuable role is as a reliever. But that’s a decision for after he’s failed as a starter, which he hasn’t done yet. This is short-sighted, and while it’s okay to experiment, feel free to call this one off at any time. The organization needs Aumont as a potential starter in 2011 a lot more than they need him as a potential reliever in 2010.


34 Responses to “True, but…”

  1. Sports on a Schtick on April 5th, 2009 10:00 pm

    How Dave managed to write this without expletives is a mystery for the ages.

    Zduriencik is doing more damage to this organization than Carlos Silva. Honeymoon’s over.

  2. JLP on April 5th, 2009 10:21 pm

    Hopefully calmer heads prevail, for both the M’s front office and fans alike. I, for one, will not jump ship based on this week alone. I will, though, hope that Jack comes to his senses and gives up on this kind of thinking. As Dave said, let Phillipe fail as a starter first, then make a decision about his role after.

  3. eponymous coward on April 5th, 2009 10:23 pm

    Zduriencik is doing more damage to this organization than Carlos Silva.

    Uh, really?

  4. smatbte51 on April 5th, 2009 10:25 pm

    I think the M’s are planning on trying something new for the future. The relief pitcher and starting pitcher will be reversed. Lowe will start the game, go one inning and then Morrow will finish off the game. Next night, Aardsma starts the game and Aumont finishes it off.

  5. smatbte51 on April 5th, 2009 10:28 pm

    Zduriencik is doing more damage to this organization than Carlos Silva.

    Umm no, Silva is hurting this organization in about a dozen different ways. I’m still a big fan of Zduriencik and will not judge him off of one move. Hopefully he will come to his senses. I just wish that this organization would realize that we want a winning team in the future. If I were given the choice of a decent team in 2010 and 2011 or a terrible team in 2010 and an awesome team in 2011 there would be no question on which one I would take. Sadly though it’s not that easy.

  6. ThundaPC on April 5th, 2009 10:33 pm

    This basically touches on my concern.

    Where are the starting pitchers? We kinda need them up the wazoo now.

  7. Paul L on April 5th, 2009 10:35 pm

    Maybe they’re trying to get Aumont into the bullpen so they can trade other, expendable RHPs for lefties this year? Then they get one or more LHP in the bullpen for next year and Aumont gets some valuable experience before them move him to the rotation next year?

    Yea, I’m grasping at straws, but waddaygonnado?

  8. lailaihei on April 5th, 2009 10:40 pm

    I wasn’t ready to jump on the GMZ wagon until he did some substantially good moves. Yes, little valuable pickups are nice but it alone wasn’t going to win us a division title any time soon. Getting Gutierrez for JJ was nice, but not anything more than average as a deal.

    So far here’s my evaluation of GMZ.
    Makes cute little moves that improve the team insignificantly.
    Builds a better bench than we have had in a while.
    Stockpiles low-risk, medium-low reward arms for the bullpen.
    Drafts well (speculation based on his time in Milwaukee)
    Doesn’t get raped in trades.

    Makes potentially franchise-crippling decisions.

    Overall I’m not impressed, I think he’ll have to at LEAST get rid of that con before we can consider ourselves contenders for the AL West title.

  9. Jeff Nye on April 5th, 2009 10:50 pm

    Decided to try to see if that schtick works better here than it did at LL?

  10. thr33niL on April 5th, 2009 10:53 pm

    Bravo, Dave. GREAT post.

  11. Aaron on April 5th, 2009 10:53 pm

    This makes sense in one case:
    The front office believes that Aumont (and perhaps Morrow, if they didn’t push him back to starter very hard) will become nothing more than a mediocre starter.
    A mediocre starter is every bit as valuable as a lights-out reliever to your team, and the depth issue means they should err on the side of keeping him a starter as long as possible, but on the trade market, a lights-out reliever is worth more.
    Zduriencik and Co. might simply see every single piece of the Mariners’ system right now as a potential trade chip to be used to reshape the entire system in their image.

    Look at it this way: How much would a lesser GM pay for 5-6 years of team control over, say, Papelbon the reliever (roughly 2.5 wins/season)? And how much would a lesser GM pay for 5-6 years of team control over Jeremy Guthrie (same value)? Right or wrong, the power reliever is significantly more valuable on the trade market.

    Even up around the 3.8-4 win mark you’ve got guys like Mark Buehrle and Dice-K. Good, but probably still not as valuable in a trade.

    If you can turn a 3-win starter into a 2-win reliever and then flip that guy for a 4-win starter, you’ve improved the team.

  12. smatbte51 on April 5th, 2009 11:01 pm

    Makes potentially franchise-crippling decisions.

    I don’t know if I would go as far as saying franchise-crippling. We still have Aumont, he’s still a Mariner. It’s not like Z traded him for a light hitting back up infielder. And from what I’ve read this move is not set in stone.

    Anyway, I’m just psyched to watch Felix dominate some Twins hitters. The season is finally here!

  13. Sports on a Schtick on April 5th, 2009 11:06 pm

    Another pro for GMZ is the embracing of statistical analysis. And I think the little moves have steadily improved the team. But yea, that con would pretty much deride everything.

    If the three former first-round picks (Morrow, Aumont, Fields) pan out as relievers, at least one will go in a trade. GMZ got a nice haul in the Putz deal, so maybe it’ll work out in the grand scheme.

  14. SonOfZavaras on April 5th, 2009 11:15 pm

    I need to see what the other part of the plan is before I rush to any conclusions…but on paper, this is dumb.

    Even if you’re only relying on horse sense.

    As it stands right now, I only see four guys as right-handed starter prospects (Ramirez, Pineda and Adcock being the others), and none of them are in the higher minors.

    And now they’re trying to make a reliever out of the one with the biggest upside.

    Unless you know something about guys like Pribanic and Hensley that we don’t yet, Jack…

  15. Transient Gadfly on April 5th, 2009 11:25 pm

    What if one starts from the assumption that Z is, you know, smarter than all of that? Make your a priori that Jack is not an idiot: I wonder if he’s looking into the future and seeing 2 win starting pitchers as an undervalued commodity in the free agent market–essentially the backlash from the last couple of years. What if it becomes relatively cheap to build an average starting rotation? Does that change the calculation at all?

    Whatever it is, something is clearly making him think that young, shut down relievers are more valuable than anyone else does. One possibility is that he’s just dumb. But given what we know so far, that seems less likely.

  16. Graham on April 5th, 2009 11:26 pm

    Unless you know something about guys like Pribanic and Hensley that we don’t yet, Jack…

    Yeah; they’re better suited as relievers. They’ll be added to the 25 man this week.

  17. candasharp on April 5th, 2009 11:38 pm

    Let’s not be too hasty. Aumont had some significant arm warning signs last year when he was a starter. Based on a breakdown of his mechanics, they may have determined that the likelihood of a major arm injury was too great as a starter based on pitch count issues, pitch arsenal development and basic mechanical flaws that may not be correctable. Going to relief minimizes several of those issues and allows his aggressive nature in a role best suited for him. Would I rather have a #2 stud starter? Absolutely. But I would also rather salvage something from a potential arm blowout. JZ’s job is to make the best long-term decisions for the team. I’m going to cut him a little slack on this move.

  18. DaveValleDrinkNight on April 6th, 2009 1:34 am

    I guess the Honeymoons over for Z.

    Aumont needs to be in the minors as a starter for at least another year. He’ll get more innings, more experiance, and he’s our best prospect for the big club’s rotation.

    As far as the stockpile of righties, I have to think that a trade is imminent.

    For who and at what position is the real question.

  19. snapper on April 6th, 2009 6:03 am

    Aumont needs to be in the minors as a starter for at least another year.

    The guy just turned 20. He should be given at least three years as a starter in the minors (unless he completely breaks down physically.

    This is mindbogglingly stupid.

    As for the “limiting his innings” bit. You can do that with a minor league starter. When he reaches his pitch count, pull him. The Mariners don’t care if they win minor league games.

  20. Jay Yencich on April 6th, 2009 6:38 am

    Unfortunately, Gaby Hernandez’ capacity for starting may also be questionable.

  21. ChrisB on April 6th, 2009 7:08 am

    … and after seeing Aumont’s stuff blow away major league hitters (and seeing his lack of skill as a pitcher exposed), I cannot imagine that they do not want to at least toy with the idea of him as a starter.

    But, perhaps we are all overreacting – maybe they just want a way to have him in the system all year, and only throwing 100 innings. Remember, he comes from a travellng Quebec all-star team He has still never experienced a real, full season of baseball. So, have him go into relief, pitch 75 innings or so, and then ramp him up for next season as a minor league starter, coming to the big team in 2011 as our second starter behind the newly resigned Felix.

  22. dchappelle on April 6th, 2009 7:12 am

    Bleh. You know, maybe Bedard should be a reliever too. Afterall he only has 2 real pitches. In fact, if you made Felix a reliever too then he could get away with just throwing fastballs.

    I’m afraid we’ve found the oasis at the end of the Bavasi desert, but it’s just a mud puddle and only looks good because of where we’ve been.

    At least we can expect/hope for a good draft.

    Well, and it is opening day and we’re tied for first too.

  23. Carson on April 6th, 2009 7:25 am

    Here’s my question. Let’s assume it really is an experiment and they have not ditched him being a starter. They mentioned his arm soreness last year.

    Would it make more sense to have him get his work at the beginning of games, so he’s still going through the prep a starter does? Or, does that not really matter as long as he gets his X number innings?

  24. snapper on April 6th, 2009 7:29 am

    Would it make more sense to have him get his work at the beginning of games, so he’s still going through the prep a starter does? Or, does that not really matter as long as he gets his X number innings?

    I agree with you. Aumont needs to get his innings (80, 100, 120, whatever they decide on) in stretched of at least 4-5 IP.

    Developing as a SP means learning to use your secondary stuff, and go through a lineup multiple times – adjusting as the hitters adjust to you.

    If he’s used in 1-2 IP stretches out of the pen, he will be tempted to try to blow everyone away (which is quite possible in the low minors) and will use at most 2 pitches. He’ll never face a hitter more than once.

  25. Tek Jansen on April 6th, 2009 7:44 am

    Sure, the right-handed pitching depth is minimal, but at least Silva is signed through 2011.

  26. Graham on April 6th, 2009 8:26 am

    Based on a breakdown of his mechanics, they may have determined that the likelihood of a major arm injury was too great as a starter based on pitch count issues, pitch arsenal development and basic mechanical flaws that may not be correctable.

    Just because people making stuff up on the internet pretend to be able to predict injuries based on mechanics does not mean that actual baseball teams buy into it.

  27. metz123 on April 6th, 2009 9:03 am

    I don’t mind the quote on limiting his innings. The thing that bugs me the most is the desire to fast track him to the bigs. He’s only 20, either his arm falls apart as a starter in limited innings in the minor leagues or it doesn’t.

    Haves the M’s learned nothing from how San Fran developed Lincecum or how they developed Felix? They didn’t fast track them to the bigs as a reliever. They let them develop as a starter in the minors. When he had nothing to prove they brought them up.

    I’m amazed if their thinking is that a reliever, pitching 50 innings a year has more value than even a 5th starter going 180 innings.

  28. UpOrDownMsFan on April 6th, 2009 9:55 am

    after giving it some more “what exactly is going on” thoughts– maybe GMZ has made the evaluation that Aumont isn’t the “be all/end all” some people thought (remember our other “sure thing” super tall, hard throwing prospect- the baby unit!?) and is trying to get him to the bigs to show off his size and speed to the rest of the league, so he can deal him for a different starter prospect before other folks figure out his limited potential? just wondering out loud, and searching for answers…

    (slightly off track- but [deleted, off track]

  29. Pete Livengood on April 6th, 2009 11:21 am

    Candasharp, thanks for your comment, which I agree with. Some of you guys need to be analyzed according to Dave’/Fangraphs’ newly-crowned Hyperbole Index.

    Is this good news? No. I’d prefer that Aumont be given an opportunity to fail first. HOWEVER, I definitely believe that the people running this team are in a much better position to evaluate the player pitching in front of them TODAY (not the player they thought they were getting on draft day), and I give a lot of deference to their opinion that he may be better suited to a relief role at this point for all kinds of reasons (most mentioned by candasharp). I’m sure this would not be Jack Z’s preference, either, but sometimes you have to face reality.

    My only question about the decision is if we’re facing “reality” just yet, or merely informed speculation. If the latter, let’s let him start until “reality” actually sets in.

  30. Jon on April 6th, 2009 12:09 pm

    Good points made in the comments. Maybe GMZ now knows he has to trade Morrow and/or Fields to be able to shape the team the way he wants. In order to do that, perhaps he needs to have one more potential top-notch closer-material pitcher in the pipeline to replace them–or at least create that impression with trade partners so he is trading from a position of strength rather than weakness.

  31. SeasonTix on April 6th, 2009 1:33 pm


    I’m amazed at how fast everybody is dumping on Jack Z over a couple of relatively minor moves.

    “Franchise crippling … ” Really?

    So Morrow is going to the ‘pen instead of the starting rotation. Maybe he would have sucked as a starter (Morrow himself seems to think so).

    Aumont has yet to throw an inning in the bigs, so maybe he wouldn’t be such a hot starter either. There’s no way to know until he pitches for a season or two.

    I remember a lot of “hot prospect” pitchers in the M’s minor league system that never panned out in the major leagues.

    It’s not like the M’s are taking PROVEN major league starters and putting them in the ‘pen.

    I still have a lot of faith in Jack Z and the rest of his staff. I’m confident that they are looking at the long-term future of the M’s and they are NOT as “dumb” as some of you think they are.

  32. LewLegend on April 6th, 2009 2:16 pm

    I agree. I have a ton of faith in Jack Z. If anyone needs to reason to find out why Bob Fontaine was let go, we now know. Reliever, reliever, reliever in the first round of the past three drafts. Yick.

    I hope Aumont is brought around as a reliever and then made a starter once he meets the innings requirement or whatever goals they set out for him to meet. Maybe they have Fields on the conversion path as well. He seems to have a good fastball and a nasty curve. A third pitch can get him into the rotation possibly.

  33. ppl on April 6th, 2009 2:47 pm

    I am not going to be down on Zduriencik because of this one move. But it did seem to stray from the more pragamtic course this organization was taking. And looking at the big picture, what is the future of our rotation? Only Felix projects long-term and keeping him around isn’t going to be cheap. We all know that the price of even mid-level starters is high in free agnecy, and Aumont was one of the top guys we were developing. This applies to right now, it could all change drastically in June, If Boras has succeded in scaring the Nats away from Strasburg and the M’s bite, and pay him what he wants, all of a sudden we might have the ingredients of a dynastic rotation not too far down the road. And then a deep, talented, dominant pen could seem quite good indeed. Right now they seem to be diminshing the pool of the very thing you can never get too much of, good starting pitching, especially where you can get the most talent, and the best price: developing it in your own organization.

  34. PaulMolitorCocktail on April 6th, 2009 3:44 pm

    Chad Gaudin was just released, time for us to shore up our thinning ranks of right-handed relievers.

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