A False Dichotomy
We’ve done several posts so far pointing out that the weakness of the AL West presents an opportunity for the M’s to make the playoffs this year, even if this isn’t a roster that would be good enough to contend in most years. Inevitably, someone comes along in the comments and suggests that the team should focus on building a winning team in the future and not worry about the present. When the issue of what the M’s should do with Adrian Beltre and Erik Bedard come July is raised, it is almost always framed as a “win now or win later” proposition.
I’d like to suggest that the Mariners do not have to choose. You can win now and win later. Contending in 2009 does not have to include harming future teams, and neither does building for the future suggest that the team can’t also contend this year.
When Zdrueincik was hired and started making moves, the media was quick to point out that while he wouldn’t use the word rebuilding, that is what Mariner fans should expect. The presumption heading into the offseason was that the new administration was going to have to take some time to tear down existing structures and reboot the franchise, and that Mariner fans should get used to losing for a few years while the process takes place.
Zduriencik rejected that idea publicly, but it still prevailed in many circles. However, the new GM did exactly what he should have done this winter – restructured the roster to get younger, yes, but also to get better. He avoided the blow-it-up scenario that traditional rebuilding models usually follow, and filled holes on the major league roster with older, stopgap players who likely won’t be part of the next good Mariner team. He turned overvalued assets into a greater quantity of undervalued ones and added wins to the roster without putting the team’s long term future in harms way.
The M’s can do the same thing this summer.
This roster could use another quality left-handed bat, improvements at shortstop and catcher, a quality left-handed reliever, and a solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher. Adding one or two of those pieces would help solidify the M’s as legitimate contenders in a division where 85 wins gives you a pretty good chance of making the playoffs.
There are players who fit those needs that will be available this summer and will not require mortgaging the future to acquire. You don’t have to surrender your elite prospects in order to fill holes. Good GMs find quality role players for minimal costs all the time.
Under Zduriencik, there’s no doubt that the Mariners are working to put a stronger foundation in place for the future. But do not misconstrue a long term plan as a short term white flag. This team can simultaneously build for 2010 and beyond while contending in 2009.
It’s not an either/or proposition. Let’s win in ’09 and build for the future.