The 2010 Rookies
As we look towards 2010, we can be fairly sure that the roster is going to look significantly different than it does today. Bedard, Beltre, Washburn, Branyan, Griffey, Sweeney, Chavez, and Batista are all free agents at the end of the year, and we’re pretty sure that the team won’t be bringing back both of Lopez/Betancourt as their middle infield. It’s quite feasible that both could go away. Johjima’s future in Seattle is in question as well.
In all, we’re looking at around ten players being replaced for next year’s team. That’s a lot of turnover, and those open positions create opportunities for guys in the organization to step up and grab a spot on the team. While the M’s farm system is short on upper level pitching, there are five guys in Triple-A who could each make a pretty good case for a spot on next year’s team: Jeff Clement, Mike Carp, Michael Saunders, Adam Moore, and Matt Tuiasosopo.
However, there’s basically no chance that the team goes with five rookies in the line-up at the same time next year. They aren’t doing the tear-down style of rebuild, and the goal will certainly be to contend for the division title next year. Despite all five having pretty decent cases for being major league ready, Wak isn’t going to want to break in five rookies while trying to win the AL West. I would suspect that the team will probably limit themselves to two or three rookies, at most, in the line-up next year.
However, you can make a pretty good case that none of these guys should spend 2010 in Triple-A.
Clement obviously has nothing left to prove in the PCL – another trip through Tacoma won’t do him any good, and it’s hard to see the M’s actually sending him back there again.
Carp has cooled off after a monstrous April, but he’s still showing both power and patience, as a left-handed first baseman, he fits one of the things the team will need next year. His bat isn’t as good as Clement’s, but he’s ahead of him defensively as a 1B, and we know that Wak highly values defense.
Saunders has shown significant improvement in improving his contact, which was the big knock on him coming into the season. As a left-handed hitting outfielder with good athleticism and gap power, he’s a perfect fit for LF in Safeco.
Moore’s move up to the PCL hasn’t slowed him down at all, as his numbers in Triple-A are basically a dead ringer for his numbers in Double-A. While he doesn’t have the defensive reputation of Rob Johnson, his offense is significantly better, as he actually has a pretty solid approach at the plate.
Finally, there’s Tui, who is on the DL with elbow problems but opened a lot of eyes with a strong spring training. His defense at third is never going to be Beltre level, but given his improvement over the last year and the way that he impressed Wak, he’d seemingly have an inside edge on the open third base position for next year.
From a micro level, there’s a pretty decent case to be made for all five of these guys grabbing jobs next year. However, there’s just no way the M’s go into the year with Tui at third, Saunders in left, Carp at first, Clement at DH, and Moore behind the plate. The club will consider those guys for jobs on an individual basis, but they’re not handing all of those jobs over to the Triple-A brigade next year.
So, if you don’t want to give them major league jobs at the same time, but you also don’t want to make them languish in Tacoma for no reason, there’s just one solution – trades. As the July 31st deadline approaches, the M’s will certainly be more focused on making deals for their free agents to be, but don’t rule out the chance that Zduriencik takes advantage of the trading season to shift some parts around.