The Next Big Test

Dave · August 25, 2009 at 9:01 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Last year, we saw Zduriencik and crew come in and ace the off-season, making a bunch of terrific moves to re-shape a bad roster and take an organization out of a death spiral and into a strong rebuilding effort. However, with no disrespect intended, that was the easy part. Getting a roster from 60 wins to 80 wins isn’t nearly as large of a challenge as getting from 80 to 90 – you have to be able to identify some undervalued assets that can plug gaping holes, solidify some depth with some nice bargains, and fill around your core pieces with not-terrible players, but those tasks are far easier than upgrading decent talent to good talent.

This winter, the M’s front office has a new challenge. They’ve shown they can find nice complimentary pieces and fill out a roster without having to spend a lot of money. However, for the M’s to become a real contender again, they’re going to need another core player. If we assume Beltre is probably not coming back, the M’s have three guys that you could safely call above average major leaguers: Felix Hernandez, Ichiro Suzuki, and Franklin Gutierrez. There are some other guys who have the talent to play at an above average level next year, but it can’t be counted on.

Three above average guys – that’s not a big enough core. The M’s need another building block (or two) to form the foundation of the team, and while the role players the organization has already acquired are nice pieces, you can’t add them to the Hernandez/Suzuki/Gutierrez trio and hope to win a World Series. You can’t realistically compete with the New Yorks and Bostons of the world with three good players and a bunch of guys who aren’t terrible. You can finish .500 that way, but you’re not going to have a parade without another high quality player.

For the M’s, adding that kind of player is going to be a priority this winter. They were able to strike gold with Gutierrez, and they may be able to do so again, but we have to remember that the M’s surrendered real value in that deal. J.J. Putz was one of the main assets on the team and Luis Valbuena was a promising young player that was nearly major league ready – the M’s didn’t get Gutierrez for free (though, the deal is still a massive, huge win for the team).

So, now the M’s need to add a Gutierrez-caliber of player at some position, but they also have to limit the amount of major league talent they give up. That’s not easy, especially considering that the roster doesn’t have too many glaring holes any more. Replacing Miguel Cairo with Russ Branyan is easy. Replacing, say, Brandon Morrow with a quality mid-rotation starter… that’s a lot harder.

We know Jack and Tony are good at gathering assets and building the end of a roster. This winter, they’ll have to improve the front of the roster, too, and that’s more of a challenge. Whether it’s making a big splash on a young 1B/DH type (Prince Fielder, perhaps?) or hitting on a home run on a high risk/reward pitcher (Ben Sheets?), the team is going to have to add a 3-5 win player this winter. The Bill Hall/Jack Hannahan/Ryan Langerhans/Luke French types are nice and all, but we now have a full house of role players. We need another building block.


107 Responses to “The Next Big Test”

  1. Joe on August 25th, 2009 4:45 pm

    The issue with Sexson wasn’t his performance by itself, but in the context of the contract: a heavily backloaded deal for the kind of player who ages badly. Revisionist thinking is to look at the early years while setting aside the later ones, and ignoring the money aspect altogether. That contract looked like an albatross going in (as noted here at the time), and so it turned out.

    I remember this distinctly because I got into a couple of barstool arguments with guys who were ecstatic about the Sexson deal but doubtful about the Beltre one. Having devored the analysis here at USSM, and agreeing with it, I felt exactly the opposite.

  2. Joe on August 25th, 2009 4:47 pm

    As I recall, Bavasi persued Delgado before turning to Sexson because Delgado wasn’t interested in playing for a pacific time zone team. I don’t know that his wishes in that regard have changed; but even if he’s at the stage in life where he can’t be picky, isn’t the implicit Bavasi endorsement enough to scare you off?

  3. Joe on August 25th, 2009 4:50 pm

    The tricky part is how do you get the 4 WAR player without giving up the farm and still stay within what we can pay said player this offseason.

    That’s why they pay Zduriencik and Co the big bucks. See: Franklin “4.2 WAR” Gutierrez. In Jack we trust.

  4. Jeff Nye on August 25th, 2009 5:19 pm

    It’s not going to be easy, because 4 WAR players don’t come available all that often, either on the trade or the free agent market. And when they do, they’re not cheap, in terms of talent, dollars, or both.

    It’ll be an interesting offseason to be sure.

  5. timbmyers on August 25th, 2009 10:02 pm

    I am very excited for the off-season to see what Jack has up his sleeve. Does anyone think going after Adrian Gonzalez is a good idea. We could maybe front the package with Morrow and other prospects. Young and cheap seem to be the direction that SD is going in.

  6. Breadbaker on August 26th, 2009 3:20 am

    The shame, of course, is that the guy should have been Jeff Clement.

  7. DarkKnight1680 on August 26th, 2009 7:54 am

    I don’t know why exactly but I’m not expecting big changes in the lineup next year. Ichiro, Gutierrez, Saunders, Wilson, Lopez, Branyan, Johnson – I’d expect to see all these guys back in the Mariner lineup next year. DH can be upgraded, and someone is going to have to play 3B, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beltre back as well and that would just leave DH.

    Maybe the #2 starter?

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