Why The Roster Isn’t Fixed Yet

Dave · May 3, 2010 at 12:38 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

While we applaud the Mariners for making two correct decisions yesterday, and while they have improved the roster with the additions of Ryan Lagnerhans and Josh Wilson, the roster is not yet fixed.

Right now, the Mariners have the following line-up options, based on the current roster (leaving aside catchers, because that’s an entirely separate issue).


OF: Ichiro, Gutierrez, Langerhans
IF: Kotchman, Figgins, Wilson, Lopez
DH: Bradley
Bench: Griffey, Sweeney, Wilson


OF: Ichiro, Gutierrez, Bradley
If: Kotchman, Figgins, Wilson, Lopez
DH: Griffey
Bench: Sweeney, Langerhans, Wilson

I think most of us would prefer option A, as it gets Bradley out of the field (and hopefully keeps his bat in the line-up more often), improves the defense, and relegates Junior to a reduced pinch-hitting role. However, there’s a pretty big problem with that alignment – Josh Wilson acts as the only backup for the other seven guys, because the other two bench dudes can’t play the field. And that’s being kind enough to assume that Josh Wilson can serve as the fourth outfielder, despite the fact that he’s played one game in the outfield in his entire professional career.

Yes, the team can now safely pinch hit for Jack Wilson since they have a guy who can play shortstop to replace him after he’s removed, but that’s the only strategic move you can make. Want to pinch run? Tough, can’t do it. Want to pinch hit for Langerhans when the opposing manager brings in a southpaw in a high leverage situation? Nope, there’s no one else to play left field. While the team’s best line-up now includes Langerhans in left and Bradley at DH, that scenario also creates a remarkably inflexible bench that allows Wak to make one substitution per game. If any of the starters get a minor injury that force them into a day-to-day situation, the team literally would not have a backup for anyone else.

That’s the cost of carrying 12 pitchers and two guys who can’t play the field. An MLB team cannot operate like this without being severely hamstrung in every close, late game situation. We’ve already seen these problems rear their head, with things like Eric Byrnes facing a tough RHP in ridiculously high leverage situations, and last night’s moves don’t address the issue. If the team goes forward with this roster, they essentially will have to choose between keeping Griffey as the regular DH against righies, or not having a usable bench. That’s not a choice they should have to make.

If we accept the fact that Griffey isn’t going anywhere (and we have to – it’s just reality), then the Mariners simply have to choose between Mike Sweeney and the seven man bullpen. They cannot have both. No one can realistically expect the M’s to be able to make the necessary late game moves while they are hamstrung with a bullpen spot they don’t use and two DH’s who can’t hit.

Since Wak is apparently dead set against going back to six relievers, that makes Sweeney the odd man out. You cannot make this roster work with him on it and a 12 man pitching staff. We’ll find out tomorrow if the Mariners are willing to make that call, but I don’t get the sense that they are. I have a feeling that, tomorrow, the Mariners will take the field with a still-broken roster. It’s improved, but it still doesn’t work.

Jettisoning Byrnes and Tuiasosopo was the right start, but there’s one more move to be made. The team has about 30 hours to make it. Let’s see if they’re willing to admit that this roster is still broken.


41 Responses to “Why The Roster Isn’t Fixed Yet”

  1. charliebrown on May 3rd, 2010 12:46 pm

    Who do you think the Mariners should or could get to replace Sweeney?

    It’s certainly time for him to go, but maybe there are no other options right now?

  2. Oolon on May 3rd, 2010 12:56 pm

    Any team with an OPS of .641 (worst in the AL and only better than Houston in all of baseball) shouldn’t have fingers pointing at the problem being the flexibility of their 24th and 25th guys on the roster.

    That’s not where the problem lies.

    We need the 1-5 guys to step up and start hitting. Until that happens we’ll be seeing more of what we saw this weekend.

  3. luckyscrubs on May 3rd, 2010 12:57 pm

    Well put, Dave.

    Oolon, our offense just isn’t that good so we need to take advantage of favorable match ups with pinch hitters/runners more than the average team. This isn’t possible with both Sweeney and Griffey on the roster.

  4. wtnuke on May 3rd, 2010 12:59 pm

    Technically, when they’re playing with their ideal lineup they have 3 DHs in Bradley, Griffey and Sweeney. I’ve never seen a roster constructed with 3 DH players who can’t hit at a high level.

    This roster feels like the opposite of what they tried to do last year with a versatile bunch of guys. Bill Hall, Langerhans and Hannahan seemed to be one of the more flexible trios of reserves in the major, where Sweeney, Griffey and Bradley are hands-down the least flexible bunch on a roster right now.

  5. don52656 on May 3rd, 2010 12:59 pm

    I agree that there are other moves to be made, and I wonder about the Byrnes DFA, since it seems to me that a Byrnes/Langerhans platoon in LF would have addressed some of the concerns you have raised.

    I just do not understand the 7-man bullpen, especially with Lee in the rotation. With the way that the rotation is pitching, how do you find innings for 7 other pitchers?

    Regarding Sweeney, I totally agree that having both him and Griffey on the roster, along with the 7-man bullpen, totally screws Wak’s ability to make last-game moves. But, it sure seems to me that internal options aren’t available. I would expect a trade…if one can’t be made, I don’t know what other moves the team can make. I can’t believe that KC is so sour on Alex Gordon to trade him, but I would get mightly excited to add him to the roster if he were somehow available for Sweeney and a couple of bullpen arms…KC could sure use the bullpen arms, so maybe it’s not so unbelievable after all.

    (Perhaps they will call up Bard in an attempt to find a catcher that can actually catch the ball?)

  6. wtnuke on May 3rd, 2010 1:02 pm

    I would like to make the point that maybe Wak having a lot of strategic options doesn’t really matter, if he’s too caught up in a belief system to make those moves. That series of moves in the first Texas game, wherein he decided to pinch-hit Sweeney and then Ron Washington changed the pitcher, he kinda walked right into that awful situation.

  7. vj on May 3rd, 2010 1:06 pm

    If Wak insists on the seven-man bullpen, give him the choice: either Sweeney or a bullpen arm.
    That said, getting rid of Sweeney creates another problem vs lefty starters: either Langerhans starts in the outfield or Griffey at DH. That is, unless your new man on the roster is also a right-handed outfielder. I suppose, replacing Sweeney with another right-handed DH is out of the question.

  8. davepaisley on May 3rd, 2010 1:12 pm

    Any team with an OPS of .641 (worst in the AL and only better than Houston in all of baseball) shouldn’t have fingers pointing at the problem being the flexibility of their 24th and 25th guys on the roster.

    Geoff, stop it. Stop it now.

    First, Griffey is maybe the 4th or 5th guy on the roster – not by performance, but by untouchability.

    Even then, the 24th and 25th (and 23rd, being the last man in the pen) shouldn’t be complete wastes of space as they are now. They should never be the best guys on the team, or making more than the league minimum because they should be abundantly available.

    But the way things are, those guys are not performing, they aren’t cheap (collectively) and the M’s are trying to compete with a 22 man roster.

  9. robbbbbb on May 3rd, 2010 1:13 pm

    Not long ago, Dave, you commented that it was tougher to write about the Mariners, because they were making all the right moves and it’s tough to write about a team that doesn’t make mistakes.

    Console yourself with the notion that you’re at least getting good column material out of this.

  10. isaac on May 3rd, 2010 1:14 pm

    Maybe they’re just trying to tread water until September call-ups.

  11. RosanjinScholar on May 3rd, 2010 1:17 pm

    I think you are ignoring Option C – which is Sweeney being the regular DH. You may not like it, but I think that is the direction they are headed if he is healthy. I do not expect we will see Langerhans play LF against every RHP. He will play some, when Sweeney or Bradley sits – but I do not think he will be an automatic start.

    Love or hate it, the upside is that the “does Sweeney have anything left” debate gets settled one way or another in the coming weeks and they can move to another plan in June if need be when other teams presumably will be more likely to be in trade mode. I know many here think that debate is already settled, but the Mariners obviously don’t agree or else they would not have put him on the opening day roster.

    Griffey is the real mascot, not Sweeney, and he is on the roster likely because Chuck Armstrong mandated it. He is the one who can’t be cut no matter how bad he hits. I am not saying that it is wrong given his legacy, it just is. But nothing compels them to keep Sweeney other than their (perhaps misguided) view he may have something left based on Aug/Sept and this Spring.

    I suspect I am a little older than most on this blog and I can’t help recall the end of Willie Mays’s career with the Mets in 1973 when I see Griffey – it was painful to watch at times, particularly given that there was no DH and you had to watch him stumble around in CF. But that Mets team with one great righty starter (Seaver), two great lefties (Matlack/Koosman), a good bullpen (McGraw) and an offense that was truly pathetic managed to get within one game of winning the World Series. Sounds like a team I know. There is always hope when you have great starting pitching.

  12. LongTimeFan on May 3rd, 2010 1:18 pm

    Don’t the Rangers owe it to Byrnes to pick him up? He already has proven to them that he is at least a 1 WAR player.

  13. joser on May 3rd, 2010 1:25 pm

    Well, there’s one other solution: the M’s move into the National league, where your DH effectively becomes another bench player.

    It’s kind of a shame the Red Sox have so many injuries at the moment, or maybe they’d be willing to give back Bill Hall.

    It will be interesting to see where Byrnes lands next. Not super interesting or anything, but, you know, interesting.

    Maybe they’re just trying to tread water until September call-ups.

    Yes, the Red Army Doctrine: keep retreating until winter sets in. Genius!

  14. Rboyle0628 on May 3rd, 2010 1:31 pm

    Hate to be the one with the conspiracy theory, but maybe Jack Z and Wak are being handcuffed by higher management in some way. I know Griffey is not going anywhere and that doesn’t bother me at all, I accept it and understand it is Griffey. But, I mean maybe there are hands in this that we are not aware of.

  15. shortbus on May 3rd, 2010 1:34 pm

    What’s really damning of the decision to hamstring Wak in high-leverage situations is the fact that this team is constructed to frequently find itself in high-leverage situations. They don’t score a lot, but they also don’t give up a lot of runs. Therefore, games will frequently be closer than with a team that both scores more and has worse run-prevention.

    As this weekend amply demonstrated…Wakamatsu absolutely must have options in close-and-late scenarios if the M’s are to have success.

  16. Breadbaker on May 3rd, 2010 1:38 pm

    We’re a month into the season and it’s pretty clear that Mike Sweeney’s spring performance was a spring performance: no one cared to worry about him in a pre-game meeting because he wasn’t going to make anyone’s roster. Now they gameplan him (it doesn’t take much) and he can’t buy a hit. Which is why no one should be fooled by spring training performance, least of all Jack Zduriencik.

    Edited to add: Shortbus, I couldn’t agree more. Single mistakes by either team have been relevant to way more than half the Mariners’ games this year and the only reason it wouldn’t continue would be if the starters faltered.

  17. Dave on May 3rd, 2010 1:51 pm

    Any team with an OPS of .641 (worst in the AL and only better than Houston in all of baseball) shouldn’t have fingers pointing at the problem being the flexibility of their 24th and 25th guys on the roster.

    We’re not in the business of finger pointing. That is the domain of beat writer(s) not qualified to do anything else.

    We talk about problems that the team can do something about. They can’t make Figgins start hitting, but they can make Mike Sweeney go away.

  18. davepaisley on May 3rd, 2010 1:54 pm

    What’s really damning of the decision to hamstring Wak in high-leverage situations

    But Wak doesn’t DO anything in high leverage situations. He’s proven over and over again he won’t and the roster construction is as much him as Z (“NEED A 7TH BULLPEN GUY!!!!!” – “MUST HAVE HUGS AND SHAVING CREAM PIES!!!”)

    So to portray him as an innocent victim of other people’s mistakes is just wrong. He may prove to be a very nice man, and a great guy to work for, but he’s no frakin’ Earl Weaver.

  19. davepaisley on May 3rd, 2010 1:55 pm

    We’re not in the business of finger pointing. That is the domain of beat writer(s) not qualified to do anything else.

    LMAO Dave 😉

  20. fshort on May 3rd, 2010 2:01 pm

    I think Rosanjin is right – Sweeney will be primary DH for awhile as a test run. The real question for Dave is, who would you add to the roster to replace Sweeney?

  21. mlathrop3 on May 3rd, 2010 2:03 pm

    Maybe they’re just trying to tread water until September call-ups.

    lol, I was getting sick of the “tread water” comments too.

  22. Jud 8 on May 3rd, 2010 2:04 pm


    You’re forgetting that your 2B is perhaps the leagues best utility player.

    if Scenario A is being used and you have need of a 4th OF? Figgy goes to LF and Josh plays 2B.

    Like it or not, Sweeney is here and can’t get cut with only 5 starts @ DH…. Let him prove he can’t do it any longer.

    Truth is Mike was better than Jr last year and if their names were Mark Jones (LH) and Phil Johns (RH) the Righty gets the PT and the Lefty gets cut…… That’s not gonna happen we all know it.

  23. Dave Spiwak on May 3rd, 2010 2:08 pm

    How pathetic is the M’s DH production? There are six NL teams with a better OPS from their pitchers than the M’s DH’s. There are two teams with more homers and one team with more rbi’s from their pitchers then our DH’s. Which means you could pretty much pluck any decent player out of AAA to outperform our collection of stiffs.

  24. pumacamo on May 3rd, 2010 2:17 pm

    1. I’ll be honest and open, I love Griffey. He needs to be a bench guy, but this debate should stop. Reality – he’s not going anywhere.

    2. I can’t stand Sweeney. He needs to go, yesterday.

    3. The 7 man bullpen pisses me off. With Felix, Lee, Hitless Fister (knock on wood), Hyphen and Vargas all pitching above, above average I see no reason to waste a spot there.

    4. I can’t help but think of the 2004 Red Sox who had Dave Roberts enter the game and steal 2nd and score what would be the pivotal run of that insane series. You’re telling me with our optimal lineup we have the choice of, (gulp) either Josh Wilson, Molasses Mike, or Great in ’95 Jr. to choose from for pinch running? I don’t think we’re reversing any curses with those changes.

    My deduction from the above four statements is that we should DFA an underperforming bullpen’er (Colome?) and trade/FedEx to Japan Sweeney to make a move for a fast, good fielding backup.

    OF: Ichiro, Guti, Langerhans
    IF: Kotchman, Figgins, Wilson, Lopez
    DH: Bradely

    Bench: Griffey, Wilson, Hannahan, Fast Good Fielding Guy

  25. davepaisley on May 3rd, 2010 2:18 pm

    Like it or not, Sweeney is here and can’t get cut with only 5 starts @ DH…. Let him prove he can’t do it any longer.

    This is the DH position we’re talking about. It’s not like Sweeney is coming off an All-Star year. We got 266 plate appearances of 106 OPS+ last year. Meh. Sweeney-ites aspire to that? With three part-seasons before that of 102, 88 and 97?

    Old, injury-prone and mediocre is the BEST YOU CAN HOPE FOR.

  26. georgmi on May 3rd, 2010 2:39 pm

    Fast Good Fielding Guy

    How is Endy’s rehab coming along?

  27. JMHawkins on May 3rd, 2010 2:44 pm

    We’re not in the business of finger pointing. That is the domain of beat writer(s) not qualified to do anything else

    Do I get a told-you-so on this one?


    Like it or not, Sweeney is here and can’t get cut with only 5 starts @ DH…. Let him prove he can’t do it any longer.

    Truth is Mike was better than Jr last year

    Of course you can cut him with only 5 starts. They sent Langerhans through waivers with one stinkin’ at-bat! Besides, even if he was better than Junior last year, he wasn’t good enough to be a starting DH. He was a league-average hitter last year, which translates to a replacement level DH. Nothing indicates that will change this year, he’s been a league-average hitter since 2006. He shouldn’t start any games at DH, he’s at best a PH vs lefties, but there’s no room for two PH-only guys on the team, and frankly, if there was room, the M’s should be able to do better. Carp would be a better option, and if you’re worried about him being left-handed, I’m sure the M’s could swap him for an equivalent righty bat without too much trouble.

  28. Tek Jansen on May 3rd, 2010 2:57 pm

    Dave, I was thinking this exact same thing earlier in the day. I want Bradley to be the DH, with an occaisonal start in LF. Yet the M’s can’t have two bench players who cannot play the field.

    Additionally, this puts stress on the rest of the roster. No one can have a day off. Granted, Ichiro and Guti should play 150+ games, but they need a day off now and then. This roster doesn’t allow it. Furthermore, the fact that Sweeney can’t play 1B makes Kotchman play against every tough lefty the Mariners face.

  29. spliffbowl on May 3rd, 2010 2:58 pm

    Not sure how the rehab is going, but last I heard Endy was rehabbing for Texas.

  30. Jud 8 on May 3rd, 2010 3:23 pm

    Davepaisley and JMHawkins ~

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not want Sweeney on this roster, but he is because of a torrid spring. If the management of this team thinks he can be a nice part of this team (I don’t happen to agree, but these guys get paid to know better than I do), then they can’t give him 5 starts and cut him. Give him a week of starts and then jettison his weak ass.

    We’re in for a long season… the best case scenario was that we’d be a below avg hitting club, at this rate we’re below abysmal. If our hitters can’t even live up to their expected median performances? We re sunk.

  31. Xteve X on May 3rd, 2010 4:04 pm

    “First, Griffey is maybe the 4th or 5th guy on the roster – not by performance, but by untouchability.”

    Sadly, therein lies the problem … if the roster was rated by untouchability, Griffey and Sweeney would both be in the top 5.

  32. bermanator on May 3rd, 2010 4:30 pm

    Earl Weaver used to have a saying about pitching that it seems like everyone in charge of constructing MLB rosters has forgotten — it was something like “either six is too many or 12 ain’t enough.”

    I may have gotten the specific numbers wrong, but the point was that a team usually has the wrong number of pitchers. When the starters are going great, there’s just enough work for the five starters and the closer. When they’re getting knocked out in the third inning, and your long relievers are stale from the lack of work and can’t get anyone out either, no amount of pitchers will suffice. Seattle right now is closer to the former situation than the latter.

    All this is a long way of saying that the seven-man bullpen bothers me a lot more than Sweeney. If Wak values Sweeney’s intangibles and the potential of his bat (irrational though that may seem), I can’t see him being enthused about dropping him just to pick up one of the in-house options.

    But I think a seven-man bullpen, with the starting pitching Seattle has, is a huge opportunity cost that provides few benefits, and I feel about Kanekoa Texeira like a lot of y’all feel about Sweeney — I get that he’s a Rule V guy, but I’m unenthused at the notion of keeping him on the 25-man roster all year. If you want to keep him, fine, but then what purpose does Jesus Colome serve?

  33. joser on May 3rd, 2010 4:59 pm

    Wakamatsu thinks he needs a seven man bullpen.
    Wakamatsu thinks he needs Sweeney.
    Wakamatsu thinks seven impossible things before breakfast.
    I think Wakamatsu needs to choose.

  34. samregens on May 3rd, 2010 5:05 pm

    I also think (not happily) that Sweeney is not going anywhere soon.

    I suspect that he dodged a bullet on Sunday by not playing. While he may be terrible at hitting the ball now, he seems to have superattuned survival skills, by the way.

    After the bad losses and built up frustration it probably caused a “end of the rope, show some results today or you’re gone” type situation, but Sweeney managed to avoid playing (and not getting results like usual), and he didn’t get cut like Byrnes. Byrnes was probably gone anyway, and the Byrnes DFA probably relieved some of that stress to do something about this awful situation.

    With some of the stress relieved I don’t expect a super-survivor like Sweeney to be cut so easily.
    But the Byrnes (and Tui) move is really not enough.
    Another tough thing is that Sweeney does probably have more left in the bat than Junior, but Junior can’t be cut so…

  35. JMHawkins on May 3rd, 2010 5:58 pm

    Another tough thing is that Sweeney does probably have more left in the bat than Junior, but Junior can’t be cut so…

    Perhaps. Perhaps not. Zduriencik was asked today about Junior.

    Larry Stone has the story.

  36. mlathrop3 on May 3rd, 2010 6:32 pm

    …he seems to have superattuned survival skills, by the way.

    Sweeney’s protective instincts are also in the 99th percentile.

  37. benthic on May 3rd, 2010 7:46 pm

    I agree with this post in general, but I think Wak does have one late-game strategic option that isn’t considered here.

    If he wants to pinch hit for Langerhans in LF, when Bradley is DH, he can then send Bradley to LF and give up the DH. With a 7-man bullpen that’s not a huge problem. Wak can just pinch hit for the pitcher unless the game goes deep into extras.

    Of course, the M’s pinch hitters hit like pitchers anyway, so why bother…

  38. nemo on May 3rd, 2010 7:49 pm

    With the faith that Wak has put into Griffey, would you really be that surprised to see him play left field for a couple of innings if needed? I know it sounds ridiculous, but so does having Griffey on the team in the first place.

    I love Griffey, and I wish that there was a place for him on this roster, but he really can’t produce like he used to.

  39. RustyJohn on May 3rd, 2010 10:18 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly with this post. However, even the “minor” changes made could reap large rewards in how they change the composition of the line-up and ability to execute fundamental plays. If we look back at the past few games, how many would the M’s have one if there was an ability to execute the most rudimentary tasks- yesterday’s fourth inning, for example. If Byrnes doesn’t strike out and just hits a fly ball to score Gutierrez, the M’s win. The misplay by Bradley on Saturday- if Langerhans is in, he makes that play. The squeeze play on Friday night- is there a greater possibility Langerhans gets the bunt down?

    No one thinks Langerhans is going to hit .300 and 20 homers- but he brings more to the game than the person he replaces.

    I just hope Wak makes the appropriate line-up changes

  40. oldmandaniels on May 4th, 2010 8:58 am

    Can someone explain to me why the DH rules are so limiting that someone who starts at DH can’t be moved to the outfield? In someways this reminds me of the Edgar for HOF issue. If the position is a position, and it undoubtedly is, then it obviously has to be filled. 25 years past its inception aren’t we capable of looking past it as the pitcher’s batting spot and just making it a position? It seems bizare to me that Bradley can’t move into the field if he starts at DH, the same way that Lopez could move to 2nd if Figgy got hurt.

  41. joser on May 4th, 2010 11:21 am

    Pinch hit for Wilson
    No one with legs on the bench
    oh Wakamatsu!

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