The 2011 Mariners
2010 is in the books at this point. Yes, miracles can happen, and the team theoretically could rip off 65 wins and steal the division title by a hair, but you can’t make decisions based on the expectation of a miracle, and the Mariners have some decisions to make. When a season is a lost cause, the silver lining is the chance to take a look at some guys who wouldn’t get a real shot when a team was trying to win. You can start to look at your roster with an eye towards the following year and try to figure out what you have and what you need. So let’s do just that.
C: Moore/Johnson – Needs Upgrade.
1B: Carp – Needs Upgrade
2B: Figgins/Ackley – No Move Necessary
SS: Wilson/Wilson – Question Mark
3B: Lopez/Figgins – Question Mark
LF: Saunders – Question Mark
CF: Gutierrez – No Move Necessary
RF: Ichiro – No Move Necessary
DH: Bradley – Question Mark
Bench: Empty – Needs Upgrade
CL: David Aardsma – Question Mark
Setup: Brandon League – No Move Necessary
Setup: Shawn Kelley – No Move Necessary
Setup: Mark Lowe – Question Mark
Middle: Ryan Rowland-Smith – Question Mark
Middle: Empty – Question Mark
Long: Luke French – No Move Necessary
Out of 25 roster spots, we’re not even able to label 10 of them as positions that the club doesn’t need to worry about filling. That’s not good, especially considering that the team is not going to have much money to spend this winter. Current obligations for 2010 come to just under $70 million, and that doesn’t include salaries for any of the arbitration eligible guys the team will want back – most notably, Jason Vargas, David Aardsma, Brandon League, Mark Lowe, and Ryan Rowland-Smith. Based on expected raises, you have to pencil that group in for somewhere around $10 million.
That gives the team an $80 million payroll before they go shopping. We have to assume the budget will be in the low $90 millions again next year, giving the team just over $10 million to spend. That doesn’t go very far when you need two starting pitchers, a starting first baseman, a catcher who can play at least half the time, a whole new bench, possibly a designated hitter, and maybe another arm in the bullpen.
Jack Zduriencik is not going to be able to go out and fix all of this team’s problems in free agency. He might not be able to fix any of them in free agency. This team is going to have to make some shrewd trades and get production from low salary guys. There aren’t many in the high minors ready to step in and contribute, so they’re going to have to be acquired from other sources. And that’s where the rest of this season can give the Mariners a leg up.
There are quite a few players kicking around Triple-A who could potentially help the Mariners next year, but need a shot to show what they can do in the big leagues. The Mariners now have approximately four months to give those guys an audition. The longer they wait, hoping for a miracle, the less time they have to find guys who can stake a claim on next year’s roster. That’s why they shouldn’t sit around and wait until July 31st before they start making moves.
Call the Royals about Kila Ka’aihue (26-year-old 1B/DH hitting .326/.503/.617 in Triple-A), and try to pry away Alex Gordon while you’re at it. See if you can get Trevor Plouffe from Minnesota or Tyler Greene from St. Louis to offer another young, cheap option at shortstop. Give Chris Resop a shot to show what he can do on the mound. These are the kinds of players the team will need production from in 2011, and they don’t have enough good internal options to give the kids from Tacoma a shot. Mike Carp is not good enough to be this team’s first baseman next year – not if they want to try to win. Garrett Olson isn’t going to fill one of the holes in the rotation. These guys are serviceable role players at best, and this is a roster that needs more than that.
The organization has a lot of work to do if they want to be a contender next year. They can’t wait until the off-season to go to work. They should start tomorrow. 2010 is officially over, and the team is now playing for 2011.