One Solution To Two Problems

Dave · May 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I’m pretty sure that if, before the season started, you would have offered Jack Zduriencik a 27-26 record – with the team only being 1.5 games out of first place, no less – through the first 53 games of the season, he would have gladly taken it. Even for those of us who didn’t think this team was going to be terrible, the record is a bit of a pleasant surprise. But, as anyone who watched this team play can tell you, there’s still some issues on this roster that need to be addressed. And probably sooner than later.

When the M’s made the decision to get rid of Milton Bradley, it was more about Milton than it was about having a better option in house. They decided to make do in left field with a platoon of Carlos Peguero and Mike Wilson, but Peguero has been awful and Wilson has hardly seen the field – even when Wedge put him in the line-up on Sunday, it was as a DH. Peguero just isn’t a Major League player, and he probably never will be. If he has any chance at a career, he needs to be in the minors learning some pitch recognition and an approach at the plate other than “swing at everything as hard as I possibly can”.

Michael Saunders isn’t in a much better place, though, so if the team options Peguero back to Tacoma, they won’t really have many options for left field. In a just world, Saunders would also be headed back to Tacoma, but the team needs him around to play center field while Franklin Gutierrez gets back to full strength. So, for now, he sticks around, but Wedge understandably isn’t very interested in giving him much more playing time in left except for as a defensive replacement.

So, the team needs a left fielder. There isn’t one in Tacoma (Mike Carp is a 1B/DH, and if Wedge won’t use Cust or Wilson out there, he’s certainly not going to use Carp) and unless they can swing a trade for one of Arizona’s Triple-A outfielders (seriously, I’d take any of Pena, Cowgill, or Gillespie right now) or something, there’s probably not anyone available in trade right now – league wide parity means that there are about 27 buyers and two or three sellers at this point.

The team also has another need, or they will at some point in the next few weeks when they call up Dustin Ackley from Tacoma. The presumption at the beginning of the year was that Jack Wilson would be the one to lose playing time or a roster spot to accommodate Ackley’s promotion, but Wilson isn’t playing much anymore. Adam Kennedy has essentially assumed the role that Ackley will be inheriting upon arrival, and he’s done a pretty nifty job for the team over the last month or so. There’s no way that Eric Wedge is going to want to bench him to get a rookie in the line-up, especially with the team playing well at the moment, so the organization will need to find a spot for Kennedy to play when Ackley comes up.

The team needs a left fielder. Kennedy needs a position. Two birds, meet one stone. Kennedy is not exactly an experienced outfielder; he has played just 63 innings out there in his entire career, in fact. That said, he’s a decently athletic guy and his routes can’t possibly be any worse than Peguero’s. Given a few days to shag balls in the outfield before being placed out there in a game, I’d imagine Kennedy could be adequate defensively in left field, especially if Saunders is still around to serve as a late-game defensive replacement.

Is it an ideal solution? No, of course not, and hopefully it wouldn’t be a long term solution either. If the team miraculously stays in contention, they’d need to go shop for a real outfielder at the trade deadline, but Kennedy could give them a few months to figure out the buyers-or-sellers question. If they fall out of the race, having him show some extra positional versatility may make him an even more attractive piece to potential buyers who already know he can play the infield.

If I’m the Mariners, I tell Adam Kennedy to report to Safeco early tomorrow to begin a conversion to the outfield for a few months. It’s his best chance at playing everyday with this team even after Ackley arrives, and it would give the team a legitimate Major League hitter to hold down the LF position for the next few months while they figure out just what this team actually is. It makes the roster decisions easier as well, as you can simply ship Peguero out to call Ackley up and don’t have to worry about finding a trade partner for Jack Wilson right away.

If you don’t shift Kennedy to left, you’re faced with either benching Chone Figgins (which I’m certain the organization is not ready to do, given the $17 million he’s owed in 2012 and 2013 before his contract expires) or delaying Ackley’s promotion to keep Kennedy in the line-up. I don’t think the organization wants to do either of those two things, and let’s be honest, as bad as Figgins has been lately, he still brings more to the table than any of the left fielders on the roster right now.

Kennedy to left, Ackley to second. If I was in charge, you’d see this by the end of the week. Let’s hope the M’s are thinking along the same lines.


111 Responses to “One Solution To Two Problems”

  1. djw on May 31st, 2011 2:51 pm

    Leroy, your point is true in the trivial sense that if the internal and below-market non-Ackley options for second base are very good and left field are very bad, Ackley’s lost WAR won’t from shifting to Left won’t hurt the team.

    I’ll cheerfully concede that if the scenario is accurate, you’re correct (in the short term) and that such a scenario is an actual possibility. But it’s not likely. There’s no good reason to assume Seager will develop in a best case scenario and all outfield prospects will continue to be useless, and no other viable options will be generated via trade.

    The M’s have a number of prospects at various positions, of various quality. They’ll draft more prospects shortly, and probably trade for more at some point as well. But pinning all your hopes on a B-ish level AA prospect like Seager (and ignoring the rest) isn’t a sensible way to think about the future. The M’s historic failures at that position notwithstanding, it has long been the case that MLB calibre left fielders are easier to acquire than MLB calibre second baseman. The M’s current pipeline of prospects isn’t dramatically unbalanced enough to overcome this.

  2. Leroy Stanton on May 31st, 2011 3:24 pm

    But pinning all your hopes on a B-ish level AA prospect like Seager (and ignoring the rest) isn’t a sensible way to think about the future.

    djw, it was just an example to explain how Ackley’s WAR is less important than the overall team WAR. I wasn’t advocating Seager at 2B over Ackley. However, I do think that in the near-term, Seager is better than any of our OF prospects:

    Only Pimentel and Chavez rate higher than Seager, but Pimentel is only 18 and Chavez is really struggling at AA. Conversely, Seager has made the adjustment to AA very nicely and I suspect he’ll be in AAA when Ackley is called up. That could mean he’ll compete for a job next year.

    But the question is about Ackley and not Seager. It is not a given that Ackley is worth more (WAR) at 2B than LF. Nobody knows yet, but we’ll find out soon enough.

  3. djw on May 31st, 2011 3:58 pm

    djw, it was just an example to explain how Ackley’s WAR is less important than the overall team WAR.
    Of course it is. But the larger point is that we know that quality 2B are harder to find than quality LF, and the current development levels of the prospects of a middling farm system doesn’t change that, so Ackley at 2B is very likely to be more beneficial to team WAR than than Ackley in LF. You’re correct that this is not an absolute certainty, but when teams make decisions about players they’re always probabilistic.

    (Assuming, of course, that Keith Law is wrong about Ackley’s defense. I hear so many conflicting things about that I don’t know what to think.)

  4. The_Waco_Kid on May 31st, 2011 4:16 pm

    There are a lot of good ideas here, but let’s not overreact to our current situation. Chances are the months ahead will be rougher than this one, even though Ichiro will probably improve and Figgins may. We have to prioritize the future (especially this early). In the end, Kennedy is old and I’d keep him at 2B and hope for a trade offer. I think you move Ackley only if you feel the 2B experiment has failed, but you don’t delay him. Figgins in LF (or Utility) is interesting, but I’d keep auditioning the kids in LF. Saunders deserves more time. Peguero deserves a little more. Mike Wilson has barely played. Maybe even give Carp a chance in LF. It’s a long shot, but why not. Exhaust every option this year, look at the LF market in the offseason, and move Ackley to LF only as the last resort.

    Much as I want us to contend this year, this season is more about winning enough to (a) be realistic contenders next year, (b) not get Jack Z fired, and (c) be more attractive to free agents next year.

  5. ppl on May 31st, 2011 4:25 pm

    The left field issue is overrated.

    With fans it easily crosses over into superstitiion.

    LF is a problem only because of bad moves to fill it, a general lack of positon player talent coming up through the system and trades of prospects who could have filled it over the years.

    It really is one of, if not the easiest position to fill.

    Try finding a top of the rotation starter, a good Catcher or a good SS or 2B. Those are way harder to fill. Easier to get a star calibre LF than a decent player up the middle.

    The M’s actually have that top of the rotation guy. They are trying to get that elusive star 2B.
    If LF becomes the biggest problem, the team is not in too bad of shape.

  6. just a fan on May 31st, 2011 4:53 pm

    Right now, the Seattle Mariners are 1.5 games out of 1st. The Seattle Mariners are in a race for the pennant.

    Moving Ackley to LF while the M’s are chasing the pennant will not destroy his future ability to play 2nd. Maybe it will delay his growth there, but if he’s capable of being a 2nd baseman, four or five months in left ain’t gonna stop him.

    If the M’s fall out of it in the next two months, then they can trade Kennedy and shift Ackley back to 2nd for the last couple months.

    If the M’s stay in contention, then they should be putting the most capable lineup out there.

    I vote Ackley to Left.

  7. KiWiNiNjA on May 31st, 2011 5:31 pm

    I can’t believe all the short-sighted Bavasis in this thread.

  8. Chris_From_Bothell on May 31st, 2011 6:15 pm

    Actually Chris, he said this:
    “We view Ackley as our second baseman going forward”
    Views change.

    Wow. Ok, Leroy. Ya know I generally get your point of view, on multiple blogs, but I see there’s no arguing with you on this one.

    If you’re going to go all “depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” on me, then you’ve got your mind made up and well, you’re entitled to your opinion. 🙂

  9. scraps on May 31st, 2011 7:08 pm


  10. Leroy Stanton on May 31st, 2011 11:42 pm

    Wow. Ok, Leroy. Ya know I generally get your point of view, on multiple blogs, but I see there’s no arguing with you on this one.

    If you’re going to go all “depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” on me, then you’ve got your mind made up and well, you’re entitled to your opinion

    I think you may have misunderstood me. I just had a different reading of Jack’s words. No argument intended, I’m only offering another perspective.

    You said:

    Z confirmed that Ackley is going to be at second base, period.

    And I took that as a definitive statement.

    What Jack said was:

    We view Ackley as our second baseman going forward.

    I took that to mean “right now, but possibly subject to change”.

  11. bookbook on June 1st, 2011 6:53 am

    An Ackley, Gutierrez,ichiro OF would have chased down a whole lot of flyballs. That said, is it too early to start a free ackley movement?

    Even KG, not exactly an Ackley fan, is wondering why he isn’t up yet.

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