One Solution To Two Problems
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.