Bedard, Fields Go in Three-Way Deal, M’s Get OFs Chiang and Robinson

July 31, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 120 Comments 

Deals! Just before the deadline, the Mariners pulled off an exchange with the Red Sox and Dodgers that sent LHP Erik Bedard and RHP Josh Fields to the Red Sox and brought in OF Chih-Hsien Chiang from the Sox and OF Trayvon Robinson from the Dodgers. I’ll pass over what the Dodgers are getting, as it doesn’t really interest us, and I’ll leave the commentary on Bedard and Fields limited. I’m sorry to see Bedard go because he was a good pitcher for us this year, loyal, and a rather entertaining figure so long as you weren’t trying to interview him. Fields, I think of subtraction equaling addition at this point. Our first-round pick in 2008, his command has been horrible as a pro and nothing about that has changed this season, to say nothing of the various oblique and other injuries he’s suffered over his career which have meant that he just cracked 100.0 career innings in the past week. Frustrating players are identified as such because they have more potential than they seem to be able to show on a consistent basis, and I don’t really have much reason to think that Fields will shed that label any time soon. So let’s talk about the players we brought in!

Robinson has been a top ten prospect for a couple of years for the Dodgers, though their system has been in poor shape for a little while. He’s one of the rare guys who picked up switch-hitting as a pro and actually managed to stick with it and become proficient. In the PCL this season, he’s hit .293/.375/.563 for the Albuquerque Isotopes with twenty-six home runs (and somehow only nine doubles). There are some issues surrounding this, such as Albuquerque boasting a 153 HR factor for right-handers and a 127 factor for left-handers, but while he’s slugged .585 at home, he’s a good .537 on the road, and about twenty-five points of that are tied up in average alone. Factor in the weirdness of the Pacific Coast League this year as you will, since it’s turned into quite the hitting league this year. What I really like about him, however, is that he pulled a Wlad Balentien by abruptly going from thirty walks a season to sixty to seventy. He still strikes out a lot, but the fact that he’s suddenly capable of drawing a walk makes me hopeful that the power he’s showing is usable. On the field, he’s got good wheels (has been around 40 steals the previous two years, though he only has eight this season) and could easily take over in center field if the need arises. His arm isn’t great, but all things considered, that’s probably his worst tool and center fielders have survived with weak arms. John Sickels also likes him a bit. I’m terrible with player comps, but I could see his best-case scenario being something like a lesser, switch-hitting Mike Cameron. Robinson probably wouldn’t be regarded as an elite prospect, but he’s still very talented and could compete for a spot opening next season.

Chiang is not so hot a prospect, but still interesting on his own merits. He’s a former infielder who was prone to a few too many mental errors and got shifted to the outfield in the 2009 season. The arm has been sufficient enough to get him playing time in right field. The Red Sox had him repeat double-A this year after he hit .260/.312/.420 for Portland last season, and he’s responded by posting a .338/.399/.647 line with a .431 wOBA, with better power numbers in less than three-quarters of the at-bats. He doesn’t walk much, and would probably top out about forty, but he doesn’t strike out much either and wouldn’t be one of the guys we see as risking 100+ Ks a season, probably more like eighty. Chiang is much better against right-handers, with an OPS differential of about .225, though that’s nothing unusual. Since he’s repeating a level and doesn’t get rave reviews for his on-field work, he’s sort of a lower-end, B-level prospect, a few steps below where Robinson is at. Considering we have Peguero and Chavez and others hanging about in the high minors, Chiang may be more interesting for the competition he provides than for anything extraordinary in his toolbox.

All-in-all, I’d say this is a win for the M’s, far better than what was initially coming down the wire, which was some backup catcher coming our way. I wouldn’t say either of these guys is a guy that I’m going to pencil in as the anything of the future, though Robinson has good odds on seeing some time down the road. For what may end up as a rental for the Red Sox (and whatever it is that Fields is), this is a pretty darned good return.

Mariners Send Erik Bedard to Boston in 3-Team Trade

July 31, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 8 Comments 

The M’s have apparently sent Erik Bedard to Boston for AA outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang in a deal that sends Boston AA C Tim Federowicz and other prospects to the Dodgers. The M’s also added OF Trayvon Robinson from LA.

Both OFs have some power: Taiwanese OF Chiang has 18 HRs and a slugging percentage near .650 in the Eastern League this year, and Robinson‘s already hit 26 HRs in the PCL for Albuquerque. The M’s wanted offense, and that’s what they’ve acquired. Both come with some question marks, however. Chiang’s never really impressed scouts, and he’s not a terribly patient hitter, but a lefty-hitting OF with power is a good thing to take a chance on. He played in the Futures Game this year for the World team and did well. Robinson’s benefitted from his high-altitude environment at Albuquerque, as he hit all of 9 HRs last year in AA. He’s also striking out in about 30% of his plate appearances, but he can take a pitch and he’s got decent speed.

For now, Chiang will head to AA Jackson and Robinson will stay in the PCL with Tacoma, who head to Albuquerque this week. The initial reports that had the M’s getting back-up C Tim Federowicz were underwhelming, but getting these two OFs make the deal a very good one. Neither’s a sure thing, but it’s not like Erik Bedard was acquired for his durability. Well done, Jack.

UPDATE: The M’s also sent RHP Josh Fields to Boston in this deal. I’m sure that’s going to radically change everyone’s view of it.

Game 107, Rays at Mariners

July 31, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 136 Comments 

Vargas vs. Hellickson, 1:10pm

Today’s game starts 10 minutes after the trade deadline, so get ready for kremlinological analysis of the M’s warm-ups, batting practice, and the walk to the bullpen (“League generally stays to the right of the guy with the pink backpack, but today he’s on his left. He knows.”).

Jeremy Hellickson’s had very good results, but his K:BB ratio and FIP aren’t all that impressive. Because he’s on the Rays, he’s had only a few months in the spotlight as the next big thing. Alex Cobb’s been solid for the MLB team, and now Matt Moore (the most impressive arm in the Futures Game this year) is laying waste to AAA and is the consensus top pitching prospect in the minors.

Mike Carp stays in the clean-up spot today, and Casper Wells makes his M’s debut…batting in front of Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutierrez.

1: Ichiro
2: Ryan
3: Ackley
4: Carp
5: Olivo
6: Kennedy
7: Wells
8: Figgins
9: Gutierrez

One more trade came made official (or as official as these things can be at this stage) – the A’s sent reliever Brad Ziegler to Arizona for 1B Brandon Allen and LHP Jordan Norberto. Good move for both teams; Brandon Allen’s good, and they could platoon him w/Chris Carter, or just move Carter to LF once and for all.

Trade Deadline Notes

July 31, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 10 Comments 

1: In a year in which the M’s have again collapsed, their big deadline move = trading a young, cost-controlled pitcher. We’ve all known teams were kicking the tires on Fister and Vargas, and I understand it given the team’s runs scored/runs allowed. But, and I know this sounds obvious, teams generally don’t trade league-average or better players making league minimum when they’re rebuilding. So… huh.
The M’s will receive a decent haul, especially once the player-to-be-named is, er, named. Casper Wells is an upgrade; I think he’s what Mike Saunders was supposed to be. He’ll need to adjust to Safeco, but a platoon of Carp and Wells seems to ensure league average production from that spot. Getting LF to league average is the sort of little victory that only an M’s fan would cherish, but I cherish it. He’s hit well for the Tigers in limited duty, and has shown some power in the minors. If the deal centered on Wells, however, I think we’d all be pretty disappointed.
Shannon Drayer reports that the PTBNL is one of the Tigers 2010 draft picks, which changes the complexion of the deal quite a bit. Without this piece, the M’s would’ve turned an above average-player on league minimum for a couple of guys who, if things broke right, could be above-average players for league minimum one day. Say what you want about trading from a position of strength, that’d be bad.

2: I think Furbush is interesting, and I hope he gets a chance to start with Seattle next year. He’s got some deception in his delivery, but let’s be clear: he throws harder than Doug Fister does, and he does it as a lefty. Just looking at his (terrible) starts, his FB was in the 91 range and he gets a lot more swings and misses than Fister with it. Of course, Fister was never about K’s, so it’s sort of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but, for what it’s worth, if Furbush cuts his HRs and/or walks, he’s a good MLB pitcher. We already know he’s a good AAA pitcher, and that’s helpful in itself, as the M’s don’t really have any of those at the moment.
I also have to say that I’m less dismissive of deceptive deliveries now than I was at the beginning of the year. I saw Josh Collmenter’s AAA debut against the Rainiers last year, and the over-the-top righty confused the Rainiers mightily with so-so stuff. The Rainiers got another crack at him late in the year and pounded him. As a result, I concurred with Keith Law’s view that Collmenter would regress hard and fast after his great start with Arizona, but instead, he’s maintained his Fisterian FIP/xFIP numbers. George Sherrill is another guy who’s made a decent living out of his deceptive left-handed delivery. He’s not a model of consistency, no, but he’s been effective for several years in and around bouts of ineffectiveness.

3: Fister’s defense-independent stats this year are great, and everyone’s talked about his velocity gain. But look at Fister’s pitch fx velocity chart here. You see an extraordinarily stable trend, with a big bump between late-May and mid-June of this year. I’m not sure what that velocity spike was all about, but it doesn’t seem to have stuck around. On May 30th, Fister averaged an astonishing (for him) 91 MPH on his two- and four-seam FBs, touching 94 MPH. It was such an odd result, I thought it couldn’t be real. But the Orioles starter, Jake Arrieta, looked normal. Fister backed it up in his next start by averaging 90+, touching 93. On June 9th, he faced Detroit and averaged over 91 MPH, and again hit 94 with his best FB. After that, his velocity got a bit more volatile, and he then settled in around his old 89 MPH average. The other day in the Bronx, for example, Fister’s average FB dipped below 89 MPH. On the year, he’s at 89, or exactly where he was in 2009. His 2010 looks anomalous for a number of reasons, and while it’s important to reiterate that Fister’s throwing a bit harder than he was last year, the difference is nowhere near what it was in mid-June. Fister apparently isn’t a guy who can throw 90-92 with regularity. I don’t know what happened there, but I’m glad he faced Detroit during that streak.
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Second USSM Podcast-y thing

July 30, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

Here you go as a straight mp3. Or let me just try the fancy embed…


  • GMs who have lost 100 games
  • Don’t believe the hype
  • 90 bajillion plus one
  • Getting to expansion
  • Sonics Night and parallels
  • I’d rather be watching Tony Hawk
  • Action for the sake of action
  • He who we wish would not be named
  • The Mariner-related product you would buy last
  • A word from our sponsors and two guys who can’t do ads
  • Griffey hat
  • Don’t stand near Ken Caminiti
  • Doe, a deer
  • We thank Frankie Rodriguez for his service to the team
  • The Wily Mo Pena Era
  • New Cheney

Comments from our second try at this: Marc sounds great. I sound way better than last time, but not as great as Marc. We gotta figure out levels. I don’t think our sponsor got value for their support. Technical-wise: this over Skype, Hijack Studio capturing the feeds, Garage Band to edit the track from that, final thing saved at 32vbr. I gotta get better at editing.

Suggestions welcomed.

Game 106, Rays at Mariners

July 30, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 46 Comments 

What a beautiful day to go see Pineda pitch.

Fister and Pauley traded

July 30, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 11 Comments 

The Mariners have announced that Doug Fister and David Pauley have been traded to the Tigers for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, third-base prospect Francisco Martinez, and a player to be named later. Apparently the key to this deal was making sure both sides got equal upside potential for juvenile humor out of the names on the roster.

In terms of the value the team got out of the trade, it’s not half bad. Fister is, of course, a steady starter under team control for several more years, which is valuable, and the deal shows that teams know better than to pay attention to pitcher win-loss records. But he’s being traded at the point of maximum return, considering that he seems to have reached a level of performance that’s about the most optimistic anybody could have projected for him. If he sustains it, good for him and Detroit. Anyone still mourning what Erik Bedard could have brought back if not for last night’s disaster, well, the haul wouldn’t have been nearly as substantial. Pauley is a lesser piece, but he’s also being dealt at pretty much the peak of his value, and keep in mind that he was signed as a minor league free agent.

Wells effectively takes Jack Cust’s roster spot as the front office rebalances bats and arms. Defensively, he’s a corner outfielder with a good arm and the ability to not embarrass himself in center. His bat is decent but not special, making him look tailor-made to be a platoon partner and defensive replacement for Mike Carp. If it also means Greg Halman can go back to AAA when Wily Mo Pena joins the team, great. Expect to see a lot more rotation of guys between the outfield and DH, as this gives Wedge more flexibility to give somebody a day off, use platoon advantages, play the hot hand, or whatever he wants to do. It’s not anything spectacular, but it’s also not blindly writing Peguero’s name in the lineup card day after day.

As a lefty, Furbush sort of explains the Aaron Laffey transaction after last night’s game. He could go back to being a starter, which he’s been in the minors. Perhaps one of the benefits of having put together the currently solid rotation can become breaking in potential future rotation arms in the bullpen, often considered the optimal development path for young pitchers.

Martinez is 20 and already at AA, so promising in that sense, and matches up with the most glaring positional need on the roster. He pretty much hits all the boxes Zduriencik needed to hit to look like he got the “right” prospect back in the trade. Now we watch and hope he develops. The PTBNL is supposed to be a “significant” player, and you can look and see that the Tigers’ top three picks from last year’s draft signed at the deadline and are not eligible to be traded until mid-August, so amateur sleuthing kind of hints in that direction. A supplemental or 2nd-round pick would be decent value, but it also means we’re talking about a straight-to-the-bullpen arm or somebody who’s still in A-ball.

Overall, there’s enough for both sides to feel like they got a fair trade. What may be interesting to consider is how similar the basic outline of the trade is to the structure of the Cliff Lee deal. You have a highly valuable starter (valuable for different reasons, but still valuable) packaged with a more modest bullpen arm in exchange for four players. Obviously, there are differences in terms of the upside and major-league-readiness of the guys coming back to make the trades look different, but when teams are falling into the roles of “buyers” and “sellers” at the trade deadline, they often follow common patterns to match up with their roles.

Aaron Laffey –> AAA, Dan Cortes –> Seattle

July 29, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 25 Comments 

Aaron Laffey had a bad game tonight. I mean, *really* bad. And, to make matters worse, the Mariners had company over. The Sonics tried to ignore it, and they changed the subject when they could, but Laffey had a legitimately bad game.

Afterwords, the M’s optioned him to Tacoma and brought up Dan Cortes, who’s been terrible in July (but better in the past week or two). I don’t know; there’s not a whole lot to say about this. Laffey’s not good, and the speculation that he’d get a velocity jump by moving to the pen full-time haven’t been borne out. He’s replacement level, or a bit above. But a move like this just looks odd.

If they demoted a player for having a bad game, the M’s wouldn’t have anyone left. If they brought someone up for a hot week in AAA, the M’s would’ve recalled Peguero, Mike Wilson and they would’ve brought Alex Liddi and Johan Limonta up in May. I don’t know what was said in the dugout, and I have to assume that something beyond “Laffey didn’t have his best stuff” is at work here, but the move just doesn’t make a lot of sense. I know they’re moving vets out to see if some of the younger guys can step up, but Laffey is 26.

Laffey isn’t a great pitcher, so it ultimately means nothing. But what would you say is the rationale here? What’s the process that drives a move like this? I like Dan Cortes, and if the rationale is something as simple as “we need to get Cortes working with Jaime Navarro again” then I can sort of see it. But at least initially, this is head scratcher.

Game 105, Rays at Mariners

July 29, 2011 · Filed Under Game Threads, Mariners · 80 Comments 

Bedard vs. Niemann, 7:10pm.

If this is Bedard’s last start in a Seattle uniform, I sincerely hope he goes out a winner. May you confuse and irritate a new set of beat writers, and may you win over that segment of another fanbase that isn’t given to musing about your motives and psychological make-up.

The M’s have been scouting the Detroit and Boston systems, but for now, I just hope the guy gets a nice ovation when his night is done.

The line-up:
1: Ichiro
2: Ryan
3: Ackley
4: Olivo
5: Carp
6: Smoak (DH)
7: Kennedy (1B)
8: Gutierrez
9: Figgins

Reliever Josh Lueke tweeted about today’s game, “Let’s keep this train rolling!” which is just adorable.
I'll miss you Erik.  Please get us a decent hitter.

Cust DFA’d, Langerhans traded for cash considerations

July 29, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 13 Comments 

Well, we’ve got a bit more information about how the M’s might use new designated hitter Wily Mo Pena.

The incumbent, Jack Cust, has been designated for assignment. This move allows Erik Bedard to retake his 25-man roster spot and pitch tonight in what’s widely seen as a trade showcase. Ryan Langerhans is suiting up for the Reno Aces tonight, the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate, meaning that the M’s essentially traded Langerhans (plus some cash) for Wily Mo Pena. With Saunders in CF, Peguero back in LF and a revolving cast of 1Bs, Langerhans didn’t really fit. He’s better right now than someone like Peguero or Tui, but that’s not important.

Pena will mostly likely join Tacoma tomorrow, though how long he stays in AAA is an open question. For now, the M’s may be back to using Adam Kennedy or Justin Smoak at DH. Shannon Drayer notes that the move also allows Blake Beavan to stay on the roster, which would help if the M’s decide to one of their starting pitchers before the trade deadline.
The great Mike Curto mentions that by keeping Beavan on the roster, they avoid burning one of his options. He hasn’t used one because he was only added to the 40 man when they brought him up to Seattle.

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