Game 131, White Sox at Mariners

August 27, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 13 Comments 

Pineda vs. Danks, 7:10pm.

OK, it’s time for everyone’s favorite internet time-waster, player A and player B!
Pitcher A, a lefty, has a FB in the 90-93 range, along with a cutter, a change and a curve.
In high A ball, he had a walk rate of 6.8% and a K rate of 22.6%.
In AA, he had a walk rate of 7.6% and a K rate of 22.6%.
In a half-season of AAA, he had a walk rate of 10.9% and a K rate of 23.2%, and in his first taste of the major leagues, he had a walk rate of 8.7% and a K rate of 17.5% on his way to a FIP of 5.5, which was 20% worse than the league average at the time.

Pitcher B is also a lefty, and has a FB in the 90-93 range, with a slider, a curve and the occasional change-up.
In high A ball, he had a walk rate of 5.5% and a K rate of 25.3%
In AAA (he only had a cup of coffee in AA), he had a walk rate of 7.5% and a K rate of 23.1%, and in HIS first action in the AL, he’s got a walk rate of 9.6% and a K rate of 16.3% with a FIP of 5.1, or 30% worse than league average.

On the whole, pitcher A had a better entry into the majors, but had a worse MiLB performance record. Pitcher A is older, lost time due to injury, and has suffered through a homer problem in his first go-round in the majors.

Pitcher A is tonight’s starter for the White Sox, John Danks, who came up in the Rangers system before moving to the White Sox (in exchange for current A’s pitcher and twitter genius Brandon McCarthy). Pitcher B is last night’s M’s starter Charlie Furbush. Yes, you can object on several dozen legitimate grounds here- Furbush was much older (as a college guy) as opposed to Danks. Danks certainly had better mechanics, and avoided injury while Furbush had Tommy John surgery, sat out a while, then re-entered in high-A. Is this perfect? No, it’s not.

But I think it’s funny that Danks is now Mr. Consistency, with an ERA between 3-4 every year since 2008, whereas Furbush is one of the more inconsistent pitchers in the league over the past few months. Sure, some of that is Furbush’s delivery and his fly-ball nature – walks and HRs are going to make a guy look inconsistent. But I still think Danks gives a glimpse to what the M’s hope Furbush COULD be someday. Danks isn’t an ace by any stretch, but he’s a solid, durable, above-average starter. If Furbush becomes a poor man’s Danks, I think we’d all take that in a heartbeat.

Michael Pineda’s far, far better than either guy, but he’s slowing down a bit as the year goes on – his HR rate’s up and his K rate’s down slightly. Still, one of the big worries about Pineda was his platoon splits – given that he’s a FB/Slider guy almost exclusively, many worried that he’d be death on a stick to righties but get hit hard by lefties. His first start against Texas seemed to confirm that. But as we near September, his FIPs against lefties/righties, are virtually identical: 3.53 and 3.50. He’s struck out fewer lefties, but he’s walked fewer too. The HR rate is slightly better against lefties, but not significantly. I’d still like to see him work on the change, but it’s nice to see that his repertoire hasn’t led to terrible performance against lefties. Stamina’s still a work in progress, but you can’t ask for too much more than what Pineda’s given us this year.

The line-up:
1: Ichiro
2: Gutierrez
3: Ackley
4: Carp
5: Olivo
6: Wells
7: Pena
8: Seager
9: Ryan

Game 130, White Sox at Mariners

August 26, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 26 Comments 

Furbush vs. Peavy, 7:10pm

The essentially killed off one AL Central contender with their series win in Cleveland, and now the division’s other moribund team comes to town. The White Sox playoff odds aren’t good, but they’re also not zero – and so they put in a waiver claim on the Twins’ Jason Kubel, though they haven’t yet worked out a deal for him. The Indians, undaunted by the beating the M’s put on them, picked up Jim Thome on waivers from the Indians yesterday.

This is actually one of the crueler things about a close race between mediocre teams. It’s anyone’s race! It’s there for the taking! They can gloss over the fact that they’re terrible – the other team’s not exactly the 1927 Yankees, so forget rebuilding, let’s go for it! That’s led to some trades that will likely backfire (Ubaldo Jimenez) and the bizarre split personality of the Tigers/White Sox, who’ve given up players, then scrambled to find replacements.

I get it; the M’s went through this not so long ago when they found themselves in the thick of the 2007 divisional race. The team desperately needed an upgrade, and ended up trading Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for a talking head and a folk-rock crooner. At the time, many loved the deals, and while we all hate how they turned out, I think most people would give up quite a lot to believe that the team is committed to winning now. That actually creates some odd incentives, though I have to admit that being overly cautious is not a great solution.

I guess my real point is: can you believe the White Sox were contenders? Really? They started off 11-22, and have slowly edged up towards .500 despite the fact that they’ve got the worst player in baseball in the heart of the line-up, and the third-worst player attempts to cover CF for them. Yes, yes, the M’s had two of the worst hitters in baseball in their line-up, but 1) at least they could play credible defense, 2) the M’s weren’t paying $24.5m for their bad players, and don’t owe them another $82 million between 2012-2015, and 3) the M’s aren’t contenders.

Jake Peavy, tonight’s starter, makes more than Rios OR Dunn this year. At least he’s been decent when not on the disabled list; his 3.11 FIP’s been worth 2.5fWAR this season. A terrible strand rate makes his RA look bad, especially next to what they’re paying him, but he’s still a guy with good command and an ability to miss bats. In San Diego, Peavy featured an above-average FB and a sharp slider, then worked in a change and a curve a bit. Now, he’s got a cutter in between his FB and slider, though with his FB velocity down, he’s not missing a ton of bats with either the FB or the cutter. Given his arsenal, it’s perhaps not surprising that he’s got some fairly sizable platoon splits – shutting down righties, while being merely good against lefties in his career. The M’s are suddenly able to roll out a credible line-up full of lefty bats, so this is perhaps a better match-up than it would’ve been a month or two ago, but then every game was a terrible match-up for the M’s in June-July. That said, the M’s haven’t really tried to maximize every platoon advantage. We’ve seen Casper Wells in the line-up against righties, and today we’ll see Wily Mo Pena. Perhaps part of this is that they can’t use a lefty DH with Smoak’s injury, but I think the M’s seem committed to getting a look at a lot of the new guys – they don’t want to presume that they’re platoon guys. That’s admirable, but I’m still looking forward to the flexibility this line-up should have once everyone’s healthy. It also reinforces the idea that the standard 7-man bullpen is the new market inefficiency.

The line-up:
1: Ichiro (RF)
2: Gutierrez (CF)
3: Ackley (2B)
4: Carp (1B)
5: Olivo (C)
6: Seager (3B)
7: Pena (Crush fastball)
8: Ryan (SS)
9: Robinson (LF)

Rainiers Game Thread

August 25, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 2 Comments 

With the M’s off tonight, the minor league affiliates are doing all they can to fill the breach. First off, the Rainiers face Colorado Springs at 5:05 with RHP Erasmo Ramirez getting the start. It’s on 850 AM radio or on-line here. Mike Saunders, Alex Liddi and Mike Wilson prepare for their September 1st call-up against RHP Clayton Mortensen, who, like the R’s Luke French, has absolutely cratered this year after a solid 2010 campaign. (Mortensen will console himself with the fact that he was not altogether awful for the Rockies in 58 innings, whereas French was DFA’d/outrighted). I was never a huge fan of Mortensen’s stuff, but an RA of 10 over 12 starts?

AA Jackson’s in Mobile to face the Bay Bears (I’d mock that, but as Jackson was the ‘Diamond Jaxx’ until this year, I don’t really feel like I can snicker at other affiliates’ team names) with Yoervis Medina taking on the D’Backs first round pick and big-time pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. Bauer has 33 Ks against 8 walks in 19 MiLB innings and there’s been some talk of the Diamondbacks promoting him to the majors for the stretch run.

Perhaps the best option of the night is heading up to Everett to watch Jose Campos take on Yakima. Campos has probably been the team’s MVP this year, and they’re giving Jose quite a send off in his last start for the team – a version of the King’s Court. Get seats in Section A and you get a Campos Court t-shirt and a “K” sign with Jose’s face on it. It’s also their $2 beer/hot dog night. While it’s not the most original idea around, I’m still encouraged by it. I was initially encouraged by the success of King’s Court in that it offered fans a way to cheer for the team beyond obeying giant scoreboard commands. If that spreads to the minors, it could be really fun. If you go to a game and want to yell and chant, there you go. If you don’t, you’ll know where to sit, and even if you can still hear the loud section, well, it’s got to be preferable to a myriad drunken “woooooo!” and “yeaahhh!” screams on $2 beer nights.

Series Wrap Odds and Ends

August 24, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 13 Comments 

1: The Mariners scored 29 runs in their 3-1 series win against Cleveland. They scored 26 in their first 14 games of July. They scored 9 runs for the 3rd time today, and have 6 games with at least 9 runs. They’ve come against Cleveland, Detroit (twice), New York and Tampa. Meanwhile, they’ve been shut down by the likes of Bruce Chen, Jason Marquis, Sean O’Sullivan and Brian Matusz.

2: The offense was led by Kyle Seager, Trayvon Robinson, and Wily Mo Pena, and the Rainiers pounded out 12 runs to get a win for Anthony Vasquez, a guy throwing 83-85 MPH. I’m still trying to get my head around Vasquez’s win; as many of you talked about in the game thread, the pitch fx/gameday algorithm was confused by Vasquez’s “fast”ball and labeled over 70% of his pitches as change-ups.
I’ve tried to go through and classify his pitches and I come up with 37 change-ups, 27 two-seam fastballs, 26 four-seam fastballs, 7 curve balls and one…something (maybe a cutter, maybe a four-seamer). Assuming my classification is close-ish to accurate (and that’s a big assumption), Vasquez’s stuff is pretty remarkable. No, those 81 MPH pitches weren’t change-ups – his change-up averaged a staggering 72.7 MPH. The pitches in the low-80s were mostly two-seam fastballs, and they averaged 82 MPH. Both the two-seamer and change had very nice arm-side run, but I can’t get over those velocity numbers. His four-seamer came in at a comparatively blistering 85.4 MPH which is, somewhat improbably, faster than the Royals Jeff Francis (who beat the M’s in KC back in April). His curve ball came in 67.6 MPH, much slower than the knuckleballs of RA Dickey or Charlie Haeger, and even slower than Francis’ slow yakker.
We’ve all been talking about comparisons for Vasquez – Jason Vargas is perhaps the most common. In terms of his arsenal and overall velocity, the closest match *might* be Livan Hernandez. The aged wonder in DC has an 83-84 MPH fastball and a curve under 68 MPH. He throws a change-up as well, but it’s much, much faster than Vasquez’s at 77 MPH. If Vasquez wants to work in an eephus pitch every now and again, I wouldn’t object.
His most remarkable (and successful) pitch was his change-up. It got 6 whiffs, which isn’t bad. It also appears to be the slowest change-up in the league, behind RA Dickey’s (this is based on the Fangraphs leaderboard, which I believe comes from BIS data – I’m comparing my own classification of pitch fx data to BIS’s classifications, so take this with several grains of salt). It’s slower than Jamie Moyer’s. It’s not a great pitch, but it’s so different, I almost have to love it. A guy with a low-mid 80s fastball appears to throw a change-up that occasionally hits the high 60s. We talk about Justin Verlander’s confidence in throwing a bunch of fastballs in a row to blow away a hitter, but how much “confidence” does it take to blow 100 MPH heat past someone? Think about Vasquez throwing a low-70s pitch that is separated from a random JV high-school pitch solely by how well he disguises it from his varsity high-school fastball. That’s confidence. I’m not sure I want to see a whole lot more of it, but I’m glad that game happened.

3: The Rainiers ended their 8-game losing streak with a 9-3 win at Colorado Springs. Michael Saunders and Mike Wilson homered for Tacoma. Alex Liddi is again scuffling after a hot start to the month. He’s now struck out 3 times in 3 of his last 5 games, and he has 10 Ks total in that stretch. His slash numbers are still OK, but he’s got 160 Ks thus far. I’d still like to see him get some ABs in September, but I’m really glad Seager’s starting to look comfortable. Liddi’s got talent, but he’s got plenty of work to do. Meanwhile, Mike Saunders now has an OPS over 1.000 since early July. I still think he’s probably playing for a contract somewhere else, but after all he’s been through, I’m rooting for him.

4: The M’s are off tomorrow, as they fly home to prepare for the White Sox on Friday. With the Indians getting swept by Detroit and then losing three of four to Seattle, the White Sox slipped into 2nd in the division and had playoff odds around 15% as recently as the 22nd. A walk-off loss and then a shut-out tonight has left them reeling – their playoff odds have been halved, and the M’s can pretty much eliminate them over the weekend. I still find it fascinating that the White Sox were contending at all; their DH has been worth two wins below replacement level, and their CF has cost them another. It’s conceivable that Omar Vizquel could post a better on-base percentage than either – the same Omar Vizquel who posted a .273 OBP for the M’s in 1989.

5: Greg Johns reports that the M’s are considering going with a six-man rotation. This arrangement would limit the innings of Pineda, Vargas and Felix, and allow Vasquez to get a few more starts in September. I’d love to see the M’s experiment with this; all of baseball seems to have decided that a 5-man rotation is optimal, and I’m not sure that that’s always the case – particularly with the M’s, who might find that some of their more marginal starters look a lot better with some extra rest. I know they’re not looking at it for next season at this point, but think about how it might allow them to exploit their depth at SP – they could work in Paxton/Hultzen slowly and manage the innings of Pineda as well, and they wouldn’t necessarily need to give Felix fewer starts to do it. A bit of creativity could pay some dividends next year. Yes, this would cost them a bullpen spot, but given the utility of the 7th man in the ‘pen, particularly given Wedge’s usage patterns, it seems like an easy trade.

Game 129, Mariners at Indians

August 24, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 52 Comments 

Felix vs. Tomlin, 9:05am (!)

Wake up! A very happy Felix Morning to you. Between the double header, the ROOT Sports replays, and a 9am game today, I feel like the Mariners have been playing Cleveland non-stop for 3 days.

* Obviously, the focus was on Kyle Seager and Trayvon Robinson, who had brilliant days for the M’s – both rookies had 3 extra-base hits and 6 hits each, with Seager notching his 2nd MLB home run. It’s amazing how much better Seager looks since his initial call-up. His swing suddenly looks capable of driving a ball into a gap, instead of being engineered to dunk singles just over infielders’ heads.

* Today, the Indians have to adjust from a guy with a change-up in the low 70s to a guy with a change-up in the low 90s.

* The M’s face Josh Tomlin, who’s sporting a walk rate of 3.1%, the best in the league. It’s like We’ve all been given a second chance to watch/appreciate Bob Tewksbury.

The line-up:
1: Ichiro
2: Ryan
3: Ackley
4: Carp
5: Wells
6: Olivo
7: Seager
8: Pena
9: Robinson (CF)

Gutierrez gets an off day, and so Trayvon Robinson gets another chance to show what he can do in center field.

Games 127 and 128: Mariners at Indians in Day/Night Double-Header

August 23, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 102 Comments 

Beavan vs. Masterson, 10:05am; Vasquez vs. McAllister, 4:05

As a day/night double-header is something of a throwback to a much earlier era, the M’s get into the spirit by starting two pitchers who seem like they were transported from the 60s-80s. Strikeouts? Please, this is the major leagues, not your uncoordinated kid’s little league. The object of the game is inducing contact to your slick-fielding, no-hit SS (check, yesterday excepted) and your slick-fielding no-hit CF (check) before turning the ball over to a mustachioed reliever (Lueke could pull this off).

Justin Masterson seems really out of place in this pitching foursome. He’s got a FIP under 3, an above-average FB, and great ground-ball rates. Compared to Beavan/Vasquez, Masterson’s K-rate looks like Randy Johnson. Still, Masterson allows more contact than league average and gets fewer swinging strikes.

Game 1 line-up:
1: Ichiro
2: Gutierrez
3: Ackley
4: Carp
5: Wells
6: Kennedy
7: Olivo
8: Seager
9: Robinson

Game 2 line-up:
1: Ichiro
2: Gutierrez
3: Ackley
4: Carp
5: Pena
6: Seager
7: Ryan
8: Bard
9: Robinson

Still waiting on the roster move needed to active Vasquez… Cortes to the disabled list with his ankle injury from Game 1, and Matt Mangini released to open up a slot on the 40-man roster.

Anthony Vasquez: MLB Starting Pitcher?

August 22, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 5 Comments 

In 2006, it was Jake Woods. In 2007/8, it was Ryan Feierabend. In 2009, it was Doug Fister. In 2010, it was Chris Seddon. This year? It’s Anthony Vasquez, who will make his MLB debut in the nightcap of tomorrow’s double-header.

I don’t mean to rubbish Vasquez before he’s had a shot, but he’s the next in a long line of pitchers who’ve put up much better minor league results than their peripherals would indicate. Some of these guys fared a lot better than others; this isn’t a kiss of death, it’s a head-tilt of confusion. None of them had above-average K rates, and while many had better-than-average walk rates, only Fister’s really stood out as exceptional. Most are left-handed, and none of them had average velocity. I’m sure each scouting report would’ve prominently featured “pitchability” or something equally vague like “really competes out there.”

Again, I don’t mean to mock Vasquez or the hypothetical scouting reports I just made up. I just have no idea how he’s done what he’s done. The thing that links all of these pitchers is the fact that they’ve put up very good minor league ERAs despite their lack of Ks, velocity, and hype. Is this results-based analysis (or at least results-based MLB comparisons)? Yes, it is. Vasquez is simply the latest anomaly in a long line of (mostly) soft-tossing lefties the M’s have developed.

I saw him in July against a decent Reno line-up, and he sat 84-86 with his fastball with a change-up in the 70s and a slow curve in the high 60s. I’ve seen several scouting reports that talk about better velocity than that, but at least on this day, he was Jason Vargas with a curve instead of a slider. He got some swings and misses with his change, but he also struggled with his command and ended the game with 4 walks and 4 Ks. He came in with a reputation as something of a ground-ball pitcher, but he was basically even that day, and would’ve had more air outs if the Rainiers could catch (it was an ugly, ugly game). And yet, he’d shut the Aces out through 6 and he was charged with 2 runs that scored after he left in the 7th. I don’t want to make too much out of a single game, but it seems like a microcosm of Vasquez’s season: the only good thing I could say about each inning was that he (somehow) hadn’t given up a run. But he’s been piling up ugly scoreless innings for over two years now.

Vasquez has a tRA of 5.32 in Tacoma, a FIP of ~4.5 or 5.2, depending on which source you check, and an ERA of 3.21 in the lunar PCL. He gets fewer swinging strikes than Chris Seddon, and is neck-and-neck with the remarkably whiff-averse Blake Beavan. His GB rate is similar too – around 40%. None of this hurt Beavan in his first month or two in MLB, just as it didn’t hurt Fister in 2010 or Woods in 2006.

What it means long term isn’t clear either. Fister was acquired at the deadline by a contender and has been a very solid pitcher for 2 full seasons. Woods/Feierabend/Seddon turned into pumpkins, sure, but Jon Garland’s a multi-millionaire. Is there something to “pitchability” or “competitiveness” that can overcome the weight of fielding-independent stats? I hope so. I look at what Fister’s accomplished, or how good Beavan looks in a game in which he K’s 2 of 31 batters he faces, and I really want to understand that. BABIP theory offers a very handy explanation, and it’s probably right, but then I notice that Vasquez hasn’t struggled at any point in his MiLB career (in marked contrast to guys like Fister, Beavan, and Woods) and I wonder if it’s enough. I’m still not ready to love again, not after Bobby Livingston broke my heart, but I do hope Vasquez makes a few Indians hitters look silly on slow breaking balls tomorrow and that he piles up Zito-at-his-peak levels of infield pop-ups.

Game 126 – Mariners at Indians

August 22, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 31 Comments 

Vargas vs. Carmona, 4:05pm

After another painful loss to complete a painful sweep, the M’s head to Cleveland to face a reeling Indians team. The Tribe were just swept by Detroit and are now 4.5 games back in the AL Central. When they traded for Ubaldo Jimenez, they were a game over .500 in a mediocre division (no team had a positive run differential at the deadline) and only 2.5 games back. They’ve since gone 9-9 and fallen further behind as Jimenez has yielded 21 runs in 21 innings with Cleveland.

Fausto Carmona’s K:BB ratio has improved this year, but he’s still nowhere near the pitcher he was in 2007. The problem this year has been home runs, as he’s already given up more this year than he did in over 210 innings last year. HIs ground ball rate is very good, he’s limited the free passes after losing all sense of the strike zone in 2009, and he doesn’t have bad platoon splits. And yet he’s got an RA of over 5.5 and an rWAR of -0.9 (his fWAR is 0.7). Carmona’s essentially a walking embodiment of pitcher inconsistency: since 2007, he’s had one great season (6.6 rWAR), one average one (2.0 rWAR), and three below-replacement seasons.

Jason Vargas has followed up a frustrating July, when he had a Carmona-esque HR problem despite a good K:BB with an unambiguously terrible August. His fastball velocity is down a bit in August compared to where it was from April through June, but not enough to worry about. His big problem has been his change-up. From April-June, he got whiffs on over 15% of them, but in August, that’s down to 6%. It appears that it’s moving differently too – whereas his change used to sink by more than 4 inches compared to his 2-seam FB or 5 inches compared to his 4-seamer, the gap is down to 1 inch compared to his 2 seamer and a bit less than 2 inches compared to his 4 seamer. The gap in velocity’s down as well. All told, it’s gone from a plus pitch to a questionable one, though it may still be the best pitch in his arsenal.

Today’s Line-up:
1: Ichiro
2: Gutierrez
3: Ackley
4: Carp
5: Wells
6: Kennedy
7: Olivo
8: Ryan (woooo)
9: Robinson

The Rainiers look to avoid a sweep in Reno tonight with Anthony Vasquez on the hill. Losing the first three have pretty much ended any hope of a Rainiers playoff run, but this will still be an interesting few weeks for Vasquez and Erasmo Ramirez.
Instead of using Vasquez to bolster the Rainiers increasingly quixotic playoff push, the M’s have called him up and he’ll pitch tomorrow night. No word on the corresponding roster move yet.

Other starters tonight include Tony Butler for Clinton, Kenn Kasparek for Jackson and Cameron Hobson for Everett.

Minor League Wrap (8/15-21/11)

August 22, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 4 Comments 

No intro this week, except you should know that there will only be two more wraps after this and in the next one I’ll probably go over the DSL affiliate, which narrowly made it into the playoffs in spite of some late season incompetence.

To the jump!
Read more

The Third Base Problem

August 22, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 61 Comments 

A few months ago, the M’s off-season priorities seemed pretty obvious – the team was devoid of interesting left field options, and they needed to at least get a competent DH to help stimulate the offense. Since then, however, they’ve acquired Casper Wells and Trayvon Robinson and Mike Carp has shown enough power to at least be considered in the mix for playing time at 1B/DH next year. What were total organizational holes are now more question marks, where the team could make a case that it’s worth investing playing time in guys like Wells and Carp to see if they can find reasonably productive players who make no money, which would let them allocate their resources elsewhere when looking to upgrade the roster.

If the team decided to go that direction, that would leave third base and catcher as the glaring organizational holes, and the likely spots to target for upgrades this winter. The problem with trying to upgrade at catcher is two-fold, however – the organization already is paying Miguel Olivo $3.5 million next year, and they seem to actually like what he brings to the table. There’s also the fact that there are no good hitting catchers that are likely to be available, and it’s tough to see the M’s investing significant money on a non-impact guy to make Olivo a back-up. They might spend a few million to get another veteran to split time with him, but I doubt we’ll see Olivo forced into a strict backup role.

So, that leaves third base as the position where the team could focus their resources on improving. Chone Figgins is basically out of the picture at this point, having performed so poorly that I doubt anyone really wants to see him report to Peoria next spring. Kyle Seager still profiles more as a utility infielder than an everyday guy, and is certainly not going to be the kind of thumping big bat that the organization would like to add to the line-up. Alex Liddi has some power but isn’t really a Major League player at this point (and might not ever be), and after that, there just isn’t really anyone internally that the organization could point to and say that he’s the third baseman of the future.

So, despite the Figgins flop, it seems like the team may be in a position to spend some money to get an established third baseman this winter. The problem – I have no idea who they’d actually go after. Look at the list of the best third baseman in baseball this year – it’s not a very pretty sight. Kevin Youkilis is headed into the final year of his contract, probably can’t play 3B much longer, and there’s no reason for Boston to trade him. Pablo Sandoval is the Giants only decent hitter. Adrian Beltre just signed a huge contract with the Rangers. A-Rod? Longoria? Zimmerman? Not happening.

League wide, the third base position is just in a funk. There aren’t many good young 3Bs coming up, and the ones that have established themselves as quality players aren’t available. The 3B market this winter is basically going to be an aging Aramis Ramirez (if the Cubs don’t pick up his option) and a bunch of guys who wouldn’t make a difference.

So, the M’s have a hole that won’t be easy to fill. If they’re going to upgrade at third base this winter, they’re going to have to be creative. And if they decide not to upgrade at third base, but instead decide to stay in house, it’s tough to see exactly where they would spend the money they’ll have available.

All of the sudden, what was a pretty obvious off-season plan is now kind of murky. I don’t envy Jack Z.

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