Reshaping the Roster

Dave · May 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

We’re getting towards the end of May, the team has lost four straight games, and after six weeks of watching the old guys mostly struggle, the club isn’t that far away from the annual roster overhaul. It’s become a yearly tradition – they should actually make a promotion out of it, playing off the Mariner theme to have the embattled veterans actually walk a physical plank. Can you imagine what attendance would be like if the Mariners announced that next week you’d get to see the release of Chone Figgins made official by having him walk down a plank and into a pool full of alligators? Safeco would be sold out in an instant.

But, alas, we’re not going to get to see anything that dramatic, and instead, the roster changes will be announced with a press release including some quotes from Jack Z about how the team is “committing to the youth movement” and are “excited to see what our home grown products can do”. Maybe they’ll wait until the end of the month, maybe they won’t, but the roster turnover is inevitable at this point. The team has already started putting the wheels in motion, moving a couple of arms to Tacoma to set them up for big league spots in the near future.

The first domino in the chain of moves will be the return of Miguel Olivo, which sounds like it is about a week away. He’s going to join the team in Colorado this weekend, then go out for what has been described as a “short rehab” assignment, so I’d guess he’ll get 2-3 days in Tacoma before they activate him. His return will mean that a position player has to go, and since they used his injury to bring back Mike Carp, it’s going to be someone who started the year on the club.

In reality, there’s two obvious candidates – Casper Wells and Chone Figgins. Eric Wedge showed today that he’s willing to use Liddi as a right-handed option in left field, which essentially duplicates Wells skillset and pushes him out of a job if that becomes a more regular occurrence. Wells, though, is at an age where more time in Triple-A isn’t all that likely to do him any good, and if you’re going young, he’s worth keeping around since he theoretically provides some long term potential. Figgins is the guy without a job on this team anymore, with no future in the organization, and with no remaining chance of establishing any value. When Olivo returns, Figgins should be the one to go. Signing him made sense, but it didn’t work, and it’s just time to cut bait and let him try to salvage the remainder of his career somewhere else.

Now, I know some of you will argue that if the team is tossing the useless old guys overboard, Olivo probably should just join Figgins on his way out of town. But, unlike Figgins, there actually is a role for Olivo on this roster. While we can all hope and pray that Wedge has noticed that John Jaso is actually a decent hitter against right-handers, he’s useless against lefties, and the team doesn’t have many better options against lefties behind the plate.

While Montero and Jaso should still split a good chunk of playing time behind the plate the rest of the year, having Olivo around to play against left-handers and pinch hit for Jaso isn’t the worst use of a roster spot. Ideally, the roster adjustments will lead to Wedge acknowledging that Olivo shouldn’t be the “starting catcher” anymore, but if he gets back into the habit of playing him behind the plate most everyday, then I’ll advocate for Jack to just take away his favorite toy in order to force him to use Jaso more often, but there’s room for all three guys on the roster if they’re utilized correctly.

So, Olivo in and Figgins out. Not much of a youth movement, eh? Well, the reality is that the Mariners don’t have much in the way of interesting position player prospects down in Tacoma, especially with Vinne Catricala forgetting to how to hit a baseball. The offense is already pretty young anyway, so you probably won’t see many changes to the position players. On the pitching side, though, there are more moves to be made.

Let’s start in the rotation. Forget about Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker for now. They’re all talented kids, but they’re all also having some ups and downs in Double-A, and there’s simply no reason to rush any of them to the big leagues prematurely. All of them could use another couple of months in the minors, and Walker could probably benefit from not seeing Seattle until 2013. So, while there are almost certainly some pitching changes coming soon, they probably won’t involve any of those three.

Instead, the two arms that I’d expect to see on the roster sooner than later are Erasmo Ramirez and Stephen Pryor. Ramirez, you know about, since he spent the first month of the season functioning in long relief. They sent him back to Tacoma to get him stretched back out to start, and he’s done his usual thing for the Rainiers, throwing strikes and getting ground balls. He’s first in line for a promotion, and would likely be the guy to replace Kevin Millwood or Blake Beavan in the rotation if the team decides to cut bait on the 37-year-old or shift Beavan to the bullpen.

Millwood’s pitched better than his ERA would indicate, but he’s starting in Colorado tomorrow, and that could ugly enough that he might very well end the month of May with an ERA over 6.00. There’s obviously not much upside there, and while the team might like having a veteran in the rotation, they’re itching to see what Ramirez can do as a big league starter, so it might be easier to release Millwood than shift Beavan into relief work.

What happens over the next week or two with those two could determine who stays or who goes, but it’s pretty likely that one of them will not be in the rotation come the beginning of June, and Ramirez will almost certainly be the one tabbed to take their place. If they did decide to move Beavan back to the bullpen, the reliever to head back to Tacoma would probably be Steve Delebar. His K/BB ratio has been fantastic, but he gave up his sixth home run of the season today, and given how reliant he is on his fastball, it’s pretty clear that opposing hitters are just sitting on that pitch right. Some time in Tacoma to work on his slider could do him some good, and moving Beavan back to relief would allow them to shift Shawn Kelley into the setup role and give them another multi-inning reliever besides Hisashi “I’m only used as a last possible resort despite the fact that I’m actually pretty good” Iwakuma.

If they went with releasing Millwood instead, Delebar might still end up back in Tacoma, as the team is going to have to send someone down in order to call up Stephen Pryor, and he’s essentially forcing their hand right now. They moved him up to Tacoma after he proved too good for Double-A hitters, and he’s now just making Triple-A hitters look silly. He got two more strikeouts tonight in saving a one run game against Omaha, and he’s now given up just five baserunners (two hits and three walks) in seven innings pitched for Tacoma, striking out 11 of the 25 batters he’s faced. His stuff is top-shelf, with a fastball in the high-90s and a knockout slider, and he’s ready to face big league hitters right now.

Pryor could get his feet wet in middle relief, but there’s a decent chance that he could be causing a mini-closer controversy at the end of the year. Tom Wilhelmsen is obviously next in line for saves, but Pryor’s actually got better stuff and might be better suited to the ninth inning role. This might sound ridiculous, but Pryor could probably close for half the teams in the Major Leagues right now – his stuff is that good.

Speaking of closers in a post that talks about roster changes, that brings us to Brandon League. I had hoped the M’s would move him before he had a performance like the one he tossed up there today, but unfortunately, they kept him around long enough to have a pretty noticeable metldown. And now, they’re kinda stuck with him for a bit, as they’re going to need him to string together some dominant performances so that they’re not marketing a guy with a 10/10 K/BB ratio and a career low ground ball rate as some other team’s bullpen savior. So, now, League’s probably here for a while, or at least until he straightens himself out and starts pitching like someone another team would want to trust their ninth inning leads to again.

Okay, so, Olivo/Ramirez/Pryor – maybe it’s not the massive influx of youth you were expecting. But, I’d expect that we’ll see some moves to get all three of these guys on the roster in the not too distant future.


36 Responses to “Reshaping the Roster”

  1. 92-93 on May 17th, 2012 9:10 pm

    Would the Mariners really eat the remaining 15m or so on Figgins contract? He can replace Vizquel on my Jays, that’s for sure.

  2. Ibuprofen on May 17th, 2012 9:12 pm

    Great overview of the current and immediate roster situation, Dave. Any thoughts on Carraway’s chances of making it onto the big league club relatively soon?

  3. The_Waco_Kid on May 17th, 2012 9:15 pm

    If we don’t start hitting better than last year, we may be subjected to more Carlos Peguero.

  4. sjudy on May 17th, 2012 9:35 pm

    What about the #2 hitter? If it’s not Jaso, can we agree that we are in a world of hurt?
    And please, no more Peguero. We don’t need Willy Mo Pena, the left handed version, again.

  5. Dave on May 17th, 2012 9:38 pm

    This isn’t a thread about the batting order. The batting order doesn’t matter.

  6. Rick L on May 17th, 2012 9:39 pm

    Since Carp clearly wasn’t ready to be brought up from his rehab stint, is there any possibility to move him back down to Tacoma?

    Wells is a better fielder than Carp, and right now, he is hitting better. Meanwhile, Jimenez is slugging .995 with over a .300 batting average. IT would be nice to have a DH who can actually H.

  7. Westside guy on May 17th, 2012 9:59 pm

    I’m wondering if there’s still something wrong with Carp. His average and BABIP are absurdly low, as was the case in Tacoma. I know that could be random chance; but, coming off a rehab stint, and knowing how Wedge values “real men” with all that entails, and knowing how these guys tend to think anyway…
    trying to play through pain and injury wouldn’t surprise me.

    In any case – I am looking forward to seeing Stephen Pryor with the big club!

  8. Corey on May 17th, 2012 10:01 pm

    It’s actually “Delabar” and not “Delebar”, Dave.

    Sorry for the semantic correction post.

  9. Jake on May 17th, 2012 10:06 pm

    Carp is out of options..he’d have to clear waivers first; so he’s not a candidate to be sent down.

  10. Leroy Stanton on May 17th, 2012 10:14 pm

    Good post, Dave. I’m very excited to see Pryor. Also, you showed an admirable level of restraint at 9:38 this evening.

  11. Westside guy on May 17th, 2012 10:17 pm

    NL club might be willing to trade for League. After all, they don’t have to worry about him facing Cleveland…

  12. hoiland on May 17th, 2012 10:19 pm

    Will the big 3 be promoted to AAA soon if the bigs is months away?

    I really hope Ramirez gets a solid chance, not an Iwakuma chance.

  13. GripS on May 17th, 2012 10:38 pm

    League is not a true closer. He has been lucky in the past. You can’t put runners on just about every save situation and expect to come away with a win. Hopefully he gets a couple more save opportunities and shows he can get it done. However, I think other clubs will be smart and decline to give up anything of real value to get him.

  14. tylerv on May 17th, 2012 10:47 pm

    The hair pulling in some places (ST) is amazing to me. Yeah, they aren’t clicking right now, but the talent in the org is there to go in the right direction. No massive influx this year, but there’s plenty of interesting young players to track rather than watching “veterans” wind down.

  15. bookbook on May 17th, 2012 10:53 pm

    I, too, hope Ramirez gets a real chance. I also hope Carraway gets some opportunities to establish himself before the impending arrival of Hultzen/Paxton/Walker sucks all of the oxygen out of the room.

    Felix/Vargas/Noesi/Ramirez/Carraway would be my druthers starting within the next month or so, even if Noesi, Ramirez, and Carraway are really just in a three-way competition to be the fifth starter, longterm.

  16. make_dave_proud on May 17th, 2012 11:15 pm

    Wow, the Mariners are really in dire straits. There just aren’t enough major-league caliber players to go around this organization. For all the talk about the big 3 down in Jackson, this team needs more talent in the other 8 positions.

    It really makes me wonder why the team would consider moving anyone around — really, what’s the point? The team just isn’t going to get appreciably better in any combination. Cut Figgins, move Carp around, Beaven to bullpen, whatever — the net effect is similar to Titanic deck chairs.

    The part where JZ explains that his job is just trying to improve the club every day is hollow at this point. He needs to actually, meaningfully, improve the club. This is not because League blew a save today or Felix had a bad outing — it’s serious. This team is bad, and is either not improving or doing so at a negligible pace. Can someone, anyone, show some improvement? Or at least some consistency at a major league level?

    It’s one thing when statistical analysis finds gaps, but the Mariners are statistically irrelevant right now. For all of Wedge’s faults, he’s not the worst problem with this team.

    Cut players, give them tenure, whatever — not sure it matters.

  17. PackBob on May 17th, 2012 11:39 pm

    I’ve been anything but a fan of Olivo, not subscribing to the idea that a few home runs equals a good hitter, but if he is someone that Montero feels good in having around to lean on, I’m all for Olivo getting his share of catching. Montero looks like he needs a father figure, or some such thing, and Grandpa Olivo may just fit the bill.

    Just how young the team is has seemed more apparent every day with the mistakes and inability to do what’s needed to win. It may simply take some time for the young guys to adjust to MLB. Look at Randy Johnson in his early Mariner years. It’s a mistake to think that because the Mariners have young talent that they are suddenly going to be good.

    The changes Dave mentions make sense, and I would not be surprised if they had all been discussed to some degree by the team very early in the year, even in spring training. The only things that don’t make much sense are what appear to be Wedge’s idiosyncratic dislike of some players such as Jaso and Iwakuma.

  18. Adam B. on May 17th, 2012 11:46 pm

    This might be the most depressing year since Zduriencik took over.

    All of the major “youth movement” moves have been made to the offense, and while it’s unreasonable to expect marked and immediate improvement, it’s depressing to watch the kind of baseball the M’s have been playing.

    There’s nothing imminent to look forward to on the farm, and the major-league product isn’t exactly compelling either. Even the trade deadline looks pretty bleak with only Jason Vargas and (hopefully) Brandon League as the only players with any real value.

    Cerberus has been fun to watch in Jackson, but otherwise this team is devoid of compelling reasons to be an active fan, and it has been one of the most difficult years to be a Mariners fan since the Bavasi regime.

  19. Adam S on May 17th, 2012 11:57 pm

    Why don’t they just send Liddi down? With Seager having locked down 3B and the team giving Smoak every chance to succeed there’s not a place for him.

    Putting Liddi in LF to get his bat in the lineup is just giving Wedge a chance to screw the team. Free Casper Wells who should be the every day LF right now.

  20. Westside guy on May 18th, 2012 12:08 am

    Just how young the team is has seemed more apparent every day with the mistakes and inability to do what’s needed to win.

    I don’t buy this.

    In 2010, with a bunch of veterany goodness, the Mariners went 61-101.

    So far this year I’ve seen a lot of sloppy baseball. I’ve seen lots of people playing badly and not really producing much at the plate. One of them is the veteran Miguel Olivo. Another is the veteran Chone Figgins. Yet another is the veteran Brendan Ryan. The way these guys have performed this year has tangibly contributed to the team losing games. Young guys on this team have certainly also contributed to losing – but you’re going to have to provide some concrete evidence, beyond Wedge’s pearls of wisdom, that the reason they’ve been losing is because of their youth. I see Ackley starting to hit well. I’ve seen Saunders actually giving us reasons to hope. I’ve seen Seager do more than almost any of us expected out of him. Those guys are all young.
    Those guys have actually won games for us, too.

  21. vj on May 18th, 2012 2:15 am

    Concerning Carp being out of options: If his shoulder’s still bothering him the team can put him on the DL again. Have him rest another week, then rehab a week in Tacoma or so.
    Regarding the rest of the roster: I think it is encouraging that most of our regulars are on the right side of the aging curve. Over the next few seasons, we can expect the team to get better simply because most of our hitters approach and reach their peak.

  22. bookbook on May 18th, 2012 4:55 am

    I hear Lind is available.

  23. IdahoFan on May 18th, 2012 7:18 am

    There’s no hope for promoting offensive help from the farm, this post makes that point abundantly clear. For all of the writing about the good young pitchers on the horizon, the silence on future hitters is discouraging. Better keep hoping some of the current hitters improve.

  24. braves1us on May 18th, 2012 8:37 am

    Dave (or Jay),

    I know that Ryan is by far the superior defensive shortstop, but I keep hearing murmurs that maybe Carlos Triunfel is stepping up his game in Tacoma. Is this a potential option at all in 2012, or is it exactly that… just murmurs?

  25. themedia on May 18th, 2012 8:45 am

    You can see Triunfel’s stats so far this season. As we’re always quick to point out, it’s the PCL, so the numbers aren’t quite as good as they look. Additionally, they aren’t that great.

    It’s the Brendan Ryan show for the foreseeable future, as it should be.

  26. ivan on May 18th, 2012 10:23 am

    Uh, Triunfel’s last 10 games show 442/528/970. At the very least, we can call that a glimmer of a positive trend.

  27. eponymous coward on May 18th, 2012 10:28 am

    Meanwhile, Jimenez is slugging .995 with over a .300 batting average. IT would be nice to have a DH who can actually H.

    Jimenez is 30 years old, and this is his first year where he’s done something of interest in the minors since 2007. He’s not a prospect, not even the same way Bucky Jacobsen was a prospect. He’s AAA filler having a good year. Sure, bring him up in September as a reward for a good year, or if Carp and Smoak go on the DL, but otherwise…no.

    Over the next few seasons, we can expect the team to get better simply because most of our hitters approach and reach their peak.

    Seager, Ackley, Liddi and Montero (the most so for Montero), yes.

    Smoak, Carp, Saunders and Wells are pretty close to finished products, though.

    Between Saunders and Wells you probably have a decent platoon OFer, and Smoak and Carp grade out to below average 1B/DHs. (Smoak’s had 1000+ MLB plate appearances to show he can be the next Tino Martinez/average 1B. Time’s up.)

    The roster as it stands is not going to instantly turn into a contender just by the current talent base getting older and adding in young pitchers from AA. There really isn’t sufficient talent at 1B/OF/DH (assuming you make Montero into the fulltime C by next year, and if you don’t I have to question that)- a couple of below-average 1B/DH types and a platoon to cover one OF position (plus maybe a gimpy Guti) just isn’t going to cut it, especially if Ichiro walks next year (which I am starting to suspect he will, that he’ll finish his career in Japan like Sasaki did; looking at 2013 salary projections, he’d either have to take a $10 million pay cut, or the M’s would have to do things like dump Vargas in a salary deal).

  28. djw on May 18th, 2012 10:58 am

    Montero looks like he needs a father figure, or some such thing,

    I’m always amazed at some fans alleged ability to psychoanalyze players through the TV screen. You were able to discern this psychological insight how, exactly? Through analyzing body language? That’s a pretty amazing talent you’ve got.

  29. onetreehugger on May 18th, 2012 11:16 am

    This team reminds me of a Utah Jazz team from years ago. Some new expansion team, maybe Dallas?, was ahead of them in the standings and a reporter asked the coach how that could happen. He very honestly answered something like “Because we only have three or four players who would make their roster.”

    If the Mariners had some even average veterans, most of the young players would be developing in the minors where we wouldn’t see every mistake they make, we’d just get occasional reports on whether they’re progressing overall.

    I agree that it’s time to take the loss on Figgins. The money’s gone whether he’s here not contributing, or gone and contributing a roster spot, so why not move someone up into that spot? As I understand it, the only diference in team expense would be the difference between major league minimum and what the call-up made in the minors.

    I don’t like watching Olivo catch or hit, but he’s not the reason we’re losing either so I can live with it. But it drives me up the wall when he’s used as the DH to “keep his bat in the lineup.” What bat? I also like him from what I’ve seen of him as a person and teammate, so that makes him easier to take.

  30. Kyle Miller on May 18th, 2012 1:18 pm

    I think the Mariners should pursue Miguel Montero in the offseason, he’s a choice-level catcher that we could use to move Jesus Montero to DH. Montero/Montero. I like that. Maybe we could also get Stephen Drew on a short-term contract to play SS until we figure out what we’re doing with that position. Yes, I’m basically suggesting we loot the Diamondbacks for a couple players.

    I know that building through free agency is not usually the answer, but we have to start plugging holes until we can start trading young arms for batting talent. Miguel Montero could be a good catcher for us for a few years, and Stephen Drew would be substantially better than Brendan Ryan has been playing this year.

  31. GLS on May 18th, 2012 1:42 pm

    The lineup is basically a black hole with just a few glimmers of light – Ackley, Ichiro, Seager, Montero. Ichiro is likely gone after this season. For his sake, I hope he takes his remaining productive years elsewhere. So that leaves Ackley, Seager, and Montero. Smoak, Saunders, Carp, and Gutierrez are question marks. Hopefully, one or two of those guys becomes a legitimate major leaguer. This team needs fewer question marks and more answers.

    For 2013, I would like to see the Mariners acquire a couple of legitimate major league hitters. They don’t need to be superstars, just productive everyday players.

  32. djw on May 18th, 2012 3:27 pm

    For what it’s worth, Saunders has been an above league average hitter so far this year. If what we’re seeing now is his skill level, he’s a solidly above average player.

  33. GLS on May 18th, 2012 4:08 pm

    I think right now I would play Saunders 5 days out of 6. We don’t have any better options right now so may as well see what he can do over the course of an entire season.

  34. stevemotivateir on May 18th, 2012 4:23 pm

    eponymous brought up something that could be real alarming… Ichiro walking (uh, as a free agent).
    It would scare the hell out of me to see next year’s outfield possibly without Guti or Ichiro (assuming there isn’t trades made for a quality outfielders).

  35. Thirteen on May 20th, 2012 9:27 am

    Nick Franklin is mashing from the left side down in Jackson, so there’s not exactly NO hope for position player prospects. (He’s the reason no one’s talking about Triunfel, probably.) Other than that, OK, yeah.

    Sorry, but at the ML level I’m just not feeling all of the gloom and doom.

    Seager has metamorphosed into a legitimate MLB lineup threat. I don’t care about lack of walks if you’re running a 124 OPS+ without them, but the walks should still actually regress up.

    Ichiro appears somewhat rejuvenated, with defensive metrics liking his glove again and his bat being much better than last year. His K’s are down and he’s riding a 27% LD%, which bests his career high by more than 3%. I think I’ll wait for the BABIP to catch up.

    Smoak, uh-oh. Legitimately worried there… but Carp can play 1B. As can Ackley. And Liddi, I guess, though I don’t trust him yet.

    Saunders has been a good defensive CF with a bat that’s above major league average. If this is his true talent level, he’s not even a platoon player, he’s a good ML starter.

    Carp’s apparent slump is fueled by a stupid .107 BABIP. It’s true that LD% is down, way down, and the IFFB% is up, but if you want to talk small sample size his BB% is well up and his K% well down from last year. I’m not worried yet.

    I just don’t really see the problem with this lineup at the major league level, besides Smoak. Even Ryan’s bat is tolerable, given some regression to career average and that amazing glove. They aren’t the Rangers or the Cardinals, but have a look:

    Ackley 2B, 95 OPS+ (does anyone doubt that Ackley will hit?)
    Wells LF, 111 OPS+ (SSS)
    Ichiro RF, 97 OPS+ (BABIP low relative to both career and LD%)
    Montero DH, 97 OPS+ (does anyone doubt that Montero will hit?)
    Seager 3B, 124 OPS+ (and that’s with none of his normal walks)
    Jaso C, 121 OPS+ (SSS, righties only, but that’s what Olivo’s for)
    Saunders CF, 109 OPS+ (hot streaks and cold streaks, but hey…)
    Carp 1B, 75 OPS+ (with stupid low BABIP)
    Ryan SS, 57 OPS+ (slumping and with the best SS glove anywhere)

    Cheer up.

  36. eponymous coward on May 20th, 2012 1:40 pm

    Seager has metamorphosed into a legitimate MLB lineup threat. I don’t care about lack of walks if you’re running a 124 OPS+ without them, but the walks should still actually regress up.

    I’m on record here as saying that I thought out of the entire group of Seager, Carp, Smoak, Guti, Peguero, Wells, Robinson and Saunders (pre-Montero trade), I was most bullish on Seager. Going from A ball to MLB in the space of a year without looking horribly lost at any point is usually a good sign you’re going to be OK.

    That being said, he’s not going to keep up his current power numbers and those walk numbers. At some point opposing pitchers are going to quit thowing strikes, and he’ll either Jose Lopez himself into hitting bad pitches, or he’ll walk some more.

    But you might note that Seager wasn’t one of the problems I called out up above. I think he gets to stay at 3B for a while.

    Smoak, uh-oh. Legitimately worried there… but Carp can play 1B.

    Carp is not that good. His 2011 was a fluke on a high BABIP (.343). His 2012 is a fluke on a low BABIP. The truth lies somewhere in between (his ZIPS projection on Fangraphs basically says “below average 1B”, which sounds about right).

    Basically, Carp and Smoak grade out roughly equal right now: below average 1B with indifferent gloves.

    Saunders has been a good defensive CF with a bat that’s above major league average.

    More like “average” CF. And his BB/K is pretty ridiculous. ZIPS is not thinking he’s sustainable at his current level right now.

    But OK, I’ll give you that for the sake of argument, so let’s be optimistic about his development. This still leaves us short an OF if Ichiro comes back, down two if he doesn’t.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.