The Short Term Fix

Dave · November 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

As we head toward the winter meetings, there’s few questions that the Mariners are going to try to do something fairly significant. They’ve made it clear that they have money to spend, they have young players to trade, and they have a glaring hole in the outfield that needs addressing. You can bet that they’ve called on Justin Upton, they’ve talked to Nick Swisher‘s agent, and they’ve kicked pretty much every big free agent tire they can find.

But, as Jack is fond of saying, it takes two to tango, and it’s possible that Swisher might end up in Boston, the D’Backs might not want what the Mariners have to sell, and that for various reasons, the team might not be able to land anyone who would be seen as a major addition. I’m not rooting for this outcome, but the organization at least needs to have backup plans in place, and be able to make moves to upgrade the roster even if they’re not as impactful as the ones they’re hoping to be able to make.

So, with that in mind, here are a few guys that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the organization go after if their original options fall through. These guys are more short term stopgaps than long term solutions, but they would have some appeal in terms of upgrading the 2013 team, at least theoretically.

Mike Morse, 1B/DH/cover-your-eyes-OF

You may remember Morse as an underpowered guy who couldn’t defend even a corner OF position and got shipped off because the Mariners had a similar prospect in Matt Tuiasasopo. Of course, Morse went to Washington and started hitting for power, so swapping him for Ryan Langerhans doesn’t look so hot in retrospect. But, after yesterday’s acquisition of Denard Span, the Nationals are now shopping Morse, as he no longer fits into their plans. They’ve put up with his horrific outfield defense long enough, and between the injury problems and his awful approach at the plate, they’re not convinced that he’s a championship caliber first baseman. So, rather than pay him $7 million to be a pinch-hitter in the final year of his contract, they’re looking to see if anyone else wants to take him off their hands.

Morse isn’t a great fit for the Mariners in that he’s something of a clone of what they already have, but if the organization wants to bring in a guy to challenge but not completely displace Justin Smoak, Morse could be a 1B/DH/occasional OF option. In terms of overall profile, he’s basically Jesus Montero — an overly aggressive right-handed hitter with opposite field power and no real defensive value. He has more present power than Montero at the moment, though, and is a better bet to be able to defend first base in 2013, so adding him to the 1B/DH mix would give the team another option if they wanted to continue to mix and match. He’s more of a depth guy than an impact player, but the price to acquire him won’t be overly high, and his $7 million price tag for 2013 isn’t especially onerous. I’m not a big fan, and I don’t think he should ever play the outfield again, but he wouldn’t be the worst guy to have around for 400-500 plate appearances if they want someone to push Montero and Smoak.

Jason Kubel, 1B/DH/cover-your-eyes OF

Meet the left-handed version of Mike Morse. He’s also an adventure in the outfield without the kind of bat that makes that worth it, so he profiles better as a 1B/DH type. He’s got a better approach at the plate than Morse does, but he doesn’t have the same kind of power, so it’s more of a trade-off than an improvement. And, like Morse, he’s got one year left on his contract, which pays him $7.5 million in 2013 and then includes a team option for 2014. Kubel’s got a better track record than Morse, and the D’Backs don’t have the same need to dump him, so he’d probably cost a little bit more in trade, but we’re still not talking about a guy who would cost you a premier prospect here. If the M’s wanted a left-handed platoon guy who could fit in at 1B/DH and play some OF on days when a groundballer was on the mound, Kubel’s not the worst player ever. Which is about the nicest thing I can say about him.

Ryan Ludwick, OF

If the M’s would rather just sign a short-term guy rather than trade for one, then Ludwick’s probably in the mix. He had a career resurgence last year in Cincinnati, but given that he’s going to be 34 next year, he’s not in line for any kind of long term deal. The Reds want him back but the bidding probably isn’t going beyond a two year deal, and he might not even get that. As a dead pull right-hander, he’d have to hope that the fences coming in at Safeco were going to make a huge difference, and he probably doesn’t have fond memories of the place from his days in the AL, but if the M’s are the highest bidder, that can all be water under the bridge. My guess is he comes in at around the same annual salary as Morse/Kubel, so you’re looking at the trade-off between giving him an extra year versus giving up some kind of player to acquire either of the other two.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF

I’m putting him near the bottom even though he’s the best player on this list because he’s also the least likely to be a fit for the team. The Indians are willing to trade him because he’ll be a free agent next year and Scott Boras doesn’t generally do contract extensions prior to hitting the market, so any team paying for Choo has to look at him as a rental. But, because he’s the Indians best hitter, they’re not just going to give him away. He’d cost a real prospect – probably someone like James Paxton. And, with only one year of value coming back, given his platoon issues and declining defensive skills, that’s probably not a price I’d want to pay. Of course, if the Indians come down in terms of what they want in return, then maybe this is a better fit than expected, but I’m not holding my breath.

Travis Hafner, DH

This is still the guy I’d go after. He’s not a full-time player, and you just deal with the fact that he’s going to spend half the year on the DL, but when he plays, he hits. He can’t defend even first base, so he’s a DH-only, but if the organization is willing to get more serious about Montero as a first baseman, then they don’t really need another 1B, since they can make Montero and Smoak fight for playing time at that spot. In terms of impact at the plate, Hafner is pretty similar to Swisher, and obviously he’ll cost a lot less. If you’re willing to trade the defensive versatility and the durability for some upside when he is able to go, then Hafner could be a pretty nice bargain. And, of course, as a DH-only, the market for his services is going to be limited, which will keep the bidding down, so he’s probably the cheapest guy on this list too. At $3 or $4 million with some playing time incentives, Hafner could be a nice part-time offensive booster.

Comments

49 Responses to “The Short Term Fix”

  1. Pete on November 30th, 2012 1:35 pm

    Montero at first base is the silliest proposition. There is not a single comparable for his combination of body type, flexibility and athletic ability. Even the worst big-bodied part-time 1B in the game don’t compare well. Montero just can’t move well, laterally. Or in any other direction. The likelihood of him improving his athleticism enough to play first base even sparingly is so small. Montero is a hitter, hopefully, and I love him.

    I would love to be wrong… I just can’t even envision it.

  2. _Hutch_ on November 30th, 2012 1:36 pm

    Ick.

  3. RaoulDuke37 on November 30th, 2012 1:38 pm

    So, right now… Morse > Montero. Ugh…

  4. zackr on November 30th, 2012 1:55 pm

    As much as it pains me to say it, we just don’t look to be a team that will benefit greatly from this weak FA market, and don’t have enough of a bead on who our core guys are moving forward right now.

    We need to see if Saunder’s 2012 is sustainable, which Ackley is the real Ackley (’11, or ’12), if Seager can keep progressing, what we really have in Montero, and if there is a position for him, If Jaso’s performance isn’t just a career year, and if Smoak is truly a bust (much less, if the big three will make the impact we hope this year).

    Those are just too many questions to go into a season with and expect a few trades or FA signings to matter much.

    We need to sus out the talent on this team for another year, and spend our money next offseason with the better FA class.

    It HURTS to say it, but the team is what it is.

  5. Jamison_M on November 30th, 2012 2:00 pm

    I can’t imagine trading for Shin-Soo Choo for the reasons you gave and we probably don’t figure to be competitive enough to give up a high end prospect for a one year rental. Would the object be to Cliff Lee him? Trade him in July when we are no longer competitive…

    What about Jeff Keppinger on a two year deal? His asking price should be fairly low and short-term due to age (32) and the broken leg. He can play short stop… is he unlikely since we already traded for Andino? I, personally, view Andino as a backup and Brendan Ryan as expendable if Keppinger is an option. Ryan is a free agent after 2013, afterall.

  6. ThePopeofChilitown on November 30th, 2012 2:02 pm

    Dave, any interest in a RP (maybe a Kinney or Kelley)for Lucas Duda swap? The M’s seem to have a few extra arms, and Duda could be a cheap bat that fits in at first or DH. Duda would be Morse-ish in the outfield, but could be useful if used properly.

  7. stevemotivateir on November 30th, 2012 2:13 pm

    @Pete

    You’ll be eating crow when you see Montero on the next round of “Dancing With The Stars”.

    @Zackr

    Remember the 2008 Mariners? Remember the 2009 Mariners? A few trades or FA signings absolutely can make a significant difference.

    I would argue the FA market isn’t as bad as you suggest, either. Sure, 1B is thin, but that’s not so important. The obvious need is for an outfielder and there’s plenty of those still available.

  8. ThePopeofChilitown on November 30th, 2012 2:14 pm

    Keppiniger is not (and should not be) an option at SS. He hasn’t played there regularly since 2008. He looked out of his element playing second this season in Tampa.

    He is a nice bat, and looked good playing third while Longoria was out. I think he’d be a lateral move from Seager. You would trade contact for power, from a player who costs more.

  9. heychuck01 on November 30th, 2012 2:41 pm

    There is always Plan D, wait out Boras and sign Hamilton in Feburary. Overpay of course.

  10. JasonJ on November 30th, 2012 3:18 pm

    I tend to agree with zackr’s point about getting a better picture of who, out of the young players, is a long term fit before we start tossing guys like Morse in the equation.

    Hafner is the only one I would be interested in because he does mash when he plays, but he won’t cost a bundle and we’ll still get to see a lot of Montero/Smoak. Personally, I don’t think either are high ceiling players anymore but they could easily turn into productive players and I’d rather spend on “need” positions if possible.

    Unfortunately, I’m getting a feeling that the M’s will need to overpay quite a bit to sign a difference maker at a “need” position such as Nick Swisher. I can’t imagine that the Red Sox, Phillies and co. are not involved pretty heavily on this guy and they are more or less contenders every year.

    That leaves trades, and Jack Z is extremely unpredictable in this area so I won’t even speculate. However, if he can’t work some magic here I’m concerned that we may end up with more bargain-bin guys that don’t get anyone’s pulse racing.

    Nobody will like this idea but if we can’t land Swisher, why not go for another quality SP? We can’t un-trade Doug Fister but it would be nice to have a legitimate #2 starter. Grienke is too expensive but what about someone like Dempster/McCarthy/E. Jackson (all could be 3+ WAR)? These guys aren’t sexy but would add value and would be easy to trade if any of the big-3 forces their way into the rotation.

    Wins are wins and with the fences coming in we may be underestimating the value of having 5 major-league quality starters as opposed to trotting guys like Beavan and Noesi (and possibly even post-fences Vargas) out there. Even Iwakuma and Ramirez are not proven commodities, even if they do show all the signs of being such.

  11. wsm on November 30th, 2012 3:30 pm

    Trading a prospect like Paxton for Choo becomes a little more palatable when you factor in the draft pick Seattle will get when Choo leaves. He’s a pretty safe bet for a Qualifying Offer and a pick in the #30-40 range in 2014.

  12. sexymarinersfan on November 30th, 2012 3:45 pm

    I think as fans, we’ve identified the area’s of need about as much as any team fan base could. Now it basically all comes down to what the front office and ownership can muster to help bolster this anemic offense. It’s like Jim Bowden said earlier today on KIRO radio, “When your offense is last in the league the last 3 consecutive years, you can’t just sit there and continue to look at it. You need to be aggressive.”

    I think Jack is trying to do that. Something has got to get done, and I believe it will. I just hope it’s enough of an impact to make a difference in the middle of this lineup.

    I also agree that we are still sorting out our talent and trying to identify who our core pieces will be.

    As far as another starting pitcher goes, I’m all on board for signing one through FA.

  13. Gibbo on November 30th, 2012 4:17 pm

    Hmmm I am starting to believe that we will struggle to land a decent upgrade that we need. I dont believe Jack would be willing to overpay in a trade, but maybe the best option is to go to the Twins and try get Willingham and Morneau – not sure how much they would cost but maybe adding them gives some experience.Would be interested to hear what you think of the fit with these two guys?

  14. SonOfZavaras on November 30th, 2012 4:31 pm

    I wonder if we could get away with giving a Brandon Maurer for Choo- citing the one-year we’d have him and the recent Denard Span deal.

    (I really can’t believe Minnesota gave him up ONLY for a “boom-or-bust” pitcher.)

    Free agency is going to blow. No matter how we slice it, there just isn’t any 100% fit. There are some that fit better than others, but there just isn’t a slam-dunk choice with few blemishes for us.

    Swisher makes sense to me on MOST fronts, but costs our draft pick to sign(for the right player, I bite that bullet…but I don’t think Swisher’s the type of player that will give 3-4 years of worthwhile offense to make it worth it.)

  15. make_dave_proud on November 30th, 2012 4:36 pm

    I hope I’m jinxing myself, but my expectation is that the Mariners don’t make a significant trade or FA signing and simply pick up more of the same that they’ve been doing for years.

    Other teams are making moves, signing players, etc. The Mariners are a team with arguably more urgent needs than others, yet there’s been no activity. It’s deja vu all over again.

    I hope Jack Z proves me wrong, but frankly my amateur skepticism tells me it’s smarter to think otherwise.

  16. ck on November 30th, 2012 5:35 pm

    If the available outfielders this year aren’t good value, would Jack Z. consider getting an infielder, and then sending Ackley to right field as a short-term fix ?

  17. terryoftacoma on November 30th, 2012 6:08 pm

    We’re not even to the winter meetings yet and we’re talking backup plans. While I have always said we’d have to overpay to add a big name, there’s still plenty of time to fill our outfield needs. There are still a lot of outfielders available to give us an upgrade over what we had last year and the year before.

  18. Westside guy on November 30th, 2012 6:15 pm

    I really don’t want to see Morse or Kubel come to the Mariners simply because I’m certain Wedge will immediately hand a full time outfield job to either guy. We already know Wedge doesn’t value defense and doesn’t grasp that bad defense negatively impacts a team’s performance.

  19. musicman on November 30th, 2012 6:54 pm

    Color me confused. People are saying there isn’t a great match available in the FA market when Swisher is available and even outbidding the competition doesn’t put him into huge overpay status. 5/75? 5/80? For me that’s a done deal. Factor in the lost pick, which if I’m correct is worth a couple mil and the only reason he doesn’t come to Seattle is that he really doesn’t want to.

    Pair that with a trade for another OF bat, if possible, and we have Smoak insurance at 1B, Guti insurance with Saunders, and with the addition of a mid-rotation starter have a chance to surprise folks.

    A couple smart moves, and progression from the young guys put us right in the mix with a couple good breaks. I think that’s the best case scenario for us this year, and I’m on board. Just give us a chance….

  20. thurston24 on November 30th, 2012 7:16 pm

    I guess I’m crazy but I don’t believe Paxton is only worth one year of Choo. Seriously, he’s worth more than that. I know Choo is really good but he’s strictly a one year guy who was only worth 2.6 WAR last year. Paxton could be worth that next year with his high strikeout %. I think Dave undervalues Mariner prospects, which is funny since he gets accused of being a homer on fangraphs all of the time.

  21. GLS on November 30th, 2012 9:07 pm

    I agree that Paxton for one year of Choo would be an overpay.

  22. GLS on November 30th, 2012 9:09 pm

    The Mariners non-tendered Robert Andino?

  23. GLS on November 30th, 2012 10:08 pm

    Never mind. I guess they re-signed him.

  24. vetted_coach on November 30th, 2012 10:43 pm

    Ho hum. Same as it ever was.. Aggressive? That came and went with Piniella. The bed is wetted forever. Sure, go after Morse and Choo, and re-pay for guys we gave away. The hole is dug. FO is dead wood and players do not want to come here:

  25. Jordan on November 30th, 2012 10:51 pm

    @GLS. Merely a formality to tender a cheaper contract. Now, they have a potentially decent utility guy for a lot cheaper.

  26. Sports on a Shtick on November 30th, 2012 11:03 pm

    Hafner and Ludwick are the two most attractive targets. There’s a decent amount of upside relative to the cost it would take to acquire either.

  27. miscreant on December 1st, 2012 12:38 am

    The Mariners need a lead-off hitter also. I might be getting ahead of myself here since the Mariners direly need hitters to drive in that lead-off hitter (obviously) but it is still a glaring hole in the lineup. Ackley and his sub .300 OB% should not be an option.

    I like Shane Victorino. Victorino, a switch hitter, is a proven lead-off hitter. He has great speed, excellent defense at all 3 outfield positions and is the type of guy the Mariners need. Victorino plays hard with grit and determination. He reminds me of Lenny Dykstra. The Mariners could use a veteran leader like Shane.

  28. vertigoman on December 1st, 2012 6:50 am

    I loved Dykstra as a kid. I thought that’s how baseball should be played and baseball players that don’t play like that weren’t baseball players. He was my young generation’s Pete Rose.
    Turns out that Dykstra wasn’t even Dykstra (page 149 of the Mitchell Report) and both he and Rose were/are total douches (in the non faux ghetto bedazzled shirt wearing sense).

    I’m all for grit, true grit even. I just don’t think it’s something one pays for.

  29. _Hutch_ on December 1st, 2012 9:19 am

    I think you are understating Victorino’s grit-above-replacement (GAR).

  30. Mariners35 on December 1st, 2012 10:32 am

    And the annual bracing ourselves for blue light specials and disappointment has begun, right on schedule. Complete with “hey it’s early yet” and “wait until the whole offseason is done to be pessmistic about what deals are out there”. Meh.

  31. Steve Nelson on December 1st, 2012 10:42 am

    @Westside guy on November 30th, 2012 6:15 pm

    We already know Wedge doesn’t value defense and doesn’t grasp that bad defense negatively impacts a team’s performance.

    Which, of course, is why Wedge gives so much playing time to Brendan Ryan and has mentioned how Ryan’s defense compensates for his poor hitting.

  32. stevemotivateir on December 1st, 2012 11:09 am

    ^Kawasaki was the only alternative for short. Despite that, Wedge still benched Ryan after a bad game, while guys like Olivo, Robinson, and Thames were given more opportunities than they had deserved or earned, and stunk it up repeatedly without consequences.

    You can argue the team was bent on taking a harder look at Robinson and Thames to determine if they had a future here, but they still stunk… often. And there really wasn’t any good reason to have Olivo starting as often as he did, especially in the first half.

  33. Westside guy on December 1st, 2012 12:14 pm

    Shortstop is different, Steve – even grizzled, dyed-in-the-wool old-school guys are comfortable with glove-only shortstops. :-D

  34. coreyjro on December 1st, 2012 12:43 pm

    Why isn’t Seager considered more of a trade chip? Seems like there are plenty of contending teams that could use a 3.6 WAR 3B or 2B.

  35. eddie on December 1st, 2012 1:18 pm

    While I thnk it would be great to get Swisher do you really think he wants to play in Seattle? His wife is a TV star and he’s appeared on a few shows himself, the last place he’d want to play is in Sibera,um where is Seattle again? Oh, yes, the hinterlands.

  36. Kazinski on December 1st, 2012 1:28 pm

    Why isn’t Seager considered more of a trade chip?

    Why would we trade a young cost controlled player when we have no obvious replacement for him? Any hole that trading Seagar would fill would open up just as big a hole at 3rd that we would be scrambling to fill.

  37. msfanmike on December 1st, 2012 3:29 pm

    I love the grit above replacement (GAR) reference. And it does make me miss Edgar.

    And I do think the team could benefit from a guy like Victorino. He’s not the prototype corner outfielder who can hit in the middle of the order, but he does fill the need expressed above which the team also needs to fill in a reliable (not only hopeful) way.

    Ideally, it would be more than one guy to fill more than one hole, but we will take what we can get. Victorino could certainly help fill the inevitable Guti-gap and I would envision a short term deal for him.

    Ditto on Swisher and his wife. He is the type of player needed, but the chances of him wanting to play here seem a bit remote.

  38. Liam on December 1st, 2012 3:45 pm

    “Trading Kyle Seager doesn’t help you do anything, because the organization has a giant black hole at third base, and it’s a barren wasteland in free agency, so you’d just be creating one hole to fill another.”

  39. Westside guy on December 1st, 2012 4:18 pm

    Regarding trading Seager: Maybe our memories of Adrian Beltre influence our perceptions, but look back further into the team’s history – finding a quality third baseman is not an easy task! Let’s not be so eager to reopen the hole we so serendipitously managed to fill.

  40. Jamison_M on December 1st, 2012 5:18 pm

    Why would we trade a young cost controlled player when we have no obvious replacement for him? Any hole that trading Seagar would fill would open up just as big a hole at 3rd that we would be scrambling to fill.

    The only logical answer I have: trade Seager and an arm for Brett Lawrie.

  41. madatms on December 1st, 2012 10:07 pm

    How about Alfonso Soriano hit .262/.322/.499 with 32 home runs in 615 plate appearances in 2012 ,is owed $36 million over the next two seasons. The Cubs would likely pick up a significant portion of his contract in any deal.Maybe give them Carp,Peggy with them picking up some of the money. This clears up two spots on the 40 man roster and gives us some pop in the outfield,yes I know he’s37 but he is still putting up good (not great) numbers.

  42. madatms on December 1st, 2012 10:17 pm

    some how I lost a portion insert and some bullpen arm,after Peggy my bad!

  43. madatms on December 1st, 2012 10:36 pm

    Here are some more numbers for Soriano (2012)
    WAR 4
    UZR 11.8
    Babip .303
    and the bad..
    154 SO
    K%–24.9%
    44 BB
    BB%–7.2%
    Yes he does strike out a lot but 37 dingers takes some of the pain away. He also only made 1 error last year in 151 gms in the OF(from fangraphs).

  44. Westside guy on December 1st, 2012 11:18 pm

    I haven’t really looked much at Soriano, but – strikeouts, in and of themselves, aren’t a huge problem (up to a point, anyway). If a guy’s got an average-or-better on-base percentage, who cares how he makes his outs? What really matters is how often the guy is making an out of any kind.

    Take Olivo, for example. His problem wasn’t the strikeouts, per se… it was the fact that, one way or another, he made an out more than 3/4 of the time he came to the plate. That’s significantly worse than the league average. Sure, his strikeouts were part of that; but so was the kind of bad contact a player often gets when he’s swinging at pitches he should be taking. It’s the total approach that matters, because (unless you’re Josh Hamilton) the approach dictates how many outs you make.

  45. Typical Idiot Fan on December 2nd, 2012 7:28 am

    Soriano for 2 years and 36 million is way too much. Soriano for 2 years and 18 million? Okay, start talking.

    He’s been worth a little over 8.5 WAR the last three seasons (8.6 over last four if you count 2008′s exactly 0.0 WAR). He’s been up and down, and somehow defying age well enough to have a season like 2012. All that despite his contact rate dropping to the lowest it’s ever been for him. I’m surprised to discover he can still play defense in left decently. I’d have figured with his age and injuries he’d have slowed down a bit, and while he has on the basepaths, his route running and instincts appear to be holding.

    Thing is, I still wouldn’t want to give up anybody meaningful for Soriano even if the Cubs ate half his contract. Soriano has put up 19.7 WAR in his 5 years so far with Chicago, good for roughly $89 million at current WAR values, while being paid $100 million. It hasn’t exactly been an albatross contract like Dave predicted eons ago, but it still hasn’t been a great one. And if the Cubs are going to have to eat a chunk of that remaining 36 million as a sunk cost, then it gets worse. I guess it depends on what they get back for him, but even then I don’t expect the return to be great.

  46. qwerty on December 2nd, 2012 2:15 pm

    It’s like Jim Bowden said earlier today on KIRO radio…..

    That’s not a good way to score credibility points at this roundtable…..

  47. gag harbor on December 2nd, 2012 6:07 pm

    The state of MLB talent pool is a lot worse than I would ever imagine. I can understand why there are training academies in Central/South America. Not much of a chance of the U.S. communities developing the numbers of talented players needed to field a league full of good players.

    Even with the proliferation of Latin American prospects, we’re still left with trading for Choo, Morse, etc. Yuck.

    This reminds me of how the EPL relies on footballers from Africa to fill their teams and of course the African players are a lot cheaper than the scarce homegrown stars.

  48. TheMightyMariner on December 2nd, 2012 11:34 pm

    None of these options look overly appealing. Also, I can’t see the Mariners luring any of the needed free agents. Trades might be the only way. This franchise is not going to get better anytime soon. I’d love to see us sign Grienke and deal some of our pitchers for a solid hitting outfielder.

    I also would not be too shocked to see us make minor signings. Maybe our offence improves enough with the fences moving in? One can hope. It’s tough being a Mariners fan. :)

  49. eponymous coward on December 3rd, 2012 6:33 am

    Y’know, it’s kind of funny seeing all the “we need to identify our talent core before we can actually try and contend, so this probably isn’t our year to make any moves” posts not too long after the division champion Oakland A’s went from 74 wins to 94 wins.

    Do you think Billy Beane regrets spending some money on Yoenis Cespedes?

    Seriously, people, the time to improve your roster is not next year. It’s always now.

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