Looking Bad In Retrospect
The Red Sox signed Chris Capuano today, for a year and $2.25 million. If he hits all his incentives, he’ll make $5 million, and not a penny more, at least not from the Red Sox. In theory, Capuano will compete with Felix Doubront for a rotation slot out of camp, but the reality is that Capuano will probably at least begin the year in the bullpen. Recently, the Mariners were reported to have expressed interest in Capuano, as they’re still looking for a starting pitcher, especially with Hisashi Iwakuma hurt.
Many months ago, the Mariners signed Willie Bloomquist for two years and $5.8 million. He’s a utility guy, like he’s always been, in spirit if not in practice, and he’s got a nice and neat line as a replacement-level player. More recently, Emilio Bonifacio was dropped, and then he was snagged by a minor-league contract. Bonifacio is at least as good as Bloomquist, and most of a decade younger.
The first line of thought: the Mariners guaranteed more money to Bloomquist than the Red Sox guaranteed to Capuano. Bloomquist is a less-useful player than Capuano is. The Mariners also made a far bigger commitment to Bloomquist than the Cubs had to make to Bonifacio. Would you rather have Bonifacio and Capuano, or Bloomquist and pending? By the first line of thought, the Mariners look pretty stupid in retrospect.
The second line of thought: the Mariners might not have known how easily Bonifacio would be available. And perhaps Capuano wasn’t available to the Mariners at the same price as he was to the Red Sox. The Red Sox, you’ll recall, just won the World Series! And Capuano grew up and went to high school in Massachusetts so maybe he’s got his loyalties, even after spending the last couple years on the better coast. It might not be as simple as saying the Mariners could’ve had Capuano for a few extra dollars. By the second line of thought, the Mariners still don’t look great, but they look less stupid in retrospect.
The third line of thought: how many of you actually remembered that the Mariners signed Willie Bloomquist? I think I’m probably taken by surprise every two or three weeks. Which means every two or three weeks, there’s one extra sigh in my life, as I eyeball the upcoming roster. Then as soon as I remember about Bloomquist, I forget about him, making him the exact 2014 equivalent of 2013 Robert Andino. My experience with Andino was like an uninteresting sequel to 50 First Dates, and I remember him more now that he’s gone than I did when he was still a member of the team. I feel like Bloomquist’s going to be an unanticipated email from work — annoying to have to deal with, but sufficiently infrequent that you never include it as a scheduled part of your day. When one shows up, it’s just an extra burden, as if there wasn’t already enough.
So by the third line of thought, the Mariners have Willie Bloomquist, and don’t you forget it, until you do, which is inevitable, because it’s probably already happened five or six times.
Going back real quick, the Mariners were in on Capuano, and for whatever reason or reasons they came up short. Which means they’re probably still interested in finding a lower-tier starting pitcher, which is a pretty good idea given the unreliability of pitchers in general and the unreliability of these pitchers in particular. The free-agent market doesn’t have a whole lot left to offer. There’s the one big fish, and guys like Joe Saunders and Jon Garland. Capuano was the one somewhat interesting bargain, and the Mariners might prefer to look to the trade market.
And that’s how we circle back to Nick Franklin, who’s allegedly going to compete with Brad Miller for the starting shortstop job. I’m sure McClendon isn’t lying when he says Miller isn’t being promised anything. I’m sure the plan is to give Franklin a real look. But Miller’s the better shortstop and the organization knows it, and though there’s no obligation to trade Franklin immediately given that he won’t have a role, he’s still the best bet to be flipped for a decent player at a spot of greater need. Maybe that’s actually an outfielder, but Franklin could snag the Mariners a starter if they looked hard enough, and there are two- and three-way trade possibilities. Just because it’s almost March doesn’t mean teams will stop thinking about tweaks, and Franklin is no less expendable than he was the day the team signed Robinson Cano. He still doesn’t have a job, and if the Mariners don’t want to try him in the outfield, he’s still of greater use to somebody else. There’s not a lot left for him to do in Triple-A.
It’s uncommon for there to be trade rumors during spring training involving anything more than fringe roster guys. But then, it was an uncommon offseason, and the Mariners are in an uncommon situation with Franklin and the rest of the depth chart. I do think the Mariners still want a starting pitcher. I do think the Mariners could still use a starting pitcher. And I do think the Mariners have the available resources to get a starting pitcher. Maybe they wait to see how guys like Baker, Ramirez, Paxton, and Walker are throwing, but there are most certainly roster decisions left to make. The Mariners don’t have to win right away in 2014, but they’d sure like to.