Defining the offseason challenges

October 8, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 62 Comments 

So let’s talk off-season, and what the M’s are going to face.

The big issue is that the M’s have a long ways to go if they’re going to compete against the Angels next year, and not a lot of places they can do it.

Position players
C: Johjima, Burke will likely return.
1B: Sexson’s under contract, and they’d probably like to dump him
2B: Lopez is under contract, but they’re really not happy with him and will certainly consider upgrades.
SS: Betancourt
3B: Beltre
LF: Ibanez, but even the M’s must recognize his range is destroyed and he’s killing the defense.
CF: Ichiro
RF: ?
DH: Vidro’s under contract and may be too brittle to play the field everyday. Spot 1B starts, sure, but his lateral range is too horrible for 2B. Whether they’re considering playing him at second over Lopez would depend on their opinion of whether he could handle the wear, as well, and I don’t know what their thinking is on that.

C: Clement’s glove isn’t ready by all reports, and his bat’s probably not ready either. No worries if he goes to Tacoma again.
1B: Broussard’s a question mark – there’s really no place for him next year either
OF: Jones has gotta, gotta start. Balentein might be able to play a decent corner, but the team’s said pretty strongly they want to avoid having two rookies in the outfield. That’s a whole other discussion, though.

And Bloomquist for the bench. Whee!
What’s up?
If they pass on Guillen, it works out pretty well. Ichiro might want to move back to right, but you can play Ichiro in CF, Jones in RF no problem — Jones has range and a great arm.

If they re-sign Guillen or they sign a different OFer, then you need to push Ibanez out of the outfield in favor of Jones.

Pushing Ibanez requires you move him to DH or 1B, which requires you to move Sexson or Vidro, with Sexson the more likely of the two.

What’s going to happen:
A 2B upgrade may not be their highest priority (we’ll get to that) but they’ll be listening. I’ll be stunned if they don’t find some veteran infielder to come in and challenge for the job. Take your pick of whoever they might be able to sign to a minor league contract or even bring in for a couple million, depending on how soured they really are.

If Guillen or an OF signs, still think Sexson gets dumped somewhere and Ibanez will move to first.

If they don’t, they’ll leave Ibanez out there to stink up the place defensively.

Starting pitching:
SP Hernandez
SP Washburn
SP Batista
SP ?
SP ?

They’ve got some candidates to start, guys like Baek, and the plan to get Morrow into the rotation may… well, it’s a possibility. They may see if HoRam can turn it around in spring training. But they’ll be looking to bring in a starter. If you don’t think they want to see two kids in the outfield, what do you think the chances are they’ll go into next year taking two gambles in the rotation?

The pressure to sign someone or trade for a name – Barry Zito! – is going to be high, and they may be willing to part with some top prospects for a Horacio Ramirez-level acquisition. Not funny? Too soon?

Not a big issue. You’ve got Putz and a ton of guys like Green that can pitch on the cheap. We’ll probably see them try and pickup a veteran or two for “stability” or whatever, but that’s easy enough.

In terms of priority/what we’d be trying to fix
I know everyone’s screaming that we need starting pitching, but the best thing the team could do is to turn the defense around. It’s an easy way to make the team better and you get Jones’ bat into the lineup. That, in turn, makes it a lot easier on the pitchers, who can go deeper into games, saves the bullpen, it’s a whole cycle of awesomeness. Which means I’m arguing you try and get Jones in and upgrade again after that — so you have to move Sexson.

Or, to put this another way, moving Sexson gives the team many more ways out this offseason and more money to do it with, and they shouldn’t stop trying to make it happen, ever. They should be calling other GMs at Christmas hoping they’re loopy on eggnog. The sooner you can do it, the sooner you can tell Raul to start working out there and hope he’s passable by Opening Day.

Signing starting pitching from the free agent market’s a fool’s errand. Dave’s written about this, but your chances of getting anything approaching value form a free agent pitcher are really low, to the point it’s not worth it. Don’t do it! Go for the scrap heap! Trade for some of Tampa’s excess! Don’t lock us up to a huge, horrible deal because it’s a bad year for pitching talent! Please?

I’d be a lot more willing to take a one-year flyer on Mike Mussina, even with that dying strikeout rate (this is even more attractive if you improve the defense). But I’ll freely admit I’m a raving Mussina fan and have been for years. I may not be entirely rational – I mean, as I write this, I’m watching the Indians beat him up and I’m still thinking “pick up that 2008 year on his deal? Better than taking on Zito’s contract…”

But there’s the challenges at a high level:
– defense sucks
– starting pitching sucks
– Jones needs a spot cleared
– Sexson sucks, Ibanez sucks defensively

Be assured we’ll be getting into a lot more detail about pitching candidates and so on soon enough.