Seattle Mariners offseason to-do list

The Seattle Mariners are stumbling along toward another season full of around 90 losses. The club needs to go 9-5 over the final 14 games just to equal last season’s 75-87 campaign. Changes are necessary, starting with an ownership group that is clearly unwilling to replace those in charge. Since the ownership isn’t going to change this offseason, we’ll skip to the next 16 items the M’s should have on their to-do list this offseason.

We’ll dive into specifics, such as player names, at a later date, but for now, here’s my proposed winter outline.

Hire a new manager

The limited progress the club has made under Eric Wedge clearly stagnated sometime between last all-star break and this past summer. Wedge is good for young players in a lot of ways, but there are far too many questionable decisions that even the benefit of the doubt can’t cover for anymore.

The Mariners need their version of Terry Francona or Joe Maddon; both have leadership skills, put together lineups that have proven to be as optimal as one could expect and know how to win. Even a rookie skipper, like Maddon was in 2006, can be the right move if he’s learned under the right mentor and has the kind of baseball experience and innovation to adjust to the roster and find an edge or two.

Hire a new general manager

It pains me to say this, because I like Jack Zduriencik. I believe I understand his vision and I believe in it, too, but I’ve come to one conclusion that forces me to include his dismissal here: The 2014 Seattle Mariners have almost zero chance to contend.

Sure, the club could go out and spend some money, make a trade or two for some proven impact talent to mix with a few of the young players that earn a starting job next spring and such a roster could compete. The problem with that theory is it’s far fetched. The free agent market is thin as it is, and expecting the M’s win out on multiple bats and a No. 2 or 3 starting pitcher, among other smaller yet valuable pieces such as a veteran reliever and backup catcher, is asking an organization that, under Zduriencik, has not done any of that over the course of the five years since the club hired the former Milwaukee Brewers scouting director.

So, if 2014’s ceiling is something less than 85 wins — probably the absolute minimum number of wins it will take to compete in September for a Wild Card spot in the American League next year — we’re talking about yet another season without relevant baseball the final 6-8 weeks of the season, if not longer. That’s just not good enough.

I’ll say this now, and if the club does end the Mariners career of Zduriencik after this season, I’ll say it all winter, and beyond: A new GM probably can’t be expected to win in 2014, either. The difference is, Zduriencik has had five years to be improve a team that went 61-101 the year before he was hired and appears destined for a win total im the low-70s, with last year’s 75-win plateau looking like a long shot.

Zduriencik and his staff have done some good things in Seattle, but the most important one — winning in the major leagues — hasn’t occurred, and the “inching” toward such a feat just won’t do. At this time, I have no suggestions for GM candidates, but I will if the time comes next month.

If Zduruencik is retained, it’s not the worst decision of all-time, but I see this very much like I see a player entering the final year or two of prime and bearing down on free agency. It’s better to trade that player a year too soon, rather than a year too late.

Sign 3B Kyle Seager to a multi-year contract

He’s not arbitration eligible until after the 2014 season, but Seager is the team’s best position player, and that’s just a statement by default. He can handle third base, is ridiculously consistent and he’s just a notch below the best third basemen in baseball, entering play Sunday batting .274/.346/.451 with 22 home runs, despite playing all but three games this season and being forced to bat in the middle of the order without the support of an average set of eight lineup mates.

Before this season I suggested Seager cut down the power swing just a bit, make more contact and hit for more average, while becoming a better hitter versus left-handed pitching. Perhaps settling in around .280 or .285 with 16-18 homers and an improved on-base percentage from the .316 mark he posted a year ago, and overall looking more like an everyday player, rather than everyday player on a bad team.

He didn’t sacrifice a bit of power — he’s on pace for more extra-base hits this season than last, but has drawn a few more walks whole maintain a similar strikeout rate and taking a full step forward against lefties. He’s 25 years old — 26 in November — a contract as long as five years could make a lot of sense for both sides.

That would buy out all of Seager’s arbitration years, plus one free agent year, after which he’ll be 30 years of age. Four years doesn’t make as much sense, because it only goes through the player’s arbitration years, plus his one club-controlled season. Three years may be preferred by the player and agent, but the trade-off of the one free agent year is a bigger salary in 2014 than he’d make if the club simple renewed his contract.

Seager is a keeper, and it’s time this winter for the Mariners to do just that, save a little cash along the way and show other young players that this is what you get when you perform.

Find offense without going to the greatest of lengths to do so

Choo13 150x150 Seattle Mariners offseason to do listYou read that correctly. Contrary to my previous thought process, I no longer believe the Seattle Mariners should spend huge money on free agents this offseason. The market is awful and each of the bats comes with tremendous risk, perhaps sans their own free agent, Kendrys Morales. Good teams are clubs that build and sustain success. Those clubs use free agency to supplement or top off what they have. Using free agency to build your club doesn’t work, and there are very few exceptions.

Shin-Soo Choo cannot hit left-handed pitching — .211/.35/.247 (yes, .247 slugging percentage) in 2013, .199/.318/.286 in 2012 and .243/.340/.339 for his career. He’s also not a center fielder and he’ll turn 32 during the 2014 season. $15 million per season, or anywhere around that mark, for four or more years, is a bad idea for a platoon corner outfielder leaving the prime of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury, when healthy, brings a lot to the table, including some pop, big-time speed, enough center-field defense to make up for his noodle arm and the ability to get on base. The problem is, he’s not healthy enough to warrant the Michael-Bourn-and-then-some contract he’s certain to get (Bourn signed for five years and $55 million last winter and probably could have gotten more if some breaks fell his way with the draft-pick compensation rules.

Ellsbury is 30 and isn’t magically going to start putting forth multiple 145-game seasons consecutively. He’s managed 130 games played or more just four times in seven full seasons, and is hurt again for the playoff-bound Boston Red Sox.

There’s not going to be any discount for the Mariners because Ellsbury is from Oregon and wants to return to the left coast, and the risk on a big-money deal is quite large. I may change my mind on Ellsbury if the market falls hard, but I don’t see that happening. Bourn’s $55 million came during an offseason when multiple center fielders changed teams, including the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere. Ellsbury is likely to be all alone atop that pedestal.

There are other examples of bad ideas such as Hunter Pence, and I know what you are thinking: Then who do the M’s get? We’ll tackle that soon enough, but as I stated above, I don’t think there’s much of a chance the M’s can improve enough to contend in ’14, so I’d sure advise against “going for it” and loading up on bad contracts and killing the organization’s chances to find long-term success.

On top of avoiding throwing huge dollars at free agents, trading away any premium young talents — Taijuan Walker, for example — to gain a few years of a good player is a horrible plan. If it’s Giancarlo Stanton, different story, but not even Stanton is a no-brainer.

Don’t forget about the rotation

As the club searches for the right kind of hitters to add to the roster via trade and free agency, they also need two starting pitchers. One, a reliable innings eater that comes out of the bargain bin. Signing two of those might make sense, too, forcing the likes of Walker and James Paxton to earn their spot in spring training. Nobody should be handed a roster spot on a silver platter.

The other rotation necessity is someone to either pitch behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, or one that can supplant Iwakuma as the No. 2 starter, pushing ‘Kuma to the No. 3 spot. Again, we’ll discuss the names at a later date.

Do not rely on more than two of: Ackley, Smoak, Franklin, Miller

If all of the above are playing everyday come Opening Day 2014, it’s not necessarily a good sign. I think we know Smoak’s best isn’t good enough, despite some stretches this season when he was pretty good. Ackley has improved, but enough to play regularly? I don’t see it, yet. Franklin has struggled mightily of late, but he’ll figure it out and is the one I’m most comfortable with going forward. Miller, at the plate, should be just fine, though his glove still needs work.

If I had to pick two right now, it’s the two middle infielders. If Ackley or Smoak has to be a fallback option, fine. Just not both.

Say goodbye to Franklin Gutierrez

When healthy, Gutierrez is a nice player. He’s not a great player, may not even be a good player. But he’s valuable, when healthy. He’s healthy about as much as I sleep during the summers, however, and even on an incentive-laden deal, I don’t think he fits.

Designate Hector Noesi for assignment

Noesi has cleaned up his delivery and found his release point at times this season, but there’s still no useful breaking ball and he doesn’t have enough stuff to pitch in relief. He’s 55/60 fastball, 40/45 changeup, 30 breaking ball. Nope.

Decline the option on Joe Saunders

Pretty easy decision, as he’s not worth $7 million, even if he bounces back some.

Sign or trade for a veteran reliever with closing experience

I’m not suggesting a major signing for a Grant Balfour or Joe Nathan (if Texas declines their $9 million option, which they probably will), but names such as Edward Mujica, Fernando Rodney or Joaquin Benoit make some sense. The Mariners need more stability in their bullpen.

Sign or trade for a veteran backup catcher

A good catcher is most important, but bonus if he can hit left-handed, or hit at all.

Find a solid utility infielder that can play shortstop 

Clint Barmes might make some sense. Heck, at a much cheaper price than the $3-plus million he earned in 2013, Brendan Ryan could be a fit in that role. In theory, anyway. I’d bring in someone different.

Trade Michael Saunders

As much as I like Saunders’ physical tools and basic skillset, it’s pretty clear he’s not a long-term solution as an everyday player. He’s arbitration eligible and he and Ackley are a redundant pair.

There are at least a handful of clubs that will have interest in Saunders, who with the right piece of advice still could turn into something better than we’ve seen in Seattle.

This is also a route the club can take with Smoak if they find another option at first base. That position, however, is among the thinnest on the free agent market, which may leave trades as the lone avenue for an upgrade.

Re-sign Kendrys Morales

KM13 150x150 Seattle Mariners offseason to do listMorales’ market has faded since May when he began DH’ing regularly, creating a myth that he can’t play first base. Is he good there? Not particularly. Can he play 140-plus games there? Probably not. Can he play 80 at first and 80 at DH? Of course he can.

With proper rest, something he did not get this season because the Mariners needed their best foot forward as much as possible — see: Seager, Kyle — Morales is passable at first, enough to stave off the “pure DH” tag and add a few dollars onto the end of his contract.

Having said all that, Morales is not having a great year — he’s been solid, and very useful — and a look around the league shows that not a lot of clubs are sure to be looking for such players. This all helps the M’s make a strong bid to retain Morales without getting into the 4-year, $50 million range that appeared plausible in May.

Slapping the tender on Morales probably seals the deal for Seattle, and though nearly $14 million for one year is too high, it probably helps the club get him for two years, instead, and at a better average annual salary.

Field calls on Hisashi Iwakuma

It may not result in the kinds of offers that would make sense, but with one year plus an option year left on Iwakuma’s deal — at a very, very affordable number — the Mariners should at least check the trade market for the right-hander. He’s had a great year, but isn’t necessarily a great bet to repeat it.

Trading him now for the right package of performing 0-3 types could be the wisest move. I’m not sure what clubs would be willing to part with for ‘Kuma, but at least need to find out where the league is on him.

Make it clear to clubs that the young players are not untouchable

JamesPaxton 150x150 Seattle Mariners offseason to do listNot Taijuan Walker, not Brad Miller, not Nick Franklin, not James Paxton … maybe Mike Zunino, but that may be it, and that’s only because of the dearth of catching in baseball. If Seager still qualifies — OK, he does — I’ve already stated he should be signed to a multi-year deal, so he’s out, too.

It’s unlikely a deal including Walker will make sense, but you never know and it’s always valuable to find out what your players’ value is around the league. Always. Having inexpensive, talented young players, even if they aren’t yet considered established, with some experience — as Franklin and Miller have now — have good value and could be part of a package to acquire the kind of players the M’s can lean on for the long term, perhaps even a star-quality position player such as Stanton.

The Mariners are several players short of a good roster and handcuffing themselves to their own players for the sake of keeping their own players is preposterous. Most trades aren’t lopsided steals. To get good players you have to trade good talent.

I don’t know what will become of the M’s offseason. I don’t know who the GM will be in three weeks. I don’t have any idea if the big-name free agents will have any interest in Seattle. I don’t believe one offseason can flip this team into a winner.

What I do believe is that the above 16 items should be on the organization’s to-do list starting October 1.

Written by Jason A. Churchill

Moi2 Seattle Mariners offseason to do list

Executive Editor
Jason founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at Inside the Park and covering prep, college and pro sports for several news outlets, local and national, including MLB.com and ESPN Insider. He currently serves as co-host of the Steve Sandmeyer Show on 1090 The Fan, CBS Sports Seattle.

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47 comments on “Seattle Mariners offseason to-do list

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  2. […] month I wrote at Prospect Insider that there are many tasks on the offseason to-do list of the Seattle Mariners, and that among them […]

  3. Jason A. Churchill says:

    Statstically, traditional stats, anyway, for 2013, Iwakuma had a No. 1 starter season. For a pitcher to come in and push him to the No. 3 spot, even if it’s just in terms of performance rather than rotation placement, he doesn’t have to better what Iwakuma has done in 2013. He’d need to be the better starter in 2014. I’ll lay great odds to anyone who want to bet that Iwakuma is just as good or better in ’14 as he was in ’13. I guarantee that doesn’t happen.

  4. docmilo says:

    “The other rotation necessity is someone to either pitch behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, or one that can supplant Iwakuma as the No. 2 starter, pushing ‘Kuma to the No. 3 spot. Again, we’ll discuss the names at a later date.”

    The way Kuma’s been pitching, it’s going to be tough to supplant him as the #2. With Iwakuma’s September, I would expect to see the M’s try to extend him this off season. His 219 IP are going to be very tough to replace. He should be in Seattle for at least the next 4 years and needs a contract that reflects that.

    Francona and Maddon clones? Do the M’s look no further than their bench coaches? Sandy Alomar Jr or Dave Martinez? Does Howard Johnson get an interview?

    I don’t see how Wedge was good with the youth. His lineups are static and he plays the same guys in the same order day in and day out until a player fails. I would love a guy like Maddon who moves multiple players around to different positions.

    Not taking money into account, doesn’t Gutierrez seem like a necessity in Seattle? The M’s had the money to go after Hamilton and extend Felix this year. Next year they can afford to pay Gutierrez $7 million plus to be a platoon/part time player and still get everything else they need. The M’s more than anything need additional RH power and the OF is the place to put it. A good manager gets Gutierrez, Ackley, Saunders and Almonte enough AB’s in the OF and also gets Ackley plenty of time at 2nd. Ackley can play 2nd with Franklin or Miller playing 3rd when Seager needs a day off. These guys all can spot Ibanez at DH here and there, too. Ibanez back in ’14 means Morales needs to move on. I see Zunino taking a big step next year, but this team really needs more RH offense and that’s most of why they can’t afford to let Guti walk. This team isn’t attractive enough at this point to bring in a Gomes type to be the RH platoon bat.

    The 2014 FA class does nothing for me, except for possibly some relievers. It’s just going to be tough to attract the really good ones here until this club is winning more games. Any big bats are going to have to come thru trade. I’m not looking forward to Michael Saunders getting traded and then watching him bring it all together for another club.

  5. […] if Danny Farquhar is the answer going forward. As Jason A. Churchill of ProspectInsider.com mentioned recently, others with experience closing, such as Edward Mujica, Fernando Rodney or Joaquin Benoit, could […]

  6. Jason A. Churchill says:

    The M’s signed SS Luis Rengifo, OF Ronald Rosario, SS Greifer Andrade, and C Onil Pena. Andrade is an outfielder who will convert to SS. He’s the only “top” prospect the club signed internationally, but the other three are very well thought of, too.

    Seattle had a little more than $2.5 million to spend, No. 11 of 30 teams.

  7. desbcoach says:

    Jason,

    Where can I find an update on M’s international signings. We had a good amount of money to spend but I havent seen many articles on the individuals signed.

  8. rotoenquire says:

    MLB does not like Cuban however. Even if he is a good owner.

  9. rotoenquire says:

    I would think so. Would also expect JackZ gone in that case along with Wedge.

  10. Paul Martin says:

    If ownership changes I don’t see how Lincoln or Armstrong would still be a part of the team? Wouldn’t a new owner want to bring in their own people?

  11. Paul Martin says:

    Mark Cuban seems like a huge long shot but that would be amazing. Yamauchi and Cuban couldn’t be MORE DIFFERENT.

  12. Jason A. Churchill says:

    The Gillick rumor is 100 percent moot if Howard Lincoln is still the CEO or has any major role with the team. Doesn’t matter who the owners are.

    I covered the Stanton angle last winter here.

  13. rotoenquire says:

    The to do list just got longer for the Mariners. With the passing of Hiroshi Yamauchi the experts are giving out possibilities. The M’s I believe will have a new majority owner. Nintendo of America will sell the 55% of the interest. Nintendo has been losing money and their stocks have been dropping. A large influx of cash from the M’s sale would help.

    Gillick is a rumor to come back and head the M’s.
    Larson was a favorite to take control but his divorce and losses in the stock market have limited his funds.
    John Stanton a 10% owner could be the next logical choice.
    Mark Cuban has been wanting a MLB team for some time.
    How will this all change the M’s spending this off season? It could make them not go for long term contracts as to make the teams pay roll look better to a potential buyer.

    A lot to take in and ponder about these next several months.

  14. JerryEK says:

    I think the M’s need to completely blow things up. At this point its not looking like this team is ready to compete in 2014. Since next year is also looking like a development/rebuild year, its time to make a fundamental change at the top.

    This team has lost all credibility, and although I don’t look forward to another ‘transitional period’, it needs to happen. The current front office simply isn’t getting it done. In five years, they have shown no signs of improvement in terms of decision making or results. Time for a reboot.

    I think the team needs an enema, and it needs to start with a new president. I’d like to see something like what happened with the Cubs, where they brought in a very talented individual in Theo Epstein, gave him the keys to the organization, and allowed him to put the right people into place to turn around an organization that had lost its way. I’m sorry to say this, but the M’s are so far removed from the 1995-2003 era of winning that they need a completely new group of people in charge. Making a big-splash change at the top would help this team regain lost credibility and get back on track. The M’s are terrible on multiple levels. Wholesale change is necessary.

    Maybe I’m just spoiled by watching how the Seahawks have been run lately, but I want the M’s to do more than one thing right. The Hawks draft well, they make smart free agent acquisitions, they find hidden gems in non-drafted guys and under-the-radar trades, and they have smart people in charge who put players into a position to succeed. They are smart at acquiring talent, developing talent, and maximizing talent.

    The Cardinals, Braves, Red Sox, A’s, and Rangers are examples of teams who do multiple things right. The M’s need to do that. Now!

    There is no reason why the M’s can’t fix this. The farm system is in good shape, with lots of young talent. The payroll couldn’t be much more flexible, with no bad contracts and lots of money. The team is a cash cow, too. Although I’ve lost confidence in Jack et al, at least they haven’t left the team in a huge hole like Bavasi did. For a new president/gm candidate, taking over the m’s would be a great opportunity.

    This wouldn’t necessarily take long, either. The current team isn’t good, but its not a mess requiring a long rebuild. There is already lots of young, cheap, cost-controlled ML talent on the club, plus more on the way. With the Cubs, Epstein had to deal with a bunch of bloated contracts and a terrible farm system. Thats not the case with the M’s. While the team is short on talent, there are good young players already here, and lots of money and roster flexibility to make moves. Its a perfect opportunity.

    Just like the Cubs did when they brought in Theo Epstein, the M’s need to bring in a savior and allow him/her the chance to completely change the organizational philosophy. If the team gave a brilliant person the power to implement their own plan, they could be good in a hurry. Plus, that person would have the opportunity to could come in, bring in their own people, and play the role of savior. For a potential president/gm candidate, its a no-lose proposition.

  15. JerryEK says:

    The worst possible thing the M’s could do is give Jack – or any other GM – “one more year” to see this plan through.

    Putting any GM into a “one more year” situation is a terrible move because it encourages the person in charge to make short-term decisions.

    If the M’s are convinced that Jack is the guy for the job long term (which is becoming more and more difficult to believe), they should make that clear and let him do his job.

    If the M’s want to go in a different direction, they should replace him.

    If they do that latter (which I hope is the case), they need to bring in someone with a plan and allow him/her the time and flexibility to see it to fruition.

  16. JerryEK says:

    Edman,

    There are loads of high quality people in other organizations. The M’s wouldn’t be hiring someone who is currently unemployed.

    The best candidates are people who are working in sub-GM level positions with other organizations. If the M’s are smart, they’d steal someone from a team who gets it, like the Red Sox, Braves, or Cardinals.

    There isn’t any shortage of smart and qualified GM candidates out there.

  17. Edman says:

    I’m not quite sure where you find an available GM with a reputation for getting things done in a hurry. I do believe that those kind of GMs are all working.

  18. diderot says:

    I agree that offense has the greatest room for improvement…but maybe not the greatest chance for improvement?
    Near term, I think there’s little chance we get competitive without being ‘pitching/defense’ focused first. That means mending the bullpen and strengthening the rest of the rotation…and finding a center fielder.

    But I’m interested in hearing Jason’s thoughts on adding average/plus bats…without having to dream about Mike Stanton.

  19. Jason A. Churchill says:

    Pat Gillick is not coming back to Seattle as long as Howard Lincoln is in charge. No chance.

    If he ever came back — again, Lincoln has to be gone — it’d likely be in a role similar to Nolan Ryan’s was in Texas before this season.

  20. Jason A. Churchill says:

    OPS is not a good indicator of good offenses. Sure, the better offenses will often have solid OPS numbers, but wOBA and wRC+ are much better indicators. The M’s rank 14th in wOBA and 10th in wRC+.

    You can’t bat .239 with a .306 team OBP and expect to be average. Far from average. Far too many outs in the lineup.

    Also, Morales is not part of the 2014 team as of right now. If they re-sign him, I think they need three more. And when I say upgrade I mean anywhere from avg to plus. Not four stars, that’s not happening.

    The pitching and defense was certainly a problem, but the offense is still the biggest culprit, and when the seasons ends they take a step back from where they are today because of contract expiration. Lots of work to do with the offense.

  21. Gibbo says:

    Great to see the site back and a nice article to get things back track. I think Z may be a good organisation guy, leader of scouts and has some ability to get the odd good deal done. I was a big Jack fan, but his lack of moves, ability to build a complete solid roster and his timing sometimes is just way off.

    He loaded a team up with 5 DH/1B type guys. It was obvious this team needed at least one better reliever, OF and SP this year… It was doomed from the start.

    Our starting OF was going to be Gutierrez, Saunders and Morse with Bay and Raul as backup. Guti can’t play more than 20 games and Morse struggles to get to 50 without landing on the DL and often seems to be day to day. So straight away you are left with Bay, Ibanez and Saunders. Sorry that’s just poor roster construction.

    The starting rotation Felix, Iwakuma, Saunders….. Then they really banked on young guys at 5 and 4. Rameriz got injured in spring and they were backed into a corner so hello Harang and running an unproven Maurer out there. Again there were guys available in the winter that woulf of helped. You add one more decent starter and let yourself be in a position to trade one of your guys like a Saunders etc if and when the rookies are ready.

    I think they need to to bring in a 1B and at least 1 maybe 2 OF’ers, a decent older reliever and a bounce back candidate and probably 1 or even 2 starters. Make the young SP earn spots.

    I could see some value in us trading a mix of guys like M Saunders, Smoak, Mauer, Paxton and one of Franklin or Ackley.

    It’s time to mix in some decent talent with all this youth, Morales is a nice fit bring him back and then lock up say a guy like Lincecum and the Cuban Abreu interest me, but his reports are mixed. Trade for an OF’er and sign an OF’er. They should have $45-$50M and I do think this franchise is starting to really fall apart and the average fan is just not interested anymore. Bringing in Raul, Sweeny, Bay types just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

  22. Paul Martin says:

    Hey Jason, is Pat Gillick a possibility? Would love to keep Tom for the draft and bring back Gillick to handle the GM duties of trading and signing players. He would be a nice “bridge” GM until the team is sold and new ownership cleans house…

  23. Wishhiker says:

    I think I got it. Based on OBP? Problem with that is Safeco has been the worst AL Park for OBP more years than it has not. lgOBP (expected OBP of avg hitter in the same Park) has had Seattle last more often than not since 2000 including every year since 2007. Best Seattle has finished was tied for 4th lowest in any full Safeco season. 2nd lowest in 2001 in case you were curious.

  24. Wishhiker says:

    Pitching and defense killed the season. As with the offense the worst defenders are pending FA or already gone.

  25. Wishhiker says:

    What exactly are you looking at that says this team needs 4 upgrades to the offense to be AL avg. ? What I see is a team that has an OPS+ of 99 with 7 AL teams above and 7 below. Looking AL average to me right now. If you break it down, the young guys have been above that while the vets numbers have brought them down so pending free agents in sum aren’t going to make the offense worse in their absence. The pitching killed us but the offense is average now.

  26. docsmith says:

    BTW, I should have reread this before posting. But would it be possible to have an “edit” feature on posts in a future version of the website?

  27. docsmith says:

    I am not trying to make excuses for JZ, but does anyone else get the feeling that right now is a crap time to be rebuilding a team? The game is awash in cash, everyone is keeping their best players, as a result FA classes have been week and you have to overpay to get very little. In addition, the trade route doesn’t seem to be what it was as the above mentioned has teams highly (maybe over) valuing their prospects, GMs seem a little more shrewd in making trades, and teams seem to have conformed to somewhat similar philosophies in terms of mixing stats/scouts in evaluating players.

    The best way left is through the draft, but that takes a painful amount of time. I hope we are nearing the end of that painful amount of time, but given the on field results in 2014, it is a little tough to tell.

    Anyway, back to the article, like most, I tend to agree is it.
    I am indifferent about Wedge. He isn’t awful, but he isn’t one of those managers that inspires great faith either. If we think we have a shot at Girardi, then make the switch. But I haven’t read a whisper that we have a shot at Girardi.

    I’d prefer to give JZ another year but I think that we have entered the realm where it should be discussed. His strength has been the draft (I hope TMac gets a nice Christmas basket every year). Trades have been weak (does JZ trade with anyone but Baltimore or NYY anymore?), and FA signings even weaker (this isn’t me call them awful, just weak). But, my goal for 2013 was ~.500 ball while getting the kids some experience. I mostly blame injuries (Morse, Pryor, etc) for a chunk of the less than .500 ball. But if this late season collapse continues, it may cost JZ his job. In particular if the numbers on more of the “youth” don’t improve (Franklin, Smoak, Ackley, Miller, etc).

    I am in general agreement with the rest. My main moves would include make Morales a qualifying offer and try to sign him to a 2 yr deal, make a run at Ellsbury but have limits on yrs (3?) and $ ($50M?) that is high on AVG value but low on total value that will likely make you priced out early. Shop everyone to see what value they have but this concerns me given our recent trade history, but still, we should probably do it. Add an OF bat or two, release Guti/Saunders (as stated), try for a BP veteran and a mid-back end of the rotation starter.

    Very unfortunately, right now we do not have a position of strength to trade from and are generally below average across the board (SP, BP, IF, OF, bench). OF may actually be worse than below average. FA signings aren’t going to fix this. Trades aren’t likely to fix this…there likely is only one quick fix that is impossible to predict. The only way the M’s get much better in 2014 is for 2 of the big 4 to come into and be studs in the rotation (i.e. 2011 Pineda), Pryor/Capps/Wilhelmson/Farquhar meld to form a great BP, and Smoak/Ackley/Franklin/Miller are all “solid”…I am not sure anyone needs to be an all star, but solid.

    But in this day in age, I think you have to build a core internally and then only supplement with trades/FA signings. We haven’t yet reached the point where we have a “core” to build around yet. I think we may be getting close, hopefully it happens next year.

  28. Jason A. Churchill says:

    That’s a manager talking about his player. Nothing more.

  29. diderot says:

    I have to admit this quote from Stearns about Almonte caught my attention:
    “I think he is going to be a major league everyday center fielder and a guy who can possibly go to multiple All-Star Games.”

  30. rotoenquire says:

    I like Itoi, I think you add him to the OF and a lead off hitter that in it’s self is an improvement. I also like Almonte however I do concede he is more a 4th OF. However unless the M’s bring in somebody of note he could be starting next year.

  31. Jason A. Churchill says:

    Let me, if I may, reply to Paul’s post one by one, not that you asked me to do so.

    I agree on the GM hiring — those in charge of the process haven’t exactly earned the trust of anyone outside the organization. The presumption is, they’ll hire the wrong guy again.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. The Cubans don’t interest me much, but Yoshio Itoi is intriguing.

    2. Even if they did draft in the top 10, the right free agent is worth the draft pick. This wouldn’t have been one of those years, however, and it may not make a lot of sense to overpay — as much as it might be necessry in general to do so — for anyone out there this year.

    3. It doesn’t appear to me that the Mariners have made much of an attempt to go get the Johnny Gomes, Brandon Moss types. Before I read your post, Paul, I was talking to a pro scout about right-handed hitting first base types that mash lefties and could be dirt cheap. If the M’s can get one for a few million, tender Smoak and go with a platoon. Oakland does it. Texas does it. You can’t have more than 1-2 platoons, realistically, but they haven’t had any, really, the past two years, at least not in the corners.

    4. I get the sense Lincecum is going to be tendered the near-$14 million qualifying offer, so it’d likely take 2+ years at $10-plus million to get him to pass on the one-year deal at that tag. He may prefer to take that one year deal at 14 mil and try and reestablish his value before signing a multi-year contract. Trading for him may be the only way he leaves San Francisco after this season. We’ll see.

    5. I’m not SURE a team would give the right value for Iwakuma, either, but there’s only one way to find out — field calls on him. Tells teams you want to hear their offers. They didn’t do that this summer, and I agreed with that philosophy. He hadn’t built any real value yet — he had but a year of starting under his belt, and no full seasons.

    There’s no need to extend him right now. He’s under contract for another year and the club has an option for 2015.

    6. Some of them certainly do. I think that is the case for all of this year’s rookies — Zunino, Franklin, Miller, Walker, Paxton. The three position players have a lot of work to do, but clubs now know more about what is left to be done in development and how each might fare in that process. I know a lot of people are worried about Franklin, but I’m not. He’s different than Ackley and has already made two significant adjustments.

    Couldn’t agree more on the final sentence. Trading for a player or two making some money is also possible, and could make sense. The question remains: Who’s going to be pulling the trigger on those deals? Who is going to be fielding those calls on ‘Kuma and the kids?

  32. Paul Martin says:

    I would feel much better about firing Wedge and Jack Z if Lincoln and Armstrong were not the ones making the hire. My hope is we are a year or two away from new ownership, who will dump Armstrong and Lincoln and bring in a baseball guy (like a Nolan Ryan type) to hire the GM, who would then be free to hire his own manager.

    Having said that, I think you fire Wedge and Jack survives another year.

    Offseason ideas?

    1. Work the international market for someone close to MLB READY. Maybe that is a pitcher or maybe an Abreu type?

    2. Seattle is going to have one of the ten worst records in baseball this year, so they can sign a free agent without giving up a draft pick. I realize they likely Won’t contend next year, but at some point you have to add talent to the team. I don’t think the money thrown at Choo or Elsbury will be as crazy as you think. I am OK with going north of the Bourn contract to sign one of them.

    3. Why can’t Seattle find cheap but productive free agents like Oakland does? I think we can throw modest money at a couple players and increase our talent base.

    4. Could we get Lincecum on a two year Joe Saunders like deal (maybe a little more but not much)?

    5. I don’t see a team giving us value for Iwakuma. I would rather try to extend him. He seems to like it here, and with all these young unknown pitchers, we have to count on more than just Felix and a bunch of “maybe” youngsters.

    6. Maybe our young players have more trade value now with MLB experience and Jack pulls off a blockbuster trade. I think this is our best chance to get a solid offensive piece (Stanton seems like a dream but sure would be nice).

    The team has a low payroll going into the offseason, and I expect them to spend some money, even if it is on some short term contracts.

  33. Jason A. Churchill says:

    I’d grade him out around 40/45. He’s Ackley with an arm, though Ackley has gained ground there in the past month.

  34. Jason A. Churchill says:

    Regarding the draft picks, I get it, and I, too, would like Tom to be making those picks. But if the trade-off is passing on a better GM that gets things done in a hurry, I’m making that trade. And while I do believe Tom’s loyalty to Jack will come into play, if a new GM is brought in and asks Tom to stay, it’s not a foregone conclusion he would say no.

    I used to believe he’d go, too. Now I don’t.

  35. Jason A. Churchill says:

    In the long run I like this, but I don’t think it gives the Mariners any advantage. They don’t have a big advantage with the Japanese players anymore. Other clubs have closed that gap and even passed them. Players from Japan aren’t oblivious to the team’s situation, either, so that will still be a factor.

    Having said that, if they are one of the three finalists — that’s based on their bid, something the club controls, nobody else — they’d certainly have a better chance than if the player was a free agent. But that isn’t any different than now. Highest bidder gets the chance to negotiate.

  36. Jason A. Churchill says:

    I think it would take far too big a package to get either, and I think Gonzalez is vastly overrated. He’s flipped it around this year, but over the course of his career he’s been a great hitter at home and a below-average one on the road. I’ll change my mind if he repeats his 2013 results next year, but until then I think its an anomaly.

    Also, he’s a corner outfielder, not a centerfielder, and the trade cost is certain to be huge. The one thing he has going for him from the Mariners’ standpoint is he’s just 28 next month, has been healthy for the most part and is signed for four more years at salaries that are shy of ridiculous ($63.5m total, $15.7m per year AAV).

    I’d check in, but ultimately can’t see a match there.

    With Tulowitzki, I don’t believe they’ll actually move him, and he’s not a fit in Seattle, considering all factors.

    He’s 29 next month, due $130m over the next seven seasons, all guaranteed money, and he’s shown the tendency to get dinged up. The cost isn’t likely to be discounted by any amount; T2 is there guy. He’s their Derek Jeter, on and off the field.

  37. diderot says:

    What’s Almonte’s reputation/potential as a center fielder?

  38. Jason A. Churchill says:

    We can do that, but it probably fits a more detailed “options” type post, which is more appropriate next month, closer to free agency and when deals can be made.

    As for my thoughts on “relative importance of improving,” it’s truly everything. The defense needs to get better. The baserunning needs improving — and a better philosophy, IMO — the bullpen is well below league average as-is and the rotation needs two upgrades — No. 2/3 and No. 4.

    Offensively, the home runs are plenty, but there aren’t enough doubles and singles, and the club probably strikes out a bit too much. The whiffs aren’t generally a huge concern, but situationally it is.

    I think this team needs four offensive upgrades to get to AL avg. The young players can be part of that, but relying on all of them to do so is irresponsible at this stage. The statistical area that needs the biggest boost is OBP.

  39. diderot says:

    Jason,
    This is a great way to kick off the offseason conversation, but I wonder if you’d consider a couple additions to future ‘what do we do?’ lists:
    — A ‘grade’ for degree of difficulty–e.g., it’s presumably a lot easier to extend Seager than resign Morales; and both are harder than just listening to trade offers or releasing Joe Saunders
    — A ‘grade’ for potential short term impact; e.g., replacing Jack would presumably not have the same potential for immediate improvement as replacing Wedge; but neither would have nearly the short term influence as signing a #2/#3 starter.

    Also, I’m guessing most fans would say that the team needs to do everything better. But I’d also like to hear your thoughts on the relative importance of improving: power hitting; OBP; rotation; bullpen; defense; baserunning.

    thanks

  40. Edman says:

    I agree with much of what Jason wrote, but with the potential of four draft picks in the first two rounds of the 2014 draft, I would want Jack and Tom to be making those selections in the draft. He deserves one more year to see how his best prospects turn out. There was a lot of bad luck associated with this year’s team. Stuff that nobody would have predicted. I would worry about who they brought in to replace him. To make an assumption that it wouild be somebody better, might be a fool’s bet.

    I concur, that it’s time for Eric to go. His patience was valuable with so much youth. But, it’s now time to hear a different voice, even if it is sending the same message. They need a guy to come in and be more like Lou. Someone to remove the appearance of being able to move at their own pace. Now’s the time, and expectations need to be set higher.

    I think trading Smoak now would be a big mistake. He may be slow in getting there, but he’s becoming a better hitter. The power will follow. As for Ackley, I’m good with seeing if it’s for real. There aren’t a ton of great options out there. And as much as I like Saunders’ tools, he’s too inconsistent to play everyday. See if you can find a trade partner with a similar guy, and maybe it works out for both teams.

    I would go after a proven bullpen arm on a big contract, and try to find a couple value players to fill out the bullpen. Kids got pushed into roles they weren’t ready for. Carter Capps should have nowhere near Seattle this year. He lacks command and and hasn’t realized he can’t throw fastballs past major league hitters. I would like to see two veteran arms added.

    And, I’d like to see them go after a solid #3 picher, and let the kids fill out the rest of the rotation. Erasmo isn’t a #4 or #5 starter, IMO. He’d be good as the long-man/spot starter. Ulitimately, Paxton, Walker, Hultzen and Mauer (at the moment) will own the last two spots, and one will ultimately replace Iwakuma, if he’s not signed to a multi-year deal. As the saying goes, and as we learned this year, you can never have too much pitching.

  41. rotoenquire says:

    Any thoughts on the proposed changes to the posting system between MLB and NPB? Rumored could come into effect this Nov. With the TOP 3 teams being named as winners and that the player then gets to chose what teams he wants to negotiate with. Couldn’t that be a plus for the M’s with their ties to Japan because of the inroads that the M’s have made there?

  42. leo_world says:

    Is there any truth to the rumors of Colorado taking calls on both CarGo and Tulo?

    I read on http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/09/east-links.html

    Obviously Cargo would be a better fit for us, being an outfielder and all. And with Colorado seeking middle infield help (and always in need of pitching) i feel we could make it happen. Am i naive to think so? We seem to have a surplus of young untested arms, and parting with one of miller/franklin/ackley wouldnt be the end.

    Thoughts?

  43. rotoenquire says:

    What about the international players like M. Tanaka SP, Y, Itoi OF both from Japan. Tanaka could be a solid #3 and does not look to be on the high end of paying for the right to talk to him. Itoi who by many is better than N. Aoki with his bat speed and defence.

    J. Abreu 1B Cuba would be a solid get as well to take over at 1B and may not cost a ton in relation to some other well know Cuban players of late.

    All are younger than the other F/A players out their. And the cost would be better overall as well. I think you would then not sign Morales given the fact that DJ Peterson is not far off the way he has been hitting the ball and could be up with the big league club in Sept. next year. That is also with the thought of signing Abreu. If Abreu goes some place else than Morales would be a must for me.

    There is also trade parteners out their. The White Sox have some players they are looking to deal in De Aza OF and A. Ramirez SS. And if the M’s do start to look at trades for Iwakuma and haul in return could be epic.

  44. rth1986 says:

    I agree with everything, except I’d rather not trade Saunders when his value is low. He’s still controllable and would make an excellent platoon/back-up option at the very least. He’s the type who I still think could turn into a stud corner outfielder with another team – too much ability to give up now. I’m fine with Ackley acting as a super utility player and bouncing around 2B, LF and CF.

    I like idea of Nick Punto and Ryan Hanigan as back-up options next year. Both are underrated and great part-time players. Both have good approaches at the plate and are plus defensively. Would serve as good role-models for the young players and shouldn’t cost much to get.

  45. Jason A. Churchill says:

    doc,

    None of that is job saving. The suits didn’t tell him he couldn’t spend any money 2011-13. The suits didn’t force any of the trades. They didn’t make him sign Chone Figgins. While I was the first anywhere to suggest Jack started in the hole and should not have been judged as if a normal rebuilding period was in order, it’s now been five years and there is very, very little evidence of an ability to construct a roster, maximize value and, most of all, acquire major league talent as long-term answers.

    The transaction list under Zduriencik’s tenure is astonishingly poor. Until I compiled the list and categorized them, I leaned toward another year of Zduriencik. But that would be like giving Brandon Wood the job at first base.

    When Jack arrived it was a disaster. More so than any other current GM when they took over. But saying he’s been held back by the ownership, Howard and Chuck just simply is not true.

  46. PuyallupPete says:

    I can’t help but look back on this season and think that due to extremely poor roster construction, the M’s were doomed from the start and for that I have to lay most of the blame on Jack. Add to that Wedge’s insistence on running Raul out there nearly every day, and a bad situation just got worse.

    I’ve had a belief for awhile now that the M’s seem to allow their marketing department drive baseball decisions – or at least influence them. Successful organizations put their focus on the field product. The M’s seem to prioritize making Safeco such a “family friendly” atmosphere that they seem to forget that winning is what ultimately puts buts in the seats. Case in point, their insistence on bringing back former fan favorites or local PNW players past their prime. I find it incredibly insulting how stupid the organization must think its fans are. I think if I see the grounds keepers dance again, I’m going to scream.

  47. docmilo says:

    Wedge gone? Yes. Zduriencik gone? Not quite in agreement on that one just yet. Zdureincik has had his hands tied by the FO and they aren’t going anywhere. The team wasn’t in position to rebuild because of the devastated farm system left behind so he had to go out and make due with what he had. When the FO say “make due with what you have”, the FO should have an understanding regarding results. In all honesty, this is truly the first year of the rebuild. The M’s have been retooling for years. Sweeney, Griffey, Cust, Bradley, Ibanez, Figgins, Kotchman, Branyan, Kennedy, Olivo.

    The reason I would have liked to seen Wedge let go for this last road trip is that I would have liked to seen HoJo or Brown show what they have. The Mets fans weren’t happy that HoJo didn’t get the nod when Collins was hired. I don’t know enough about Howard Johnson, but it would have been interesting to see what type of guy he is. Robby Thompson should have taken his shot when Wedge was sick. He didn’t. He acted as a place holder and that’s not how you earn a job in baseball. Lou Gehrig didn’t act like a place holder. It’s not what you do to win games.

    Any thoughts on Ackley? He seems a bit thicker since playing OF. Was he keeping his weight down to play 2nd? I would like to see more of Ackley at 2nd and Franklin starting off at AAA next year or traded.

    I hate the idea of seeing Michael Saunders traded, but I’m getting that feeling, too. That may be what’s best for him. I would love to see him pull the Raul Ibanez routine. Move on and flourish. Saunders got hurt running into the wall early in the season and had to play. Then August came and everyone not named Ackley hit under .200 it seemed. I will be sad and happy when Saunders goes.

    I think the arm the M’s need to land is Lincecum. Their first round pick should be protected the way things are going and switching leagues may be just what the Dr. ordered for Timmy.

    I like Morales. I don’t think the M’s should go anymore than 2 years on the guy with a vesting option if he’s producing in 2015. If he doesn’t sign that deal, drop the QO. I have a hard time seeing a team losing a draft pick for a DH only type of bat.

    As far as Gutierrez goes. He needs to stay on the option. Don’t think of the cost because the M’s have money to pay his option and pay for whatever they can bring on board, too. The biggest thing is the M’s need a manager that knows how to rotate players thru the lineup and platoon guys. Even if there is a guy like Gomes or Raburn out there the M’s could bring in as a RH platoon bat, the guy will go to a contending team before going to a team swept by the Astros. Eat the cost, manage him correctly.

    Smoak seems done. I love the glove. I don’t understand why Romero has never played much of 1B in the minors.

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