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The Seattle Mariners held their 16th annual FanFest this past weekend and set a record with an attendance of 21,019 combined for the two days. The event offers a chance for fans to rub elbows with the players, wonder Safeco Field, and take part in various activities (zip line!). In keeping up with the trends, the Mariners had several players hit the social media booth to take questions from fans via Twitter. Newcomer Corey Hart was one of them, and offered an interesting answer to a question sent his way by yours truly.


Hart’s comparison has some validity on the surface since the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers were relatively young and an exciting team to watch considering the explosive offence they put together. This year’s incarnation of the Mariners would be similar based solely on the fact there’s plenty of youth ready to break out, and any team that has the potential to lead the league in home runs and will send Felix Hernandez to the mound every fifth day is bound to bear some excitement. While the ’14 Mariners aren’t coming off of an 83-win season and probably need another year to see what some of their young guys can do, perhaps there’s more validity to Hart’s comment than meets the eye.

The ’08 Brewers lineup featured two of today’s premier hitters entering their age 24 seasons, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, and the pair would combine for 71 home runs and 208 runs batted in on the year. Joining them in the lineup were Hart, JJ Hardy, and Mike Cameron, who all belted 20 or more dingers as well. Collectively the team finished third in the National League with 198 home runs, but finished twelfth in the NL with a combined .252 batting average. Braun would finish third in NL MVP voting that year and led the Brew Crew with his .285/.335/.553 line, although he has since admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, clouding his stats slightly to say the least.

Perhaps Hart just might be on to something as the Mariners finished second in the American League with 188 home runs in 2013 led by Raul Ibanez (29 HR), Kendrys Morales (23), Kyle Seager (22), and Justin Smoak (20). However the team’s .237 batting average was last in the league and Morales’ .277 average led the team. Gone are Ibanez and Morales, but if Hart and fellow newcomer Logan Morrison are both able to stay healthy the entire year, it’s possible they could replace the production lost from the departed sluggers. Robinson Cano brings his career .309/.355/.504 line to the team as well as four consecutive finishes in the top six AL MVP voting.

Currently the 2014 M’s are projected to hit 218 home runs according to Steamer, six more than the major league leading Baltimore Orioles hit last year, so the lineup will remain homer-heavy, which always carries some excitement. Cano, Hart, and Smoak are all projected to hit more than 20 long balls this year, and five others are projected to be over the thirteen mark as well. Having a homer-heavy lineup is obviously much more effective when a team can capitalize with runners on base; 19 of Ibanez’s 29 home runs last year were solo shots. The ’08 Brewers drove in 722 batters as a team compared to just 597 driven in by the ’13 Mariners. Steamer projects 683 runs batted in for this year, not only a marked improvement from last year but also a number that would’ve placed Seattle among the top ten teams in baseball last season.

While the home run production is comparable between the two clubs, a key difference was that Milwaukee didn’t pay for their long ball with defence. Without dwelling on the misadventures of Ibanez, Mike Morse et all, UZR gave Seattle a defensive rating of -73.0. Ouch. The Brewers on the other hand, received a 15.9 UZR rating in 2008. Cano will help in this department, but the outfield looks almost abysmal defensively; especially if Michael Saunders spends much time in center. For what it’s worth, Seattle only stole 49 bases compared to 108 stolen by Milwaukee and Steamer only projects Saunders  and Brad Miller to steal more than ten bases in the upcoming year. How important steals are is debatable, but the point being made is that the ’08 Brewers featured a much more rounded offensive than the ’14 Mariners project to field.

The Brew Crew featured a steady yet unspectacular rotation until they acquired CC Sabathia in a July trade with the Indians that year. After the 22-year old Yovani Gallardo went down with injury, the staff anchored by Ben Sheets, Dave Bush, and Jeff Suppan helped combine for the National League’s second lowest ERA at 3.85. This was actually a very productive year for Sheets who had missed parts of 2007 and 2006 with injuries. In 198 1/3 innings pitched he posted a 3.09 ERA with a 3.38 FIP and 3.88 xFIP; good for 4.3 fWAR and bWAR. Sabathia was the real game changer for the rotation however, posting a sparkling 1.65 ERA in 17 starts, seven of which were complete games. His performance with the Brewers even garnered some National League Cy Young and MVP attention despite pitching half his season in the American League.

Now, one would like to think that a pitching staff highlighted by King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma wouldn’t have one of the worst earned run averages in the AL, but that was the case in 2013. Only the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros had worse results than Seattle’s 4.32 ERA. Although Felix and Kuma only represented about 30 percent of the innings pitched by the staff, the other 70 percent was pretty ugly. Youngsters Taijuan Walker and James Paxton impressed in their September cameo appearances, and Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush, and Oliver Perez  were effective out of the bullpen.

As it stands, the Mariners’ rotation features nearly zero certainty after the top two spots. Some incarnation of Walker, Paxton, Brandon Maurer, Erasmo Ramirez, and the newly signed Scott Baker figure to fill out the remaining three rotation spots. Much has been made about the height of Walker’s ceiling, and there’s a good chance Paxton becomes a productive starter down the line, but both are almost complete question marks for 2014 and probably best served starting the year at Triple-A. Maurer and Ramirez  are still young and could develop into useful pieces, but unless they’ve improved tremendously this winter, there’s no reason to pencil them in for any more than a bullpen gig. A healthy Baker is a legitimate back end rotation guy, but that’s still to be determined as well.

The Brewers did get something resembling a breakout year from Manny Parra in his first full big league season. After nine appearances in 2007, the then 25-year old posted a 4.39 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 3.81 xFIP over 29 starts and 32 appearances. That would turn out to be his the most productive season of his career thus far, but at the cost of a league minimum salary, nobody was complaining about his performance in 2008. For what it’s worth, Paxton is entering his age 25 season and if he can contribute something resembling Parra’s 1.9 fWAR and contribute over the course of the entire season, that’d be huge for the club. Even when Gallardo went down with injury, the Brew Crew were able to get a decent result out of ten Seth McClung starts. If Walker or Paxton are unable to go for whatever reason, the Mariners’ rotation once again hinges on guys like Ramirez. I’d rather have McClung, thanks.

Outside of Sabathia, Milwaukee’s rotation was regarded as far from flashy heading into the 2008 season. There was still some notable hype surrounding Gallardo who was the Brewers’ second round choice in the 2004 draft, though it was less than that associated with Walker currently. Sheets had dealt with injuries the previous two campaigns and Suppan and Bush had yet to established much consistency in their respective games. But, Milwaukee did enter the year with a set of fairly dependable arms and got a little bit of luck aside from the Gallardo injury. The Mariners’ projected 2014 rotation isn’t just a little bit of luck and health away from being Wild Card calibre.

Obviously Hart comparing the 2014 Seattle Mariners to the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers wasn’t meant to be analyzed this much. His reasoning could be as simple as the fact that the Mariners are going to hit a lot of home runs this year and will feature several young players with the ability to be difference makers; both are attributes of exciting baseball.

The Brewers would go on to lose in the National League Division Series in four games to the Philadelphia Phillies in ’08, a result that seems too far out of the Mariners’ reach at this point. Acquiring David Price would certainly help, but maybe the M’s should allocate most of their available resources to help the outfield and attempt to bring in a Bush or Suppan circa 2008 type of starter instead. Felix and Kuma offer enough star power at the top of the rotation to allow for a Bronson Arroyo to fit in the three spot until Walker or Paxton claim it as their own. Unless Ervin Santana falls into their lap, there’s not much left for free agent starters.

All in all, the Mariners may just be in a similar position to where the Brewers were six years ago. A lot will have to go right for the club to be a legitimate playoff contender this year, but a strong step towards fielding a contending team in 2015 may be just as good of a result.

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    I think that’s what Seattle is attempting to do, and that’s where players like Paxton and Franklin are probably being dangled. Quality, young outfielders simply aren’t all that available right now, and for good reason. If Kemp looks good during Spring Training then I think his name could resurface in trade rumors again, or perhaps another veteran guy who loses their job to a kid becomes available next month. Still a lot of time to make another move or two.

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    I think I’m slowly convincing myself that allowing 2014 to be a ‘wait and see’ year with a real aim for 2015 isn’t the worst thing. If the Mariners get steps forward for Walker, Paxton, Saunders, Maurer/Ramirez, Miller, Morrison, and maybe even Smoak, they’re in a much better position to make another major acquisition next winter. I’ve never liked the idea of banking on prospects, but if Walker and Paxton prove they can hold their own in the rotation for 180-200 innings a year (they may not even get that opportunity till 2015) then spending $60 million on Santana becomes pretty redundant. Not that you can have too much pitching, but I’m sure you can see my point.

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    And, when do we conclude that that virtue has expired?

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    I don’t see the payroll as an issue. At least not right now.

    I’m assuming that the money invested in Felix and Cano isn’t an isolated thing. After cutting payroll and rebuilding the club, it makes sense to gradually ramp back up over $100 mil. I expect to see the payroll gradually going upward over the next few years. Part of that will be spent on rising salaries and (hopefully) locking up young players who develop into keepers. But as the M’s (hopefully) get closer to being a legit contender in the next year or two, they will correctly evaluate their window to win and add those last few pieces to put the team over the top.

    I don’t see any need to suddenly invest a ton of money and go into full-on “WIN NOW” mode right now. Its not the right time: the team still has a lot of unproven or struggling young players that they need to either develop or move on from, and that will take another 1-2 years. I was actually afraid that Jack would try too hard to push the timeframe forward this year in a short-sighted effort to save his job. Thus far this offseason, that hasn’t happened. They’ve made some significant moves and added salary, but in a relatively smart way. They are headed in the right direction, but this is still a ~80 win team IMHO.

    Patience is a virtue. Adding a guy like Cruz only makes sense if the M’s think they need to win right now. Bringing him in wastes playing time that could be used to develop/evaluate guys like Ackley, Saunders, Smoak, Morrison, Montero, etc. We really need 1-2 of those guys to turn into good players. If they did sign Cruz, he likely wouldn’t be around when this team hits their window of contention anyway. Its not like Tanaka.

    Instead, I think the M’s should bide their time, continue building a solid foundation, and look for other options that fit better with their time frame.

    Instead of asking “can the M’s afford another hitter”, they should be asking “is there anyone available that would be a good fit for this team this year and in the future?”

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    Sure, they could spend more money this year, but the options aren’t that appealing right now.

    Santana and Jiminez are unpredictable and probably not worth the money, loss of draft pick, and loss of bonus pool $$.

    The mid-tier of SP’s next offseason look pretty decent. I could see adding another guy next year, like Homer Bailey. Plus, we’ll have a year to evaluate our young starters like Erasmo, Paxton, Maurer, and Walker.

    As for hitting, Cruz could help drive in a few runs and bolster the offense. Nobody really likes him, but he has his purposes. Sounds like we’re considering him, so there’s some allusion to the team’s willingness to spend money.

    We all know it makes zero sense to buy Cano and not increase the budget, but our options for the coming season are pretty bad, barring some unforseen trades. I bet ownership and management recognize the situation and are unwilling to spend money on bad investments.

    2014 may not necessarily be our year. Each coming year, however, looks better. I don’t believe Cano is falling off a cliff anytime soon. Our young guys will hopefully get better and better, (and more expensive, all the more reason not to tie funds up in crappy investments like Santana). Maybe we add another piece or two next year, and finish the project in 2016. This is a long-term program we’re running, and I still believe in the direction of the front office.

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    That’s what I was saying: we can argue all we like about how money should be spent, but there’s been no indication that the Mariners had they pick of players. The fact they managed to convince Cano to sign should be celebrated for what it’s worth.

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    I have a great dislike for “what could have happened” scenarios, because they treat everything as if it’s inevitable that if Seattle wanted Ellsbury, he’d simply be a Mariner. And that Ubaldo would come to Seattle simply because Jack asked. It’s never that simple.

    Seattle landed a guy nobody thought he could. As much as you can play the “roster construction game”, it always depends on who you can sign, not who you want to sign.

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    In terms of pure roster construction, perhaps spending $240 million on Ellsbury and one of Garza/Ubaldo/Santana might have made more sense, but the Mariners were able to convince the best free agent available to come to Seattle. As we’ve seen, that’s been an incredibly difficult task. They made a statement when they signed Cano, and hoped it would open doors to other players wanting to come. Of course, that hasn’t quite happened yet, but a couple of true franchise players and a strong young nucleus of talent do make the team much more appealing. My only problem with the signing was if GMZ/upper management are content to stop spending now. Like Paul Martin said below, signing Cano requires a boost in payroll. Perhaps the money is there and the M’s are just having a hard time spending it, maybe they want to wait till next year to spend more, who knows. The Cano signing only becomes a problem if Seattle is unable to bring in the players required to make the signing count.

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    Loved the Cano signing, can’t ask for much more on a free agent signing!

    I guess my issue is NOT Jack’s fault, and that is TEAM PAYROLL.

    if you are going to spend big on King Felix and Cano, then payroll needs to move up to the 115 to 130 million range so you can field a team around them. I am not saying spend recklessly, but it cost money to build pitching depth and maybe trade for someone’s bad contract.

    I wasn’t expecting Jack to fix all the team’s warts this offseason, but adding talented pieces like Cano was exactly what was needed.

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    We had an All-Star, All-AL Team type of secondbaseman? Where did you expect he could find that kind of player at another position? So, you’d be all for over-spending for a pitcher that’s never thrown a pitch in the majors, instead of an All-Star secondbaseman, who has a proven record as an elite hitter? You’d be all for Jack doing nothing, with the expectation that he could win the “Tanaka” game?

    God people are fickle, and full of expectations that assume that all things they think are possible, are possible.

    Many have ripped him for not getting a big name. Now, you whine because he did, with the expectation that those players come cheap?

    It’s easy to sit back and say what you would have done, when there is with the expectation that if you think they’re available, they are always available to Seattle.

    What available players are willing to come to Seattle? Until you know, you don’t know.

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    You asked me where I heard it, and typically that ends up in a “prove it” situation. I apologize if you took it as an angry comment. It wasn’t meant to be. I was being pre-emptive, and letting you know that I know he said it, but I don’t remember where or how. And usually, that comes with the expectation that I’m going to waste my time over something that’s ultimately not that important.

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    Cano is the best free agent hitter to come along since 2008. I didn’t look back any further than that. Other noteworthy guys: Beltre, Teixeira, Holliday, Pujols, Fielder, Ellsbury.

    No one from next year’s class is as good, either.

    Jack Z bought the best free agent to come along in years. A guy who plays up the middle, swings a big stick, plays great D, and is healthy year after year.

    Sounds pretty smart to me. Guys like Cano don’t come along very often.

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    My objection to GMZ’s moves are that he is not filling holes that need filling and he is wasting resources in the process. He’s a good scouting manager, GM not so much IMO. $240 million for a second baseman and we had one who was proven and one that was possible. Granted he has more tools and is a big name. For that money they could have possibly gotten Tanaka whom will probably be as productive in WAR and would have filled a hole in our rotation where we have two prospects and a rehab case as 3, 4 and 5. If not then two passable free agent arms. Bad back of the rotation pitching wore out our bullpen last year and the bullpen we had has been depleted by injury, trade and release and is worse off now than at the end of the season. We have too much depth at DH, 1B and the OF and lack of depth in the rotation and bullpen. I’m still not sure what they got LoMo for, other than he was a “name” that had a good season a couple of years ago but not recently. There just doesn’t seem to be much of a structured approach to making the team better, just picking up parts and shoehorning them into an unbalanced lineup. Nelson Cruz may well sink the Mariner Cruzliner, rather than keep it afloat into contention. (Edman this is my opinion. The US Constitution says I’m entitled to one.)

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    One last option: Rusney Castillo.

    Guy has had success in Cuba, and can play both OF corners as well as 2B and 3B. From what I’ve read, he’s a really interesting speed/power guy.

    Why not? I’d rather take a flyer on someone who might be good after a few months acclimatizing in AAA than sign a player who isn’t an upgrade over what we already have.

    Obviously, the M’s could do this and still do what you are suggesting. But I think a trade for a younger OFer is more likely to happen mid-season at this point.

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    Yeah, this is a good point.

    I’m hoping this is just more Jim Bowden bullshit.

    The rumored interest in Fernando Rodney makes a bit more sense, though.

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    You’d be pleased to see the M’s lose a draft pick just to spite Scott Boras?

    He’s just acting in the best interests of his clients. Its the MLBs stupid rules that are hurting players.

    Regardless, I think some team will pick him up. I could see the Orioles grabbing him. Or someone will get injured.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t know of any good player get completely passed over in free agency over draft compensation. People thought that might happen to Kyle Lohse last year, but he got signed. It would be pretty unprecedented. Could happen, though.

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    Actually to Edman’s credit he has really become A LOT more civil over the last year. I don’t know what happened, but he isn’t nearly as confrontational as he used to be. Just stating his opinion. He said he heard it somewhere years ago. Not sure where.

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    Smoak is going to get every opportunity to succeed once again, but not based on whether or not he deserves it. Hart and Morrison will have to prove they’re healthy enough to man first base on a regular basis and should that happen and Smoak continues to be mediocre, I think the end of the road will be a lot closer for him.

    I do believe that they could all be managed effectively, and it’s probably unwise to have Hart and Lomo playing everyday, especially Hart. It’s going to be one of those wait and see kind of things and probably a case where the hot hand(s) is the one in the lineup. Like I’ve said, re-upping Morales isn’t a best case scenario, but it’s far from a worst case scenario. At least he doesn’t have ‘outfielder’ listed as his position.

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    Geez Edman I never called you a liar just wondering where you heard that. Maybe check into anger management somewhere.

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    Do you believe the M’s kept Smoak so he can ride the pine? Why does Morrison deserve more playing time than Smoak? Maybe that’s how it will end up, but it see Smoak, getting his time.

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    A lot of people talk about the logjam at DH 1B etc, it’s no actually that bad. Smoak doesn’t deserve a full time gig. So if he gets relegated to the bench, no loss. The other guys Hart, Morrison, even a Cruz or Morales all need playing time managed, platooning or time off… So I will believe it’s an issue when they are all if or performing at the same time… Just wonder what the odds of that ever happening?

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    I read an interesting comment on Twitter today, it might have been from one of the Lookout Landing guys, I don’t remember, but it was something along the lines of almost everything the M’s have done under the Jack Z regime have been virtually unleaked until they happen. Cano is an obvious anomaly to a statement like that, but the signing of a quarter billion dollar contract is an anomaly as well.

    It could mean nothing, but a normally hush-hush front office publicly expressing this much interesting in a player? Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Maybe not. Maybe they really do want Morales back and are playing up the Cruz card to get Morales’ price tag down.

    Morales adding to the logjam of 1B/DH/LOLOF aside, the team does have Bloomquist who can hypothetically still play almost everywhere, and Ackley who can spend time in the outfield and infield as well. Obviously I’d prefer resources spent on a proper centerfielder, or at the very least another proper outfielder, but maybe the M’s are more confident in what they have than we are.

    WAR isn’t a perfect measure of a player, but I don’t think we can accurately say any one statistic is. In my estimation, it’s an attempt to find a value that combines the performance of all the tangible assets a player has, making it easier to analyze the correlation between performance and money. It’s easy to say “he hit 40 HR therefore he’s a $15 million dollar player”, but can a player who does other things well be worth the same? Or what about a pitcher? WAR provides us with more of a guideline to compare players and value them than anything else.

    It may seem obvious but remember, if a GM built their team solely on WAR numbers they wouldn’t be in a job for very long. So much more goes into player valuations than just their bottom line performance. The DBacks like ‘scrappy’ ball players. The 2002 Oakland A’s wanted OBP. Maybe the Mariners value home run potential more than anything else. WAR can be a very valuable tool for roster construction, but it’s exactly that; a tool.

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    In important fact that I completely forgot about.

    Cruz was busted for performance enhancing drugs. How long has he been using? Unfortunately the reports weren’t released. How many of his numbers and more importantly “dingers” were from these performance enhancing drugs? Now that he’s clean, what will his numbers look like?

    Another reason to just say no to Cruz

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    LOL. Yep all those Aces he won’t be facing every year.

    Good one!

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    You are wrong that Cruz likes to hit in Seattle. He has stated doesn’t like to hit here. And his stats can paint a picture as of why. He regresses from his career normals in SafeCo big time. The last three years he has been one of the worst fielders and base runners in all of baseball, add onto that the fact that he can’t hit in SafeCo and I really don’t see the benefit of signing Cruz to this team. What are the benefits of Cruz to the team?

    And remember Cruz isn’t coming here on a one year, team friendly contract, he will cost multiple years, dollars and a draft pick. So what are the benefits?

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    Please remember Cruz wouldn’t be batting against Seattle’s past stellar SP either!

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    Cruz said it a couple of years ago, davis. You want a specific quote, you can call me a liar if you want, but I’m not going to waste my valuable time surfing Google to satisfy you. Believe what you will.

    And no, I don’t think he has good numbers at Safeco, after reviewing the numbers posted here. But, I also don’t put a lot of credence into small sample sizes of a visiting player. I’ve seen the excitement of players coming to Seatte, who in that small sample size, who went on to suck. So, I imagine it can go the other way too.

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    Edman- when did Cruz state on record he loved hitting at Safeco? Do you really think he has put up good numbers there?

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    I agree. Although at least Ibanez had a swing that was suited to Safeco. With Cruz, that isn’t the case. He’s exactly the type of guy that struggles in Seattle.

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    Lots of things to respond to:

    First, playing time shouldn’t be allocated to players based on selling tickets. Especially if the guy we are talking about will cost the team tons of money, a draft pick, and playing time that should go to other young players. That type of decision making process is for losers.

    Second, whether or not Cruz is better than Raul Ibanez in the field isn’t exactly relevant. If that’s the standard……wow.

    Despite his veteran grittiness and impressive HR totals, Ibanez was a below average player. We have 3-4 guys who are better than that right now. This isn’t about replacing Ibanez. Its about figuring out what we have on the roster right now, and making an informed decision about whether or not we can improve on that.

    Third, the M’s don’t have to decide between Cruz and trades. Its not an either/or decision. The M’s can just decline to sign a guy who isn’t a very good baseball player. You mention Casper Wells and other players who may be available. But you’re missing an important option: do nothing! The M’s currently have five OFers on the roster with ML experience. Unless you think Nelson Cruz will be a substantial improvement over what we already have, it doesn’t make sense. Its certainly debatable whether or not Cruz is better than the guys we already have. I don’t think he is. But you’re portraying this as if it is a decision between Cruz and whoever else is left. That’s not the case.

    The status quo is smarter than doing something stupid.

    Finally, Cruz has hit .198/.250/.337 at Safeco over the last three years.

    Thats not very good. Not that that matters much, since an 85 AB sample isn’t significant. But Safeco has historically been VERY tough on RH pull hitters like Cruz. He’s similar to Adrian Beltre, but without the same ability to make contact. Basically, he’s a shitty Adrian Beltre with no defensive value. Remember what happened to Beltre when he played here?

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    Maybe we should wait until the M’s actually sign him before we criticize Jack over the decision.

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    Your response is just a bunch of straw man arguments and a strange and irrelevant shoe analogy.

    Just to recap, I was NOT saying that WAR is the “one type fits all” perfect stat. Out of all the stats currently available, WAR is the best at encompassing all the different things a baseball player can do to help a team. But its just a heuristic, and there will surely be newer and more interesting metrics available in the future.

    So don’t bother refuting the idea that WAR is the only stat we need, because nobody said that.

    What I was trying to say is that WAR is very valuable for roster construction. You said it was a bad tool for this purpose, and I think that is silly. That’s precisely why it exists. It helps us understand a bit more about a players total contribution to a team.

    And your comments on projection systems being based on “value determined by a human” shows that you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Projection systems differ, but they are mathmatical, and generally are based on past data that have been shown to have predictive value. Those metrics with predictive value have been identified based on historical research. Its not guessing, and if you think that’s the case then you need to familiarize yourself with different projection systems before making ridiculous claims.

    Finally, nobody thinks that there is (or ever will be) “one stat that is best”. But not all stats are of equal value for projecting future outcomes. Saves, RBI, runs, wins, etc have been shown to have limited value in projecting future performance. The nice thing about most modern projection systems is that they focus on stats that are more meaningful for projecting the future, like K rate, BB rate, HR rate, etc. They aren’t perfect, but they aren’t just subjective guesses.

    Your comments are really typical of the anti-stat-crowd reaction to things they don’t understand.

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    Only one problem…who is going to give up a draft pick to sign Morales? Good but not great DH, really no market for him. I guess someone could get injured opening up a need for some unknown team to emerge, but barring injuries I see Morales unsigned until AFTER the draft. I would love to see that happen, would be a huge failure for Scott Boris and make players think twice before rejecting the qualifying offer.

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    Agreed with your last sentence 100%, Jerry.

    And in that case, I think an example of an upgrade could be signing a free agent starting pitcher who could help solidify the rotation. I believe they could then find an outfielder available in trade who could represent an upgrade at an outfield position, and I believe they could accomplish that by trading some younger players (and without trading Walker, Paxton or Zunino). The outfield upgrade doesn’t have to be massive, just the acquisition of a player that is a better option than what they currently have.

    Instead, what I see is the Mariners looking to free agent leftovers for the bat, and at the same time talking about trading for a starting pitcher. It is the opposite of what makes sense to me, but that’s just my opinion.

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    Here are Cruz’s stats IN SafeCo.

    48 172 21 41 11 0 8 18 15 50 0 1 .238 .299 .442 .741

    That is AWFUL and there is no reason that a player that is on decline would somehow not hit exactly the same or worse at SafeCo in the twilight years of his career. You are basically getting Raul Ibanez 2.0. Would you punt a draft pick and pay Raul 7-10 million dollars a year for three years? Ask yourself that.

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    Why? You mean like it was a horrible move for him to bring in Raul Ibanez last year? Having a guy on the roster who brings fans in to see him?

    Honestly, do you think Cruz could be a worse defender than Raul? I love the expectation that Seattle should only trade for great hitters, who play sterling outfield defense. Give me a list of those available types. You want to watch a guy who dives for a few more balls, or gives Cano some protection.

    When your options are limited, you have to make hard choices. I’m not much in favor of watching a guy like Casper Wells, while he is as insignificant as Ryan’s bat at shortstop.

    Signing Cruz won’t be a nail in any GM’s coffin. Team performance on a whole, will. I really dislike comments like that because they are emotional, and not factual. Many teams have had offense only left-fielders. One player is never the death for an entire team.

    Cruz is on the record as loving to hit at Safeco. And as I recall, he’s put up good numbers here too.

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    Even taking WAR out of it and looking just at his fielding and base running stats. It’s painfully obvious he can’t run anymore and thus, can’t play in the field any more. Ever since he turned 30, the last three years of of his career he has been one of the worst defenders and base runners in all of baseball. I’m not sure why you would want to spend dollars, years and draft picks on a player who is clearly in decline based on facts.

    If there was no draft pick attached to him and you brought him in strictly to be a DH then I would be all for it, I would give him a 3 year deal at 7 million a year. But unfortunately that is all he is worth and doubly unfortunately the Mariners want him to play the OF and will most likely spend more then 7 million a year if they do indeed sign the guy.

    It’s a desperate move that isn’t worth making.

  38. Avatar

    I do understand WAR, and I’m not the only one who recognizes that the “one type fits all” mentality is flawed. There will NEVER be one stat that defines a player or their value to a team. There will never be “one stat is the best” either.

    WAR has its purpose, but it takes considering ALL statictics, not just the pretty ones.

    If you want to believe that your shoe store only needs to carry one size shoe, that’s up to you. But, you will base it on your size shoe and defend it to the end of time, as the only size that eveyone should wear.

    You want proof? How to they project players? Is it a combination of ALL players who have ever played. Or, is it a value determined by a human, who chooses a similar player’s performance to make their projection?

  39. Avatar

    I don’t find much in Cruz to justify Z’s fixation on him, especially given the speculative nature of our rotation. I’ve been a fan of Z in the past but no longer. Cruz will just be another nail in the coffin of his GM career. I’d love to see him prove me wrong though.

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    I agree with you about Cruz. He’s a TERRIBLE fit for Safeco, and the roster as its currently set up.

    I don’t agree about Morales. Like the discussion above, does Morales represent much of an improvement over what we currently have?

    And adding Morales hurts the team in terms or roster flexibility. Right now, we have a bunch of outfielders with question marks, and it could work out well if the team is smart about allocating playing time to keep people healthy. Adding Morales would undermine that, because you’d be adding a guy who needs to spend a lot of time at DH.

    The biggest problem the team has right now is too many players who need to be hidden (or used sparingly) on defense. Trading Smoak for Morales just complicates that.

    Plus, you’re punting a draft pick to do so. Right now, we’ll essentially give our compensation pick to the Yankees, but we’ll still have picks in every round. If we bring back Morales, we lose our second rounder. That second round pick might not sound like much, but that would be a significant part of our bonus pool for the draft. With the new draft rules, it would undermine our ability to sign other players to above slot prices. The M’s done this each year under the new system. Thus, the loss of a high pick can impact the whole draft.

    I don’t like the idea of signing a player attached to draft compensation unless he is a significant upgrade. Morales and Cruz aren’t big enough upgrades.

  41. Avatar

    Projections aren’t guessing.

    Guessing is speculating about a future outcome without any solid basis in fact or systematic method. Its a shot in the dark.

    Projections are based on a system, taking into account past outcomes that have demonstrated to have PREDICTIVE VALUE. Despite what you say, that metric is NOT based on ‘belief systems’, but instead past results. Are they prefect? Of course not. But they are far better than just guesses. The numbers I put up were ZIPS projections. There are others, like Oliver and Steamer. All have subtle differences. But they are far better than just guesses.

    And how can you argue that WAR is a bad tool for roster construction? Or that its based on human bias? That’s simply not the case, and if you think that’s true, the burden is on you to prove your point.

    The reason why WAR is nice is because it incorporates all the things a baseball player can do to help a team: hitting, baserunning, and defense. Like any stat, it has its own limitations. But its a pretty damn good method for evaluating a players complete contribution to a team.

    Despite your subjective criticisms, there isn’t a better stat available to us right now for the purposes of roster construction. The M’s would be very wise to start paying more attention to this type of information, as it would help them to avoid picking up players who can only do one thing (hitting homers) at the expense of all other ways in which a player adds value. The value of WAR is that it a team identify players who are good, as opposed to players who fit into certain stereotypes (like “power bat” or “cleanup hitter”). Because of that, its the single best stat we currently have for the purposes of roster construction.

    Most people who dislike WAR simply don’t understand it. From your comments, its pretty clear that you fall into that category. If you think its biases, and “mixes human bias with math,” prove it! How is that the case?

  42. Avatar

    With regards to Cruz, I am more concerned about how long and how much $$$ the contract is for, rather than the lost draft pick. I wouldn’t go more than two years on a deal with him or more than around 7 to 10 million a year. Rumors have it that Cruz would prefer not to sign here, which makes sense given that his past numbers at Safeco are horrible. I can’t see him taking a two year contract for low dollars from us, but I have been wrong before (last year I didn’t even want to CONSIDER trading for Morse, and then we traded for him).

    If we could sign Morales for a similar two year deal I would prefer this option. We would have to trade Smoak for a bucket of baseballs to make it work on the roster, but I have given up on hoping Smoak will ever amount to much of anything.

    I don’t see Morales signing with another team until after the draft, but Lohse found a home last year so you never know…

    If Morales doesn’t sign with another team sooner, the Yankees get our 2nd round pick and we would only lose our 3rd round pick if we signed Jimenez (my preference if his price comes down), Santana (he has bust written all over him), or Cruz.

    Still curious to see if we can trade for an outfielder. Management doesn’t leak trade info, so something could still come out of the blue and happen…

    With the Super Bowl over, I am READY FOR SOME BASEBALL!!!

  43. Avatar

    I hate WAR. It’s a nice tool to give general direction. But it’s a bad tool for roster construction. It treats everything as absolute. Really, Ackley was projected to be a 2.2 WAR? Funny, in a way. WAR is supposed to be specific, then we start “projecting”….which is another way to say “guessing”.

    I’d love to believe Ackley can be that, but he’s never been that in his career. So, some are guessing, based on their belief system, what Ackley will be. The biggest problem with that is that you’re mixing human bias with math, and calling it a usable tool.

    I’d take Cruz and what he’s done in the past, over Ackley and what he’s never done. I want for Ackley to be all that and more, but wanting is not a good way to construct a roster.

  44. Avatar

    I don’t get the Cruz thing either. But I know there’s not much out there for outfielders whether you are talking free agent or trade. And trading for an impact outfielder with controllable years is even harder, if not impossible at this point. M’s are in a bit of a pickle in the OF. Also trading for guys like Duda or Murphy of the Mets or Carp, is sorta like signing Cruz, no real improvement. However we can improve the pitching pretty easily, and pitching keeps you in the game.

  45. Avatar

    I don’t think having Franklin play OF is smart at all. We already have a converted infielder playing in the OF. And, in case people haven’t noticed, we have a lot of guys on the roster already. Thats why I don’t get the Nelson Cruz thing. Sure, he’d be a bit of an offensive upgrade over what we have now, but as an overall player, I don’t think he’s much of an upgrade over the guys we have now.

    Most of the projection systems agree (these are ZIPS numbers, but projections are similar):

    Cruz: 1.5 WAR

    Ackley: 2.2 WAR
    Saunders: 1.7 WAR
    Almonte: 1 WAR
    Hart: 0.9 WAR
    Guti: 0.7 WAR

    Obviously, Hart and Guti are downgraded significantly due to injury, and the projections are all over the place on Ackley and Saunders.

    But it Cruz is likely only a half win improvement over what we already have (as well as having far less upside), then why pay a ton and forfeit a high draft pick????

    In regards to who plays the OF, I have to imagine that the M’s will go with a glut of guys and see how earns playing time, while subbing people in often to keep people fresh and healthy. I could see them keeping five OFers on the roster: Saunders, Ackley, Hart, Gutierrez, and perhaps Almonte. That’s six if you include some starts (hopefully rare) for Morrison.

    Honestly, I don’t think that’s as terrible as people seem to think. If Hart can play semi-regularly, they could be pretty solid. I still have some hope for Saunders being an above average player. And Guti/Ackley isn’t a bad job share in CF. I also have higher hopes on Ackley than most, but he’s clearly got talent and I’m hoping he can put things together. If the M’s are going to be interesting this year, they need multiple players to step up and contribute. It would be great if Saunders and Ackley turn into reliable players, and Hart and Guti manage to stay on the field.

    I know that’s a tall order, but Guti and Hart could fill in at RF, Guti, Saunders, Ackley, and Almonte can play CF, and all of them work in LF. That should give McLendon the chance to utilize platoons, keep guys healthy, and put out a solid defensive OF late in games.

  46. Avatar

    So, he owes it to you to spend his money to please you? He is one of several partners.

    It’s easy to spend other people’s money.

  47. Avatar

    I think it’s a six of one half dozen of the other situation. Yes, Smoak is a rather mediocre first baseman, but at least we know that’s what we’ll get from him because to date, he’s been healthy. Hart especially, represents a big unknown since he didn’t even play last year. I am fine with them getting some games in left or right as well, but adding Morales and subtracting Smoak limits the certainty the M’s do have at first base even further.

    I’m not against bringing back Morales and sending Smoak out the door, I just don’t think that’s helping solve the bigger issues at hand.

  48. Avatar

    Tyler I am more comfortable with either Hart or Morrison at 1B Han in the OF. I know they have a history of injuries but this is a better option relying on Smoak to hack his way though the year.

  49. Avatar

    Morales is a better hitter than Smoak, but how comfortable are you with having three questions marks to occupy first base? Hart, Morrison, and Morales are all well below average defenders, and the first two have the noted knee issues. I don’t mind Kendrys re-entering the picture at the right price, but he doesn’t solve the bigger issue.

  50. Avatar

    Unless there is a trade I see Franklin and Almonte going to Tacoma to await events. However somebody usually shows well in spring training and forces their way onto the team, one of them could do that. Some time in Tacoma playing in the OF should be instructive on his remaining potential with the M’s. I’d rather see Morales come back than them sign Cruz.

  51. Avatar

    You cant just put somebody in RF who has never played there. Franklin doesnt even have the arm to play SS. The outfield defense is going to be the worst again in the league and that would make it worse if thats possible

  52. Avatar

    Ackley in left, Franklin in right. Play them until someone gets desperate enough for a 2b to offer an equivalent value true outfielder in trade.

    The Mariners aren’t going to the playoffs in 2014 anyway.

  53. Avatar

    Larsen is loaded. He had lobster.

  54. Avatar

    I would live us to trade Smoak and then resign Kendry, he is just average but last year was his first year back and did well he is probably due a career year or solid bounce back. I far prefer rotating morales with Morrison and Hart around 1B/DH and then having an OF of Almonte, Guti, Saunders, Ackley, WFB and the odd cameo from Hart or Morrison.

    Miller, Seager, Cano, Hart, Morales, Morrison, Saunders, Zunino, Ackley is a solid line up that plays well against righties. I look at that and see potential there at most spots and even the bench looks OKish.

    Then you can switch in Buck WFB, Guti when fit or needed. The last spot being Almonte and I would prefer to see Almote at AAA to wait for the inevitable Guti injury. So bringing in a guy like Tabata would be a nice guy to compliment the lefties and play in the corners. Trade Smoak, get Morales back, get another OF’er, sign Rodney and at least Capuano, prefer Jiminez or both… Pitching depth is a great thing.

  55. Avatar

    Yeah, Ok. U the man. Did he have a Big Mac or 1/4 pounder?

  56. Avatar

    good i like the trade idea…there are spare parts that need to go…go jz

  57. Avatar

    Had dinner next to m’s owner chris larson. Says jz loves kendrys & is working on trades. Apparently f. Rodney is looking for 3 yrs at $5m/yr + easily reachable incentives.

  58. Avatar

    I think this conversation about Ackley is spot on, because to me, his ability to play center field is the single biggest variable this season. It seems that Franklin could not headline a trade that would get us the likes of Jay or DeAza. So it’s Ackley’s job to lose out there.

    Yes, he will never have an outstanding arm. But that didn’t seem to keep Ellsbury from earning a lot of money. If Ackley can improve his routes (I seem to remember he played center in college before hurting his arm), then 275/350/400 would be the best thing that could happen to us.

  59. Avatar

    Jays don’t want prospects/depth pitchers. Probably something more along the lines of Iwakuma and Franklin could be a start, but it doesn’t make sense for either club to make a trade like that. I can confidently say there’s no reason to think Bautista will be traded.

  60. Avatar

    Sure wished we could put together a package to aquire bautista from toronto. Maybe franklin paxton ramirez and a lower prospect could get it done.

    Miller ss
    Seager 3b
    cano 2b
    bautista rf
    hart dh
    smoak/morrison 1b
    gutti/saunders cf
    zunino/buck c
    ackley lf

  61. Avatar

    Hart and Morrison can’t be any worse defensively than Raul and Morse were last season. I think Ackley will do okay out there, his bat is coming along and I see him as more valuable than LoMo. Have been encouraged by the report on Saunders and his progress offensively, this could be the year he and Ackley step up. I too would rather see them augment the rotation and bullpen before even considering Cruz. It looks like there are several GMs sitting on their payroll until some of the unreal expectations by the remaining free agents come more in tune with reality and it seems to be working. Hopefully Z is in that mode but he seems to have an unhealthy interest in Cruz. Once the Super Bowl is out of the way I expect them to announce they have signed him. The killer would be if he was their last significant move. Safeco is built for pitchers and a place right-handed mashers shrink into mediocrity.

  62. Avatar

    Ibanez, Morse, and Bay worked out so well last year, why not try it again?

    I’m kidding of course. If Cruz could actually hit thirty home runs then his defensive misgivings could be overseen the same way Ibanez’s were last season, but Cruz just isn’t good enough with the bat to do so. Realistically it seems like a transaction waiting to happen, so as long as it stays under 2/$20 I wouldn’t complain too much. Expecting him to be worth 2-3 WAR in 2014-15 may be pushing it, but it’s still possible he could actually be an upgrade over the internal options. I like Almonte a lot, but there’s nothing wrong with starting him in Triple-A this year, same with Ackley for that matter.

  63. Avatar

    I’m as optimistic about Ackley as anyone, but like Nick Franklin, there just isn’t any room on the roster for them. Smoak/Hart/Morrison will take up practically all of the AB’S at first, and we can’t forget that Willie Bloomquist is back. He’s still able to play all three outfield positions, short, second, and first. How well he can play the positions remains to be seen.

    I’m fine with the club giving Ackley a shot in left this year considering there aren’t many other options, but he’s most valuable as a second baseman in a trade. Both his bat and defence are above average at that spot

  64. Avatar

    Platoon Guti and Sanders/Ack

  65. Avatar

    Yeah, JZ has a thing for DH’s who pose as occasional outfielders. Cruz also doesn’t hit well at Safeco, and I’m not sure he wants to play there. He’s also due to regress. Kinda scary really.

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    See rjfrik comments above regarding Ackley in LF. Speaking of no power, Tabata has 17 homers in 1400 at bats and you want him in RF? I know he’s RH, but still Saunders projects better in RF. Really the outfield is a mess right now. I’m not a Cruz fan either. I’d rather sign a FA pitcher if we are going to give up a draft pick, and then try and trade for an impact OF. If you can’t find one, then you can’t find one, but things might change in spring training. I not buying Hart/Morrison in the OF. At least with decent pitching, we’ve got a fighting chance.

  67. Avatar

    I think ackley is gonna turn out to be a very good hitter. He wont ever have a ton of power but I hope they keep him to play LF. He can fill in at 2b, cf,1b so he will be valuable. I would think they could find a CF with a package starting with franklin and paxton. Pittsburg needs a LH hitting 1B and we have 2. Send one for tobata to play rf and stay away from cruz

  68. Avatar

    Cruz at 2/18 would be would be ok, but Z loves the long ball and doesn’t seem to care about defense.

  69. Avatar

    I think moving at least one of the two if not both in a package for an outfielder. It looks like the Dodgers are going to wait and see with Kemp so that eliminates him as an option. The only way I can think to describe it is that it’s just a terribly slow market this winter for free agents and trades. I don’t see any reason suggesting Jack Z hasn’t been knocking on all the doors he possibly can, but nothing’s been able to materialize.

  70. Avatar

    Ackley’s bat sucks for a LF. That is the problem. Ackley really is a 2B and his bat is adequate there along with above average defense for a 2B.

    The M’s really should be moving Ackley and Franklin for OF help. That’s the only solution to this whole mess. I think they are getting low ball offers on both though. That’s the problem.

  71. Avatar

    Yes, at least at this point, it’s looking like it once again comes down to what the kids can do. I think the Mariners need a few more veteran players on the roster to remove some of the pressure on the young guys.

    I don’t know how much money they have to spend, but if they have enough to sign 1) Rodney and a pitcher who could hold down the #3-#4 rotation spot, or 2) Rodney and Cruz, I would go for option #1 just about every time. Still not that excited about Rodney, but I’m definitely not excited about Cruz. Seeing as how starting pitching really hurt them last year, I’d rather see that be the focus first… and then if they can improve the hitting, go for that too.

  72. Avatar

    Ackley was very rough in CF in his small sample. I played CF and SS in college and he needs to play left. He doesnt have a strong enough arm and has really bad reads. He may get better and he could fill in but if he is the starter that will be bad. Saunders is better but not much. Dont need RH bats just hitters who can hit LH pitching.

  73. Avatar

    You may not be able to make a case for Ackley being the starting CF, but small sample size or not, he made the most important leap last year, and that’s to show marked improvement as he got more playing time in CF, defensively. He’ll never be anouther Guti, but if he can play average or above defense, and hit like he was expect to, when drafted, that’s got lots of value.

  74. Avatar

    Jim Bowden tweeted today that the M’s were going to make an offer for Cruz. Not my first choice of moves to make. The rotation is a problem as bad as the outfield. Additionally, if 3,4 and 5 are as bad as last season the bullpen will be run into the ground again. I’d be happy with Arroyo and Capuano, Santana and Jimenez seem too overpriced for what they may have to offer. Basically, despite the money they have committed, this season will come down to what the kids are able to contribute. I feel mildly optimistic about them getting to .500 this year, contending in the reloaded AL West ain’t getting any easier.

  75. Avatar

    Ackley’s CF sample size from last year isn’t big enough to draw conclusions from, so how things play out in Spring Training will give us a better idea. As it stands, Saunders will probably be the Opening Day centerfielder. Gutierrez simply can’t be counted on for much contribution.

    I don’t buy the notion that the M’s must acquire a RH bat, although from a strategic standpoint it’s ideal to have a balanced lineup, I get that much. If Cruz is the best option and his price is reasonable, so be it. I still think that $10 mill plus a year is better spent on a CF right now. Saunders is good enough in a corner, and the other corner, as it stands, will probably be a combination of Hart/Morrison/Almonte.

  76. Avatar

    I think they may be a lot higher on most that Ackley may be able to cut it in CF. I would love us to add a decent CF but am starting to think it may just not be there for us now. So for me I wonder how good could Ackley be at CF?
    Like it or not Cruz may be a fit. But if we get Cruz on a decent contract then I am ok with it, this team needs to add more RHness… The problem we will still have is that our righties will be Guti, Hart, Smoak and maybe Cruz plus the catcher spot. It’s possible that Guti doesn’t play a lot and if Smoak is still around he is not a great RH either. Some of our top and mid order that hit left handed bats ok (Seager, Cano, Miller) will be fine against LH pitching, I do feel this team needs to limit having a run of 3 or 4 guys in a lineup that can’t hit lefties, otherwise good bullpens and well constructed teams will shut us down. 2 years on Cruz at an ok rate is ok for me as it will increase the potential upside of this team…. but it’s going to be an interesting next week or so. Cruz is not my preferred option but if he falls into our lap then that’s Ok too.

  77. Avatar

    The market’s starting to prove that Santana isn’t an ace. One great year after several sub par seasons doesn’t justify that. He is however, a quality mid-rotation arm who’s been able to consistently get 200 innings thrown year in year out. If his cost dips closer to Garza range at 4/$52M, then that’s probably not an unreasonable price. He needs to be worth 2 WAR every year of the deal to hypothetically make it worthwhile.

    Baker is a nice piece, but the Mariners NEED a guy who can fill the #3-4 role in the rotation. Paxton and Walker will likely be those guys as early as this summer, but that’s too much risk to take and it puts an unfair amount of pressure on the prospects.

  78. Avatar

    I am worried that the M’s are really going to sign Cruz to play the outfield. Wouldn’t be to bad id he were brought in to play DH but with Morrison Hart and Smoak one or two of them will be playing in the OF. Really dont think Jack values defense at all….SCARY!

  79. Avatar

    I think Tyler summed it up when he said 70% of the rotation sucked. It’s pretty obvious that the M’s need a #3, even JZ says they need another arm, and it wouldn’t be fair to throw in any up and comers into the #3. I would guess the M’s would make a play at Jimenez or Santana or even Arroyo at a good price (and 2 years), but doubt if that will happen. I think Baker is just depth and wishful thinking at this point. It’s been rumored they may trade for pitching, who knows who they have in mind. If they were to sign Cruz and Rodney, they may pull the trigger on a pitching trade. IMHO, the fall back plan is to sign a lower tier pitcher like Maholm or Capuano. But no matter what, I don’t think you’ll see Walker/Paxton/Ramirez together in the starting rotation or at the #3. At least not to start the season, but I think the M’s would love for them to earn starting spots at some point.

  80. Avatar

    Walker, Paxton, Ramirez, Baker, and Maurer right now have to fill 3 spots. It seems pretty rare for a team to be breaking in 2 pretty elite prospects (Paxton would probably be higher on lists if he was a year or two younger I imagine) in the same year. As far as you know has another MLB team attempted some sort of AAA/Major League job share situation to break in 2 pitchers at the same time?

    For instance, start Paxton on the big league club with the normal amount of pitch count restrictions for a player his age/experience and start Walker down at AAA where he would have regular but limited work. Maybe Walker starts every fifth day but has a 50 pitch limit. Then, after a month of starts, switch roles and have Walker pitch in the big leagues and have Paxton return to AAA to work on things and recover.

    I don’t know if the players would like it, but it seems as if some of our young starters are rushed, and then kind of implode due to mental and physical fatigue. What would be the positives and negatives to something like this? I don’t pretend to know all the rules of minor league options and the like.

    I just think that this situation (if they don’t sign another veteran pitcher) screams for some innovative thinking beyond the “Paxton had a good start so he has earned another 15 regardless of performance” thinking that has been connected to the Ms. All their young pitchers are going to have innings limits – there has to be something better than what they have tried.

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