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Roster Talk: Bullpen, Bench

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on March 18, 2006

With all the fluff being published by the Seattle Times these days, specifically from Bob Finnigan about some mythical battle for the final bench spot, there has to be at least a few of the ‘netter analysts who are scratching their heads wondering why the club would even consider keeping Cody Ransom, Mike Morse, or Greg Dobbs over Roberto Petagine.

Since Willie Bloomquist and Matt Lawton are guaranteed two spots on the 25-man roster, and the backup catcher – it will be Rene Rivera, Corky Miller has very little chance – will hold the third spot on the bench, the M’s have to choose between Ransom, Morse, Dobbs and Petagine.

Not much of a choice to be made.

Let’s see. They can carry a poor man’s Bloomquist who brings nothing to the table that Willie himself or another candidate doesn’t also bring and bring at a higher level – that’s Ransom; they can take a left-handed singles hitter north from camp. One who can play spot duty at both third and first base, but is merely a pinch hitter at best – Dobbs; there is the legend of the former shortstop who’s attemtping to broaden his defensive horizons by playing the outfield and first base, but has yet to become useful in either spot and his bat remains unproven with questions abound – Morse in a nutshell.

He can handle first base and his upside is far superior to that of his fellow combatants. At 34, the Dominican can produce at the plate. Period. No, he won’t put up a .900 OPS – in any role. No, he isn’t someone you would start ahead of Raul Ibanez. But for 325k for the season, he clearly brings more to the club than Ransom, Morse or Dobbs, and it’s really not close.

Bloomquist can backup at second, short and third. Lawton is the fourth outfielder. If Reed needs a break, Bloomquist is somewhat servicable out there, too, and neither Ransom, Morse nor Dobbs is capable of playing center field anyway.

With Bloomquist a safety valve at four positions, and providing the club with a good late-inning pinch runner, Ransom and Morse, both right-handed bats like Bloomquist, are moot talents. Neither do enough at the plate at the present time to warrant one of the four reserve spots available. Morse, in time, may develop enough offense to become a backup at the infield corners, but needs work defensively and has holes in his offense that need to be addressed in Triple-A Tacoma.

Dobbs and Petagine are both left-handed bats. Petagine is eight years older than Dobbs. He also has eight times as much power. Maybe more. Dobbs and Petagine both carry similar strikeout rates in both the minors and their smaller-sample sized major league stints.

Dobbs’ only advantages are that he can play third in a pinch, though he’s not someone a winning team wants playing long term at the position, and his age, which really has no value for a player that is likely to get less than 350 plate appearances.

Petagine’s raw power suggests he could smack 20-25 home runs with regular play. His plate skills are superior to any of the other three bench candidates and though he’s just 1B, DH and pinch hitting option, his value is tangible and hard.

Ransom and Morse beling in Tacoma. Dobbs belings in Detroit – I heard from Joe Kaiser that Detroit is in need of a marginal talent like Dobbs.

Petagine belongs in Seattle. He’s not the perfect option, but he’s the best of the small crop available.

With George Sherrill struggling mightily, it’s not out of the question that both Matt Thornton and Luis E. Gonzalez break camp with the M’s, leaving Sherrill, who was close to a sure thing when spring training began last month, in Triple-A Tacoma for the third straight year.Thornton showed again today, however, why he shouldn’t even be an option. The 6-foot-6 southpaw allowed five earned runs on six hits in an inning of work. His spring ERA ballooned to 14.14 in seven innings for the spring. The 28-year-old has walked four and struck out six. Sounds like a winner, eh?

Gonzalez isn’t much better, though his ERA sits at a shiny 2.70 in four outings. The Rule 5 pick acquired in the Yorvit Torrealba deal has walked seven men and hit another in 6.2 innings.

So the M’s are in a dilemma. Sherrill’s bloated 16.20 ERA is scaring them off, though he’s clearly the best of the group and has a history of struggling in March (5.40, 8.10 ERA’s the past two springs).

The best action would be to tell Sherrill he’s coming north with the big club. Tell him now, so he can relax and work on things in a strong, stable frame of mind.

Forget about Thornton, forget about Gonzalez. If the club likes the future of Gonzalez, 23, work out a deal with the Dodgers and send him to Tacoma.

The job of Mike Hargrove and Bill Bavasi is to put the best 25-man roster on the field. If Thornton or Gonzalez is on it, they will have failed.

If Ransom, Morse or Dobbs are on it, they will have failed, with the exception of the first 10 days of the season when Lawton must serve a 10-day suspension for failing a banned substance test last fall.

Sounds too rational and sensible for the M’s to even have questions, doesn’t it?

I just doubt whether the organization is smart enough to do their job and put the best product on the field that they possibly can. They’ve failed to do so year-in and year-out. Why should 2006 be any different?


4 Responses to “Roster Talk: Bullpen, Bench”

  1. Goose said

    How bad do you have to be, to be consider a poor man’s Bloomquist?

    If I’m a baseball player, and some random dude just walks up to me and says “Hey buddy, your a poor man’s Bloomquist!” I’m gonna punch him in the nose and then kick him in the nuts.I mean, that’s a hell of an insult.

    Of course, then again when you put up a .603 OPS in AAA at the tender young age of 29, then maybe you deserve it.

  2. For what the M’s would be using him for, he’s a poor man’s Bloomquist. At one point he probably had more potential in all areas save baserunning. Ransom is useful in AAA.

    Morse frustrates me, not because of anything he’s doing but because he’s becoming the darling of the manager, like Bloomquist.

  3. The best action would be to tell Sherrill he’s coming north with the big club. Tell him now, so he can relax and work on things in a strong, stable frame of mind.

    From what I’ve heard, this seems to be what’s actually happening. George is working on getting his feel for the change-up, and a few other pitches. Obviously the results have been disappointing — especially that he’s given up more HRs than he has K’d folks. Elsid (George’s brother) mentioned here that most of the guys George has faced have been right handed. While that’s not exactly good news for the “George is more than a LOOGY” portion of my “Free George Sherrill” campaign, I’d rather have him cut his teeth and get a better feel for things during Spring Training than when his ERA (and the runs allowed) really count.

    I’ll admit to being a bit nervous — but, ironically, I was probably the only one in the M’s blog-o-sphere that wasn’t 99.999% sure George was going to break camp with the team anyway.

    I certainly hope things go much smoother for him here on out. And, you’re right, of course. It takes awhile for him to get going. I’m confident he’ll pull everything together. At least his sucktitude happens in the spring, unlike Thornton, who pretty much sucks the entire year ’round.

  4. If it was close to a done deal for him to make the club, Grover wouldn’t be talking like he is about the situation.

    On the radio, I think Wednesday or Thursday, he said he’d certainly prefer the seven best relievers/12 best pitchers over making sure they had the proper assortment of lefties.

    He wasn’t even asked about it, he went out of his way to say it.

    Now, if he’s trying to motivate Sherrill, he should have let Sherrill know because I guarantee Sherrill, nor anyone else close to him was listening and passed along the word.

    And with a guy like George, motivating through backchannel routes isn’t necessary.

    I’d bring Sherrill north regardless of any further struggles – unless it’s due to injury. The rest of the pen would be; Guardado, Soriano, Putz, Mateo, Cruceta and Nageotte.

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