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Anti-Meche Clan; Where Can M’s Get a Bat?

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on April 22, 2006

Not only does Gil Meche toss six solid innings versus the Detroit Tigers in which he fanned seven, but one his potential replacements didn't fare so well in Triple-A Tacoma.

Kevin Appier's line of 5ip, 5 h, 3 er, 2 bb, 4k doesn't look bad at all.  He even threw 46 of his 73 pitches for strikes and retired the last 10 men he faced.

Appier showed resiliance by recovering from a 29-pitch first inning to hold Fresno to an unearned run over the next four frames.  But the right-hander is still a long ways from proving he can handle a big-league rotation spot.

Sitting in the 84-86 range with his fastball, which is probably 3-4 mphs off where he needs to be, won't get the job done in Seattle.  Just ask Eddie Guardado.

Appier's command was not great, but it wasn't terrible, either.  His slider had a sharp, late break, as it did in his one-inning stint on the recent road trip. His fastball has decent movement and he's certainly a pitcher that will battle and win the war of wits with most hitters.

The mind is willing, but the body isn't able, at least not yet, and I'd be very surprised if Appier ever pitched effectively in the majors ever again.  Not as a starter, anyways.

The M's might be able to use him in relief if he can regain his arm strength, which Appier claims is still not whwre he wants it to be.

"I'm at about 70-75%," said Appier after his first start of the season.  "Velocity isn't much of a concern for me right now.  I need to make my pitches, hit my spots and stay in the game as long as I can so I can build up. My fastball will come back with time."

If it does, and that's a big if, Appier has a spot in the big leagues waiting for him.  If he was ready right now, the M's would certainly make a move to get him on the roster.

Meche also had the one bad inning, followed by a couple of trying frames where his three walks didn't help him much.  But he did fight his way out of it, which is something he could not do at any point a year ago.

Like Joel Pineiro, Meche is certainly better this season than last, though unlike Pineiro he's probably only marginally better, at least judging from his four starts in 2006.

It's a littel confusing right now to some fans that look around see Moyer, Washburn, Pineiro and now Meche toss out some really quality starts on a regular basis, and then check the standings and see that their favorite team is in last place.

That's because this club's achilles heel is still the offense, just as it has been the past two years.  They still have holes in the lineup that don't produce regularly – a lot of spots in the lineup.  There are many nights that NINE of the spots in the lineup are shutdown, which would be okay if it happened once in awhile.

But the Mariners have exactly zero bats that can be the catalyst when the rest of the offense sputters.  Richie Sexson is a power-hitting first baseman, who should always belt 30-40 home runs and drive in 100+, but he's not Edgar Martinez or Ken Griffey junior or Alex Rodriguez.  He's not a hitter that will drive pitchers crazy as they try and find ways to get him out.

Ichiro doesn't take enough pitches for that role.  Beltre is more like David Bell every day.  Everett's best offensive skill right now is drawing a walk, and he certainly isn't going to get better as the year goes on, not at 34 years of age.

While the gaping holes from 2005 are gone, filled by Jose Lopez, Kenji Johjima, Yuniesky Betancourt and a better Jeremy Reed, the lineup is about three impact hitters from being a good offense.

I really like Jeremy Reed and believe he's a 285/350/440 guy who plays very good defense and can swipe 15-20 bags a year.  But it might be time to start seeking a more impact offensive player, and Reed may have to be part of any deal to acquire such a player.

Dozens of clubs need a defensive center fielder with above-average upside and a cheap salary attached, and if the M's are willing to part with Reed, a live-armed pitching prospect within two years of the big leagues and one of their catchers, they could probably land a high-quality bat.

Here are some of the players I would target if I were the M's front office –

Carlos Lee, OF – Milwaukee

Lee is 29, in his prime, a free-agent-to-be and can flat out hit.  One of the game's most underrated players, Lee can also defend at an above-average level and is a good athlete, especially for his size.

The only issue with acquiring Lee is that his contract is up at year's end and the Mariners certainly aren't going to part with the necessary package for a player who's likely to leave in two months. Not while they sit in the cellar of the division.

Lee is a 12 million dollar per year player on the open market and while the Mariners are probably willing to pay that for a MOTO bat who can play left field at Safeco, but the pre-trade deadline extension window is highly unlikely.

It's also unlikely that the M's would be able to land Lee next winter, so a trade is probably their only chance to get him.  Milwaukee does not have a young center fielder in their system and could use Reed immediately.

They are also void of a legit catching prospect.   

Pat Burrell, OF – Philadelphia

Burrell is also 29 and set to make $27 million over the next two seasons after drawing $9.5 million in 2006.  That's a lot of money but Burrell may almost be worth it.

He's hitting his peak as a hitter and is no longer just a slugger.  He'll still strike out like Sexson (160 times in 2005), but he's learned to draw the walk and had a career-best 99 last season. 

He hit just .250 last year after a hot start, but is more of a .270s bat, like Sexson, whose ability to hit the ball the other way would dictate whether he hits .250 as a Mariner or .270, thanks to the Safeco Field factor.

Ideally, the M's would be better off staying away from the high-strikeout, right-handed power bats, but there aren't many left-handed power bats on the market, let alone one who doesn't fan 150 times a season.

Burrell's teammate, Bobby Abreu isn't a bad idea, either, though he's already 32 and will earn $28 million in 2007 and 2008 combined.

The Phils, however, are not in need of a center fielder and both Burrell and Abreu have full no-trade clauses, which would certainly complicate things.

The one lefty stick I'd go after really hard is Chad Tracy, IF/OF – Arizona.

The D'Backs system is loaded, and do not need Reed, expecially with Justin Upton moving to center field as apro.  But Upton is a few years away and Reed is highly inexpensive, so he would add some value to a deal with Arizona.

The D'Backs would have to get a catcher in a trade with Seattle, and though Stephen Drew is close to big-league ready at shortstop, Arizona could use a middle infielder that's getting close, too, if they don't believe Alberto Callaspo is their future at second base.
And everyone needs pitching, but the M's really don't have that one arm that teams crave.

Unless Tracy fits as a long-term answer at third base, which he probably doesn't, Arizona is going to have to move him.  With Conor Jackson manning first base, Shawn Green under contract through 2008 and Carlos Quentin one step from the big leagues, there isn't room for Tracy in their outfield.

Arizona also has Upton and Carlos Gonzalez in the lower minors and both are elite offensive prospects who play the outfield.

The problems here, aside from the fact that Seattle doesn't have the pitching to add to a package, is that Zona doesn't have an immediate answer at third to take over for Tracy. 

The more one looks around the league for free agents and potential trade partners, the more it seems as if the M's would have been better off starting from scratch after the 2004 season and built the team at a slower pace, waiting for the right talent to become available as their prospects become ML ready.

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13 Responses to “Anti-Meche Clan; Where Can M’s Get a Bat?”

  1. dnc said

    Somewhat off topic, but there’s no place to discuss your sidebar on Jones, so I’ll slap it here and hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    Do you think this power spike is for real, or just a fluky hot streak? I think it’s obvious he’ll hit more dingers than he did last season, but how many do you see him getting? What do you think the odds are that he hits 20? 25? 30? 35? 35+?

    At this point I’m predicting 27, but that feels a little too high. Of course, if he gets promoted to Safeco in June or July, all those numbers will skew down. I’m starting to think he’s a legit 30 dinger guy in the bigs though.

    Makes me wish I hadn’t have been such a slacker and actually called and interviewed the guy when I was supposed to for itp a couple years ago…

  2. I think he’s on a streak, and that’s something we are likely to see from him in a lot of different areas. But these bombs are as legit as it gets in the PCL.

    The weather and the ballpark he plays his home games in make sure that you have to hit the crap out of the ball to get it out out unless you hit in right down the line, which he did NOT do tonight.

    I still think Jones is a 25-homer guy in the bigs. He may peak out in the 30s, but I can’t see him averaging 30 in his six or eight prime years.

    BTW, not only is that offer still on the table for a Jones interview, so is being an author here at PI, which would carry over when the dude that runs this place turns this into a real dot commer.

  3. Willmore said

    Let me throw out a few names for the rest to shoot down:

    J.D. Drew. The guy can hit, but can’t seem to stay healthy – a chance, and one we might need to take on him to get a guy who can hit for us. He has 4 years left at 11 mil a year. Pretty hefty. But here’s my genius plan – ship Beltre to the Dodgers !!! Sure, it will need sweetening like Rob Johnson or Bobby L, but hey, if it gets Beltre out of here, it’s worth it. We call up Dobbs to be the 3rd-baseman or if Hargrove is not fired by the time the trade is done, Bloomquist can play 3rd for a few weeks. We can stcik Drew at DH to reduce the chance of injury and hope for the best.

    If that was a long shot, listen to this doozey. Miguel “Ball-slappin'” Cabrera. The Marlins are in a budget-cutting mood and Cabrera is due a pay-raise after this season. We can give them Reed, and anything is better than the half-of-a-clothing-store roaming in the Marlins centerfield. If that’s not enough, send them Everett and the cash to cover his contract.

    Adam Dunn is unlikely considering the Reds traded Mo and gave Adam a 2-year deal. But, if they are out of it in a month, they might be in a cost-cutting mood. I’d give up Johnson, Choo and Everett (please, someone take him !!!)

    Jonny Gomes. Ok, no chance that the Devil Rays are giving up on a cheap prospect who is showing something, but from under which rock did this thing crawl out of ?

    Carlos Lee, like you said is a possibility, but I still have doubts. He has never had an OPS of over .900 and has cracked the .500 SLUG mark only once. While he might be a pretty good acquisition, I doubt we’ll be able to get fair value for services received.

    In my honest opinion, we trully need a second coming of Griffey, A-Rod or Edgar to do anything offensively. We need a guy who hits .300/.390/.560+ Who puts fear in the opposing lineup, a true MOTO hitter that few teams have. Then we need to get Snelling healthy, and only then will we have a legitimate MLB offense, capable of producing 5 runs a game on a consisten basis. And maybe that great hitter isn’t out there, it doesn’t change the fact that we need one.

    ———— Under fear of death, do not read below unless you believe that Seattle is desperate for a hitter ———–

    A Trade for Alex Rodriguez. Issue 1: Money. He’s actually only due 16 mil per year over the remaining years in his contract. Manageable for Seattle. Issue 2: Back to Seattle. I don’t care if you hate A-Rod’s guts for leaving the Emerald City, 40 homers will change your mind. Issue 3: Steinbrenner. This is the hardest part, what could New York possible take to compensate for losing Alex. Well, nothing, but I’m sure that Bavasi will think of something.

    Almost forgot, get Griffey back too.

  4. Willmore said

    “RHP Jesse Foppert is day-to-day with a strained quad in his right leg. The 25-year-old has had the same problem since spring and it’s progressively gotten worse since the season started.”

    Any chance this is the reason for his suckiness with command, or are the two mostly unrelated.

  5. I think they are unrelated. The quad is simply holding him out right now.

    If he hadn’t looked exactly the same last year as he has this season, I might believe it had something to do with it.

  6. Drew is Chris Snelling with a big contract. ALWAYS hurt. Otherwise, I’d love to have him.

    Cabrera is NOT going to get dealt this year, and when he does next winter or during the 07 season, it’ll return a king’s ransom.

    The M’s won’t be players.

    Dunn, too, like you said.

    Lee has one .500+ SLG season but his career SLG is .492 because he’s always around that mark.

    He rarely misses games, CAN hit at Safeco (career .570 SLG in 100 AB).

    He’d be a good addition.

  7. Jerry said

    I don’t really like the idea of Lee.

    First, he ALWAYS starts off hot and tails off bigtime late in the year. That isn’t a good thing.

    Second, he is one of the worst defensive players in baseball. His best position is DH.

    Third, he has a rep for being lazy, and he is already a big big man. In a year or so, he is likely to be a soft 260. Yikes

    Finally, he is righthanded and will be expensive.

    Instead, these are the four options that I would pursue if I were the M’s:

    -trade Ichiro, Pineiro, and Julio Mateo to Philly for Bobby Abreu and Cole Hamels. Sure, losing Ichiro would be a PR issue, but the M’s need a #3 hitter badly. Abreu is perfect in that role. The M’s would have to sign him to an extension to get him to sign off on the trade, but it would make the club much much better. Abreu gets on base and is a good RFer. Reed takes over as the leadoff hitter. It makes the lineup much much stronger and well balanced.

    -again, I think that Ichiro is the best bargaining piece that the M’s have to really improve the club. Send Ichiro to the Mets for OF Lastings Millege, SP prospect Mike Pelfrey, OF Victor Diaz. This trade could end up being an absolute steal. The Mets are is turbo win-now mode. Throw in Joel Pineiro to get the job done, especially if the Mets throw in Aaron Heilman.

    -trade Rob Johnson and Jeremy Reed to Milwaukee for Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins has nearly as much power as Carlos Lee, but brings a lot more to the table: walks, lefty bat, and great OF defense. Plus, he is a local player and a good clubhouse guy. Milwaukee likes him a lot, and it would be tough to pry him away. But worth a try.

    -sell at the trade deadline, and try to pick up some interesting OF prospects. One guy I would try to pick up is OF Elijah Dukes. He is a bastard, but he can play. The M’s could use some more OF talent in the organization. Trade away spare parts (Pineiro, Meche, Guardado, etc) for the best prospects they can get. Then, the M’s just insert Shin-Soo Choo (who looks great this year) into LF. Chris Snelling and Adam Jones are also likely to be ready later this year. If nothing works out, the M’s can then look for a bat in free agency.

    Aubrey Huff and Cliff Flyod are both free agents who could help the club. Floyd is a bit old and way to injury prone, but sticking him at DH would help keep him on the field. He is like Everett, except better and less of an ass. Huff is currently down with an injury, but could be cheap because of this. He has always been one of those guys who seems like he is on the cusp of breakout out.

    I like these options better than Burrell or Lee.

  8. Katal said

    Jerry raises a point that I’ve been curious about:

    How likely is it that the Mariners would trade Ichiro?

    If Bavasi was made an enticing offer, would he be allowed to pull the trigger? Or would ownership step in and force the trade to be refused?

  9. slim said

    Isn’t Tracy somewhat of a liability in LF? I like his bat, though he’s probably not the MOTO threat we need there.

    Abreu would be a nice fit defensively in LF. He can beat a pitcher a number of different ways and would be mch better at doing Raul’s job in the #3 slot. Maybe the Phils would be content with Dellucci in RF, but trading away a veteran for prospects doesn’t seem like a move Gillick would make with the Phillies planning on contending in 2006. Maybe in the offseason he could be had for Rob Johnson straight up on account of Abreu’s weighty contract.

  10. Willmore said

    What about Chipper Jones. The Braves are unlikely to let him go, but they might be wanting to cut budget, and his contract is a good chunk of it. I don’t know what they might need from us, but it’s just a name to throw out there.

  11. You guys don’t understand.

    Beggers can’t be that choosy.

    And no, Jerry, Lee doesn’t fall off in the second half or start off hot and tail off significantly.

    He’s better post-break than pre break.

    Trading Ichiro will not happen, so any scenario that has that occuring isn’t even worth talking about.

    Tracy isn’t terrible in left field. He’s no worse than Ibanez.

    And when you are desperately trying tp upgrade the offense, you can’t be after the perfect fit, because there isn’t one.

    Not even Abreu, who’s aging, making more money than Ichiro, losing a step on the bases and in the field and is a career NL’er who’d be stepping into the AL after 10+ years of hitting NL East pitching.

    I’d take him, but he’s further from the best fit than anyone else mentioned here.

    Pineiro still has no value, not as a 5+ ERA guy who’s arby eligible and due 6+ mil via arbitration next winter.

    If he’s 3.5 ERA in June or July, he may have some value.

    You can pick apart any player and speak of his shortcomings.

    Anyone you guys mention the rest of us can light up and tell you why he isnt a good idea.

    But the facts are easy to see.

    Carlos Lee, as well as all of the names mentioned above, some to a lesser extent, would be a big additiont o the M’s lineup.

    And offense is the biggest weakness on the club, and it’s not even remotely close.

  12. Jerry said

    Jason,

    Perhaps you are right about Lee’s not being a quick starter throughout his career, as he did put up good second half numbers in 2003 and 2004. But he did slump badly in the second half of 2005 after a quick start.

    Lee is a good player, no doubt. But I would rather see the M’s go for a player that hits lefty, has some power, gets on base, and plays good defense. Getting a player that fits all those characteristics is unrealistic, but they should at least do two or three of those things. Lee only does one: power. Granted, that is one of the biggest ones. But I am still wary about Lee, especially considering the questions about his conditioning and focus.

    I really like the idea of Jenkins as well.

    But, Jenkins is older, and has had trouble staying healthy in the past. Both of these are also serious issues.

    Finally, the M’s have to consider whether or not it is worth it to go after a player now or just wait until next offseason. Lee is going to be a free agent next year, and the M’s could just pick him up then.

    The other name that I would consider is Craig Wilson. He is a lot like Lee, and is a good bet to put up similar numbers if he ever got a shot to play every day. Plus, he can get on base. He is a sub-par defensive player and is righthanded, but he would definitely give the M’s a boost.

  13. Jerry said

    One more thing,

    I agree with you that the M’s are highly unlikely to consider trading Ichiro.

    But they should.

    Here is my reasoning:

    1. Ichiro’s value is worth more than the sum of his performance. Teams will trade for that ‘icon’ status. Thus, trading Ichiro will likely net the M’s more than they would lose in terms of raw production.

    2. The M’s have a lot of guys who are similar to Ichiro. Right now, filling in spots in the OF with guys like Reed and Choo is a problem, because those two are pretty similar to Ichiro: fast guys who get on base and play good D. It doesn’t leave room for impact bats in the lineup.

    Neither Choo or Reed are the same caliber of player as Ichiro, but if Ichiro can net the club a player or players that fill more pressing needs – like a run producer or a TOR starter – then the M’s should consider it. It would be trading from a position of strength to address a weakness.

    3. Leadoff hitters are overrated. It is nice to have a good one. But you don’t want to build a team around a player like this. The M’s have essentially done this. Ichiro is the face of the organization, and the best offensive player on the club. But because he is not a run producer, and is dependant on other player to knock him in, he just can’t put the team on his shoulders. No player like him can.

    As good as Ichiro is, once Boone, Edgar, and the other impact bats on the club crapped out, the M’s started to lose. Even when Ichiro had his career year. The M’s have so much invested in Ichiro that it keeps them from bringing in impact bats.

    Clearly, the finger should be pointed at Beltre, because he is the guy who was supposed to be the center of the offense, and he isn’t getting it done. But I am trying to focus on how the club can get itself out of this, and Beltre has no trade value whatsoever right now. If the M’s can trade Ichiro for a middle of the lineup bat – the type of player that you can build a lineup around – they should do it. Ichiro, while great at what he does, can’t score runs by himself.

    4. Money. Ichiro costs a lot. Trading him for prospects or cheaper players would allow the M’s to invest that money in other areas. Trading Ichiro would bring in three really good cheap players, AND the 11 million owed to Ichiro could be used on an impact free agent.

    It might cost the M’s from a marketing perspective, but winning is the bottom line in baseball. Win games, and people will come to the park in the long run.

    How about this hypothetical example:

    -trade Ichiro to the NY Mets for OF Lastings Millege, OF Victor Diaz, SP Mike Pelfrey, and INF Kaz Matsui (just to offset a bit of the payroll)

    The M’s could bring up Diaz or Choo to play RF for the time being. Matsui plays on the bench, and is off the books at the end of the year. Reed takes over as the leadoff guy for the remainder of the year. The M’s would basically be punting for 2006 in order to build a winner in 2007.

    The M’s can shop Guardado, Pineiro, Meche, Ibanez, and even Reed, depending on how Choo and Adam Jones are doing.

    In Sept, Millege comes up and plays RF. He and Pelfrey go into spring training 2007 with a shot to win spots on the club.
    The M’s are sellers at the trade deadline one more time, they get a chance to restock the farm syste, and spend the end of the year evaluating young players.

    The M’s would have a ton of cash left over with Guardado, Ichiro, Moyer, Pineiro, and Meche off the payroll.

    Next offseason, they pick up your choice Carlos Lee (Aubrey Huff or Craig Wilson as other options), along with two starting pitchers (how about…Daisuke Matsuzaka and Mark Mulder, or Kelvim Escobar if Matsuzaka is not posted).

    This is the club they would have in 2007:

    Johjima C
    Sexson 1B
    Lopez 2B
    Beltre 3B
    Betancourt SS
    Ibanez LF
    Reed/Choo CF
    Millege RF
    Lee/Huff DH

    Starters: Felix, Mulder, Matsuzaka/Escobar, Washburn, Pelfrey/prospect

    It would hurt in the short term, but it would work out in the long term. This is the type of bold move I would like to see from the M’s. They suck right now. They need to shake things up. Firing Grover would be the natural choice, but the club needs a radical makeover. This is one way to do that.

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