Ideas… and More
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on June 30, 2006
While most observers agree that the Seattle Mariners have a chance in the mediocre American League West, the majority also agree on what the upgrades are possible.Dave Cameron at USS Mariner offers a great write-up on his ideas HERE and what might fit, and all we’ll do here is expound on the same.
It’s clear that center field and designated hitter are the only true weak spots in an otherwise surging offense led by Adrian Beltre’s best month since 2004 – and the Japanese combination of Ichiro and Kenji Johjima.
Beltre is slugging .619 in June – yes .619, yes Beltre – and 56 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases. Ichiro, even after an 0-for-5 on Thursday night, is hitting .396 this month and has scored 20 runs in 26 games.
Johjima has his Kung Fu Grip working to the tune of a .346 average and a sweltering player-of-the-month level .654 slugging percentage that includes five homers. nine doubles and Thursday night’s clutch triple.
Anyways, Jeremy Reed has been better lately, but he’s still hitting just .226. His IsoP is hovering around .160, a decent number for a defensive outfielder. It’s a spot in the lineup that the M’s could certainly use an upgrade, though it’s highly unlikely that there’s much the club can do about it.
Adam Jones is NOT ready for the big leagues. He just isn’t. While he’s been very impressive in Triple-A Tacoma, those impressions come with a qualifier – he’s 20 years of age and has made a drastic position change.
Jones is hitting .272 with 11 home runs and is slugging .450 while he continues to get better defensively. He can put a hurtin’ on a fastball and is a markedly better today – in all facets – than he was in April.
But he’s still expanding his strikezone far too wide and far too often and can be overwhelmed by any pitcher that can effectively change speeds and get those pitches within a foot of the zone.
Ultimately, Jones is simply very inconsistent, streaky if you will. He’s not ready and may not be until this time next season. He may get a September call-up but any move that rushes Jones is a mistake. He won’t help the Mariners more than Reed does on a daily basis and such a move can be extremely detrimental to his development.
So if Jones is not the answer for center field in 2006, who is?
Ride him out. Though his batting average has not improved much since he’s been getting regular playing time (thanks to the Mariners facing but three southpaws all month and none since Noah Lowry), he’s certainly become more consistent in hitting the ball hard.
Reed has four multi-hit games in June and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 starts. He also has four home runs this month and continues to make a pretty significant impact in the field – see Thursday’s 8th inning, Guardado ass-saving catch.
If the club went out on the market looking for a center fielder, they’d either be stuck with the types of talent that most clubs would sit on their bench, such as Luis Matos , Jose Cruz or Kenny Lofton, or they’ll be forced to part with young talent to get a fairly marginal upgrade such as Brady Clark.
So the M’s are probably best served by sticking with Reed for the balance of the season.
The DH spot, the No. 5 slot in the starting rotation and the bullpen are all areas where upgrades are possible.
We’ve covered Carl Everett’s lack of value to the ball club, and Chris Snelling is the immediate answer. It’s not even worth scouring the rosters of the deadline sellers because Snelling is the BEST option. If he gets hurt again, the M’s can revert back to the farm system again and go with Greg Dobbs or, better yet, Shin-soo Choo, at least versus righties, while Morse keeps his duties against southpaws.
The bullpen is pretty good as a whole, but all of that credit is shared by just three arms – J.J. Putz, Rafael Soriano and George Sherrill.
Julio Mateo, Eddie Guardado and Jake Woods are… how can I put this lightly… umm.. terrible and utterly unreliable. Mateo can throw strikes, as can Woods, but when they do, which is often, they get blistered like the palm of a lonely teenage boy.
So, what to do…
Like Fruto, Francisco Cruceta has command issues that need improvement, but one can argue successfully that either right-hander could supplant Mateo and the club wouldn’t miss a beat and could possibly be better. But until they stop posting below-average BB/9 marks, Mateo will have the advantage.
Cha Seung Baek? Perhaps, but the M’s would be better suited with a veteran addition in place of Sean Green and/or Jake Woods.
Like Cameron mentions, Washington’s Jon Rauch is a very interesting possibility, as is Gary Majewski, though Jim Bowden will ask for the moon and likely hang onto that desire far too long to get a deal done.
Florida Marlins closer Joe Borowski may become available as Florida continues to flail more than 10 games out of postseason contention. Borowski would fit nicely as a 6th or 7th-inning option, his salary (327k) fits even better and Mike Hargrove would have to trust the 34-year-old more so than Woods, Fruto and Green.
Scott Williamson might be an interesting get, and would cost far less in trade and salary than his teammate Bob Howry.
Williamson is guaranteed $2 million this season but there is no further financial commitment attached.
If you want to improve the fifth spot in the starting rotation, looking toward Jeff Weaver is not the answer. He’s better than Joel Pineiro, easily, and is far better than he’s shown in the first half of the season. But there are two big problems with the idea.
1. Either the Mariners are acquiring, even if for nothing of value in return, more than $4 million in salary for the rest of the season, so the only way adding Weaver makes any sense is if you can swap Pineiro for him.
2. Why would the Angels swap Weaver for Pineiro? Joel is making just over $3 million for the remainder of the year and all the Angels would be doing is exchanging problem with a contract for another problem with a contract.
The conversation is worth having, however, because LA general manager Bill Stoneman may see the opportunity to grab a useful minor league reliever in the deal and that may make the swap worth while.
Note: Jeff Weaver is not a good option to replace Gil Meche, but he certainly would be a nice addition over Pineiro, as long as the M’s aren’t taking on more than, say, $1.5 million in salary. That’s for you, Willmore.
I’d propose keeping an eye on the Phillies and if they fall too far out, maybe Pat Gillick would consider parting ways with Cory Lidle, who’d be a pretty darned good No. 5 starter – and he isn’t owed any money after 2006.
And the Mariners can help the Colorado Rockies fall out of contention by sweeping them out of Safeco this weekend. Colorado has a few interesting arms, including Jason Jennings.
Jennings is much more of a winter idea but Byung-Hyun Kim may very well be a viable option and an arm that could move into the pen if the Mariners push through to the postseason. He’s making $1.25 million this season with an option for 2007 at $2 million. Trade cost, of course, is going to be the key in any deal Bill Bavasi makes.
Replacing Everett with Snelling and adding a quality bullpen arm are good possibilities. Finding an upgrade in the rotation maybe less critical and also less likely to happen, considering the return necessary for such players.But the club has positioned itself to be active at the trade deadline, and with a little creativity may be able to get a few things done to shore up a decent team.
It sure beats what the Angels have going on down in the OC. Ya think the rally monkey has starved to death, yet?