Other than pitching the Seattle Mariners infield was a strong suit in 2014 and will again in 2015. Robinson Cano, though tailing off in September, finished with a .314 average, 14 homers, and 82 RBI’s. His home run production dropped, but consider he spent his previous years in the band box of Yankee Stadium, a home run haven. While 100 RBI’s would be nice, consider the one and two slots in the order fluctuated greatly, with Abraham Almonte, James Jones, and then Austin Jackson batting leadoff and none were proficient at getting on base. The same was true of the number two slot until Dustin Ackley finally settled in.
Kyle Seager at third is also a sure thing with a .268 average, 26 home runs, and 96 RBI’s. He also works extremely hard on his defense, certainly a Gold Glove caliber candidate. One of those SABR mathematicians calculated this summer that the A’s John Donaldson was the best defensive third baseman in the American League and Seager was second.
I am including Mike Zunino among the infielders because I can. He is also a lock despite a .199 average. He hit 22 homers with 60 RBI’s and those numbers along with his ability to handle pitchers, call a game, and block pitches will keep him in the lineup. As long as his hitting improves he should be behind the plate for quite some time.
Now we get to the open positions at first and short. Justin Smoak is unlikely to return. His lack of production speaks for itself. In 2014 .202 with 7 homers and 30 RBI’s in 80 games. He lost his job to Logan Morrison. He is scheduled to make $3,650,000 in 2015, but the Mariners can buy out his contract for $150,000. The Mariners have the buyout option since he did not reach 525 plate appearances.
Morrison who signed a one year contract in the previous offseason is still under Mariner control, though he is arbitration eligible, and will not be a free agent until 2017. He hit .262 with 11 homers and 38 rbis in 99 games. Five of his homers and 11 of his RBI;s came in September when he hit .342. His main job for now is to man first base until D.J. Peterson, the Mariners Minor League Player of the Year is ready. That could be sometime in 2015,
Shortstop is up for grabs between Chris Taylor, a right handed batter-which the Mariners need-hitting .287 in 136 at bats, but no homers and only 9 RBI’s and Brad Miller, .221-10-36. It could be a spring training completion, though Mariner Manager Lloyd McClendon has hinted that Miller could be a super sub. It is also very possible that one could be packaged with a relief pitcher and a young pitcher for a strong right handed bat.
What Seattle needs is a DH. Corey Hart is already gone and Kendrys Morales most likely will be as well. One switch hitter on the free agent market is the Tigers Victor Martinez who hit .335 with 32 homers (career high) and 103 RBI’s. And he can play first base if needed. His last contract was 4 years and $50 million. He will be 36 next season. If he wants 4 years what is the price and will the Mariners be willing to pay. The Mariners have said the payroll will increase, but how much?
Stay tuned for an interesting off season as Jack pursues both a bat or two and a starting pitcher. Next blog we’ll look at the outfield.
I had thought that Jesus Montero, Endy Chavez, Logan Morrison, or Stephan Romero would be sent to Tacoma to make room for Justin Smoak, Corey Hart and Michael Saunders when they were eligible to return from their rehab assignment at AAA Tacoma.
Montero was sent down, as was Romero. Saunders came up, but so did Brandon Maurer, now a relief pitcher. Starting didn’t work for him, but he has been great out of the pen.
Things change though and a few things are keeping Hart and Smoak in Tacoma. One is that Chavez and Morrison both got hot; Chavez went from the .220’s to hitting in the .260’s and Morrison from .160’s to the 230’s. Meanwhile Hart in 33 at bats is hitting .273 with a homer and 4 rbis. Not bad, but Smoak is hitting .220 with a homer and 3 rbis in 41 at bats.
Besides Chavez and Morrison making big contributions there is one more reason why Smoak and Hart are stuck in Tacoma. It is the rule of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The Mariners are hot having won eight of ten. They are currently seven games above .500 at 45-38 and are in the wild card picture. The chemistry seems good, so why tinker when there is no player who should be sent down.
Okay there is one and only one player. The Mariners currently have 13 pitchers and 12 position players on the 25 man roster. If they continue to keep 13 pitchers then only one player could be sent down and the only player not making contributions is Dustin Ackley. Batting .214 with 4 homers and only 27 at bats in 74 games, he is in a 2-28 slump and has not gotten a hit since June 22nd.
With Smoak floundering in Tacoma and Morrison hitting with Seattle that leaves Hart as a possible call up with Ackley-providing he still has options left-being sent back to AAA. He has been a huge disappointment since being the Mariners number one pick, second overall in the 2009 draft. (The number one pick was Stephen Strasburg). Ouch! That hurts like a 100 miles per hour fastball plunking your elbow.
Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, and Corey Hart are all on rehab in Tacoma, but at some point they will be return to Seattle and three players will either be sent to Tacoma or released.
Since Cole Gillespie and Stefan Romero both bat from the right side and M’s need batters right handed bats, they are likely to stay, though Romero batting .204 could find himself in Tacoma when Saunders returns. The outfielder most in danger is Endy Chavez hitting .224. He is one of those bench players who always seems to find different ways to contribute and that could keep him in Seattle. Tough call either way for Jackie Z and Lloyd McClendon.
Logan Morrison would have been the odd man out with Smoak’s return. Morrison was hitting .164 in 61 at bats, but Monday night against Boston went 4-4 with 2 homers, raising his average to .215. With McClendon, if you are hot you play, so Morrison would DH when Smoak returns. Smoak is batting .208 with 7 homers and 29 rbis. He is an excellent defensive player at first, but for every hot week he has, Smoak has three weeks of abject, rally floundering futility. He is a favorite of Jackie Z which means Mariner fans will suffer through the 2014 season. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and if he is resigned Mariner fans should boycott Safeco Field.
When Hart returns that means Jesus Montero will head back to Tacoma. Montero is 4 for 14 with a homer. He is the fallback should Hart struggle when he returns. Hart was hitting .209 with 5 homers an 17 rbis in 37 games. As an injury plagued player that makes Montero an important bat to keep warm with the Rainiers. Even if send down, he is likely to return.
Jackie Z and McClendon have some difficult decisions to make. Chavez, Montero, and who?
There are car nuts who love shopping at wrecking yards for car parts. I am a baseball nut, not a car nut, but I assume it is cheaper to buy parts on the scrap heap then at an auto parts store. The Mariners remind me of wrecking yard shoppers. This offseason they signed Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, both of whom missed significant time last season with injuries. They came off the scrap heap. Today they are both on the disabled list.
Last season the Mariners tried Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman from the pitchers scrap heap. They also gave Michael Morse and Jason Bay a shot. None of them worked out. Now they have signed Xavier Nady, a right handed hitter.
Nady has played for eight teams; the Padres, Mets, Pirates, Yankees, Cubs, D-Backs, Nationals, and Giants. He is in extended spring training and will be assigned to Tacoma to get some at bats.
Manger Lloyd McClendon refers to Nady as a professional. That is a true statement because baseball players who are paid are professionals. McClendon said Nady got off to slow start with the Padres, his second tour of duty with them. He hit .135 in 22 games before being released. But he only hit .240 in 19 games with the Giants in 2013 and .157 in 2012 with Washington in 40 games. Nady is 35 and clearly on the downside of an average career.
Hart missed all of 2013 and went he went on the DL he was hitting .209 with 5 homers. He might return around the all-star game. Morrison hit .150 in 8 games before straining his right hamstring. He is currently rehabbing in Tacoma and is 7-21 (.333) with a homer run. At the moment the wrecking yard sale hasn’t helped. But Chris Young who missed all of 2013 and only pitched in four games in both 2010 and 2011, after starting 20 in 2012 and who has not won more than 4 games since 2008 when he won seven with San Diego is 4-2 with a 3.30 ERA.
I doubt if Nady makes it to Seattle will be any better. The Mariners favorite thing is to say, it can’t hurt, it’s worth a shot. But how many true bargains to you get at a wrecking yard?
Why did Seattle Mariner Lloyd McClendon show no faith in pitcher Hector Noesi. He was quick to rid himself of Noesi after his one inning of work over two games, yet McClendon gave Abraham Almonte 27 games to prove he belonged in the leadoff spot, but after 106 at bats, 40 strikeouts and a .198 batting average, did he the right thing and send him back to the minors. That was fair. But why oh why does he keep Brad Miller, whom I like, in the lineup when he is batting far worse than Almonte.
If you are not in the Great Northwest and don’t follow the Mariners you are unaware of all the talk about why Brad Miller is still with Seattle. I have already blogged about Miller’s shortcomings. Like everyone else I expected Miller would be send down before the current road trip. He was 2 for his last 37 at bats; he is bating an unbelievable .154. His fielding has been average at best and in his last game made a big base running blunder. In short he is not helping the team.
The Mariners with a .154 hitting shortstop batting 9th is like a National League team with eight batters and a pitcher. That is a handicap in the American League.
Many, including myself, have written that either Chris Taylor or Nick Franklin be brought up from Tacoma. But Taylor injured his pinky. Also he is not on the forty man roster and the Mariners were unsure if they wanted to drop release anyone to make room for Taylor.
Now Nick Franklin has been brought up, but that is due to Corey Hart going on the DL. Franklin is in the lineup tonight as the DH and Miller is still at shortstop.
Perhaps when either Logan Morrison or Hart, both free agent signings in the offseason and both on the DL, return, Miller will be sent to Tacoma. Jesus Montero is doing well at Tacoma. Any reason he is not up as the DH, with Franklin at short?
But don’t be surprised if Franklin returns before Miller. Franklin was up earlier, went 2-16 and was sent back. Hardly a fair sampling. It has been rumored, though gossiped is the better word, that Franklin has a big ego, perhaps either chafing McClendon or Mariner GM, Trader Jack.
It could be both Franklin and Montero are in some kind of doghouse. But the bigger question is why Brad Miller gets chance after chance. Ackley and Smoak had been send down for lack of production in the past, but Brad gets a free pass. Even batting .154.
The Mariners were hitting the ball everywhere in spring training and in the season opening series in Anaheim, the Mariners swept the Angels by hitting the ball everywhere, just like spring training. In fact they pounded the Angels outscoring them 26-8 with 18 runs coming with two outs, hitting .429 with runners in scoring position. They outhit the Angels 34-17.
There were many questions that needed answers: Would Justin Smoak finally do something this year? He was 6 for 13, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 7 rbis. Would Dustin Ackley get untracked? He was 4 for 11, a double and triple with 4 rbis. Can Corey Hart come back from his year off? He is 3 for 9 with a home run. Would rookies Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero hit major league pitching? Romero went hitless in first game then got two hits Wednesday night, one an rbi double. Almonte is 3-13 with 2 doubles and 2 rbis. Zunino the young catcher is hitting .333 with a triple and homer. Brad Miller had a 2 homer game and is hitting .333 And that Cano guy is hitting .455.
Are the questions answered?
No, but give them credit for doing what they did in the spring. For once the Mariners are off to a good start at 3-0.
And Pitching? Erasmo Ramirez following King Felix in the rotation pitched 7 innings, 6 k’s, no walks, and 2 runs. Wednesday, lefty James Paxton, who one pretentious reporter covering the Mariners claims should be a reliever, likening Paxton to Eric Bedard, was even better, pitching 7, allowing 2 hits, walking 2, and striking out 9. Paxton is 5-0 as a starter with a 1.16 ERA. In 31 innings, 30 k’s and 17 hits. Bullpen? I say BS. Paxton watched tape of fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw and based on what he saw, changed his delivery and you can see the results.
We have yet to see the young Cuban Roenis Elias or Chris Young making his comeback. But so far, so good.
Yes there will be rough waters during the 2014 cruise, every team has them. Time will answer all questions, but for now enjoy the smooth sailing.
The Mariners need a right handed bat and outfielder Cole Gillespie, 29, hit .391 in 23 at bats, driving in seven runs. He has major league experience having played with the D-backs, Cubs, and Giants. But despite his performance and despite providing a need he was sent to the Mariners triple AAA affiliate Tacoma. If he were a Seahawk he might make the team because the Seahawks about competing and winning the job.
Baseball is different. Gillespie was a non-roster invitee. If he made the team, somebody must be released from the 40 man roster. Of course they took into account his major league average of .225 in 169 at bats with 3 homers. As we all know spring training is an illusion. He may have gotten many hits off triple A pitchers. His .225 average is a more accurate measurement of what Seattle would get.
The Mariners plan to carry five outfielders. Dustin Ackley seems to have won the left field job; Abraham Almonte has been playing a lot of centerfield; and Michael Saunders and Corey Hart make four. That leaves the last spot between Logan Morrison, who can also play first and DH; left handed bat Endy Chavez, 36; and rookie Stefan Romero, another right handed bat. Romero has 9 hits, but his 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homers indicate he has extra base power. Despite being a left handed bat Morrison has versatility to stay and Romero is on the 40 man roster, as is Morrison. That leaves Chavez as odd man out, at least by logic. As the Mariners have some good young players on the 40 man roster, they are unlikely to part with any to make room for a 36 year old veteran.
So baseball, as we see with the Mariners, is not about competition. It is more a numbers game, getting the right balance of left and right bats, left and right pitching, preserving the 40 man roster as much as possible. Of course if the Mariners keep Chavez and send down Romero, there will be much head scratching. But with the Mariners, who knows.