If history is an indicator in 2016 Seth Smith will hit 31 doubles, 5 triples and 12 homeruns. I cite with confidence because those are his numbers for each of the last two years. Yes, he hit 31 doubles in both 2014 and 2015 along with those 5 triples, and 12 homers. His average season, based on 162 games is 31-5-16. The 33 year old outfielder has been consistent, though his .248 average was down from his .266 2014 season.
But there is a possibility he may be traded. Is his defense the type that Jerry Dipoto, Mariners GM, is looking for? Probably not as his range is not that great. He may be the fourth outfielder and if so, those projections will drop.
The outfield is still in flux. They received a young player Boog Powell in a trade, but he may not make opening day roster. Seattle also picked up outfielder Daniel Robertson on waivers from the Angels, but he is not guaranteed a job. Neither Powell or Robertson have power. Franklin Gutierrez has resigned, but I have heard that that his contract is contingent on making the team next spring.
There are some free agents like Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, and Justin Upton, but their contract expectations will not fit within the budget because of the contracts of Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz. Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra, or Denard Span are affordable free agents, or another trade, might be looming. I like Parra who is 28 and has a great arm and is considered a top outfielder. Span is a good second choice.
The baseball winter meeting will be held in Nashville December 6-10. What will Dipoto to then, and maybe before?
He is back (pending his latest physical). Franklin Gutierrez will sign a one year contract for $1 million and could make another million if all incentives are met, like playing in more than 40 games, still being alive at end of training camp, and passing an airport security body scan. And if he plays more than 50 games, there will be a Gutierrez bobble head night replete with a colorful band aid sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.
The Mariners released Franklin at the end of the season so they would not have to pay him $ 7 million in the last year of his contract. I don’t know if he had other offers, as clubs had to be wary of signing a thirty year old who has spent more time in hospitals than baseball diamonds. In the last three years Franklin as missed 313 of 486 games. He has had hamstring problems, hip and joint issues, a torn pectoral muscle, concussion, strained oblique, stomach disorder, and ankylosing spondylitis. He has had more work done on his body than the $6 million man.
He will join newcomers Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, both with knee problems, as most likely to end up on the disabled list. Spring training is still a month and half away, but the Mariners are stocking up on medical supplies, far more than in years past.
On the plus side, he hit 10 homers in 145 at bats for Seattle last year when healthy, so maybe he still has power from the right side, something the M’s need and he was a Gold Glove centerfielder before injuries took there toll and again a centerfielder is needed. For the fourth year in a row it can be said that if Franklin is healthy. . . well, he could be a solid player. Franklin deserves to be healthy, at least for one year, a year in which the Mariners are negotiating with Willie Mays to get is DNA and begin a rapid cloning process developed by Austrian doctor, Frank E. Stein.
Welcome back Franklin.
The Mariners have not given up on their young kids, with the possible exception of one, but there is a shift going on, a shift that may take place this year.
The Mariners must believe that Nick Franklin is the second baseman of the future because Dustin Ackley is in Tacoma getting playing time in left field and in center. Going into Sunday’s game he was batting .411 in 73 at bats with two home runs and eleven driven in. It has been rumored he will be recalled soon to play the outfield.
One player in Tacoma who may be called up is Brad Miller to play shortstop. Brendan Ryan is a gold glove shortstop without the gold glove, which has more to do with his lack of hitting. The Gold Glove voting is, for the most part, a popularity contest. But Ryan has raised his average dramatically. Before the trading deadline a team may be looking for a good fielding shortstop and Ryan would certainly be available. Miller began the season in Jackson, hitting .294 in 42 games with 6 homers, 25 RBIS, and an on base percentage of .379. In Tacoma he is batting .346 in 19 games with 4 homeruns, 23 RBIS, and a .430 on base percentage.
What all this means is that before the season is out the Mariners will have their 2014 lineup on the field. Zunino catching, with Franklin at second, Miller at short, Seager at third, and first base the question, as in “whos on first? Justin Smoak is on the disabled list, a good place for him to be. Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse could be splitting time between first and DH. If Jesus Montero is healthy and not suspended by baseball he could play first. But I am unconvinced the Mariners want him.
The outfield will have Ackley in left, or perhaps center if Morse stays in left. Endy Chavez is playing well, he should stay in center for now. Franklin Gutierrez for three seasons has spent more time with doctors doing rehab, than in the starting lineup. 2014 should see him elsewhere. Michael Saunders, whether in center or right is in a horrific slump that has seen his average drop from the .280’s to the .190’s. He can not continue to flounder if he wants to stay in Seattle in 2014.
With recent rookie call ups and shifting of other young players, the M’s are preparing for 2014; blending in new kids with the old kids. I like the idea. I would rather watch these kids develop than watch Milton Bradley, Wally Backman, Jeff Cirillo, and other veterans the Mariners picked up who washed ashore.
Franklin Gutierrez strained his hamstring Monday in Houston. It is not unusual for ball players to have injuries, but with Franklin injuries and illness seem to plague him. He has missed 192 of the last 324 games. For stat freaks, that is 59% games missed. That percentage does not reflect an everyday starter, but a fourth outfielder. When in the lineup-and healthy-he is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. The Mariners are lucky to have Endy Chavez to take his spot as his glove work is Mariner ship shape.
Health was not an issue in 2009 and 2010 when he played 153 and 152 games for Seattle with 629 plate appearances each year. In 2009 he had his best season with 18 homers, 70 RBIS and batted .283. His average dropped in 2010 to .245, hitting 12 home runs, driving in 64.
But in the last two seasons he has spent more time with doctors than a hypochondriac. In Franklin’s case his problems are real. Last year Franklin had a severe stomach disorder that baffled doctors for the longest time. He has also had a torn pectoral muscle, suffered a concussion, and strained an oblique muscle. In another time players would avoid Franklin as he would be the “Jonah” someone to avoid at all costs. Players would fear fallout, that getting to close to the “Jonah” might jeopardize one’s own health, that his bad luck would fall within too close a radius.
Franklin is likely headed to the DL and if so, then Carlos Peguero might be called up. He is batting .246 in Tacoma, has had call ups the last two seasons, exhibiting great power when not striking out. But when veterans Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez are not hitting what is the point of that ‘veteran presence?’ If a young player can hit .246 for the M’s they are better off than having two aging, ineffective veterans.
Michael Saunders will be back soon and his bat is needed because the other Michael, surname Morse, is slumping, no doubt due to his broken pinkie. Wait a minute! Morse started the season in left and broke his finger, and Saunders started the season in right, got hurt, and went on the DL. Gutierrez started the season in center field. The two Michaels flanked the ‘Jonah.” Maybe it is true and not a superstition. Be careful Carlos!
Next week pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Short of any trades or free agent signing, both of which seem unlikely at this date, the Mariners have, for better or worse, a set lineup. There will be those who say a player could crack the lineup I am presenting, like Jason Bay, or Robert Andino, but the M’s stay with the following nine players.
Like it or not Justin Smoak is back at first base. There was talk of a trade to Boston, but talk is cheap and tiring. More about Smoak later. Dustin Ackley will be at second, Brendan Ryan and his dazzling glove at short, and Kyle Seager at third rounds out the infield. The outfield, from left to right, will be Mike Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, and Michael Saunders. Jesus Montero is the catcher and Kendrys Morales the DH.
This will be the lineup when the season starts. Ackley need to hit better, Gutierrez needs to stay healthy, and Montero needs to improve both with the bat and behind the plate. The player with the shortest leash will be Smoak. The Mariners continue to bend over backwards, way backwards, with more patience shown to him than any player in their history. If he does not get untracked in the first six weeks, he will be sitting by the water cooler.
If that happens, and the odds look good, the lineup will change. Morales would move to first and Montero would be the DH, with the possibility that if he hits at Tacoma, Mike Zunino will be the catcher. These changes would be in June.
Of course Mike Carp coud play first, so to could Raul Ibanez. The Mariners have a lot flexibility.
But the point is that Smoaky the Bear, AKA, manager Eric Wedge will be watching Smoak closely to see if he once again turns to ashes, perhaps for the last time.
I said back in April, perhaps March, I had no faith in Seattle Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders. I am not sure anyone had faith in Saunders and there were good reasons to believe he would once again flounder.
In limited action the last two seasons he hit .211 in 2010 and in 2011 a pitcher-like batting average of .149. Three seasons of splitting time between Tacoma and Seattle indicated he could not hit, at least at the major league level, and that is the one that counts.
But Monday night Saunders hit a pair of two run home runs one day after belting another home run. He has hit 13 while batting .248 and 41 ( 27 doubles, a triple, 13 homers) of his 102 hits went for extra base , giving Saunders a .413 slugging average.
A .248 average is not that great, nor are 107 strikeouts in 412 at bats, but he is 25, and often a players best season is around age 27, so he has yet to hit his prime. If he can continue to improve the next two seasons he will be a potent weapon in the Mariner lineup.
He is currently playing centerfield with Franklin Gutierrez on the shelf and if Gutierrez is healthy next season, which would be nice for once, Saunders would be ticketed for left field. He is not a great center fielder like Gutierrez, but he makes the plays and rarely commits a mental mistake.
I am always right, unless I am wrong, but it is okay to be wrong, especially when a player is doing well. Then you don’t mind looking dumb. I wish all the Mariners would prove me wrong; I wish they would make look stupid.
My faith in Saunders is restored. His track record had been abysmal, but he has the SoDo mojo working this season, so thank you Michael.
Back home after a decent road trip the Mariner bats once again met that unfriendly northwest air and went 17-94 against the Dodgers, a .181 batting average. They may not hit in Safeco, but another concern are two starting pitchers playing themselves out of the rotation.
Blake Beaven lit up the Dodgers Sunday is floundering. In 12 starts he has pitched 62.1 innings and allowed 12 home runs with a 5.92 era. Five innings per start is not good, neither are the high number of long balls and his near 6 ERA.
Hector Noesi is in the same lifeboat. Like Beaven 12 starts and in 67.2 innings he has given up 14 homers with a 5.99 ERA.
With an offense that struggles for hits at home and with the majority of remaining games at Safeco, pitching is a premium.
Danny Hultzen, the number one pick last season by the Mariners, is currently at Jackson where he is 7-3 with a eye popping 1.28 ERA. He has allowed only 34 hits in 70 innings, only 2 of which are home runs. He has 75 strikeouts and 34 walks.
The photo is of Ed Walsh, carreer ERA of 1.82. Take a look at that face. Would you want to bat against this guy? Only 7.1 hits per 9 innings in career.
If the Mariners choose to look at Tacoma pitchers, Erasmo Ramirez is 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA and Andrew Carraway is 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA.
Ramirez started the season in Seattle’s bullpen, but was sent down to work as a starter. His numbers in Seattle alone did not merit the demotion.
Clearly with Beaven and Noesi struggling it is only a matter of time before a change is made. The Mariners are not in a position to have 40% of the rotation going five innings and losing games.
Another roster spot will open up when Franklin Gutierrez is ready to play and Mike Carp who struggled in Tacoma after coming off the DL, is still struggling with Seattle after 80 at bats with a below the Mendoza line batting average, being the most likely outfielder to return to the Rainiers.
Mariners have Monday off before the Padres and Giants come to town. Will either Beaven or Noesi be pitching is the question. And what Mariner pitcher can get that Big Ed Walsh look?