The Seattle Mariners will have a different look next season, and it will be a big one as Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, and Danny Farquhar, are headed to Tampa Bay. Morrison played 146 games, hitting 17 home runs, but his .225 average made his days numbered. And though new GM Jerry Dipoto said he liked Miller, Ketel Marte is the shortstop of the future and Miller is only adequate in the outfield. Farquhar had a great 2014, but struggled in 2015.
In return the Mariners received starting pitcher Nathan Karns, 27, who was 7-5 in 147 innings with a 3.67 ERA and 145 strikeouts. CJ Riefenhauser will be 26 when the 2016 season starts. He is a lefty who made 17 appearances, was 1-1 with a 5.52 ERA. The third player the Mariners received is 22 year old minor leaguer Boog Powell (no relation to the great Oriole first baseman). Powell was drafted by Oakland and traded to the Rays as part of the deal that sent Ben Zobrist and Yuniel Escobar to Oakland . Powell is a left handed hitting centerfielder who hit .295 with a .385 on base percentage, belting out 16 doubles, 9 triples and stealing 18 bases between double A and triple A last year. He did serve a 50 game suspension in 2014. Shame, shame.
But Dipoto is high on Powell, seeing him as a catalyst at the top of the order. Time will tell, but Dipoto is not shy about changing the roster, getting the type of players he believes will change the Mariners style of play. Pitching and outfield were his priorities and the changes have begun.
It is not the .210 batting average that bothers me. Though the Mariners are 26th in baseball and 12th in the American League is not the problem. Their on base percentage does bother me. At .258 they are 14th in the American league, ahead of only the Twins at .249. The reason for that is the same as last season and that is the inability to draw walks.
They are 13th in the league in walks with 18 in nine games. The Twins have 17 and the White Sox have 13, but they have played eight games. Last season the M’s drew 396 walks, last in the League. Oddly Kansas City was last with .380. who finished with a 89-73 record. The difference was Kansas City hit .263 while Seattle hit .244 and that is why the Mariners finished dead last in on base percentage at .300.
The Mariners survived a poor offensive output in 2014 because their pitching was one of the best in baseball. It is early, but through nine games they have had only two good starts, one from Felix, the other from J.A. Happ. Paxton, Iwakuma, and Paxton have either struggled or floundered. And closer Fernando Rodney has blown up the last two games.
Everything looked good in spring training, but there is no pressure in those games; once the bell rings, high expectations can cause things to go wrong. I don’t know whether they feel the pressure of expectations or not. They say no, but what do you expect them to say. It could be the pitchers are not in their rhythm, are having trouble locating.
The focus of the everyday players has not been there. Cano thought the bases were loaded when there were runners at second and third and began walking home from third when a batter walked and Cano was thrown out. Logan Morrison forgot how many outs there were in consecutive innings. Brad Miller Forgot to cover second base once.
The 3-6 record is disappointing and while the starting pitching has been poor, it should not mask the Mariners inability to get on base. Homers alone will not win games. You need to be patient, get pitchers deeper into counts, draw walks, and get clutch hitting. The M’s are doing none of that.
It is time for the Mariners to step and during this nine game home stand. Forget expectations and start playing fundamentally sound baseball.
I heard on ESPN 710 Seattle the other day that Richie Weeks and Dustin Ackley will platoon in left. Ackley, the Mariners former second baseman, learned to play left field after being sent to minors to straighten out his hitting. Last season he played left and this season he will be joined by fellow second baseman Richie Weeks, if that report turns out to be true. And Weeks is listed 2nd on left field depth chart.
That would give Seattle five outfielders, Ackley, Weeks, Austin Jackson, Justin Ruggiano, and Seth Smith. Since Nelson Cruz may get time in the outfield if needed, that leaves speedy James Jones with little chance of making the team and likely ending up in Tacoma.
It has also been said that the whoever losses the shortstop competition between Chris Taylor and Brad Miller will end up in Tacoma with Willie Bloomquist as the utility player.
Since the Mariners are likely to have 12 pitchers because manager Lloyd McClendon does not care about complete games that leaves 13 position players. With the five outfielders listed above, plus DH Cruz and two catchers, that leaves five infielders; Logan Morrison, Robinson Cano, one shortstop from the above mentioned competition, Kyle Seager and Willie Bloomquist as Mr. Utility.
If all that has been said is true it appears the Mariners have their position players already set. The team has flexibility with interchangeable parts in the outfield depending on whether they are facing a left or right handed pitcher. And while the infield will be set, Cruz will get an occasional day at first or in one of the corner spots. Bench players will be a non-description of the 2015 Mariners as all will be seeing action on a regular basis, though Bloomquist could get lonely with Cano, and Seager being everyday players. Willie will get playing time at short, at first, and can play the outfield if needed.
And even with Jesus Montero having lost 40 pounds he may be in Tacoma along with other quality players. Tacoma could win the PCL with the Mariners having a strong roster. And we haven’t even talked about what pitchers will be down the I-5 freeway.
If you keep score at Mariner games, bring a pencil rather than a pen. You may need it as the scorecard will no doubt fill up on many days.
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?