A great running line in the Newman/Redford classic, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was “Who are those guys?” It was said by Cassidy/Newman when no matter what Butch and Sundance did to ditch a posse, they could not shake them. Well Seattle GM, Jerry Dipoto has shaken up the Mariner bullpen and brought in a new posse. But will it be better? At the moment it looks to be their biggest weakness.
Frankly at the moment it scares me. I think Dipoto has secret Freemason analytics unknown to the rest of us. Something found in ancient knowledge of necromancy, alchemy, and witchcraft. Looking at his acquisitions I ask, “Who are those guys?”
There are 20 pitchers on the 40 man roster, six of which are starters, those being Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Nathan Karns, and two lefties, Taijuan Walker and Wade Miley. That leaves 15 relievers, including one recently acquired for another reliever, also acquired during the offseason. By spring training all the following pitchers could trade as Trader Jerry likes to deal like a riverboat gambler.
Their are only six pitchers returning who spent any time with the Mariners and four of those are lefties. Charlie Furbush, 29, appeared in only 33 games due to an injury; Vidal Nuno, 28, another lefty was 1-5, 3.74 in 35 games (3 with Arizona), 10 starts; Mike Montgomery, 26, who began 2015 as a starter was 4-6, 4.60 and though he had two early shutouts, his 16 starts indicated a five inning pitcher at best; Dave Rollins, 26, the fourth lefty was 0-2, 7.56 and was dreadful. From the right side is Mayckol Guaipe, 25, 21 games, 5.40 ERA and Tony Zych, 25, who only appeared in 13 games with a 2.45 ERA.
Based on the five returnees Furbush and Nuno are likely to be in the pen, with Montgomery being a starter in Tacoma. Guaipe will have to compete with seven new righties and all have question marks.
Staring at the end with Steve Cishek, 29, the likely closer with 39 saves in 43 opportunities in 2014, but between two teams last season was 4 of 9 with 3.58 ERA. So a question mark as to health and if he can regain his previous form. The setup man is likely Joaquin Benoit whose only question is age at 38 as his 2015 ERA was 2.34 in 65.1 innings with San Diego. He also has closing experience. They should make the team. That makes Cishek, Benoit, Furbush, and Nuno. Along with 5 starters, that makes nine pitchers.
Assuming a 12 man staff that leaves three spots open between seven pitchers-at the moment. The odd man out of the rotation, baring another Iwakuma/Paxton/Other injury, is Karns. If he stays in the bullpen as long reliever, that leaves two spots. Besides Zych there is Jonathan Arno, 25, 6.97 in six games with Boston in 2015; Ryan Cook, 28, 8.2 innings between two teams allowing 20 hits, 18.69 era in 9 games. An aberration as he had three good years with Oakland and can also close games. Another former Oakland A is Evan Scribner, 30, 5-2, 4.21 career marks; Justin DeFratus, 28, 6-1, 5.51 with the Phillies in 2015; Cody Martin, 26, 7.92 between Atlanta and Oakland; and Joe Wieland, soon to be 26, two bad starts with Dodgers in 2015, career record 1-5 5.85 in 11 games. Anybody’s guess, so I pick Cook and Zych, or Cook and Scribner, or draw two names out of a batting helmet.
Dipoto has remade the pen and they can make or break the 2016 team, just as the 2015 pen sunk the Good Ship Mariner. I am at the moment a bit seasick and must get below deck.
With spring training looming the Mariners have more questions, way too may questions, and ones that need to be answered soon.
King Felix and Iwakuma are 1 & 2 in the rotation. Trader Jack wanted a veteran starter, but that question has yet to be answered. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton could make the rotation, and while both had success in brief trials in 2013, they are unproven, thus another veteran is needed to fall back on.
Speaking of pitching, the bullpen was a sore spot last season. The Mariner bullpen blew 23 saves with a save percentage of 65% and the bullpen ERA was 4.31. Will Tom Wilhelmsen regain the closer role will? Or will Danny Farquhar keep the job? Or will they make a trade for a closer? Can Bill Caudill come out of retirement? Had the bullpen been more effective at closing out games Seattle would have been a .500 club.
Who will play first base? Justin Smoak is in arbitration. When that gets settled will he be traded? Or will he battle Corey Hart and Logan Morrison? Can they get Richie Sexson out of retirement? (I hope not).
Since some guy named Robinson Cano seems a lock at second, is the shortstop Brad Miller or Nick Franklin? Both were called up during the season and though Miller hit better, and scouts say Franklin may be a better fit at second. Does that make Franklin trade bait?
What about the outfield? Is Morrison in left? who plays center, Gutierrez or Dustin Ackley? Will Abraham Almonte ,who impressed in a late season call up, play right or will proverbial promising star Michael Saunders finally blossom? Or will either Julio Morban or Stefen Romero have a great spring and squeeze somebody out of a job. I would like to see one of them step up, but knowing the Mariners pattern, they would be sent to Tacoma then brought up during the season.
Though catcher seems to be set with Mike Zunino and John Buck, but there is still a question whether Zunino is ready.
What it comes down to is that outside of Cano at second and Seager at third, everything else is a question. A lot of questions, most of which need to be answered before spring training that begins in three weeks when catchers and pitchers report to camp.
My e-book baseball novel at $2.99 is based on the true story about Charlie Faust and the 1911 New York Giants: http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390462698&sr=1-3