The Seattle Mariners roster is changing daily. That is because Mariners new GM Jerry Dipoto is in the kitchen tossing out ingredients whose expiration date has expired. He is in the midst of creating a new dish and is looking for fresher ingredients. Here is what Chef Dipoto has done so far, though things may have changed even as I am typing. as he is a fast and furious chef.
Brad Miller Nathan Karns-starter
Logan Morrison Boog Powell-outfielder
Danny Farquhar Daniel Robertson-outfield
Tom Wilhelmsen Joaquin Benoit-closer
James Jones Leonys Martin-CF
CJ Riefenhauser added and departed Anthony Bass-pitcher
Mark Trumbo Luis Sardinas-infield
Ramon Flores Chris Iannetta-catcher
Patrick Kivlehan Andy Wilkins-1b
Justin De Fratus-pitcher
What Dipoto has thus far done, is add players coming off bad years or injuries, or players with potential, but have yet to show much. But dumping Trumbo’s salary of $9 million gives Chef Dipoto more money; more money to do what?
Repeat after me. Free Agent Signing. But who is the question. I can not imagine him cutting the payroll without adding someone.
At present Dipoto has said that Jesus Montero and Andy Wilkins make a nice platoon at first base and that Montero deserves a shot. I agree, but GM’s always say that until they have an alternative of someone they think is better. The chef also praised Brad Miller, then traded him. Dipoto is also big on defense, and Montero is average at best. Justin Moreau, 34, coming off an injury (Dipoto’s favorite), hit .310 in 168 at bats. Is Jerry thinking of Justin. Or Mike Napoli? Or perhaps Johnny Cueto for a starting pitcher. Or is he saving the money to resign Hisashi Iwakuma. But something is cooking.
The winter meetings start Monday, the 7th, so stay tuned to the Mariner Food Network to see what Jerry will do next.
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 like to take risks, though spending $240 million on a ten year contract with a no trade clause to Robinson Cano is by far the biggest financial risk they have taken. Usually Seattle takes lite risks, like bringing in over the hill veteran pitchers or bringing in D-list players who can’t hit, never could, but fill a roster spot and a place on the bench.
Two wounded ducks are Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Hart as had microfracture surgeries on both knees and missed all of 2013 rehabbing. But he was, and still could be, a power hitter. He can DH or play first base. It is a one year contract with many incentives making the risk worthwhile. Morrison hit 23 homers in 2011, but a tendon problem in a knee limited him to part time duty the past two years. He can play the outfield and first base. Seattle needs outfielders, but more than that they need a right handed bat besides Hart and Morrison is a lefty. The Mariners gave up a young arm in Carter Capps, who had a plus five ERA in 2013, but the Mariners have a lot of young arms waiting to take his place.
So the Mariners have some knee problems, but the potential upside is good. Hart is 31 with a lot to prove and Morrison is only 26 and a new environment may be good for him.
The winter meetings are over, but I doubt the Mariners are. Nelson Cruz, a big right handed power bat would be a perfect number four hitter. He is 33 and can hit 25-30 homers. Maybe Robinson Cano can call Nelson and say, “Seattle has money for you, why not come up to the Pacific Northwest. Do you like salmon?” Cruz could DH, Hart play first, and Morrison, if healthy, the outfield.
Seattle still needs a lefty in the bullpen, a reliable closer, a starting pitcher, another outfielder, and a cheerleading squad called the Seamaidens. The pieces are falling into place and the improved lineup is a start, though having Seamaidens would surely increase attendance more than Cano, Hart, et al. I told the Mariner front office of my idea and volunteered to fluff the pompoms. For some reason I was escorted from the premises. I guess they didn’t want to take the risk.
In an article in the Seattle Times former Mariner manager Eric Wedge and former front office personnel and scouts painted a negative portrayal of Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik and the front office. Truthfully it was more than negative. Jack was seen as a micromanager, one who throws people under the bus, including friends and confidants, is over demanding, and is ineffective. Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong came in for a share of the dysfunction as well.
Just as washing your car brings rain, signing a Yankee superstar brings turmoil and chaos. Robinson Cano should be accustomed to a dysfunctional franchise, after all he worked for George Steinbrenner. Cano is probably laughing all the way to the bank, which he now probably owns.
It is brave of Wedge to air dirty laundry as other GM’s and organizations may shy away from hiring him for going public with internal squabbles. Organizations like to keep the dirty laundry in house. And why did Eric Wedge say when he quit that he would never accept a multi year deal from the Mariners when a day or two before quitting he was telling management he wanted a multi year deal?
On MLB Network this morning Jack was interviewed and when asked about the Times article, Jack said, “Case closed, we are moving forward.” When asked the question in a different way, Jack answered ” It is our policy to not comment on internal affairs.” One could say he was dodging the question, but there is no point in getting into a pissing contest about critical comments, especially when they came from multiple sources. There is nothing to be gained by exacerbating the story. And I am sure there will be more coming from Jeff Baker who wrote the article for the Times.
The truth is none of us know what goes on behind closed doors. We only see the public face. But here is a cliché-where there is smoke there is fire. How about another cliché-sour grapes from fired employees.
The Mariners lost the absentee owner who died, they lost a manger, they are losing Chuck Armstrong to retirement, and now we hear the front office is dysfunctional. But we have Robinson Cano and more players are coming within the week, I am sure of it. And if the Mariners win this season, no one will care about perceived dysfunction. Winning is a cure. If they lose, the dysfunction continues.
Here is a link to the article http://seattletimes.com/html/mariners/2022420240_mariners08xml.html
Chuck Armstrong at 71 has been President of the Seattle Mariners for 28 of the teams 37 years of existence. His last day is January 31, 2014, about two months from now. National baseball writer, Bob Nightengale tweeted that Armstrong was “a terrific person and one of baseball’s most popular men.” But most in Seattle will be glad to see Armstrong leave because of the on field mediocrity that Seattle baseball fans have increasingly become disenchanted with; the Mariners seeing attendance drop dramatically as if Safeco was a Zombie infected detention center.
I don’t know Chuck Armstrong, so will take the word he is a nice guy, but Mariner fans don’t care if he is Santa Claus (many will liken him to Scrooge) because they want a winner and in 28 years Armstrong, rightly or wrongly was held to blame, in fact still is. I think he does need to take blame for many things as each organization, each business, must have success at the top in order to succeed.
What is needed is a baseball man in charge, not a businessman. He may have guided the Mariners to a successful bank account, but those who go to ballgames are not business fans, they are baseball fans.
I had one encounter with Armstrong in the early 1980’s when George Argyros owned the team. I think it was 1984 or 85 because the conversation involved Mark Langston. I was on the Kingdome concourse near a souvenir stand, minding my own business, when I see George and Chuck coming towards me. Out of nowhere George says to me, “Can you believe Mark Langston is not on the all-star ballot?” He did not wait for my answer, it being strictly rhetorical, as he went off on a little rant about how Mark was deserving and how could baseball not put him on the ballot. He said something to Chuck who agreed with George and said he would look into it.
They then walked away, and I was not able to get a word in, that being that pitchers are not on the all-star ballot, they were chosen by American and National League mangers with input from other managers and coaches. I don’t know if Chuck was placating George, or did not want to embarrass George with facts in front of me. If he is a nice guy, the latter could be the reason. But during George’s ownership of the Mariners he was more reviled than Chuck ever has been, owners being better targets.
I am sure Armstrong will get his due accolades because people are nice to those who are nice guys. While I welcome the change, sometimes the enemy you know is better than the one you don’t know. I hope the new president is a real nice guy, one who loves baseball. And I hope he gets fans back to Safeco after he clears out the zombies.
The New York Yankees added catcher Brian McCann, Jhonny Peralta has left Detroit for St. Louis, Ian Kinsler is now in Detroit and Seattle’s division rival, the Texas Rangers, have added Prince Fielder. Seattle has added coaches.
I wondered how a new coaching staff would affect a team. Players are accustomed to working with certain coaches, though that does not mean they always listened to them, so one should not assume the coaches were beloved, nor should one assume they were disliked. Coaches are like teachers, some you like, some you don’t.
In the Mariners change, new manager Lloyd McClendon did a good thing. He promoted four coaches from within the organization, so the players already have a familiarity with them. The hitting coach is former Met and Tiger, Howard Johnson, who was the hitting coach at Tacoma last season and is a known commodity for the young hitters on Seattle’s roster. He has two World Series rings, the Tigers in 1984 and the Mets in 1986, and twice made the all-star team.
The new pitching coach is Rick Waits who has been the Mariner’s minor league pitching coordinator the last three seasons. He knows Mariner prospects like Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen, Erasmo Ramirez, Steve Pryor, et al. Since pitching tends to be the fine arts of baseball, familiarity with these young arms is a huge plus.
John Stearns, former Mets catcher is the third base coach. Last season when Rainiers manager Dan Brown was promoted from Tacoma to Seattle as a coach, Stearns took over as manger of Tacoma after starting the year as minor league catching coordinator for the M’s. A four time all-star he should be a good mentor for Mike Zunino.
Chris Woodward who played for the Mariners in 2009-2010 was the roving minor league infield coach last season for the Mariner organization. Now he will be the infield coach for the big club and no doubt tutor and mentor Nick Franklin and Brad Miller.
The Mariners have added coaches who can coach up the young players they already have worked with in the minors. These are positive off season moves.
McClendon did bring over Andy Van Slyke from Detroit to be the first base coach. When McClendon was the Tigers hitting coach, Van Slyke was first base coach from 2006-2009 and they were teammates with the Pirates from 1990-1994. He has been out of baseball for four years, but this 13 year veteran, three time all-star, and five time Gold Glove winner, will have no trouble fitting in.
McClendon also brought over Tigers bullpen coach Mike Rojas. He also spent four years as minor league field coordinator with the Tigers and as director of player development. He was a minor league catcher and has managed in the minors with four organizations. That seems like a lot of credential as for a bullpen coach. But what do bullpen coaches do anyway? It is a rhetorical question, so please don’t answer it for me.
On paper this looks like a great coaching staff, maybe one of the best they have had, filled with all-stars and players with rings, all of whom loved baseball, all of whom played it the right way, and most of them know the young players on the Mariners. I hope they do as well as they look on paper.
In Nick Franklin’s first 29 games with the Seattle Mariners he hit .302 with 4 home runs and 15 rbi’s. Not bad for a 22 year old. But as frequently happens, major league scouts find the holes, pass on the reports, and pitchers make adjustments. It is then up to the batter to make adjustments to what the pitchers are doing. Nick had problems adjusting. In the last three months of the season over 73 games, Franklin hit .194, 8 home runs, and 30 rbi’s.
This is the part where managers and GM’s bring out the clichés about youth and growing pains. Mariner GM, Jack Zduriencik has talked so much about the growing pains of Justin Smoak over the last three years that Smoak has developed nasty body scars from all his growing. He leads all of baseball in growing pains and scars.
I find it odd though, that baseball players who have played little league, Babe Ruth, Legion, summer leagues, playing baseball in college, and then spending a few years in the minors, somehow forget how to play the game at the major league level. Yet they throw to wrong base, among other dumb mistakes. Maybe it is lack of concentration. I don’t know, but I just wanted to throw it out there.
As for Franklin, Trader Jack said Franklin was thrown into a pennant race down the stretch. I think Jack knows the Mariners were not in the race, at least I hope so. He was referring to playing against playoff teams like Detroit, Oakland, and Tampa Bay down the stretch. Frankly (no pun intended) I don’t consider playing good teams down the stretch as being in a pennant race. The Mariner players were playing for their jobs, nothing more.
Franklin will be 23 when the 2014 season starts and I hope he wins the second base job in spring training. He has a lot of potential and he did improve to .241 in September after bating .107 in August. But with a new manager and potential trades because of a weak free agent market anything could happen. Considering the Mariners penchant in the past for trading young players who become stars, it is best to hold on to Nick.