The Mariners are reported close to a trade, and Carp may, in fact, be gone as you read this.
Carp is a fresh water fish, so is unsuited for the Puget Sound waters. Doug Melvin, the Milwaukee Brewers GM, has inquired about Carp, but is not the only GM to inquire. The Brewers are interested in Carp because Cory Hart will miss the first month of the season for the Brewers, and his back up Mat Gamel, is out for the season. Milwaukee has a lot of fresh water streams and rivers, so Carp could flourish there. Carp, 26, suffered a severe shoulder sprain last season. He ended up hitting .213 in 59 games for the Mariners; but when healthy can hit with power.
The Mariners designated him for assignment because they needed to make room on the 40 man roster, and the Mariners have a crowd at first base, with Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales (who will DH until Smoak is traded or once again flops) and Mike Morse, should he be needed. The outfield is also crowded with Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay. Thus Carp was expendable.
Speaking of a crowded outfield, what happens to Eric Thames, Casper Wells, and Carlos Peguero. Tough decisions to be made.
Also gone is Shawn Kelley who was 2-4, 3.25 ERA in 2012. He was traded to the Yankees for minor league outfielder Abraham Almonte, who most likely will be lost in the Mariner minor league system. Kelley pitched 44 innings, allowed 43 hits, striking out 45, walking 15. Good numbers. But Seattle has younger, stronger arms, like Carter Capps, Steven Pryor, and Chance Ruffin. The bullpen should be a strength this season. The Mariners must think so to unload Kelley.
For both Carp and Kelley it was a numbers game. It shows the Mariners have talented players, most of whom are young and on the rise. In the past Seattle had to struggle to find players to fill the roster, now they struggle to decide who to keep. Certainly a good sign.
Justin Smoak is like that girl you once knew; the tempting tease, the fawning flirt, hinting of unimaginable delights, but ultimately lets you down.
Case in point is September, the last 18 games that Smoak played where he hit .394 with five homers and RBI’S as frequent as a Seattle winter rain. The problem is that he has a batting average of well over .300 for his career in September and October. The rest of the season he is barely peeking over the .200 line.
Smoak is only 25. Baseball theory says that players have their best years around 27, so he is on the verge of coming into his own. Or is he?
The Mariner front office must decide whether to a package him in a big trade, perhaps letting Jesus Montero play more first base, or Mike Carp, or someone in a trade, letting Mike Zunnino be the catcher of the future, or give Smoak another chance in 2013. The decision will be like a jury in a long complicated trial as they deliberate, poring over the evidence, that being his stats, scrutinizing his every number, trying ti figure out if he will be the real deal, or a misdeal.
Smoak frustrates Mariner fans. He has streaks where he looks like an all-star, like in September, but those streaks, are few and brief. The vast majority of time his play, indeed his future, looks like a Dodo bird, extinct.
But to examine one of the facts in the deliberation is the number 25, Smoak’s age. The Mariners have a history of giving up on young players or trading them. Mike Morse, Adam Jones, Shin Soo-Choo, Astrudel Cabrera, to name four. Part of my flip-flopping in the jury room is that Smoak should be given one more shot. He only hit four homers at Safeco, but the fences are coming in for 2013 and he is only 25. Did I mention that? But then I flip again and say adios.
One would like to see fire where there is Smoak, torching American League pitching, bringing fans back to the park, giving them a new hero. But where there is Smoak there is also ashes. His career to this point is rubble. I wish I could see into the future. I bet the Mariners do to.
With the Seattle Mariners, the phrase ‘wait till next year’ begins before schools let out for the summer. By July, Seattle sports fans turn their attention to the Seahawks-if they have not already done so. Then of course there are those green scarfed Sounders creatures. But for Mariner fans let us look to 2013.
Kyle Seager surprised with his power-18 homers-with 9 games to go-and has driven in 81 runs. His .258 average should improve next season, provided of course, he can adjust to how pitchers will pitch him next year.
His North Carolina teammate Dustin Ackley had a down season, but it is too early to write him off. 2013 should tell a lot about his future.
They will be in the infield, but Brendan Ryan and Justin Smoak could be walking the plank of the good ship Mariner. Ryan is a great fielder, but has no bat. Mariners need offense. Short of a trade or free agent signing, Nick Franklin or Carlos Triunfel will be in the mix.
To borrow from Deep Purple, Smoak on the water; please let him walk the plank. He may be 25, but has shown nothing. He is beloved by Trader Jack though and that scares me. He can swim to a deserted island and play Robinson Crusoe with Chone Figgins.
In the outfield, Franklin Gutierrez-if healthy-can be a force both defensively and offensively. Michael Saunders continues to improve and has power. I am thinking Casper Wells will be gone and the other fly chasers, Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, Carlos Peguero, and Mike Carp (also plays 1b) are up in the air. I look for a free agent signing or trade to fill an outfield spot.
Jesus Montero and John Jaso will return as catcher-dh. Jaso had key hits and rbis. Miquel Olivo is unlikely to return. It is tempting to say Mike Zunino will compete, but he is unlikely to be brought up until June, provided he continues to hammer minor league pitching. He may start the season in Tacoma, but if doesn’t, he will get their quickly.
Thursday a look at pitching.
Old McDonald had a farm, eei, eei, oh. Farmer Jack , Seattle’s GM, has a better farm. Yippee, skippy!
The Seattle Mariners farm system is rated number one by MLB.com. The nine minor league affliates of the Mariners won a franchise record 496 games and six of the nine teams are in post season playoffs. The Mariners 327 points edged out Pittsburgh who scored 326, Arizona 321, and St. Louis 320.
The M’s have five prospects rated in the top 100. Number 5 is Taijuan Walker, a young pitcher who started out hot in the early going, but cooled off in July, and especially in August. He finished 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA. But the scouts are not worried. Number nine is another pitcher Danny Hultzen, in his first year of pro ball. He was great at Jackson posting an 8-3 record with a 1.19 ERA, but struggeld in Tacoma at 1-4, 5.92. Again no one is worried about the number one pick. Nick Franklin, number 31 hit .278 with 11 homers and 55 rbis. Mike Zunino, this years number one pick played 44 games between Everett and Jackson and hit a combined .360 with 13 homers and 43 rbis. If he continues to develop, Jesus Montero will be seeing a lot of action at first base. That begins in spring training.
Rounding out the top five prospects in the top 100 is James Paxton at number 82, who was 9-4 at Jackson with a 3.05 ERA.
Two young relievers Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps have looked good with the big club and will no doubt figure in the bullpen mix in 2013.
Of course, with so many desired prospects, there is a possibility some will be traded during the offseason if the Mariners can bring in some bats that can bring immediate help.
Michael Saunders has looked good, as has Mike Carp-when healthy-and Montero is young and getting better. There is still Alex Liddi, Trayvon Robinson-whom Eric Wedge likes-and Carlos Peguero can be a force if he can hit big league pitching the way he hit AAA pitching.
So the future looks good, but as we know, the difference between the major leagues and the minor leagues is the difference between Johnny Bench and Adam Moore.
To no one’s surprise Hector Noesi with his 2-11 record and 5.77 ERA has taken the bus to Tacoma. At the rate he is going he would be a twenty game loser.
In 97 innings he has allowed only 94 hits. Not bad, but the problem is 20 of those hits are home runs. That accounts for the high ERA. At Safeco Field he has pitched 49 innings and 10 of his 42 hits have left the yard. That is 10 home runs in 49 innings at Safeco Field, a ballpark that has no jet stream, a ball park whose dense, cold air, freeze dries fly balls in flight, a ball park where home runs are as rare as a Republican endorsement of Obama’s health care reform.
The timing is good because they only need three starters in Oakland before the All-Star game. So while Hector is on the greyhound express, Carlos Peguero is taken the Mariner charter to Oakland. And he is hot. In the last 5 games with Tacoma, he has 6 home runs and 12 rbis, with a grand slam on the fourth of July.
He hit only .196 in 2012 with the Mariners in 143 at bats and belted 6 homers. He has the power to hit 40 bombs a season in a normal park. Remember Richie Sexson? He hit 39 at the Safe, so it can be done.
Peguero’s big problem is contact. When he hits the ball, it goes a mile, but he strikes out a lot. He whiffs at a Mark Reynolds, Adam Dunn, Russell Branyan pace. If fans can tolerate his strikeouts, when he gets hot he can carry a team, as he has done in Tacoma.
How long he remains with Seattle will be based on how well he does. I hope he gets as many chances as Justin Smoak, who is a bust so far. Last season he had his father’s death, and a couple of injuries to deal with. This season he has no excuse.
It has been discussed that when Mike Carp finishes his rehab, he will be given a shot at first base. He has not hit well either, but he has injuries to deal with. The Mariners keep hoping Smoak will hit, that he will justify the trade of Cliff Lee. That is why he continues to be in the lineup. He has been given the opportunity, and for s brief time last month he showed signs, his average climbed, but now it has fallen like a lead rock in the ocean.
So the good ship Mariner sails on and roster moves are not done.
Chone Figgins has been benched after going 5 for 45, dropping his average to .189. He will now sit on the bench reading the help wanted ads while waiting for an occasional Sunday start, fill in for an injured player, or pinch run. Justin Smoak should join him soon.
Figgins, who hit .291 in eight years with the Angels, has hit .231 with Seattle, including .188 last year. The mystery of how a hitter suddenly stops hitting could only be solved if Sherlock Holmes was a batting coach.
Smoak in 177 Mariner games has a .227 average and this season is batting .183. Wedge could no longer afford to keep Figgins in the lineup, especially as a leadoff hitter. Smoak should see the Figgins benching as a wakeup call, otherwise he will join Figgins by the water cooler.
The Mariners would be better served with Kyle Seager playing third, Alex Liddi at first base, with Mike Carp and Casper Wells in left. Even when Olivo comes off the DL, Montero and Jaso should split catching duties.
If the Mariners want to build a team of young guys, then they must play them as much as possible. As long as the team keeps losing, then lose with young players. It is the only way to find out who can play and who can’t play. Smoak has had the opportunity and has done nothing with it.
In the last five Mariner losses they have been outscored by only six runs.They have been in every game thanks to their starting pitching. The defense has let them down at times, and certainly the bullpen has. But scoring runs eases those problems. Benching Figgins is a start. Smoak should be next.
In my previous blog I wrote that Mike Carp had to be coming back as his rehab in Tacoma was coming to the end of his twenty day limit. I wrote about the option the Mariners had about who would go down.
Sometimes things work themselves out and in this case it did when Miquel Olivo went on the disabled list with a groin injury. That means that Montero will catch and Carp will most likely DH. That works for the short-term, and if both thrive, the term will be extended.
It is bad for Olivo, because he was starting to hit the ball. He said he was having trouble early in the season seeing the ball. How does a player have trouble seeing the ball anyway? But it is something many hitters complain about from time to time.
It is a good sign for Montero because he is 9 for 20 with three home runs when he is catching. So the sampling shows he hits better when catching. His number when he is DH are not so good.
Another question arises because Carp can also play left field and first base. He is needed at either spot. Justin Smoak is batting .200. He must pick it up or eventually lose his job to Carp. Figgins in left is batting .209. Same old story with Chone. If Carp gets his swing back, he will force changes to be made.
The good news regarding the Mariner hitting problems is that, despite being 22nd out of 30 in hitting at .238 and 28th out of 30 in on base percentage at .288 they are 13th in runs scored. Runs win games, not hits, and the Mariner’s are making the most of their limited opportunities.
So for the Mariner fans still onboard the good ship Mariner, they are looking to see Carp add a spark to the lineup. Hitting, it is said, is contagious. Maybe Carp’s bat has the bacteria that can instigate the virus through the Mariner bat rack.