There are a few dozen free agents out there and time is running out for these players as teams are reporting to spring training camps. As a disclaimer I am in no way endorsing any team sign any of these players. Jimmy Rollins is 37, and Marlon Byrd is 38, still young for most people, but in baseball years they are senior citizen. So there are certain players that you see no future for, that you understand why there is no interest, but . . .
Austin Jackson is 29, a decent outfielder who can steal bases and hit a few homers. He has been a starter, maybe he still wants to be one, but as a fourth outfielder, to platoon against lefties, he still has a future. Does he want too much money? Is that keeping him off a roster? Another outfielder is Drew Stubbs who had his best year in 2014 hitting .283 for the Rockies. He is 31, but last year hit .195 between Colorado and Texas and though he strikes out 34% of the time and is a .244 career hitter, he could be a fifth outfielder for someone. Does anyone use the phrase ‘veteran presence’ anymore?
Need an infielder? Ian Desmond is 30, and hit .255 and .233 the last two years, but hit 43 home runs and stole 37 bases. He and Jackson can still win some games for somebody. Again is it money? Another player to help win games is David Freese, 32, and former World Series hero. What, nobody wants this guy. He hit .257 with 14 homers for the Angels in 2015.
Starting pitching is still available. Tim Lincecum is 31 and his ERA since 2012 has been 5.18, 4.37, 4.74, and last year 4.13 in 15 starts. But he is smart, a two time Cy Young winner, and can still be a fourth or fifth starter. Rumor has it he will sign with someone shortly as he has looked good in workouts. So who started the rumor is my question.
But I understand why teams avoid Chad Billingsley, 31, who made two starts in 2013, missed all of 2014 and last year in seven starts with the Phillies did not look good at all. A 5.84 ERA and 53 hits in 37 innings, but only 8 walks.
Two players I intended to mention were Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, but as I was writing the draft for this piece it was announced Gallardo signed with the Orioles and it was expected Fowler would also join the Orioles. Gallardo got a three year deal. So perhaps the last dominos are beginning to fall.
Baseball is a tough journey for some players; some stars fall out of the baseball galaxy. Not all go out with a blaze of glory. Some just disappear.
The Seattle Mariners have a bad habit of signing free agent pitchers whose tread has worn out. Kevin Millwood in 2012, Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman in 2013. And no I have not forgotten Joe Saunders who was 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA and a . 311 batting average against. In his three previous years he was 30-43, all losing season, so the Mariners got what they deserved, a losing pitcher. There is a mutual option for Saunders in 2014, so his return is not guaranteed.
If they want another veteran warhorse there is Bronson Arroyo, 36, who at least had a winning record at 14-12, 3.79. He would fit better than another 36-year old, A.J. Burnett, a decent pitcher, 10-11, 3.30 ERA. Since the Mariners will not get to the post season, they will not have to worry about his 2-3, 6.87 post season record. Tim Hudson is 38. (Where does the time go?) Injuries have limited him to 28 starts in 2012 and 21 last season.
One war house, is 40 year old Bartolo Colon who was 18-6, 2.65 with Oakland. Does he have another year left? He might, but it is doubtful he is on the Mariners sonar.
Going younger, Ervin Santana is 30, has three straight losing seasons, but his ERA was solid in two of those years. Another excellent starter is Ubaldo Jimenez, 13-9, 3.30 with Cleveland. He is 29 like Matt Garza, another free agent, who was 10-6 between the Cubs and Rangers. Any of these three would be better than the aging warhorses Seattle has signed in the past. They would also be better than Dan Haren, 33, who has two straight losing seasons with plus 4 ERAS.
The Mariners have a propensity for bringing in players with a Northwest flavor, so would they pursue Tim Lincecum despite three consecutive losing seasons. He is only 29, so if they do chase Tim, look for the ‘change of scenery’ cliché. He is younger than most of the above mentioned. And the change of scenery might be beneficial.
I would find no reason to complain about Arroyo, Santana, Garza, Jimenez, or Lincecum.
But if the past indicates anything the Mariners would end up with Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, or Burnett. Then there is something to complain about.
The Mariners have two starters, Felix and Iwakuma. They need a third starter, then let James Paxton, Taijuan Wallker, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, and Blake Beavan compete for the final two spots. Let the search for number three begin.
For some time Mariner fans have complained about Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, and Jesus Montero. But there might be a reason why General Manger Jack Zduriencik keeps them in the lineup, when they are not sent to the minors, of course. He might be haunted by the legacy of previous GM Bill Bavasi.
Does this man have a satanic look? He still haunts the Mariners today.
Bavasi single handedly ruined the Mariners with terrible trades. How terrible? He traded away five young players, all of whom ended up on all-star teams, and in return got zippity-do-dah.
The biggest trade was Adam Jones to Baltimore, where he has become the Orioles franchise player. Jones, George Sherill, lefty reliever, and Chris Tillman, starting pitcher were shipped off for Erik Bedard, who liked to pitch six innings, then take the rest of the night off.
In 2006, Bavasi made two separate deals with Cleveland, sending them Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard in July after trading Asdrubal Cabrera in June for Eduardo Perez. Broussard never cracked the Mariner lineup and has disappeared off the baseball radar. Perez, an average utility player, retired after playing 43 games with Seattle, getting hits as often as Brendan Ryan. (Truthfully, Ryan hit better).
Matt Thornton, the White Sox number one lefty out of the bullpen for years, was traded from Seattle to Chicago for Joe Borchard, who followed Broussard into baseball oblivion. And relief specialist Rafael Soriano left Seattle for Horacio Ramirez, a starting pitcher as exciting as Carlos Silva or James Baldwin.
Recapping those stalwart Bavasi trades shows he traded away five all-stars for Erik Bedard. He is the only one who made even a negligible contribution. In three years and 46 starts for Seattle he was 15-14. Bedard was not well liked by fans or players (so it was rumored).
Those were not the only mistakes by Bavasi, but due to time constraints we must move along. He did draft Brandon Morrow instead of two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum though. Just saying.
The point is that the legacy of Bill Bavasi, is a dark funereal shroud that stares at Jack Zduriencik every day. Jack does not want to give up players who may star for other teams, a rich Mariner tradition, so he hangs onto them, hoping, willing, and praying that Ackley, Montero, and Smoak succeed. Trader Jack is either patient or stubborn, maybe both, but Jack will stay with them, going down with the Good Ship Mariner if he must. He won’t blink in the face of Bavasi and trade them away.
Kyle Seager is doing well, he looks legit. Nick Franklin could be as well, time will tell. But in the end the Mariners can’t win. They trade young talent and come up short; they keep young talent and they come up short. It makes you wonder if the Good Ship Mariner is a cursed derelict drifting in the waters of the Twilight Zone.