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.
Hisashi Iwakuma is gone, now a Dodger with a three year contract at the age of 35. I wish him well and I hope he stays injury free. Seattle GM, Jerry Dipoto, had to strengthen the starting staff so he traded fireball reliever Carson Smith and starter Roenis Elias to the Red Sox for Wade Miley and minor league pitcher Jonathan Aro.
Miley can’t replace Iwakuma in the rotation. In 2012 he had a solid year with Arizona with a 16-11 record and 3.33 ERA. The next season he was 10-10 with a 3.55 ERA. But the past two seasons with Arizona and Boston he is a combined 19-23 with ERA’s of 4.34 and 4.64. Not the numbers of a number two starter. He gives up 9.3 hits and 3 walks per inning, but does not give up a lot of homers and will pitch around 200 innings.
Still look at the entire moves. In essence you added Miley while losing Iwakuma, Smith and Elias. Miley has two years left of a three year deal worth 19.5 million, so he comes cheaper than Iwakuma. Dipoto saved a lot of money by dumping Mark Trumbo’s salary, money that could have been used for Iwakuma, but perhaps Dipoto was scared off my Kuma’s age and injury history. Can’t fault him there.
But on the other side of the diamond he does seem to be stockpiling players who have taken a down turn in their careers and others coming off injuries. I know Dipoto has not finished his head spinning trade a day refashioning of the team, but there are a lot of players that you see on the roster and the one word that comes to mind is ‘hope.’ As in I hope he can bounce back.
Elias was inconsistent to be kind, but Smith was a strong late inning reliever with a high upside. As of today the bullpen is full of unknown arms that we ‘hope’ can pitch and a starting staff that we see and ‘hope’ they can go deep and eat innings.
Dipoto does not have to make a blockbuster deal, but getting a few players that don’t make you say, ‘I hope’ would be nice. Mariner fans are tired of hope.
Before the infield dust had settled following Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik’s dismissal, interim GM, Jeff Kingston, sent Mike Zunino to AAA Tacoma, calling up catcher John Hicks. He threw out 49% of base stealers in 2013 and was doing close to that in Tacoma.
Coming so soon after Jack’s departure, they door barely closed, makes one wonder if it was Jack keeping Zunino in Seattle despite two consecutive seasons batting under .200, with this season being particularly worrisome with a .174 average and 132 strikeouts in 350 at bats (37.7 rate). He was striking out two times for every rare hit he got. Jack should have sent him down months ago.
An even bolder move is that when rosters were expanded for September, Zunino was not recalled. Instead he was ticketed for the Arizona instructional league to work on his swing, to reshape, rebuild, remake, re-everything. He is an excellent defensive catcher, but he desperately needs to get his hitting on track if he wants a major league career.
Centerfielder Austin Jackson who would be a free agent was traded to the Cubs, where he joins former Mariners Fernando Rodney and Chris Denorfia. They said they wanted to get a good luck at Brad Miller in center, but that is misleading. Miller has more value as the role Mark McLemore, someone who can play on a regular basis, but playing different positions on a nightly basis. Miller has already tied McLemore’s mariner record for most positions played in a season. Miller has played all three outfield spots along with third, short and second.
Kingston also traded Justin Ruggiano, whom Zduriencik signed prior to the season, was released, cleared waivers, sent to Tacoma, and now is helping the Dodgers win games.
It would be easy for Kingston to do nothing and let the new GM make decisions, but Jeff is, as one might expect, auctioning for the job. So far so good. This his sixth season with the Mariners after nine seasons with San Diego, having been hired as an intern in 1999. He is young and the Mariners would be wise to avoid the usual in hiring a big name experienced candidate. A bolder, younger man, one with 15 years of experience already in the books might be a good hiring.
I hate to pick on a carcass for I am not a buzzard, vulture, or any of the animal kingdom that eats what other’s kill. My intent is to analyze the offseason moves prior to the 2015 season and not to cast blame, for others could be at fault. More about that later.
Lets us begin with the good. The free agent signing of Nelson Cruz, whose batting average and home run blasts have proven that it is possible for a free agent to succeed and flourish, which is not always the case. Seth Smith has been a solid player, not great, but consistent. As I write, a .251 average, 27 doubles, 5 triples, 10 homers, and 35 rbis in 327 at bats. Certainly the numbers of a good fourth outfielder.
But then there are the other players. Justin Ruggiano who was to platoon with Smith was released early in the season, cleared waivers, ended up in Tacoma and was recently traded to the Dodgers. Richie Weeks, a veteran whose career was on the decline, but had a connection with Jack from his Milwaukee days, was released early in the season as well. No hits, no runs, two errors.
JA Happ did not turn out to be this years version of Chris Young and was traded to Pittsburgh. One can only take so many line drives heading into the gaps and over fences. Mike Montgomery looked like a great find when first called up, but teams caught on to him and he was hit worse than a batting practice pitcher. Starting pitchers should go more than 2.1 innings. Dave Rollins, a lefty reliever, was Rule V pick from the Astros, and that meant, once his suspension for using a banned substance was over, he had to remain with Seattle or be returned to the Astros. In 21 innings, 36 hits, 20 runs, and the question of why he is still with Seattle. Mark Lowe was outstanding, so good that he was traded to Toronto for their stretch drive. So he along with Cruz and Smith made three positive additions. But as you can see, the bad outweighed the good by a large margin.
Was it Jack’s fault? Or was it the two cross-checkers who were let go the same day Jack was terminated. Jack, as the GM, must take responsibility for he has the final word. But the larger problem is perhaps, the scouts who cover the major leagues. The scouts who cover amateurs in high school and college is another story, but they too must accept blame for the failure to provide major league players. The problem with the Mariners is larger than Jack’s failure to be more consistent in trades, and his failure to rebuild the Mariners minor league system. The problem lies in the Mariners system itself, and some of the people who populate it.
Scouts, minor league coordinators and coaches, advisors, ownership; they are all part of the problem, one not easily changed.
At baseball’s winter meetings much was done with trades and free agents. It was a hot stove of activity for fans to talk about, but now the stove is ice cold. I know NFL playoffs are going on, but there are still five top free agents sitting on their couch waiting to find out where they will be spending spring training.
After further review I don’t think the Seattle Mariners need Nelson Cruz, but they could use another starting pitcher. Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are my top choices, with Bronson Arroyo coming in third, and A.J. Burnett not placing.
From recent comments by Trader jack, Seattle’s GM, it sounds the Mariners may be done. I hope some trades are coming, but if there isn’t, Jack will make the usual ” we tried to make a trade, but we could not get value for value.” Blah, Blah, Blah.
Other than Robinson Cano, the Mariners have done the usual in signing players hoping for a comeback. Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, and Franklin Gutierrez, all have had health and injury problems. It is a gamble. At the moment Cano should lead the league in walks, as he will get no protection if Hart, et al don’t hit.
It is easy to say Seattle needs to make, if not a blockbuster trade, at least one that gives the team more balance. I am not going to offer any proposals, as anyone can play that game. Fans tend to think trade proposals are as easy as trading baseball cards. They aren’t. But I, like all fans, am greedy. I want to see new faces, ones that give the Mariners a better chance to move up in the standings. But Texas and those pesky Angels have improved, with Texas my early favorite. Oakland is always in the hunt, usually with players no one has heard of. At the moment Seattle is destined for 4th place.
Cano needs help, Seattle needs help, and I would be itching for the season to start, but the M’s need to scratch that itch.
Willy Mo Pena, he of the prodigious home run blasts, but of little else according to the number of teams he played for, has signed a contract to play in Japan, so he will not be the Mariners DH in 2012.
But with the Winter Meetings in Dallas the Mariners are looking for more than a DH. So it is time for Trader Jack to do some baseball card flipping, perhaps making a trade or two.
Did Jack just make a trade?
Hitting as we all know is on Jack’s shopping list. He could go to the North Pole, sit on Santa’s lap, and sweet talk old bearded Mr. Kringle about how good he had been this past year and if Santa is feeling beneficial grant Jack some good players.
His agent is named Rudolph.
Or Jack could go to Dallas.
If you want hitting then the question is what position the hitting will go to. Not second with Ackley; not in right with Ichiro; probably not catcher with Olivo and Jaso; perhaps center or first base if they find an improvement over Gutierrez and Smoak, though that is not likely the case.
So that leaves left field and third base. Those are unsettled positions. But what they also need is left-handed pitchers out of the bullpen. Last years southpaws truly went south and the Mariners only have two on the 40 man roster, Cesar Jimenez and Mauricio Robles. Veterans from the left side may be more needed than a bat.
Figgins? Liddi? Unknown?
Left handed relievers pitch forever, often pitching to the age of 40. That is because there are few good lefty relievers and these itinerant nomads wander from team to team through decades like migrant workers, only working for a lot more money.
Also on the shopping list could be a starting pitcher as the Mariners have only three they can count on at the moment. Beavan could be a fifth starter, but Furbush did not impress anyone and might be better suited for long relief.
It will be fun to see what new sailors Trader Jack can shanghai in Dallas.
Heading towards the July 31 trade deadline in 2006 the Seattle Mariners once again were sellers and traded a young, but promising, outfielder to the Cleveland Indians.
Shin-Soo Choo had made little impression on the Mariner brain trust and like many of their young players, they gave up on him, getting Ben Broussard in return. This is actually lack of brain trust.
Ben did not last long as a Mariner, in fact, did not last long in the majors, but Choo became a star.
This year the Mariners received young 20-year-old Chih-Hsien Chiang from the Red Sox as part of the Eric Bedard trade.
If Chiang made the team in the next two years and if Choo was still here, along with Ichiro, they would have had an outfield with players from Japan, Korea, and China. An all Asian outfield; imagine the Mariner marketing machine gearing up for those bobble heads.
But to the present there have been many roster moves. On the plus side are Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush, replacing Fister and Pauley; Seager replacing Chone Figgins who went on the DL; Jack Cust designated for assignment when Bedard was activated; Aaron Laffey was sent to Tacoma, Dan Cortes brought up, but Laffey recalled when Chris Ray went on the DL; and Tom Wilhelmsen and Josh Lueke are up as well.
The Mariner have played musical chairs with the starting lineup all season, with players moving in and out, depending on who recently had a hit; this past week the musical chairs extended to the roster. Baring any more injuries they may or may not be set, depending on any waiver trades.
But come September more rookie call ups are expected, one being Treyvon Robinson whom they got in the Bedard trade. He is currently in Tacoma.
Here’s to you Mr. Robinson
The Mariners swept Oakland, have won three straight and now must win 14 in a row, to make up for that July swoon.