With the movie The Expendables due out after the All-Star break, the Mariners may be able to offer baseball fans a sneak preview in early April.
The movie, which is chalked full of actors and entertainers who have all reached significant heights in terms of fame and/or fortune, also contains almost exclusively a cast full of stars that are clinging to better days, for which they have almost unanimously seen.
Per IMDB, the movie is basically a bunch of rag-tag mercenaries, each of which has their unique skill to contribute to the group, but their own cross to bear also. Apparently, these mercenaries band together, all to take down a South American dictator (Steinbrenners anybody?).
It’s a far stretch to draw a boatload of parallels between the present M’s team (which I’ve barely seen) and a movie that I haven’t seen.
But if there is one thing that I know, it is that organizational depth is critical to sustained success, but organizational redundancy can easily lead to repeated mistakes.
That said, here are some Mariners who could find themselves on the move early in the season.
The Former Shortstops
Three notable players have graced the Mariners top prospects list at the shortstop position in recent years: Jose Lopez, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Carlos Triunfel. In the case of each player, they showed very early that they wouldn’t be able to stick at the position. Perhaps Triunfel had the best chance among the three, but a broken leg in 2009 probably dashed all hope of that.
Lopez was moved to third base this spring, a position that Tuiasosopo has been patrolling in the minors for a few years, and a position that many feel best utilizes Triunfel’s reduced-range, but strong arm. It would seem odd to keep all three, as each is probably only adequate at the hot corner, and only Triunfel has sustainable upside at the plate.
And yet somehow, present second baseman Chone Figgins, and last year’s top pick, and presumed future second baseman Dustin Ackley may be the eventual catalysts that see one or all of the former shortstop sent packing.
Figgins has played third for most of the past several years, and Ackley, while he may need some seasoning in the minors, doesn’t figure to remain in the minors for the remaining four years of Figgins contract.
And a move to the outfield for either player, while they’re both very capable, but where Franklin Gutierrez has centerfield pretty well sewn up, would severely decrease the value of their offensive skillset.
And with Jack Wilson and Nick Franklin in the farm system, even a move back to shortstop would be as unlikely as it was ill-advised.
And Jack Zduriencik hasn’t been shy about Bavasi-guy house cleaning.
Fly Ball lefties
There was once a day when this may refer to the collective bats of Casey Kotchman and Mike Carp, but not anymore.
Ryan Rowland-Smith, Luke French, Jason Vargas, and Garrett Olson all pitched well during parts of 2009. Unfortunately, Rowland-Smith did so too late, French did so too early (with the Detroit Tigers), Vargas couldn’t make it last a whole season, and Olson, seemingly, couldn’t make it last a whole inning.
That, and Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard are on the roster, and the team is entertaining the idea of bringing back Jarrod Washburn.
If only because it would make the J.J. Putz trade that brought Franklin Gutierrez kick inconceivably more ass, I and many fans are rooting for Jason Vargas to win the fifth starter spot and become a reliable major league.
And we can’t seem to find a reason to dislike Ryan Rowland-Smith as a fanbase. He’s Australian, I get it. They can take a vegetable, and turn it into a deep-fried, 2000+ calorie appetizer, and we eat it up (literally), but he had an equal amount of starts as Erik Bedard last year, and was worth 0.4 less Wins Above Replacement Level (WAR) than Bedard despite 16.1 more innings.
Beyond Lee, Bedard, and Felix Hernandez, there isn’t a single pitcher that is uniquely talented with the chance to break camp in the rotation. If any one of the pitchers has inflated value right now, or shortly into the season (if Rowland-Smith or Vargas bounce back well), they need to be dealt at their highest value.
It’s hard to argue with the success that the Mariners bullpen had last year. And both the bullpen and rotation, sans occasional appearances in both by Brandon Morrow last year, are probably both better off in the long run with Brandon League taking over in the bullpen.
League has nasty stuff, and really succeeded last year, oddly enough, by throwing less of his high-90s sinker.
Kanekoa Texeira is a Rule 5 pick, and will likely remain on the roster, if only because his redundance comes with unique upside.
But the remaining group, guys like Sean White, Shawn Kelley, Chad Cordero, Mark Lowe, and Doug Fister, are only marginally better at the top than they are at the bottom.
Kelley’s stretching his arm out to start, and if his changeup remains successful when games count, he may have value as a long-reliever or emergency starter in 2010.
Many teams are beginning to evolve to a more stat-centric method of evaluating players, but if the Mariners can convince a team that Mark Lowe’s high-90s fastball, disposable slider, and tender elbow are closer material, they’ll have to pull the trigger. Otherwise, look out PCL, the Rainiers are going to have one hell of a bullpen.
And one Moore
One truth about catchers, when they are preferred by perennial Cy Young award contenders, they stick around the big leagues. Just ask Charlie O’Brien, Paul Bako, Eddie Perez and Henry Blanco, each of which was Greg Maddux’s personal catcher at one point, and who combine for 50 years of baseball, and each possesses a career OPS under .700.
Unfortunately for Adam Moore, he with the decade-long pass in the bigs is (the presumably scarred like Frankenstein) Rob Johnson.
The problem is, Moore’s bat isn’t good enough to make up for only average-below average defense, and the team drafted Steven Baron last year with the 33rd overall selection. Reports at the time said that Baron, though only 18 then, could already call a big-league caliber game.
That’s Johnson’s strongest suit, and one that Moore can only hope to acquire.
It’s unfortunate really, because at one point, with Moore and Clement in the farm system, it appeared that the Mariners had a very good righty-lefty platoon at the catcher position. But now Moore’s offense won’t let him leave the position, and Clement’s body wouldn’t let him stay.