Mariners Mini Morsels: September 8

 Joe Sheehan at Sports Illustratedin a piece on the subject of four teams capable of a Pirates-like rise in the future, includes the Mariners in that group. He states, “The Mariners are also showing off a bit, promoting young starters Taijuan Walker and James Paxton this month for tastes of the major leagues, They join the exciting middle infield of Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, third baseman Kyle Seager and 2012 No. 1 pick Mike Zunino to give Seattle fans a glimpse of a promising future. The talent is here, but the question is the same as it’s been for some time: Can the front office, led by general manager Jack Zduriencik, build a winning team from these raw materials?     

It’s Debateable.

 

Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times is of the view that “[Kendrys] Morales is one dependable, middle-of-the-order presence the team can count on. In a strict, WAR sense, he may not compute to be worth $14 million or more per season. But the real cost the Mariners will have to weigh is what it would be like without him. This team has plenty of holes that need filling already. It may want to keep from creating new ones, even if they have to overpay in order to satisfy their own unique circumstances here on a 90-loss team that doesn’t have many potential, top-ceiling guys to give away.”

 

However, Dave Cameron at USS Mariner has a contrarian view on Morales, stating “In the last few weeks, there’s been a decent amount of conversation about what the Mariners should do with Kendrys Morales. I noted a few weeks back that I think Morales has played himself out of the qualifying offer, and the reality at this point is that if the Mariners make him a $14 million offer for one year, he’s going to take it, because he’s simply not going to get anything close to a better offer from a team that also has to give up a draft pick in order to outbid that price.”

 

Cameron quoted Ryan Divish of The News Tribune, who stated in his post-game blog that, “The Mariners need Morales, who also doubled in the game, for more than just this season. If you look at their current roster set-up and what’s available in the minor leagues, they simply don’t have a traditional middle of the order hitter, who is comfortable in that role. Morales has no problem with hitting in the No. 3 or 4 spot. “I have over 500 at-bats in the middle of the line-up,” he said. “There is no reason to feel any pressure or feel any different.” But how he feels about coming back to Seattle for another year or beyond is an unknown. Morales is a free agent after this season, and his agent Scott Boras is notorious for taking his clients to free agency over signing contract extensions. With a lack of power hitters in this free agent class, Morales could make more on the open market than an extension from the Mariners or the one-year qualifying offer of around $14 million for the 2014 season.”

 

Most comments on Cameron’s piece essentially agreed with his viewpoint, which is usually the case.  However a response from his reader Steve Nelson was somewhat more pragmatic, saying in part that: “What I expect will happen is that during negotiations the Mariners will offer Morales a contract for something like 2/16 with a 3rd year team option. They will tell him that if he doesn’t take that they will make him a qualifying offer, which will effectively leave him a choice between 1/14 and whatever the Mariners offer on a multi-year offer. If the Mariners play it properly the outcome should be that they either have Morales under a reasonable contract for two or three years, or they will be in an overpay situation for one year. Boras will try to contravene that in any way that he can, but the Mariners really do hold most of the high cards. They just need to have the presence of mind and awareness to play those cards intelligently.”

 

Me?  I agree with Divish and Baker on the need to try to retain Morales, for the reasons they stated, as well as Steve Nelson’s view on how it might play out, except I doubt Morales/Boras will take 2/$16MM over 1/$14MM, I think the starting point is 3/$24MM and would not be shocked by 3/$30MM with a performance based option for an additional season. Morales is still only 30-years old.  Free agent prices are going up, fuelled by new media income.

 

AL West Commentary

The A’s beat the Rangers in two-out-of-three during their last meeting in Oakland this season, tying up the AL West with just 23 games left. This puts the A’s in a great position. The final series between the two teams, in Texas, will be their only remaining games against a winning team. The Rangers have seven games with the Pirates and Rays as well as the three against the A’s. The A’s have just gone 8-2 against playoff teams. Advantage A’s.

 

Baseball Best Practice

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times says, “it is time to let the secret out: the importance of a proven closer is a myth. Several teams that have signed expensive closers in free agency have not been rewarded. Francisco Rodriguez (3 years, $37 million) was not the cure-all the Mets expected. Heath Bell (three years, $27 million) fell apart with the Miami Marlins. Jonathan Papelbon (four years, $50 million) has been a one-inning hood ornament for a flawed Philadelphia Phillies team. Rafael Soriano (two years, $22 million) has six blown saves and has had a diminishing strikeout rate for the Washington Nationals. What happened to the supposedly rare mind-set those pitchers had, that vaguely superhuman ability to handle the ninth inning? It sure seems like lots of others can perform just fine. ‘I don’t want to take away anything from what I did,’ Dennis Eckersley, a Hall of Fame closer, said Thursday. ‘But it’s not as tough as you think.’  To suggest that a setup man cannot deal with pressure is silly. ‘You can find somebody to do it,’ Eckersley said. ‘You could groom somebody to do it who’s on the staff, if you manage it the right way. I mean, think about it: the tougher job is to come in with guys on base, because he’s got to be quicker to the plate and he has to hold runners on.’ ”

 

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts isn’t planning any big payroll increases in the near future according to Gortdon Wittenmeyer at the Chicago Sun-Times . He stated: “You can’t just throw money at the problem. We have to build the organization from the ground up. And that’s what we’re doing right now. On the business side, we have to continue to develop more revenue lines so that we can have more financial flexibility in the future, and we’re doing that with stadium renovations and other media contracts that are coming up in the future.”

 

So they said

“The Yankees have cast-offs the 2005 Pirates wouldn’t mess around with. They’re 2½ games out of the playoffs.” Grant Brisbee at Baseball Nation

 

“If the results of this game are interesting to you, enjoy Jeremy Guthrie. He’s the guy we were hoping Joe Saunders would be this year: an ugly cheap starter who eats innings like free Olive Garden breadsticks, with all of the lingering regret.”  Patrick Dubuque  at  Lookout Landing

 

“It’s a fast food society. Everybody wants it yesterday,” [Eric]Wedge said. “You can make an argument that it has been one to three years and they should be there by now. Or you can make an argument that eventually they will get there.

 

“I think we’ve got a lot of guys who have a chance to be good ballplayers. I don’t know if we have any superstars. That’s probably a reach. But I think we have volume. We have more players who have a chance to be good, solid Major League players than maybe other organizations. That’s what we’re trying to develop.” Wedge mentioned [Michael] Saunders and Dustin Ackley as two players who could figure prominently in the 2014 outfield picture. “I think they are both capable of being everyday guys,” Wedge said. “Can you lock and load on it right now? No. But do I think they can be everyday guys next year? I think they can.” —Robert Falkoff  at mlb.com

 

Chat Review – Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors

To aid those who don’t have time to read through an entire chat and miss a lot of good commentary, I’ve selected some questions and responses that relate to the Mariners, possible Mariners off-season acquisitions and best-practice baseball.

 

Comment From Bolstein: What will it take for the Mariners to contend next year?

Steve Adams: Smoak, Ackley, Franklin, Miller and Zunino to keep improving. Felix and Iwakuma continuing to be great, and some more pitching depth. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but they need a lot to break their way. I imagine they’ll be looking at free agent bats once again to supplement that core. I don’t think they’ll compete, but I didn’t think the A’s would be anywhere near this good prior to 2012 either, so anything can happen.

Comment From Bob: Are the Mariners doing King Felix a disservice by not trading him to a contender?

Steve Adams: Felix chose to sign there. It’s not like they’re holding him at gunpoint.

 

Comment From Masahiro TanakaWhat are the odds of the Twins signing me this offseason?

Steve Adams: Someone will probably outbid them. He’s a guy who I think they should make a serious play for though, assuming he gets posted.

 

Comment From Giants fan:  Do you think Sabean extends a QO to Lincecum, Pence, or both after the season?

Steve Adams: I think Pence will indeed get a qualifying offer. Lincecum is a lot tougher to predict, given his up and down season. I’ll guess that they don’t offer one, and that if they do he accepts it.

Comment From Robinson:  Hughes to Minnestoa?

Steve Adams: I like that match a lot. Hughes’ ERA is something like 3 runs lower away from Yankee Stadium and the Twins play in a big park that’s tough on lefty power.

Comment From Melvin:  Given the solid showing of young OFs like Khris Davis and Caleb Gindl should I try to trade Aoki this year? What could I get for him?

Steve Adams: I think Melvin should try to trade Aoki regardless of how well others are or aren’t playing. He’s got one year left at a ludicrously cheap price and could probably fetch a legitimately useful prospect.