Aaron Steen of MLB Trade Rumors has produced MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook for the Mariners which can be read in full here. It’s well done and worth a read. Among many points, he sees Justin Smoak as still a problem, and Mike Zunino as not ready for prime time—which are views I don’t share, but to each his own. He says that: “The team was crippled in 2013 by below-replacement-level performances from veterans like Jason Bay (236 PA, -0.2 fWAR), Mike Morse (307 PA, -1.2 fWAR) and Endy Chavez (279 PA, -1.3 fWAR). If ownership is willing to spend – and the Mariners’ reported pursuit of Josh Hamilton last winter suggests that they might be—Scott Boras beckons with Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. Otherwise, Curtis Granderson isn’t likely to require as steep of a commitment after sitting out much of 2013 with injuries, while Nate McLouth would come cheap and could provide defense and walks from a corner outfield spot.
Zduriencik can add by subtracting in the outfield. Raul Ibanez helped prop up the Mariners’ flailing attack in 2013, belting 29 home runs, but his -17.1 UZR suggests that he’s a major defensive liability in left field. He ended the year at exactly zero fWAR despite all those homers. If the team commits to Morales at DH, there likely isn’t room on the roster for another all-bat, no-glove type. Improving on the 2013 Mariners’ MLB-worst -73 team UZR should be a major priority for the front office this winter”
Personally I doubt Granderson will want to come to Seattle. If he doesn’t stay in New York, he’ll go home to Chicago, and Nate McLouth would most likely prefer to stay with the Orioles than to come to Seattle, although his 1.6 bWAR would be better than what most of the M’s outfielders produced.
“The Angels announced that outfielder Travis Witherspoon has been claimed off waivers by the Mariners. Witherspoon, aged 24, had a down year in Double-A, hitting .214/.299/.342 in 129 games this past season. The 24-year-old was once thought to be a high upside prospect for the Halos but health issues last season and poor production this season have hurt his stock. Witherspoon isn’t too far removed from a time where he drew comparisons to Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin, notes Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com.” —Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors.
AL West Commentary
“Speculation swirled throughout the arduous summer that either general manager Jerry Dipoto or long-time skipper Mike Scioscia — or both — would be let go shortly after the Angels wrapped up a fourth consecutive season without a playoff appearance. The pitching acquisitions didn’t pay off, their star-studded team was hardly competitive, and the manager and GM weren’t exactly meshing well together. Something — many inside and outside the organization believed — would have to give for uber-competitive owner Arte Moreno. In the end, nothing did.
“Dipoto and Scioscia are going to try to work it out and will return in 2014. The two found out in the middle of last week and the world caught wind on Tuesday, via a team-issued press release in which Dipoto and Scioscia both announced that bench coach Rob Picciolo and hitting coach Jim Eppard will not return. Third-base coach Dino Ebel will be promoted to bench coach, and the Angels will spend the next few weeks poring through candidates to fill three spots on the Major League staff before the spring.” —Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com
Baseball Best Practice
“There’s an expectation around here now, I can sense. Guys are expected to compete at a certain way and at a certain level. That’s starting to become the standard. I have really enjoyed the way the guys have fought down the stretch, especially as the season got away from us and we weren’t in the race. Usually the true colors show then.” —Rockies manager Walt Weiss as quoted by Troy E. Renck at the Denver Post
“When (Clint Hurdle) gets done managing he has a second career waiting as a motivational speaker,” said catcher John Buck. “How many times have you heard a manager say ‘let’s to do little things right,’ hitting the ball to the right side, moving a guy over? “With Clint there aren’t any little things. He says that they are all big things. He’s mentioned a lot of things since I’ve been here, but that’s one that has stuck with me the most.” —Bob Elliott” href=”http://www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com/author/bobelliott/”>Bob Elliott at the Canadian Baseball Network
So they said
“In the old days, it was tobacco in any and all forms. Not that chewing tobacco has completely disappeared, but it would certainly seem beneficial if sunflower and pumpkin seeds help cut down the use of tobacco. I suppose everybody needs something to curb their nervous energy, especially with many of these games going well over three hours, and hitters feeling the need to step out after every pitch. Pistachios are apparently the next big dugout thing.” —T.R. Sullivan at MLB.com
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies exercised their 2014 club option on left-hander Jorge De La Rosa. That decision will keep De La Rosa with the club for a reasonable $11MM next season, although the two parties may have a mutual interest in keeping him in Denver longer, as Renck expects them to discuss a multi-year deal in the offseason
Matt Meyers of ESPN New York has written an in-depth evaluation of Shin-Soo Choo and his potential to help the Mets, which can be read in full here. He notes that it’s easy to assume that a player’s most recent season is their true level of performance when it’s most likely not. Considering Choo’s age, he’s much more likely to get worse than better. Choo is useless against left-handed pitching, hitting .215/.347/.265 versus southpaws this season, not far off his career marks. While that OBP is respectable, it’s fueled by 13 hit-by-pitches. Great American Ballpark is a great place for left-handed hitters, with a home run factor of 126 for lefties in 2012. (Safeco is rated 15th for home runs, Great American 16th). He concludes, “If the Mets end up giving Choo the $100-plus million it will likely take to sign him, I have a feeling their front office and fans are going to be severely disappointed. I know Mets fans are tired of waiting, but free agency is not a quick fix, and Choo is by no means the cure for what ails New York.”
Danny Knobler at CBS Sports reports that Pirates general manager Neal Huntington will try to keep them together for another year. That includes A.J. Burnett, as well as right fielder Marlon Byrd and first baseman Justin Morneau, the two players Huntington traded for in late August with the idea that they would likely be rentals. “We’d like to keep them all,” Huntington said this week. “We’ll see, the day after the season ends.”
While the Pirates didn’t trade for Byrd or Morneau with the intention of keeping them beyond this season, they’ve been very happy with both. Byrd in particular has fit in and become a favorite, both with Pirates fans and with his new teammates. Morneau hasn’t made as big an impact, but first base is a position of need for the Pirates going forward, and they’d like him to fill it.
Byrd will certainly be due a large raise, after signing a $700,000 contract with the Mets and turning in a huge bounce-back season. His .843 OPS in 30 games with the Pirates nearly matches the .848 OPS he had in 117 games with the Mets.
“He’s brought a lot of intangibles here, too,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “His approach to the game, his approach to hitting, and his willingness to talk to other guys about both.” Morneau obviously won’t get the same $15 million he made in 2013, in the final year of a six-year, $80 million contract he signed with the Twins. But he’s not going to get that (or anything close) anywhere else, either.
By the numbers
Asked which pitcher the Phillies should try to sign this off-season, 39.4 percent of Philadelphia Inquirer readers preferred Tim Lincecum, 37.1 went for Matt Garza, 15.1 liked Ervin Santana and only 8.4 percent want Doc Halladay back.
Joel Sherman of the NY Post sat down with Hal Steinbrenner to talk about the team’s financial future given the team’s stated desire to get under the $189MM luxury tax barrier in 2014. His father was known for his Win-at-all-Cost attitude, but Hal? Maybe not so much. Hal said, “It is something to shoot for, but not at the expense of having a championship-caliber team. It is not. It never has been and never will be. It has always been my contention you don’t need a $230MM payroll to field a championship-level team. We are going to get to that [less than $189MM] at some point. That is the goal: We believe you can win a championship at $189MM payroll because plenty of teams have.”
That is true, but those teams know how to draft and develop players and are not dependent upon an arbitrator’s decision that the most expensive player in the game was juiced to be competitive next year.
Chat Review – Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs
Comment From Erik: Forget the big names, who are the sleeper FAs this offseason?
Jeff Sullivan: Jose Molina! Going over the list… potential bounce backs to be found in Gutierrez, Granderson, and Hart.
Going to be interesting to see how little teams still believe in Bartolo Colon, and Scott Feldman is still a guy. I could look at this more rigorously
Comment From Uncle Groper: Is Joe Maddon really a genius? Or just a self-important nurd?
Jeff Sullivan: No, he’s not a genius. He’s just a relative genius, given his managerial peers. He does a great job leading that team, and he’s strategically open-minded and creative. He’s everything one should want in a baseball team’s manager.