Premature Rosterbation — Seattle Mariners roster and needs

It may seem a little early in the offseason to begin rosterbating. I mean “finish the LCS at least for fuck’s sake,” right? But as a Mariners fan who has no compelling team to root for in this postseason anymore, my mind is becoming consumed with potential Mariners roster moves.

It’s worth considering, especially if recent reports hold true and Kendrys Morales rejects the qualifying offer the Mariners plan to extend him, that the team should have something close to $41 million to spend presuming a $90 million payroll.

The following is the roster as I see it for next year. There are many spots on the roster that are marked TBD. This isn’t a clever acronym I’ve created to represent a player with corresponding initials (and tremendous versatility), rather these are roster spots that will be filled by someone presently not in the organization, or someone in the organization that will have to earn that spot in spring training.

Catchers

C – Mike Zunino, R

C – TBD

Infielders

1B – Justin Smoak, S

2B – Nick Franklin, S

3B – Kyle Seager, L

SS – Brad Miller, L

BN – TBD

BN – TBD

Outfielders

LF – TBD

CF – TBD

RF – TBD

BN – Dustin Ackley, L

BN – Michael Saunders, L

Pitchers

SP – Felix Hernandez, R

SP – Hisashi Iwakuma, R

SP – Taijuan Walker, R

SP – James Paxton, L

SP – TBD

CL – Danny Farquhar, R

RP – Charlie Furbush, L

RP – Tom Wilhelmsen, R

RP – TBD

RP – TBD

RP – TBD

RP – TBD

For the record, there’s a good chance that one or both of Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders start in the outfield every day for the Mariners – especially at the start of the season. Who plays what position, and who wins a spot is yet to be determined though. Them being on the bench is the best way to represent their spot on the roster while displaying the team’s flexibility in filling the other outfield spots. Saunders is an adequate fielder at all positions, while Ackley can handle left and center field pretty decently.

Needs:

True outfielder that can hit – Last year the Mariners brought Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse in, ostensibly to play less outfield than they ended up playing, but probably to play more outfield than any fan was comfortable with. Both are defensive butchers, and while Ibanez’s bat inexplicably was good enough to make up for some terrible defense, Morse’s was not. A renewed focus on outfielders that play good defense, and that can hit some is vital to the Mariners future success. If the team can bring Franklin Gutierrez back on a low-salary one-year deal, while it would surely generate moans and groans from a fanbase growing tired of his fragility, it would make some sense. Alternatively, within the organization Stefen Romero has played mostly left field since being promoted to Tacoma, and has a bat that may project to average or better at the big league level.

The obvious target for the Mariners this offseason is Jacoby Ellsbury, who is certainly talented, though injury prone to this point in his career and sure to be expensive. Another option is Shin-Soo Choo, who the team once traded for Ben Broussard. Rajai Davis isn’t the kind of player that people start naming their children or pets after, but he plays good defense, can handle all three outfield positions, hits lefties very well, and is an excellent base stealer and base runner in general.

Another quality starter – By calling up, and receiving sccessful debut seasons from Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, the team has seemingly guaranteed both of them a spot on next year’s opening day roster. Common conception is that a team can just throw a scrub into the fifth starter role, hoping to roll the dice and win enough times against opposing team’s fifth starters. In truth, good teams tend to improve their fifth starter not by adding a “fifth” starter in terms of respective quality, but rather just in terms of raw count. The Mariners need a fifth guy to be in their starting rotation. If he’s the third best starter on the team, the fifth starter slot gets better because the fourth best starter becomes the “fifth” starter.

Is that guy Brandon Maurer or Erasmo Ramirez? I think we’ve seen reason to believe either of those guys could eventually be a mid-rotation arm. Neither is there right now. The Mariners have been lightly beaten around as a potential destination for David Price, while Japanese free agent starter Masahiro Tanaka is also an interesting possiblity (and wouldn’t require prospect compensation for his former team). Beyond that, an ill-advised effort for Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, or an expensive shot taken at Matt Garza are the highest-profile options. This fanbased, conversely, would probably be thrilled to see Tim Lincecum in Seattle on a reasonable short-term contract.

More quality hitters – The Mariners have as many as three outfield spots open, and if Morales leaves they have a DH/1B spot open. They have very few great hitting prospects in the minors, and the best one perhaps, D.J. Peterson, is less than a year removed from being the team’s first round pick, and and his season end on a broken jaw caused by a hit by pitch. Last year the team was heavily involved with Mike Napoli. Napoli isn’t much of a catcher anymore, as his defense has always been on the wrong side of average, and a degenerative hip condition has forced him into first base and DH duties in recent years. Jose Dariel Abreu, the Cuban defector, may also be an interesting fit in Seattle as a guy on the right side of 30, and that the team wouldn’t have to trade for in order to acquire.

Alternatively, the Mariners could look to acquire some prospects who have seen their star fade some. None of Jason Heyward, Brandon Belt, or Yonder Alonso have really lived up to the expectations placed upon them prior to their MLB debuts. An interesting option may be Brian McCann. While the Mariners have Mike Zunino to catch, having a left-handed, solid-hitting, adequate-defending catcher who has produced in a pitcher’s park already, and whose bat can play at first base or DH in addition to catcher would give the Mariners quite a bit of flexibility at all three positions. McCann’s future value rests in his long-term health, and while his value is increased as a catcher, the sum total may be better if he’s only asked the play the position once or twice a week. Of course, presently McCann is expected to be very expensive, and his price would have to come down quite a bit to fill that kind of role for the Mariners.

  • maqman

    Abraham Almonte has probably earned the right to have his name thrown in the outfielder hat, at least through spring training. They need at least one and probably two rotation arms for depth and insurance on Walker and Paxton – if they both remain with the club and are not traded. I’d go for Bartolo Colon, which would also deplete the A’s a bit but they have depth with young arms and Colon still seems to have something in his tank. The A’s won’t give him a QO and can’t afford him as much as we can. I like Feldman too. Tanaka is my dream piece but he ain’t coming cheap. If they can’t afford him then Abreu would be an impact bat, figuratively and actually. I like Ellsbury and Choo but there is an real albatross concern with both of them. Aoki might be a smart trade if they can do it. I’m in on Guti if the price is right, if he can stay on the field he’s good. Ackley is becoming more valuable being able to switch between the OF and 2B and even 1B if need be. Lots of possibilities, should be an interesting off-season.