Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talkin' Baseball

About once a summer the need to talk baseball just overwhelms me and I have to throw out a few thoughts on how to fix the Seattle Mariners.




There's been a lot of scuttlebutt lately about how the M's might actually be buying in this year's trading deadline derby. If you ask me, that would be a missed opportunity of a lifetime. Yes, the M's are in the AL West race but the only way they win this race is by significant upgrades to the starting pitching and run production. The only way to do that at the trading deadline is by trading away young talent. I say, let the Mariners take advantage of another ballclub for a change.

The time is right - not to build this team to compete in the post-season in 2009 - but to compete for world championships for the next decade. It's time to SIGNIFICANTLY reload the M's farm system. Why now? You have the perfect storm right now, that's why. You have a handful of guys in their contract year; you have veterans like Sweeney and Griffey who can hold a team together and avoid a mess like the Pirates had when they traded Nate McLouth to the Braves; you have a pretty fair amount of parity in most MLB divisions right now, which means more teams may consider themselves to be buyers; and HOPEFULLY, you have a new GM willing to make a signature move with long-term goals for a franchise in desperate need of young talent.

My stance on this issue softened a bit with the news that Adrian Beltre would be missing significant time with his shoulder injury - thereby likely reducing his value to at least CLOSE to nothing. Beltre could have been one of our biggest bargaining chips this July - if he could show a little life at the plate and stay healthy. Unfortunately, he did neither and it now looks highly unlikely that the M's will be able to move him.

So with Beltre out of the picture, now what? Who goes??

Jarrod Washburn. I'm actually a fan of Washburn's. He hasn't developed a signature "out" pitch, but as he gets more years under his belt, he continues to learn new pitches and has developed more of a sense of how to use them. I won't bore you with details but this article does a great job of breaking down his early season success. At best, Washburn is a poor man's Jamie Moyer. He'll eat up innings, keep you in ballgames and be a positive clubhouse presence. I thought they should have taken whatever they could get for him LAST year. This year, he's got much more value.

Russell Branyan. Frankly, I'd love to see Russell the Muscle continue on with the M's but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he took this year as the only opportunity of his career to be an everyday starter - and boy has he run with it. I scoffed when he was signed in the off-season - but if Jack Z. can get a couple prospects for him, it could very well go down as one of the best maneuvers ever, by a M's GM. Fingers, crossed for you, Jack.

Erik Bedard. Again, it certainly doesn't help that he's been injured but you can't deny the fact that when healthy, Bedard is about as steady as they come. His value (like that of Washburn) gets the southpaw markup, so if he comes off the DL (reported to be as early as this weekend's series) and throws well before the All-Star break, he shoots right to the top of this list.

Miguel Batista? Count me among the many M's fans that would have been tempted to push Batista in front of one of Safeco Field's famous trains if given the chance over the last few years - but now that Batista isn't being forced to carry the mail as a starter, he's actually shown to be a fairly reliable middle-innings guy. It will take a desperate team, so keep your eye on other teams' injury reports and cross your fingers.

My guess is that any deadline deal involving these free-agents-to-be will involve the M's eating a significant portion of their salaries - but hey, it's an investment in the future. If the M's are able to get some good young talent in return, it would be a huge step in the right direction.

If they want to make a bigger splash, the only player on the roster that is untradeable should be Felix.

I'd even take that one step further and say that the M's should put out some serious feelers on Brandon Morrow and Jeff Clement. The window
of opportunity to get top value for these two damaged up-and-comers may have closed - and to be fair, they could both still pan out to be superstars in Seattle - but if there's an opportunity to look around, take it! Don't let Morrow become the next Ryan Anderson!

***

If you don't follow the M's with even a little bit of interest, you may not know who Mike Morse is - and you almost certainly missed that the M's just traded him for former Alanta prospect Ryan Langerhans. Every so often in baseball, I fall in love with a prospect and just don't let go. Russel Branyan was actually one of those guys early in his career but I eventually DID give up on him. Hank Blalock is another one. I'm still convinced that if he gets a regular job and stays healthy, he'll be a .300/25/90 guy every year.

Mike Morse was that guy for me on the Mariners roster. Morse absolutely tore it up in spring training last year and made the team out of camp, only to be sidelined by another injury. With the arrival of Sweeney, Griffey and Cedeno this off-season, Morse seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Now, Yuniesky Betancourt is sidelined by an injury and Morse is in Tacoma hitting .312 with 10 dingers and 52 RBI ... and he gets traded? Makes you wonder if there's some kind of personality conflict there. I'd say odds are that Morse winds up being another in the very long line of productive former Marniers that litter MLB rosters past and present.

One way or another, the M's have the ability to make July baseball in Seattle fun again. If you've given up on them, now's a good time to tune back in.

***

If you're a baseball child of the 70's and 80's like me, you may have grown up watching your favorite team compete on the road in powder blues. The Royals have been flirting with going back to the blues with their alternate powder top - but they wear them with home white pants. It looks awful.

Ever since I saw those powder tops I've been hoping some team would bring them back full time. Toronto played in full powder blue throwbacks the other night and I am now convinced that we need more! Bring back the powder blues!!


10 comments:

Sean Hawkins said...

They are in a weird spot.

But, let's say they get it handed to them this brutal stretch of games, and they hit the break about 6 or 7 out. They will be behind two teams at that point, and let's face it, at best the M's are the third best team in the division this year. They must sell at that point. But the question is what value can they really expect to receive back if they do go into fire sale mode?

Wash is likely going to be one of the biggest names on the trade front, given his rebirth and his relative good health this year. But since he's in a walk year, to get anything of value in return they will have to eat as much salary as possible. I bet this is the guy Z moves, right at the deadline, and he goes for a decent haul. Maybe not what Cleveland got for CC last year, but definitely something good.

Bedard = damaged goods. Just when you think he's turned the corner, he comes up lame. He had a checkered history in Baltimore, and it's just continued here. Now with his shoulder issues, I don't know what kind of value is out there for him. If they want to move him, they better hope he comes back blazing vs. the Sox this weekend and pitches well until the deadline. I think Bedard stays though, and they just let him walk at the end of the year.

Beltre is in the home stretch of his Seattle career. I loved the signing when they got him, and while he hasn't approached superstar status from his unreal '04 season, he's still been in the handful of best third basemen in the league. His shoulder injury guarantees he'll be here through the end of the year.

I think they keep Branyan, no matter what, and try to re-sign him. He has already talked that he loves the city and wants to try and put down some roots. He fits perfectly in Safeco. And talk about a nomad-type career though, wow.

I think they shop Clement, and probably pretty hard (if they aren't already). He has shown the issues with the knee, not a good thing for a young catcher. But even when he was healthy his receiving skills were suspect, at best.

And I bet they hang on to Morrow for as long as they possibly can. The guy may be bouncing around a lot, and he hasn't shown any consistency in his off-speed stuff, but he's got that upside that is so tantalizing. But it may never happen here. I just hope they keep him in the rotation from now on, and no more back-and-forth BS.

Dude, Mike Morse? He may have had a hot spring or two, but that's all it is. He has never shown any power at the big league level, and he's a below-average defender without a true position. They desperately needed a left-handed bat who can play some defense with Chavez done, and Langerhans has shown at least a little something at the big league level. Not a star, but he can help out there.

Here's a guy to pay attention to and what happens with his contract - JASON BAY! I heard an interview with him a week ago, and he raved about Seattle. Remember Bay is from BC and he played at Gonzaga? His wife and her family live in Seattle and Bay spends a lot of time here in the off-season. He'll be a free agent at the end of the year. While he's right-handed, so not the best fit in Safeco, still, he's in his prime years and would be a nice fit in left field. Here's hoping the negotiations continue to drag on with Boston and Bay, and he hits the open market!

Soze said...

I read an article the other day on ESPN.com (of course now I can't find it) that brought up some good points... the author said the M's should be moderate buyers and hope to win a weak AL West, then anything can happen in the playoffs with Bedard, Felix and Washburn in the rotation.

If they lose the division and keep the contract-year guys past the deadline, they will sign elsewhere this offseason and the Mariners will get comp. picks in the next draft, which is Zduriencik's specialty (just look at the Brewers). Essentially a win-win for the team: go for the division title and playoffs, and then get draft picks in next year's draft.

I'm backing that idea.

Hooty McBoob said...

Heard the Bay rumors too. Seriously man - Mike Morse. Dude can hit the baseball. Yuni doesn't have a single redeeming quality about him. Why not give Morse (a lifetime .300 hitter in the bigs) a chance? Everyone already bitches about Yuni's D - can Morse be that much worse? I can always find a place to hide a good hitter in my lineup.

Sean Hawkins said...

Alright, I'll give you Morse can hit for a decent average. And his slugging % is a little better than I thought it was, career .397 in 300 AB's. Maybe they are missing something here?

But then again, I think the organization really places a lot of value on defense, and that is one area where Morse has issues. Who knows though. I remember thinking these same things about Raul Ibanez, and when he finally got his chance in KC, he showed what he was capable of! Ibanez was a catcher initially, and sometimes first base, then finally outfield before it all clicked. He still has time on his side to figure it out, so we'll see!

Soze, I bet if they can smell first place they will let Z go for it. They are in it right now, no doubt, but let's see where they are in the next few weeks. Man, a pennant race would sure be fun to watch again. They've been showing some older highlights of Safeco field history and the 116 wins, and how much fun that was.

Sean Hawkins said...

And by the way, two guys need to be mentioned - Aardsma and Felix! On Felix, remember when Wakamatsu called him out after he was shelled vs. the Angels last month? Ever since then, the guy is pitching like Pedro in his prime. That last game he threw against the Dodgers, wow, his stuff was fantastic. That change up looks like Pedro's back in the day, the way it sinks and just totally makes guys look foolish. He's 3-0 0.94 in June and looks like he might be turning the corner.

And Aardsma, another wow. After his meltdown vs the Angels on 5/31, the guy hasn't allowed a run since! 16-for-17 in save opportunities, league is hitting just .160 against him? And to think that Z basically got him for nothing. Just amazing! I know relief pitchers come and go from year to year, but they might have struck gold here.

Hooty McBoob said...

Aardsma is another guy like Branyan, who just needed a chance. The thing I love about baseball is that players continue to develop over their career more than in any other sport. This is especially true for pitchers.

You always hear the statement "this guy just needs a change of scenery" to develop. We heard that this decade with guys like Meche and Pineiro. They don't realy need a change of scenery - they just need to expand their knowledge of their craft. Moving to a new organaization can give players an opportunity to learn from new coaches and teammates.

For other guys like Aardsma, they probably have the talent all along, they just need a team to excercise some patience with them as they figure out how to put it all together at the big league level.

Hopefully that's Brandon Morrow but I'm not convinced. He needs to develop some off-speed pitches and prove he can use them effectively.

I saw the big lefty phenom Ryan Anderson pitch in Tacoma one Easter and he was absolutely ripped. It was against the Tucson Sidewinders and I remember former Coug Rob Ryan (also left-handed) hit him hard. Right then I realized that the M's had lost an opportunity with that kid.

When I see Morrow go out, throwing nothing but fastballs, I get flashbacks. It's not that I don't believe he can develop into a good pitcher, but he has a lot of work to do. I'm just wondering if we should let someone else do all the work. If they can package him with someone like Yuni to upgrade a position on the big club and get another prospect or two, I think it would be worth the risk.

Soze said...

Sedi, I guess my point was that we should go after the division title with what we have, maybe with minor upgrades; I like the idea of packaging Morrow and Yuney for an upgrade somewhere. Lets see what happens this year and let guys like Washburn walk after the season and get the extra draft picks.

Sean Hawkins said...

I hear ya Soze. You are right. What do they really lose by going for it? If they come up short, they let the free agents walk and let Z and his staff work their Milwaukee-like magic in building the system with the right players. And if they win? WONDERFUL! :)

And it's hard not to like what Z's scouting did in Milwaukee. Imagine JJ Hardy, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder-types, all homegrown coming up together? That's what I would love to see happen, developing that legit #3 and #4 hitters like Braun and Fielder. You know, guys you just pencil into the lineup for years, under club control, and they are impact bats. They used to have that around here in the 90's with the old A-Rod/Junior/Edgar/Buhner, all homegrown draftees (except for Buhner in the KEN PHELPS deal!). I'd love to see that again.

Lucas said...

Didn't the Mariners trade Mike Morse last week? I don't think there is a shot in hell we are 6 or 7 games out at the break. Before the All Star break we have a 7 game homestand; 3 with Baltimore and 4 with Texas.

The Indians were "building to the future" recently by trading away some prime talent. Look where they are now. Last place in the AL. Lots of things are going to happen between now and July 31st. If they are within 5 games at that point, anything short of being moderate buyers is UNACCEPTABLE.

Soze said...

Tonight's game just reminded me that we still have Kenji Johjima. Can we please ship him to someone... anyone... maybe sell him to an independent league for some hot dogs?