Detroit Tigers 2016 Pitching Staff: Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures

Detroit Tigers 2016: Pitching Staff Locks, Maybes and Likely Departures

After Monday’s bullpen implosion, the Detroit Tigers pitching issues were once again brought to light. Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny, Neftali Feliz and Guido Knudson’s collective time on the mound saw a Tigers win turn into a blowout loss.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Maybe not allowing 10 runs in an inning, but certainly allowing enough runs to lose the game. Only three teams have allowed more runs than the Tigers, while Detroit is tied for the league in number of home runs allowed with 144.

This year’s staff has been predominantly ineffective. That means changes in the offseason—lots of changes. With that in mind, here’s a look at what pitchers are locks to stay, which pitchers are uncertainties  and which pitchers are likely departures.

Locks

Justin Verlander

Verlander isn’t going anywhere, not with his contract. This makes him the biggest lock (pitcher-wise) on the team. It doesn’t hurt that he’s regained his old form. The ace owns a 1.67 ERA and a 40/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 43 innings. He’s back ladies and gentleman—and barring a massive addition, will open 2016 as the Tigers’ ace.

Daniel Norris

Verlander may be the team’s ace of the present, but Norris looks like a candidate to be the staff’s leader in the future. The centerpiece of the David Price trade, Norris has the look of a future front-line starter. He could start realizing that potential sooner rather than later.

Michael Fulmer

While still in Double-A, Fulmer may make his debut this season as a September call up. If he does, look for him to stick in the rotation in 2016. Acquired from the New York Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, Fulmer has been dominant in the minors. In 20 starts in the minors the pitcher has struck out 113 batters in 115.2 innings while only walking 28. He’s 9-3 with a 1.95 ERA as well as touting a mid-90s fastball, a nasty slider and an improving changeup.

Matt Boyd

Another pitcher acquired in the Price deal, Boyd looks the part of a dependable rotation arm moving forward. He’ll constantly live up in the zone, but that’s ok given he’ll start half of his ballgames in Comerica Park.

The Washington-native owned an ugly 14.85 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays, but has posted a much better 4.88 ERA (4.37 FIP) with the Tigers.

Bruce Rondon

Bruce Rondon had a tough start to the season, which is much of the reason why his ERA is 5.66. However, recent form suggests a promising future. The flamethrower has struck out 19 batters over his last 13 innings while holding opponents to a .159 batting average. His ERA over that span is 2.77. Rondon’s FIP is a sparkling 2.98, suggesting that he’s been much better than advertised. Unless he implodes down the stretch (we’re talking volcanic implosion folks) and implodes again during Spring Training, Rondon will be on the Tigers Opening Day roster in 2016.

Alex Wilson

In a season devoid of too many positives, Alex Wilson may be the Tigers’ MVP—at least on the mound. Wilson has done just about everything imaginable for Detroit.

Save a game(s)—check.

Start a game—check.

Pitch situationally—check.

Pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen—check.

In case you need any more convincing on Wilson, here are his numbers: 60.1 innings pitched, 47 appearances, two saves, one game started, 1.79 ERA.

Where the Tigers would be without Wilson, no one is sure. Barring the unforeseen, he’s playing an integral part on the team next year.

Blaine Hardy

Blaine Hardy has officially proven that last season was no fluke. The former Royals farmhand is the proud owner of a 2.68 ERA (his FIP is only 2.73) over 53.2 innings. He’s struck out 47 batters over that span and is just about as much of a lock as Wilson is.

Al Alburquerque

For as much as the Tigers’ bullpen has struggled/been lambasted, Al Alburquerque has developed into some of an “old-reliable” type. The reliever has posted a career ERA of 2.99 and his FIP has never eclipsed four. He’ll be back.

Uncertainties 

Anibal Sanchez

Anibal Sanchez may be having a down year—or he may be regressing, it’s hard to tell. If anything, he’s certainly not the pitcher he was in 2013 when he led the American League in ERA, FIP and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.4 to be exact). Sanchez ERA this year is an unsightly 4.99 while he’s allowed a Majors-leading 29 home runs. His FIP? 4.72.

With a contract that calls for $48 million over the next three seasons, Detroit could trade him for another bad contract to fill a different need. The Tigers obviously are thin in the starting pitching department, but if Sanchez continues to allow home runs at the rate he’s at, the team may as well let someone like Fulmer loose than continue trot out Sanchez every fifth day.

Neftali Feliz

Former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz has a world of potential, but has been inexplicably awful for the Tigers. In 16 innings he’s allowed 19 earned runs while posting an ugly 11.93 ERA. Whether he makes the team next year will depend on how much bullpen help is added in the offseason and if the team thinks he can turn it around.

Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan

If either of these pitchers are in the Tigers’ rotation in 2016 on a consistent basis, it will either be because the team isn’t contending, or because one of the two has turned a corner in their development.

Neither has shown the ability to be a consistent starter in the bigs, with Farmer the owner of a 7.80 ERA and Ryan sporting a 5.94 earned run average. Given the number of young arms near or at the major league level (Norris, Fulmer, Boyd and Luis Cessa), Detroit may be hard-pressed to find a role for either Farmer or Ryan. A year of seasoning in Triple-A wouldn’t hurt either.

Randy Wolf

Wolf will only be on the Tigers’ roster next season if he doesn’t retire after the season, can be effective down the stretch, and if Detroit wants him back. Given the team’s young arms and the likelihood that they’ll add a starter (or two) in the offseason, Wolf could find his way back to the team as a swingman.

Ian Krol

One-time Nationals pitcher Ian Krol is running out of opportunities to stick in Detroit. He’s only 24-years-old, but owns a 5.67 ERA in a Tigers’ uniform. His FIP isn’t much better at 5.30.

Things have only become worse for Krol, whose earned run average this year is 6.75. He’s also walked nearly as many batters as runs allowed. Not a pretty stat when your ERA is close to seven. Like Feliz, he’s not a goner purely based on potential and age.

Shane Greene

The Tigers seem to believe in Greene long-term, ergo his place in the “maybes” section. If anything, he may spend the year refining his craft at Triple-A.

His numbers have been all kinds of ugly this year—6.88 (!) ERA, 103 hits allowed in only 83.2 innings, 13 home runs allowed, 5.13 FIP… the list goes on. In fact, if you take out Greene’s phenomenal start, during which he put up an ERA of 0.39, his ERA jumps to 9.35 in 60.2 innings. Opponents hit .351 off him during those games.  Here’s hoping he can turn it around.

Kyle Lobstein

Lobstein’s injury absence may be one of the least talked about aspects of the Tigers season.

The man who Brad Ausmus once called “Lobber” had a respectable 4.34 ERA to go along with a 3-45 record in eight starts before hitting the disabled list. If Lobstein had absorbed some of Greene/Farmer/Ryan/Alfredo Simon’s rough starts, Detroit would be in a much better place right now. Lobstein may be relegated to a swing-man role next season. He’s in a good spot to make the team next season, but isn’t a lock given the fact that Al Avila will likely sign/trade for two new starters.

Guido Knudson and Drew VerHagen

If the above-mentioned duo make the team next year it will be because they showed well down the stretch and in Spring Training. The rest of the season is their audition.

Likely Departures

Alfredo Simon

Despite Simon’s stellar start against the Rangers, he’s struggled too much to be asked back next season. Racking up 11 wins is a positive, but not when your ERA is 5.85 since the start of June. His contract is up, and unless he wants to become a reliever again, he’ll be leaving Detroit.

Tom Gorzelanny

Another player on an expiring contract, Gorzelanny has also struggled in Motown.

Pick whatever synonym of ugly that you like and that word describes Gorzelanny’s run prevention on the mound this season. His ERA is an atrocious (you win a prize if that was your ugly synonym) 6.21 while he’s walked 19 batters and allowed 21 runs in just 29 innings. The former Pirate simply hasn’t had his best stuff this season.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera Replacements

The Detroit Tigers earned a vital win on Friday to break out of a slump, but they may have sustained a potentially crippling injury. The key word here is “crippling,” because while Miguel Cabrera’s likely six-week absence might be detrimental to the Tigers hopes this year, it also might rally the team together until Cabrera returns.

The unlucky part of the situation is the severity of the injury. It will keep Miggy out longer than a quick trip to the disabled list, meaning the Tigers can’t just can cobble together internal replacements to bridge the gap. The injury is short enough  from a time standpoint that it prohibits the team from moving for a replacement that brings a similar skillset— like when Prince Fielder was signed to make up for the loss of Victor Martinez.

Detroit can’t acquire a player of Cabrera’s ilk who plays first base, because they won’t have anywhere to put him when Miggy returns. A bench/platoon power hitter would be ideal. That way the player can shift to the bench as pinch-hitting option number one.

Finding that player is the tricky bit. Internal options are scarce and the trade market isn’t exactly swimming with loads of options either.

Jefry Marte was called up from Triple-A as the corresponding move when Cabrera hit the DL. Marte hit .277 with Toledo this season. He isn’t necessarily a prolific power hitter, with 13 being his career high. Those 13 bombs have come this year, in only 77 games. Still, Marte is a third baseman and doesn’t play first. You get the feeling he’d be the first one heading back to the minors once another addition is made.

So who would that addition be? It remains to be seen.

Mike Hessman is a phone call away in Toledo. However, while he has plenty of power, he’s a career .233 hitter in the minors and is 37.

Other than Marte and Hessman, the internal options include playing other hitters out of position at first. Alex Avila and his sudden defensive wizardry could receive more starts, especially if James McCann continues to play well behind the dish. Another player that could be shoehorned into the slot is Andrew Romine, who is quietly hitting .314 in 53 games.

Outside of those underwhelming (compared to Cabrera of course), options, there’s always the trade market.

There aren’t that many enticing options on the market, but the upside to that is the team won’t have to sacrifice too much to bring in a replacement.

Adam Lind may be the most expensive in terms of what it would cost to acquire. The former Blue Jay and current Brewer is hitting .295 this season, mainly against right handed pitching. Lind destroys/mashes/obliterates (you get the point) righties to the tune of a .308 batting average and a .927 OPS. If the Brewers were in the American League, they’d have the league’s worst record. Only the Rockies, Marlins and Phillies have fewer wins in the National League. To put it plainly, the Brew Crew are putrid this year. Dealing a 31-year-old who belongs at designated hitter in the AL may be the best move for Milwaukee.

For as much flack as the Tigers’ minor league system takes, they have a number of catching prospects and relief pitching prospects who could be moved. A rebuilding team like Milwaukee can use all the young pieces it can get. They’ve already reaped the benefits of bringing in former Tiger Hernan Perez, who’s hitting .362 in 26 games. Perhaps they’d be open to acquiring more Tigers players.

Coincidentally, the other first baseman on the market come from the NL’s other cellar dwellers. The Phillies’ Ryan Howard and the Rockies’ Justin Morneau could both be moved. However, Howard is a .220 hitter this year and led the league in strikeouts in 2014. Did I mention he also has a monstrous contract? The Phills would probably eat a considerable amount of Howard’s salary, but Detroit can likely find better production elsewhere—minus the salary commitment.

If healthy, Morneau would provide a solid addition. He’s experienced a career renaissance in Colorado, hitting .319 last season and .290 this year. Morneau isn’t the MVP candidate he once was, but he’ll more than likely give you a high batting average, 20 home runs and 80 RBI over the course of a full season. Adding Morneau would continue the Tigers’ recent trend of bringing in former Minnesota All-Stars to bolster their team. Morneau would join Torii Hunter and Joe Nathan as recent former Twins to suit up for the Tigers.

There’s also the wild card factor to consider with general manager Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers. No one really tabbed Detroit as front runners, or even contenders to trade for Cabrera or David Price. Going purely on that, Dombrowski might pull the unexpected.

Regardless of what route the Tigers take in attempting to replace Miguel Cabrera, it won’t be easy. The team isn’t stocked with trade chips, thus making the task tougher.

There are few positives to be had. Victor Martinez is beginning to regain his hitting stroke while J.D. Martinez continues to mash home runs. Victor and J.D. aren’t alone. Anthony Gose, Romine and Josh Wilson are all providing above-average production for hitters generally confined to the bottom of the lineup.

Still, Cabrera is the league’s best hitter and one of the best hitters of the century. He’s impossible to replace. The Tigers will certainly be tested with their best player out, but they have enough talent to stay in contention and make a run.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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The Cleveland Indians Should Have Pulled the Trigger on A Certain Asdrubal Cabrera Trade

It’s been tossed around that Cleveland is shopping their shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. It is also common knowledge that Arizona wants to trade their own star player, Justin Upton. It’s equally common knowledge that the Diamondbacks really want a shortstop. And what’s even more plain to public perception is the Texas Rangers’ desire to find a power bat to take Josh Hamilton’s place.

That seems like decent grounds for a trade, right?

The supposed proposed trade would have sent Cabrera to Arizona, Upton to Texas and rising stars Mike Olt and Trevor Bauer to Cleveland.

What on Earth is wrong with Cleveland?

I know that it’s a three-team trade, so everybody has to be on board with it, but come on, make this trade. Continue reading

Torii Hunter’s Impact with the Detroit Tigers

I’ll admit I didn’t see the signing coming; I’m a bit of a homer when it comes to placing trust in Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch and Quintin Berry, so I didn’t want the signing initially. But the more I look at it, the more there is to like.  Yes, Hunter is getting up there in years, but after further digging, he’s still a very good player in this league despite being 37.

Last season, the Tigers were knocked for not having a good defensive team. That criticism was mainly placed on the infield. But in terms of “elite” defenders, the only one the Tigers had who could change a game in the field was Austin Jackson. Infield aside, the corner outfielders were a tad suspect with the glove. Dirks, Boesch, Berry and Avisail Garcia’s collective number of runs saved above average per 1,200 innings (from the folks over at baseball-reference) was -26. Dirks was the only one of the group whose number was a positive one with three runs scored above average. The point here is that the overall defense in the outfield corners could have been better. Enter Hunter, who despite being nearly a decade older than every one of the previous four, saved 16 runs above average per 1,200 innings.

The beauty of the signing is this: yes, Hunter is valued defensively, and maybe he was needed defensively, but he also brings a whole lot to the table offensively. So often teams bring in an outfielder or use an internal option that is a far superior defender, but lacks completely with the bat.  Teams feel they need to upgrade defensively and save runs there and completely mail it in offensively. But this is the beauty of the signing. Hunter upgrades the defense and offense drastically.

The other bonus of having Hunter as well as Jackson in the outfield means Jim Leyland has his pick of outfielders to use strategically on a game-to-game basis, whether that be Berry, Garcia, Boesch or Dirks.

The Tigers won the American League pennant last year. They also won it, when at times the death-row duo of Miguel Cabrera and Fielder looked like the walking dead. But now Victor Martinez will be 100% healthy, and Torii Hunter joins the mix. Death row just got a whole lot deadlier.

Wrapping Up the Tigers’ Regular Season: MVP Voting, Playoffs and More

While the much-hyped MVP discussion is heating up, the regular season is cooling down.

The Tigers joined the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds as the only teams in baseball to clinch their own divisions.  Also joining those clubs in October baseball are the Atlanta Braves,  New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s. The Tigers also became the first AL team to clinch their division. The second year in a row that they’ve done that.

But really, no one is reading too much into the playoffs. Yet. Now, the baseball-related discussions are about that AL MVP race and something you might have heard of called the Triple Crown.

Coincidentally or not, both of those discussions involve one Miguel Cabrera who also plays for the Tigers.

Triple Crown & MVP

I’ll start with the Triple Crown first, to get it out of the way.

Continue reading

Silencing the Tigers’ Haters

Much has been made of the Tigers’ “inconsistent” play as of late, as well as the fact that they aren’t in first place in a “weak” division.

This is all irrelevant. Or, unwarranted rather.  The Tigers have, if not the best, then one of the best records in the league since the end of June.

The division is another thing entirely. Yes, the Tigers sit two games out of first place Chicago, but on the year, Detroit has a 7-5 record against the Sox. That’s tied for the most wins the Tigers have against any other club this year. The other two teams the Tigers have seven wins against are Minnesota and Kansas City, which Detroit is a combined 14-6 against. Which brings us to this point, of the 40 games left, twenty six of them are against those teams. Six more of those scheduled games are against the Angels, who Detroit has won three of the four meetings with this year.

So add it all up, and the Tigers, if all goes as it has been going, should end up with the division title. This would in turn remove them from the wildcard-playoff-shtick. Continue reading

Kurt Suzuki’s Value

Kurt Suzuki is only 28. An age that most would think would be part of a player’s prime. So, despite an underwhelming offensive season last year, it’s safe to assume that Kurt Suzuki is in his prime.

There are a few things that are wrong with this. Perhaps not wrong, but they certainly work against Suzuki staying in Oakland.

One: He is a solid offensive option at a position that is mainly derived of offensive threats (catcher).

Two: As stated, he is in somewhat of his prime, meaning he still has prime years of his career. (Duh.)

Three: He plays for a rebuilding Oakland team.

Let’s start with one. Despite the aforementioned underwhelming seasons, Suzuki is still a very good option at catcher. In his breakout year in 2008 he posted a WAR of 3.3., which was the same WAR posted by Mark Teixeira and was a higher WAR than those of Miguel Cabrera (3.1) and Robinson Cano (1.2). Position-wise, his WAR blew those of Jason Varitek (0.2) and AJ Pierzynski (0.6) out of the water. (All according to baseballreference.com, mind you.)

Two, he’s in his prime. If I had a nickel for every time I said that in this piece, well let’s just say I’d be in the prestigious 15 cent club.

And now we get to the fact that he plays for…Oakland (buh, buh…. buh.) So now that you’ve taken in that Kurt Suzuki is not only in his prime (20 cents!) and is an offensive threat at an offensively depleted position, take into account that he plays for Oakland. The A’s are in the midst of another Billy Beane rebuilding phase and are currently siphoning out their current talent for younger, future talent. (Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahil were all quietly dealt for an intriguing hull of prospects.)

In one of those deals, Beane acquired former Nationals top-five prospect Derek Norris: a catcher who can do a lot of things. He hits for power and draws a lot of walks (now it’s starting to make sense as to why Beane acquired him) and is a good defensive catcher. Basically everything but hitting for average.

Norris is presently at AAA and should be with the A’s in the next season or two. Meaning Suzuki’s time in the Bay Area could be short.

Because of his offensive ability at a position where contenders might look to upgrade (Boston, Tampa Bay) or if an injury strikes, Kurt Suzuki might very well be a big draw on the trade market.

Can’t Live Without ‘Em: American League

(Disclaimer: You can live without these players, it certainly doable.)

Injuries happen. Trades happen. Prolonged, bench-worthy stints occur. Players might not be there.

Whether that player is your everyday superstar or fourth outfielder, the loss means something. But in the case of the superstar, it can sometimes mean a lot.

Teams and the Players They Can’t Live Without:

(Starting in the AL West and moving east through the AL, I’ll have another one coming soon on the NL.)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: None. Not kidding in the slightest. Even if their big, new-fangled signing Albert Pujols breaks down at some point, either Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo will be there to step in. Rotation-wise, I might say Jered Weaver simply because his replacement won’t likely come close to his production.

Texas Rangers- Joe Nathan. Again, not what you’d think. If the Rangers lose any one of their infielders Michael Young will step in more than adequately. The outfield is a little more in question, but Craig Gentry usually gets the job done. I say Nathan because, while Texas has depth in the bullpen, it isn’t necessarily closer depth. Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando only have 18 saves combined in their careers, and 13 of them are Uehara’s. (Just a quick aside, Mike Adams is an almost-less-than pedestrian 4-20 in save opportunities in his career. If you’re doing the math at home, yes Ogando only has one career save.) All that is basically blogspeak for: The Rangers might go into a colossal bullpen-tailspin if Nathan can’t hold it down.

Oakland A’s- Yoenis Cespedes or Jemile Weeks. It’s not as if the Athletics can’t live without them, or play for that matter. It’s that they probably wouldn’t like to stunt the players growth/developments (whatever term lights your fire).

Seattle Mariners- Chone Figgins. I’d say Jesus Montero for reasons listed above, but the M’s need the Figgy Pudding to maintain his trade value by playing well.

 

Detroit Tigers- Justin Verlander. The Tigers, like the Angels, have good depth. Also like the Angels, the potential loss of the reigning MVP would only hurt Detroit from the standpoint that the replacement couldn’t put up Verlander’s numbers unless his name is Felix Hernandez.

Kansas City Royals- Either of the Corner Infielders. Just as with Oakland, KC needs their young players to get time under their respective belts. The loss of a potential trade candidate like a Mitch Maier or Jeff Francoeur could also endanger those players’ trade values.

Chicago White Sox- Adam Dunn. The Sox need Dunn to stay healthy so he can prove that his signing wasn’t a complete-and-utter waste. The potential loss of Paul Konerko could send this team into the cellar after the way they played last year. Dayan Viciedo could benefit from getting a good deal of playing time as well.

Cleveland Indians- Asdrubal Cabrera and Ubaldo Jimenez. Cabrera is at the center of everything the team does on both sides of the box score. Jimenez, meanwhile, needs to prove that the Rockies didn’t straight-up rob the Indians’ entire store of prospects.

(Weird side note, have you noticed that a lot of the Indians players previously played in Seattle? Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Casey Kotchman, Derek Lowe, Jack Hannahan and Jose Lopez all donned Mariners uniforms. Weird.)

Minnesota Twins- Whoever is Producing Well at the Time. The Twins have been ransacked by injuries in recent years. They have gone from division champ and perennial sacrifice to the Yankees in the ALDS to basement dweller. To give you more of an idea of how far the Twins have fallen, when you type in “Minnesota” and then a “t” to start the word “twins” you get “Minnesota Timberwolves” as your top suggestion. That’s right, the Twins have fallen past the T-Wolves.

 

New York Yankees- CC Sabathia. The Yankees acquired pitching in the offseason. I’ll give them that, but the loss of their ace could be detrimental. As it is the Yankees seem like they will be a playoff team, whether that is as a wild card or a division winner remains to be seen. Here’s a quick rundown of the AL East as it is for me. Tampa and these Yankees are head and shoulders above the rest of the division. Boston and a not-so-far-behind Toronto are in the next tier that seems to be fighting for a wild card berth. Obviously that leaves Baltimore at the bottom, but we’re moving on. The potential loss of Sabathia drops New York more towards the Sox and Blue Jays than Tampa.

Tampa Bay Rays- Carl Crawford Matt Garza Jason Bartlett. The Rays have shown in the past that when an injury hits, or they lose a player to free agency or trade, they recover. Honestly, Evan Longoria would probably sting the most to lose, but the Rays will probably find a way to replace him. Cause that’s how they roll (as the kids say).

Boston Red Sox- Adrian Gonzalez. Yes, Boston would still have Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, but the rest of the offense simply isn’t there. Carl Crawford is on the shelf due to injury, leading to outfield woes that also prompted the acquisition of Marlon Byrd. Losing a player like this in the past wouldn’t have been as serious, seeing as Boston’s outfield and rotation were both much stronger than they are now. But because of those weaker factions of the team, the Red Sox might not get by if A-Gon is gone. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Toronto Blue Jays- Jose Bautista. The Jays are going to need their MVP candidate if they want to even have the smallest of smallest shots at contending. Other candidates include Adam Lind and Ricky Romero.

Baltimore Orioles- Anyone who has trade value. The Birds need some pieces, and lots of them. The rotation is a very young group, but the players in the field could use a youth infusion. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are nice pieces, but something has to give. The O’s need to make some changes to even try to win in God knows when.

Who is the Best First Baseman in the American League?

Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Possibly the NL’s finest pair of first basemen last season now find themselves in the AL, who were already rich with first basemen.

The Candidates-

  • Albert  Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Maybe the best of his generation, the all-around threat has switched leagues and will look to unleash his at and stellar glove work on the already down Mariners and A’s among others.
  • Prince  Fielder, Detroit Tigers. What some call the biggest free agent signing of      the offseason, he teams with Miguel Cabrera to form one of the best 3-4      combos since Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Yes, I just went there.
  • Paul  Konerko, Chicago White Sox. The near player-manager is the symbol of      consistency on a White Sox team that is shaky, and that’s putting it      nicely.
  • Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers first      baseman might arguably be the best defensive in the game. Hitting for 30      homers and 100 runs batted in a year doesn’t hurt either.
  • Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox. It’s hard to call him the third best hitter in      the AL since he’s Adrian Gonzalez for pity’s sake, but sadly it’s true. In      terms of the whole package at the plate, A-Gon is third behind Pujols and      Cabrera.

(It should be noted that Cabrera should be here, but he is currently at third base because of Fielder.)

The Displaced Options-

  • Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A very good first baseman, after his recovery from injury, he is at DH while the team welcomes Albert      Pujols into the fold for the next decade.
  • Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. If Trumbo is here, Cabrera probably should be as well, but given the Angels ability to move one of Trumbo or Morales and put the other at DH, it seems he could be back at first base      soon.
  • Matt Laporta, Cleveland Indians. The centerpiece to the CC Sabathia trade is      currently raking at AAA and could be back in Cleveland or in somewhere else if the Tribe feels Casey Kotchman satisfactory.

Former Super Stars Who Have Had Injury Issues-

  • Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins. The formerly stated superstar has had his fair share of issues with the injury bug. A return to prominence would benefit      him greatly.
  • Morales.

Young, Former Top Prospects Yet to Carve out a Niche-

  • Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners. The other big mover in one of the many Cliff Lee trades, Smoak is currently starting at first for the Mariners, but could lose the occasional start to Jesus Montero.
  • LaPorta.

Out of Position Players Moved to First Due to Injury or Other Reasons-

  • Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners. The trade equivlent of Michael Pineda, or at      least from the M’s and Yankees point of view, could move around the middle      of the lineup at either first, DH or behind the dish.
  • Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. Mauer is one of the better 20 players in the league when healthy. I’ll emphasize healthy because he hasn’t been that as of late. Moving to first takes away some of the wear and tear behind the plate.

The Dark Horses-

  • Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays. Pena is back in Tampa and if he can hit for average, he could be a bigger force than he already is.
  • Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians. Kotchman is a wiz defensively. He proved he can hit for average. If the power comes, watch out.

Do you go with the all-around package in Pujols? The Power of Fielder? Who knows? All I know is we are going to have one hell of a vote for the All Star Game.

What If?

Would you rather have Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre for the last five years or have A-Rod for that span?

How about Jason Varetik over Guillermo Quiroz, Jeff Clement and Rene Rivera?

Or Derek Lowe over Jeff Weaver and Cha Seung Baek?

Maybe even Adam Jones over Franklin Gutierrez?

Ok, maybe take back a couple of those. Varetik was blocked by Dan Wilson, and Jones over a healthy Gutierrez is a small upgrade if that.

But Lowe over those two and the countless other starters the M’s have rolled out? A-Rod over Figgins and Beltre? Granted Beltre was decent on the Mariners, but A-Rod is one of the better third baseman in the league.

Think about all the talent lost. That’s the underlying theme here. A-Rod is gone. So is Raul Ibanez, Rafael Soriano and Michael Pineda. And that’s just the Yankees to start.

Pineda can be kind of in another category from the standpoint that the M’s got Jesus Montero back, but then there are the questionable deals that at the time look OK and then look bad-to-downright-terrible down the road.

We’re talking the Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez swap and Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard. Then there’s the revered Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans deal.

To be clear, none of the three guys Seattle got back are with the team. Perez is the hitting coach in Miami, Broussard is a musician and Langerhans is in Anaheim.

So think about Cabrera instead of Brendan Ryan (not saying Ryan is bad, but Cabrera is an upgrade offensively), Morse at first and Choo in left? That’s maybe a 10 game improvement. Who knows? Maybe Montero stays in New York and you get to keep Pineda. You’re talking about an actual decent offensive team. Maybe the Montero thing goes down, that’s a lot of offensive firepower from a Mariners standpoint.

Then there is the travesty that is Erik Bedard. George Sherrill and Adam Jones headlined a package to Baltimore. Both have made All-Star teams as members of the Orioles. Bedard made this many with Seattle. (Cue hand signaling a big 0).

Jones would probably be the best outfielder in Seattle at this point (barring an Ichiro rejuvenation). Sherrill is actually back in Seattle’s bullpen though.

Bedard was moved to Boston for some prospects that probably won’t add up to Jones, Sherrill and the gang.

So here is the thing. And again, this is all hypothetical, what if Bedard stays an Oriole? Or what if those Indians trades don’t happen? Maybe Morse stays. Maybe even A-Rod stays.  Maybe the other guys aren’t traded. If all that happens then maybe they get some combination of Ichiro, Montero, Ackley, Jones, Cabrera, A-Rod, Choo, Morse and Varitek. That’s just the hitting.

Cliff Lee, Doug Fister, Freddy Garcia, Joel Pinero and Pineda are a possible rotation that might make the playoffs with a decent offense. And they are all former M’s. JJ Putz, Derek Lowe and Rafael Soriano are a possibly playoff-worthy back end of a bullpen.

The M’s got decent returns for Lee and Fister. Ditto Putz.

But Lowe and Soriano were the Morse-for-Langerhans equivalents of the pitchers here. Soriano went to Atlanta for Horacio Ramirez. Lowe went to Boston with Jason Varitek FOR HEATHCLIFF SLOCUMB.

It’s mind-boggling to see these trades. Obviously no one can see the future and see the end results. But Boston maybe doesn’t win as much without The Captain and Lowe.

So maybe these trades don’t happen and the M’s are not one of the answers to the trivia question-

“Which Major League Baseball Franchises have never been to the World Series?” (Alex Trebek voice).

So maybe the Mariners win a title at some point and we aren’t complaining about losing our only championship team in Seattle. (Ha, take that Stern! Even in an MLB piece I’m still after you.)