Kingdome Crossover: Seattle Mariners: Signing Nelson Cruz Doesn’t Guarantee Success

Rumored Mariner signing Nelson Cruz would add a powerful bat to a lineup already bolstered by the arrivals of Robinson Cano and Corey Hart. What signing Cruz doesn’t do is guarantee success.

An offensive triumvirate of Cruz, Cano and Kyle Seager isn’t one to balk at, and is a wonderful foundation for the team moving forward, but in terms of success, it guarantees nothing.

In most divisions, like say the NL West, these kinds of additions (Cano, Cruz, Hart) would push a team towards the top of the table. Not so much with the Mariners in the AL West.

The rest of the division is stocked. The Mariners’ rise to “playoff-contender” status, if not the realm of respectability, has vaulted the division to a ridiculous level. On paper, the Angels, A’s and Rangers all have the talent to be playoff teams. Throw in Seattle, and you end up with a lot of unhappy teams come the postseason.

It wouldn’t be completely surprising to see, even with Cano and friends, the M’s finish in the same exact place in the standings as last year. They’re probably going to have an improved record, but as stated, the division is stacked.

If one thing is clear after watching postseason baseball, it’s that pitching is needed to contend. Teams like Detroit, Boston, St. Louis and Oakland found great success last year with tremendous staffs. And it wasn’t just those four teams; most playoff teams boasted strong pitching. Great pitching is nearly synonymous with a playoff squad now-a-days.

Which brings the topic of one-way conversation in the piece to the Mariners’ pitching.

The M’s will use some combination of Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer and recent signing Scott Baker for the last three spots in the rotation. This is where question marks come into play. Moving into the future, both Walker and Paxton figure to be mainstays in the Seattle rotation thanks to their fantastic potential, but between them they have a grand total of 39 innings at the big league level. Whether they continue to show promise or hit a wall remains to be seen.

Ramirez and Maurer have both shown flashes of potential in the past, but the jury remains largely out on the pair. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Baker, given his experience and quality, leapfrog one or both of them to claim a rotation spot. The bottom line is that the Mariners’ rotation could show the promise and poise that Oakland’s young hurlers have shown, or they could continue to display the growing pains that have plagued the team.

If anything, a potential Cruz signing puts more pressure on the rotation to succeed. The one-time Brewer coupled with Cano, Hart and Logan Morrison would vastly improve a team that had issues scoring runs. The run output in Seattle should, at the very least, be slightly above average. The Mariners need their young pitchers to step up. If they can do this, Seattle will be in a position to contend. If not, well let’s just say get ready for all those low-scoring losses to turn into higher-scoring losses.

You can see the piece on Kingdome as well.

The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

The Mariners Need to Stop Going After Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Justin Upton and the Like

The latest news out of the Emerald City in sports besides Brandon Browner’s suspension or the ever-evident hatred of David Stern (see basketball season, team not in Seattle) is the fact that the Seattle Mariners are kicking the tires pretty heavily on multiple free agents. Those free agents not being the retired Ken Griffey Jr, Milton Bradley (the board game and the player, seriously the M’s could probably use the money) or Jamie Moyer (although that last one wouldn’t be terrible). No, the Mariners are going after the most high profile guys out there. Josh Hamilton. Michael Bourn. Nick Swisher. There are even reports that lead us to believe that the Mariners would trade for Justin Upton.

Let’s let that all set in for a moment before we move on. WHAT!?!?!?!?!

Does anyone who has even bothered to listen to the Mariners-themed section of the news remember Richie Sexson? Adrian Beltre? Carlos Silva (who then turned into Milton Bradley)? Miguel Bautista? These were ridiculous contracts that Seattle gave out. The first two to try and repair a dismal offense. Sexson had two years where his contract was probably deserved, but then he completely fell off the map and had two horrendous years. (Though I will say this, the Sexon TV commercials were pretty good.)

Beltre was solid for a couple years in Seattle and the sputtered to a dismal ’09 season. Because of that he had to go to Boston to reestablish his career and is now an MVP candidate with the Rangers.

What I’m getting at is that while Beltre and Sexson had some decent years in Seattle, the pair produced zero playoff appearances. One or two players don’t build a team. Continue reading

Really?

Did the Mariners just trade Michael Pineda? Really? I’m not a Mariner fan by any stretch, but living in the northwest you tend to hear a lot about them. Though I didn’t get this from any Tacoma News Tribune or Everett Herald, I got it from ESPN.com, which is probably because the Yankees are involved. That in and of itself is an entirely different matter (big market bias, etc…). The Mariners will supposedly get phenom-hitting-extraordinaire-whatever-term-makes-sense-to-you hitter (at this point he’s probably a DH and not a catcher — which is what he was originally going to play) Jesus Montero as well as pitcher Hector Noesi. Montero is number nine overall on MLB.com’s Top 50 prospect list. Noesi is a swingman type, or pitched like one last year. Pineda is an All-Star already at age 22. An All-Star at 22! Minor Leaguer Jose Campos is also heading to the Bronx.

This could turn out a number of ways:

One: Pineda joins an established group of players who thrived or enjoyed success after leaving Seattle (past success or no). This group includes Randy Johnson, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Guillen, Gil Meche, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, Freddy Garcia, Adam Jones, Michael Morse, JJ Putz, George Sherrill (now back in Seattle), Miguel Olivo (ditto), Joel Pinero, Adrian Beltre, Doug Fister, Jamie Moyer, Shin-Soo Choo, Randy Winn, Cliff Lee and Ken Griffey Jr.

Two: All players and parties succeed and come out beautifully (see Edwin Jackson, Curtis Granderson and Max Scherzer trade).

Three: Montero joins a list of his own in the number of hitters who have arrived in the hitters’ death row that is Safeco Field. See Richie Sexson, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, older Griffey, Kenji Johjima, Bill Hall, Brad Wilkerson and Ben Broussard.

It’s probably somewhat of a combination of all three. Number three probably only at the beginning of Montero’s Emerald City career only because of the adjustment it will take. On the flip side Pineda will probably flourish with an actual offense scoring runs for him.

So, at the end of the day (that day being the day when all players involved have filed retirement papers) this will probably end up like number two. But if I’m jinxing it by writing this and it turns into solely one and three, I won’t be surprised.

Logjam

Montero gives the M’s somewhat of a nice problem to have. He gives them an abundance of somewhat unproven corner-outfielder-firstbase-DH types. Throw him in with Justin Smoak, Mike Carp and Casper Wells and the word logjam comes to mind.

Montero, Smoak and second baseman Dustin Ackley form an intriguing young middle-of-the-order type. A combo of Ackley, Montero and Smoak in the 3-4-5 order is likely. This acquisition probably spells the end of Mike Carp or Casper Wells starts on a regular basis. One is probably going to take over in left with the other waiting for Ichiro to retire before taking over right field.

To be clear, Carp, Kyle Seager and Brendan Ryan aren’t a supporting cast that’s going to get it done championship-wise in the future, or now frankly. Franklin Guitierrez and Miguel Olivo could play on a lot of teams, but Gutierrez is on the mend from an injury-plagued season, and Olivo is being pursued by recently acquired John Jaso at the catcher position.

Montero clearly gives the Mariners a player to build around offensively. But did they give up too much?

Of the teams that made successful runs in the postseason, or to it, had somewhat of an effective one-two punch. Detroit: Justin Verlander and Doug Fister. New York: CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. St. Louis Cardinals: Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. Tampa Bay: James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Arizona: Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Philadelphia and Milwaukee were a few of the exceptions, seeing as they have a one-two-three punch at the top of their rotations. Zack Grienke, Shawn Marcum and Yovanni Gallardo lead the beer makers’ staff while Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will roll out 1-2-3 for Philly.

(Notice how I left out Texas? See, they don’t have an ace so they don’t really fit on the list.)

The Mariners had an enticing future one-two punch now and later with Pineda and Felix Hernandez. This is probably along the lines of the M’s thinking: We need hitting for one, and two we have an abundance (somewhat) of young pitchers to dangle to get some. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are both top prospects for Seattle, but New York probably wanted a young pitcher who could contribute right away (Pineda) instead of a prospect who has yet to throw a pitch in AAA.

Think about those two and possibly Jason Vargas or Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush or even Campos as a fifth pitcher paired with Felix and Pineda.

(It probably should be noted that Campos isn’t just an afterthought or a throw in, he was the M’s number four overall prospect according to MLB.com.)

The Campos addition makes for somewhat of a tougher loss for Seattle. Yes, he probably would have had issues cracking a rotation with all the projected talent, but why not keep the depth, or at least put it towards somewhat of an experienced hitter like a Hanley Ramirez (not that that is going to happen, I was just throwing that name out there as an example).

Positional Problems

Jesus Montero will suit up for your Seattle Mariners. The only thing that will be in question is where the hitting-phenom will play. Montero is a catcher by trade, but has been tabbed by scouts and higher ups as a player up for positional relocation due to lack of defensive prowess. (I just moved to jolly old England and became an established professor with a large library for one sentence there.)

So if not at catcher, then where?

Montero might have an outfielder’s glove up his sleeve, (in which case the guy has some big sleeves). Who knows? In all likely-hood he will probably find his starts at DH with the occasional start at first base or catching, (like a Victor Martinez situation, almost) or at first base with dosages of time at DH and behind the dish.

The latter situation there probably won’t come to fruition unless Justin Smoak is moved. If he’s moved it will either be as a piece in a trade for a more experienced hitter at say third base, or a swap for more pitching.

Smoak probably isn’t going anywhere seeing as he was the M’s key in the Cliff Lee trade, and he provides a substantial part of their hazy future.