The baggage always comes along for the ride
You can count the new faces in Peoria, Ariz. at the Seattle Mariners‘ spring training complex far easier than you can all the dollars it took to get them here.
Signings headlined by Robinson Cano (10 years and $240 Million) to go along with the likes of Fernando Rodney, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison and Scott Baker certainly have created new energy in a fanbase that been longing for something positive to cheer about at Safeco Field.
As great as the potential is for each of these five names, you must remain objective and realize that each of these players comes with a bit of baggage. They are human after all, just like the rest of us, and they have their issues.
Starting with the Mariners‘ new closer, let’s look at a few positives on Fernando Rodney. In his past two seasons with Tampa, Rodney has saved 85 ball games. That’s a huge number, and he had identical ERAs in both seasons, 3.70. Strikeouts were roughly the same in each year too at 76 and 82, respectively. This is all good news for M’s fans.
Where I worry about Rodney revolves around two numbers on his stat sheet. The first is his age — 36. That puts him on the wrong side of 30. Heck, it puts him on the wrong side of 35. His birthday is in March, which means he’ll be 37 before the season starts, and he’ll be pitching next year too as a 38-year-old.
The other number is the dreaded base on balls. In 2012, Rodney had a career year. In addition to saving 48 games, he only walked 15 batters all year. That gave him a BB/9 of just 1.8.
Ask me what it was in 2013.
In 2013, Rodney did save 37 games, but his walk count jumped to 36, and since he threw less innings, his BB/9 inning stat nearly tripled to 4.9.
If Rodney is going to have success as the M’s closer for the next two years, he’s going to have to maintain his control and not walk batters at the clip he did in 2013. Even Jamie Moyer will tell you that’s a tall order for a guy pitching into his late 30s.
When you pull up Corey Hart‘s stat line, it’s hard not to get excited as an M’s fan. Look at the last three years in just a few key statistics.
- Batting Average .283, .285, .270
- Homeruns 31, 26, 30
- On-Base % .340 .356 .334
The guy is a model of consistency. He’s a proven, steady hitter. What’s not to like?
Oh, I forgot to mention the last three years he played are 2010, 2011, and 2012. This is 2014. Whoops! That’s right, you can’t forget that Hart spent the 2013 season on the shelf with knee issues. It’s going to be interesting to see what he can do with that bat after being out for so long, and if that knee can hold up since McClendon clearly wants to see him in right field.
Scott Baker is an interesting story. He turned in some fine performances as a member of the Minnesota Twins. His last five years with Minnesota look solid. He won 55 games over that stretch and never had an ERA over 4.50. Baker also struck out nearly 150 in each of those seasons. Walks weren’t a problem either for Baker. He’s been very steady at 2.1-2.2 BB/9 each of those last five years.
Baker has the same problem that Hart has. The last five years that he really played were 2007-2011. He spent 2012-2013 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. During that two-year run, he pitched a grand total of…. are you ready for this… 15 innings.
In April of 2012, Baker underwent Tommy John surgery. In April of 2013, he took the hill for three games before getting shutdown again with soreness in that elbow. Now he is nearly two years removed from the surgery. Can he find his game again as the Mariners’ fifth starter?
Justin Logan Morrison — aka Logan or @CupOfLoMo, as he is known on Twitter — is Seattle’s new DH/1st baseman. He’s only been in the bigs for four seasons, but he has certainly put up some numbers. 2011 was without question his best season in which he swatted 23 homers and drove in 72 runs. Unfortunately, Morrison has also proved to be strikeout prone.
The biggest black mark on his stat sheet is the strikeouts. In that same year he had in 2011, he struck out 99 times. His projected strikeouts for his shortened seasons is much the same number. Logan strikes out about 20 percent of the time. That’s just too many, and it’s the main reason why he doesn’t seem to ever hit over .250.
Morrison has missed good portions of the past two seasons with knee issues. The upside with Logan is that he’s still just 26 years old. This is a guy who was considered in the top 20 of all baseball prospects. He just has to stay healthy, cut down on the whiffs and he’ll be an excellent addition to the M’s lineup.
Where do I start with the good stuff? If you look up “consistent hitter” in the baseball dictionary right now, it’s hard to imagine finding a name other than Robinson Cano listed there at the top of the list.
The past five seasons, he’s batted .320, .319, .302, .313, .314. Home Runs? Same story: 25, 29, 28, 33, 27. I could do this all day on any stat you want and the result would be the same. Let’s just leave it at “The Guy Can Hit” and call it good.
In addition to the hitting, you have no injury concerns and a player who plays gold-glove caliber defense at 2nd base. This is what $240 Million gets you.
Concerns? Sure I could go the easy route and talk about how he doesn’t like to run out routine ground balls and pop-ups, but I think M’s skipper Lloyd McClendon already did a good enough job explaining that.
Besides, watch some tape of Ken Griffey Jr. back in the day. Griffey lollygagged it down to 1st on routine plays regularly. This is just not a real issue. Do you remember anyone complaining about Jr. doing that?
To me, the issue with Cano is going to be his ability to play within himself. With $240 million comes serious expectations and pressures. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. Can Cano still be that steady guy at 2nd and that steady guy at the plate with the weight of all that cash on his mind?
There’s no way to really know yet.
The other issue will be– Can he be a leader in the clubhouse? Cano has never been “The Guy” in the clubhouse. Derek Jeter was without question the leader of the New York Yankees. In Cano’s time there, he’s also had the privilege of playing with guys like George Posada, Mark Teixeira and has been led by highly respected manager and former player in Joe Girardi.
Now, Cano is “The Guy” in the M’s clubhouse. He’s the one the rest of this relatively young roster is going to be looking up to. That only adds to the pressure for Cano.
Instead of going to guys for tips on how to handle a situation, Cano has to become the guy the others go to for that same advice. Can he do it?
I think so, but once again, just like what will happen in the 2014 season, there’s no way to really know yet.