Who bats where?
The breeze feels a little crisp. The smell of colorful leaves is in the air. There is no mistaking it, September has arrived in the northwest and that can only mean one thing for Seattle Mariner fans:
It’s time to talk about how great this team is going to be in 2014.
Believe me, I’d much rather be discussing how well the Mariners match up against some team they were about to face in the divisional series of the playoffs but for the past decade or so this is what happens in the fall. There’s no use crying about it.
Besides, I think the Mariners do have something to look forward to in 2014 if they can fill just a few holes. Indulge me as I attempt to “play Jack and Eric”.
Here is my opening day lineup card minus a hole that still must be filled.
The Lineup Card ( R – Righty, L – Lefty, S – Switch)
I’ve included a batting hand with each player to illustrate one thing that drives me bats about Eric Wedge. Wedge never seems to take into account staggering his left vs. right match ups when he fills out his lineup card. Lou Piniella was a master at this.
Setting the lineup this way makes it very difficult for an opposing manager to play the lefty-righty matchup game with his bullpen, at least not without using everyone, every night. Getting your guys the best possible match up helps them hit better. It seems obvious but it seems like Wedge never does it.
Now, to fill the hole.
The Mariners need to come up with a solid hitting DH/backup utility guy in the off season. There are lots of bats out their this off season but nothing really leaps off the page the way it did last year with Prince Fielder or Josh Hamilton so let’s start with in-house, possible re-signings first.
Kendrys Morales has been a solid switch-hitting bat for the M’s this season that could easily fill this hole. The biggest problem I see is that Morales’ agent is none other than Scott Boras. Morales also arrived in Seattle via trade which means it wasn’t his choice to be here in the first place.
Having had my ear to the ground since the All-star break I’ve yet to hear Kendrys say one thing that suggests to me at all that he’s interested in staying in Seattle in 2014. That combined with his choice in agent says he’s going where the money is.
Raul Ibanez has also been pretty solid overall as a lefty hitter for the M’s. Raul wanted to come to Seattle this year and signed with the M’s as a free agent. I think everyone enjoyed seeing a former Mariner come home and do surprisingly well.
The down side to Ibanez is that he’s going to turn 42 years old mid-season next year. The odds of a 40+ backup outfielder/DH repeating the kind of performance he had this year are slim. In fact we’ve seen Raul’s age creep up on him in the 2nd half of this season. He just hasn’t been the same in the 2nd half as the season has been grinding on.
To be GM you cannot afford to be a fan and let sentiment of a popular player influence your decision. I think it’s time to let Raul either retire or move on if he wants to play another year.
Robinson Cano is out there this year but if you think the M’s are going to drop that kind of cash you are dreaming. I’m trying to be a realist here and predict what the Mariners are going to actually do, not what they’d do if they won the lottery. You want to see my dream M’s lineup? I’ll have to do another article.
Jacoby Ellsbury is also scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season but I just don’t see him leaving Boston unless it’s for the Cubs. Also, you have the Boras factor here again.
Brian McCann is a very interesting name that comes up when you start looking at the 2014 free agent list. He bats lefty, is a catcher (which also gives you a 2nd catcher on your 25 man roster) and can hit for power. He’s still going to be out of the M’s price range though and I don’t think they are ready to give up on Jesus Montero as a backup catcher/DH type just yet.
Hunter Pence is another interesting player for the M’s to look at. He’s going to be more affordable than some of the others I’ve mentioned and still hits for a decent amount of power and average. The biggest issue I have with Pence is that he’s a righty and since I’m playing GM, I want to stick to finding a lefty because my team plays at Safeco.
Shin-Soo Choo is a name that should ring familiar with Mariner faithful. The former Mariner product, who is with Cincinnati right now, boasts the highest on-base percentage of any free agent this year, even better than Cano. He’s 31, bats left, can still play the outfield a bit, and should hit about 20 HRs this year.
Could Choo be the guy? Well once again Boras enters the equation. I like this fit the best of what’s available via free agency. It has that same “feel good, former M returning home” aspect to it like the Ibanez deal had this year and that the Seattle Mariners brass seems to love.
If I’m Jack, I say figure out a way to work this deal out.
Now who knows what the trade market could hold in stock for the M’s this winter which could destroy all of my theories above. We’ll find out soon enough.