Who’s on third?
The season is still young for this 2012 Seattle Mariners team, but they are already facing some big decisions. Usually it is regarding poor play or injuries decimating the team in one way or another. This time, the problem is much, much different. And it’s one the team is not used to having – depth. That’s a good thing…right?
The Mariners were the best hitting team in Spring Training this season. Although that’s not a big feat or going to count for anything outside of Seattle, it does pose an issue for Eric Wedge.
With so many players hitting so well, who do you keep and who do you send down to AAA Tacoma?
The Mariners started the season out sending Carlos Peguero, Casper Wells, Alex Liddi and Vinnie Catricala to Tacoma. Those were all arguably tough decisions. The factors leading up to those decisions, though, are complex and prove that this team has a good problem on their hands.
The players who primarily play third base in Seattle and Tacoma were all red hot during the Spring. Chone Figgins could finally be the guy the Mariners signed years ago, while youngsters Kyle Seager, Vinnie Catricala and Alex Liddi are trying to break through and become every day guys.
While some of these players can platoon at other positions, it is ideal to keep them where they are most comfortable.
Moving the guys they did to Tacoma made sense, although many were pulling for Catricala to make the squad after an exceptional Spring. Kyle Seager is a guy the Mariners have been grooming the longest and it looks to have finally paid off.
He’s off to a hot start in the regular season and surely does not want to give up his third base to anyone.
The every day third baseman from most of last season, Chone Figgins, started out hot as well. What do you do with him and Seager both on the big league roster and both swinging hot bats? You put him anywhere you can.
It’s hard and sad to say this, but the injuries to Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Carp are the best things that happened to both Figgins and Seager already this season. If neither of those guys gets injured, Seager would almost surely be sent down with Figgins getting the roster spot and Saunders sitting on the bench, playing situationally.
If only one guy gets hurt, it plays out the same way, because Michael Saunders, Carlos Peguero or Casper Wells were the next best options to fill in the blank. That still would’ve had Figgins playing third, but with a possibility that Seager could be sitting on the bench and playing situationally himself.
It all boiled down to Figgins over anyone, whether we would’ve liked it or not. This is not only due to his good Spring, but his big contract. You can’t sit a $9 million a year player on the bench.
Outfield Question Marks
They didn’t have to worry about that to start this season and Figgins is guaranteed playing time with the current injury situation.
This is all good and well, but it begs the question – what happens when Carp and Gutierrez come back?
There are so many situations that could play out, it’s almost nauseating to think about them all.
If Michael Saunders is still playing well, he will stay with the team, but platoon in the outfield. The Mariners need a backup outfielder on the roster in case of injury, illness, or any situation that may sit one of the starters a game here and there.
If Saunders isn’t playing well, it raises the fourth outfielder question. Since Figgins has been playing LF this season in his absence, does he become the fourth outfielder when needed?
Or do they call up Casper Wells to platoon in LF or CF?
If Seager is still swinging a hot bat when the guys come back, you can’t sit him down. Do you DH him and either sit Jesus Montero or make him your every day catcher at that point? Or do you player Seager at third every day and plug Figgins in the daily hole in the lineup?
If Seager cools off, do you send him down and bring up Liddi or Catricala? Or do you just bench him and use him as filler for injuries and days off?
Here’s how I think this plays out
Mike Carp will come back first from his injury. He will probably start off as DH to get him re-acclimated to the big leagues before taking his spot in LF. That will move Saunders to CF until Franklin Gutierrez comes back.
That pushes Figgins back to 3B when Carp is back in LF and Kyle Seager left in the cold, probably being sent down to Tacoma.
If Saunders has cooled off, though, he will be sent down when Carp returns. If Saunders is sent down, they will most likely call up Casper Wells unless Carlos Peguero is back and productive from the injury he suffered two days ago. Wells will start in CF until Guti is back and then platoon in the outfield.
That would leave Seager on the roster, but his role would be as a back up.
The Mariners would then have two third basemen in Figgins and Seager, with Figgins being able to fill in outfield positions as well as middle infield positions if the recent Brendan Ryan incident blows up and leads to his removal from the team.
The Ryan situation is a whole other story, I will not add that to these complications.
The combinations the Mariners could go with are mind boggling. I do not envy them one bit. They will have a lot of hard decisions to face in the near future, but one thing is certain.
If the guys stay hot, it’s a win/win for the franchise and for the fans either way you look at it.