mariners

How will the Mariners choose a pitching staff in 2013?

M’s 2013 Arms

With a king, July’s pitcher of the month, and a big three on the way, what do the M’s do this offseason with starting pitching?

Safeco Field has always been a playpen of sorts for pitchers on both the home and away team. Even with the walls moving in next summer, the sea-level pitching staff should still excel at home.

So, how will the staff grow this offseason and solidify a 5-man rotation come Spring Training?

Below is my projected rotation from top to bottom. Amazingly enough, the Mariners may be one of the rare teams this offseason that won’t flirt with free agent pitchers. Aside from Kevin Millwood, the M’s will bring back everyone else in the rotation unless a trade is made.

With this group there is a distinct possibility a transaction could take place this winter.

1. Felix Hernandez

Unless the Mariners really want to upset a bunch of yellow-dressed maniacs, expect the King back on the hill come opening day. A

Felix Hernandez

No doubt this guy will be back in 2013.

week into next season, Felix will turn a ridiculous 27-years-old and will be under contract through 2014.

His stability and Cy-Young caliber seasons make his one of the game’s best pitchers.

2. Jason Vargas

Coming off his best season with the Mariners, Vargas has become a much more consistent second option in Seattle. This pick may be boring, but someone with a sub-4 ERA (3.85), 217.1 innings and three straight seasons of increased strikeouts (141 last year) is well deserving of the second rotation spot.

July’s pitcher of the month needs to continue his 2012 trend of avoiding the bad stretch mid-season. If he can do that, Vargas’ number will continue to improve.

3. Hisashi Iwakuma

As a starter, Iwakuma was 8-4 in 16 starts with a 2.65 ERA and 78 KO’s and a WHIP just above 1.20. Over a full season, those are ace-type numbers. The Mariners locked up the 31-year-old Japanese pitcher for two more years (and a team option for a third).

His finish to 2012 should excite Mariners fans for 2013.

4. Erasmo Ramirez

Now, this is where the conversation gets fun, with anywhere between three and seven pitchers vying for the next three spots. Somewhere in the middle of it all, Ramirez will solidify his spot this winter.

The 22-year-old showed promise beyond any Mariners fan’s expectations, which is probably the reason we don’t make front office decisions. In a season where everyone expected Danny Hultzen or James Paxton, the Nicaraguan emerged as a quality starter and someone to be excited about.

On June 25, Ramirez threw a complete game, giving up one earned run and recorded 10 strikeouts. That is quite the line when saddled with a loss, Felix-style. Ramirez faced some injury concerns in 2012, but if healthy next season he will be in the rotation.

5. Blake Beavan

That Cliff Lee really seemed like a great idea at the time, passing on the better offer from the Yankees to receive 1B Justin Smoak and Beavan from the Texas Rangers.

This pick for the fifth rotation spot comes with zero confidence or desire to see the big three begin the year in the minors again, but Beavan’s strong start will grant him one more opportunity in the big leagues.

M's Pitching

How long until these two are cracking the rotation? (Photo: AP).

Waiting in the wings

That big three consist of Hultzen, Paxton, and Taijuan Walker. They are called the big three because they are highly touted by

Scouts across the league and tore apart minor league hitting.

The main reason that a trade will happen from the starting pitching will be less because of a need and more because of the progression of these three pitchers. If they are ready, they’ll move up.

Hopefully, Seattle gets to keep its King.

Players to keep an eye on

Perhaps the worst pitcher in baseball last season, Hector Noesi cannot get much worse.

There is almost zero chance Noesi starts the season in the rotation unless it is with Tacoma, perhaps the bullpen will do him well.

Charlie Furbush was originally in the plans as a starting pitcher, but last season he really excelled in relief. The Mariners will clearly define his role this offseason rather than leave him in ambiguity again. He’ll probably be a set-up man for Tom Wilhelmsen, but he is a dark horse to return to starting games if everybody gets traded.

Four months until pitchers and catchers report!

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