Since my last post the Mariners have made two moves. First, they traded left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas for DH/1B Kendrys Morales. In a deal that was finalized yesterday the M’s signed former Mariner/Philly/Yankee Raul Ibanez to play some yet-to-be defined position. The fanbase is restless.
The Morales deal was possible because of the Josh Hamilton signing. This created a glut of outfielders for the Angels, and together with 1B Albert Pujols, last year’s big Angels signing, there really was no place for Morales to regularly play. Morales was the guy that injured himself badly in 2010 with a punctuating pounce on home plate after a walk-off home run against these same Mariners in extra innings. It cost him the rest of the year and all of 2011. This doesn’t rate him high in the smarties department with me. Last year he was still recovering from his injury but had an excellent August and September as the rest of the boys in red collapsed.
It’s difficult to say see ya’ later to Jason Vargas. He came over in Jack Zdurencik’s first big trade that sent J.J. Putz far, far away. Vargas is a soft tossing lefty that has improved each year with the M’s. He’s become a guy the M’s can could count on for 200+ innings with a lot of good games, and a some really bad ones. Vargas is noted for making some batters look foolish, while others pondered the length of their home runs in air miles.
Was this a good deal for the M’s? Probably. Both are one year players, headed toward free agency next year. Morales was a tad cheaper dollar-wise. He gives the M’s a good middle of the order bat. However, if he is the one and only, Morales may have a hard time delivering while he is being pitched around. The Angels get a guy that’s better than the back of the order schmoes they’ve been adding to their rotation. I think it’s a here and now deal. It addresses the immediate needs of both teams. These guys are both likely to be in different uniforms by next year.
The second deal was the Raul Ibanez signing. Now let’s get this straight. I like Raul Ibanez. He had wonderful moments for the Mariners. In fact, the only foul ball I’ve ever caught at any baseball game was a ball of Raul’s bat. It bounced off a railing, off my wife’s left boob and into my hands. But today Raul is 40. He did some great work filling in for Yankees last year, but he wasn’t intended to be an every day player. He won’t be an everyday Mariner either. Never a brilliant fielder, playing a regular corner outfield spot isn’t a satisfactory situation. He may have a useful part time bat, but realistically Ibanez is a DH. Funny, I thought that was going to be Morales’ position. Or Montero’s position. Or Jaso’s position.
So the M’s have taken some steps to upgrade their offense. The problem is they’ve taken a sloppy situation and at the very least made it sloppier. In Morales and Ibanez Zdurencik has picked up two players who, in one capacity or another, clearly upgrade the Mariners’ offense. Even though they both are lousy at getting on base and strike out a lot, they both get on base better than almost every Marinter, and they both provide more pop. However, neither of them have a position. Morales probably can’t play first base on a regular basis, and Ibanez will make Rodin’s Thinker seem like Usain Bolt in right or left.
Right now the Mariners have one and a half regular outfielders. Michael Saunders and the oft-broken Franklin Gutierrez. When he’s well, Gutierrez is something to see, but that hasn’t been the case since 2009. Yes, there’s some parts out there. Jason Bay will be desperately searching for his former self as an all-star. Casper Wells and Marcus Thames will try to show they’re more than fourth outfielders. But really, the M’s can count on one and a half outfielders. Why aren’t they signing Michael Bourn? Lots of crap out on the web that Bourn isn’t Willie Mays. Duh! Lots more crap out there that he might be Chone Figgins. Sorry, but there’s only one Figgy and he’s currently unemployed. Is a free agent signing risky? Hell yes. Signing Prince Fielder was risky for the Tigers. Signing Albert Pujols was risky for the Angels. Signing Zach Greinke will be risky for the Dodgers. If you want to get better through free agency teams take risks. Bourn will be a defensive upgrade. He will also be a legit lead off hitter and give the M’s shipwreck of a batting order a bit more sense by letting Ackley hit second where he belongs. Lastly, as Geoff Baker has pointed out, with Guttierez likely departing after this year and no center fielder near ready in the organization, a Bourn signing makes strategic sense, as well as a good signing for this year.
In picking up some useful, if incoherent pieces to the roster puzzle, the M’s also managed to weaken the strength of this team, the starting pitching. Things were already looking a bit thin without an addition or two. However, trading Vargas has left things a bit dicier than most of us are comfortable with. The King, Iwakuma, and second year guy Erasmo Ramirez are the rotation. I don’t foresee us going back to the days of Old Hoss Radbourn and a three man rotation, so that means we need two more guys, hopefully not named Blake Beaven. There are some free agent guys out there, but not many. Kyle Lohse? Who might this year’s Kevin Millwood be? Not BEAVAN!!
Zdurencik and others are saying there are more moves to be made. Against all reason I trust him. Truly I have nothing against Jackie Z. I feel like he’s been dealt a bad hand and is doing his best to make the M’s a better organization. I believe he sees the M’s current crop of players and prospects as pieces, not just names filling in a lineup card. My hope is he will use some of these pieces to trade for what he can’t get as a free agent. Prospects, young players, even the veterans he signed or traded for should be viewed as trade-able commodities. For those who are fussing, don’t stop raising the heat on the M’s yet. They say they have cash to spend, they say they aren’t done remaking the lineup. Take them at their word. Unless they’re big fat liars of course.