With the World Series over, free agency is right around the corner. It’s coming even earlier than usual this year, so I’ll try to get through these overviews of the team before much happens. Up next:
On the Roster
Ichiro– Ichiro had a slightly down year for him in 2010, but he was still the best offensive player on the team. He’s one of the only players on the roster worth coming to the park to see, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be just as good and probably better next year. Sure, he’s paid a lot, but nothing’s changing that now, so sit back and enjoy him.
Franklin Gutierrez– After a fast start, Guti joined the rest of the team in having an extremely disappointing year. 2009 Franklin is a guy to build a team around; 2010 Franklin is a borderline starter. Now probably isn’t the time to trade him, but I’d be open to the possibility if the team has confidence in Michael Saunders and thinks he can play center. In reality, I think he’ll be starting again in center in 2011, barring some mega-deal where he’s one of several pieces going out. He still has a lot of potential, and the defense didn’t really dip, but the jury’s now out on Gutierrez.
Michael Saunders– Saunders had some great moments this year, but it had to be considered disappointing overall. I wouldn’t write him off, though. He’s still young with less baseball experience than most players his age, and he has good skills with great athleticism. I could see everything from a trade to starting left fielder for Saunders in 2011.
Milton Bradley– The Mariners owe Bradley about $12 mil. in 2011, but that’s no guarantee that he’ll be on the roster. In a perfect world, he’d come back at DH and have a big year, but that’s not real likely. I would imagine Bradley will be on the back burner for the Mariners this offseason. I’d expect they’ll try to improve the team without worrying about blocking him. If they do so, they could very well release Bradley. If not, he’s still a decent option at DH, less appealing in the outfield. It still wasn’t that long ago that he was one of the better hitters in baseball, but he certainly didn’t show it last year.
Ryan Langerhans– I wasn’t sure if Langerhans is a free agent or not, but apparently he has one more arbitration year. I would say that if he starts the year on the major league roster for any reason except injuries, it’s a disappointment. Langerhans is fine and all, but this team needs to get better.
In the Minors
There are a lot of guys here, so I’m going to talk generally. For all the improvements the Mariners have made to their minor league talent, upper level outfielders are still lacking a bit. Greg Halman‘s power and athleticism will tantalize as long as he’s in the system, but it’s doubtful he can ever overcome his strikeouts to become a regular. Carlos Peguero is similar, with less talent. Johermyn Chavez has a similar skillset, but slightly better contact rates. Realistically, he has the brightest future of these three. He also hasn’t played above High-A. Mike Wilson might get a shot at some point, but he probably isn’t more than a good bat off the bench. Good power, contact issues–imagine that. There are some very promising guys in the lower minors, but they won’t be helping before probably 2013 at the very earliest.
This is a position that needs a bat. I like Saunders and want to give him a shot, but not to the point where I wouldn’t want the Mariners to acquire a bat for left field. I would imagine the Mariners feel about the same. If they do acquire a bat for left, it would be no surprise to see Saunders go somewhere in a trade. To be honest, I would be extremely surprised if the opening day outfield is Saunders, Gutierrez, and Ichiro. Ichiro’s a lock, of course, but I could see either or both of the other two being replaced. There aren’t too many places to add a bat in this lineup while still sticking with youth, and this should be one of the easier places to do so. Whether they can actually make a meaningful move remains to be seen.