Your 2011 Mariners Wrap-up

With free agency starting, I’m skipping over the pitchers so we can wrap this up.  Essentially, every pitcher is back for next year unless the Mariners, trade, release or non-tender someone.  Aardsma and League are prime candidates to be traded, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fister or Vargas go too, but it would have to be in a big deal because the rotation depth is hurting.  Overall, the pitching is about what it was the second half of last year: serviceable but underwhelming outside of Felix.

So, looking at the current roster, here’s what I’d project as the opening day lineup if no changes were made over the offseason (please excuse the ugly formatting):

C Adam Moore SP Felix Hernanadez
1B Justin Smoak SP Jason Vargas
2B Dustin Ackley SP Doug Fister
3B Chone Figgins SP Michael Pineda
SS Jack Wilson SP Luke French
LF Michael Saunders CL David Aardsma
CF Franklin Gutierrez RP Brandon League
RF Ichiro RP Dan Cortes
DH Milton Bradley RP Garrett Olson

 We can argue numerous spots there, like the 5th starter and bullpen, but it doesn’t make much difference.  Swap in David Pauley and Shawn Kelley if it makes you feel better. 

Immediately, a few things jump out to me.  First, Ackley and/or Pineda are likely to start the year in Tacoma, for salary and experience reasons.  I would be pretty sure of this happening with Pineda, in fact, mainly to limit the number of innings he throws.  Ackley’s a toss up.  Second thing is the bullpen needs an arm or two, especially if Aardsma or League is traded.  Third, rotation needs an arm too, with or without Pineda, and really it needs that arm to be better and/or more reliable than Fister.

Ideally, with these players, here’s how we should think of the roster going into free agency:

C SP Felix Hernanadez
1B Justin Smoak SP
2B SP Jason Vargas
3B Chone Figgins SP Doug Fister
SS SP Luke French
LF Michael Saunders CL David Aardsma
CF Franklin Gutierrez RP Brandon League
RF Ichiro RP
DH  RP Dan Cortes

I’m okay with starting Adam Moore, but I think it’s imperative to have an established guy who isn’t terrible to split time or step in if Moore shows no improvement.  If they find a full-time starter to replace Moore, fine by me.  Ackley will step in by the all-star break, so a utility type guy who can swing to short at that point would be a great option to start the year at second.  I put Saunders in a category similar to Moore, and if the team lands a bonafide guy there (Sizemore or Rasmus, for example) I’m fine with him being traded or backing up all three spots.  DH is the one spot where it should be easy to get a big improvement.  Bradley could be it, but I want someone else.

So there’s the game plan.  I’m fine with those 5-6 position players above.  Realistically, I’d be happy if the Mariners could add two position players who are clear upgrades.  I’d be shocked if they don’t come out of the offseason with at least one mid-rotation starter and one or two solid bullpen arms.  Zduriencik’s full of surprises though, so who knows what this roster will look like come April.  From my viewpoint, though, if there are not clear upgrades to at least four of these 18 positions, this will have been a disappointing offseason.

-Matthew

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