Tag Archives: Brendan Ryan

The Rebuilding Process, Year 5

One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.

This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2 Year 3 Year 4

Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.

    THE BLUEPRINT

2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm
Summary: Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager.
Grade: A+

2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix)
Summary: Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5.
Grade: B-

2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent
Summary: Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick.
Grade: B

2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record
Summary: Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall.
Grade: A

2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs
Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales.
Grade: ???

I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated

“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”

Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.

If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?

Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.

Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.

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The Mariners of the Future: Shortstop

We’re back with a look at the players in the Mariners’ system who could play a role with the big league club in the next few seasons.  Today we look at the shortstops.

Before we look at actual players, let us take a moment to share a few words about that most important of ball-handlers, the shortstop.  Throughout baseball lore, the shortstop has been the lynchpin of the defense, the captain of the infield.  From the first days of little league, the most athletic, best fielder assumes responsibility for that huge patch of land between second and third, and that doesn’t change no matter how far one goes in baseball.  They must cover the most ground and field the most balls.  They have to have lightning for feet, a rocket for an arm, and the grace of a dancer around second base. Aside from the pitcher, the shortstop is the most important person on the field.

For all those reasons, little offense has traditionally been expected of shortstops.  It was enough to do all of the above, and if one could chip in with the bat occasionally, so much the better.  Those who could field the position and hit are legends.  Honus Wagner is still considered the best shortstop of all time, and he played before Babe Ruth.  There have been teams who sacrificed defense to gain some offense at short, but far more often teams have leaned the other way.  It’s always tempting to think that a good hitting shortstop will have a big enough offensive impact to offset weak defense, but the fact that so few managers are willing to play a bad defender is an argument that statistical analysis is hard-pressed to counter. Continue reading

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Review and Look Ahead

Last time we met, Dan was talking about how the Mariners pulled off a minor miracle in Texas.  Since then, nothing too exciting has happened.  The club did what we expected (maybe even hoped for them to do).  With that being said, I think we all have different feelings about the team right now.  I’m encouraged because the team won the games they were supposed to and that’s with the bats not being close to where they’ll finish the season (although, how many times have we said that in the last few years).  Dan is slightly happy with the team but can’t get over Miguel Olivo’s inept play.  They’re the team Matthew thought they’d be but he’s still annoyed about seeing his 3rd abysmal home opener in a row.  Joe?  He’s trying to hunt down Chuck Armstrong and make him write a letter that says if Seattle doesn’t have an NBA team within a year that he has to sell the Mariners immediately.*  So, with all of those different opinions in mind I’ll try to write a quick review of the Oakland series and a preview of the next one.

* I don’t actually know if that’s how any of them are feeling.  It is a fairly educated guess except for the part about Joe.  That’s what Joe wants to be doing, not what he is doing.

The Mariners took 2 of 3 from Oakland this weekend and won’t play them again until late June.  Some people think that’s a good thing.  It’s a good thing for entertainment reasons.  For winning purposes, this is a terrible thing.

On Friday night the M’s lost to Oakland 4-0.  I’ve heard the pre-game ceremonies were classy, as usual.  The video of the boy stealing 2nd base and finding his dad home from Afghanistan is touching and extremely well done by the organization.  Otherwise, it couldn’t have gone worse for the home team.  This is three years in a row that Seattle has played a terrible game in their home opener.  The stadium also had their debit/credit card system break down and could only accept cash for a large portion of the game.  These things happen but it was an unfortunate night for it to happen.  Otherwise, Felix looked pretty good.  His groundball rates still aren’t where they usually are but they progressed as the game went on so lets hope that trend continues.  I still think he’s perfectly fine.  The offense disappeared so there’s nothing to recap there.

On Saturday nights game, it was the Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi show.  Also, I guess it was the Michael Pineda show because without him the Mariners wouldn’t have those guys.  Maybe anytime Jesus or Hector do anything good the Mariners should flash Pineda’s picture on the big screen with the word “THANKS” written across it.  Or they could do that with the Yankee logo instead.  That’d be cool.  It could be done for all trades even.  I’d laugh, along with 3 other people in the stadium.  Anyway, Noesi pitched 8 shutout innings with 6 K’s.  When he came over, it seemed like he’d be a fastball/slider guy but it’s easy to see his 2nd best pitch is his change-up.  His fastball velocity is good and I think he’s going to be just fine after that rough, first outing in Texas.  Jesus hit his first home run as a Mariner and added a double just for kicks.  His home run was a shot to straight-away center showing off his power.  The guy can hit and he’s only going to show off more power as the year goes on.  He also looked good defensively behind the plate.

On Sunday, it was the Cliff Lee trade that paid off.  Justin Smoak homered.  Blake Beavan pitched pretty well.  John Jaso sat on the bench (he’s a product of this Lee trade if you pay close attention.  Josh Lueke for John Jaso!).  Those were the storylines but Brendan Ryan homered and Ichiro doubled home the winning run.  It’s good to see those guys do things.

So all in all, it was a successful weekend.  These are the series that the Mariners have to win and they did.  Sure, a sweep would be nice but we can’t really complain about a series win.

Some actual thoughts instead of a recap and a preview after the jump.

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Cautiously Optimistic?

Last year the Mariners started 2-0.  Then they lost 7 games in a row.  In 2010, the Mariners won their first game and then lost 6 of their next 7.  In 2008, Seattle won their first game and then lost 5 of their next 6.  I’m going to stop there.  The point is the Mariners have started every season since 2007 by jumping out to grab at least a share of the division lead and then promptly losing it.

Now, keep that in mind while you read the rest of this post so I don’t look like a fool once the Mariners go get swept by Texas.

The Seattle Mariners have scored 15 runs in the last 2 games.  Yes, they won and that’s the most important thing but take a second to reflect on all of the times in the last 2 0r 3 years that this team has been on the verge of unwatchable because of the inept offense and that will make you appreciate these last 2 games even more.  Everyone got a hit.  Chone Figgins had 6 hits, and 2 of them were for extra bases.  Michael Saunders hit a double and a home run.  The bottom of the order was good.  The top of the order was great.  The middle was decent but it didn’t have to be anymore than that.  This won’t continue but these 2 games showed us what the offense could be.  Singles galore with a few extra base hits thrown in.  If Montero and Smoak show off some of their upside this offense could be (dare I say it) good.  Not great, or anywhere close to it, but good.

I’m going to go player-by-player in the lineup, tell you what I see and then jump to the bullet points.

Chone Figgins looked like a completely different hitter.  He hasn’t swung with that much authority since his days with the Angels.  Yes, the bunts were nice and well done but that’s not what had me excited.  At times in the last 2 years I honestly couldn’t picture a hard hit ball coming off of Figgins bat.  Chone hit 5 line drives in 2 games.  Not soft liners either.  He tucks his shoulder in, loads up and swings hard at hittable pitches.  He was measly swinging through pitches right down the middle last year but the last 2 days there was no sign of that guy.  I’m not saying this is a turning point or even close to it.  It could just be apparition in the Figgins awful span as a Mariner.  His last gasp of trying not to get cut.  But, confidence is an impossible thing to gauge and this psychological move to lead-off (because surely you wouldn’t  move him there for any other reason) may actually work.

I could write a whole post on Dustin Ackley’s swing alone.  It’s a thing of beauty and sooner or later, all left-handed hitters will begin to take his approach to hitting.  Instead, I’ll just leave it at this.  Dustin Ackley is really good, and will probably be great before too long.

Ichiro is Ichiro.  I was never too worried about him and I’m still not overly concerned.  His line drive rate last year was a bit alarming and it seemed like he hardly ever hit the ball hard.  But, for all the people who say that he’s selfish, Ichiro is one of the hardest workers in the majors and he’s not going to be held down like he was last year.  It doesn’t matter what Jon Heyman, talk radio, and fans who don’t pay attention to actual baseball say, Ichiro is good and has been so valuable to this franchise.  I don’t see that changing this year.

Justin Smoak is having a little trouble with the inside fastball.  I’m fine with this.  I know it sounds weird to say that it’s okay that the teams cleanup hitter is getting jammed by 90 mph fastballs because he’s behind them but stay with me.  Smoak would get in trouble last year because he would pull off of pitches and be way out ahead.  He wouldn’t make a commitment to hitting to left field and wouldn’t stay behind the ball.  We all learn in little league that you need to hit the ball where it’s pitched and that’s what Justin Smoak is doing, or trying to do now.  He’ll get around on the inside fastball soon, but I’m happy to see him hitting line drives to the left side of the field (which he’s done if you go back and look).

Jesus Montero is hitting the ball fairly hard but it seems like he may be out in front of the ball a little bit.  I think he grounded out to the shortstop 4 times in the last 2 games which happens while trying to pull an outside pitch.  Could he be a little anxious?  I think it’s likely.  His power is there, you can see it, but he just needs a few games to calm down and remember he’s going to be the next Edgar because he drives the ball to right center.

Kyle Seager is good too.  He’s like Dustin Ackley in that he’s drilling line drives everywhere.  He may not have the power Ackley has but he’s going to hit the ball and hit line drives.

Miguel Olivo is still Miguel Olivo but I’m okay with that.  He’s valuable in his own right  just not as valuable as some catchers.  I like the guy as frustrating as he can be at times.

Michael Saunders is… Wait, that was Michael Saunders?  He can’t hit home runs off of lefties.  Tonight Saunders worked the count against good ol’ Jerry Blevins and then drilled a home run deep to right field.  His swing is a little shorter and a little more compact but the key really is that he’s more aggressive when he’s in the right count.  His double to center last night was a beauty and just another example of him taking advantage of a hittable pitch.  Him being aggressive with hittable pitches is the biggest change I saw but I’m no scout.

Brendan Ryan had to use the uncomfortable hotel pillow last night and hurt his neck but before that he was tucking his front shoulder in and drilling the ball to left field.  He was also swinging with authority and just looked good.  If he can hit .280 or close to it and play 120-135 games he’s going to be a huge asset.

Munenori Kawasaki is kind of cool.  Jeff Sullivan said he could be a bad version of Ichiro which is just fine.  That’s valuable for a middle infielder.  Plus, did you see how slick he is with the glove?  He looks good and I think the M’s will try to find him more at-bats as the season goes on.A few bullet holes after the jump.  Continue reading

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Welcome to Spring Training!

While Seattle is alternating between snow and sun, the Mariners are already a few weeks into spring training in Peoria, Arizona.  Talking to people and reading different thoughts about this year’s team, it seems there are two predominant reactions.  For those who are fans but don’t necessarily get deep into following the team, there’s a lack of knowledge and sometimes interest.  And who can really blame them?  If you don’t care that much about the offseason stuff, the onfield play has given no reason for hope.  These people also tend to blame almost everything on Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln, but that’s a different issue.

The second reaction is that even the people who know this team well aren’t sure what to expect.  Part of that is natural, as the Mariners have a lot of guys who could rebound significantly, as well as a plethora of young players who could improve dramatically.  None of that is certain, though, so outside of Felix, this is a tough team to predict.  I think another factor in the uncertainty is that this is a team unlike any Mariners fans have seen in some time.  It’s legitimately build on solid young talent.  There are some veterans, but they’re either young, like Felix, or will not likely be here long, like Ichiro and Miguel Olivo.  The core of this team is young.  The last time I remember that being the case is probably back in the early and mid 90’s.  They’ve had quality prospects since then, although many haven’t panned out, but those kids were joining veteran-dominated teams.

Now the focus is squarely on the Ackleys and Smoaks and Monteros, and it’s a little hard to know what to expect.  This year should start to indicate who will be part of the team longterm and who won’t cut it, but until then, there is plenty of room for knowledgeable fans to disagree on what to expect in 2012.  Young teams are unpredictable, and most of us haven’t watched one on a daily basis in a long time.

Just for fun and as a general catchup for those who haven’t been paying a lot of attention to spring training, here’s a little fake Q & A post.  If you have real questions, put them in the comments and we’ll give you any thoughts we have.  People’s real questions would be more fun to answer than these ones I’m making up!

Any big stories so far?

The biggest has probably been Franklin Gutierrez.  This was good at first, as he reported in great shape and seemingly fully recovered from his GI issues of last season.  All anyone could talk about was how great he looked, and then he went and hit a homer off Felix in an early intrasquad game.  Unfortunately, a couple of days later he tore a pectoral muscle, which sounds terrible, and he will be out at least 4 weeks before he does anything baseball related.  Don’t expect him back before May.  In fact, if you want to be safe, don’t expect him back at all.  He should come back at some point, but given his recent struggles, it seems smarter to just keep the hopes as low as possible and then get excited if he suddenly does return and play well. Continue reading

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Does Prince Fit? The Mariners by Position

Prince Fielder has dominated Seattle Mariners offseason talk thus far, which is saying something since their offseason really started back in June.  Offensively, it’s hard to imagine a better fit for the Mariners than Fielder, but there are other issues besides his bat, including but not limited to: money, weight, defensive position, and possibility of the Mariners contending in the forseeable future.

Every Mariner writer (and there are many good ones) has weighed in on the issue.  Other than those people who think that Fielder is going to fall apart next year, its hard to argue with any objections to signing Prince.  It’s going to cost a fortune, he’s not a great fit for the current team defensively, and there’s a decent chance that he could be breaking down by the end of the contract.  Most people agree on all of these issues to varying degrees.  Some are willing to accept them and still make a deal, others aren’t. Both viewpoints are completely understandable.

I’m pretty firmly on the “Sign Prince” side, but I thought I’d step back to see where the Mariners stand, both for next year and the future.  I’m going to work through this positionally, probably out of order.  I’m not going to make an effort to talk about how to improve the position, unless I feel like it.  I’m just going to lay out what’s there and what is in the system that might help soon. Continue reading

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Ranking Your 2011 Mariners

The big news today is basketball related, with Isaiah Thomas announcing, rather unexpectedly, that he will indeed forgo his senior season at UW. He’s off to the NBA, which sucks for Husky fans. Time will tell whether this is a wise decision by IT, but I’m happy for him. Next year’s expectations will be lower now, and it could very well be our last year watching Terrence Ross, but the team should still be good, and contend for the conference yet again.

With that news, I’m officially closing basketball talk on the blog, until at least the draft in June. Why? Because today is opening day! As Andrew noted, things have been dry on here lately, but nothing like some M’s baseball to stir conversation. In case you have not heard, the 25 man roster is official. Looking over the team last night, I started ranking guys in my mind, and that’s what this post is all about. In addition to ranking the 25 man roster, in terms of most valuable to the team in 2011, I’m also throwing 3 more guys into the conversation: Ackley, Gutierrez, and Aardsma. The latter two are on the DL, and Ackley will probably be up sometime in June, so they belong on this list too.

    Ranking the Roster (Most Valuable to Least Valuable)

1- Felix Hernandez—He is the King of Seattle, and the best pitcher on planet Earth. Yes, Felix is the Mariners’ most valuable player. Go away trade rumors!
2- Ichiro—The team’s best hitter and most valuable everyday player. Also, the coolest Mariner ever.
3- Justin Smoak—I want to fall in love with Justin Smoak, and so does this city, but he has a lot to prove. IMHO, this guy is the lynchpin to the M’s offense in 2011.
4- Franklin Gutierrez—I fear for Guti’s long-term health with every day that passes without an explanation, but assuming this mystery stomach ailment gets treated, Guti is the team’s best defender, and a top 5 hitter, a valuable asset indeed.
5- Milton Bradley—Depending on which Milton shows up, batting 3rd, Bradley could easily lead the team in production this year. But can he stay healthy AND out of trouble? I wouldn’t bet on it.
6- Erik Bedard—Hard to argue that a guy who did not pitch last year could hold much value, but IF healthy, Bedard provides huge value to this team. And IF his spring performance is an indicator of what’s to come, his worth is as high as a #2 starter.
7- Chone Figgins—This guy had better bounce back, and I expect he will now that he’s back at 3rd and settled into Seattle. The M’s should be annoying to play, and Figgy leads that annoyance.
8- Jason Vargas—I still don’t think of Jason Vargas as a #2 starter, but he earned this spot after last season. Can he provide an encore?
9- Jack Cust—Batting clean-up for your Seattle Mariners…Jack Cust. Really? You better believe it! He will strike out a ton, but I gotta think he is an upgrade at DH, and he is an awesome interview.
10- Miguel Olivo—The team’s main acquisition this winter, Miguel can’t be worse than our catchers last season, but he must improve on his first go around in Seattle if he is to win over the fans. Continue reading

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The Mariners Obvious Moves

Note- I started writing this over a week ago, but I don’t think anything has happened since then to change anything.  Consider it an indirect response to Joe’s earlier payroll post, although I didn’t originally intend it that way.

Coming into the offseason, everyone agreed that improving the Mariners to the point of playoff contention was a long shot.  Crazy things happen, and Jack Zduriencik has done crazy things before, but to improve the team that much with a very limited budget didn’t look like it would be in the cards.

What was apparent was moves that could be made.  Coming into the offseason, here’s what I would have laid out as the obvious moves I would look at if I were in Jack’s spot:

  • Find a DH with some power
  • Look hard for an upgrade at catcher
  • Find a middle infielder who could start at second and then shift to short when Dustin Ackley is ready or Jack Wilson gets injured
  • Find a right-handed bat who could platoon with Michael Saunders and ideally play some first base if needed
  • Find a starting pitcher who could be counted on to throw a lot of decent innings
  • Upgrade the bullpen Continue reading

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