Tag Archives: Casper Wells

Remembering Erik Bedard

As the Mariners got stomped by the Astros last night, I ended up in a discussion with the other Good Guys about Erik Bedard.  Bedard is, of course, a former Mariner and as such, the cause of much disdain.  He is now a member of the Astros and was last night’s starting pitcher.

Bedard is not well-liked by Mariners fans.  I personally always liked him, but I can certainly see his shortcomings.  He was divisive and frustrating at his best.  The argument against generally centers on four points:

  1. He was the object of a now horrific trade, where the Mariners gave up Adam Jones and more for Bedard before the 2008 season.
  2. He was constantly injured, losing large chunks of every season he played in Seattle.
  3. His dealings with the media were short and brusque, often given in one word answers. He often came across as a smug, rude jerk.
  4. He obtained a reputation of being unable to pitch deep into games, which, combined with the injuries, led to a reputation of frailty and disinterest.

The first point is indisputable but completely out of Bedard’s control.  The trade was not well liked at the time, but it would have been okay had Bedard stayed on the field. He was a legitimately excellent pitcher when he was on the mound.  Unfortunately, that rarely happened.  He was hurt early and often, missing time in each of the four seasons he spent in Seattle.

With most former players, an injury history like that would be the main memory, but judging by Twitter and blog comments during last night’s game, points three and four above have had a more lasting impression.  The issues with the media were real. He seemed unwilling to speak at any length, especially in response to questions he deemed unnecessary.  It’s understandable if fans were turned off by that.  It personally never bothered me, and I doubt it would have made much impact if he had been good on the field.  For what it’s worth, he was never considered or rumored to be a bad teammate.  Watching him in the dugout, he seemed like a good guy who was liked by his teammates.  That’s hardly conclusive data, but it’s something that runs extremely contrary to the popular narrative.  He also signed with the Mariners for virtually nothing after his first two years, out of loyalty for the way they stood by him during his first two injury-plagued years. Dealing with the media was not his strong suit, but he appeared to be far from a bad guy or a clubhouse cancer.

The reputation for not lasting deep in games is a little more difficult to wade through.  From what I remember, the reputation came from an inability to get through seven innings early in his Mariners career, combined with some comments he made saying that he was essentially a 100-pitch pitcher.  I’m going off memory here, so I apologize if I’m off slightly.  In my memory, the comments were more nuanced than simply saying he could only throw 100 pitches per start.  I remember him saying that he was at his best for 100 pitches, not that he would only throw 100.

Incidentally, this is true for nearly every pitcher in the history of baseball. Hardly anyone is especially good after 90-100 pitches.  A good rule of thumb is that once a pitcher reaches that range or faces the line-up for a fourth time that day, it’s probably time to think about getting him out of there.  There are exceptions, of course, but Bedard was just saying what is universally true. Incidentally, other than a couple of starts where he left early for injury or ineffectiveness, Bedard threw 6-8 innings in most starts that first year. He threw about the same innings as anyone else.

What Bedard did was put his limitations into words, and that’s not something we want out of our athletes.  However unspoken or unrecognized, there’s a level of hero worship with our favorite athletes.  We expect them to do what we can’t, and for good reason. Professional and college athletes can do ridiculous things. The worst player at any point in any of the major sports leagues is one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the earth. I was a moderately decent high school baseball player, but I would have no more luck pitching or hitting against a major leaguer than would my two-year-old nephew. Their talent is so far above anything we can imagine, we expect consistent greatness and lose touch with the limits of their ability.

We want our athletes to go to places we can’t reach. We don’t want to see them ever give up. We know that playing through an injury might actually hurt the team, but we still want to see them out there until their bodies actually prevent them from playing. We don’t want to see a pitcher leave the game until he’s failed.  There’s something noble in giving until there’s nothing left, in leaving only when failure of the body commands it.  It may not be smart, but it resonates with those of us who would have given up days ago.

Erik Bedard knew his limitations, and in many ways he was likely smarter for recognizing and dealing with them.  His problem, as it often was for Bedard, was in letting the rest of us in on the secret.  Communication was never his strong suit.  Pitching was, but since his body never let him do that, a promising career ended as nothing but disappointment.

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A few Mariners notes after the jump! Continue reading

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Garland’s Gone and Other Stuff

Baseball season is just over a week away, and if that doesn’t make you happy, you’re probably not a baseball fan.  The Mariners have had an uneventful spring training.  The roster, barring any last minute injuries or shake-ups, will be as projected.  The two open spots, back of the rotation and last position player, aren’t decided, but the rotation is a man closer to finalization.

Jon Garland came to camp as a non-roster invitee after missing last season with arm issues.  He was a slightly above-average starter before his injuries, so it was widely assumed that if he looked anything like he used to, he would take one of the two open spots.  He’s been decent but not terribly impressive all camp, but he was still expected to make the team.  Complicating matters was a clause in Garland’s contract allowing him to leave the Mariners yesterday if he wanted.  Basically, if the Mariners weren’t going to promise him a rotation spot, he was going to leave.  Much to the media’s surprise, that’s exactly what happened.  It’s a good reminder that, as excellent as much of the media following the Mariners is, no one knows what the Mariners will do except Jack Zduriencik, and he’s not telling anyone before he has to.

The move’s implications for this season are moderate.  Garland didn’t project to be great or terrible.  League-average or slightly better was probably the realistic best-case scenario.  His replacements are less predictable but similarly capable and likely to be in the same performance vicinity.  There appear to be four pitchers in the running for those two spots:

  •  Jeremy Bonderman is a veteran in a position similar to Garland’s.  I’d be shocked if he made the rotation.  I’m guessing the Mariners hope he will take an assignment to the minor leagues, where he can continue to build up arm strength after injury and a lot of time off.  He’d then be good depth for injuries or poor performance this summer.  He may decide to retire rather than go to Tacoma, though.
  • Blake Beavan is quite familiar to Mariner fans.  He might be slightly less recognizable this season with a revamped delivery aiming to mimic Doug Fister’s.  Seattle Sports Insider has a great breakdown of the windup and potential implications (start here).  I don’t particularly like watching Beavan pitch, but he’s a fairly reliable guy for the back of the rotation, and he’s still only 24.  Age is not a guarantee of improvement, but when combined with the revamped delivery, I’m open to seeing what he can do for a few months at least.
  • Erasmo Ramirez should be a lock for a spot, in my opinion.  He has the best stuff of the three mentioned thus far, excellent command, and good major league performance at the end of last season.  I don’t know if the Mariners have penciled him in yet, but I’d be curious to know their reasons if they haven’t.
  • Brandon Maurer is this year’s camp phenom.  After battling injuries early in his career, he stayed healthy at Double-A last year and showed enough ability and talent to jump into the conversation with his more ballyhooed rotation-mates (Hultzen, Walker, Paxton).  To some degree, I would say he’s a guy who does many things well without anything especially standing out.  He throws low- to mid-90s, has three other solid or better pitches, and shows good command.  Think Felix, on a much, much smaller scale.  He could probably succeed now, but given his lack of experience at even Triple-A and that past injury history, I probably would start him in Tacoma.  I’m kind of hoping the Mariners feel differently, however, because it’d be fun to see what he can do.

So, barring a big surprise, the opening day rotation will be Felix, Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, and two of the above.  That’s a decent rotation with a chance to be better.  Or it could be worse, if all of the kids fall flat on their faces.  That’s why the Garland decision is somewhat fascinating.  It’s entirely possible that Garland would have/will outperform at least one of the rotation slots.  Maybe, maybe not, but I’d bet on it.

So why is it good the Mariners let him go?  Because it looks like they’re ready to let the young talent they’ve been stockpiling make its presence known.  There is no guarantee Maurer, Ramirez and all of the guys still in the minors will be able to lead the Mariners to prominence.  If they can’t though, it’s going to mean a complete change of plans and likely management.  The future is roped to the Mariners’ youngsters, those both in the majors and minors.  It’s time to give them a shot.

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That other roster spot still looks life a fight between outfielders Jason Bay and Casper Wells.  Opinions are somewhat split on this one, including between the Good Guys.  The case for each:

  • Bay is not far removed from being an all-star, and is still a better hitter than Wells.  He’s unlikely to reach his 2009 numbers again, but it wouldn’t surprise to see him become a good spot starter or better.  He’s a solid defensive outfielder.
  • Wells is a better defender who can legitimately play center field.  He’s third on the depth chart at that position, but given that one of those ahead of him is Franklin Gutierrez, it’s a real consideration.  He has power and is young enough to project some improvement.  He’s also under team control for as long as the Mariners could conceivably want him.

Some people think that Wells could be a solid starter if given a shot.  Personally, I don’t see it.  I think he’s too limited as a hitter.  The center field issue is legitimate, but to me it’s not a huge deal.  If it comes to it, the Mariners can track down a center fielder for a while.  They have minor league options who could fill in for a couple of weeks in a pinch.  It’s not ideal, but to me, it’s not worth getting worked up about it if they choose Bay over Wells.  Wells offers security, Bay offers upside.  The Mariners appear to be favoring Bay, but as the Garland decision shows, we won’t know until one of them gets cut.

That’s about it for news right now.  Most of the people still in camp either have a spot or are just depth.  The only questionable position left is the bullpen, but it looks like Kameron Loe will win the last spot with Josh Kinney out for a while.  The most surprising player left in camp might be Brad Miller, the sweet-hitting shortstop who ended the year in double-A.  I don’t think there’s any way he makes the team, but that he’s lasted this long shows how highly the team thinks of him.  If he can improve his defense, he could take Brendan Ryan’s spot as soon as a year from now.

The season starts a week from Monday in Oakland, of course.  The Mariners are doing a cool open house at Safeco that night, where fans can come, see the changes to the stadium, and watch the game on the monstrous new scoreboard screen.  I think doors open at 6:00, and I believe parking is free if you get there in time.

-Matthew

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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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Surprises Coming?

So, the Mariners have played a few games.  Weird, huh?  Jeff Sullivan likened last week’s 2 regular season games in Japan to a dream and that sounds about right.  Now, we’ve been back to Cactus League games for the past few days and I find myself longing for Opening Day.  Then, I stop and think, “That already happened.”  I hope someone else has felt this way or else I spent far too much time writing this meaningless introduction.

Chone Figgins

Starting left fielder? Maybe he's too short.

One of the dumb things that happened in Japan was Mike Carp hurting his shoulder and getting put on the disabled list.  The other dumb thing was getting 3-hit by Bartolo Colon but I’ve tried to conveniently not remember that part of the dream.  Mike Carp got put on the disabled list before the 2nd game of the season and Carlos Peguero was activated for the 2nd game in Japan.  Now, Carp’s DL clock has been ticking even though we aren’t technically in the regular season at the moment so we can expect him back in about a week and a half.

People seem to think they have the Mariners roster figured out for the opening game (aside from a few spots in the bullpen, but I was referring to the position players).  They’ll option Alex Liddi and have Casper Wells and Carlos Peguero split time in left field.  I admit, this is the most likely but I’m not sure it’s the right decision.

If you’ve followed Spring Training, you know that Chone Figgins will be getting regular playing time for the first few weeks at least.  Little Figgy has been playing all over the diamond this spring and has spent a good amount of time in the outfield.  I’d even say he’s been there the majority of the time.  Knowing that and knowing that Carlos Peguero is bad (really bad).  Why not have Figgins be your starting left fielder for the next 2 weeks?  Keep Alex Liddi on the team and have him be the best right-handed bat off the bench.  Let him start a few games against left-handed pitchers while Seager gets a rest.  Kyle Seager should be this teams starting 3rd baseman anyway, so why not let him.

This works out for the Mariners front office, as well.  If Seager hits and Figgy doesn’t then you have a perfect excuse to cut him by the time Carp comes back.  Not a long enough trial, you say?  He’s had 2 years.  2 awful years.  Figgins is still on this team.

You can’t convince me that Figgins and Peguero on the field at the same time is a better combination than Figgins and Seager.  Figgins will be better defensively in left field.  Seager is a better hitter than Peguero.

Again, I don’t think this will actually happen because it’s unorthodox and usually baseball stays away from unorthodox but I think it should happen.  Plus, Alex Liddi is Italian.

Speaking of the Italian, he’s had a great spring.  Not that spring means much (or anything at all) but he would become the best right-hander on the bench.  He could play first, when Montero catches and Smoak DH’s.  All in all, I just think he’s better than Peguero because well… If you really want me to explain that then you need to figure out how bad Peguero is.

Last year, Seattle Sports Insider argued that Luis Rodriguez should make the team as the 25th man because he was simply better than Josh Wilson.  You can argue how much a 25th man means to an organization (probably not much), but a team should still put their best players on the major league team (unless they’re holding them back to save an extra year of team control.  We see you Paxton, Hultzen and Catricala!).  You know who the best right-handed hitter on the bench is when Casper Wells plays center, if Peguero makes the team?  There is no right-handed hitter on the bench in that situation.

I’ll break this down mathematically after the jump. Continue reading

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It’s Game Time!

Almost.  It’s almost game time.  On the weirdest opening morning ever, Andrew and I are hanging out, watching the underrated classic Orange County, with The Sandlot on deck.  I hope the Mariners never have another 3 AM opening game, but it’s kind of like the Alamo Bowl was: not particularly pleasant, but pretty fun and well worth the memory.

So, what to expect from these Mariners?  The playoffs aren’t impossible, but they’re pretty unlikely.  It would take almost everyone developing like you would dream, Ichiro and other veterans having huge comeback years, and probably a lot of luck on top of it.  Stranger things have happened, but I’m not betting on it.  Call 81 wins the more reasonable goal.  Even that might be wishful thinking, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

This will really be a season about watching for signs of hope for the future.  Ideally this year would provide a couple of guys who can be counted on as future franchise cornerstones, a veteran or two taking a step forward, and the emergence of new prospects to replace those who are now or will shortly be in the big leagues.

More specifically, here’s a few things I’d love to see:

  • Justin Smoak hitting the ball (and staying healthy).  The future Mariners offense looks much better now than it did a year ago, but it still has questions.  Ackley and Montero are reasonably sure things given their inexperience, but few others fit that description.  If Smoak can consistently flash his talent, he becomes a third middle of the order guy and makes the offense much easier to build.
  • Ichiro bouncing back.  I love Ichiro.  I hope he goes back to his pre-2011 level and gets a contract extension and reaches 3,000 hits in Seattle.  Don’t know if it’ll happen, but I’m hoping.
  • One of the outfielders emerging from the pile.  The most likely bet here is that Mike Carp solidifies himself as a viable outfielder who can hit, but I’m personally hoping Michael Saunders can do something.  Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Franklin Gutierrez: any of you can take this opportunity to do something.
  • I’d really love for Chone Figgins to not be on the team in August.  That would mean they’ve either bit the bullet and released him, or he’s played well enough to be traded.  I’m good with either.  Sorry, Chone, but I’m just tired of watching you.
  • It’ll be great when/if the trifecta of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker make their debuts, but I’ll be watching before that to see if Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan or Erasmo Ramirez can make an impression.  Pitchers flame out and get hurt, so banking on three prospects is always risky.  The Mariners need to develop some depth.
  • It’s been a long time since we’ve had one of those bullpens of death like the 2001 team or the Padres always seem to have.  I don’t expect this year’s team to change that, but I would love to see a few young relievers emerge to move them in that direction.

So that’s mostly it.  A few of those things happen, the M’s score a few more runs, and we get some good memories, and I’ll be fairly satisfied with this year.  Not saying I wouldn’t love a surprise run for that 2nd wild card spot, but if I’m trying to be realistic, there are worse things than a young team with lots to prove.  Like a team of Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva and Jose Vidro.  That is not a fun team.  This can be so much better than that.

Go Mariners! Believe Big!

-Matthew

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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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It’s Almost Mariners Time!

This has been a weird offseason for Your Seattle Mariners, but it’s surprisingly almost over.  Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona in a few weeks, with the season just over two months away.  Actually, since the Mariners open the season in Japan, their season starts a couple of weeks early.  Yes, the season opener will be at like 3:00 in the morning on the other side of the International Date Line.  Plan your lives accordingly.

Anyway, if you haven’t been paying attention or haven’t stopped to think about what the team looks like, I’ll try to help you out with a little fake Q & A.  I’m making up the questions and I probably won’t have any answers, so don’t expect too much, but this will still be a pretty good time.

Who’s new this year?

Well, Jesus Montero’s the big one.  More on him in a minute.  Then there’s John Jaso, the mediocre young catcher acquired from Tampa Bay, who could actually be a pretty big upgrade.  Not a lot after that.  There are a bunch of relievers who may or may not make the team.  More importantly, the Japanese pipeline is back open, with Hisashi Iwakuma likely to join the rotation and Ichiro’s workout buddy Munenori Kawasaki vying for a backup infield spot.  Iwakuma could be pretty good.  Kawasaki is good with the glove but unlikely to hit, so that’s nothing new.  They just signed Kevin Millwood for rotation depth as 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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