Tag Archives: Jeremy Bonderman

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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The Rebuilding Process, Year 3

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Years 1 and 2 of the rebuilding process the Mariners are in, orchestrated by Jack Zduriencik. With year 2 nearing completion, let’s look ahead to year 3 of rebuild mode.

Following this 2010 season, the Mariners will likely find themselves less ahead of schedule than what had been anticipated going into this season. The 85 wins in 2009 will be followed up with something like 65-70 wins. The Mariners do not have much money coming off the books, and their best player from 2009, Cliff Lee, is wearing a Texas uniform at the moment. In some ways, things may look bleak for the Mariners after this season. However, looking again at the big picture of rebuilding in 3-4 years, I think the positives still outweigh the negatives because of the strengthened farm system, the lack of bad contracts, and a strong nucleus that are all signed (Ichiro, Felix, Smoak, Guti).

Rewind with me again to November 2008. The Mariners were a mess, kind of like the Seahawks are today, and similar to Husky football after the Willingham era concluded. In each case, our team needed to blow things up and rebuild. This happens in sports, and typically, rebuilding takes 3-4 years. Of course the Yankees can do it in 1 year, and the Royals or Pirates need about 10 years, but for a Seattle team in a good market, 3-4 years is about the norm. This season it appeared the M’s might be able to take advantage of a weakened division and some savvy trades, and take the shortcut from rebuilder to contender in just 12 months. But 2010 has not panned out, and while it looks like the M’s are going to have to start over again once this year ends, the reality is the foundation for rebuilding was laid a year ago, and Seattle is finishing year 2 of a 3-4 year rebuilding process.

In his “Wait ‘Til Next Year” series, Matthew recently broke down each position, and forecasted the roster heading into next season. Certainly a common theme in these posts is the uncertainty at multiple positions, but despite the question marks, the M’s will continue building around a solid group that will surely include Felix, Ichiro, Ackley, Gutierrez, Figgins, Saunders, Smoak, Pineda, Vargas and Fister. Others from the current roster will be back next year, and some will not, and additions will need to be made, either via trade, free agency, or growth in the farm system. Given how difficult it is to predict trades, let’s look at the unrestricted free agent crop for 2011, and specifically, free agents that may be realistic targets for the Mariners, give their needs. Yes, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter may hit free agency, but again, this list only includes realistic targets, at positions the M’s may have an interest.
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