Tag Archives: Michael Pineda

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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2012 AL West Team & Winter Wrap-Up

Unlike NCAA sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and often I use the sabermetric WAR to break ties. Some of the picks are obvious (Pujols), and others are less obvious (DH), so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

A quick analysis shows that Texas is the class of the division, with more 1st team selections than the rest of the west combined. Anaheim has good 2nd tier depth, solid pitching, and balance. Texas and Anaheim each have 8 1st or 2nd team selections of the possible 10 positional categories, and of the 14 pitching spots, a whopping 11 are Rangers (6) and Angels (5). The M’s are a distant 3rd, but a ways ahead of the re-building A’s, who are loaded with average players but no star power whatsoever.

I wanted to take this chart one step further, and visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks. To do so, I’ve simply awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a bar graph.

Lastly, here are team by team offseason wrap ups, after the jump… 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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The Value Question

The Pineda-Montero trade is fascinating on so many levels.  Baseball just doesn’t see many trades of elite young players for each other.  If a Pineda or Montero gets traded, it’s for a more established star or, less often, for a package of younger prospects.  The failed Cliff Lee-Montero deal aspect just adds another layer.

When I first heard about the trade, my thought was that it was so obvious that I couldn’t believe it happened.  I remember even asking Dan and Andrew back in the summer whether they would make this trade straight-up.  To me, it seems like both teams are trading from a position of strength to fill a weakness.

Most trade analyses you’ll read have a different focus.  You can literally read for hours about whether Montero or Pineda is more valuable, whether Jose Campos or Hector Noesi is more valuable, about who did better in this deal.  All of those issues are interesting and highly debateable, which makes them fun and worth writing.  I think they occasionally miss the point, however.

The goal of a baseball team is not to add the most valuable pieces, or to win the value war in a trade or signing.  The goal is to build the best team.  Typically, the two go hand in hand.  The more value a team can get in a deal, the better.  If given the choice between Adam Dunn for $14 million a year or an outfield of Michael Stanton, Andrew McCutcheon and Jacoby Ellsbury for roughly a third of that amount, the choice is obvious.  You want the most bang for your buck.  You don’t want to spend huge money on guys who will underperform and you ideally want to underpay guys who are good and getting better.  That’s why building up an elite farm system is so important.

What is obvious in the macro view becomes highly nuanced in practice.  It’s not enough to just say that starting pitcher is a more valuable position than designated hitter, or that Pineda has more value than Montero because he’s had a year of major league experience.  Both of those statements are true and yet, they don’t matter too much for the Mariners.  The Mariners strength is their rotation.  They will miss Pineda, especially if he turns into a Cy Young candidate.  The difference between Pineda and Danny Hultzen, James Paxton or Taijuan Walker is potentially tiny, however.  That is compounded by the Safeco Field effect and the way it can turn mediocre pitchers into average ones.  In Safeco, pitching is nowhere near as valuable as hitting, and adding hitting is much more valuable for the current Mariners because they have so little of it.

Speaking of hitting, it’s not crazy to think that Montero could be the most productive guy in the Mariners line-up in 2012.  It’s not certain, of course, which is why there’s some risk here.  Still, where the gap between Pineda and Hultzen is small to non-existent, the gap from Montero to the Mariners best hitting prospect, be it Nick Franklin or Vinnie Catricala or whomever, is huge.  It’s debateable whether Montero or Pineda is more valuable in a vacuum, but I think it’s clear that Montero is much more valuable to the Mariners.

This offense is suddenly sort of interesting.  It will still likely struggle in 2012 as all of the young guys (hopefully) come of age, but with Ackley and Montero and Smoak and possibly Carp, they now have a heart of the order that could turn into something scary.  Now Franklin and Catricala and Wells and everyone else only have to be supporting players rather than stars.  The other fun aspect of this trade is what it allows them to do in the future, as Dave Cameron and others have pointed out.  It’s possible but highly unlikely they still sign Prince Fielder, but assuming they don’t, that potentially leaves them with a lot of money to spend in the near future.  Maybe they add a pitcher for a year or two, or maybe they wait until next year to find an offensive guy at a position of need like third base or outfield.  This deal potentially improves the Mariners immediately and sets them up to more easily improve in the future as well.

As with any trade, this one will not be determined good or bad until we see what Montero and Noesi, to a lesser degree, make themselves into.  It’s tough to see Pineda go.  I’ll never forget those early fastballs that looked like they were thrown at about 150 miles per hour.  This deal potentially gives the Mariners tremendous value, however, whether Montero is more valuable than Pineda or not.

-Matthew

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Pineda-Montero Trade Reaction

Earlier today I sat down and was starting to write a post on how we shouldn’t listen to any baseball reporters this off-season.  Part of it had to do with me being frustrated at the hysteria of Prince Fielder being in Texas.  The other part of me was frustrated with the Mariners for the lack of  moves this off-season.  Did I disagree with what they did?  No, but I was just bored.  Sports are entertainment, and it’s never fun when they leave you bored.  The last part of me was just hungry and didn’t even care about baseball reporters because I wanted to eat some chicken.  When I started that post, the Mariners made a trade.  Hey!  A trade!  After 4 months of peeking through the fence at Prince Fielder, the Mariners jumped over the fence, jumped on one of their horses, rode it into town, swapped it for another rancher’s horse, rode that horse back to the fenced-in area they owned, and had a glass of lemonade all in the span of about 10 minutes.  Sorry, about that.  I hope you followed.  My first point of this post, is that you shouldn’t take much of what these baseball writers say as gospel.  They get the reports right every now and then but tonight showed just how fast the unexpected can happen.

As for the trade, well surely you’ve read other people’s reaction by now.  There’s been enough time for you to form your own opinion.  But, if for some reason you’re indecisive on how you feel, and you’re up at 3 AM, a Good Guy is here to help!  I want to cover a few things before I get to my quick reaction.

It seems as if the opinion from people around Seattle is all over the place.  There are people completely against it, people who love it, and people who think it’s strictly average.  Dave ‘Softy’ Mahler had about a 10 tweet rant about how the ownership has to change now.  Mike Salk loved the trade.  (‘Softy’ wasn’t necessarily upset about the trade, but for some reason it sent him over the edge, just for the record.)  I want to caution you on who you listen to about this.  I believe that the Good Guys would have a more intelligent conversation about the Mariners than many of the Seattle sports radio guys.  That’s not to say they aren’t knowledgeable in other ways, but many of them aren’t experts on the Mariners and I think they’d admit as much.  Salk (from Brock and Salk) seems to try to understand more than any other.  Some of them just don’t care and don’t try to understand.  ‘Softy’ had no good reason for his rant and Jason Puckett is way off when he says that this feels desperate because the M’s should have just traded Lee for him.

That brings to my next point.  That very point of saying, why didn’t the Mariners just trade Lee for Montero.  For those of you that don’t know, that was very close to happening a few years ago before the Mariners’ decided on Justin Smoak instead.  It’s very ironic that they both ended up here now.  Anyway, it’s ridiculous to say they should have traded Lee for Montero so they could have kept Pineda.  When that traded happened, most baseball analysts thought the Mariners made the right move in getting Smoak.  Perceptions change over a year and a half and that is what has happened here.  Don’t think, “the Mariners made the wrong decision in getting Smoak, since they went out and got Montero now.”  They are 2 separate events and, though our mind’s link them together, they are independent of each other.  The Mariners got the best young hitter they thought they could get for the package they were offering and that had nothing to do with Cliff Lee and Justin Smoak.

Now, on to my thoughts on the actual trade.  I’m somewhere between liking and loving the trade.  Lookout Landing does a good job of summing up the pieces involved (much better than I could do, so read that).  I do think Sullivan may undersell Hector Noesi, who’s the pitcher coming over from New York, a little bit but there’s no way of knowing that.

Noesi seems like a good place to start since I just mentioned him a sentence ago and he’s the least known player in the trade as far as Mariner fans go.  He hasn’t pitched much in the majors, 56 innings last year and was nothing spectacular in doing so.  It sounds like the Mariners will lock him in as a starter to begin the season.  He seems like he’ll be a decent big league pitcher at least, and a few scouts seem to think he’s a very good pickup for the M’s.  Time will tell if those scouts are correct.  That’s a theme for this whole trade.

I’m sorry to see Jose Campos go.  Over the past couple of years I’ve started to follow the Mariners’ farm system fairly closely.  I read a review of each team’s game every night and try to familiarize myself with the top players from every part of the system.  By doing this I start to like players I’ve never watched more than the one’s I watch everyday on TV.  Jose Campos was one of those players.  He’d be rated about the number 5 prospect in the Mariners system and has tons of upside.  He’s only 19 and who  knows what will happen because, young pitcher but if he stays healthy, look out for his name in 3 or 4 years.

Now for the big names!  Jesus Montero is said to be a world-class hitter.  The comparison I’ve heard the most over the last 3 years is Edgar Martinez.  Heyo!  Edgar!  Put him in the Hall of Fame, by the way!  That’s a good comparison.  He’s either a catcher or a DH.  Catcher would be awesome, but his defense is lacking and most doubt that he’ll be able to stay at the position.  As far as his hitting goes, he’s said to have good power to all fields (important for Safeco) and good contact ability.  Yes, he hasn’t had much time in the majors and that’s a little frightening.  Jack Z knows more than me though and I trust his scouting ability above all of his other skills.

Michael Pineda was fun.  It’s sad to see someone fun go and there’s nothing I like more in baseball than a big, young, flame-throwing pitcher.  Man, he was big!  I hope he only gets better, even if he is pitching for the Yankees.   He deserves it.  I’m not sure he’ll ever turn into an elite ace and I’ll leave it at that because most of you who read this know who he is and what he projects as.  Some of you will disagree with me.

I like this because the Mariners got a hitter!  My philosophy if I was a GM is to draft talent (don’t draft for needs) and accumulate it by international signings.  Then trade from internal positions of strength for positions of weakness.  This is exactly what happened here.  Yes, it sucks that Pineda is gone but I think we’ve got a good one in return.

Now what happens?  I have no idea.  I really think the Mariners are still going to go after Prince but I’m in the very small minority.  They have the same amount of money they had when you woke up last week.  No one knows how much that is but it seems to be a fair amount.  If they don’t sign Prince, I still expect some other big move.  I think it will be another bat, but a pitcher makes plenty of sense.  I’d go for Roy Oswalt!  After today, we just have to realize that we have no idea what will happen.  Speculating and projecting is fun, but the truth is that not much turns out how we have it planned in our brain.  In sports, all we can hope for is that our team improves and I think that the M’s are a stronger organization now than they were 24 hours ago.  Not everyone does, but I do.  And hey, there’s still that report that Prince is renting a car in Seattle this weekend.

Andrew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Mariner Roster Notes

Sorry for the lack of content here lately.  I can’t speak for the other good guys, but it’s been a really busy time for me.  Luckily, the best day of the year is just around the corner.  Baseball opening day is April 1st, with the Mariners in Oakland to start the year.  The home opener is a week later on the 8th against Cleveland. 

The roster is almost set, so I thought I’d give my thoughts on a few things:

  • The biggest surprise development of camp hasn’t been a good one.  The news came early that Franklin Gutierrez has been dealing with stomach issues that likely contributed to his poor second half in 2010.  Doctors thought they had a diagnosis and treatment plan, but three weeks or so later, Guti’s not feeling any better.  It now seems likely that he’ll start the year on the disabled list.  To be honest, I’m already writing him off for the season.  He might play, but I’m not expecting a breakthrough or anything.  I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem like a good situation at all.  On the field, there are two ways to look at this.  First, Franklin from 2009 is a huge loss.  Getting him back to or past that level would have been a huge improvement to the team.  That wasn’t a given no matter how healthy he is, though, so replacing 2010 Guti shouldn’t be that hard.  He’s still excellent defensively, but I think Michael Saunders and Ryan Langerhans can provide a reasonable facsimile in that aspect.  Looking at the other outfielders not named Ichiro… Continue reading

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Know Your Mariners: The Big Three

Every offseason, countless minor league prospect reports are released.  Media sources big and small release top 10 lists of prospects for every major league team, some good, some a little bizarre, all of them fairly meaningless except as a distraction until the season starts. 

For the Mariners, every list I saw has the same three prospects at the top.  Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda are 1-2 in varying order, and Nick Franklin is pretty well always third.  Baseball America, easily the most well-known of all the prospecting media sources, just released their Top 100 Prospect list, and these three are the only Mariner guys to make the list.  That’s not a bad thing, as that’s about the average.  It’s the same amount as the Rangers and Angels, and one more than the A’s.  Furthermore, two of the Mariners are in the top 20 (Ackley #12, Pineda #16) and Nick Franklin is at #53.  Not a bad showing, overall.

So, what do the Mariners have in these three?  We’ve written to varying degrees on each, but to put it simply, they are, along with Felix and Justin Smoak, the foundation of the Mariners’ current rebuilding plan.  Here’s a quick rundown of each after the jump: Continue reading

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