Thanks everyone who has sent in e-mails for article suggestions, they have definitely helped. I'm going to write a few of them next week, so stay tuned for that. I'm also hoping some more Organizational Meetings get posted next week, and I'm looking forward to that. I'm sorry to announce the Seattle Mariner e-mails I sent out went unanswered, so I'm going to have to tackle Seattle on my own...
First off, let me say I was correct in predicting Raul Ibanez would come to Seattle. But hell, I didn't think it would be that fast! Ibanez signed quickly, bringing in a three-year deal worth a total of $13M. It is a lot of money to pay someone who just exited their prime seasons, and the guys at U.S.S. Mariner are in a frenzy about the signing. While I disagree with David Cameron that John Vander Wal would have been a better choice, Matt Stairs may have. Anyway, let's check out some Raul stats:
Well, those numbers don't exactly help Bill Bavasi's case. Ibanez can't hit left-handers at all, and really struggled with power away from Kauffman Stadium. He's moving to Safeco Field, which isn't exactly a haven for power hitters. His numbers in the second half were a little stronger, but that holds true throughout his career. Ibanez is a platoon case waiting to happen, and Bavasi will see a .275/.325/.425 season if he isn't careful.
But, rumors are the Mariners will still go after Mike Cameron, with the intent of platooning Randy Winn and Ibanez in left. Winn hit .314/.368/.491 vs. LH in 2003, and .323/.379/.490 during the last three seasons. So if Bavasi sticks with this, he'll keep a very good defensive outfield vs. LH, and he'll have a pretty solid platoon combination in left field. White Sox fans are very happy, as the rival Royals lose a solid leftie bat, and those Freddy Garcia for Carlos Lee rumors go away.
We'll deal with Garcia in a minute, but let me close the hitting. There is obviously another gap in this lineup, and Bavasi must fill it with a shortstop. Normally, I would support Miguel Tejada for this job, but given cash consideration and Safeco field, I'm going to choose Kaz Matsui. He is more of a doubles hitter than Tejada, and his speed will provide a spark with Ichiro at the top. It would make Seattle's lineup look like:
1. Ichiro Suzuki- RF
That's not bad, but it's pretty imperative the team signs Mike Cameron. While his bat is getting worse and worse in Safeco, he helps the team in so many other ways. Also, the team really lacks a real #5 hitter, but that was Ibanez's former role with the Royals. They are getting old fast, but this lineup would definitely compete with those indivision.
Getting back to Freddy and the pitching, I think it's imperative the team trade Garcia. Rafeal Soriano is more than ready for the rotation, and the way he pitched down the stretch, he'd likely be more effective than Freddy was. I don't know what Garcia would yield on the market, but an overpaid effective reliever would seem like a good fit. If Garcia was to stay, the rotation would look like this, along with second half ERA:
1. Jamie Moyer- 3.59
But, by bringing in Soriano, and his sparkling 1.14 ERA, this rotation has some spark. And while Franklin has a lot of positive indicators, his K/9 rate has decreased every season thus far in the Majors. If any member(s) of this rotation were to struggle, the trio of Rett Johnson, Clint Nageotte, and Travis Blackley will be ready to take over. Hell, by midseason the Mariners could be sporting Jamie Moyer and 4 pitchers well under 25 years of age.
The real scare of the Mariners is their bullpen, which is currently employing two members. Kazuhiro Sasaki is becoming decreasingly effective in his old age, and if needed Soriano might move back to close at some point. I really like Julio Mateo, the other returning member who put in fifty solid games last season. He is very capable of going multiple innings, and really doesn't hurt himself with the walk.
Bringing back Armando Benitez isn't a bad idea, as he gets a lot more flak than he deserves. Armando holds right-handers to an OPS under .600, and left-handers under .650. He would be a very solid set-up man, and could take over Sasaki's position if necessary. But like all relievers, Bavasi must be careful to overpay. Waiting to see Keith Foulke's contract is important, because if he can only net $4 or 5M per, the market goes way down. The team also needs a LOOGY, and probably have a price they'd like to match. Arthur Rhodes could be brought back, although I think he'll re-join Lou in Tampa. Mark Guthrie is a name no one is talking about, and I don't think he'd be a bad addition.
The last two bullpen spots are unimportant, and could easily be filled by younsters. Bobby Madritsch, the 2002 Independent League Pitcher of the Year, had very good K/9 numbers in AA, and could be a valuable second leftie/long reliever in the bullpen. Aaron Looper and Aaron Taylor will likely battle for the final slot. I'm a big proprietor of going with cheap bullpens, and to have an effective starting lineup, Bavasi must go cheap.
Staying in the AL West, I caught a lot of criticism from a certain Billy Beane fan in my inbox yesterday, who seemed to strongly disagree with my comments. Avkash thinks the Oakland deals were made about money first and talent second. While I would normally agree, I just can't in this situation. Beane lost Miguel Tejada and Keith Foulke from his payroll, so the $2M he'll save with Kielty and Kotsay aren't THAT important. In my mind, Beane becomes enfatuated with players easily, and while they are good choices, he could overpay at times. He's a very good GM, don't get me wrong, but he ain't the best in the bigs.
Also, Patel disagreed with my bashing of the Scott Hatteberg extension and Jeremy Brown choice. He says Brown was a money pick, and while he could have grabbed him in the 8th, he needed to save money. And this, I must admit, is pretty true. Brown signed for $350,000, which was the lowest at that time. Oakland payed their next two picks in the 700s, which indicated they did have some money to spend. And hell, Blue Jays solid prospect David Bush was picked 55th, and only signed for 100K more than Brown. Believe me, Bush is higher on my prospect chart than Jeremy.
Finally, I also got an e-mail from someone who noted the ridiculous rumor of Miguel Tejada going to the Tigers. Miguel has some better options, although it would be fun to listen in on Dambrowski's offer to Miguel. Miguel is going to either Anaheim or the Cubs, with the Orioles having an outside chance. Also, the A's claimed Mario Ramos off waivers, the same player sent to receive Carlos Pena two seasons ago. For all the bashing I do of Beane, he is very good on claiming people off waivers. Ramos still has potential, and I think the A's could be the team to transform him into the John Halama type.
Finally, here are the OPS trends for AL West players, without comments today...
Reviewing, only two players, Carlos Guillen and Garret Anderson had positive indicators. Guillen will probably build on a .753 season, and Anderson needs about 20 walks to reach the .900 plateau. If he reaches it, Peter Gammons will launch a nationwide campaign for his election of MVP, President, and Boston Mayor.
Mike Cameron, Ichiro, Jermaine Dye, and A-Rod have had three seasons with OPS on the decline. Cameron would reverse that outside of Safeco, but inside who knows? Ichiro could very well have a .775 season next yar, staying with his decline rate. Dye really can't get worse than .514, and might even be back in the 700s next season. A-Rod, well, .996 ain't bad. If he declines to .990, I don't think anyone will care. Decline or not, he's the best baseball player alive, end of story.