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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

December 17, 2007 at 5:36 PM

A long weekend

Appreciate all the worried emails the past few days as the blog went dark. Yes, I am alive and well. It was my birthday yesterday and my girlfriend, Amy, surprised me with a wine tasting trip to Oregon that began Friday night. Stayed in a beautiful lodge in the middle of nowhere, where the internet did not work. Tried to blog when Hiroki Kuroda agreed to terms with the Dodgers on Saturday, but no dice. The highlight of the trip came yesterday, when former Oregon State long-snapper Darrick Bruns, now a 6th grade teacher moonlighting in the wine touring industry, took us to some beautiful, out-of-the-way spots.
I’m writing this blog now, having returned home, because our site is undergoing an overhaul the next three days and I will be unable to post. Yes, it is the dead of winter. I know we all miss baseball, but these are the necessary hardships we have to put up with as the old year winds down and the new one looms. Sorry. But I will tell you this, you should like the new look to the blog come next season.
Anyway, my take on the Mariners losing out on Kuroda? Obviously, a big setback. Not catastrophic mind-you, but why sugarcoat things? He was said to be the best pitcher in a poor lot of free-agents. Seattle made its pitch and couldn’t get him. There was obviously quite a bit of wheeling and dealing that took place after Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in the middle of last week. The agents for Kuroda got the Dodgers to up their total package by about $5 million after squeezing an extra year out of the Royals in an offer that was turned down.
So, the M’s had their shot. Had the Dodgers not increased their per year offer, it’s quite possible Kuroda would have gone elsewhere. After all, it’s nice to talk about Joe Torre and the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers and Kuroda wanting his family to be comfortable. But in the end, money talks. Kuroda is now making about $12 million per year instead of $10 million. That carries more weight than having some 50th anniversary decal sewn on your game jersey.
Other reasons he’d go to LA rather than take more money in Seattle, or an extra year in KC? Not having to pitch in the AL would be my first guess. Kuroda, from everything I’ve heard, may not project all that well in the junior circuit. Why take a chance on that, at his age? This will likely be his first and only opportunity to make an impression in the majors. If he were to go to KC and pull a Kei Igawa, he’d likely be on the first plane back to Japan in a year or two. Much easier to break into the NL, especially the NL West.
So, yes, this is indeed a setback for the M’s — though not as big as it could be. If I’m the Mariners, I’m not so sure I’d want a guy who seems a little skittish of the AL. Been down that road before. Not for four years, $44 million I wouldn’t.
Only question now is what’s Plan B?
I don’t see the loss of Kuroda stinging that much if the M’s can add Erik Bedard of the Orioles and another starter who is an upgrade over Horacio Ramirez. I do see it as a disaster if the M’s lose out on Bedard and settle for dealing their best trade chits for Joe Blanton. Get Bedard and Blanton and I’m all for it. Just one guy, Blanton, instead of Bedard, while blowing your best young prospects? That would be too risky for me. Would smack of desperation.
Yes, Blanton has the durability. He’s tossed 200+ innings in two seasons and come close in another. He does win his share of games. And I do think there is something to be said for having a knack for winning — even with average-looking peripheral numbers. It can mean a pitcher finds a way to go that extra inning where another starter wouldn’t. So, I’m not going to write off Blanton’s 42 wins his first three years as total luck, despite a fairly ordinary 4.32 ERA over that span.
His career ERA+ of 105 is about equal with his 106 from last season, meaning he was six percent better than the average pitcher. If Blanton’s the team’s No. 3 starter next year, the M’s could do far worse. But dealing away Adam Jones in the hope that Blanton makes it to the next level? Wouldn’t do it. I would, grudgingly, for Bedard, because I believe he can be a difference-maker. Just don’t see that in Blanton alone. Some of you mentioned body-type and I’ll agree. I’m not a fan of pitchers who have trouble with their fitness level. Is that something the team wants Felix Hernandez taking a look at?
My guess is the M’s wouldn’t deal Jones for Blanton. GM Bill Bavasi has already said he’d have trouble stomaching the idea of Jones hammering his team’s pitchers 19 times a year for the next decade. I just don’t see two AL West teams making this swap. And that’s a good thing for M’s fans, in my view. Blanton alone does not make this team improived enough to overtake the Angels next season. And if that’s the case, you are better off swallowing the bitter pill, keeping the prospects and breaking them in now.
Yes, it’s starting to get desperate before 2008 even arrives. No matter how the team tries to spin it. Landing Bedard just became a little more important for the team to have any hope of taking a step forward next season.



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