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January 17, 2008 at 4:01 PM

Non-roster invites; your questions

The Mariners just put out a list of the 17 non-roster players they’ve invited to spring training. Not much of a surprise here.
RHP Phillippe Aumont
C Jair Fernandez
INF Tug Hulett
OF Bronson Sardinha
LHP Philip Barzilla
C Adam Moore
INF Mark Kiger
RHP Roy Corcoran
C Brant Ust
INF Matt Tuiasosopo
RHP Brodie Downs
RHP Stephen Kahn
RHP Kameron Mickolio
RHP Chris Reitsma
LHP Arthur Rhodes
LHP Robert Rohrbaugh
RHP Chris Tillman
LHP Jake Woods
Some names to look for: Aumont, Mickolio,Tillman (if he doesn’t get traded), Moore (22 homers, 102 RBI in 115 games at Class A). I’ll include Sardinha, because I think he has the coolest sounding two-name combo. Best first name? I’d go with Tug Hulett. Sorry folks, no more Justin Lehr.
Now, on to your questions from this morning…


Q: Even if the team traded the farm for Bedard do you really believe the Ms would be a better team going forward than the Angels, Red Sox or Yankees?
A: I believe they’d have a fighting chance. Especially over the Yankees. With some breaks, they could catch the Angels. That’s why they play the games.
Q: I kind of find your point #3 funny, because you were the one hounding Bavasi to trade the moon for Al Reyes last year at the trade deadline. You have to answer for yourself: is this bullpen good enough or not? Last year, for you, it was no. This year, minus one of their top two bullpen arms, it is?
A: Last summer, I advocated that Bavasi deal for another starter to better the rotation, or another eighth inning reliever to “shorten the game” and help out some arms that were tiring. He did neither, the Mariners collapsed, and the 2007 season went bye-bye. Never advocated dealing the farm. But the M’s, as you’ve pointed out, still have all their top prospects to trade right now (which some of you are still reluctant to do). I do believe this bullpen is deep enough to withstand the loss of Sherrill. I did not believe it, or any bullpen, was strong enough to pitch three or four innings per night over an entire season when it was comprised with too many arms lacking endurance or experience as was the case with the M’s last year. We’ll never know whether Al Reyes, Eric Gagne, Octavio Dotel, or any other of the bigger names on the market would have helped this specific situation in Seattle (what they did elsewhere afterwards has little bearing on what might have happened here). All we do know is that this was a trade Bavasi did not make. And, contrary to what has been written today, that is not always the best course to take. At least, not for the 2007 season. The team collapsed and a playoff shot went out the window. But hey, you still have Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and others to deal for a top starter. If the M’s bring in Bedard, I’ll be more open to suggestions that writing off the 2007 season last July 31 might have been the best move.
Q: Point #4, I guess I don’t see the logic. If Ichiro is declining, that means Jones takes the CF spot and Ichiro goes back to RF. You trade Jones, in 2010, you don’t have a CF in your system to do that with. And what if Wlad becomes one of those 3 outfielders along with Jones?
A: If you put Ichiro back in right field, you’re sacrificing offensive power at a power position (please refer to the team’s 2006 season, when the offense was below average). It’s the reason he moved to center in the first place. If Wlad Balentien is good enough to play right field for this team, then all of that hand-wringing over possibly losing Jones this year has been overstated. I can live with one below average fielding outfielder (Raul Ibanez) in left if it’s the worst penalty the team has to suffer through for bringing in Bedard. Plenty of contending clubs have bigger flaws than that (like the Cleveland Indians lacking a decent closer).
Q: Point #2, you may be forgetting that next year will be a much much better market for starting pitching in FA. This year, the only chance to get a top guy is via trading the farm, your house, your wife, your kids, to get the stud.
A: And you seem to be forgetting that the Mariners haven’t been all that successful in landing free-agent starting pitchers that other clubs are actually interested in. Nobody wants to trade the wife, kids, or farm. Just one very good outfield prospect and some less-proven, potentially good commodities. Hey, that’s what getting a potential No. 1 starter costs these days! Don’t forget, what you call “the farm” includes a 17-year-old still looking for his first pro home run. A catcher with some pop in his bat who may not catch for this team — ever. But they’re not all going to get dealt at once. If that was the case, Bedard would have been here in early December.
Q: Point #1, I agree, but are you telling me a big big part of the Angels lineup, namely Vlad, is going to be BETTER than he is now? The Angels will likely be worse in two years, not better.
A: No, the Angels are likely to go out and spend big bucks bringing in that big offensive bat they’ll need. Maybe even by outbidding the Mariners. They tried to land Miguel Cabrera this winter and nearly got him via trade. Had that happened, it would have been lights-out on the division this year. With all the free-agent bats coming on the market the next couple of years, the Angels are sure to upgrade. Write off these next two years by not bringing in Bedard, there’s no guarantee the M’s won’t be writing off the next five. With a $100 million+ payroll, you have to continuously improve and assume your competitors are doing the same.
Q: So, Geoff – do you think the Mariners w/Bedard are more likely to win a WS in 2008 or 2009? I sure don’t.
A: The short-term goal should be to make the playoffs. Once you get there, winning it all can depend on timing, luck and other factors. Having a strong rotation helps and the Mariners certainly would. I’d like them in a short series and think they’d have an even shot in a best-of-seven affair. But getting to the post-season keeps fans interested, puts more money in the team’s pockets and gives ownership more incentive to remain successful.
Q: Wait, wait – so getting stud pitching isn’t the only way to win? Huh. And here I thought TOR pitching was essential to success…?
A: Well, it’s one of the toughest ways to go about it. But no, if you have an overpowering offense, you don’t necessarily need top-of-the-rotation pitching, as I showed with the Yankees. The point was, you have to be dominant in one of those aspects. The question you have to ask yourself is, are the M’s closer to being a dominant offensive team, or pitching team? If Bedard is just one trade away from coming here, I’d have to argue it’s on the pitching side. Defense? If you were bringing in three Adam Jones types, I’d say he’d have a similar ability to transform the club overnight. But he’s just one guy (and a first-year player at that), playing one corner outfield position. He isn’t Superman.
Q: In all seriousness, I agree 100% with your analysis Geoff. But I still want your take on a trade that sends only Morrow, Tillman\Triunfel and Sherril for Bedard?
A: Well, hey, you might as well toss in an extra $50,000 for me since it’s apparently “Make your wishes come true day” on the blog. Look, if Adam Jones isn’t a part of the deal, the Orioles aren’t going to do it. If Bavasi can land Erik Bedard for the names you just mentioned, then he’ll get to have his cake and eat it too.
Q: NYY Yankees, 2007, .290 avg, 968 runs scored…lost in the first round of playoffs after winning the WC.
I ask you, did the pitching Marlins win a World Series (in 2003), or the slugging Yankees?
A: The Marlins, of course, beating the Yanks 4-2. But they caught plenty of breaks along the way, including the Yankees blowing a late lead in Game 4 when they could have gone up 3-1 in the series. David Wells of the Yankees bowing out of Game 5 after one inning because of back spasms didn’t hurt Florida’s cause much, either. Like I said, you get to the playoffs, anything can happen. That should be the goal of this M’s team. Once they do it a few times in a row like the Yankees and Red Sox, then they can start focusing on their “playoff” roster in January.
Q: The problem is Bedard’s value is diminished if Raul Ibanez is slogging around the outfield rather than Adam Jones. Bedard with Jones in left should mean saving a whole lot of runs. Ibanez gives half of those runs back.
A: Bedard is not a flyball pitcher, so the question of how much he’d truly be hurt by Ibanez is highly debatable. In fact, four of the five projected Seattle starters after a Bedard deal would be groundball pitchers. If you’re so worried about Ibanez, you can sit him for Jarrod Washburn’s outings and put a defensive specialist in there. This isn’t to say that Ibanez is the perfect solution, or that some harm won’t come from having him out there. But I think that case has been vastly overstated and pales in comparison to the good that could come from having a much stronger starting rotation. Remember, Adam Jones is only going to play one corner outfield position, not shortstop, second base or first base. A little improvement in those areas — not to mention an expected defensive upgrade over Jose Guillen, whoever comes in — would go a long way towards mitigating any damage caused by Ibanez. Especially with a groundball pitching staff.
Q: Yes, Yankees line-up plus M’s pitching may eqal dream team, but making a comparison with the Yankees of the last two years is a weak argument to make for exchanging Jones for Bedard, as the Yankees fell flat on their face in the playoffs.
A: No, it’s a very good argument. The Yankees were about as bad as the Mariners defensively and exceled only in one area — hitting. Seattle has a chance to excel in one area, only it’s pitching. Hitting-wise, the M’s have a shot to be statistically better, in relation to the rest of the league, than the Yankees were at comparitive AL pitching the last two years. The point was, you don’t have to be great in all areas to make the playoffs. And believe me, the M’s would gladly take a playoff berth and worry about the World Series later on.
Q: Vidro is a vet, which means he’ll play every day unless he goes to the DL. McLaren demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt last year with Sexson, and to a lesser extent Ibanez, that he will ride a veteran into the ground before trying anything with even an experienced bench player, let alone a AAA callup.
A: I think i’s a tad unfair to predict what McLaren will do over an entire season based on what he did the final two months of 2007. Completely different circumstances. Last year, the debate was whether to throw a raw rookie, Adam Jones, into a playoff race ahead of two producing veterans in Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro. This year, Jones has already been annointed the starting right fielder. If anyone gets bumped from the outfield, it will be Ibanez. So, already, your theory isn’t holding up. McLaren was very specific last year about why he wouldn’t use Jones every day in a playoff chase. Once the race was decided, he stuck with Ibanez and Vidro as a “reward” for their production more than anything else. Jones got the starting job this year and will have more time to adjust to the major league game. Where’s the problem? As I wrote last fall, this whole “sticking with veterans” thing isn’t entirely accurate. If it was, Willie Bloomquist would have started at second base on a regular basis after June and the Mariners would not have built their entire bullpen around a bunch of 30-and-under types. But yes, I would have liked to see Ben Broussard get more playing time. I’d like to see backups get a lot more playing time in this organization. That’s different from a “young guys versus old vets” thing.
Q: How’s this for a scenario: The reason that Adam Jones was pulled from his winter league ball start over the weekend was because a major trade was worked out between the Mariners and Orioles for Bedard, but was contigent on Bedard signing a long-term contract with the Mariners. Bedard repeated what he has said all along, that he wants to test the free agent market in two years, no matter what. That killed the deal and they told Jones to continue winter league play.
A: It’s as good as this scenario: that maybe Orioles owner Peter Angelos refused to sign-off on the deal? Maybe the Mariners wanted outfielder Luke Scott thrown in to the trade and Baltimore refused? Or, the M’s wanted Brian Roberts in an expanded deal? Perhaps Seattle reads the U.S.S. Mariner more than Detect-O-Vision and got cold feet? I’ve seen a lot of guesses out there in the blogosphere today, but no cold hard facts. So, your guess is as good as any of those.
Q: If you have invested time and money into this new kid, why not give him a shot to see what he can do?
A: Because you can parlay that into a trade for someone else who can get you where you want to go a lot more quickly.
Q: If the Mariners want to trade for a pitcher why not Scott Kazmir? He is younger and healthier and is more easily gotten?
A: More easily gotten? You think so? Sure, there are some possible trade matchups. But there are with the Orioles as well. Just because the Rays need a catcher doesn’t mean they’re going to see Jeff Clement as a future all-star behind the plate. They will read the same scouting reports on him that everyone else sees and demand plenty of pitching to go along with the deal. Last I checked, Kazmir was also a key part of Tampa Bay’s rotation. Maybe in a couple of years, when he’s a year away from free-agency, the M’s can try to get him on-the-cheap. Don’t see it happening that way this time around.
Q: There’s really too much made out of the Mariners’ 2007 run differential. The Diamondbacks also had a negative run differential and they got all the way to the NLCS last year.
A: Yeah, teams do buck the trend every now and then. But it would be foolish to completely discount what happened to the M’s last season. Teams that get outscored tend to be sub-.500 teams. Doesn’t mean the Mariners can’t make that gap up this year. The whole point of the off-season is figuring out how to change that run differential for the better. The M’s figure it’s about boosting the rotation more than the offense or the positional defense. There’s also the chance that the team’s bullpen, so strong in close situations, actually makes the Pythagorean record less relevant. But I wouldn’t bank on that. I’d take the 79-win Pythag as a warning sign and work to improve.

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