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January 28, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Go play in the snow

Feels like a good old morning in my hometown of Montreal. Well, OK, maybe not. When I was back there a couple of weeks ago, the temperature fell to minus-11 with six inches of snow overnight. Not that cold here in Seattle, though that white stuff I’m seeing outside is quite unusual for these parts. I’ve heard of “strawman arguments” on this site. Anyone for a “snowman argument”?
Like I told you last night, this Erik Bedard deal could take a couple of days to go through. A look at why takes us to Prime Suspect Numero Uno. We warned you about Peter Angelos last night. Yes, he does have to sign-off on a deal. You’d think a guy whose team was contemplating a deal of this magnitude could reschedule his lunch with the Chamber of Commerce, or whatever has him preoccupied today. But hey, it’s his life, his team, and I’m sure he’s got some serious stuff on his agenda. So, stop hanging by your computer waiting for an announcement. Go play in the snow.
What? You can’t tear yourself away from the blog? OK, let’s get on with life then.
What should be next on Seattle’s agenda? Well, with this deal still waiting for the “i’s” and “t’s” to be dotted and crossed, another outfielder to replace bean-spiller Adam Jones is a must. I’m being told the Mariners already have a one-year deal with free-agent Brad Wilkerson in their back pocket for the moment a Bedard trade is finalized.

Wilkerson hanging around in the background would seem to be exactly what Mariners GM Bill Bavasi was talking about last week when he suggested that someone in his position often has to move ahead and make secondary deals in the hopes of Plan A panning out. He then suggested that, sometimes, a GM will look less than intelligent for making that secondary move if Plan A doesn’t pan out. But sometimes, you’ve got no choice.
There were other teams interested in Wilkerson, a decent corner outfielder. The Boston Red Sox were one of them. At some point, Wilkerson would have told the M’s: “Look, I love you guys, but I can’t wait on Angelos and the Orioles on this Bedard thing, forever. Sign me now, or I’m going to Boston.” In which case the M’s, for whom, as I’ve mentioned, money is not a real issue, would have swallowed hard and offered him a fair price. I’m thinking Jose Guillen type money. Guillen received a $5.5 million base salary from the team a year ago, but let’s not forget, he was coming off an injury.
Guillen really received much closer to $9 million when all of his incentive targets were reached. I’m thinking roughly $8 million for Wilkerson.
What can Seattle offer him? Playing time. More playing time than the Red Sox, or some other suitors. The M’s can throw Wilkerson in right field, maybe even platoon him with Wladimir Balentien there if they feel ready to break the minor leaguer in.
Or, they could put him in left field full-time and move Raul Ibanez to right. With Wilkerson, you get some flexibility.
You also get a platoon split of an .859 on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS) against lefties, but only .757 against righties. Now, that’s not nearly as dire as the splits Ibanez has, but it does leave a bit of room for a platoon with Balentien if the M’s feel the latter is ready to be called up. Or, they could let Balentien hone his skills in Class AAA for a few months — the route I see this team ultimately taking — then call him up mid-season and break him in a la Adam Jones circa 2007.
Thing is, if Wilkerson stays healthy, the team can live with a 20-homer, .786 OPS guy in one corner, provided Ibanez keeps delivering at the plate. Don’t forget, that’s 20 homers in only 338 at-bats last season with Wilkerson. That’s the plus. If he can deliver 500 at-bats or more, something he hasn’t done since 2005, this signing could be the Guillen equivalent of 2008. If not, the M’s could bring Balentien up to fill in the extra 200 at-bats and then move on from there.
Yes, it’s a stop-gap solution until Balentien shows what he’s got, or the 2009 free-agent crop arrives. Right now, I’d say Wilkerson is the best solution out there.
And in the unlikely event that Angelos pulls a…well, pulls an Angelos, you’ve got an outfielder — albeit an expensive one — who can be platooned with Ibanez against lefty pitching, or help spell Jones as he breaks into the majors. With all the great stuff Jones has been telling folks about becoming an Oriole, though, I think he’d be shocked to be manning right field for the M’s in the months ahead.



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