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December 7, 2009 at 1:29 PM

Don Wakamatsu meets the media, discusses OBP, power bats and much more

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Larry Stone caught up with Felix Hernandez’s agent, who had some interesting things to say.
Every manager gets an opportunity to have a session with reporters at the baseball winter meetings and this afternoon was Don Wakamatsu’s turn.
Listen to audio of the entire chat by clicking right here.
I asked Wakamatsu which area of the team’s offense he’d most like to improve. He replied:
“Probably some of the things we’ve talked about all year, and that’s just trying to get a grasp on understanding how to get on base, flat out. I think our on base percentage struggled, but I think with that, there’s got to be a methodology, too. There’s got to be a plan and an individual one because I think everybody is a little bit different. But I think we set the focus and we’ll continue to do that.
“I think Alan Cockrell has talked to just about every offensive player we have with us right now and is going to get together with several of them prior to even Spring Training to hone that in.
“I think from a manager’s standpoint we did talk a lot to the younger players that have basically just made their debut at the Major League level of the importance of that, and we’ll talk a lot more about that in Spring Training.”


He was later asked whether on base percentage is something that can be taught, especially to an older player like Jack Wilson. Here is his answer:
“I think that becomes a technical question, meaning I think there’s some guys that because of their mechanics and their swing have a propensity to want to expand the zone in those cases. Not necessarily. But that’s what we were talking about some of the work that needs to be done from now until Spring Training is dissecting last year and looking at — whether it’s José Lopez, how can we make this guy even better than he is, and going back and looking at different counts and trying to give them a concrete game plan.
“So yes and no. I think that a lot of it does depend on the player and the discipline that we’re going to try and instill in them.”

Some of the questions then turned to the type of bats Seattle needs. One reporter asked whether Wakamatsu would be willing to sacrifice a little defense for a bigger bat. Wakamatsu laughed and said:
“I think that depends on the rest of the club, it really does. I mean, how this thing slots out, I don’t really ever want to sacrifice anything.”
He was then asked about “how pressing” the need was for a “power bat” to be brought in.
“I think any manager wants power in their lineup. You know, I think, again, the next couple days will probably dictate who’s available and what’s out there. Again, I’ll trust Jack in acquiring those players. There’s different ways to produce runs obviously. You look at, for me, a Bobby Abreu, the impact that he had on Anaheim, and I don’t know the statistics, but they ended up scoring 100 or so more runs than they had in the past because maybe they’re patient. Speed helps. So I think if you can’t get one then you look at the other, but power never hurts.”
A Boston media type then jumped in and asked what Wakamatsu’s impressions were about Jason Bay.
“Impact bat. Obviously to watch him, the effect that he had with Boston is awfully impressive. But again, professional. This guy had a tremendous year, and he was helpful for the Boston Red Sox.”
OK, that’s pretty general. The same media person then asked what he thought of the Bay rumors and talk that he’d like to play in Seattle.
“Again, I think I’ll wait and see how this turns out in the next couple weeks, see how it turns out, and again, if there’s a possibility at all of those guys, Jack will take a look at it and he’ll share it with us.”
Wakamatsu was then asked by someone else whether an impact bat or impact starter would impact his team the most.
“Again, I think that’s hard to say without looking at the whole puzzle. But I think we went down the road last year with pitching and defense, and I think we can’t lose that. We have to be able to defend to keep the games in hand. So I don’t want to really, I guess, classify what type of team we’re going to be. But I don’t think in today’s game that you can sacrifice pitching and defense.”
Wakamatsu’s hands are tied for now, given how the team doesn’t know what direction it’s going in. He used the phrase “domino effect” and said that one move could dictate several to follow. That expression is heavy on the lips of M’s officials here. First, Adrian Beltre has to accept or decline arbitration.
If Beltre accepts, the plan, I’m told, is to slide Chone Figgins down to second base and then move Jose Lopez to first. But that’s unlikely. Beltre will almost certainly decline, Figgins will move to third, Lopez stay at second (unless he’s traded) and then a first baseman will be obtained elsewhere. Is it Nick Johnson? Nothing is close yet, even though there have been preliminary talks. Maybe Russell Branyan? We’ll have to see.
Beltre will be the first shoe to drop. We’re waiting for official word.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins

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