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June 16, 2011 at 8:45 AM

Mariners buy themselves more time with Jack Wilson while promoting Dustin Ackley

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And so, the Dustin Ackley era has indeed begun. No surprise there, other than the fact the Mariners don’t mind throwing him out there at home against the Phillies. But mid-June has long been the target date for teams guessing when the Super-Two arbitration cutoff would come and — lo and behold — the M’s have decided that June 17 is when their No. 2 overall pick from 2009 will have improved enough offensively and defensively to be promoted and played in the majors.
Could the two possibly be related? Super-Two cutoff date and promotion date? Nah, it’s surely just an amazing coincidence.
Why rest Ackley last weekend? Exactly that. To give him a rest. Last thing you want is a worn-out prospect being called up. In a completely unrelated development, Ichiro had his fifth consecutive two-hit game last night since getting his day-off. Again, surely just a coincidence.
Looking at the Ackley call-up, here’s the obligatory disclaimer about it being a mistake to expect him to save the franchise’s offense. But the team might as well see what he can do now, considering how poorly the offense has performed on the homestand thus far. Yeah, the M’s faced some very good pitching and moved to within one game of the division lead. But the offense has to score more than two or three per game for this run to last, no matter how hard the Texas Rangers are trying to let Seattle take over the AL West.
For me, the more interesting move wasn’t the Ackley call-up, whether it was Friday, next Monday, last Sunday or whatever. It was the secondary move that was made to accomodate him on the roster.
For all the “professional at-bats” taken by Luis Rodriguez, his .167 batting average was not the stuff that keeps you in the majors. With a minor league option left, sending him to Class AAA means the team can put off a decision on what to do with Jack Wilson for now.

Think about it: it’s still six weeks ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. While there are markets unfolding for teams needing middle infielders, they probably will not be as strong in mid-June as they will be in late July.
Teams are only now starting to figure out where they’re headed and what they need.
Look at the Mariners. Does anyone really know where they’ll be come July 31? They could be leading this division. Or, they could be in last-place, on-pace to threaten last year’s mark for offensive futility. Nobody knows yet.
So, you probably won’t max out on a Wilson trade right now.
In that case, why trade him? Especially when you have a .167 hitter you can sacrifice for the time being in L-Rod?
As we wrote on Tuesday, the M’s were not going to do the silly thing and carry four second basemen. Now, they don’t have to. Wilson becomes the automatic backup infielder at second base and shortstop right now. Adam Kennedy can also be the backup at second and third and first. The choice on who plays second when Ackley gets a rest comes down to the handedness of that day’s starting pitcher.
If it’s a lefty, then Wilson gets the call. A righty? You go with Kennedy.
Yes, it will be a challenge. But you only need to find Kennedy four games per week. It’s not going to be insurmountable.
Wilson probably won’t see much more playing time than he’s currently had. But he’s been taking more and more grounders pre-game at shortstop and Brendan Ryan has slowed a little at the plate. Ryan is due for some rest, so I’d expect you’ll see Wilson playing more at shortstop going forward in addition to facing lefties at second base when Ackley isn’t playing.
And then, as you get closer to mid-July and the run-up to the trade deadline, you can delve deeper into what to do with Wilson.
There will always be teams trying to contend who need middle infield insurance, or even a starter in the event of injury. Teams that will offer up something bigger with two months to go than 3 1/2.
And maybe, just maybe, one of those teams will be the Mariners.
In other words, if Seattle finds itself in first-place or right there come mid-July, maybe there is an altogether unexpected development with Wilson.
Maybe he stays in Seattle for the duration of his contract.
After all, he’s been able to step in at second base sporadically and not miss a beat these days when turning double-plays with Ryan. Wilson has looked much better as a fielder at his new position the past month than he did the first six weeks.
And he’s been a part of this Seattle revival.
So, if the team is thinking of trading Wilson to help other contenders, why not keep him and help themselves? After all, what’s worth more to the Mariners, a playoff appearance, or saving a couple of million and garnering a so-so trade return?
The answer is obvious.
And making the playoffs can often come down to the roles played by bench players. Can often come down to the depth you have to ride out injuries. If Ryan was to twist an ankle and miss three weeks, who would you rather have playing shortstop — a .167-hitting L-Rod, or the .239-hitting Wilson with his all-star glove? It’s no contest.
So, if Wilson truly does want to finish off his contract here — and I think he does — and be part of this surprising run, there’s only one thing he has to do. Help the Mariners keep on winning, baby. Talk about a win-win proposition for the franchise.
If the team keeps doing just that and stays in this thing, I think there’s an excellent chance Wilson doesn’t get dealt. And in a year of big surprises for the M’s so far, that development wouldn’t even come close to topping the charts.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan


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