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July 31, 2012 at 9:03 AM

Mariners should keep Brendan Ryan for next year and maybe even beyond

Sitting here waiting for the next big shoe to drop trade-wise for the Mariners. Last night was a good warm-up but not nearly enough to bring in the types of pieces this team needs. A little distressed knowing that all the team has to show for the Brandon Morrow trade now is a Class AA closer and a Class A outfielder but you can’t win ’em all.
Anyhow, let’s see what happens from here.
Quite a shock ran through my system yesterday when I saw Brendan Ryan surface in a trade rumor report that said the Mariners would not be dealing him to the Yankees.
All I can say is, good. The Mariners should not be looking to trade Ryan. They should be looking to keep him.
Not only that, I’d actually look to extend the arbitration eligible Ryan by another year. Give him a two-year deal at a cost-contained price.
Let’s face it, with his offense, he isn’t exactly going to command a premium on the open market. The Mariners could let him go to arbitration this winter, which wouldn’t be the end of the world since arbitrators probably aren’t all that up on advanced defensive metrics. But if you can get him at a discount for the next two seasons, I’d do it.
Ryan right now is putting together one of the best defensive seasons you are ever going to see from a shortstop. Not only that, but his offense is now quietly starting to drift back up towards the realm of respectability.
And he’s the best option the Mariners have at the position right now. Sure, the team has Nick Franklin at Class AAA, but there are questions about his defense and whether he profiles better as a second baseman. Really, until the guy plays in the majors, we shouldn’t be handing him anything.
If he doesn’t cut it, there is last year’s second rounder, Brad Miller, out of Clemson, who just recently got promoted to AA.
But neither guy seems poised to handle the job full-time next spring. That’s why you keep Ryan to bridge the gap. Heck, you might even keep Ryan to be the guy at shortstop down the road if he’s better than Franklin and Miller.

Here’s the thing: the Mariners at some point might want to ensure they put a .500 team on the field before 2015. This latest five-game winning streak sees the M’s playing better ball — the last two games were far better than the initial three — but it comes at a point when the team had already buried itself in last place, so far below .500 that reaching it again is a pipe dream.
As we’ve seen with a mediocre Toronto team, even a .500 season these days gets you into a playoff race because of the second wild-card slot. So, there is a way to make baseball interesting for your fanbase while rebuilding at the same time.
And just because you have a prospect who plays a certain position doesn’t mean you have to jettison a capable major leaguer at the position and sacrifice the next three years waiting for said prospect to catch up.
You make the prospect earn the spot.
And there is no way to do that if there is no competition at the position. Like I said, we don’t even know whether Franklin will wind up being a shortstop. And if he’s not ready, Miller is still a ways away.
Oh yeah, and Ryan, as I said, is putting together a defensive season for the ages.
All you have to do is watch him play to know just how special he’s been. Ryan makes a highlight reel play every night and it isn’t in a Yuniesky-Betencourt-diving-for-routine-grounders way. Every night, Ryan makes you go “Wow!” by getting to balls no one else does and making near-impossible throws to first. By catching pop-ups in which he sprints across half an outfield before snaring the ball in a contorted way.
The advanced metrics back me up on this. Ryan’s Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) of 25 is twice as many as the next closest guy in baseball.
We are privileged to be able to watch a performance like this.
Yeah, his bat could be better. But do you know what? This team has many other spots that need upgrading first. Beginning with the outfield — even after last night’s trade — first base and third base. Teams that want to improve offensively need to start with the corners and work their way on in. Sure, you’d like above-average offense from your shortstop, but that’s a luxury. The M’s don’t even have the basics down yet in either their infield or outfield corners.
But with Ichiro now gone, they can finally put a typical, power-hitting right fielder into their lineup. That’s the most obvious place to upgrade. Beforehand, you had to think about moving Ryan because Ichiro handcuffed you with low-yield offense at a typical power position, forcing the team to upgrade at non-traditional spots. Now, overnight, that problem is gone. Now, the M’s can approach offensive upgrades the way a normal team does.
And if you can fill out the offensive basics, then you can afford to keep a guy like Ryan in the lineup despite his bat. So, the M’s need to get started on that upgrading today before the trade deadline expires.
As for Ryan, leave the guy alone. He doesn’t have to go anyplace.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan


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