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January 3, 2013 at 10:57 AM

The value of Robert Andino to the Mariners

Mariners infielder Robert Andino can play third base as well as shortstop and second, allowing the team to carry only one infield backup if needed. Photo Credit: AP

ADDITIONAL NOTE (1:10 P.M.): The Mariners have signed first baseman Mike Jacobs to a minor league deal, giving them more Class AAA depth at the position for now. Larry Stone has more details over on his blog.

There has been considerable, justifiable angst expressed in the Mariners blogosphere — most recently this morning — about what the signings of Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay mean for the future of Casper Wells. I agree that Wells is not an outfielder the team just wants to jettison, since he’s out of options, he cost you Doug Fister to get him (in part) and he has value in being able to play multiple outfield positions as a young backup.

First off, Ibanez has made the team already since he’s guaranteed $2.75 million. This is more of a contest between Bay and Wells, who both are right-handed hitters. Bay is only guaranteed $500,000, so it’s still possible he gets cut in spring training and all this angst over Wells proves moot. The Mariners are not about to lose Wells for nothing and since he’s out of minor league options, he is going to make the team this spring barring a trade or a total disaster.

So, what gives with the Bay signing? Why would the Mariners sign him in the first place, then bet on him to fall flat so they can cut him in spring training? Well, they didn’t do that.

There is a way for the Mariners to keep both Bay and Wells on the same team and that’s by starting off the season with five outfielders. That’s right, instead of carrying one extra outfielder and two backup infielders, the Mariners would go with two surplus outfielders and just one backup infielder.

And the reason they can do that is a guy named Robert Andino.

The trade that brought Andino to Seattle from Baltimore has largely been overlooked in the grand scheme of things, for obvious reasons since he’s not exactly the type of impact upgrade the Mariners have talked of making for a while now. In fact, many have wondered about the marginal upgrade from light-hitting Munenori Kawasaki to light-hitting Andino and asked “Why?”

Well, this is why. Andino can play both the middle infield and third base. You don’t see that all that often with backup infielders. Sure, you have guys who can slide over in a pinch, as Kawasaki did for one game at third base last year. But when a guy can outhit his own weight and still be 30 points below the Mendoza Line, that’s not real third base material.

Andino can actually play third base. He’s done it 46 times in his career, including 15 games there last season — nine of them starts.

That’s not bad for a guy who is also a natural shortstop. Like I said, it’s a rare combo to find a true middle infielder who can also play a corner infield spot without embarassing himself.

So, the Mariners can start the year with a 12-man pitching staff and still carry both Wells and Bay as long as they leave just one backup infielder on the bench.

This is where Ibanez comes in as well.

Because while Andino will be the backup at third base, he doesn’t play first base. So, right now, Ibanez becomes the backup at first base in the event Kendrys Morales or Justin Smoak is the DH that night and the starting first baseman goes down with an injury. You slide Ibanez in at first base and then you don’t lose the DH for a night.

There you have it. Now, it’s possible things could get tricky if both the starting third baseman and shortstop collide with one another and have to leave the game. But that’s getting a bit ridiculous. If that happened, it would make for an interesting one night and then you call up somebody from Class AAA. But you don’t plan a team based on scenarios that have little chance of actually occuring. You certainly don’t jettison Wells from your team based on the potential of the shortstop and third basemangetting hurt in the same game.

So, there you go. There’s your roster and it’s got both Bay and Wells on it.

You can get away with it because Andino is a natural backup at third base and the two middle infield spots, while Ibanez backs up first base — negating the need to carry two backup infielders.

No more angst needed. Well, except the fact the Mariners still look like they need to add more talent this winter and havent done so yet. Feel free to fret about that because it remains a valid concern.



Comments | More in Transactions | Topics: robert andino; raul ibanez; jason bay; casper wells


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