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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

December 16, 2014 at 1:44 AM

Moving on from Melky and a few other Mariners related notes and thoughts

So life after Melky Cabrera begins for the Mariners. The White Sox have yet to officially announce the deal.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports dropped this little gem …

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.50.46 PM

 

I haven’t got any confirmation from the Mariners that they are that “unknown” team. But from all indications and contact with sources, the Seattle was sticking to its three-year offer. I’m guessing that will be asked at Cabrera’s presser, whenever that is. Interesting stuff from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs on Cabrera.

So the search for a right fielder continues.

One player that won’t be part of that search is Alex Rios. The free agent outfielder agreed to a one-year, $11 million contract with the Kansas City Royals.

Rios was viewed as a possible back-up plan if the Mariners couldn’t sign Cabrera. But $11 million? Not sure that’s ideal for a 34-year-old guy that had a .709 OPS last season. But his four homers last season will fit in nicely for a Royals team that finished last in MLB in homers (yes, they did make the World Series).

The Royals have signed Kendrys Morales for $17 million over two years and Rios for $11 million – both Scott Boras clients. They combined for a -1.5 WAR last season. Both players can list reasons for their struggles last season. Morales had a truncated season after passing up an extension and a qualifying offer from the Mariners last offseason and going unsigned till July. Rios had injury issues that supposedly sapped his power production, despite playing in a hitter’s paradise. He now goes to one of the worst hitters’ parks in baseball. Maybe they will hit like they did in 2013.

Anyway enough about the Royals.

So what’s left for the Mariners to do in right field?

Well, the free agent market is somewhat picked over like the Target toy department on Christmas Eve.

The free agent candidates

Using their excellent free agent tracker tool, here is  a list of free agent outfielders that are unsigned from MLB Traderumors. Let’s go through them quickly

  • Norichika Aoki, RF — A postseason hero. We will discuss him more below.
  • Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/CF — Not exactly the type of outfielder the Mariners are looking for. The switch-hitter is versatile and more of a utility player.
  • Mike Carp, 1B/LF — Hey, I remember when he played for the Mariners. Carp asked to be traded out of Boston. He was and ended up in Texas. He’s not a right fielder though he’s not really a left fielder either.
  • Ezequiel Carrera, LF/CF/RF — Another former Mariner! Carrera is a fourth outfielder type that’s never played more than 70 games in the big leagues in a season.
  • Endy Chavez, RF — It’s raining former Mariners. The supposedly ageless Chavez showed signs of age at the end of last season. He’s a back-up outfielder at most. He will likely have to sign a minor league deal with a team.
  • Tyler Colvin, LF –– Another candidate for a minor league contract for some team. Colvin has battled back issues the past few seasons after hitting 18 homers for the Rockies in 2012.
  • Chris Denorfia, LF/RF  — Can you really call him a former Mariner for that forgettable stretch of games in August and September? Denorfia is a bench/platoon player these days.
  • Andy Dirks, LF — He could have been playing left field significantly for the Tigers last season. But back issues set him down for much of the season and JD Martinez took over in left and played well.
  • Ryan Doumit, C/LF/RF — The pride of Moses Lake. His outfield skills are dubious. He had -30.7 UZR in 266 outfield innings with the Twins in 2013.
  • Cole Gillespie, LF — So many former Mariners, so little time or reason to reminisce about their impact on the team. Gillespie will likely sign another minor league deal  with a team like he did last season with the Mariners.
  • Jonny Gomes, LF — Supposedly a good right-handed bat off the bench and a solid clubhouse guy. Gomes can hit lefties. He is NOT a right fielder. He’s sort of a left fielder.
  • Tony Gwynn, CF — Speed and defense … not so much on the hitting.
  • Scott Hairston, LF — another backup outfielder type that used to be able to hit lefties.
  • Corey Hart, 1B/RF/DH — funny, they list the position he’s most likely to play last. The Mariners took a chance on Hart last year. It failed miserably. I can’t imagine they will do it again.
  • Raul Ibanez, LF/DH — He just interviewed for the Rays manager job before removing his name from consideration. He’s going to make a good hitting coach or assistant hitting coach  for a team this season.
  • Kelly Johnson, 1B/2B/3B/LF – utility player that isn’t a right fielder.
  • Reed Johnson, LF — a scrappy player, and a good teammate that never takes a play off. I think the Mariners already have a guy like that.
  • Jason Kubel, LF — Back in 2009, he hit .300 with 28 homers and 103 RBI. A reminder, Chone Figgins was considered a good player going into the 2009 season.
  • Ryan Ludwick, LF  — He put up a .683 OPS in 114 games with the Reds. He will be 37 in July.
  • Nyjer Morgan, CF — He has an alter ego named Tony Plush. He can’t really hit. Enough said.
  • Mike Morse, 1B/LF — Even if the Mariners were interested, which they are not, Morse would not be interested in them. The reunion a year ago was a total failure on every level. Morse also took a few shots at the Mariners’ training staff as well.
  • Colby Rasmus, CF — A lot of people asked about him. He’s an interesting possibility. That we will discuss some more.
  • Nolan Reimold, LF/RF —  There is some talent there. But he’s battled injuries the last few seasons. Probably not an every day guy.
  • Nate Schierholtz, RF — yet another fourth outfielder type at best. Signed a minor league contract last season, will likely do the same this season.
  • Ichiro Suzuki, RF — Some people would like to bring him back as a platoon player in right field. I am not one of those people. But that’s just my personal preference.
  • Eric Young, LF — fourth outfielder type with speed. But not a right fielder or even a platoon guy.
  • Delmon Young, LF/DH — Listing him as an outfielder is an insult to all outfielders everywhere. Imagine the worst defensive plays you’ve seen from a Mariners outfielder over the years, and think about seeing it on a daily basis. Nelson Cruz played outfield instead of Young in Baltimore.

So that list isn’t exactly inspiring. It’s like being handed a menu that is nothing but salads and vegan options and knowing you have to eat from it for 162 days.

Of that list, I’ve had several people ask me about Rasmus and Aoki the most.

Rasmus is interesting possibility. It was like he fell off a cliff this season, losing his starting job to Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar. Most scouts feel he can still hit right-handers and his defense is more than capable. The question is what Rasmus is looking for and where he wants to play. The Orioles and Cubs have interest in him as well. It might not just come down to money, but opportunity. Rasmus may look to see where his best chance would be to revive his once productive career.

Aoki was remembered for his stellar September and postseason with the Royals. One of my favorite memories was ESPN showing a few crazy catches in right field as highlights of great defense. They failed to show his meandering and odd routes to the ball. Aoki doesn’t follow the pattern of many Japanese players that come to the US – great defense. He’s capable, but a bit of an adventure at times.  He had a 7.7 UZR this past season. In the idea of lesser evils, Mariners fans have seen worse defensive outfielders.

Here’s the offensive numbers …

 

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Not overwhelming, not horrible, not exactly the typical numbers of a right fielder.

Trade candidates

Justin Upton is still out there. The Mariners aren’t willing to give up Taijuan Walker or James Paxton. The line has supposedly been drawn. So if the Braves want Seattle to pick up Upton’s $14.5 million contract, they will have to look at a different Mariners prospect.

Dayan Viciedo was rumored to be a possibility. That seems unlikely. That seems unnecessary.

People on Twitter have suggested Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, Allen Craig, Dexter Fowler and others. There was a guy, who also suggested a Danny Hultzen and Brad Miller trade for Troy Tulowitzki too. But I thought that was obvious sarcasm. Of all those names, maybe Craig is the only legit possibility. The Red Sox still have a glut of outfielders. The asking price might not be as high.

In-house candidates 

James Jones, Stefen Romero and Brad Miller.

We have a pretty good idea about all three as hitters and their potential. Jones need a lot of work with his strike zone discipline and the adjustments that pitchers made to him last season, like overpowering him with inside fastballs. His speed got him to the big leagues and it may keep him there as a bench player.

Romero hit at Class AAA before the big leagues and he hit there when he was sent back. But consistent at-bats and a little cleaner approach would help him at the big league level. He was in an odd position last season in that modified platoon and getting sporadic playing time. Both Jones and Romero are fine in the outfield, and both can play multiple positions in the outfield. Romero can also play some first base.

Miller is easily the best hitter of three. His second half numbers were solid. He benefitted from being put in more optimal positions for success and he produced.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 1.41.42 AM

The question is whether he could be viable defensive option in right field if the Mariners try to convert him. That’s an “if” still. It may come down to whether they sign or trade a right fielder. As has been said often, many scouts believed Miller profiled best as an outfielder. He’s certainly athletic enough to do it. But if the M’s do this, it can’t half-hearted. They have to commit to it, which means plenty of time during spring training. We’ll see what happens.

There are no easy answers or simple fixes for the Mariners in right field, particularly in free agency and in-house. A trade might make the most sense, but we’ve seen their reluctance to trade young pitchers this offseason. But the right move might change that.

 

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