Sunday, February 24, 2008

What's at Stake? The Bullpen

As spring training gets under way, We'll run down the position battles (such as they are) that make camp interesting. Last time we took a look at the rotation, today, the pen!

We'll assume a 7 man pen, and that we have to have two lefties, because the M's are obsessed with these types of things. Putz is the closer and Morrow is the right handed setup man. The left-handed setup guy comes down to Eric O'Flaherty or our old friend Arthur Rhodes. Based on health and recent effectiveness I'm guessing it goes to O'Flaherty. Mark Lowe has probably got a spot if he's healthy, so that leaves 3 spots. I've ranked the remaining competitors in order of likeliness of making the squad, and remember we've got to have one more lefty.

1. Sean Green. Pitched well for much of last year, with a 3.84 ERA in 68 innings, but was part of the late season bullpen struggles. Still he pitched well enough that he is likely to keep his spot unless he has a really bad camp.
2. Ryan Rowland-Smith. Also had solid half-season in the M's pen. 42 strikeouts in only 38 innings and 3.96 ERA probably gets him in the pen. Fills the second lefty role.
3. Horacio Ramirez. Since they traded for him and signed him to good sized deal in th offseason, I'm guessing he makes the club as long man. Bleah.
4. R.A. Dickey. Could get HoRam's job if he has a good camp. Remember, he has to be kept on the 25 man roster or be offered back to the Twins. So if the M's want to keep him as the 6th starter, they have to find room for him in the pen.
5. Arthur Rhodes. Arthur Lee has a shot at the LH setup role, but if he doesn't get it, they might not keep him around. Could be the second lefty if RR-S struggles in camp.
6. Chris Reitsma. He was terrible with the M's last year and he's likely done. But you know the M's. If he has a superficially decent camp and they decide they need his essential veteran-ness...
7. Jon Huber. Had 16 decent innings in 2006 at the end of the year, but lost a big chunk of last season to a forearm strain. Has been passed by Sean Green and probably needs someone to get hurt to have big league job.
8. Robert Rohrbaugh. Mentioned him in the starters post. He's a finesse lefty, with an outside shot at the pen. He's not getting any younger.
9. Cesar Jimenez. Comes in to camp having pitched great in Venezuela. Probably starts the year in Tacoma's rotation.
8. Sean White. Last year's Rule Five pick should start the year in the minors. But if a lot of bad things happen to a lot of guys he could make the club.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My oh my!

The P-I is reporting, via the AP, that original Mariner Dave Niehaus is this year's winner of the Frick Award. The winner of this award gets inducted into the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame!

Way to go Dave! We here at Tatonka make no secret of our Non-Sexual Man Crush (tm Batgirl) on the legendary voice of the Mariners. My Niehaus autographed cap is one of my prized possessions. During the miracle that was the 1995 season, a quick rub of his signature was a can't miss good luck charm. And, yes I did rub the autograph just before The Double.

Again, congrats to Dave on a well deserved honor. Somebody break out the rye bread...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What's at Stake? The Rotation

As pitchers and catchers reported this week, (Yay!) I thought we would hit the 4 main areas of the M's roster and review what jobs are up for grabs in Spring Training. Who could make the club, who could get the boot and what it would mean for the M's season coming up.

We'll start off with the rotation. What's at Stake? Since the Bedard trade, not bloody much! Here's how the rotation shakes out:

SP1 Erik Bedard
SP2 Felix Hernandez
SP3 Carlos Silva
SP4 Jarrod Washburn
SP5 Miguel Batista

Silva, Wash and Batista could actually start in any order there, I listed Batista as the 5 only because if the pen should struggle or we lose JJ for any length of time they could move him to the pen and start someone else. I expect he is on the shortest leash of any of the Craptastic Three should they struggle. Although given what we have seen of McLaren so far, we know that the leash is pretty damn long for all of them. This is the guy who gave HoRam 20 starts with an ERA over 7!

These are the guys in the running to be the first guy up from Tacoma. Spring Training is important for these guys, because the Mariners in the past have let the manager make the call on callups and fill-ins, so pesky things like AAA stats are not going to be a huge factor in the decision, at least not compared to whether or not they "showed us something," in the spring.

40 Man Roster candidates
Horacio Ramirez - Probably will be in big league pen as a mop-up guy. Sucks.
Cha Seung Baek - 12 starts last year and wasn't terrible. Pretty much the definition of a replacement level pitcher. He's got the best BP PECOTA projection of anybody fighting for a job here.
Ryan Feierabend - Baek with a cooler name. Actually Ryan is 22 and throws harder, so there is more upside here, but his 9 starts were not as good as Baek's.
Ryan Rowland-Smith - Lefty who spent some time in the big league pen last year and has a shot a job there this year. Worked as a starter in Venezuela this winter, with limited success. Baseball America has him as our 9th best prospect.
R.A. Dickey - Rule 5 selection this offseason, if he doesn't make the big-league club, he must be offered back to the Twins. Had an ERA under 4 in AAA Nashville last year as a knuckleballer.

NRIs with an outside shot:
Jake Woods - He's still here?
Robert Rohrbaugh- Finesse college lefty with good control.

Up next: The Bullpen!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Now it Really is Done

The world's longest trade is finally done. Officially it is Bedard for Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler, and Kam Mickolio.

In general I am not as down on this trade as some in the blogosphere. I am disappointed that we are losing Adam Jones. The price also seems a little high, especially compared to the price the Mets paid for Santana.

If we were closer to a championship I would like the trade better. At this point in our success cycle, we should be holding on to prospects not dealing them away. We should be building our next good team around Adam Jones instead of trading him for two years of a great, but at least mildly injury prone pitcher.

But it does make us better than we were before in the short term. It puts us in position to make a run at the Angels should the season go horribly wrong for them. The wild card seems unlikely given that we'd have to beat both the loser of the Yankees/Red Sox and Indians/Tigers.

Still I can't totally blame Bavasi for going for it. I can see why, in the position he's in it makes sense. And since some early rumors had Clement and Morrow in the deal too, I guess I'm grateful that didn't happen.

The puzzling thing for me, is how little Bavasi did to fix the rest of the problems on the team, given the clear win-at-any-cost stance he has taken. He has made a huge gamble here that by trading away a major league ready stud in waiting like Jones for a truly top flight pitcher is going to make the Mariner's relevant this season.

But even if that deal works out short-term, he could be completely sunk by the fact that he failed to find an even league average first baseman to replace the corpse formerly known as Richie Sexson. He could lose it all because his DH can't replicate the 15 infield singles he got last year and puts up an OPS of 725. He could end up being fired because Raul Ibanez ages as quickly this off-season as he did last or because Brad Wilkerson can't come close to replacing Jose Guillen's production or Jose Lopez regresses even further.

In typical Bavasi fashion he decided that starting pitching was the problem and pursued that to the exclusion of all the myriad other problems on the team. Erik Bedard won 13 games for a pretty bad Orioles team. Bavasi seems convinced he can win 20 for an M's team that might not be a whole lot better.