Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Johan Possibility

Despite the rumor that Johan Santana may not even want to play for Seattle, it's still fun to speculate. I promised myself I wouldn't write about Santana again until news of an actual Mariner offer to the Twins, but I couldn't help myself!

Phil Hughes has been added into the Yankees offer for sure, meaning the Mariners would have to find a way to outdo their offer. How do you do that? Address more of the Twins' needs.

Twins Needs:

  1. Major league ready center fielder
  2. Starting pitching
  3. 2nd base depth
  4. Drop a corner outfielder
  5. Major league ready 3rd baseman

Adam Jones is unproven but qualifies for number one, same goes for Brandon Morrow and number two. Jose Lopez has the potential to be a top-tier second baseman one day, and the Twins may like him to compete for a job at second, as it appears Alexi Casilla's bat isn't quite ready. Those three have already been covered.

Geoff Baker mentioned the Twins need to clear some space in their outfield that already has Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel locked into the two corner outfield spots and DH. If the Mariners dealt Jones, then they would just so happen to need a corner outfielder, and Craig Monroe could fit in nicely with the Mariners' lineup. Monroe was acquired by the Twins from the Cubs just weeks ago in a move to bolster their lineup, but the more recent acquisition of Delmon Young makes him available. Monroe struggled with the Tigers and Cubs in 2007, but has proved he can be a 25 HR 90 RBI guy. His batting average has been declining since 2004, but he would be a welcome addition, especially as a "throw in" in a potential Santana deal.

That brings us to number five. Who is going to play third base for Minnesota? Theoretically they could put former utility man Cuddyer at third, but they like his strong arm (19 assists) from the outfield and he hasn't logged an inning at third since 2005. The Twins depth chart shows Brian Buscher and Nick Punto at third, but Buscher has just 82 major league at bats (.244) and Nick Punto hit just .210 in 2007. What if the Mariners threw Mike Morse into the equation? Morse has proved he can hit major league pitching, hitting .302 in 291 at bats over 3 seasons, and if versatile in the field. The Mariners starting shortstop for about 1/3 of the 2005 season, Morse could easily be a major league third baseman. Seattle would love to keep Morse but he does not appear to be in the Mariners' immediate plans as a starter.

I would think that a trade addressing five Minnesota needs with four young major league ready players would trump the deals the other teams are offering. Let me remind you that this is all speculation, and there has been no confirmation that Mike Morse or Jose Lopez may be part of a potential deal. However, Bavasi has mentioned that Jose Lopez is on the hot seat, and may be available.

Alright, that's it for November! I'm sure the upcoming Winter Meetings will stir up all kinds of rumors to write about. JO-SAN

SP Rumors, RP Updates

One trade rumor back from the dead, one Johan Santana non-update, and two relievers no longer unemployed.

The Mariners may be interested in Yankee starter Kei Igawa. Igawa was a Japanese league standout but did absolutely nothing in his MLB debut, posting a 6.25 ERA in 14 games. Despite his struggles, Igawa has a relatively small contract and is cheap in an expensive market. It's been suggested that a pair of low level prospects could pry him away from New York. Look for the Mariners to explore this option if they strikeout with their other pitching targets, however it may not be a bad idea to bring him in to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation regardless. Sources: MLB Rumors Blog, Peter Abraham

Jason Stark is the latest to mention the Mariners as a possible dark horse team for Johan Santana's services, and also confirms that any deal would likely start with Adam Jones and Brandon Morrow. He says that the Twins have no need for Jeff Clement, but that may not be the common opinion. It is often speculated that Minnesota would love to move current catcher Joe Mauer to a corner infield spot at some point, and if that really is the plan they could use a young stud like Clement. Stark also brings up another good point that is often ignored: Even if the Mariners could get the right deal in place, would Santana veto a trade to come to Seattle? If you could chose what team you wanted to be on, the defending World Series champs or the Mariners, who would you chose?

The top two free agent relievers from my Free Agency: Veteran Relief blog may already be unavailable. It's been reported that Troy Percival is to become a Tampa Bay Ray and David Riske a Brewer. These seem like done deals, but the Mets/Yorvit Torrealba non-signing should make us cautious. Perhaps he should have, but I don't think Bavasi actually targeted either of these two. Sources: Ken Rosenthal, Buster Olney JO-SAN KE-IGA

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lopez in Santana Package?

Could Jose Lopez be included in a potential Johan Santana offer? First, a recap/update on what's happening with Boston and New York in regards to Johan:

There's been so much said as far as Johan Santana trade rumors that it's hard to tell what's going on sometimes. As of right now, it appears that the Yankees are in the lead with their Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, plus one other pitcher offer. This is still somewhat mind boggling to me, but no other teams are seriously offering much more. The latest is that the Yankees still have Joba Chamberlain on their "untouchable" list, and have added Robinson Cano to it as well. Early speculation pointed to Cano being the key to the trade, but obviously the Yanks are reluctant to let him go (as they should be). On the Red Sox side of things, they are still having a hard time giving the Twins Jacoby Ellsbury or Clay Buchholz. If either one of them were put in the deal, especially Ellsbury, Boston would be the favorite to land Santana. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still trying to convince Minnesota to take displaced Coco Crisp instead.

No updates for the Mariners, of course. The Twins recently added a new shortstop and corner outfielder in the Garza/Young blockbuster, so Wladimir Balentien is likely out of any proposal (if he ever even made his way into one). So what are the Twins' needs? Center field, obviously, and they're looking for some starting pitching now that Garza is gone and Bonser may be shipped to Tampa Bay in a separate deal (still unlikely. I'm assuming it was either Garza or Bonser). Any other needs? How about second base? Obviously the Twins had some sort of need if they were originally seeking Cano in the Yankee trade, although Cano would be an upgrade over most second basemen. Alexi Casilla may be the Minnesota second baseman of the future, and Nick Punto may have landed there by default for now, but both of them could be upgraded on. Punto hit just .210 in 472 at bats in 2007 while Casilla hit .222 in limited play, showing zero power with a .269 slugging percentage.

So how about sending Adam Jones, Jose Lopez and Brandon Morrow over to the Twins for two-time Cy Young award winner? Adam Jones is no Jacoby Ellsbury and Brandon Morrow may not even be at Phil Hughes' level yet, but this offer could trump Boston's and New York's because it addressing three separate needs for the Twins: pitching, center field and an upgrade (or simply competition) at second base.

Yes, it is way too early to give up on young Jose Lopez. If you've read any previous blogs you may have noticed that I'm certain Yung Chi Chen will give Lopez a ride for his money in Spring Training, but overall he has been very good. The guy went to the All-Star Game! Yet two consecutive second half slides can get you put on the trading block. Having a guy like Chen in your organization, as unproven as he is, gives you the ability to deal someone with much more value like Lopez. Lopez can hit for a decent average, shows some glimpses of power (whenever he gets a fastball on the inner half), is learning to use the whole field and is growing into a standout defender.

I want to stop here and note that I have no sources saying that Jose Lopez may be part of the package, it is purely speculation. It makes sense to me, though. I'd rather keep a former first round pick and a power hitting, left handed catcher in Jeff Clement then a second baseman that has shown he can be very solid, but has no speed and is slowly setting a trend for sputtering out. Even a package of Adam Jones, Jose Lopez, Brandon Morrow and Ryan Feierabend would work. Feierabend has had enough solid outings as a major leaguer to garner some interest, but in truth may never escape the back end of the rotation.

If the Seattle Mariners manage to defy the odds and make a deal work, don't be surprised if Jose Lopez is a selling point. Dayne Perry mentions that the Mariners may not have as much to offer, but their desperation could lead to a deal. Yung Chi Chen isn't ready to start for a contender? Sign Iguchi! I'm slowly getting the impression that Bavasi is feeling the pressure to make something happen, so don't be too surprised if we make a big splash in the coming weeks.

Pshh.. and I was thinking about not writing until something actually happened. It calls to me... JO-SAN JO-LOP

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Johan Santana, part 2

If you've read any of my blogs, namely No Trade Needed, The Cost of Johan Santana and Home Grown Team you may assume I am completely against trading for Johan Santana. The reality is that I'm completely undecided. Half of me wants to build a team from the ground up, half of me wants to contend with the Angels in 2008.

Here are some new developments:

Earlier this evening SI's Jon Heyman was the latest to link Seattle to Johan Santana, along with the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels and Mets. I'm going to go ahead and rule out both LA teams, as they surely do not have the resources to obtain Miguel Cabrera/Tejada and Santana. The Mets may not have enough to offer.

Although the article completely lacked any Mariner details, he did go into proposed Yankees and Red Sox deals. The Yankees are trying to center a package around outfielder Melky Cabrera, starting pitcher Phil Hughes plus one other player. Did I read that right? I assumed, based on the rumors that it would take the Mariners Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and Brandon Morrow to get Santana, that a Yankee deal would start with Robinson Cano and include both Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees are rumored to have deemed Chamberlain untouchable, but do you really believe anything the Yankees say? If not Chamberlain it's going to be Ian Kennedy. If the season started today Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain would all be part of the Yankee rotation, according to Yankee skipper Joe Girardi.

According to Heyman, the Twins were seeking either of starters Clay Buchholz or Jon Lester to go along with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the Red Sox. The Sox are hoping they can keep Ellsbury and pawn Coco Crisp off on the Twins instead. Boston may be able to make this work with Buchholz and Crisp, or Lester and Ellsbury, they just have to decide who's more important.

What strikes me as odd to both these deals is that Minnesota is asking for pitching. I was under the impression that the Twins were well stocked in the starting pitchers department, so there may be something to the Boof Bonser to Tampa Bay or the Matt Garza to Tampa Bay for Delmon Young rumors, originally thought to be complete speculation.

I can see a Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz +1 trade working out, but there's no way a Melky Cabrera, one Hughes or Kennedy +1 should ever work. Just the rumor has outraged Twins' fans and has had Yanks' fans salivating. Such a trade would be an absolute steal for Steinbrenner and company. If that trade works, then there may be hope for the Mariners. Maybe there's a chance we wouldn't have to give up 3/4 of our top major league ready prospects. 1/2 sounds a little better. Sure, a deal including Wladimir Balentien, Ryan Feierabend and Jeremy Reed may be a stretch, but there is hope. I believe that if Wlad had the ability to play center field we could ship him off instead of Jones, and unfortunately Jeremy Reed probably isn't good enough with the stick to perk Minnesota's interest.

The original deal brought up by Larry LaRue was Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and Brandon Morrow. What if you could make the deal happen with only two of them? How about holding Clement back? Some may say that Clement is the least valuable of the bunch, but I beg to differ. If you look back at my Jones/Clement Value blog, you will see that it is much harder to find a player of Clement's caliber than Jones'. I would be all for this trade if you could get the Twins nodding their head about Jones, Morrow and Feierabend, or something close to it. Feierabend could be traded out with any of Rob Johnson, Jeremy Reed, Sean White or Jon Huber. (I've given up on the hyperlinks to player pages, here is the Seattle 40-man roster.)

The only problem with trading for Johan is the Mariner outfield. If you trade Adam Jones, who plays right field? Wladimir Balentien might be ready, might not, we really won't know until Spring Training. Jose Guillen appears to have both feet out the door and may be nearing contracts with Kansas City or Baltimore. Jeremy Reed had his shot and blew it, twice. You could trade Richie Sexson for Jay Payton, but then where's your offense? It would make things interesting, but if you can get Johan Santana for just two of your top prospects it's probably worth it. The bottom line is you don't know what you'll get from Adam Jones, Brandon Morrow or any other prospect. You do know what you'll get from Johan Santana: 5-7 Cy Young caliber seasons, depending on how long he re-signs for. Johan's average season over the past few years is about the same as Barry Zito's best year. Think about that, then think about whether the contract is worth it.

Now, before anyone gets too excited about the possibility of this happening, there is this possibility: The only reason the Twins are considering such a poor offer from the Yankees is because Johan Santana will only drop his no-trade clause for New York. If Santana is deadset on pinstripes then it would all make a lot of sense, but there has been nothing on whether that is actually the case.

Sorry for the flip-flop in opinions! If it takes Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and Brandon Morrow I'm more than a little skeptical, but if you can make this deal happen for less than that I am all for it.

Additional sources: Yankees, Twins discuss Santana
Geoff Baker: Countdown to Nashville JO-SAN

Home Grown Team

I don't think unfair to say that teams that produce their own talent are easier to get behind as fans. Yes, teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have the most (bandwagon) fans, but the real Red Sox fans are excited about Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon. Those are guys that debuted with the team and are going to be cornerstones of that franchise for years to come. The Seattle Mariners have had winning teams with self-produced talent. In the mid-to-late 1990s the Mariners had teams built around home grown guys like Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey and Tino Martinez, and players that came to the Mariners as young, raw talent like Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson. Those were the players we loved, because we could only picture them in a Mariner uniform. It's the visions of Ken Griffey sliding across home plate after the famous Edgar Martinez double, while Alex Rodriguez starts the mob. It's Dan Wilson jumping onto the Big Unit's lanky frame, while Johnson points to the sky. Having teams built around these types of players are what turn casual fans into diehard fans. If someone is just getting into the Mariners, but don't follow them the way you or I do, then they can never keep track of the players. Case and point: my entire family. In the '90s we would make multiple trips to the Kingdome each season. Now they look at the TV and simply say, "I don't know any of these guys. Who's Miguel Batista?" Sure, after a few seasons a veteran acquisition can identify with the home crowd, like Jaime Moyer did with the Mariners and how Manny Ramirez has with the Red Sox, but everyone loves the hometown hero.

How great would it be as fans to have team based around the players that debuted with the Mariners like Jeff Clement, Raul Ibanez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez, Adam Jones, Brandon Morrow, Mike Morse and practically our entire current bullpen? It would be great, and the best part about it is that we can still do this and win, if we can use the right combination of non-home grown ballplayers. In the early '90s the Mariners weren't so good, but they got better and better as their youth developed, namely Ken Griffey, Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson. We have an opportunity to build a team the home town fans can really get behind.

I could go either way with the Johan Santana issue. There's no doubt that having a one-two punch of Johan Santana and Felix Hernandez could make us instant contenders, and that's why I wouldn't be disappointed if Bavasi made it happen, but the team identity would take a big hit. Giving up three of your top major league ready prospects is hard to deal with, no matter who you get in return. The Mariners can acquire the pieces they need without sacrificing our youth. You can trade for another ace-quality pitcher like Erik Beddard without having to give up 3/4 of your top prospects. You could gamble in free agency, there's other options out there. It all depends on what Bill Bavasi's plan is.

Free Agency: Veteran Relief

The Mariners had a pretty solid bullpen last season, but there was one piece of the puzzle missing. They were lacking a dependable veteran arm down there, and they struggled all season to find one. Rick White (pictured right) was a disaster, Chris Reitsma couldn't stay healthy but blew lead after lead when he was, John Parrish certainly was nothing to brag about and Arthur Rhodes never even pitched in the regular season. At the trade deadline last season GM Bill Bavasi inquired about Al Reyes, Danys Baez and Octavio Dotel, but nothing went through (thankfully). Our young bullpen has another year of experience, but Bavasi would be smart to add another arm via free agency, especially if Brandon Morrow or Ryan Rowland-Smith are lost to the starting rotation or trade.

There hasn't been many rumors surrounding the Mariners and relievers this offseason, most likely because starting pitching is the priority and Bavasi is yet to land one. Here are some options Bavasi might look at once he gets a chance (not including Japanese options):

5.) Jeremy Affeldt - The only lefty of this list, Affeldt bounced around in different roles with the Kansas City Royals early in his career and didn't find too much success. This past season he landed with the Rockies and posted a career low 3.51 ERA, including a 1.74 ERA in the hitter friendly confines of Coors Field. He was a matchups guy, only logging 59 innings in 75 appearances, but could be on the verge of a breakout season in a bigger role. He's got age on his side (28) and showed that he can get it done against both sides of the plate (3.65 ERA vs. right, 3.27 vs. left) and in the playoffs (1.69 ERA during Colorado's playoff run, his only mistake a solo home run in the NLDS). Affeldt is the biggest gamble on this list, especially since he's only had success in the National League.

4.) Mike Timlin - Once upon a time the Mariners traded star rookie Jose Cruz to the Toronto Blue Jays for a couple of pitchers, one of them being Mike Timlin. Timlin had 1 1/2 great seasons with the Mariners before moving on and has been great ever since. Now 41, Timlin may be wearing down slightly, and you can blame the Red Sox for that. During his first four seasons in Boston Timlin pitched in an astonishing 297 games, including 81 in 2005. He pitched in just 50 games during the 2007 season, his lowest amount since 1995. He battled through a strained left oblique and right shoulder tendinitis, but showed he can work through the pain. Timlin posted a 3.42 ERA 2007 and has a career ERA of 3.55. He could be a nice addition with a one-year contract.

3.) Bob Wickman - Wickman would be my number two selection, but it sounds like he may be retiring this offseason. I haven't been able to find a formal announcement, but an article in the East Valley Tribune makes it sound like the 38 year old could be done for good. If he could be coaxed by Bavasi into another season it would be well worth it for the Mariners. He was waived by the Atlanta Braves late last season after blowing some saves in the closer role but was picked up by the Arizona Diamondbacks in September and proved he could still get it done in a setup role, allowing just one earned run in the eight games he pitched for Arizona down the stretch. Overall in 2007 he had a 3.58 ERA in 57 appearances, consistent with his 3.57 career mark. If he is willing to give one more season as a non-closer, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Mariners to pick him up.

2.) Troy Percival - By the time the Mariners shift their focus to relief, Percival may no longer by available. The 37 year old righty came out of retirement in 2007 for the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 1.80 ERA in 40 games. He is not the same dominant closer he was for the Angels between 1996 and 2004, but has proved he can still get guys out despite lacking the overpowering fastball he once had.

1.) David Riske - Riske, most recently of the Kansas City Royals, was ranked second by Fox Sports' Dayn Perry among under-the-radar free agents this offseason. He's durable, consistent and has been able to stay relatively healthy. Riske is a power-type pitcher, working mainly off of a fastball/splitter combination and can handle both sides of the plate. He had a 2.45 ERA last season for the Royals and boasts a career 3.40 mark. He's only 31 and could be signed to a multi-year contract.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hot Stove: Kuroda Update

Our Seattle Mariners may be one step closer to signing free agent starter Hiroki Kuroda. Seattle has been the favorite so far, with the Cubs possibly being their stiffest competition. You can probably cross North Chicago off the list of possible destinations for Kuroda now, as they have addressed their starting rotation from within. The Cubs just re-signed reliever Kerry Wood to a one year deal, and plan on moving Ryan Dempster back into the rotation.

Besides making the process quicker for the Mariners, this move could also help drive Kuroda's price down. With one less team bidding we may be able to save a few million bucks.

To the contrary, the MLB Rumors Blog says that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks may be overtaking the Mariners in the race for Kuroda, noting that the Mariners are farther from contention compared to Los Angeles and Arizona.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tadahito Iguchi?

In a bout of boredom I was sifting through's top 50 free agents list, and out of those 50 they had three of them signing with the Mariners. Nothing big here, just thought I'd address them.

#18: Bartolo Colon - I've already talked enough about him in various blogs. If you haven't bothered reading them my opinion is that he is worth the risk only if another starter (Kuroda likely) is also signed. That way if Colon gets hurt then you still have an ok rotation, but if he's healthy you may have an ace on your hands.

#21: Tadahito Iguchi - Here's the reason I even bothered with this blog. I've heard the rumor of Iguchi to Seattle before, but I never thought much of it. We have a capable everyday second baseman in Jose Lopez, albeit he has faded horribly during the second half in consecutive years. We also have Yung Chi Chen waiting behind Lopez. The organization appears to be very high on Chen, and he was just promoted to the 40-man roster. He is expected to battle with Lopez for the starting job this coming Spring Training. Iguchi made the jump from Japan in 2005 with the White Sox. He had two solid years, showing some power and ability to hit for a decent average. Iguchi struggled with the Sox in 2007 and was traded to the Phillies. He thrived in Philadelphia while filling in for injured Chase Utley, hitting .304 in 138 at bats. He is a solid option at second base, but his power has seemingly left him and he's not very fast. He also strikes out quite a lot for a second baseman. I think he would be a waste of money with Lopez and Chen battling this Spring.

#26: Livan Hernandez - I believe I've also touched on him. He's a pitcher that allows a lot of baserunners and finds ways to wiggle out of jams (much like Miguel Batista), but he has never pitched in the American League and has some higher ERAs in the poor hitting National League. Yes, he's an innings eater, but I believe he would be a Jeff Weaver clone in the American League. TA-IGU

The Cost of Johan Santana

It has been reported that the Mariners are still in the Johan Santana trade sweepstakes. We all knew it would take a lot to get him, and now we know just how much. The package would start with Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and Brandon Morrow. Santana is in the final year of his current contract, but will be re-signed before his is traded. The Twins offered him 5 years/$93 million, about $18.6 per season and Santana quickly counter-offered with 5 years/$126 million, about $25.2 per season, although I have also seen 7 years/$140 million, about $20 million per season. You can thank Barry Zito and the Giants for that one.

Yes, Johan Santana is the best pitcher in baseball, but is it worth three major league ready former first round picks? You would have a killer one-two combo in Johan and Felix, Wladimir Balentien in right field, and a sudden need to re-sign catcher Kenji Johjima past 2008. There is also always the chance that Jones, Clement and Morrow never live up to their potential, but it's unlikely all of them will flop. Five years down the road will Mariner fans show the same frustration that we have when we saw Derrek Lowe pitching to Jason Varitek? Of course Johan Santana is no Heathcliff Slocumb, but is one win every five days worth three potential stars?

Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and Brandon Morrow are not too much to ask for Johan Santana. The Twins are in a great position to solidify their future, no matter who they trade Santana to. I personally wouldn't make this trade. I would lay low this offseason, sign Kuroda and consider Colon, and then count on the free agent market when it thickens up again in the next couple of seasons. If this trade does go down I won't be too disappointed, however, as Santana really is one of the few starters in this league that can help define a season and get a team to the playoffs.

Sources: Larry LaRue, Ken Rosenthal JO-SAN

Other Johan posts on Bleeding Blue and Teal, click here!

No Trade Needed

A lot has been discussed about the Mariners' need for starting pitching. All signs point to a future signing of Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda, but is that going to be enough? Add Kuroda and you have a rotation that looks something like Felix Hernandez, Miguel Batista, Hiroki Kuroda, Jarrod Washburn and possibly Brandon Morrow. Yes, Kuroda and Morrow would be an instant improvement over Horacio Ramirez (who is going to be given a shot at the 5 spot) and Jeff Weaver, but is that enough? Not if Seattle really wants to consider themselves playoff contenders. We've already been written out of the Western division by every insider, analyst, blogger and little leaguer in America, that due to the Angels overhaul, so that leaves us the Wild Card. The Yankees haven't improved their team yet this offseason, and some of their veteran mainstays are passing their prime, not to mention a new manager. Minnesota appears to be fading, especially if they lose Johan Santana, but the Chicago White Sox may be one move away from being back in it. The Mariners can compete with the White Sox, but the Indians and Tigers are currently at a higher level. We need some more adjustments made in order to compete for the Wild Card in '08.

So how can the Mariners improve their starting rotation? Everyone keeps saying trade is the best way to go, but then the same people complain about giving up Adam Jones, Jeff Clement, Wladimir Balentien or Brandon Morrow. So that leaves free agency, but everyone complains about the paper thin, overpriced 2008 free agency class. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper when there isn't a Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt taking bids. First of all, let's assume Bavasi is able to sign Hiroki Kuroda. I think he is practically a lock considering Seattle was one of his first choices and how hard Bavasi is pursuing him. I said in an earlier post that I thought the 3-4 year, $11 million per season contract he was seeking would be a horrible deal for the Mariners, citing former success of Japanese starters in the MLB, but I've changed my point of view slightly since then. I think Bavasi can sign Kuroda for $9 or 10 million, and in this market that isn't horrible. I think I was just in shock when I heard he was seeking $11 million because everything I had heard said to expect $5-9 million. I am also warming up to the theory that working with a Japanese catcher with MLB experience (Johjima) will help him stay a little bit closer to his Japanese numbers.

So let's say Kuroda is inked to a 3 year, $30 million contract with a $12 million option for 2011. How else can you improve the rotation? My personal pick would have to be Bartolo Colon. After back to back injury plagued seasons in 2006 and 2007 it seems that no one wants him on their team. Bring him up as a possibility and all you'll hear is that he'd probably receive most of his checks while on the disabled list. I look at it a little differently. He would be a gamble at at $10 million per season, but if you sign him to a 1 or 2 year deal it's not really a much of a risk. If he gets hurt you still have the upgraded rotation of Hernandez, Batista, Kuroda, Washburn and Morrow, but if he stays healthy you could get 15 wins, 200+ innings, an ERA under 4.00 and the ability to decide whether you want Morrow in the bullpen again, or if you want to give him a full season of starting at AAA. A lot of fans make the mistake of considering the Mariners a small market team, but the reality is that we have the 7th highest payroll, and we can most definitely afford a $10 million gamble, especially in a thin market year. As long as you can keep it to a single season, two at most, why not? Jose Guillen worked out. You may even be able to guarantee only $6 or 7 million and have the rest in performance incentives, or even weight incentives like the Curt Schilling deal. Also, by signing Colon it would take the pressure off Felix to become an instant ace, and the pressure off of Kuroda to be the main offseason acquisition. Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez, Miguel Batista, Hiroki Kuroda, Jarrod Washburn.. how's that sound?

I'd also like a to take a moment to apologize for the redundancy of these starting pitching posts. Hopefully we'll have some new topics once the Winter meetings are underway. BA-COL

Friday, November 23, 2007

Miguel Cabrera as a Mariner?

Part 1: Angels Gearing Up for Big Season
The Mariners should be desperate to make a big move this offseason. Nothing was planned, but unless Bavasi makes something happen the Mariners will need devine intervention to compete with the Angels. The Angels were damn good last season, sporting the 3rd best record in all of baseball. As if that wasn't good enough GM Tim Reagins went out and got starter Jon Garland from the White Sox, strengthening an area that wasn't even a concern. Days later they added free agent center fielder Torii Hunter in another surprise move. A GM makes two moves that no one expected, that can only mean they're planning something huge. I already mentioned how these moves get them set to acquire Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins, but if that doesn't pan out they have one hell of a backup plan: long time target Miguel Tejada. Either of these guys would transform the Angels into the best offense in the league. Here's how the Angels lineup could look by the end of the offseason:

Chone Figgins
Gary Matthews
Miguel Tejada (BAL) or Miguel Cabrera (FLA)
Vladimir Guerrero
Garret Anderson
Torii Hunter
Kotchman, Morales, McPherson, Wood (whoever doesn't get traded)
Mike Napoli
Macier Izturis

The beauty of this lineup is the defensive flexibility. If Tejada comes in he'd play either 3B or SS, if Cabrera comes he'd play 3B or 1B. Luckily Figgins and Izturis can play pretty much around the infield. Since I do not follow the Angels closely it's hard for me to speculate on who would round out the lineup at 1B or 3B (depending on which Miguel is brought in) and catcher. No matter what, this is a lineup you don't want to mess around with. How does the Mariners' lineup stack up? It doesn't. How does the Mariner' starting rotation stack up? Not well. The Angels should have a rotation that goes something like this:

John Lackey (19-9, 3.01 ERA in 33 starts)
Kelvim Escobar (18-7, 3.40 ERA in 30 starts)
Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.91 ERA in 28 starts)
Jon Garland (10-13, 4.23 ERA in 32 starts)
After that it is unclear, as Ervin Santana is a definite trade candidate. But just those first four are impressive enough to compete for the best rotation in the league. Their bullpen isn't so bad, either.

Part 2: A Big Idea (Prevention and Defense)
So what can Bavasi do to keep up? He'd have to start big and go bigger. Like I said, he wasn't planning on changing much, and that was somewhat acceptable before Reagins starting shaking things up. If Bavasi wants the Mariners to compete in 2008, he'd have to make some moves outside of his comfort zone, and outside of the fans' comfort zone as well. The best thing he could do would be to sweep in and steal Miguel Cabrera away from the Angels in a blockbuster move.

Mariners Get:
SP Dontrelle Willis
3B/1B Miguel Cabrera

Marlins Get:
OF Adam Jones
P Brandon Morrow
2B Jose Lopez

Ok, now you've got your big bat and middle/back of the rotation guy. The next move would be to drop Sexson and add your top of the rotation guy.

Mariners Get:
SP Erik Beddard
OF Jay Payton

Orioles Get:
1B Richie Sexson
OF Wladimir Balentien
RP Eric O'Flaherty
$8 million

Now you have a starting rotation that looks like this:

Erik Bedard
Felix Hernandez
Dontrelle Willis
Miguel Batista
Jarrod Washburn

And a starting lineup that looks something like this:

Ichiro Suzuki, CF
Jose Vidro, DH
Raul Ibanez, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Jay Payton, RF
Kenji Johjima, C
Yung Chi Chen, 2B
Yuni Betancourt, SS

The rotation would be among the best in baseball and the lineup would do alright. Objections: You can't trade away our future in Adam Jones and Wlad Balentien! You're trading future for future here. Miguel Cabrera (24), Erik Beddard (28) and Dontrelle Willis (25) are still early in their careers and could be Mariners for a long time. Adam Jones is 22 and Wlad is 23.

Could this ever happen? Doubtful, I'd give it a 0.1% chance, and both trades would probably require a little more from the Mariners to work. It is possible, however, and I wish Bavasi would look at pulling something like that.

The Seattle/Florida trade would be very difficult to pull off, and was more wishful thinking than speculating, but the Baltimore trade wouldn't be as hard. Say that goes through, now you have an ace and a void in the middle of your lineup. With Sexson out of the way you could deal for a left fielder, first baseman or a DH, or look into the free agent market. Who's available (not named Giambi or Bonds)? How about an outfield of Adam Jones in left, Andruw Jones in center and Ichiro in right? It could be the best defensive outfield in the league, but Andruw Jones isn't the guy you want in the middle of the lineup, and agent Scott Boras won't allow him to be a bargain after a poor showing in 2007. Adam Dunn or Ken Griffey of the Reds could work. Dunn, like Sexson, is a high strikeout guy. He was brought up before, but having both of them in the same lineup would be suicide. If Sexson is dealt, Dunn could be a real option. Griffey would be a fans choice, but he is not as productive as he once was, and his asking price is said to be too high.

What will Bavasi do this offseason? Probably sign Hiroki Kuroda, maybe a veteran reliever as well. What should he do? MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN, even in a tough market. If you want to win you have to be better than the competition.

If you read all of this, you are amazing! ER-BED

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mighty, Mighty Angels

Bad News for the Mariners

It was just announced on that the Los Angeles Angels just agreed to a 5-year contract with free agent center fielder Torii Hunter. The deal is reportedly worth between $80-90 million.

I dunno if a single baseball analyst saw this move coming. Hunter was supposed to end up a Texas Ranger or with the Chicago White Sox, with the Twins, Dodgers and Royals as long shots, but the Angels? The same Angels that already have quality outfielders in Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson, Juan Rivera, Gary Matthews and Reggie Willits? If this move proves anything it's that Miguel Cabrera may very well be on his way. This move now gives Los Angeles the power to throw Willits, Rivera or a number of other players into the Cabrera deal to make it happen.

Just imagine a lineup now with Figgins and Matthews setting the table, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Vlad Guerrero and Garret Anderson (DHing). It could be the hardest lineup in baseball to deal with. The Angels were already one of the best teams in baseball, but if they add Cabrera then the Mariners, A's and Rangers will all be competing for the Wild Card.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Jones/Clement Value

A lot of trade rumors have been swirling around, and a lot of them include at least one of my "big three" known as Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien. Many of these rumors and proposals flying across the internet seem a little off to me. Jeff Clement for A.J. Burnett? That doesn't seem right, even during this starting pitcher shortage. Proposals such as that one lead me to examine the value of our future. I'm going to focus on Jones and Clement in this blog, because it appears Balentien may be traded by default. Deals have to be made this offseason and Wlad has value, but is behind Adam Jones and Raul Ibanez on the depth chart.

Adam Jones - Potential 5-Tool outfielder.
Other current 5-tool outfielders: Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Torii Hunter, Chris Young, Grady Sizemore, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holiday, Bobby Abreu, Josh Hamilton
Current former 5-tool outfielders: Vladimir Guerrero, Ken Griffey, Andruw Jones, Magglio Ordornez, Shawn Green, Barry Bonds
On the cusp (4-tool players?): Nick Swisher, Jeff Francoeur, Eric Byrnes, Mike Cameron, Jason Bay, Carl Crawford, Delmon Young, Brad Hawpe, Curtis Granderson, Aaron Rowand, Milton Bradley, Ichiro

There is a lot of names there, showing that it isn't the hardest thing in the world to find a talented outfielder. Yes, some of these names may be debatable as to whether or not they're legitimate 5-tool players (hit for average, hit for power, baserunning skills/speed, fielding skills, throwing arm), but there is also countless others I must have missed, including prospects and former outfielders/current infielders.

Jeff Clement - Left-handed hitting catcher with power potential
Current left-handed hitting catchers with some power: Victor Martinez (Switch), Brian McCann, Jason Varitek (Switch)
Current catchers with some power: Russel Martin, Jorge Posada, Benji Molina, Ramon Hernandez, Mike Piazza, Kenji Johjima, Ivan Rodriguez

First of all, I was defining "some power" as a proven 18+ homer guy. As you can see this list is a lot smaller than the crop of talented outfielders. You can thin this out even further, as Mike Piazza, Ramon Hernandez and Ivan Rodriguez may have seen the last of their power days, and Benji Molina was tough to put in this group. It is especially hard to find a left-handed hitting catcher with some pop, as Brian McCann of the Braves was the only guy I came across, besides switch hitters Martinez and Varitek.

So who really is more valuable? A five-tool outfielder in a league where some teams have two of those in the same outfield, or a power left-handed bat in your lineup at a typically unstable position? There are many outfielders in every single draft with the same potential as Adam Jones, let alone guys available out of Latin America and, to a lesser degree, Japan. Offensively equipped catchers are harder to find.

Now, we haven't seen either of these guys play enough Major League ball to know exactly what to expect, but you also have to think of what each player could bring through trade. If the best you could get for Jeff Clement is an injury prone, overpaid, sometimes good starter in A.J. Burnett, why would you even think about it? If you build a package around Adam Jones, however, there is a chance you could bring in a Johan Santana or Jake Peavey caliber pitcher. I would be sad to see Jones traded, but as long as we got a top notch ace in the deal I would be alright, especially if we could hold on to Wlad.

Allow me to stress the fact that we have no idea who will prove to be the bigger asset to their team. Unfortunately, Bavasi will probably be forced to look into his crystal ball this offseason and make something happen. All I'm saying is that if Bavasi is going to trade any of the "big three" he better not settle for a 2 or 3 starter. JE-CLE AD-JON

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kuroda Seeks $11 Million?

Various sources are reporting that the Mariners are planning on sending Bill Bavasi to Tokyo to negotiate with free agent starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. Great, right? Wrong. According to Mariners insider Larry LaRue, Kuroda is reportedly seeking a 3-4 year deal worth $11 million per. To make matters worse, Bavasi could find himself in a bidding war with teams such as the Rangers, Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies, Royals and Tigers.

I don't know why GMs continue to put so much money into Japanese starting pitchers. When was the last time a team landed an ace out of Japan? Nomo? Matsuzaka is the closest thing lately and he certainly isn't there yet. If you're going to put your money into Japanese pitching, sign relievers! There is no shortage of dominant Japanese relievers in Major League Baseball.

Japan is where struggling, out of option MLB players go to find their game, and where home runs are simply the result of little league sized fields. You have to look at it like this, Japanese league baseball is the hidden level between AAA and the Major Leagues, an advanced AAA or 4A, if you will. In the Major Leagues, a young minor league pitcher comes up and if he's a starter he will probably get smacked around for a while, while a reliever may find his stride quicker. You cannot ever assume a Japanese starter will succeed in the Majors, as there is more failures than success stories.

$11 million may be too much to gamble with, even in this thin market. It just seems like too much money, especially considering everyone expected Kuroda to get about $5-8 million per. At least if you gamble $10-11 million on Bartolo Colon or $12 million on Carlos Silva you know what you might get. Hopefully Bavasi can sign him before the bidding war starts, keeping the price down to $9 million or so. HI-KUR

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hiroki Kuroda: A Closer Look

One of the Mariners biggest target this offseason appears to be Japanese starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. He's projected to be a middle of the rotation guy, but the reason he seems like such a great option is his price. You can expect him to receive anywhere between $5-9 million per season in a market where Carlos Silva is probably going to get close to $12 million.

His stats in Japan are pretty good, but we've learned that Japanese stats translate about as well as Ichiro quotes about Cleveland. Kuroda has posted ERAs below 3.70 in six of his last seven seasons, including the 1.86 he posted in 2006. One stat that does catch my eye, however, is the pair of 200+ IP seasons he had in the shorter Japanese league. Durability is often a concern with Japanese pitchers but he should be alright.

Kuroda is said to feature a fastball in the mid-90s, forkball, slider and the legendary "gyroball". He pitches his home games in a hitters park (300 feet down the lines, 380 to center) however he allows very few home runs, and his K/BB and BB/9 ratios are great.

No team has ever had a Japanese catcher/pitcher combo before, but I think it's safe to say that having Kenji Johjima behind the plate could only help Kuroda perform to the best of his abilities. Kenji's obvious experience handling Japanese pitchers plus his two full seasons of major league experience give Kuroda the edge over any other Japanese import to come stateside.

Hiroki Kuroda's desire to play on the West Coast coupled with the presence of Johjima and Ichiro makes him a prime candidate for the Mariners. If he signs with Seattle I would expect a 2-3 year deal earning about $6-7 million per. HI-KUR

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bavasi Seems Content

The Mariners may be closer to being ready for 2008 than many fans think. Sure, we'd love to improve on the batting lineup, adding some pop to replace the absence of Jose Guillen, but in reality it's probably not gonna happen. In a recent interview Bavasi gave no indication that any position player would be added. Unless Bill Bavasi is made an offer he cannot refuse the starting lineup should not hold any surprises:

Kenji Johjima, C
Richie Sexson, 1B
Jose Lopez, 2B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Yuni Betancourt, SS
Raul Ibanez, LF
Ichiro Suzuki, CF
Adam Jones, RF
Jose Vidro, DH

That's what you can probably expect, though Jose Lopez is seemingly the only uncertainty. No, Seattle's not going to be signing anyone named Castillo, Loretta, Giles, Iguchi or Matsui to play second base, but I wouldn't be surprised one bit if Lopez is beat out by Yung Chi Chen or even Willie Bloomquist by the end of Spring Training.

Offensively we're looking about the same as '07. Adam Jones won't produce as Guillen did in '07, and the possibility that Raul Ibanez slips a little more looms, but a Richie Sexson resurrection could make up the difference. Defensively we are slightly better, Jones has much better range than Guillen and a similar arm. The Mariners would still be smart to get Raul out of the outfield. He may be the starting DH or first baseman after the trade deadline, depending on where the Mariners stand.

The bench is close as well. Depending on how the battle for second goes, I would expect to see Willie Bloomquist (OF, INF) and Mike Morse (LF, RF, 3B, SS, 1B) for sure. The Mariners would love to have Ben Broussard back for his left handed power off the bench, but he has garnered interest from the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers. Jamie Burke should be Kenji's backup again after doing a superb job last season.

As far as the bullpen goes, JJ Putz (R) will be the closer, George Sherrill (L) and Mark Lowe (R) will likely split setup duties, with Jon Huber (R), Eric O'Flaherty (L), Sean Green (R) and Ryan Rowland-Smith (L, if he doesn't start) filling in the gaps. Bavasi would be well advised to add a veteran arm to that mix, preferably not someone named Jason Davis, John Parrish or Rick White.

That leaves the starting rotation as the only area that we need real work. Big surprise! In the same interview Bavasi twice mentioned that the Mariners want to add one starting pitcher, and have two get better. Those two: Felix Hernandez and Horacio Ramirez. Bavasi seems convinced that new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre will right all the wrong that is Horacio Ramirez. The free agent front runners for the Mariners appear to be former Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon and Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda. There hasn't been many leads as far as the trade market goes, except that a Dontrelle Willis deal seems more and more unlikely with his value at an all time low. Look for him to be moved closer to the trade deadline.

So we're barely into the offseason and it appears that Bavasi is only looking to add one or two players.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Clement Injured

Mariner catching prospect Jeff Clement's AFL season was cut short with left elbow problems. He had an MRI on Wednesday (11/14) and is expected to have bone chips removed in a later surgery. This is a relatively minor injury, and Jeff should be fully recovered by Spring Training. Hopefully this isn't one of those nagging, reoccurring injuries that tend to haunt careers.

And if you're one of those that think Jeff Clement is a potential cornerstone for the Seattle franchise (as I am), this could be very good news. mentioned that this injury likely nixes all potential trades involving Clement. While it may be harder for the Mariners to obtain much needed starting pitching this offseason, at least you can look forward to Jeff Clement in a Seattle (or Tacoma) uniform in 2008. JE-CLE

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rumors: Sexson for Padilla

Although I already said I'd expect Richie Sexson to begin the 2008 season as the Mariners' starting first baseman, I keep hearing the same rumor pop up and I think I should address it.

1B Richie Sexson to the Texas Rangers for SP Vincente Padilla. This trade would be more about the contracts than the players, as both Sexson and Padilla are horribly overpriced. Padilla is due to make about $23 million over the next two seasons, plus a $12 million option for 2010. Sexson is due to make $14 million over the final year of his contract. Sexson, as we all know, hasn't lived up to the 4 year/$50 million contract he signed in 2005. He had fairly productive seasons in 2005 and 2006, then fell on his face and never recovered during the 2007 season. Padilla was one of the lucky ones to be a free agent starting pitcher at the end of the 2006 season and signed a 3 year/$33.75 contract with the Rangers. Padilla had two very good seasons with the Phillies in 2002 and 2003, but has been nothing more than average since then.

The main advantage of this trade is that the Mariners can move Sexson without having to eat any of his contract, and pick up a middle of the rotation starter in the process. Padilla would benefit Seattle anywhere between the 2 and 4 spots in the rotation, but is obviously overpriced. Moving Sexson would also benefit the future of players like Raul Ibanez, Jose Vidro, Wladimir Balentien, Ben Broussard and possibly Jeff Clement. As much as Padilla costs, however, 2007 free agents with equal or less talent, such as Carlos Silva, will cost about the same.

The big drawback is that the M's would be overpaying for Padilla for at least two more seasons. If Seattle keeps Richie through this season and let's him walk at the end of the year, we suddenly have more money than we know what to do with plus a compensatory draft pick for losing him. Even if we trade Richie for someone with a much smaller contract we'd have to contribute a large portion of that final year, but after this season it would be over. It's not the same situation the Texas Rangers found themselves in when they traded ARod, getting stuck paying millions and millions of dollars to the Yankees every year.

Overall I'd say this isn't a trade worth doing, especially this early in the offseason. If the Mariners find themselves unable to win any bidding wars in free agency, then this would be an option worth reconsidering. RI-SEX VI-PAD

Barry Bonds? NO!

I am so sick of hearing about Barry Bonds. The latest: USA Today implies that the Seattle Mariners could be the only match for the home run king*. The A's, Angels and Rangers are all reportedly on the record as saying "thanks, but no thanks" so I guess that leaves us. Bavasi has made some bonehead moves (and some good ones, to his credit), but I can't see him signing Bonds. It would be a PR disaster, team chemistry suicide and a huge waste of $10-15 million. Yes, Bonds can still knock out 25 or so homers in limited play time, and yes be one of the few players that would thrive at Safeco Field, but I just don't see this happening. First of all, USA Today said that the signing of Barry Bonds would rely on a trade involving Richie Sexson. This seems simple enough, because you couldn't waste millions of dollars on Barry Bonds before erasing the millions of dollars you wasted on Richie Sexson first. Second, with or without Sexson, the Mariners don't have room him, there is a clog between the left field, first base and DH positions. Third, even if we could afford him there is more pressing needs on this ballclub. Starting pitching, anyone? That's where the money should go. The fourth reason and probably the most important reason the Mariners won't sign Barry Bonds is the fact that we have a lot of young talent on this team, a few potential superstars in Jones, Clement and Balentien. Barry Bonds would show those guys exactly how NOT to go about their business, how NOT handle the media and how NOT be a good teammate.

Barry Bonds will not become a Seattle Mariner.

Barry Bonds will become a (drumroll..) Kansas City Royal. What? You read that correctly. No one else wants him, especially at his price. He'll have to take a huge paycut to play professional baseball in 2008, and the Royals showed interest in him earlier. They aren't yet contending again, they need ticket sales, and to Bonds' credit, he would add some pop to their lineup. If Barry Bonds plays again next season it won't be in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or any of the large markets. He will play somewhere where he won't get the attention he craves or a World Series ring.

UPDATE (11/16/07) - Now that Barry Bonds has been indicted, it is about as likely to see him in court than in a baseball uniform. We've likely seen the last of the home run king on the field, but you'll be hard pressed to avoid him on ESPN. BA-BON

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Offseason Priority #1

Pitching, pitching, pitching!

It's no secret, we are heading into this offseason once again looking for pitching. Last year Bavasi was so desperate that he made one of the worst trades in Mariner history, trading stud setup man Rafael Soriano to Atlanta for oft-injured and sometimes good starter Horacio Ramirez. He also went on to sign starter Jeff Weaver and reliever Chris Reitsma. We all know how those moves went. Ramirez threw a 82 MPH fastball with an 80 MPH breaking ball en route to a league worst 7.16 ERA, .400 batting average against and 1.85 WHIP, and what do you know, he got hurt! Weaver had small stretches of brilliance, including three complete games and two shutouts, but ended with a 7-13 record and 6.20 ERA in just 27 starts. Reitsma couldn't seem to stay healthy, but when we was on the field it wasn't pretty. He had a 7.61 ERA in just 26 appearances, and McLaren somehow had faith in him to let him pitch and fail in crucial situations.

No more nightmares of last season, let's look ahead. The most pressing issue surrounds the two open spots in the starting rotation behind Hernandez, Batista and Washburn. While it seems that almost anyone would be an upgrade from Horacio Ramirez and Jeff Weaver, the 2008 M's could really use a number two starter behind Felix, and a number four or five. The candidates:

In house:

Brandon Morrow - Appeared in 60 games for the Mariners in his first full professional season. He had flashes of brilliance and ended with a 4.12 ERA in 63.1 innings pitched. Control was his biggest problem, walking 50. There is some concern the the Mariners severely stunted Morrow's development by putting him on the team out of Spring Training. He spent an entire season being a two pitch, power reliever and will now have to relearn how to pitch in the starters role, using all four of his pitches. Morrow is currently working in Winter Ball as a starter.

Ryan Rowland-Smith - Up and down between AAA Tacoma and the Mariners in 2007, Rowland-Smith threw 38.2 innings in relief, posting a 3.96 ERA. The lefty showed his ability to stretch his arm out, pitching 4 scoreless innings of relief on August 22 in Minnesota (57 pitches). He is also working in Winter Ball as a starter.

Ryan Feierabend, Jorge Campillo, Cha Seung Baek - Feierabend struggled again in the majors this season, posting an ERA above eight. He is always in the conversation, however, as the organization is very high on him. Campillo made just five appearances with the big club this past season, but had a fantastic year for Tacoma. He posted a 3.07 ERA over 149.1 innings. Baek made 12 starts in the bigs in 2007, and only five good ones en route to a 5.15 ERA. Baek has been on the brink for years now and is always in the conversation.

Horacio Ramirez - Everyone had assumed that the Mariners would not offer Ramirez a contract after an embarrassing 2007 campaign, but everything I've been reading says they're giving him another look. Horacio had some decent seasons with Atlanta and is not a horrible pitcher historically. A new pitching coach and an offseason of rest should benefit him.

Also keep an eye on Ryan Rohrbaugh (13-8, 3.12 ERA, 170.1 IP between AA/AAA) and Justin Lehr (3.99 ERA over 119.2 IP in AAA). Lehr is to be a minor league free agent, but if the M's re-sign him he could be in the mix.

Free Agents:

Bartolo Colon - The former Cy Young award winning hasn't pitched an injury free season since 2005 (10 starts in '06, 18 in '07) and that should bring his price down slightly. He would be a big gamble at around $10 million per, but also has the biggest upside of anyone available.

Freddy Garcia - The former Mariner fan favorite and franchise record holder for wins as a rookie (17) was sidelined by injuries for much of 2007. Like Colon, that should bring his price down slightly, but not much in an incredibly thin free agent market. He pitched just 11 games this past season, but is typically a guy you can count on to pump out 220 innings with above average stats.

Carlos Silva - When I first started thinking about the Mariners options I originally had Silva as my favorite target. Now it is reported that he will command something like $48 million over 4 years, and that is just too much to pay for him. He's a decent pitcher, but $12 million per season is too much to pay for someone with such ordinary statistics.

Hiroki Kuroda, Japan - Kuroda is the Japanese pitcher we're hearing the most about. He sounds pretty decent but is projected to be a 4 or 5 in the major leagues. There has been other pitchers linked to the Mariners, such as Kazumi Saito, and with a plethora of Japanese hurlers expected to make the jump this offseason you know that the M's will be considered a match by analysts everywhere because of our history, our ownership (Nintendo) and our ace in the hole, Kenji Johjima. Some other Japanese starters possibly coming across: Kenshin Kawakami, Naoyuki Shimizu and Koji Uehara.

Don't be surprised if the Mariners show interest in guys like Josh Fogg, Kris Benson, Livan Hernandez, Odalis Perez, Rodrigo Lopez or Jon Lieber in this paper thin free agent market.

Through trade:

The names that have been brought up so far have been the bigger names. Dontrelle Willis, Jon Garland, Johan Santana, Scott Kazmir and possibly Erik Bedard are all thought to be available for the right price this offseason, and all of these guys have ace ability. All of these pitchers would cost a ton in terms of prospects. For Santana and Kazmir I think you'd have to give up two of the big three known as Jones, Clement and Balentien. I think you could pry Willis away from the Marlins for Balentien and some of the lower echelon prospects such as Jeremy Reed or Rob Johnson. I get the impression that Willis or Garland are the most likely to come to Seattle.

So there you go, I just rattled off 28 candidates for the two open rotation spots. As we all know, Bill Bavasi has his own way of doing things so who knows if he'll make the right move. The more pitchers the Mariners bring in from outside of the organization the better off our bullpen will be. If you can keep Rowland-Smith and/or Brandon Morrow in the 'pen then it's one less thing you have to worry about. The bullpen is in a lot better shape than a lot of people think. We should have a full season out of Mark Lowe and Jon Huber to go along with Sean Green, Eric O'Flaherty, George Sherrill and JJ Putz. Look for the Mariners to add one more veteran arm via free agency or trade. Former Mariner Brian Fuentes is reportedly on the trading block.