Wednesday, November 7, 2007

First Base Shuffle

As of right now, before the whole offseason runaround starts, the Mariners have several options at the first base position going into 2008. Richie Sexson, Ben Broussard, Jose Vidro, Raul Ibanez, Jeff Clement, Brian LaHair and Mike Morse. Now let's go ahead and eliminate Clement and LaHair, Clement because (as I mentioned in my previous post) is currently working in winter ball strictly as a catcher, and LaHair would have to have a MONSTER spring training in order to beat out all the experienced guys.

I don't see the Mariners keeping all of these guys. Someone is gonna have to go with all the young talent waiting in the wings.

It seems that a lot of fans are out to get Richie Sexson, and he deserves the criticism. He hasn't come close to earning his money, especially during 2007. Richie's first two seasons were nice, productive years, but he's getting paid in the Albert Pujols range! And after a horrendous 2007 campaign it seems that everyone wants him out of Seattle. That's sort of a problem, though, because he earns so much. Do you think any team in their right minds would pick up that big of a contract? No. There was a rumor going around that the Mariners placed Sexson on waivers late last season and the Tigers made a claim on him and his entire contract, but that appears false. The bottom line is that our Seattle Mariners would have to eat millions and millions of that contract in order to get him in another uniform, and his trade value is so so low after 2007.

Now, it also seems to me that a lot of Mariner fans are very high on Ben Broussard. I find that he is highly overrated. Yes, he was having a fabulous season with the Indians before the Mariners acquired him in 2006, but he was horrible after the move and struggled again in 2007. He just needs some regular playing time! Nope. He got that after Richie was injured and he failed to do anything with his bat. Low batting average, zero homers and something like three RBIs down the stretch.

Jose Vidro was as consistent as ever this past season. Sure, he wasn't as productive as we would've liked, especially early in the year, but he had a .314 batting average and more walks than strikeouts (63/57). He's a guy who can hit to all fields and you can hit and run with him at the plate. I'm a little unsure, however, of his defensive abilities at first. In 19 games between the Mariners and Nationals he didn't commit an error over the last two seasons. He obviously has limited range.

We all know Raul Ibanez's offensive abilities. He had a monster season in 2006 and had pretty good closing numbers in 2007, despite a horrible start which saw him hit just 6 home runs through July. He may be fading a little bit, but he still has some offense in him. As far as the defense goes, the Mariners would be smart to get him out of left field. His range and sub-par throwing arm have been the topics of discussion as many Mariner fans wanted him out of the starting lineup in favor of Adam Jones. Although he has been used sparingly as a first baseman since rejoining the Mariners, Raul split most of his time at first during his stint as a Kansas City Royal. Although I am a huge Raul fan and would hate to see him leave, his trade value is higher than any of the players I already mentioned.

Mike Morse would have to be considered the dark horse. He appears to be more than Major League ready and he will be on the opening day roster. He seems best suited as a utility man, but his large frame (he is now 6'8") would make a nice target for the other infielders. It would take some major dealing by Bavasi for him to get a shot.

All that said, this is what I think will happen, or at least what should happen. Richie Sexson will be the starting first baseman on Opening Day. The reason behind this is 1.) he will get back to 30 HRs 100 RBIs, 2.) he has almost no trade value. If big Richie manages to reverse his history and have a good first half for once, he will have a much better value going into the trading deadline of his contract year. Depending on where the Mariners are sitting next July they could move him. Now Raul could start in left again, but I'd rather have him at DH. It all depends on whether or not McLaren wants to start two youngsters in the outfield, Balentien and Jones. If Balentien has a solid spring training and Mac decides that he is the starting left fielder then either Vidro or Ibanez will have to go. And unfortunately as I already mentioned, Raul probably has a little more trade value that Vidro does. Morse and Broussard will get stuck warming the bench. Now if I had chance to play GM and manager I would try to get rid of Broussard and Sexson, trading Sexson to whoever will take his contract and Broussard for anything. I'd proceed to start Wlad in left, Raul at first and Vidro at DH. I'm trying to be realistic, though, and Sexson is next to impossible to trade at this point. Also, if any of these guys could be packaged with Wlad or other prospects for a good starting pitcher, it would be in the Mariners best interests to make it happen. RI-SEX RA-IBA MI-MOR BE-BRO

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