Sunday, November 25, 2007

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

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