KOMO's Shannon Drayer knows the current Seattle Mariners team as well as anyone, working in close capacity with the them all season long. She started covering Mariner baseball on a part-time basis back in 1998, moving to full-time during the 2003 season. You can check out her KOMO baseball blog here. Shannon was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for us here at Bleeding Blue and Teal.
BBT: Seattle lost a lot of leadership in Jose Guillen. Who are the most vocal leaders on the current team?
Drayer: Guillen had a leadership style we haven't seen in the clubhouse in a long time. He was a butt kicker. I don't think there are any other butt kickers, but there are different leaders that are important in different ways. Without question, JJ has grown into a leader, and from what I understand, he can be rather vocal at times. Mostly with the bullpen, but he is also a good team guy. Carlos Silva insists that he is vocal. He told us to look for him to be very animated on the bench in games that he is not pitching in. Ichiro believe it or not, felt more comfortable speaking up last year. Raul is a quiet leader, but the first one most guys go to when they are struggling. Willie Bloomquist has been known to speak up and has also been very helpful with the younger players. Adam Jones credits him with showing him the ropes. Willie is also the union rep. I don't think leadership is a problem on this team.
BBT: Do you believe that manager John McLaren is on any type of hot seat in his first full year, or will he be given the complete season for better or worse?
Drayer: Unless something dramatic happens, really dramatic, McLaren has nothing to worry about. The organization gave him everything he wanted in a staff and that is a good indicator that they trust him and they are behind him. Mac has surrounded himself with a lot of experience and I think that was a smart move on his part.
BBT: The Mariners have a few players heading for free agency after the 2008 season, including Raul Ibanez, Kenji Johjima and Willie Bloomquist. There are many variables that could play into the team's decision, but which of these players, if any, do you see Seattle extending before they hit the open market and why?
Drayer: Good question. I don't think the organiztion feels a pressing need to extend any of these guys early. I think Raul and Willie could be end of the season (in the exclusive negotiating window) deals provided they have good years. Willie might want to test the open market, and the team will probably let him. Joh is an interesting case. I don't know if this will be an ownership decision or a management decision. Jeff Clement will be ready to go. Can you keep Joe while you move Jeff in? Ideally Jeff would be at first base resting his legs and swinging that bat every night. Problem is, from what I have heard, he has been resistant to this. He insists on catching which is a shame. Bill Hassleman on our post game show once said that he couldn't understand how anyone that talented with the bat would want to catch. He says the wear and tear of catching will affect his hitting. Joh is a very tough call.
One other thing to keep an eye on. Isn't it time they lock Felix up to a long term deal? That's one of my first questions when we get past this Bedard thing.
BBT: What type of roles do you think Brandon Morrow and Horacio Ramirez would assume should an Erik Bedard trade become official?
Drayer: Word is that Morrow will be in the pen as the right handed set up man. This could get interesting though if Mark Lowe comes back at full strenght. If Lowe is lights out, maybe, just maybe, the organization would send Morrow down to the minors to get ready to move into the starting rotation either next year, or at the deadline after a trade. Ramirez will be looking at the long relief role, Tacoma or possibly he could be let go at the end of spring training.
BBT: Can you confirm reports that Seattle has a deal in place with Brad Wilkerson, pending an Erik Bedard trade? Do you feel it is necessary for the Mariners to look outside of the organization, or are Jeremy Reed and Wlad Balentien viable options?
Drayer: I cannot confirm Wilkerson, but I expect to see him or perhaps Trot Nixon platooning in right with Wlad. Is it necessary to look outside the organization? I think so. If they get Bedard they have to go for it. They have to have something out there that is a known quantity. I like the idea of a platoon, break the young guy in easily. I would give Morse a long look in spring training as well. He can hit a single to right field all day long. That's nice, but not enough. I have talked to a lot of scouts who think he is going to hit for power some day. If he wants to do it in Seattle, he is going to have to do it this spring because he is out of options.
I want to thank Shannon again for helping us out here. Some great points to think about:
- Jeff Clement doesn't want to play first base.
- Seattle could be looking to lock up Felix Hernandez soon.
- Brandon Morrow could get the minor league time he needs if Mark Lowe is healthy.
- Trot Nixon? This has been the first connection between him and Seattle. Word is he's working on his first base defense.