Friday, March 28, 2008

Final Roster Decisions Loom; Last Predictions

Well, I think the performances in tonight's ballgame given us a better indication of how the Mariners' Opening Day roster will look.

Yesterday afternoon and this morning there were rumors going around that Rule-5 pick R.A. Dickey was offered back to the Twins. Prospect Insider was the only site with this info, and Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times called Dickey's roster inclusion "a given" as recently as this afternoon. After thinking about it today it boiled down to one question: Why would Seattle pitch Dickey tonight if they were giving him back anyway?

Seattle wanted to see how Dickey's knuckleball looked outside of the Arizona air. I am assuming that they were going to make their final decision on who the long reliever would be based on tonight's appearance. Most of us had a hard time believing Prospect Insider's "report" this morning, and it looks like they are second-guessing themselves as well. Their sidebar now reads:

Watching R.A. Dickey tonight, albeit versus an awful lineup the San Francisco Giants put out there, makes ya think twice about potentially picking Cha Seung Baek over the knuckleballer, eh?

If Baek's durability wasn't a big question mark, I'd prefer him to Dickey. But I think the M's are nuts if they don't trade Baek and keep the 33-year-old.

Dickey pitched brilliantly tonight, tossing 5 scoreless innings of 1 hit ball. His knuckler was dancing and he was mixing it well with his fastball. R.A. Dickey is going to be on this team and their shouldn't be any doubt about it. Cha-Seung Baek pitched great this spring, but Dickey's skillset is more of what manager John McLaren is looking for. Dickey isn't going anywhere.

As for the rest of the bullpen, I think Brandon Morrow's outing helped sort a lot of things out. He came in very wild, especially with his breaking pitches, and loaded the bases with three straight walks. He then opted to repeatedly throw his fastball down the middle to the next three hitters, which amazingly led to a popup, a strikeout and a flyout. He only gave up one run in his inning of work tonight, but that looks awful given the fact that he didn't surrender any hits. Against a better team that may have been a 5 run inning.

Morrow could still make the team, but I think he'll start the year in AAA Tacoma. That would be his first minor league stint since he pitched 7 games in rookie ball and one game in high-A back in 2006.

With that, the Opening Day bullpen will likely include J.J. Putz, Sean Green, Mark Lowe, Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Rowland-Smith and R.A. Dickey. McLaren could opt to carry deserving long reliever Cha-Seung Baek on the team as well, but it would not improve the team and it would only be to buy some time for Seattle to trade him.

Speaking of trade, I have a hard time believing Seattle can trade him for anything worth while at this point. I'm sure interested teams have read Baek's quotes about opting for free agency rather than reporting to AAA. I'm sure they're also aware of Dickey's performance this spring. Why would a team give up anything worth while for Baek when they can just wait until he's a free agent?

If he goes with the 6-man bullpen, McLaren has five bench spots with two left to fill. Willie Bloomquist, Jaime Burke and Miguel Cairo all have job security, leaving Jeremy Reed, Mike Morse, Charlton Jimerson and Greg Norton as the only position players left in camp without a guaranteed roster spot. I think it's safe to pencil Norton in at this point. McLaren reportedly wants him on the team but his lack of versatility rule him out as a possibility on a 4-man bench. With two spots available McLaren can carry both Norton and an outfield, making Norton's lack of defensive skills obsolete.

Reed should fail to make the roster. McLaren stated a long time ago that he wanted a right-handed outfielder on the bench, something that Reed isn't. I believe that Reed is being showcased for other teams, and that is the only reason he's still on the roster and getting playing time. It's been widely reported that both the Rays and Padres have recently contacted the Mariners about Reed.

So it comes down to Mike Morse versus Charlton Jimerson for the last spot. To many fans Morse seems like the obvious answer. 81% of you think he should make the team, according the poll that is currently running on the right sidebar. He's been hitting a ton this spring, can play four positions, five in a pinch. He seems like a good bench player, right? Not so fast.

Many have reported that McLaren favors Jimerson, and Jimerson is the better option when you consider the position Seattle is trying to fill: fourth outfielder. Morse is a better hitter, but he is atrocious when playing in the outfield. He's a converted infielder with Raul Ibanez range who takes bad routes to fly balls. Jimerson, on the other hand, is a natural outfielder with fantastic range and a good arm. He can play center field, unlike Morse, and would also be Seattle's fastest baserunner off the bench.

The only benefit I see to having Morse on the team is that he would be a better offensive option than Bloomquist and Cairo when it comes to spelling Adrian Beltre and his aching thumb at third. His value at first base is hindered by the potential presence of Norton, who would be a better offensive option should Sexson slump again or get hurt.

There are still tough decisions to be made but as of right now, Friday at 12:06 AM PST, this is the team I expect to see on Opening Day:

Miguel Batista
Erik Bedard
R.A. Dickey
Sean Green
Felix Hernandez
Mark Lowe
Eric O'Flaherty
J.J. Putz
Ryan Rowland-Smith
Carlos Silva
Jarrod Washburn

Jaime Burke
Kenji Johjima

Adrian Beltre
Yuni Betancourt
Willie Bloomquist
Miguel Cairo
Jose Lopez
Greg Norton
Richie Sexson

Raul Ibanez
Charlton Jimerson
Ichiro Suzuki
Brad Wilkerson

The only prediction I don't feel good about is Jimerson over Morse. That could go either way, but if Morse is picked the defense suffers. How do you all think the final cuts will go?

Morrow: MLB or AAA?
Norton, Jimerson, Reed or Morse for the final bench spot(s)?
Dickey or Baek in long relief?


jp17 said...

I think you've pretty much nailed the likely outcomes.

Morrow should start in AAA or the DL, which would possibly allow us to carry both Baek and Dickey. I'm not so sure that Baek is suited to coming out of the pen though, which opens up the possiblity of the 5 man bench.

They need to just release Cairo which would allow Morse, Jimerson, and Norton to be on the bench. The only thing you lose by dumping Cairo is his ability to back up 2B, which Bloomquist and Vidro could do in a pinch.

Jon Shields said...

Cairo has recently been guaranteed a spot, i think. it was an outside chance all spring that he could be released. Mike Morse would be the one forcing that move, but his awful showing in defense probably is what will keep Cairo around to start the season.

everythingbaseball said...

I think the question with Morrow boils down to what this team plans to do with him over the longterm. Is Morrow going to be a starter or a reliever?

If he will be in the rotation, then yes, begin him in AAA in the rotation. This gets him readjusted to the pitching schedule and he'll be able to develop into the pitcher he is capable of being.

If the plan is to keep him in the bullpen, then put him there from the get go. Put him in the bullpen and let him get comfortable with his role so that he can unleash his talent.

Continuing to waver and move him back and forth will only hamper his development.

jp17 said...

Except that Morrow has looked horrible. His command is worse than it was last year, and when you see a total loss of command, an injury is a likely cause.

In any case he won't be helping the team with the way he's pitching now.

At least for this year it looks like he's bullpen bound, but if he's not on of the best 7 relievers to open the year, he shouldn't be with the team. Right now I don't believe he is whether its because of an injury or he's just lost his command for the moment.

He's got plenty of options left, and you could always DL him for a couple of weeks while he gets back on track.

re Cairo, yeah he's been given a spot with the reason being anything other than actual talent. I seriously doubt he'll last the whole season. Balentien or Clement having a good year will force him off the team.

Jon Shields said...

to jp17: If Norton makes the team, he is obviously the first to get cut should Clement or Wlad be brought up, since Vidro would take over his PH/1B duties. I could see Cairo sticking around, but he offers so little besides the "veteran leadership" that it shouldn't be difficult for someone to bump him off the team.

Rob T. said...

Churchill said the M's are trying to trade Baek and Dickey would only not make the team if they can't find a trade partner for Baek but he says that shouldn't be hard. Expect Baek to be traded within the next 2 days.

I agree that Jimerson is the better fit for the team but i think Morse will make it over him along with Norton. Jimerson actually has a pretty good chance to pass through waivers.

Brandon said...

Do guys claimed on waivers have to play in the majors, or can other teams send waiver guys to the minors?

Jon Shields said...

I want to say no, but baseball contracts are so complicated that it's hard to ever understand something fully. It would kind of defeat the purpose of option years if a team could do that.

jp17 said...

Assuming there is a five man bench, Norton isn't necessarily the first to be cut. If Balentien is brought up and Norton is cut that leaves an all right handed bench.

Plus there is always the possibility that Cairo plays himself out of a job and/or Norton plays well enough to keep his.

Also, if Clement or Balentien are brought up that likely means that Vidro is moved to the bench. Cairo would then become even less needed, though Norton would too.

greyguy said...

I still don't see the point in wasting a roster spot on Cairo. What does he give us that we can't get elsewhere? I guess he frees Bloomquist to pinch run more.

Jon Shields said...

We all feel the same about Cairo, greguy. From the time he was signed til now, nothing has changed. There is no reason for him to be on the team.

Jason A. Churchill said...

There is no general rule with players that clear waivers as far as whether they have to be carried on the 25-man or not.

It depends on the players' current status.

Dickey is a Rule 5'er, which means after he clears, if he clears, he still either has to be on the M's 25-man, or be offered back to the Twins for 25k.

If the Twins decline or work out a small trade for Dickey, which from what I hear is what Minnesota would attempt to do, then Seattle can assign Dickey to AAA because he cleared waivers.

If a team claims Dickey on waivers, they, too, have to carry him on their 25-man or offer him back to the Twins.

I don't think there is any way Mike Morse, barring his own trade, does not make the club.

A reserve defensive outfielder is already on the team, if you ask McLaren, since Cairo will be the backup infielder, Bloomquist can be the defensive outfielder for Ibanez late in games.

But how often is McLaren going to pull Ibanez for defense? He didn't do it a year ago.

I think, JS, you have the roster nailed with the exception of the Jimerson/Morse thing, though I still their is an outside shot that Mac starts the year with seven relievers, still.

The bullpen you listed is not only what I believe McLaren and Mel are going to choose out, but also the one I'd pick, too.

Wouldn't you?

Good discussion, guys.

Jon Shields said...

thanks for the insight, JC. Would love to see you drop by more often.

And about Morse, it appears he'll be on the roster after all. Good point about Mac not using defensive replacements even when he had Ellison and others.

Brandon said...

Maybe since Cairo and Norton are old guys, Mclaren will be able to trust their "veteran leadership" in the later innings...i want to see jimerson make the squad, but like Mr. Churchill said, Willie can take that job...looks like we'll hope he clears waivers.
Get rid of Cairo, and everything would be so much easier!!

Brandon said...

Oh, and by the way, thanks for explaining the waivers and rule 5ers.