Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Replacing Vidro + Roster Notes

On Monday Seattle reassigned OF Wladimir Balentien to minor league camp today, along with LHP Jake Woods and C Rob Johnson, meaning none of the three prospects in the poll will make the club out of Spring Training, which leads us to our latest poll:

Which prospect will find their way onto the 25-man roster first?

Jeff Clement - 19%
Wlad Balentien - 77%
Yung-Chi Chen - 2%

I've gotta say I was a bit surprised by the results. Clement seems to be the bigger name, but I think we're onto something here.

Just to take Chen out of the conversation, his only chance at getting on the 25-man roster this year was to absolutely destroy Jose Lopez this spring and he didn't. I don't know how many starting opportunities he'll get with the Mariners, but it's not a bad guess to say this was his first and last (unless injury strikes).

Between Balentien and Clement, who cracks the 25-man roster first? The first thing you must realize is that neither will be on this roster as a reserve, as both are much too talented for that. Maybe so many of you voted for Wlad because he was making a strong case to become Seattle's fourth outfielder, but Seattle wisely chose to give him playing time in Tacoma over a bench role.

One of these guys should find their way into Seattle's starting lineup before long. As most of you know, DH Jose Vidro received a vesting option for the 2009 season in return for waiving his no-trade clause a year ago. Most fans don't want Vidro back after this season, and the consensus is that Seattle management is thinking the same thing. Vidro's option is rumored to vest at 400 at bats or 450 plate appearances, whichever comes first, so Seattle will want to get Vidro out of the starting lineup with plate appearances to spare so he can pinch hit and backup at second and first base.

Vidro could reach the required plate appearances as soon as the end of June or beginning of July as a starter. Seattle should be looking to reserve at least 200-250 plate appearances for Vidro's bench role, so his starting gig could end in mid-to-late May. That gives Clement and Balentien 40 or more games of extra work before a promotion.

The promotion will likely go to the one who is hitting the best and who would fit better in Seattle's lineup. Though I've done some campaigning for Clement this spring, I am beginning to think Seattle would be smarter to promote Balentien when a spot becomes available. Balentien's struggles with recognizing the breaking ball may put Clement's bat slightly ahead, but Balentien would upgrade the team on both sides of the ball. While adding some of the organization's best raw power to the bottom third of the lineup, Balentien would also do Seattle the favor of bumping Raul Ibanez out of the outfield. While Clement would become the new DH after a promotion, Balentien would likely play right field, moving Brad Wilkerson to left and Ibanez to DH; a move that would undoubtedly save quite a few runs.

Promoting Clement to Seattle DH would also force the organization to make an important decision prematurly. Kenji Johjima, Seattle's current and most dependable catcher since Dan Wilson, is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and Seattle has not yet decided whether they want to bring Joh back or let Clement take over. Promoting Clement would take away months of defensive catching development away from him. Clement's defense has been suspect but improved, and making him the full-time DH would likely rule him out as Seattle's 2008 catcher.

In other news:

The bullpen situation remains a mess. Over the past few days Brandon Morrow's stock may have fallen, Mark Lowe and Arthur Rhodes' appears to have risen a touch, while Reitsma doesn't really seem to be in the race anymore. Ryan Rowland-Smith is still looking great.

Who will join J.J. Putz, Sean Green, Eric O'Flaherty and R.A. Dickey? Prospect Insider has apparently learned that Rhodes is a lock as long as he stays healthy, meaning Rowland-Smith will be optioned back to AAA. I don't like the idea of having Rhodes in the 'pen, as I see manager John McLaren using his "veteran presense" over more talented pitchers they way he did with Chris Reitsma and Rick White last season. I'll go into more detail with this when the final cuts are officially announced.

McLaren has yet to decide on how many pitchers he will carry, meaning there are 1-2 spots to be distributed between Morrow, Lowe, Cha-Seung Baek, Reitsma and Rowland-Smith. Morrow and Lowe are obviously the frontrunners here, but pitcher health is certainly making it difficult to predict how the bullpen may shake down.

As far as the bench goes, Miguel Cairo has been given a spot mainly because of his "veteran presence." This shouldn't have come as a surprise since his contract was of the guaranteed variety. I had been saying that he would be on the bench all spring, though I will admit that I was starting to doubt myself as I listened to everyone passionately make their case against him. Do I want him on the bench? No, but his presence won't make or break this team, though Mike Morse and Greg Norton have to be feeling the pressure a little bit.

Sorry if I've missed anything as I just haven't had the time to keep up. Please share any missing info or your thoughts on Jose Vidro's situation, Wlad versus Clement, the bullpen, Cairo's inclusion or anything else Mariner related in the comment section.


Rob T. said...

Chris Reitsma was cut today

Jon Shields said...

^About time. Thanks for the constant updates, Rob.

Rob T. said...

Your wish was granted. Rhodes is being cut also but only because he is not ready yet. He might be on the team come May though.