Thursday, December 16, 2004

Where things stand 

Luis Ugueto was designated for assignment with the signing of Richie Sexson. Could Bill Bavasi be cleaning house of past mistakes, and trying to become 2005 Seattle Man of the Year? If so, look for Willie Bloomquist to be DFA'd for Beltre.

At this point, its unlikely that the M's have a secret big move hiding in their back pocket. So lets see where the M's stand, and what smaller moves might make sense before pitchers and catchers report in a couple of months.

Catcher - Miguel Olivo
First Base - Richie Sexson
Second Base - Bret Boone
Shortstop - Jose Lopez
Third Base - Adrian Beltre
Left Field - Raul Ibanez
Center Field - Jeremy Reed
Right Field - Ichiro Suzuki

Catcher - Dan Wilson
Corner Infield - Scott Spiezio
Middle Infield - Jolbert Cabrera
4th Outfielder - Randy Winn
Last Bat - Justin Leone or Willie Bloomquist (go Justin!)

Joel Pineiro
Gil Meche
Jamie Moyer
Bobby Madritsch
Ryan Franklin

Eddie Guardado
George Sherrill
J.J. Putz
Julio Mateo
Shigetosi Haseawa

Areas for improvement look to be:
1) Rotation - too many ifs and hopes here. No one on rotation is a sure thing to be good in 2005. Odalis Perez is my favorite of the big money guys left, and could likely be had with a 3-year, $24 million offer that was backloaded. Kevin Millwood might be had for a 1-year, $6 million contract. Jose Lima, Hideo Nomo might be a cheap, but possibly rewarding one year flyer. Unfortunately, Matt Clement is approaching $10 million per season. Derek Lowe might be an interestng pickup, but I think he'll be expensive. Avoid the Eric Miltons of the world.

2) Shortstop. Lopez offense and defense may not be ready for Prime Time on a contender. Jolbert Cabrera is a decent stopgap. May want another middle infield defensive whiz for the bench. This could be a place to strengthen by trading some of our outfield depth, but this move may not be necessary until midseason, after Lopez has gotten a good shot. Orlando Cabrera is still out there, but thinks he's worth Renteria money (4/40). Perhaps adding Pokey Reese would provide a defensive whiz, bench pinch-runner, and an alternative should Lopez falter.

3) Outfield. Questions aplenty, but also a lot of talent. Many great 4th outfielder options, but no great centerfielders. Ichiro is the only sure thing. Ibanez, Winn, and Reed will battle for starting time, and the loser may end up knocking Bucky from the DH slot. Chris Snelling and Jamal Strong could be waiting in the wings as well. While I would love a Carlos Beltran or J.D. Drew signing, its probably too much to spend on a place where we have lots of options. Any free agent move would likely be accompanied by a trade of the salary of Winn or Ibanez.

4) Bullpen. Guardado's health is an issue, and this was a shaky group last year. Ron Villone is still the favorite for long relief and could move into the rotation if things get really ugly there. It would be nice to pony up for a top-notch setup man, who might close if Guardado is not back all the way. Antonio Osuna, Paul Shuey and Steve Kline are three of my favorites for this spot.

If I were GM, this is what I try...
1) Sign Odalis Perez to 3-year, $23 million slightly backloaded contract. If he goes for more than that, shift to adding one of the lower lights to a 1-year deal.
2) Sign one of Osuna, Shuey, Kline to a 2-year, $4 million contract (or lower, not sure where their market lies without some research).
3) Keep our outfield intact, but be ready to deal Winn, Reed or Ibanez to shore up hole in middle infield, bullpen, or rotation. Unless I can package Winn with someone like Franlin or Spiezio in a deal for Kaz Matsui. Matsui is worth a risk at SS, then Lopez can season one more year in the minors, and move into second base next year.
4) Pray for the return of Scott Speizio's ability
5) DFA Willie Bloomquist, become instant blogosphero

Soon, if not already, you will see some more pessimistic bloggers and analysts calling for an end to the euphoria you are feeling right now. They'll say that the M's are not going to contend in 2005, but at least they'll have a shot at .500. They'll have the "stats" to back it up.

Don't buy what they are selling. The Mariners are contenders again in the AL West, right now. 90 wins is attainable again. Get on the bandwagon now, and enjoy the ride with the M's back into the playoffs and on to the World Series!

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