Postgame Spread
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mariners' big moves    

Well, it appears the injury to Jeremy Reed has forced the Mariners' hand; Adam Jones is up to take Reed's spot in center field, and there has been all kinds of shuffling of the bench of late. It's an extremely aggressive move, but I think it was ultimately the best thing to do. Unfortunately, I think the whole process involved some very poor decision making that made this team worse rather than better this year. In the process, we've treated a couple of players pretty roughly, all to avoid treating the one guy who really deserves to be treated roughly, Carl Everett.

I feel bad for Roberto Petagine, cut so that we could have a backup catcher on our roster while Kenji Johjima visited his family in Japan a few days before (and during) the All-Star Break to see his newly-born third child. I feel bad for Choo, who wasn't given a real shot to stick on the roster, even though he's has been tearing up AAA this year, particularly against RHP. He shouldn't have been used in center, and he has pretty extreme platoon splits, but that's why we have Eduardo Pérez, right? The odds that Choo can't hit RHP better than Everett are pretty long as far as I'm concerned. Let's go over the timeline, shall we?

June 14 Mariners lose eighth consecutive game to Oakland.
June 14 (a) Everett proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that he has no business on a major league roster.
June 20-28 Mariners go 7-2 in NL parks, without a DH.
June 30 Mariners realize that Everett's season line against LHP is .159/.243/.270. OK, that's what it is now, but it wasn't so different then and I'm too lazy to figure out how different.
June 30 (a) Mariners trade for Eduardo Pérez, who's season line against LHP is .341/.371/.692.
July 1 Leading by one in the seventh, with 2 men on facing LHP Tom Martin, Hargrove elects not to pinch hit Pérez for either Everett or Reed (who has yet to get a hit against a lefty this season). Good thing the back end of our bullpen is awesome.
July 2 A comedy of errors, including the possibly worst bullpen management ever, failure to pinch hit Pérez for Everett or Reed vs. LHP, Reed's subsequent injury, and an Ichiro home run in the bottom of the 11th that should have been a walkoff.
July 3 Reed to the DL, Choo called up, platooned with Willie Bloomquist in center.
July 9: Petagine designated for assignment, Luis Oliveros recalled to backup Rene Rivera while Johjima is in Japan.
July 13 Jones and Gregg Dobbs (!) promoted from Tacoma, Choo and Oliveros demoted.

As USS Mariner points out, all this last move really means is that the team is not ready to get rid of Everett. Dobbs will sit on the bench with no playing time instead of Choo or Chris Snelling, who are much more interesting options. Within the constraint of Everett definitely being a starter on the team, this is not so stupid--Choo and Snelling need to be playing. However, the constraint is stupid. Everett should have been dumped some time ago. I recognize that the Mariners feel they have to give him every chance, because they brought him in and they have a player-friendly (especially veteran-friendly) image to maintain. But they should have found a way to be rid of him by now. If Bavasi is working the phones like crazy, trying not to resort to DFA'ing him, well, he should have been finished with that before the All-Star Break, at the very least. The time has passed; he has no place left on this team, and neither does the manager who refuses to pinch hit for him in obvious situations.

I have to assume that Choo was always only a stopgap in center while Bavasi looked for a cheap option from some other team. Having failed to find one, they decided to give Jones a shot. I guess I'm ok with that, though since it was to be a short stint from the beginning, I would have used Choo in right and Ichiro in center. I understand that Ichiro thinks playing center would interfere with his endurance and offensive production, but I think he could and would have played center for that week without any problem. Might not have made a difference, but there was no knowing at the time. Anyway, the choice they should be making now is Petagine vs. Choo vs. Snelling for DH (or possibly some LF while Ibanez DH's, depending) alongside Pérez. Instead, it's Everett vs. Snelling. Here's hoping that Everett loses that battle soon. If he does, I'm reasonably pleased with the state of the lineup, although I can't see any good reason why we've ended up with Dobbs on the bench instead of Petagine. But Choo provides pretty good insurance in case Snelling gets hurt, as he can probably platoon with Pérez at DH as well as anybody, and spell Ibanez in LF as well.

If Everett is off the team and Snelling is on it before we lose more ground in the standings, the lineup is in good shape, even if Jones is a bit of an automatic out for a while. The big question mark is pitching, because even if Meche keeps pitching like he has (which I think is a real longshot, though there are indications he may have turned a bit of a corner), we need to add at least one more good starting pitcher to win the division. Neither Joel Piñeiro or Julio Mateo should be doing anything but mop-up duty in blowouts, so we'll have to move (or DFA) one of them. There are some interesting arms in the minors that could shore up the bullpen, and maybe Francisco Cruceta deserves a shot at the rotation. I'd feel more comfortable with a proven arm, but on the other hand, I don't see much point in sacrificing anyone who could contribute next year for another pitcher. 2007 is a much more legitimate opportunity for this team than 2006 is.

The big questions now are how to axe Everett and Hargrove without a PR disaster (and of course, how to get another quality starting pitcher into our rotation). I think they'll ditch Everett, but firing Hargrove in the middle of the season would look pretty strange to a lot of people, so we'll probably have to wait until the team falls out of contention or even the end of the season. Then, we'll have to figure out what to do about Reed. Jones is hardly a sure bet to be a good centerfielder, though at this point I'd certainly bet on him over Reed. If Jones is struggling, do you give Reed the job back once he's healthy? Do you trade him? Does he have any value at this point? He almost looks washed up.

And what kind of insurance do you need for Snelling, who has been so injury prone that it's hard to describe? If you can get a legit SP for a package involving Choo, of course you take it, but otherwise, I say hang onto him. Snelling is too much of an injury risk to be short a backup plan. Also, I think offering Pérez an extension is a good idea, because there's nothing to indicate that Snelling-backup-plan-Choo is going to improve much against lefties. And anyway, Perez is an incredible weapon off the bench, not to mention that if Ibanez's numbers continue to fall off vs. LHP, the team is going to need him whether or not Snelling can play a full season next year.

There's a lot to be concerned about here, but I'm not sweating it. I'm not convinced that this is really a dangerous thing for Jones' personal development, the threat of too much failure in the bigs. Don't 20 year olds expect to struggle at the major league level for a while? Don't they have a million people telling them that they'll be great with a little more experience? Anyway, he seems like he has a good head on his shoulders. I think if Jones hits a big bump in his development, it won't be because he was pushed along too fast. Right now, I'm just excited to get the chance to watch so many young players develop together. And after the last 2 years, being just 2 1/2 games out at the All-Star Break is a blessing all its own.


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