Laughing At The Mariners’ Starting Rotation

In the last two days, the Mariners released Scott Baker and Randy Wolf.  With Baker’s loss, we all breathe a sigh of relief.  That guy had nothing left and everyone could tell.  In his case, literally just about anyone was a better option.

With Wolf’s release, however, there seems to be more consternation than appropriate.  That’s probably because we’re now staring down the barrel of Blake Beavan or Hector Noesi kicking off the season as our #5 starter.  Here’s the thing, though:  everyone seems to look at that Opening Day Roster as the be-all, end-all, when RARE is the case that you go with the same five guys throughout an entire season.  In this case, it should be abundantly clear that the guys at #4 & #5 in this rotation are mere placeholders.  It would be no different if Iwakuma and Walker went down with minor injuries in the middle of June.  Except, in this case, it’s to start the season, so people are freaking out.

It’s an odd move – today’s release of Wolf – but not unheard of.  The team apparently said he’d won a starting job out of Spring Training, then immediately turned around and tried to get him to sign a 45-day release contract (where, if he’s not on the team after 45 days, the team is not liable to pay his entire salary).  If you ask me, these pantywaist baseball players have had it too easy for too long with these 100% guaranteed contracts.  A player like Randy Wolf SHOULD have to earn his spot on a team!  He SHOULD have to play well enough through 45 days to earn the rest of his season’s salary!  It’s NOT too much to ask!  What has he done the last half decade to warrant a guaranteed ANYTHING?

If you ask me, this was a sweetheart of a deal for him and he fucked it up.  Why?  Because he has no confidence in his abilities to be worth the money after 45 days.  He’s so afraid of turning back into a pumpkin that he’s not willing to wager on himself.  But, look at it this way:  if he’d signed the deal, he’d be IN this rotation right now.  He’d be guaranteed to be starting every fifth day for a Major League ballclub for at least the first couple weeks, if not for the first month of the season.  Now, if he would’ve played well in that scenario, then you’d have to think he’d stick; because look at it this way:  what are the odds Ramirez, Paxton, Walker, AND Roenis Elias (whose highest level achieved was AA, just last year) all succeed right out of the gate to the point where they keep their spots in the Majors?

Now, it looks like Walker will be back a couple weeks into April (barring a setback).  If Wolf comes out of the gate getting people out and being a veteran presence in that clubhouse, do you REALLY think the Mariners are just going to ship him off?  Guess again.  My hunch is that Elias gets a taste of the bigs, and unless he comes out tossing back-to-back-to-back shutouts, he gets sent to Tacoma for more seasoning regardless.  That still leaves Ramirez, Paxton, and Walker to hold down the fort before Iwakuma returns (probably in early May).  I think the team gives that trio the benefit of the doubt if they do well, but I STILL think it’s a longshot that all three of those guys stay with the big league club all season.

Wolf had a real chance!  And he blew it!  Even if he does well and we cut him when Iwakuma returns, then guess what:  he’s got tons of film on him, in 2014, getting Major League hitting out.  He’d get picked up by another team in no time.

Worst case scenario would have been Wolf struggling and getting cut in mid-April, but you have to think, in this scenario, he would’ve been cut even if his whole contract was guaranteed anyway.

Now, he’s got a week to catch on somewhere else.  Maybe it works out and he fills another team’s void after suffering injuries to THEIR rotations, but I still think he had a peach of a deal in his hands when you consider he would have been pitching in Safeco.

But, fuck it, you know?  Now we roll with Beavan.  Is that really a crime?  He’s going to stink, but Wolf was probably going to stink too.  Now, we don’t have to worry about this team being a slave to the Veteran Clubhouse Presence.  My worst nightmare is someone like Wolf (or Harang, or Saunders, or Bonderman) getting an unfair advantage just because they used to pitch in the Majors in 2007 and were somewhat not-terrible.

If this Mariners team is going to contend, it’s not going to be due to the arm of someone like Randy Wolf.  Of course, it’s not going to be due to the arm of Blake Beavan either, but at least we KNOW he’s expendable.  He plays until Walker comes back and then he’s gone (again, unless Elias shits the bed).  Then, whoever remains between Elias and Beavan will also go to Tacoma when Iwakuma comes back.  It’s a simple little equation!

So, there you have it, your starting five (in some order) for the bulk of the regular season (hopefully):

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Erasmo Ramirez
  4. James Paxton
  5. Taijuan Walker

With Elias as your 6th man keeping his arm fresh in AAA.  Sure, I’ve seen better, but for the first time in a long time I’m actually intrigued.  It may suck dick in the first month, but the next five – if things go according to plan – could be a lot of fun.  Felix is a Top 3 pitcher in all of baseball.  Iwakuma has proven himself to be a solid #2 (if he can just keep that finger from blistering over or going out of joint).  The other three are young up-and-comers (we hope).  No hack veteran at the end of a 13-year career just hanging on for one more fucking paycheck.  No dumpy loser who struggles to throw 88mph and gets hit all over the field like we’re playing fucking tee-ball.  Just five young men, in the primes of their lives, hoping to keep dominating (in the case of the first two) or to get to the point where they’re established Major Leaguers (in the case of the last three).

Here it is, in all its glory.  If you’re upset, then be upset at the roster construction job that took place over the winter.  But, don’t be upset now.  These are the GOOD guys!  Just try to look past the fact that Blake Beavan is on the Opening Day roster.  He’s just a placeholder.  Every team gets stuck with a Blake Beavan-type eating up a few starts throughout the season.  We get our turn out of the way early, that’s all.

You know, this turned out to be WAY more complimentary than I’d originally anticipated.  I guess that’s what happens when you write the title before the blog post.

Now, in all likelihood, the Mariners are going to struggle.  The young guys will be up and down, Iwakuma will probably not return as early as we’d hoped.  It’ll be Felix followed by praying for four days of rain and earthquakes.  But, if there’s even the SLIGHTEST chance that this team turns out sorta okay and contends into September, it’ll be because our two studs are rolling and our three youngsters turn into little mini-aces.

The hitting is going to be what it’s going to be.  The bullpen is about as frightening as it gets.  But, the biggest margin for error sides with the starting rotation.  They could be a trainwreck, or they could be the best part of this team by a mile (and anywhere in between).  If you choose to be optimistic about this team, then I have to ask what the fuck you’re smoking, then you think all the young guys will be just good enough to take over.  If you choose to be pessimistic about this team, then you’re waiting for the back-end of this rotation to completely fall apart.  Right about now, I’m about 65% pessimistic, but I’m willing to completely flip that percentage at the first sign of success.

Because when guys like Walker, Paxton, Ramirez, and Elias do well, you know there’s a chance for greatness (whereas when guys like Wolf, Baker, Harang, and Bonderman do well, you know it’s a fluke and just wait five days for the tables to turn).

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