We talk all the time about how the Mariners have holes on their roster that need to be filled if we’re going to watch a playoff team come October. So, what are these holes?
Obviously, with the Mariners sitting at seven games over .500, there are fewer holes than you’d think. Let’s start on offense:
I don’t know why people would be down on someone like James Jones, but to me he looks like a keeper. I don’t consider center field a hole whatsoever. Obviously, we’ve got All Stars at second & third base, so no problem there. And catcher seems to be on lockdown with Mike Zunino getting his feet wet and occasionally providing some pop. Those are four spots you can be really happy with! Rejoice!
Obviously, our corner outfield spots leave a lot to be desired. A LOT. I’m ready to ship Ackley off at the first sign of a reasonable, league-average replacement. Endy Chavez isn’t much better, except he is a better fielder and he actually hits the ball for an okay average. No, Endy Chavez doesn’t get nearly enough walks, but Ackley sort of does, and Chavez STILL has a better on-base percentage! Ideally, of course, the Mariners would find two outfielders, but we don’t live in an ideal world, so don’t count on it happening.
Short stop is another hole, whether anyone wants to outwardly admit it or not. Brad Miller might eventually be the real deal, and it might not necessarily be a hole you’re so desperate to fill at the moment, but I also wouldn’t dismiss the opportunity to add to the position if the right deal came along. In spite of Miller’s improvements in the month of June, he’s still hovering around the Mendoza line, and that’s simply not good enough. With his power, and his reasonable ability to walk on occasion, all Miller has to do is bat around .250 to no longer be a hole in this lineup! But, asking him to raise his average another fifty points by season’s end might be asking him to do a bit too much. Part of me hopes he gets a longer leash – like Zunino – considering he’s playing one of the more difficult defensive positions on the team; but the rest of me has seen this story play out all too many times before. I don’t know if 2014 is “Make Or Break” for Brad Miller, but I do know this is the last year he’ll be guaranteed a starting spot on this team if he doesn’t get his shit together.
Finally, the big bugaboo is the 1B/DH spot. If you believe that Logan Morrison is good-enough (which, over the last few weeks, he certainly HAS looked good-enough), then what you’re saying is: we’ve filled one of these holes. Truth be told, his numbers don’t even significantly dip when he’s going up against left-handed pitching, so that’s encouraging. I still like him more as a DH than as a first baseman, but I’ll take what I can get. If we can find some big, dumb ol’ clodhopper of a DH who is better than Corey Hart and Justin Smoak (and, really, how hard can THAT be?), then fine, leave LoMo in there at first base.
So, by all accounts, that’s four holes. Left field, right field, short stop, DH. I don’t anticipate a deal that forces out Miller or Chavez, so that just leaves left field and DH as the primary goals. If we somehow luck into a right-handed power hitter, I have to imagine Justin Smoak is getting the demotion (as he still has options), with Corey Hart hanging around as a bench player/last resort. And, if/when Michael Saunders comes back, that’ll push Endy Chavez out of the everyday lineup (hopefully), with whoever we bring in taking over for Ackley (who needs to be traded/demoted, like, yesterday).
That’s the hitting. Let’s move on to the pitching.
Felix, Iwakuma, and Chris Young are here to stay. Roenis Elias is almost certainly here until he’s hit the 170-180 innings pitched mark. Yes, he’s on a bit of a downturn at the moment, but that has to be expected with a rookie starting pitcher. I would expect him to vacillate between being good and bad through the rest of his season. Just having him stick in the Major League rotation for a full 180 innings without injury or being sent down would be a victory in itself. I’m not quite ready to declare the existence of TWO holes in the rotation, but if Elias keeps sliding on this bad streak he’s been on, it may come to be.
Certainly, there is one hole in the rotation: that of the fifth starter. Erasmo Ramirez has proven he’s not the guy. Brandon Maurer has proven he’s only effective as a bullpen arm (not to diminish that or anything; he looks like he could be an amazing closer one day). Taijuan Walker is finally healthy, but he looks as inconsistent as anyone we’ve put in that spot. The thing with Walker is: he has the natural gifts to be able to get himself out of trouble with more regularity than anyone else we have on our 40-man. I’ve said multiple times that I’m willing to trade Walker if the right guy comes along; but, just know that if we do trade him and don’t pick up a pitcher to fill this fifth starter spot, it could get pretty ugly.
Picking up two starters – like the A’s did recently – would be ideal, but again, when is the world ever ideal? They also have one of the best lineups in the game, so they can afford to pile on the pitching. If we trade for two starters and leave our hitting the way it is, that doesn’t really do much for us, now does it?
I’m still firmly in the camp that Chris Young will be more of a liability than an asset in the second half of the season. I would argue that we should probably sell high on him if we can, and find a way to add THREE pitchers to our arsenal, but that’s crazy talk, so I’ll just move on.
I wouldn’t consider us as having any holes in the bullpen. Or, at least, holes you want to place any sort of priority on filling. I’m sure it’s possible to improve on Furbush, but is that REALLY where you want to dedicate your time and resources, when there are far more pressing concerns on this team?
Corner outfield, DH, starting pitcher, and maybe short stop and/or first base. Those are the holes. In order of importance. I wouldn’t anticipate the team will be able to fill ALL of these holes, but filling two or three might make all the difference.