I Like Mike (Carp)

Solid blog post from Geoff Baker today.

In it, he looks at Mike Carp and whether or not he’d be a viable option as the Mariners’ 1B and/or DH for next year.  Essentially, the argument is:  does Carp strike out too much (and not walk enough), or is that something that can be fixed going into next season.

Which leads to the bigger argument:  stick with the Carp/Smoak 1B/DH combo, or go out and make a flashy deal to get Prince Fielder (or some other such type of effective power hitter)?

Now, I’ll give you the fact that Carp will never be regarded in the same light as a Fielder or Votto or Teixeira or Adrian Gonzalez.  Those guys are proven All Stars who will all make serious amounts of money in their careers.

But, here’s my deal.  While Carp may not be on par with the elites among 1B/DH, he’s at the very least approaching them.  In 258 at bats, he’s hitting .291 with 17 doubles, 11 homers, and 44 RBI.  If you extrapolate that to a full season, he’d have well over 30 doubles, 20 homers, and 90 RBI (and, if you put players ahead of him who are able to get on base more regularly, it’s not impossible to see a 100 RBI guy in Carp).

Let’s look at it this way.  The Mariners COULD pay $25 million a year, sign Prince Fielder, and have a guy who will hit you 35 doubles, 35-45 homers, and 100-140 RBI … or they could pay Mike Carp whatever pittance required to retain Mike Carp, have a guy who’s going to hit the same number of doubles, about 60-65% of the homers, and pretty close to the same RBI (at least, on Fielder’s low-end potential).  Then, the Mariners could use whatever money they save on Fielder to sign a top-shelf outfielder or starting pitcher.

Obviously, the Mariners can’t just stick with the status quo here as far as hitting is concerned.  The offense has been epically bad for too long now.  But, you’ve got to pick your spots where you’re weakest!  The Mariners, at least for the moment, have bigger fish to fry than 1B/DH.

Justin Smoak isn’t going anywhere; nobody is giving up on the kid just because he had some struggles in his first full season in the Majors.  Mike Carp is arguably the best rookie hitter the Mariners have going right now.  Pretty much, these guys take up the same position, which means thank heavens we’re in the American League where we have the Designated Hitter.

Going around the diamond, Olivo is signed through next year, Brendan Ryan has endeared himself in the short stop position, Ackley is obviously our 2nd baseman for the next decade, Ichiro is still signed through next year, and Guti is on a semi-long term deal.

That only leaves you a couple of positions to work with.  Third base is an obvious black hole, but you have to wonder what the Mariners are going to do to fill it.  If Carp could play the hot corner, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion; he’d be our third baseman and nobody would question it.  Unfortunately, third base isn’t in his repertoire.

However, left field IS.

If the Mariners are bound and determined to make a huge 1B/DH splash in free agency or via trade this offseason, why can’t we just pencil Carp in as our starting left fielder?  With Guti patrolling center, you have to believe he could help cover Carp’s shortcomings.  And, it’s not like you’d have to leave Carp there everyday.  If you wanted to give Smoak a day off, you could slide Carp over to first.  If you wanted to rest Carp’s legs (or give a hotshot defensive prospect a look), you could put Carp in as the DH.  And, even as the everyday left fielder, odds are in the 8th or 9th inning you’d just make a defensive replacement anyway.

The point is, I don’t want to lose Mike Carp.  He has the look and feel of an Edgar Martinez type who will knock around a ton of doubles, bat for a high average, and eventually develop an eye for the strike zone, thereby inflating his walk percentage.  I just know that if we trade him this offseason, he’s going to land somewhere and that team will be reaping the benefits of a .330 average with 30-40 doubles and probably 30 homers.

A good hitter is a good thing to have on your ballclub.  If there isn’t a readymade spot for him in your lineup, then you FIND a spot for him in your lineup and you play him there every damn day!  For a team like the Mariners – long plagued by having NO good hitters – you’d think they’d be able to appreciate a guy like Carp.

Cheap, almost as effective as the elites in the game, somewhat home-grown and familiar with the organization; it’s a feel-good story baseball needs more of.  Not overpriced prima donnas who come in here with the weight of the world on their backs (thanks to the gargantuan contract they just signed), only to struggle from day one and sink in the quicksand of fan discontent the longer their “slump” continues, until one day they’re suffocating under the soul-crushing depths of their own failure, to be traded away for some other team’s overpriced and unwanted problem.  I’m looking at you Chone Figgins and Carlos Silva.  I’m looking right at both of you.

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