Mariners Insider

Change is coming to the Mariners – again

Post by Larry Larue / The News Tribune on April 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm with 18 Comments »
April 25, 2012 12:08 pm
Justin Smoak

One of the first things GM Jack Zduriencik did when he took the job was roll the Seattle Mariners roster over – and within two springs there was hardly anyone left other than Felix Hernandez and Ichiro.

Well, hang on to your programs, because the Mariners are at it again.

Within a few weeks, outfielder-DH-first baseman Mike Carp will return from injury, and with a month or so, Franklin Gutierrez will rejoin the team.

The question then will be,how to you get them into a lineup in need of production and still keep Kyle Seager and Alex Liddi? The simplest roster moves would be to send out outfielder Casper Wells and third-string catcher/DH John Jaso.

That, however, doesn’t get Seager and Liddi playing time.

Liddi has been the early surprise of 2012, both in spring training, when he batted .370, through today, when his average is .363. Seager has shown he’s not only a good hitter but a run producer.

At some point this season, you might see a lineup where Jesus Montero catches, Dustin Ackley plays left field, Seager second base, Liddi third, Justin Smoak first  and Carp DH. A team that wants to go young probably shouldn’t nurture Chone Figgins much longer – and Miguel Olivo would make a marvelous backup catcher.

That leaves another question mark: Smoak.

The switch-hitting first baseman has plenty of power and lots of potential, but he’s now 25 and has played 168 games over parts of three seasons. Smoak has hit in small spurts, never consistently.

At what point does his starting job – which includes hitting fourth in the Mariners lineup – remain viable.

The question could be asked of veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood, as well.  Hisashi Iwakuma is wasted in the bullpen, Erasmo Ramirez is a future starting pitcher. How long do you hold the future at bay?

It’s one thing to mix solid veteran players in with the kids, quite another to hold young players back for no reason other to play guys with no long-term future in Seattle.

The Figgins experiment has gotten more from him than the Mariners received in his first two seasons, but it’s still not much. Millwood can still pitch in the big leagues, but this isn’t the best fit for him or for the team.

Olivo is the same player Zduriencik signed two years ago – to a two-year deal with an option – but Montero may already be as good a catcher.

Smoak needs to show he’s better than he’s been. For his own sake, sooner rather than later.

You know changes are coming. Recommendations? Thoughts? Let’s hear your ideas. Mr. Zduriencik could likely use the input.

Leave a comment Comments → 18
  1. Cut Olivo, send Liddi to AAA, bench Figgins

    vs. RHP vs. LHP
    2B Ackley 2B Ackley
    3B Seager 3B Seager
    RF Ichiro RF Ichiro
    DH Montero C Montero
    1B Smoak 1B Smoak
    LF Carp DH Carp
    CF Gutierrez LF Wells
    C Jaso CF Gutierrez
    SS Ryan SS Ryan

  2. The thought of Zduriencik listening to me is frightening. Nevertheless:

    Even a hot start couldn’t get Figgins back on track. He’s mediocre in the outfield; from my perspective, defensively he’s mediocre at all positions. The Figgins leading off experiment shouldn’t go past May 1 without better results. Cut bait, Mr. Z.

    Any options left on Smoak? If yes, and he’s not hitting by June 1, sit him down in the office and say, “We’re putting you on the same program Carp was on last year, sending you down to get some AAA hacks and get your swing and head in order. Do what he did, and you’ll be back up promptly.” (And by the way, a sore hamstring can linger and get worse, not to mention causing negative swing adjustments; it’s an excellent, valid reason to give Liddi more hacks over the next couple of weeks.)

    Noesi may solve the Iwakuma issue. Maybe he should be pitching at Jackson with the other prospects. But from what I saw of Iwakuma, maybe Jack needs to remind Wedge that pitching once every twelve games is no good for a pitcher, not even a veteran like Iwakuma. I can see Wedge’s side; a relief pitcher who needs thirty or more pitches to warm up creates a conundrum. Millwood, well, if it had been up to me Iwakuma would have been pitching ahead of him in the first place. You handle this one, Wedge, and we’ll make it part of your evaluation in October.

    Like me, Zduriencik has seen Jaso’s defensive numbers for the past couple of years. So: three games at catcher for Olivo, two for Montero, and spot duty for Jaso until circumstances change. For catchers, they do seem to change of their own accord.

    Enough from me, except to say that it all has to be done in tandem with Wedge, and that Wedge has to have the final say on the daily lineup.

  3. footballscaa says:

    No mention of moving or removing Ryan from the team? He gives at bats away. Adds iron to his glove in clutch situations. Watching his last pathetic AB saturday could have been an replay from almost any game he’s played in this year. If anyone needs to moved it’s him.

  4. midencer says:

    Honestly, if Smoak was a home grown prospect he would have been given much shorter shrift. The only reason he is still the starting 1st baseman is the huge investment the team made in him when they dealt Cliff Lee. I like Smoak, but I say if Smoak doesn’t find a way to close that hole in his swing, he should be sat and Liddi should be given every opportunity to blossom into what I think will terrific hitter and fielder.

  5. midencer says:

    Honestly, if Smoak was a home grown prospect he would have been given much shorter shrift. The only reason he is still the starting 1st baseman is the huge investment the team made in him when they dealt Cliff Lee. I like Smoak, but I say if Smoak doesn’t find a way to close that hole in his swing, he should be sat and Liddi should be given every opportunity to blossom into what I think will be a terrific hitter and fielder.

  6. bigmike04 says:

    Well let see for lot of people it would be cut Figgins because what you see is what you get & M’s will have to take money lost on his signing..

    Casper Wells: need playing time, not getting that when Carp & Franklin comes off DL.

    John Jaso stays because their still having Montero be 3rd string catcher & Miggy need to get on roll because he going to be trade bait if he has hot bat by July 31st..

  7. Here’s my ideal lineup’s

    Today: (no Carp or FG)

    C Montero/Jasso platoon
    1B Liddi
    2B Ackley
    SS Kawasaki
    3B Seager
    LF Wells
    CF Saunders
    RF Ichiro
    DH Montero/Jasso platoon

    Bench Olivo, Ryan, Figgins, Smoak,

    After Carp FG:

    C Montero
    1B Liddi
    2B Ackley
    SS Kawasaki
    3B Seager
    LF Carp
    CF FG
    RF Ichiro
    DH Saunders (Montereo on days he needs a break from catching)

    Bench: Ryan, Jasso, Wells, Smoak

    My post return lineup requires Olivo & Figgins to be released.

    With these lineups & decent pitching, we should go over .500.

  8. timeout, I agree; if Smoak has an option left it would be ideal to give him a chance to get healthy & show what he can do in Tacoma.

  9. I want everybody to remember this blog article and comments the next time there is a call for Z’s head. We are talking about having too many players (i.e. too much talent, or POTENTIAL talent) and not enough playing time to go around.

    1B: Smoak. Every day. I swear that if we screw up and don’t remain patient with him through the 2013 season we are going to be kicking ourselves big time.

    2B: Ackley.

    SS: Ryan, but with the foregone conclusion that this will be his final season in Seattle and he is just holding down the fort until Truinfel or Franklin is ready.

    3B: Seager.

    LF: Carp.

    CF: Saunders. He is playing well enough that they don’t have to rush Guti back. I don’t think he will be back until the All-Star break, personally.

    RF: Ichiro.

    C: Montero/Jaso. Olivo is the 3rd catcher who only plays if there is an in-game injury (especially with Montero being the primary DH, don’t want to have to kill the DH in the event that Jaso is catching and gets hurt).

    Bench: Wells is the 4th outfielder. He should get reasonable playing time because he can play all 3 positions fairly well, offers a RH option for Carp/Saunders/Ichiro, defensive replacement for Carp late in games, pinch runner, pinch hitter, etc.

    Kawasaki is the backup middle infielder, pinch runner, lefty platoon option for Ryan.

    Liddi can rotate in at 1B and 3B, pinch hit, be a righty option to platoon if necessary. He will get enough playing time in this scenario due to occasional bumps and bruises for Smoak and Seager and what is looking like Wedge’s propensity to go with a heavy RH lineup against lefties.

    Figgins gets his outright release if/when they can’t find a team to take him off our hands for a Single-A prospect.

  10. Give Smoak 2-3 weeks to start producing and if he does not then send him down. Keep playing Figgins for a little while also…although his average is crappy right now he does “look” better than the past 2 years. If he can show something there might be a taker that we can unload him on.

    And what the heck are Monteros #’s when he starts at catcher compared to DH? They have to be aware of that don’t they? DH can mentally be pretty challenging for a lot of guys…especially young ones. At least that’s what you hear a lot.

  11. wabubba67 says:

    DH is certainly not as mentally (and physically) challenging as catcher.

    Completely agree that we need to be patient with Smoak. This guy was rushed through the Rangers’ minor league system and has seen very few AAA at-bats. The majors is a tough place to learn on the job, especially when hurt and dealing with emotional distress last season.

    Not quite sure what to do with Figgins right now, other than trot him out each day and hope for the best. He will either improve or, at some point, management will become convinced that he is done and hopefully eat his contract.

    Btw, there was a game today with Felix pitching and Pineda will have season ending (maybe career ending) surgery soon…and there is no current post. What does Larry do all day?

  12. By NOT playing a position and being “involved” in the whole game is what often times makes DHing challenging. At least this is what I have heard many times over the years from different ballplayers. Even Edgar has talked about the challenges and adjustments he had to deal with. It is my speculation that you might see Montero hit better if he plays catcher more often.

  13. wabubba67 says:

    I know what you’re getting at, emm, and in most cases I would agree with you. But catching is the most mentally/physically challenging position in baseball (maybe in all of sports). Besides the toll to the body (which should also be a consideration with a young talented hitter like Montero), the catcher has to know the scouting reports for the opposition’s hitters, his pitcher’s overall strengths/weaknesses (in general, and specifically that day), and he has to call the game.

    Making the adjustment to resting (or devising ways to stay mentally sharp) in between ABs rather than taking the field, seems trivial in my mind by comparison.

  14. ConcernedCoach says:

    I think the basis for the article is where we find the problem of this team. Change and flux..Theres too much of it. And for that I blame Wedge. No set lineup, guys batting in different spots, something new everyday. I look back to the Dodgers of the early 70’s and see something similar here in Seattle. Lopes,Russel,Cey,Garvey all together under Tommy Lasorda at Spokane. when they get to the bigs what does Walter Alston do?..He plays them everyday and lets them grow in the same spot. They know everyday when they come to the park where they are playing and where they are hitting. You dont see this with this team and manager and it wears on players..especially young players
    am I in am I out..Oh if I am in the pressure to produce is tremendous cuz if I dont I know I will be out tomorrow. Key theme..too much flux. we know its not a playoff team. So put them out there and let them play. They are gonna have times where they succeed and times when they fail. In the end you see what you have and if they are nto who you think they are then you make changes and move players. Right now there are too many players (Figgins, Olivo and maybe to an extent Ryan) getting too many at bats and playing time. Ackley,Seager,Liddi, Montero,Smoak,Saunders Carp when he returns..Need to play everyday. The jury is still out on Guti Ichiro is well..38. and Kawasaki is not the answer at short. Time will tell..It’s too early to panic because any true fan knows this is not a contending team but it can be. But i think the love affair with “Z” and Wedge needs to be rexamined and scrutinized because I for one do not think Wedge is the answer. He talks about holding players accountable but who is holding him accountable for bonehead decisions and the constant instability of the lineup. No offense intended but its certainly not local media.

  15. Misunderestimated says:

    C Montero/Jaso
    1B Carp
    2B Seager
    3B Liddi
    SS Kawasaki
    LF Achley
    CF Guti/Wells
    RF Ichiro
    DH Montero/Jaso/Wells

    Ryan/Figgins Util until we can get rid of them, Smoak to Triple A like we did with Carp last year (produce or be gone)

  16. bigmike04 says:

    Catchers: Olivo, Montero, Jaso

    1B: Carp & Liddi

    2B: Ackley

    3B: Seager

    SS: Ryan & Munenori Kawasaki

    LF Figgins

    CF Saunders & Franklin

    RF Ichiro

    Smoak if has a option go down to tacoma & get a new batting stances like Saunders… But he does show the potential to be a big league hitter.

    Casper Wells: Should be playing everyday not once every week it seem like.

    Hisashi Iwakuma: Fact that it take him atleast 30 pitches to warm up in bullpen & took Wedge 12 game to finnally used him, mean this guy spot on M’s in my opinion is open one.. Send him outright to Tacoma & put him in the rotation down their..

  17. This team needs Prozac. Badly.

  18. Coach81: I get your point on Smoak playing daily. But you don’t want to blow out his hammy–I’m assuming you agree that he shouldn’t play when that’s sore, you know what happens if you mess with that–right? And he got a ball to hit today and drove it, a good sign. However, if he’s lingering in the .225 area by June 1, even if he has 8-10 homers, I continue to think he should be sent down to get some successful cuts in. I’ll quickly add that it all revolves around his attitude. Olivo hit his homer today in his next ab after being congratulated by Felix for making a good out. The mental side of this can’t be held too important, and Wedge has to be the judge on the best way to give the guy’s confidence a boost. Jury’s still out, though. Too much futility is never good.

    And, a quibble. I don’t blame you for misspelling the guy’s name, because 90% of the professional announcers mispronounce it. It’s Triunfel, not Truinfel. I hope he’ll play well enough someday to make them get it right.

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