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.