Mariners Insider

Winter meetings live blog — day one

Post by Ryan Divish on Dec. 3, 2012 at 8:39 am with 22 Comments »
December 3, 2012 1:03 pm
The Gaylord Convention Center

Greetings form the Gaylord Convention Center here at Opryland. No, I haven’t seen any country singers yet. The only cowboy I’ve seen is Tracy Ringolsby.

Let’s get to it.

You can cross Mike Napoli off the list of possible hitters coming to the Mariners. Napoli just signed a 3-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox.

I’m not sure Napoli was the best fit. His body seems to be breaking down at a faster rate than mine.

So who does that leave? Well, there’s Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Adam LaRoche, Cody Ross.

If those names aren’t really inspiring to you, the Mariners could go the trade route. And I think  that’s what they will do. Yesterday evening, the news broke from Tim Brown of Yahoo that James Loney was signing with the Tampa Bay Rays. How does this affect the Mariners? Well, the Rays were searching for offense and help at first base, the Royals were in discussion with the Rays about their glut of young pitching.  Kansas City is desperate for starting pitching. But with the signing of Loney, that means a deal for Butler is a lot less likely. And that helps the Mariners, who are interested in Butler or left fielder Alex Gordon and do have pitching to trade.

Jack Zduriencik on the MLB network set

Here’s his segment …

Zduiencik on SiriusXM radio

Here’s a link to his radio spot …

Shortly after Zduriencik did this radio interview, he came and talked to us for a few minutes. Need proof?

Yeah, I'm the guy with the huge head (with hair)

There were a few interesting nuggets from the meeting …

With the exception of Felix Hernandez, there is no other player on the Mariners roster or in their system that is “untouchable.”  In the search for hitting, Zduriencik knows that you have to give up talent to get talent. I think Zunino would be labeled untouchable, but by MLB Rules, he can’t be traded. But that means James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin are available.

“No one  is an untouchable,” Zduriencik said. “If you look at a scenario of where our weaknesses are and you can make it a strength, I think that’s something you have to entertain. You can’t sit here and say I’m not going to move anyone. That would be foolish. You can’t shut the door on an opportunity to improve your club for the short term or the long term.”

With Napoli off the board and questions still surrounding the defensive ability of Jesus Montero and John Jaso, Zduriencik will look at veteran catchers. That doesn’t mean he will go after AJ Pierzynski. My guess is that he will look at veteran back-ups – think Guillermo Quiroz – who are solid defensively.

“Right now, we’ll have Montero and Jaso catch,” Zduriencik said. “Both guys have their skill set they bring to the table. Neither guy is what you would call a defensive receiver. Both of them are offensive catchers. We’ll have our ears open certainly to see how the right type of catcher would fit. You don’t want to take away their ABs right now just for a defensive catcher. Our needs are, quite frankly, offense. But I do think we have to address a defensive possibility if it exists.”

One thing that has been mentioned is Zduriencik’s contract status. The two year extension he signed is up after this season. No word of another extension has been mentioned by the Mariners management. Lame duck status can lead to very bad decisions – the kind that are made to save your job. Remember Bill Bavasi’s final year? But Zduriencik said he won’t fall into that trap.

“I can’t do that,” he said. “I don’t want to chase that. I was brought here for a reason at the time. I was brought here for my skill set – building an organization and bringing in players and trying to get this thing going. Player development and scouting has been what I’ve done. You stay true to who you are.

“You always keep the organization’s best interests at heart and I’m going to do that. If they would like for me to be here for a long time, I’d love to be here a long time. At the end of the day, it’s not the decision I make. It’s those above me that make it. We want to build this thing the way we are doing it. If we can augment it, we will. But I’m not going to chase my tail and do something that is not in the best interest of this city, this organization, this fanbase, despite the fact that there might be some people that wish I did it yesterday. I can’t do that because it’s not the right thing to do. If we cut this thing off right now, this organization will suffer for years.”

Some thoughts on the Royals as trade partners …

The Royals are desperate for starting pitching. The Mariners are desperate for hitting. That’s a lot of desperation there — like the dateless a week before the prom.

The Royals have hitting (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon). The Mariners have pitching (Jason Vargas, Erasmo Ramirez, Hultzen, Paxton and Walker). So there is a match in that way.

And there was this

A little history on this … back in 2007, the Royals tried to trade Butler to the Mariners in exchange for Yuniesky Betancourt – straight up. And then GM Bill Bavasi declined.

To be fair, Butler was a bad-bodied first baseman, who was being projected as a hitter at the big league level, but hadn’t really proven it. Betancourt had plenty of potential defensively while still being a free swinger. Now, Butler is a somewhat better-bodied DH and sometime first baseman that can really hit. And Yuni? Well, we all know how that worked.

Butler could help the Mariners. He’s coming off his best season. He hit .313 with 29 homers and 107 RBI and an .858 OPS. Those numbers came playing half of his games at Kaufman Stadium in KC – a place that’s almost as unfriendly to hitters as Safeco.

Heck, the Royals even scouted Paxton during the Arizona Fall League.

So this works right?

To dig a little deeper … the Royals would like to have pitching that could help them now. They have young arms like Danny Duffy, Kyle Zimmer, Yordano Ventura and Jake Odorizzi, who are a year or two away. Right now, it would be a stretch to say that any of the Mariners’ “Big three” could help.

Really the more viable trade chip is Ramirez … not Vargas. Ramirez is younger, cheaper and, frankly, better.

But Ramirez won’t simply be enough for the Royals. The Mariners would have to add someone like Franklin. Once thought to be the shortstop of the future, Franklin is looking more like a second baseman at the major league level because of questions about his arm strength and range. He played second base only in the Arizona Fall League. The Royals need a second baseman. Johnny Giavotella was supposed to be their second baseman of the future. But he has failed to hit in two different call-ups. Most scouts believe Franklin will hit at the big league level. One scout called him Dustin Ackley-lite – whatever that means. But if the Mariners are able to acquire Butler, something like Ramirez and Franklin and maybe a lower tier player might be a fit. But that’s just a guess.

Before you go out and buy a Butler jersey … there are some drawbacks. He is owed this over the next three years: 2013:$8M, 2014:$8M, 2015:$12.5M club option ($1M buyout). That could be a detractor. Some people question his body style (far from a Greek god) and if he could stay healthy over the next three years. And there’s the fact that he’s really only a DH. He can play first base. But you can’t play him there every day. Defensively, he’s average at best and you put him at risk for injury.

So what would you do?

 

Leave a comment Comments → 22
  1. Letzplay2 says:

    Hey Ryan, does the pitching the Mariners have to trade (Hultzen, Walker, Paxton) really match up with the Royals, who apparently are seeking major-league ready arms? KC would be seeking a lot more than, say, Vargas, in any deal for Butler or Gordon, yeah?

    Hey! Just saw Mariners’ hard-working Jeff Evans walking with Jack Z and behind the MLB Network set with Harold Reynolds and Peter Gammons.

    And now Jack Z is on MLB …

  2. Where has this seemingly intense interest in Billy Butler come from? I’m not saying he isn’t a very good hitter, but the last thing the Mariners need to do is trade any of our blue-chip prospects for a guy that realistically only profiles as a DH. His glove is terrible. With Zunino most likely a mid-season call-up, Montero and Jaso should be getting the bulk of the DH AB’s anyway. Unless Montero becomes the everyday 1B…

    My target from the Royals would be Alex Gordon.

  3. Letzplay2 …. how is your newest grandchild?
    I tried to outline the possible matches with the Royals in terms of pitching. It’s an interesting match. Some people are scared off because Butler really only is a DH. But hey it worked in Seattle before.

  4. Coach, I see where you are coming from. But at this point, hitting is hitting and the Mariners need it. I don’t know that I’d label Franklin a blue chip prospect anymore.

  5. Ryan, thanks for your analysis. Trading for Butler (to me) would be a clear indication that the M’s are ready to move on from Smoak at 1B and or Montero at DH. I don’t think either one is the case, especially in regards to Montero.

    Butler is an absolutely atrociaous defensive 1B. If he is the DH and Montero becomes the 1B, you have another subpar defender over there. For a team that, even if they add a a bat or two, projects to be build around pitching and defense (especially in the IF), having a subpar 1B is not an option.

    I would rather see the team focus their attention to adding a corner OF. If Smoak doesn’t work out at 1B or Montero doesn’t work out at DH, then re-visit a potential trade for a DH in-season. Right now, corner OF is of much greater concern to me. If the season started today, with the current roster, Casper Wells would be our starting RF. No thanks.

  6. Ryan, Franklin lit up the AFL…that’s pretty blue chip to me…

  7. LOL, the Mariners.

  8. pwhit44 says:

    Coach – I suppose your definition of “blue chip” can be whatever you want it to be, but Franklin is not a blue chip by the industry’s definition, no matter what he did in the AFL.

  9. Coach81 says:

    #5 prospect in the Mariners organization, according to Baseball America. Blue chip.

    Based on his Baseball America rankings combined with his showing in the AFL (and being included in Verducci’s Top 10 prospects from this AFL season), I consider him an excellent prospect.

    Definition of BLUE CHIP (Merrian-Webster)
    2: one that is outstanding: as a : an outstandingly worthwhile or valuable property or asset b : an athlete rated as excellent or as an excellent prospect
    — blue–chip adjective

  10. Coach81 says:

    #29 prospect overall according to MLB.com.

  11. pwhit44 says:

    I know where he’s ranked. But cherry-picking one opinion and matching it up with a dictionary doesn’t represent a consensus. I could cherry-pick 10 more that don’t agree. I’d argue the industry’s definition of blue chip is different than Webster’s.

    But whatever. No point in arguing about it. Franklin’s a really good prospect. I like him. So does everyone.

  12. Rex97443 says:

    Add Montero to the players going to the Royals, if they include Gordon in the package coming to us.

  13. I look at it this way. That projection as a prospect is as a shortstop … a position of greater value. However, from what I’ve seen – probably 20 Rainiers games and from what I’ve heard from scouts, there is some doubt that he is an every day shortstop and more likely a second baseman. In that way, his value is somewhat decreased because you have Ackley at second base. Now if the Mariners were to move Ackley to left field, then Franklin’s value goes up.

    I think he will hit. But you have to give up talent to get talent.

  14. pwhit44 says:

    Yeah, what Divish said.

    In addition: I think baseball might define blue chip as a player who still has a tippy-toes ceiling as a perennial All-Star. Ceilings change as a player develops more and more. I think the consensus would be that Franklin’s ceiling is as a really good major league player. Anyway, yeah. No arguing he is a good player who people like.

  15. dronald52 says:

    Ryan,
    Wouldn’t this be the ideal time to trade Vargas before the fences are moved in? Would he bring much in return to help the offense?

  16. A lot of people around baseball think his numbers are pretty hollow considering his home/road splits. Value isn’t as high as some people think

  17. bbnate420 says:

    Hard to notice your big head next to that giant cue ball on Z! ;-)

  18. Palerydr says:

    They could trade Vargas and I won’t shed a tear he gives up way too many homers.

  19. Coach81 says:

    My whole point is that we don’t need to duplicate the “type” of player that we already have in Montero (never mind that Montero is cheaper at this point as well) by going after Butler. I would say Gordon instead because the Royals have OF depth (Myers) and we haven’t had a good, everyday LF since…I don’t remember.

  20. bbnate420 says:

    I’d rather have Gordon too. I’d give up Ramirez to do it.

  21. Coach81 says:

    I would give up Ramirez and Franklin for Gordon.

  22. bbnate420 says:

    I would to.

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