Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MARINERS: Who stays and who goes

In 2010 the Mariners had one of the largest team overhauls in franchise history. You could say "goodbye" to players like Carlos Silva, Brandon Morrow, and Adrian Beltre; "hello" to Cliff Lee, Brandon League, Casey Kotchman, Chone Figgins, Josh Bard, Milton Bradley, and Eric Byrnes.

And now, just a few weeks after the end of that awful 61 win 101 loss season, one of the worst in team history, the Mariners have a new manager in Eric Wedge and are looking to go in a new direction. Are we looking at another massive overhaul to replace this under producing Mariner squad? Or do you think that patience is the best medicine, and Jack Zdurencik will shift into rebuilding mode?

The following are my thoughts on what Mariners will stay and go in the offseason.

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Casey Kotchman: There was a joke earlier this year that the M’s would release Kotchman as soon as his Major League record for errorless chances as a first baseman (2379 chances) was snapped. He is the epitome of a “slick gloving, weak hitting” player, the exact philosophy that orchestrated the downfall of the 2010 Mariners, and with other options at first (Carp, Smoak), a good free agent market, and his contract over at the end of the year, there doesn’t seem to be enough room on the bus for Mr. Casey.

Russell Branyan: The club has already stated that it is unlikely “Russell the Muscle” Branyan will be resigned at the end of this year, meaning his short 1½ year Mariner career is basically over. Although he mystified us with his towering bombs and monster uppercut swing, it was pretty clear that the M’s didn’t view him (or his .237 average and 131Ks) as a long term option. Thanks for your time Big Russ; the fans will remember the massive moon shots and good player attitude you had here.

Chone Figgins: The prized free agent signing of Figgins has been one of the biggest letdowns in what was thought to be a productive offseason by M’s GM Jackie Z. To sum it up, the former All Star finished the campaign with a paltry .265 average and 1 home run. Not to mention, the supposed defensive stud committed 19 errors (career high), got into a dugout fight with his own teammates, and had is effort of play questioned throughout the year. I find it very hard to imagine Figgins back in an M’s jersey come Spring Training, but with his high price and probable upside, the Mariners can’t really do anything else with him (it’s not like the NFL where you can release a player like Housh). If Figgins can’t manage to fit in with the team, behind Ichiro in the order, then he won’t be back in 2011. But it looks like right now, unless he’s traded for (I had the thought of the M’s trading him to the D-backs for power hitting 3B Mark Reynolds, which probably won’t happen), Figgins and his 4 year 36 million dollar contract are here for a while.

Jose Lopez: Like Big Russ, the Mariners have also mentioned that they probably won’t pick up Lopez’s 2011 option, meaning he won’t be a Mariner next year too (music to the ears of some fans). Even though he rose through the organization as a young star and had 25 long balls and 96 RBI in 2009, the 2010 campaign for him (and everyone except for Ichiro and Felix) was awful. He batted a measly .239, with 10 bombs and an on base percentage of .270, and was almost invisible in the M’s “offense”, with his effort also being criticized throughout the year. Although I think that the M’s should pick up the big guy’s option and that Figgins should be the one to ship out, Lopez is the easiest one to bid farewell to, so it looks like we can almost certainly say “Adios!” to Jose.

Well folks, that’s about it for the big names. Here are some small names you might hear floating around in the M’s offseason as well.

Michael Saunders: Expect the playing time to skyrocket for the young left fielder, as Milton Bradley will probably mainly be a bench option for next year. The M’s will want to develop and make sure Saunders gets a lot of experience in 2011. Only a big trade or free agent signing stands in the way of Michael being the everyday left fielder for the M’s next year.

Dustin Ackley: His highly anticipated debut will likely happen about halfway through the season like Stephen Strasburg’s for the Nationals. He has been a stud in the Arizona Fall League this year and many wonder if he might even break spring training with the club (assuming Jose Lopez is not a Mariner anymore).

Jarrod Washburn: He would be a good signing to anchor the rotation with a veteran presence. Do you remember when he had a sub 3 ERA and a bad record with us before being traded to Detroit in 2009?

Reach Matthew Carlson at nextseasonsports@gmail.com