Questioning Eric Wedge

18 06 2012

Posted by Will

Eric Wedge

It is time for Wedge to start playing the youth of the team more often

When the Mariners hired Eric Wedge in the winter of 2010, I had to say that I liked the move. Wedge had turned Cleveland from a young and inexperienced ball club into a playoff contender in just a matter of years. He is now the head of another young and inexperienced team in Seattle, and I have to question his decision making.

Twelve of the twenty-five players currently rostered are twenty-six years of age or younger. John Sickels of Minor League Baseball said prior to the season that Seattle had the fourth best minor league system in the game, and with the progression of arms Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker, the team is about to get even younger. Even with this plethora of youth on the major league roster and more talent on the way, Eric Wedge is still insistent on playing the struggling veterans.

One issue is Wedge’s infatuation with catcher Miguel Olivo. While there is good reason to have Olivo on the roster because of his ability to call a good game and occasional glimpses of power, he should be used as a back-up or in a platoon role at best. Everytime he steps up to the plate, you might as well hand the opposing team free outs – his 56 wRC+ and 13.5 K/BB ratio are certainly not of much help to the club. While he has thrown out 13 of 38 runners, good for 34% of all runners, Jesus Montero has thrown out 6 of 27 runners, good for 29% of all runners, while contributing much more to the team with the bat (99 wRC+, which is essentially league average). John Jaso, in limited playing time, has produced twice as much WAR as Olivo while managing to post a 123 wRC+ with .358 OBP and a BB% higher than his K%-it would seem to make a lot more sense to let Jaso stick around as the starter and give Olivo the boot to the bench.

A glaring issue on this team is Chone Figgins. Fans are clamoring for his release with good reason-in the past two seasons, he has posted -2.1 WAR, good for the worst in baseball over that time span. Yet, Figgins still continues to collect his annual $9 million pay check while being of negative value to the club. While I’m sure the front office understands that he is a lost cause, I am under the impression that they are looking for a team willing to take on even the slightest amount of cash remaining on his mammoth contract that he inked in 2009. Figgins’ seemingly automatic strikeouts (25% K%) are wearing on fans and it’s time to take action and release him as soon as possible.

Chone Figgins

Figgins has been of negative value since joining the ball club in 2009

Another developing problem is Ichiro Suzuki, who has meant so much to this team and the city of Seattle over his eleven year playing career, but his age is slowly but surely becoming a hurdle. Two years ago a .300+ batting average with 200+ hits was just expected out of Ichiro. Those days are now behind us. This year he’s posted a .255 average with an 80 wRC+ to date, simply not getting the job done. His skills on the base paths and gold glove caliber defense are still assets to the team, but on the same token this level of play is no longer worthy of receiving everyday playing time; he has played in sixty-seven of seventy games thus far. With Franklin Gutierrez returning, it is assumed that Michael Saunders will switch to a fourth outfielder role, while he is deserving of much more after posting 2 WAR and swinging a hot stick. I’m alright with Ichiro getting regular playing time, but not at the expense of young players that are actually contributing when given the chance.

As a wrap, this team has many flaws and it’s essential that Eric Wedge, Jack Zduriencik and crew do their part to correct these things in order to maximize the teams’ production and get fans to the ballpark. I like Eric Wedge and I would hate for the team to have to fire its eighteenth manager in its thirty-five year history, but it’s time for him to step up his game.





Revisiting the Cliff Lee Trade: Part Three

7 12 2010

Posted by Teix4MVP

So as Wilchiro and MagicSox have already told you, Cliff Lee has been traded along for prospects and whatnot, and he has performed well everywhere he went, whether it be in Philly or Seattle, or Cleveland. After the addition of Lee to the Mariners, many picked them to win the AL West. However, when the Mariners were quickly smacked out of contention, they decided to trade their second ace, who they would lose to free agency after the season.

It was hard to see Lee go, but M's fans knew it was all for the good.

At first, it looked like the Yankees were going to get him (I remember refreshing the website MLB Trade Rumors every 10-20 minutes just to see if they’d get a deal done) with a package centered around top 5 prospect, catcher Jesus Montero. The deal looked done; that is, until the Mariners opened up conversations with the Rangers again after they apparently didn’t like the package that also included prospect David Adams and probably Zach McAllister (who was later dealt for Austin Kearns) and liked a package centered around Justin Smoak more, along with guys like Blake Beavan, Matthew Lawson, and of course, the now-infamous Josh Lueke. They made the deal, sending Lee (and an out-for-the-season Mark Lowe) to the Rangers on July 9th, So, I’m going to break down the players as they’ve progressed through this year. Let’s start with the player(s) the Rangers got.

The Texas Rangers received:

Cliff Lee (and cash)

The 32-year-old Cliff Lee didn’t perform as well as expected in Texas. He went 4-6, had a 3.98 ERA, and saw his WHIP jump to 1.058 from .945.  His BB/9 went from .5 to 1.0, and his SO/BB dropped from a godly 14.83 to 8.00. His September was pretty good, as he went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA, but in August he went 1-4 and had a 6.35 ERA. He was a great clubhouse presence for the upstart Rangers, and he led them straight to the World Series in the Playoffs. He defeated two of the best offenses in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, easily, giving up just 2 ERs in 24 innings pitched. He allowed just 14 baserunners (he had just one walk allowed) and he struck out 34 batters. And just like that, Lee and the Rangers had reached the World Series, the first the franchise had reached against the San Francisco Giants. The Rangers looked like the favorites to many, particularly because of their ace, Clifford Phifer Lee, and he was starting Game 1. He was 7-0 in his career during the playoffs, and he looked to improve to 8-0 against the Giants hitters, who didn’t have a 30 HR guy.

Or a 100-RBI guy.

Or even a 90-RBI guy.

They DID end up showing Cliff Lee what it was like to lose, actually handing him 2 losses and a 6.94 ERA. He had an over 10 WHIP, compared to a .375 WHIP against the Yankees and a .688 against the Rays. And just like that, the Rangers had lost their first World Series, and their ace was sent towards his first huge payday and a decision of what team to join next season.

Mark Lowe

This was an interesting addition to the trade. Lowe was out for the season with a back surgery, but managed to make it back at the very end of the regular season, pitching in 3 games but had a 12.00 ERA. In the postseason, he pitched in 2 games, and gave up 5 earned runs. At age 27, he isn’t a prospect player, so he was included in the deal as a probable throw-in, although the Rangers want him. He’s arbitration-eligible, so look for him to  be in the Rangers plans for 2011.

Mark Lowe has a fastball that reaches 100 MPH at times, and he could be an elite pitcher in the Texas bullpen in 2011.

The Rangers’ GM Daniels was widely praised for making this deal, as he greatly improved his team’s chances to make it to the playoffs but also did it without giving up any of his blue chip minors prospects. Lee was the obvious prize of the trade, but look for Lowe next season, as he’s one year removed from 75 appearances and a 3.26 ERA, although that should go up due to the park he’s now pitching in. The Rangers have the financial flexibility to sign the best free agent this year’s class has to offer, although the offer has to stack up against those of the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, and Tigers, among others. The Rangers do have an edge in the Lee negotiations, however, as Texas is close to his Arkansas home. Whoever signs Lee will get an immediate impact pitcher.

Let’s move on to the M’s part of the deal, starting with the centerpiece, rookie first baseman…

Justin Smoak

Smoak came up to replace the struggling Chris Davis at first base on April 22. He struggled in his time with the Rangers, having a slashline of .209/.316/.353, which wasn’t much better than Davis’s mark of .192/.279/.292. But this does not take away from Smoak’s potential. Smoak was a top fifteen prospect entering the season, rated by Baseball America and MLB Network. He has a solid glove at 1B as evident by a UZR of 2.2, and has drawn comparisions to stars such as Mark Teixeira and Lance Berkman in the past. This guy looks like the real deal.

Josh Lueke

Lueke shows a ton of potential and this is shown by an impressive year, going 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 50 games. He posted alot more K’s then he pitched innings, and he will likely be utilized in the Mariners bullpen entering the 2011 season. When acquired, the Mariners were not aware of previous problems with rape, and that is why they have begun to dangle him on the trade market.

Blake Beavan

Justin Smoak was the centerpiece of the Lee deal. He has drawn comparisions to Teixeira and Berkman.

Blake Beavan is a solid piece. At 6’7″ 250 pounds, Beavan posted great numbers in three levels with Texas and Seattle this year, going 14-8 with a 3.90 ERA in 168.1 IP. It doesn’t seem like he blows anyone away with just 101 K’s on the season, but this shouldn’t be an issue as long as he is getting the outs. Beavan is currently in AAA Tacoma, and could fight for a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training, depending on the health status of recently re-signed lefty Erik Bedard.

Matthew Lawson

Lawson was essentially a throw-in piece who likely won’t play a huge part in the Mariners future plans, and will likely be used as trade bait, as he is blocked by stud prospects Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. He did post decent stats on the year, though, hitting .293/.372/.439 with a solid OPS of .815.

Although it was hard for Mariners fans to see Lee go after such a great offseason followed by a solid 2009, it was evident that a trade was on the way. Jack Zduriencik likely got a maximum return for the lefty, considering the status of his contract and the demands for his salary. This was a trade that worked perfectly for both sides; the Rangers got one of the best pitchers in baseball in Lee who eventually led them in their surge to the World Series, with a fireball arm in Lowe who has a shot as the closer slot if Feliz becomes a starter in 2011. The Mariners got their future 1B in Smoak who fits perfectly with their plans with his left handed bat, solid glove and marginal power, a couple of solid bullpen arms in Lueke and Beavan, and a young 2B in Lawson. This trade was a win-win for both sides.