What Would Stevil Do? A 2018 Seattle Mariners Offseason Plan
By Stevil, September 25th, 2017
Many fans are familiar with these by now and those who have been paying attention should know that each year I try to do things a little differently. This year won't be any different.
I've gotten at least one incoming name right each year (Corey Hart in 2014!) and multiple outgoing names—still under control—correct. But Free Agency will have the semblance of a UFC match and we have far less in way of prospects to address our needs. This certainly isn't Mission Impossible, but trying to identify players who fit that are feasibly acquirable is considerably harder. That won't stop me from taking a crack at extending my streak, though.
We know what worked, what didn't work, who needs more seasoning, and I really don't want to sound like a broken record, so we'll skip the reminiscing and focus on wild speculation. You're welcome.
With that said, let's set the payroll bar at 165 million and dive in for a look at the most likely outbound players from the active roster that weren't late-season filler:
Hisashi Iwakuma. RHSP
Yovani Gallardo, RHSP
Jarrod Dyson, OF
Carlos Ruiz, C
Yonder Alonso, 1B
Danny Valencia, 1B/3B/OF
David Phelps, RHRP
James Paxton, LHSP
Drew Smyly, LHSP
Possible (surprise) trade candidates from the active roster:
Immediate team needs on paper:
Starting Pitcher (2)
My ideas don't correlate perfectly with what is probably more likely, though, and my suggestions will reflect that. But we'll get to those in a minute.
Some fans have asked what it is I like about a specific prospect or veteran, or how they caught my attention. It usually starts with something from a game that compels me to dig a little. More times than not, I talk about just one or two things at a time, because it takes time to assess everything I'm taking in. Obviously, I look at all the standard stuff and most of the advanced stuff (including batted ball/results), as well as splits. But I also study video clips, scouting reports, current trends, favorite colors, foods and drinks, habits & addictions, hobbies, tattoos, jewelry, preference between cats/dogs, and hair length. Paying attention? Game logs often tell a very different story than the immediate numbers and sometimes it's the experience and clubhouse reputation that are the selling hooks. For those who are curious, here's the detailed list of statistics that I focus on. First, the hitters...
- Sacrifices/Advanced Runners (Inc. GBDP's)
- Opposite & Pull%
- Exit Velocity
- Launch Exit Angles (Horizontal and Vertical)
Some of these stats aren't prerequisites with a bar, such as HBP (the Mariners were 2nd in the league in this category last season) and P/PA, but they help shape wOBA directly, and indirectly, and can give you an idea of a player's toughness and focus/selectiveness at the plate. Most of this is directly related to Bogar's OVP.
Worth noting, when numbers draw flags, such as power numbers, other stats, such as IFFB%, become more important.
And with the pitching:
- Exit Velocity
- Spin Rate
My focus leans more towards ground ball pitchers, but in general, any pitcher who misses a lot of bats and/or doesn't get blasted often should be on the radar.
With that in mind, here are my targets for 2018:
- Daulton Jefferies, RHSP, to Seattle; Dan Vogelbach, DH/1B, to Oakland.
- Christian Walker, 1B, and Jared Miller, LHRP, to Seattle; Dan Altavilla, RHRP, and Luis Liberato, OF, to Arizona.
- Brent Honeywell, RHSP, and Yonny Chirinos, RHSP, to Seattle; Edwin Díaz, RHRP, Tony Zych, RHRP, Marc Rzepczynski, LHRP, and cash (4 million) to Tampa Bay.
- Kolby Allard, LHSP, Mike Soroka, RHSP, and Joey Wentz, LHSP, to Seattle; James Paxton, LHSP, and a PTBNL* to Atlanta.
- Brett Phillips, OF, to Seattle; Chase De Jong, RHSP, to Milwaukee.
- Dinelson Lamet, RHP, and Trey Wingenter, RHRP, to Seattle; Ariel Miranda, LHSP, and Rob Whalen, RHSP, to San Diego.
- Dexter Fowler, OF, cash (17 million over 4 years), and IBP cash (1 million) to Seattle; Chuck Taylor, OF, to St. Louis.
- Danny Jansen, C, to Seattle; Nick Zammarelli III, 1B, and Gareth Morgan, OF, to Toronto.
- Mike Ford, 1B, to Seattle; PTBNL or cash considerations to New York Yankees.
*The PTBNL going to Atlanta is conditional based on the availability and number of outings by James Paxton in 2018.
Via Free Agency Signings
- Eric Sogard, IF/LF; 2 years, 6 million +option.
- Alex Cobb, RHSP; 4 years, 64 million (back-loaded; 12 million 2018-2019) +option.
- Daniel Nava, OF/1B; 1 year, 2 million +incentives.
- Shohei Ohtani, RHSP/DH; Everything legally possible.
- Drew Smyly, LHSP; 3 years, 16 million (back-loaded; 2 million in 2018) +incentives +option.
- Implement a mandatory base-running clinic.
- Decline option on Hisashi Iwakuma.
- Decline option on Yovani Gallardo.
- Acquire $1,812,500 more in International Bonus Pool money to assist our pitch to Ohtani. Use blackmail if necessary.
- Trade Casey Lawrence, Ryan Garton, Seth Frankoff, and Jacob Hannemann anywhere for as much of that $1,812,500 as possible. Otherwise, DFA them for roster space if/when necessary.
- Consider converting Joe Rizzo into a 2nd Baseman.
- Have Gareth Morgan's eyes checked before finalizing the proposed deal with Toronto.
- Avoid further trades of minor league prospects not brought in on minor league contracts (apart from the PTBNL's).
- Hire a witch doctor to help Gonzales and Moore with their curves.
The Affect on Payroll
Approximately 164 million for 2018—without Ohtani's salary, which would likely tack on another 10 million. The breakdown: 17 in Free Agent signings, 2 in extensions, 127 in committed salaries, an estimated 14.5 in arbitration-eligible players, roughly 6 million in pre-arb players, 3 million in buyouts (Iwakuma and Gallardo), 9.5 incoming from St. Louis, and 4 million outgoing to Tampa Bay. This entails considerable guess-work regarding the arbitration-eligible players, but I should be in the ballpark.
The Affect on the Roster
- Alex Cobb, RHSP
- Mike Leake, RHSP
- Brent Honeywell, RHSP
- Félix Hernández, RHSP
- Yonny Chirinos, RHSP
- Nick Vincent, RHP; CL
- David Phelps, RHP
- Shae Simmons, RHP
- Dinelson Lamet, RHP
- Erasmo Ramírez, RHP
- James Pazos, LHP
- Marco Gonzales, LHP
Lineup vs. RHP
- Dexter Fowler, LF (S)
- Jean Segura, SS (R)
- Robinson Canó, 2B (L)
- Nelson Cruz, DH (R)
- Kyle Seager, 3B, (L)
- Mitch Haniger, CF (R)
- Christian Walker, 1B (R)
- Ben Gamel, LF, (L)
- Mike Zunino, C, (R)
Lineup vs. LHP
- Jean Segura, SS (R)
- Mitch Haniger, RF (R)
- Robinson Canó, 2B (L)
- Nelson Cruz, DH (R)
- Christian Walker, 1B (R)
- Mike Zunino, C (R)
- Kyle Seager, 3B (L)
- Dexter Fowler, CF (S)
- Guillermo Heredia, CF (R)
Eric Sogard, INF (L)
Daniel Nava, OF/1B (S)
Guillermo Heredia, OF (R)
Mike Marjama, C (R)
The general idea behind this plan is to find front-line starting pitching to move forward with, thicken the bullpen with stamina, and address the other immediate areas of needs with a mix of veterans and youth that can wear down pitchers and punish them. It should go without saying that additional players and/or (more) cash may be needed to get deals done. In some cases, possibly less. But as always, the types of players targeted are more important than the actual names listed.
There's a strong argument that some of these larger deals aren't immediately pressing and could wait a little. But my fear is that this organization could get stuck in mediocrity very easily. Landing Ohtani could go a long way to prevent that, but that's hardly a given. Unpopular, drastic actions should be coming fairly soon.
The more specific concept has to do with the creation of tiers based on projected readiness of prospects to be phased in. With pitching, the first wave features Honeywell and Chirinos. The second, Allard and Soroka, and in the third, Neidert and Wentz. Carlson would be right behind them.
This applies to the outfield and 1st Base as well. Fowler and Phillips bridge the gap between the arrivals of Bishop and Lewis. If Walker produces the way I suspect he will, it would allow us the option of using White in the outfield. If Walker were to seriously struggle or fail, Nava would step in until Ford is ready. Ford would essentially give us another shot at this strategy. Worst case, White stays at 1st Base.
Rather than immediately asking why I zeroed in on these players, I'd like to see everyone do a little research first and give some thought to these proposals. You have my formula, so have at it! My explanations are listed below to be used as comparatives once you've had a harder look at the players involved.
Questions and comments may now commence.
*We lose our ace to trade rather than injury.
*We lose our closer to replace our ace.
*We have legitimate internal options to replace our closer.
*We gain 3 front-line starting pitching prospects, plus 2 more with mid-rotation (or higher) potential as a result of having traded our ace and closer.
*Our pitching staff finished 3rd in the league in dingers, 1st in need of a drastic makeover.
*I paid little attention to the possibility of minor leaguers becoming free agents and hereby reserve the right to pick myself up after any face-plants.
*There is no humor in this plan—none. If you laugh at anything, you will have misinterpreted my intent, which would be laughable.
*I've talked about an extension for Cruz all season long and left that possibility out of this plan. I still anticipate an extension before the break if he's hitting the way we're accustomed to and isn't to be made a trade chip.
*Some would argue that the opening day rotation I'm proposing is stacked with number 3 and 4 starters. They would be right.
*The most ridiculous proposal was removed from a previous draft. Singling out just one is now impossible.
*Brett Phillips was in a draft of my 2016 plan and Mike Leake was in the actual 2016 plan. This might be the most worthless bit of information within the notes.
*The 40-man roster would stand at 35 (I think), including Smyly, who will be placed right back on the 60-Day DL next season, which would leave us with open spots for players needing Rule 5 protection. Or for a Rule 5 claim. Or regular waiver claims. Or to keep players I've suggested to DFA. Or to sign more free agents that would force players with options to AAA. Or...
*Adding team options to free agent deals allows Dipoto the felixibility to retain them longer if necessary, or to give the player a notable buyout as a form of incentive if the option isn't exercised. Bobblehead nights could be added if the player drives a hard bargain.
*Immediate starting pitching depth beyond Ramirez and Gonzales would be Albers and Moore. Keep in mind, this doesn't include minor league deals for rebound candidates and rehab projects. Allard and Soroka could also be available by the break.
*Immediate relief depth would be Pagan, Vieira, and Miller. Festa, Warren, Wingenter, and Gillies will likely be in the conversation soon.
*Ohtani is not listed on the active roster and that is not a mistake. If he actually signs with Seattle, I will update my plan and roster accordingly...just as soon as I wake up from a drunken stupor after celebrating.
*If bringing in Darvish proved to be the key to landing Ohtani, Cobb would be scratched from this plan and a back-loaded contract would be hammered out to appease them. Payroll would shoot up, as would my blood pressure, but all for the greater good.
*Jansen would likely be swapping places with Marjama around the break, if not sooner.
*More likely, or realistic: Smyly getting non-tendered, Cobb getting signed, a less interesting starting pitcher signed or acquired by trade, a different backup catcher brought in, an outfielder acquired that I didn't think was acquirable, Walker acquired for a different return, and a slew of minor league deals getting done. The rest of the active roster generally staying the same. But that would be boring.
*Losing Kevin Cremin and Bob Dutton to retirement will sting.
*This plan is dedicated in honor of Maqman.
The Explanations and Details:
*Sogard offers solid PA's and experience off the bench from the left side of the plate (an area of need) and he's respected as a leader in the clubhouse. He can play all the critical infield positions and even an outfield corner. He led MLB last season in Z-Contact and had a kS% of just 6%(!). Even when he wasn't getting hits, he was making pitchers work. As most of you know, I'm a firm believer in having veterans on the bench. Sogard fits the bill perfectly for the utility infield role.
*Cobb is a solid number 2 or 3 starter who won't come cheap, but shouldn't cost the kind of dough Darvish, Arrieta, or even Vargas, will command. His fastball sits in the low 90's and he has a sinker-curve he throws at the same speed. He also has a splitter and a more normal-esque curve, all of which fool a lot of hitters. Many in Tampa believed he would be their next ace. Though he never reached that status, he's been a solid starter without question. The quest to have former Rays dominate the rotation is under way.
*Daniel Nava is a switch hitter with excellent plate discipline (more so batting from the left) who has spent a lot of time on the DL the last few years. The idea here isn't to find him playing time in the outfield, though an inning or two in a blowout wouldn't be the end of the world. He would serve as insurance for Walker at 1B and occasionally pinch-hit against RHP. There's a need for another veteran role player and he won't cost an arm & a leg. He wouldn't be in a position to leave one on the field, either.
*Oakland has too many power-first bats with little or no ability to get on and none of them are Chippendales-worthy. Vogelbach potentially solves that and he still comes with a real threat of power. He would either replace Healy, or platoon the DH position with him. The A's aren't going to trade away key pieces of their future while they're rebuilding, but given that Jefferies is coming off Tommy John and is going to miss part of next season before he can settle in to a rookie league or A-, he makes sense as a trade chip for a ready-now bat with full control that can help them—and entertain them—immediately. Vogelbach would also make sense for the Royals, and even the Blue Jays, if they wanted a platoon partner for Morales.
Jefferies has a plus fastball, complemented by a decent slider, change-up, and above average control. So, the potential is certainly there. He could prove to be quite useful down the road.
*Miller's a hard-throwing lefty reliever with an excellent fastball and above average slider that the Diamondbacks have been reluctant to test despite his dominance in AAA. Having multiple lefties already on their 40 probably has something to do with it, as well as previous control issues. He appears to have put those behind him, though, and should make a nice depth piece, especially if Gonzales is needed in the rotation.
Christian Walker was a project brought in to the Diamondbacks organization much like Segura and Haniger were. He's back on track, especially in the power department, but he's blocked by Goldschmidt. There's no room for him in Arizona, and with so many 1st Basemen on the market, many of which will likely land 1-year deals and be available again at the deadline, he should be available for a solid outfield prospect, which Arizona could use more of. Walker can also play some 3rd and even an outfield corner in a pinch. He doesn't have real splits, either (an even .979 OPS vs. L & RHP's last I checked), and he's among the best defensive 1st basemen in the upper-minors, so there's a lot to like. This could pay dividends, much like we've seen with Haniger. Fix 'em and pass them to Seattle, I say!
*Tampa has had internal issues with Honeywell and desperately needs dominant relievers as Romo and Cishek head to Free Agency, and payroll is going to be an obstacle for them. With a swap of Honeywell and Díaz as the centerpieces, both teams address their immediate needs, with Seattle's being a potential ace, and Tampa's being heat-wielding set-up man with the ability to close. They also have a real need for a LHRP and could use an additional late-innings reliever, hence the inclusion of Rzepczynski and Zych. Tampa would still have an excess of starters, even if they were to lose Cobb (to us!), so the complete package I'm suggesting makes at least some sense.
There's a lot to like about Honeywell. He has a plus fastball, a plus screwball(!), plus control, and an above-average cutter and change-up that flash plus potential. He has a curve as well, but doesn't throw it much. He's the real deal, though he may need a little more time in AAA. If that's the case, Ramirez would make the rotation and Pagan would go to the 'pen until Honeywell's ready.
There's a lot to like about Díaz as well, but we have the Lobisomem lurking in Tacoma—every bit as brutal as advertised. He actually tried to murder an umpire in his debut and laughed about it when interrogated by local media—and there wasn't even a full moon! Can you imagine what he would do for us in the World Series on Samhain?! That's exactly who—or what—I want closing in the near future.
Chirinos has a fastball in the mid-90's along with a slider, splitter, and plus control. He should be able to give us innings immediately. Moving Rzepczynski helps get the deal done and clears up to 1.5 million, and since we rarely saw him anyway, I think he's better off elsewhere—specifically Tampa.
If you wonder why Tampa would move a potential ace, the keyword is potential. He hasn't established himself yet and it's entirely possible he'll never be a true ace. True aces are rare. He hasn't dominated AAA yet, either, though he has missed a lot of bats and it's probably safe to say he has a high floor. This move would also give Tampa considerable flexibility with proven talent. If they were inclined to move one of Díaz/Colome at the deadline, they would likely net an impressive haul. True closers are as rare as aces.
Vincent would presumably take over Seattle's closer role for the immediate time being. If the price proved to be too high for the Rays, I could consummate a deal with the Rockies, Cardinals, or Dodgers just as easily. For example, Alvarez, Dayton, and White would entice me greatly, even though Dayton's out for all of 2018 (TJ surgery). We could also simply wait and move Díaz when a team appears even more desperate, but I want to be crystal-clear that he's one of the two chips we have that can help prepare us for the future and I believe the right call is cashing in these chips. Regarding the other chip...
*Paxton would give Atlanta the experienced ace they need and should help them get back into contention faster, while giving Seattle much-needed front-line pitching prospects. The Braves would still have an excess of solid pitching prospects themselves, so they wouldn't be mortgaging their future. They're one of just a few teams that wouldn't have to sweat DL-stints so heavily because of their depth.
The PTBNL is a form of protection/insurance for Atlanta. If Paxton flames out, they could take a solid prospect, such as Bishop, or even Neidert. If Paxton remains healthy, they would get a semi-interesting C prospect.
This may seem like a stretch, but the Braves have been on the prowl for an ace for a while, and if Paxton proves unable to start regularly, they could move him into a closing role where he would likely be among the most dominant in the game—if not the most dominant—which wouldn't hurt his stock much. Further cash considerations would also be a possibility if they weren't interested in anyone we were to make available. Minimal risk and high rewards for both clubs, with Seattle receiving 3 promising arms.
And about those arms...
Kolby Allard is one of the best LHSP prospects in baseball. He has a plus fastball in the low to mid 90's and a plus curve along with a change-up that may be a plus pitch by the time he reaches MLB. He has excellent command and control as well. Soroka is a right-handed version of Allard, but with a ton of spin and sink. Wentz is a little further out and offers the same repertoire, but with a little more heat.
It shouldn't be hard to see the attraction here. I love Paxton as much as any other fan, but he could help us more via trade than he can in limited starts, and moving him would send the Canucks a strong message: you're not welcome here, regardless of talent. First O'Neill, now Paxton and Morgan. Personal admiration of players comes third, and in an effort to boost fan morale, our first annual Maple Leaf Burning Festival would mark the end of this exodus. I've thought of everything.
*Brett Phillips is a kind of toolsy talent who had a rough go in 2016 and has taken a back seat to most of Milwaukee's higher ranked outfield prospects. But that takes nothing away from his ceiling and I see Seattle's organization as the perfect place for him to improve upon his plate discipline, pitch recognition and contact, and I'm optimistic that can be done fairly quick. He addresses a need, whether it be on the active roster, or as a reserve in Tacoma. With decent speed, defense, and a very-real power threat, his floor is still potentially useful even if as a 4th outfielder.
Chase De Jong didn't exactly get a fair deal in 2017. His baptism of fire came hard and fast, and time really proved that he needed more AA seasoning. But he still has the talent to be a decent back-end starter—if not a solid reliever—and Milwaukee hasn't shied away from pitching projects. His FB rate is no more alarming than Phillips kS%, so both clubs would be getting players with fairly equal risk as well as upside in greater areas of need for depth. Think of it as Russian Roulette.
*Dinelson Lamet did a lot of things right (and a few things wrong) in the minors. What he did right, he did exceptionally right. He offers just a fastball and slider, but he throws them extremely well (plus pitches) and can get through a lineup a couple of times with little or no trouble. He's probably best served out of the 'pen, which is where I would have him, but his floor is still useful for us now and moving forward. This move concludes the extermination of the HR/9 club. Ramirez was pardoned, but he moves to the 'pen himself where he and Lamet should be able to offer long-relief or spot starts if necessary—and this is intentional. I don't want another 8-man bullpen if we can help it. In this plan, 3 of the relievers are capable of giving 4 solid innings—if not more—and another, Pazos, can easily give us 2 innings.
Trey Wingenter is an off-the-radar reliever who's quietly been closing out AA games while missing a lot of bats. He's likely another year away, but there's a lot to like and look forward to.
In my opinion, Miranda coughs up far too many long balls and sacrifices too many walks to justify keeping him around as a go-to depth piece for the rotation here, and with Gonzales being out of options, there's really no place for Miranda in the 'pen. He lacks a strong third pitch, but at least he has one, and Petco would certainly help him keep some (or a lot) of the dingers out of the stands. So, he could very well prove to be a significant upgrade for their rotation. Whalen barely got his feet wet in Seattle before going on the restricted list to deal with personal issues. Whatever they were, I'm hopeful that they have passed and that he can get his career back on track—in San Diego.
This deal is more or less a swap of relievers for starters with an equal amount of patience required.
*After Dyson put himself before his team, citing the equivalent of a hangnail, he removed himself from any consideration of a payday here. At least as far as I'm concerned, anyway. Unfortunately, both Gamel and Heredia were terrible in the second half and have a few things to work on (though Gamel looked better in September). So, the outfield is once again a pressing area of need. We could probably get away with using those two in a platoon role, but they shouldn't be leaned upon, and there absolutely has to be a strong, steady regular brought in, as well as a fallback option. Phillips would be the fallback option and Fowler would be the immediate upgrade.
Fowler was hampered by a couple of injuries in 2017 (heel first, then a knee-contusion), but still put up solid numbers considering. He should be fully recovered by spring, and by moving him to LF, there should be less durability concerns moving forward as well as better defensive output. This would also push Gamel and Heredia to the bottom of the order, while giving us a boost on the base paths. If we're going harass Houston (that has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?!), this would be a good way to go about that. St. Louis has a glut of outfielders now and a real need for a closer and an additional RHRP as Rosenthal is out for most of 2018—if not all of 2018—and Oh is a free agent (which details why St. Louis could be an alternative destination for Díaz). A starter may be needed as well if they fail to re-sign/extend Lynn, so shedding more salary should be a priority for them as they may need to do some considerable spending. He's still owed 66 million over the next 4 years.
Some may suggest simply signing Cain to address our outfield need, but he would cost our 2nd round pick and 500k from our IBP. That wouldn't fly, and the alternatives via free agency are mostly platoon players, or defensive liabilities.
*Danny Jansen has had his share of bad luck injuries and 2016 was no exception. That said, he's shown excellent plate discipline throughout most of his time in the minors and he broke out in 2017. He's been healthy and producing both offensively and defensively, though he's new to AAA and probably needs a little more time there. Toronto is loaded with backstop prospects and they're still stuck with Martin's contract for a couple of years, so landing Jansen shouldn't be a complicated process. He's not going to net the middle-infielders they need now, nor ready-now starting pitching. But a couple of interesting lower-level prospects should do the trick.
*Mike Ford is almost certainly someone Mariners fans aren't familiar with, much like most of the names in this plan. In short, he's a poster boy for plate discipline and is a legitimate power threat. The Yankees have Bird, Austin, and Cooper as 1st Base options in front of him, plus other internal options who are very capable. Ford will be Rule 5 eligible if they don't protect him, so landing him shouldn't be difficult or expensive. He would likely start the season in AAA and serve as fallback option. Posters wouldn't even be necessary.
We would be trading from areas of strength and risk to address areas of need, focusing on players that have both high floors and high ceilings with full control. The fielders and catcher offer solid PA's, while most of the pitchers identified offer deception, innings, and keep the ball in the park. All of these moves should keep us in contention now and into the future.
I make it sound easy. It won't be. But the goal isn't complicated: be prepared. There's a fallback option at every turn in this plan as the shift towards youth continues. If anyone has a better idea or three, and can offer evidence to support their claim(s), I'm all ears and look forward to hearing them.
I rest my case.