Today I want to take a run at the Mariners, a somewhat more difficult project than
Even so, I am much more optimistic about next year's Mariners, in the short term, than I was about last year's. Last year's Mariners were going to be terrible offensively, and not have nearly enough pitching or defense to make up for it. The '09 version is going to have good, and possibly excellent, run prevention, and has enough time and money to possibly put a representative offense on the field. The AL West could very well be won with 87 wins next season, and I'm not convinced that the 2009 Mariners couldn't get there, and without making the kind of decisions they did a year ago.
The Mariners have
The 2009 Seattle Mariners will have one of the five best rotations in the American League, and if you start there, you can get to a lot of places. So if this were my team, I would do everything I could to back up that rotation, with a couple of developing arms and a couple of ball-in-play guys, and with the best defense possible. This is where the Mariners have been going backward; their defense, as measured by
As much as
Ibanez was simply terrible, with a -18 in
In center field the Mariners could try to acquire a glove man without a role, such as the Braves'
The answer is similar in the infield, where
The Mariners have to get better production at first base and DH, which were disasters of biblical proportions last season thanks to the career-ending collapses of
Got all that? So here's the final plan:
It may seem insane to project that the Mariners, 61-101 in 2008, could bounce back to contend for a post-season berth in '09. When you consider the competition -- a transitional Angels team, an A's squad that could do almost anything, a Rangers team that's maybe a year away -- punting the season doesn't make sense. You can't pare enough payroll to make a difference, and you can't turn your current assets into future ones in a way that will change the long-term prognosis. Don't underrate the immediate potential of the roster, because that could as be damaging, if not by quite so much, as overrating it was a year ago.
With that in mind, take a somewhat short-term view. Make the easy upgrades in left field and at DH that will not only make the '09 team better, but also help develop the core strength, the three young starters. Use '09 to evaluate the young veterans and emerging prospects to figure out who gets to go forward with the team, who gets cut loose or traded and what needs to be acquired next winter.