The Seattle Mariners could use Yogi Berra right about now. A five game losing streak has dropped the Mariners to .500 at 15-15 and second place in the division behind Texas. The facets of the game they were excelling at to propel their good start, really good pitching and timely hitting, have now all but disappeared.
In the last three games (a 2-game sweep at the hands of the Royals and a loss to the Twins) the M’s have been outscored 23-2. The offense has been that anemic and the pitching led by Carlos Silva and Chris Jakubauskas has been downright terrible.
So what can be done to turn this team around before it gets real late real early as they Yankee Hall-of-Famer would say?
Well it starts with the rotation. The first move that Don Wakamatsu and GM Jack Zdurencik need to make is to remove Carlos Silva from the starting rotation and insert the 4-year, $48 million disaster (who has 2 3/4 yrs and $30-something million remaining) into the bullpen to “get his mind right.” With that move, the M’s also need to send Jakubauskas to the pen and insert Garrett Olsen and current closer Brandon Morrow (when he gets off the DL) into the rotation.
With Morrow back in the rotation the M’s can move David Aardsma temporarily into the closer role with Miguel Batista as a backup option until last year’s No. 1 pick Josh Fields is ready to step in.
Then with the rotation fixed the M’s can get to work on an everyday lineup that will start producing daily. Some things can be fixed right away, like making Wladimir Balentien your everyday left fielder in place of Endy Chavez while hitting sixth in the lineup. Balentien has shown that he’s more than capable defensively making every play plus two outfield assists. Offensively he’s maintaining a .350 average with a very solid OPS. I believe if given the opportunity, Balentien will prove to be the LF of the future for this team and let’s face it, this team should be all about the future right now.
Some of the other “right away” changes are moving Adrian Beltre down to the No. 7 spot, keeping Jose Lopez in the three hole and moving Franklin Gutierrez to the second spot vacated by Chavez. Sooner or later Beltre and Lopez will find themselves so you just have to keep plugging away. It’s still a little too early to absolutely kick Kenji Johjima out of the starting catching job but if he goes back to his ’08 form soon then he needs to be left in the backup role and either Rob Johnson or Jeff Clement (AAA call-up) should be made the starter.
Long-term changes i.e. July 31st trade deadline should focus around the trade of Ichiro. The M’s are stocked with promising young stud outfielders in their minor league system and it’s high time they brought them in to replace a guy that is increasingly becoming one of the worst leadoff hitters in all of baseball. The common defense of Ichiro up here in the Northwest is he gets 200 hits every year and he’s a gold glove outfielder. Well great, with upwards of 700 AB’s a year he better get 200 hits and his recent gold gloves are based on name recognition rather than being deserving. Look at the outfielders in the AL: Grady Sizemore, Torii Hunter, B.J. Upton, Curtis Granderson, the M’s own Gutierrez deserve that award above Ichiro right now, they’re all better outfielders.
So deal him while his value his still high. Zduriencik should be able to find a deal that nets about four minor leaguers in reture, two of them being top notch prospects. Then bring up OF Michael Saunders and OF Greg Halman while designating Endy Chavez for assignment. With those two and Gutierrez and Balentien, the M’s can platoon the four of them through the outfield and occasionally the DH spot every day.
Also at the trade deadline, the M’s should do what they can to deal Jarrod Washburn, Beltre and Batista for prospects while shopping around Erik Bedard but ultimately keeping him (to re-sign at the end of the year) if the deal isn’t right.
With those moves, all you can do is go out and play the games and see what happens. Unless the deals net you players that are ready to play right away, there isn’t much else that can be done for this year. All that the Mariners can do right now is set themselves up well for 2010 and hope that while playing for the future, the team wins in the present.
If they don’t do that, it could be real late real early for the M’s.