You have to give Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduirneckenckeicnckine (upon further review, it’s actually “Zdurineck,” but who’s counting?) credit for recognizing a weakness and aggressively pursuing a solution.
It’s no secret that the Mariners have needed offensive punch for a long time, but this off-season they finally did something about it. In December, they traded starting pitcher Jason Vargas to the Angels for slugger Kendrys Morales. And this week, they put together a three-team trade to snag Michael Morse from the Washington Nationals.
This lineup hasn’t had two middle-of-the-order power threats in it since Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson — and we all know how that turned out.
Add in the fact that Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero will presumably improve on their 2012 seasons, as well as a handful of top prospects on the verge of promotion (shortstop Nick Franklin and catcher Mike Zunino for example), and this Seattle team might be very, very real.
Let’s break it down:
OF/1B Michael Morse
SP A.J. Cole (AAA)
SP Blake Treinen (Class A+)
Player to be Named Later
C John Jaso
To me, the clear winners are the Mariners. That being said, all three teams do improve in one way or another. The Nationals can afford to trade away a power bat for prospects with the re-signing of Adam LaRoche recently and the addition of Denard Span to the outfield (which will push Bryce Harper to left field, most likely).
Washington actually traded Cole, a top pitching prospect, to Oakland originally for Gio Gonzalez. Getting him back may be a coup, even though they have solid pitching depth already. If the player to be named later is of any consequence, the Nationals could potentially win this trade. And while Treinen isn’t an uber-prospect, the 24-year-old has some upside (92 to 23 K to BB ratio last season).
Fear not, A’s fans — your team did good, too. Oakland was forced to designate George Kottaras for assignment to make room for Jaso, but they landed the good bat behind the plate that Billy Beane has been pursuing for years. In 2012, Jaso hit .276 with 10 homers and 50 RBI in just under 300 at-bats.
But as Beane always does, he scored a hitter who gets on base at a ridiculous clip (.394 last season). Jaso will battle it out with Derek Norris for the starting job, but it should be a very good platoon for the A’s lineup in 2013.
But back to the man of the hour, Morse. This may be a one-year experiment for the Mariners, who sorely need the offense, because Morse will be a free agent after the season. But it might be well worth it.
In 2012, Morse hit 18 homers and 62 RBI in just 102 games. Since getting regular playing time in Washington (Morse had his first four seasons in Seattle, but didn’t see much time), he has become a legit power threat.
In just over 350 career games as a National, Morse hit about 70 home runs (he’s good for just under 30 in a full season, essentially). But the real gem is what this does for the Mariners’ lineup.
It’s this writer’s opinion that the Mariners are an under-the-radar club who may be next year’s Oakland A’s. Why? Last season they were buried in the best division in baseball, so people might not remember they won 75 games. With two legitimate bats bolstering the lineup, plus the aforementioned prospects, the M’s could be very scary in 2013.
And lest we forget Felix Hernandez anchoring an above-average rotation with three star pitching prospects just waiting for a shot at the big leagues. Even if one of the prospects pans out, the rotation more than replaces Vargas.
Assume Morse and Morales stay healthy, and I think the Mariners are good for a .500 season in a very worst-case scenario. In a division where it will take 90 wins to sniff the playoffs, they would have to get incredible production from other members of the lineup too, but we saw it happen in Oakland last season.
Either way, the Mariners are going for it and I respect that. Seattle has improved, as is the goal with any trade. Therefore, they win this trade for me.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
I won’t lie – I have a soft spot for the Mariners. That seems a bit strange because I live near Oakland and root for the A’s in my free time. Let me explain: I went to Washington State University and spent four years surrounded by sad, wandering M’s fans.
There’s that, and the fact that they have an awesome stadium, badass jerseys, and a slew of fan-favorite heroes (A-Rod, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, etc.). Anyway, it’s been disappointing to see GM Jack Zduriencik not really pull the trigger on any big moves in which Seattle was set up perfectly to do so.
The Mariners have a decently sized payroll, plenty of minor league depth, and a desperate need for hitters. Despite a lack of offensive punch, the Mariners managed to finish just a handful of games short of .500 in 2012, albeit still in fourth place.
With Hernandez leading the rotation, and a plethora of young pitching talent in Triple-A, the Mariners have the pieces to move to acquire a big bat. Today, this theory finally came to fruition. They went out and traded 14-game winner Jason Vargas to Anaheim for Kendrys Morales.
Let’s break this thing down:
SP Jason Vargas
1B/DH Kendrys Morales
It’s hard to decide who wins this trade, but my gut tells me both teams come out pretty hot. The Angels, with the losses of Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren this winter were in dire need of a pitching upgrade (and no, Joe Blanton doesn’t count). They made a nifty move in acquiring Tommy Hanson from Atlanta, but it wasn’t enough.
I’m not sure if you can say Vargas is the final piece they need, but it surely won’t hurt. This gives the Angels a pair of very good lefty starters in Vargas and C.J. Wilson to pair with Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver. We know Los Angeles added Josh Hamilton to the lineup, making Morales expendable.
But is it enough? Can the Angels improve on a 90-win ball club and return to A.L. West supremacy? Having Vargas in the third spot in that rotation will help them inch closer. And you have to expect a full season of Mike Trout, plus Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, that they will be a better team.
For the Mariners, who are chasing the Angels (and everyone else for that matter) in the division, this should spell the end of the long-drawn out Justin Smoak experiment. Morales is an instant upgrade in all departments over Smoak, and will provide a good source of punch to the lineup.
With the emergence of Kyle Seager and a likely improvement next season from Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero, the Mariners could be a sneaky dangerous team in 2013. As long as the rotation can pick up the slack left by Vargas, I expect an improvement for Seattle, though I don’t think they are quite ready to be a contender yet.
That being said, Zduriencik knows he needs another bat or two, and may be chasing an Andre Ethier or Michael Bourn-type player as the winter evolves. If they can pair one more veteran power bat like Ethier’s, or a good top-of-the-order guy like Bourn, without giving up too much pitching, I see no reason why the Mariners can’t make like the 2012 A’s and take the league by surprise.
As for grading this trade, I’m giving a slightly higher mark to the Mariners, simply for going out and being aggressive in adding a bat to a flat lineup. They have pitching depth and are on the right track with getting some power in there with Morales and Jason Bay (well…you know…maybe). Mariners Grade: B+
The Angels got an underrated starting pitcher, but still haven’t made up for lost talent in the rotation. Not to mention, Morales was as good a hitter as they could ask for in that DH/1B slot. The offense did downgrade with the loss of Morales and Torii Hunter, even after the Hamilton signing. Overall, it’s a good move, but they better make a World Series run before 2014 when Vargas is a free agent or be prepared to shell out a pretty hefty extension. Angels Grade: B
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Okay, so the Diamondbacks aren’t in Ohio. But two of the three teams involved in today’s mega-deal are! Fans of both the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds must be feeling pretty good about the moves they made.
The Indians finally found a good fit for star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, but even they might end up surprised with the return they got on the investment. And Choo’s new team, the Reds, are clear favorites to repeat in the NL Central after adding a quality bat and glove like his.
And the middle child, Arizona, is stuck with the biggest question mark. Luckily for them, their guy also may net the biggest return. However, the ultimate prize for the D’Backs may be that with a shortstop added to the mix, Justin Upton will be staying put in the desert.
Will the other, secondary players in this trade make an impact down the road? This writer sure thinks so.
Let’s break down this three-way trade:
SS Didi Gregorius (AAA) from CIN
RP Tony Sipp (AAA) from CLE
1B Lars Anderson (AAA) from CLE
OF Shin-Soo Choo from CLE
IF Jason Donald from CLE
$3.5 million from CLE
OF Drew Stubbs from CIN
SP Trevor Bauer from ARI
RP Bryan Shaw from ARI
RP Matt Albers from ARI
Wow, that’s a doozy. The first thing that stands out to me when breaking down this trade is the ultimate haul of ridiculous talent that ends up in Cleveland. Though Stubbs hasn’t quite lived up to his billing in Cincy – mostly due to a high strikeout rate – he’s extremely gifted.
I’m talking speed, power and defense in a combination that few players can match. Even if he struggles to acclimate to Cleveland and continues to fail at getting on base, I think the Indians have a very workable project with Stubbs, who is still young and has a very high ceiling. He should fill in nicely for Choo for the time being.
The real prize has to be Bauer, a top pitching prospect who is considered among the best in baseball. I’m a little bit surprised the Diamondbacks parted with him over Tyler Skaggs, but I’m not one to question that brilliant front office. Bauer brings power, wisdom and accuracy to the mound. At the ripe young age of 21, Bauer is under team control for a long time and should blossom into a star, barring injury.
Throw in the fact that Cleveland landed two right-handed relievers under age 3o, and they might just win this whole darn thing. Matt Albers, 29, has a 2.57 ERA last season between the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks, and Shaw, 25, put up pretty good numbers as well.
Over in Cincinnati, the Reds have found a full-time center fielder. One has to wonder if that will backfire, given that Choo has only played 10 games there in his whole career. That being said, the outfield is all the same – center field commands more of a range, but if you can catch a fly ball and throw a runner out, you can do it well from anywhere out there.
Personally, I think Choo will figure it out pretty quick and be an above-average center fielder. And never fear, Reds fans. Choo is most likely a one-year stop-gap before uber-prospect Billy Hamilton reaches the Majors for good in 2014. Adding in Donald isn’t extremely noteworthy, but he’s a good utility man who can provide a spark off the bench across multiple positions – or fill a potentially-vacant role at third base.
In Arizona, fans might be wondering why their team moved one of the best minor league arms in baseball for a guy named Didi. But one look at Gregorius’ tape and stats, and you may be convinced. He is under team control until 2019, and may be that franchise shortstop the D’Backs have been searching for.
The stats aren’t anything exceptionally flashy, but they don’t tell the whole story. Multiple analysts rank Gregorius as a plus-fielder and a plus-hitter for average. His nearly 450 games in the minors so far have produced a .271 career average and respectable fielding numbers.
If Gregorius lives up to the enormous potential he possesses, the D’Backs may have gotten the biggest steal of the whole trade. And don’t forget they got Sipp and Anderson too. Sipp has a career 3.68 ERA, but is just entering his prime. Anderson is also under team control until 2019 and could very well blossom into a power-hitting, left-handed first baseman.
As it stands now, the Reds definitely win in the short-term with this trade. In the long run, I like what the Indians got. And the dark horse Diamondbacks will need all three players to really pay off if they want to even be considered as winners of this deal. But enough of my opinion – what do you think?
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
When we told you that Three Up, Three Down really loves baseball, we weren’t kidding. On Saturday, I watched the Oregon vs. USC football game until 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, at which point I switched away from one of the best games of the year to focus on MLB Network.
No, I’m not crazy – I just love baseball, and the Arizona Fall League’s (AFL) annual Rising Stars Game was on. For those of you that don’t know, the AFL is basically grad school for each team’s top prospects. All 30 MLB teams assign seven players to the AFL, comprised of six teams.
It’s basically a little extra work for the superstars of tomorrow. Last year, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper played in the Rising Stars Game. Mike Piazza, Roy Halladay and Stephen Strasburg are just a few of the alumni of the AFL. And the game in 2012 was no different, showcasing a plethora of talent we will be sure to see on Major League teams in the very near future, such as Detroit’s Nick Castellanos, who won the Futures Game MVP in July.
I’ve picked five winners and losers from the game yesterday – read on to see if one of your team’s top prospects made an impact!
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Hamilton was this game’s biggest draw, and he delivered big time. One of the few players to start and finish the game, Hamilton got to show off the speed that has made him Cincinnati’s top-rated prospect (Minor League record 155 steals in 2012 – that is NOT a typo) right from the get-go. After drawing a walk to lead off the game, Hamilton promptly stole second, stole third, and scored on a double two batters later. Hamilton also laid down a beautiful bunt that forced an errant throw, resulting in him coasting to third base on the play. Though he recently transitioned from shortstop to center field in order to take advantage of those wheels, Hamilton looked right at home, making a diving play later on in the game. This kid is undoubtedly a future star.
Michael Tonkin, Minnesota Twins
Jason Kubel’s brother-in-law had a very rough time against the elite hitters of the AFL. Tonkin pitched to five batters and didn’t get a single one out – instead, he allowed three hits, five base runners and four earned runs (five runs total) on 17 pitches. The 6-foot-7 22-year-old righty has really strong stuff, but melted in a big spot yesterday. To add to the disappointment for Tonkin, he was charged with a blown save, took the loss, and saw a 4-3 lead turn into an 8-3 deficit under his watch. Tonkin has a good, low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a pretty good slider – his 2.08 ERA and 97 K’s in 69 1/3 innings in Minor League ball this past season don’t lie – but he really fell apart in the Rising Stars Game.
Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres
Holy smokes, can the Padres’ number one prospect swing a bat! There’s a visibly arrogant swagger to Liriano’s game, but he walks the walk on the field, and proved it again last night. In five plate appearances, Liriano went 3-for-4 with two doubles, walked, drove in a run, and scored a run. He had great plate discipline and was being lauded by premiere minor league analyst Jonathan Mayo for his speed as well. The Padres may have a legitimate offensive threat in Liriano, as long as they can keep him grounded when he hits a slump in the big leagues.
Michael Almanzar, Boston Red Sox
It’s been a strange journey for Almanzar, a 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic. When he was originally drafted, the Red Sox thought they were getting a future power hitter. And while he’s shown potential to pop a few out of the yard, he needs to put on some muscle. At 6-foot-3 and only 190 pounds, he has the frame of a guy who should be shooting the gap, yet the eye and the swing of a homer-happy free swinger. The Rising Stars Game proved to be a disaster for Almanzar, as he came up to bat twice, including in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded, and struck out both times. To his credit, Almanzar did have a good at-bat in the 9th, before caving to strike three.
Austin Romine, New York Yankees
Going 1-for-2 with a strikeout doesn’t sound like such a fantastic game, does it? But the Yankees’ farm hand narrowly missed a monster home run in his first at-bat, instead settling for a triple. Romine also was hit by a pitch in the left elbow and came around to score his second run of the game. The reason Romine is a winner here, is because the kid has suffered through injury after injury during his young career, and proved his toughness in front of a TV audience last night. The half inning before getting plunked, Romine took two hard foul tips off the body and walked both of them off. He’s a gamer, and proved it in Arizona – the Yankees will definitely be keeping a close eye on him in Spring Training.
Nick Ahmed, Atlanta Braves
Ahmed actually has a good-looking future, as he swatted 36 doubles and swiped 40 bags in 130 games in the Minors this season. I don’t know if his future with the Braves will be at shortstop, but he didn’t give them any reason to think so in this one-game sample size last night. Ahmed made a couple nice plays and redeemed himself later with a walk and a run, but he started the game with a strikeout at the plate and an ugly error in the field. I’m talking, line drive right to him, off the glove, into left field type of error. With guys like Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky already ahead of him, Ahmed might be looking to learn a new position if he wants to break in with the big club.
Brian Goodwin, Washington Nationals
After the West team went up 2-0 in the top of the first, Goodwin sparked the East by hitting a leadoff homer, the only one of the game. The analysis on Goodwin is that he has legitimate five-tool potential. I can see why people might think so; Goodwin’s left-handed swing is extremely quick and he has the abilities to hit for average and power. He has decent speed and plays solid outfield defense, too. The Nationals may need to make room for this guy in their outfield very soon. My guess is he would supplant Harper in center field at some point in the next two seasons. Goodwin, who just turned 22 on Friday, had an OPS of .852 between two Minor League stops in 2012, and showed off his skills in Arizona going 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros
I was really excited to watch Cosart start this game, because I knew his reputation (a 2.60 ERA in the Pacific Coast League this year; electric fastball, good change-up, above average breaking ball and great command). He was a key piece, along with Rising Stars teammate Jonathan Singleton, in the Hunter Pence deal to Philadelphia in 2011. Cosart has been a top prospect in both organizations he’s played for since day one, but I was truly disappointed with his outing last night. Though the numbers weren’t bad (2 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout), he was missing his spots all day, going 3-0 on multiple batters across those frames. I had no doubt after watching that Cosart has the tools to be a good starter or a great reliever, but he really laid an egg in his start on Saturday.
Mark Montgomery, New York Yankees
Yeah, yeah. I hate putting two Yankees in the winner’s column as much as the next guy. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t very impressed with both prospects I have listed here. Though I probably could have chosen any reliever after the sixth inning on either squad (The 12 total pitchers entering in the 6th inning or later, combined: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K), I went with Montgomery for his dominant performance. The 21-year-old righty blew away the West team in his frame, striking out all three batters on 16 total pitches. His 1.65 minor league ERA and 16.1 K/9 are ridiculous, and I wonder if he has the make-up or velocity (tops out at 95 MPH) to some day fill Mariano Rivera’s shoes as the closer in the Bronx. Either way, I expect to see him getting big league action by 2014 at the very latest.
Anyone who didn’t watch the game!
Seriously. It’s not a cop-out. I’m not saying you should also sacrifice your college football or NFL, or even NBA watching during the MLB off-season, but don’t pass up an opportunity to watch some of the next great generation of baseball stars in action. Follow along with the AFL this winter and see how your team’s top prospects are handling some of the best minor league competition in all of baseball. Better yet, just follow the 3u3d blog and we’ll give you everything you need to know until Opening Day is back upon us. If you want to follow us on Twitter, you can find us @3u3d, and you can like us on Facebook at Three Up, Three Down. All the glorious baseball news you can stomach, right here, all winter long.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
As far as the hot stove is concerned, this move is luke warm; but when all is said and done in 2013, we could see the players involved paying big dividends for their new teams.
In what will undoubtedly be the trade with the coolest names involved this off-season, the Cleveland Indians are trying to add a little young punch to their lineup. Let’s break it down:
C/IF/OF Yan Gomes
IF Mike Aviles
Blue Jays Get:
RP Esmil Rogers
Both Gomes and Aviles are right-handed hitters, something the Indians sorely lacked in 2012. Both are relatively young and promising, with the ability to play multiple positions. With the exception of pitching, you can pretty much cover the entire diamond defensively with Gomes and Aviles.
In Rogers, the Blue Jays get a promising, young, right-handed reliever to add to the ‘pen. With multiple starters going down with injuries in 2012, this blogger wonders if Rogers will get a shot to start a little bit in Toronto? In his second full season in Colorado, Rogers started 13 times – since then he’s been used strictly out of the ‘pen.
Last season with Cleveland, Rogers had the most impressive portion of his pro career. In 44 appearances, he held a 3.06 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and a nifty 4.5 K to BB ratio. Rogers struck out over a batter per inning, but his past performance is questionable.
For someone with as much talent as the 27-year-old Rogers, his career numbers don’t reflect what he’s capable of. In 185 innings as a reliever in Colorado, his ERA was nearly 7.00 and his WHIP hovered around 1.82. Then again, that’s in Colorado, where pitching stats go to die.
A quick glance at his home/road splits tell me that his numbers away from Coors Field were better, indicating that he may have been a victim of that crazy mountain air in Denver. I doubt Rogers will actually be considered for a set-up or closing role, but if he continues to improve in a normal atmosphere like he did in Cleveland, you never know.
The Indians land a couple young bats that I personally like a lot. Yan Gomes (pronounced: “Yawn”) is more than just an awesome name. He only got a taste in the bigs last year, compiling a .204 average with four home runs and 13 RBI in 98 at-bats for the Jays.
But, he started 24 games, appeared in 41, and split time at all the following positions: first base, catcher, third base, DH, and two outfield spots. He seems to be a good defender regardless of where he’s placed, and only made one error in 119 innings at first base.
Before being promoted, Gomes hit .328 with 13 homers and 59 RBI in 79 games at Triple-A, and tossed in a nice .380 on-base percentage to complement a .938 OPS. Clearly, the kid can hit. If the coaches in Cleveland can get him used to playing every day at the Major League level, they may have a very good player on their hands by the time he hits his prime.
We all know Aviles, too. He’s been around for five seasons now, and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting as a Kansas City Royal back in 2008. Though he’s always been considered a role-playing utility man, his career average is .277 and he has started multiple games at shortstop, second base, and third base.
Even though Aviles is likely in Cleveland to play that utility role again, he can provide some pop and is a guy that plays the game the right way. Personally, I’m a big fan of Aviles and think he’s a very good spark guy, much in the mold of Nick Punto or David Eckstein.
It’s a tough call, but I think I’m going to give the slight edge to the Indians in this trade, because they acquired two bats that can make immediate impacts. While Rogers has all the tools to become a good bullpen arm in Toronto, it remains to be seen if he can continue to improve.
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– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)