Who is in “The Core?”

The M’s have made their big moves. New G.M. Jerry DiPoto is on board.  Today the M’s introduced new manager Scott Servais. Tim Bogar is on board as bench coach.  Edgar Martinez and Chris Woodward return as batting and infield coaches respectively.  Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. was announced as pitching coach.

DiPoto and Servais both made statements about what the team needs to do:

  1. More pitching depth.
  2. Get more athletic
  3. Stronger outfield defense

They both referred to a core group of players the team will build around.  They’ve even given names to the players in the core: Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Seager.  But is that really all the core, or are their other players they simply wouldn’t part with? I would guess you could add Taijuan Walker to that list, and possibly Ketel Marte because of their youth and contract status.  They both have considerable upside and both are cheap.  One other player that might be included is Carson Smith.  Despite some mid-season struggles, Smith is still quite young, has great stuff and could become that inexpensive closer the Mariners need.  (I don’t know if you’ve checked the availability of closers for 2016, but if the M’s can’t trade for one, the free agent market is barren and spendy.)

That is what I see as the core*.  But that doesn’t mean the M’s are just going to send players off willy-nilly, or that they have no legitimate value.  However, if it is possible to make the team better, the players not “in the core” are fungible, they are assets that can be traded.   While I’m sure the Mariners will take some chances on the free agent market, here are a few things to remember:

  • The M’s already have some pretty big contracts.  Will they take on more years and big dollars to get a David Price or a Chris Davis?
  • The M’s will have to surrender their first round pick in any deal for a player receiving a qualifying offer.  Will they be willing to sign a Davis, Price, or Matt Wieters when their farm system is in desperate need of upgrade?
  • DiPoto has stated the free agent market is his least favorite means of getting talent.

*Just for the record, Hisashi Iwakuma and Franklin Gutierrez are both valuable players I could see on this team, but they are both free agents and the M’s would have to sign them to return them to the team.

These are guys I don’t see as in the core, but could be valuable to the Mariners or could bring in valuable players or high level prospects in the right deal:

Brad Miller

Brad Miller has likely lost the shortstop competition.  But he also has a ton of athletic ability and at age 25 and less than 1,200 major league plate appearances the potential of a more productive bat.  Miller could end up in the Mariners outfield, or off the bench as a super-sub.  However, these same attributes make him desirable for other teams. Though DiPoto likes Miller, he’s a player without a position.  I could see him being traded for a player or prospects that fill current or future needs.

James Paxton

Oooh, I can already hear the boos.  Turn it down already.  Paxton has plus stuff, and has shown glimpses of greatness.  That is when we can see him out on the mound.  But he’s had two-injury plagued seasons.  He could have an incredible future, or he could be another one of those pitchers who couldn’t stay healthy enough to put it altogether.  Though the injuries haven’t been major, the big lefty has only been able to pitch 141 innings the past two seasons.  He is young (26.)  He is talented.  He has tremendous potential.  But I could see the M’s dealing him for the right offer.

Mike Zunino

Zunino is a great defensive catcher, but an offensive black hole.  He’s also quite young, and Servais in his interview with on ESPN710 yesterday was excited to work with him.  He’s gotten credit for turning Nelson Cruz’s career around, so maybe he can do the same for Zunino.  Still, if the M’s feel they can do better with Wieters or another catcher, I could see Zunino being gone in the right deal.

Tom Wilhelmsen

I love the Bartender.  He’s one of my favorite Mariners.  He’s a guy who could anchor the M’s bullpen with Smith.  But he’s also a guy who could be dealt to bring a veteran, and more successful, closer

Seth Smith

Another Mariner I really like and he’s the only real outfielder the M’s have on their roster for next season. But Smith pencils in as an average defensive corner outfielder (despite a strong 2015 season) and didn’t have the extreme splits mashing righties that made him attractive in a platoon.  The M’s might think about a deal including Smith to fill one of the many holes on the team.  Of course that will create another one . . .

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The next group of guys are not players without value, but I like to think of it as a game of Survivor–only one can survive. All are at risk to be traded, and I can’t see more than one in a revamped M’s lineup

Mark Trumbo

Trumbo struggled after coming to Seattle with Vidal Nuno from Arizona.  But he really did turn his season around to show improved batting average, a higher walk rate as well as prodigious power.  He’s really a guy without a position, best suited to DH or play first base, not a more athletic defense-oriented outfield. Trumbo also makes a pile of cash, $9.1 million in 2015, and is arbitration eligible–likely for a Trumbo jumbo.  He could be gone as an expensive player without a position-traded or even non-tendered.

Logan Morrison

LoMo is a nice guy, an active Twitterer, a good defensive first baseman, but really an offensive disappointment.  He makes a good deal less money than Trumbo, but he also produces less.  Without Fernando Rodney to caddy arrows for, what’s he really good at? Again, another trade or non-tender for his last year of arbitration eligibility.

Jesus Montero

Montero is another one of those feel-good stories, like the resurrection of Franklin Gutierrez and Wilhelmsen.  But he didn’t quite make it all the way back.  He had a tremendous AAA season in Tacoma, and though he had some great games in the bigs, he couldn’t quite put it altogether and hit consistently.  Coupled with the fact that he’s out of minor league options, there’s every reason to believe Montero is likely gone.  But Montero is also the inexpensive option as the M’s remake themselves for 2016 and beyond.  I could see him as the survivor at first base.

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The last three players are those without a clear future.  In fact they aren’t even officially Mariners.  Rather they are the progeny of Jack Zdurencik’s drafts.  High draft choices to be sure, but also guys in the Zdurencik mold.  They may not fit in a DiPoto/Servais world view.

Chris Taylor

If there was a clear loser in the Ketel Marte/Brad Miller competition at shortstop, it was Chris Taylor.  A slick fielder, but not much of a hitter, Taylor remained marooned in Tacoma for most his injury-riddled season.  He will likely be gone.

Danny Hultzen

A 2011 first round draft pick, Hultzen’s  recovery from severe shoulder surgery in 2013 was derailed after only 8.0 innings in 2015.  Is Hultzen done?  Hard to say, but it’s also unlikely he makes it to the Mariners any time soon if at all.

D.J. Peterson

Peterson was drafted as the best bat available in 2013.  Like many Mariners, he trashed the California league, and seemed on the verge of heading to Tacoma after 2014.  But his assignment to Jackson revealed the flaws in his game.  He struggled for most of the year in AA and made it to the Rainiers for 14 not-so-memorable plate appearances.  Peterson was drafted as lousy fielder at third base, and primed to be a first baseman.  Not the kind of athletic, versatile player DiPoto likes.  He could be included in a trade.

Alex Jackson

Like Peterson, the 2014 first round pick struggled last year.  But he’s another player like Peterson, drafted primarily for his bat.  He was a catcher in high school, and the 19-year old lacks a position.  Zdurencik assured the gathered press that he saw him in the outfield–much like he saw Corey Hart, Logan Morrison and Mike Morse in the outfield.  I’m not sure he fits in a more athletic, stronger defensive outfield.

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2 thoughts on “Who is in “The Core?”

  1. I like what you said. First base does need an upgrade along with the outfield. I like Seth Smith and Gutierrez sharing one of the outfield positions if possible because they are both good coming off the bench as well. In fact they were the only good part of the bench this last season. We can only platooning will not happen much this next season. Brad Miller I like in left field if he is on the team. I am sure he could be dealt like you say in the right deal. Carson Smith looks like the only survivor in the bullpen unless the bartender is back. Maybe one of the call ups in September. I am sure Charlie Furbish wont be ready for beginning of season. Smith needs another pitch or make the slider more effective against lefties otherwise a good setup man against righties. Again good job.

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