Off-Season Dreaming

J.D. DrewI did not think I would write a post with a bunch of hypothetical moves that the Mariners could make to save themselves, but after a conversation much too late a couple nights ago with a friend of mine I have to. He mentioned a few guys he would like to see the Mariners acquire and, after postulating a few scenarios, we came up with an interesting sequence of events. Here are three moves that would significantly alter the Mariners that are not far-fetched:

MOVE 1- Seattle Mariners trade Ben Broussard, Jeremy Reed, Joel Pineiro, and Wladimir Balentien to the Washington Nationals for Nick Johnson – This deal makes sense for the Mariners for a couple of reasons. First of all, the trade leaves Seattle with multiple spots open on the 40-man roster, which they need to have to sign free agents. More importantly though, this move nets a vastly underrated hitter in Nick Johnson. Each of the past two years Johnson has had a batting average of around .290 with an on-base percentage over .400 and in 2006 he hit a whopping 46 doubles to go along with 23 home runs. Moreover, he accumulated these numbers in pitcher-friendly RFK stadium and is only 27 years old, meaning he is just entering his prime. The trade also makes sense for the Nationals because they receive a first baseman who can replace Johnson’s average and home runs at a cheaper price and they also gain two promising young outfielders, plus a starting pitcher. Considering all the holes the Nationals have to fill they would have to consider this deal.

MOVE 2 - Seattle Mariners trade 1B Richie Sexson, RP Emiliano Fruto, and RP Julio Mateo to the San Francisco Giants for RP Armando Benitez, SP Pat Misch, and RP Billy Sadler – With Nick Johnson having been acquired, Richie Sexson becomes expendable and in this market his $14 million price tag for two years does not look terrible. The Giants are yet another team with several holes and tons of money to spend. This deal makes sense for San Francisco because they add a power bat to the middle of their lineup, two arms to their bullpen, and even get rid of Armando Benitez’s contract. The Mariners add some needed depth to their pitching staff but more importantly gain a bunch of money to spend, roughly $8 million in this deal. In the first move the Mariners also gained $3.3 million which, if Gil Meche’s $3.7 million earned last year is included, brings the Mariners to $15 million under the 2006 payroll. This clears the way for…

MOVE 3 – Seattle Mariners sign OF J.D. Drew – Like Nick Johnson, J.D. Drew sports a terrific on-base percentage and has all the tools in the world to become an elite offensive player. Drew is often criticized of being lazy and soft, but even if he puts up the numbers he has in the past he would be a huge addition to the Mariners lineup.

MOVE 4 – Seattle Mariners sign SP Tomo Ohka – Another beautiful feature of the first three moves is that no payroll was added, meaning the Mariners should still have enough money to add a decent starter like they are currently planning to do. Ohka is nothing special, but he is solid and would not break the bank.

With these four moves the 2007 Mariners would look something like this:

STARTING LINEUP
Ichiro, CF
Chris Snelling, LF
J.D. Drew, RF
Nick Johnson, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Kenji Johjima, C
Jose Lopez, 2B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

BENCH
Eduardo Perez
Greg Dobbs
Mike Morse
Willie Bloomquist
Rene Rivera

STARTING ROTATION
Jarrod Washburn
Felix Hernandez
Tomo Ohka
Jake Woods
Cha-Seung Baek

BULLPEN
Armando Benitez
Eric O’Flaherty
Billy Sadler
George Sherrill
Rafael Soriano
J.J. Putz

The starting staff and middle relief are shaky thanks to my proposed moves, but I thinking signing an offensive player like J.D. Drew in his prime is better than overpaying for Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito, both of whom may have already had their best years. Plus, the lineup looks fantastic. Ichiro could swing away to his heart’s content because behind him are three guys who will milk everything they can out of counts. The lineup also features five left-handed hitters, which suits Safeco Field very nicely. It does start with four left-handed hitters in a row, but that does not concern me greatly because Ichiro and Nick Johnson have both proven they can hit southpaws just as well, if not better, than right-handers. J.D. Drew’s three-year splits indicate that he can handle left-handers just fine as well. Even though the pitching staff would have everyone nervous, my moves do give the M’s some pitching depth in case of injuries/ineffectiveness.

This hypothetical team has flaws, but it is better than the 2006 M’s and also gives the team more flexibility in the future and even at the 2007 trading deadline (if Adam Jones is ready, the M’s could consider trading Ichiro). I would be excited if the Mariners off-season ended up emulating this.