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If I Were In Charge (August Edition)

Ryan FeierabendThe trade deadline has come and gone for the Mariners, with only a minor deal shipping away Arthur Rhodes happening. The complete truth around the Jarrod Washburn trade rumors may never be known, but if I were the M's I would have given him away for fairly cheap (especially if the Yankees could have been coaxed into taking most of his salary). Now, the dog days of August are here, but thanks to the Morrow transition there is still some intrigue around this ballclub. There is also the potential for some more deals. As is pounded into everyone's head by sports media outlets these days, deals can be made after July 31. In fact, since the "trade deadline" rules for baseball are so mysterious, here is exactly how they work:
  1. July 31 is the last day in a season that players can be traded without passing through waivers. Without going into detail too much on the waiver process, basically a player can be placed on waivers at any time. When they are put on waivers, any team can put a "claim" on the player. If a player is claimed, then the current organization can let the player go and receive nothing in return. In this scenario, the new team must take on all of the player's remaining contract. However, if a player is claimed, the player can be pulled off of waivers and kept by the original team, or the player can be pulled from waivers and a trade can be worked out with the team that claimed the player. So, basically, July 31 is the last day during the season that trades can be made with complete freedom.
  2. September 1 is known best as the day that rosters can be expanded, but it is perhaps more important for another reason. Any players added to a team's 40-man roster after September 1 are not eligible for a team's post-season roster. That is why August 31 is considered a trade deadline of sorts, especially for teams in contention. September trades are extremely rare (the last one I can remember is when the Pirates traded Brian Giles to the Padres), but they can happen. Waiver rules for trades still apply in September.
  3. Once the off-season starts, the rules "reset" in a sense. In other words, players do not have to pass through waivers to be traded in the off-season, and can be moved without passing through waivers until after next July 31.
So, technically, there is no trade deadline in baseball at all. It is just convenient to think of a couple days as trade deadlines, because rules make July 31 and August 31 quasi-deadlines. Hopefully this clears up some confusion on what is a rather confusing set of rules, since the actual rules are rarely all stated together.

Anyway, the actual point of this post is not to just outline what the Mariners could do, but specifically what I would do if I were the Mariners interim GM right now. Any post-July 31 discussion must start with placing players on waivers. Here are the players I would put out there, and what I would hope/expect to happen:
  1. Kenji Johjima - His contract is horrible, and even though Jeff Clement is yet to light up major league pitching, he is a safe bet to be a better backstop than Johjima for the next three years. At the very least, Clement will be a much cheaper ineffective catcher. Given Johjima's bad contract, I would expect him to pass through waivers, and I also doubt anyone would want him in a trade. I wouldn't cut Johjima either, so in the end this waiver move is one that would probably never be known publicly. But, if a team does claim Johjima, I would let them take him, solely because I want to get his contract off the books. Why not test the waters risk-free, to see if some team will take Kenji's contract?
  2. Miguel Batista - I could copy what I just wrote for Johjima. Batista goes on the waiver wire for the same reasons: he is rather pricey, and rather ineffective. However, Miguel still has pretty good velocity, and he does have post-season experience, as well as considerable experience as a starter and reliever. Furthermore, his contract does not have as many years remaining as Kenji's, so it is not quite as bad. I still would not expect a team to claim Batista, but I think he has a much better chance of being claimed than Kenji. Once again, if a team claims him, I would let them have him. If Miguel passes through waivers, I would strongly consider releasing him.
  3. Miguel Cairo - I would much rather use Cairo's roster spot on an additional September call-up than on him for the remainder of the season. I do think there is a very good chance someone would claim him, and I would let him go. If he passes through waivers, then I would release him. I would call up Tug Hulett to replace Cairo, and add Matt Tuiasosopo to the 40-man roster, and call him up on September 1.
  4. Willie Bloomquist - Willie has stunningly little power, and he thinks he might be able to grab a starting job somewhere next year through free agency. Even though he is a local product, I think the chances of him leaving in the off-season are pretty good, and I would not be heart-broken since he brings absolutely no power to the table. However, a guy with his versatility, his speed, a .280 batting average, and .380 on-base may be appealing to a contender looking to bolster their bench for cheap. If Bloomquist were claimed, I would work out a trade with whomever claimed him, keeping in mind that there may be a compensatory draft pick coming if he is lost in free agency, given how much he has played this year.
  5. Jarrod Washburn - Washburn is probably the most interesting player waiver-wise the Mariners have. He was close to getting dealt at the deadline, so there is obviously some interest in him. If the Yankees were willing to take his whole salary at the deadline and it was the prospect package that held up the deal, they certainly would claim him on waivers. My suspicion is that some team would claim Jarrod, and if he is claimed, I would work out a trade. Of all the players I have on this list, I think a Washburn move is the most realistic.
Hypothetically, let's suppose that Cairo, Bloomquist, and Washburn are claimed, and that Cairo is allowed to go, a trade is worked out with the team that claims Washburn, and Bloomquist is pulled back from waivers and kept. This means that Kenji and Miguel passed through waivers. Given this hypothetical, this would be my plan through August:
  1. I already said that Tug Hulett would replace Miguel Cairo on the roster, so that was basically given in this scenario.
  2. A Bloomquist/Hulett platoon at shortstop could work surprisingly well, and I would recommend that Riggleman try it. In AAA, Hulett has destroyed righties but struggled against lefties (though in limited opportunities), while Willie has been noticably better against lefties this year. As much as I like Betancourt, he really needs to learn to take a few pitches, and I think a legitimate benching may be the best way to get across the message at this point.
  3. As a side note, especially with Bloomquist in a platoon at shortstop, I would put Jeremy Reed in left field, Ichiro back in center, and Balentien in right. Raul Ibanez stays in the lineup as the DH. This gets the two M's outfielders with best range in left and center (where Safeco field is most spacious), and the two M's outfielders with the strongest arms in center and right (where the longest outfield throws come from). That outfield alignment may do more for to improve the pitching than anything else.
  4. Getting rid of Washburn is key, because I want to take a look at Brandon Morrow, Ryan Rowland-Smith, and Ryan Feierabend as starters. I would call up Rowland-Smith to take Washburn's place, because I think he is the closest to ready (unless Erik Bedard is ready to come off the DL). Miguel Batista and R.A. Dickey are the next two out of the rotation once Feierabend and Morrow are ready, and to make room for both of them I would send down Jared Wells and and release Miguel Batista (the salary hit is easier to take with Washburn's contract off the books). If Erik Bedard gets healthy, I would strongly consider a six-man rotation the rest of the way, just to see RRS, Morrow, and Feierabend all get regular starts.
This is a very realistic hypothetical scenario, and could be executed by an interim GM. These are not moves that greatly alter the talent pool for future years, but do allow for better evaluation of prospects and a little more payroll flexibility. However, this is a team that held on to Jose Vidro until August, so I am not holding my breath.