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Trio of Moves: Top Prospect Up, Pair DFAd

I was just ahead of the buzz when I wrote about Michael Saunders a little over a week ago. My opinion has not changed, but what has changed is that he is the new starting left fielder for the Mariners. Saunders got called up today, will start in left field, and to make room Wladimir Balentien was designated for assignment.

I won't spend time talking about Saunders since I already discussed him in depth not too long ago. Since writing about him he has been on a tear. His bat is ready for a new challenge, but I'm still worried about what happens if/when he struggles and needs to adjust. Like I said previously, every indication is that Saunders will be able to adjust, but how will the Mariners fare as he goes through those adjustments? I think he has to perform well from day one for this team to stay in contention, and that's a lot to ask from a youngster making his major league debut today.

With that said, Saunders is clearly an upgrade over Wladimir Balentien. He can't hit breaking stuff, and he can't lay off of it either. It's frustrating to watch, because every now and then he shows off his prodigious power. Balentien is the second Mariner in as many days to get DFA'd, joining Roy Corcoran. Let's take a quick look at these two guys all of a sudden flapping in the wind.

A player designated for assignment must be traded, released, or re-assigned to the minor leagues by their team within 10 days of being designated. Additionally, once DFA'd, a player is subject to waivers. That means other teams will have a chance to claim them before they can be released or sent to the minors. Ask Jamie Burke about the process. He's a pro - he's gone through it twice this year. For some players (like Burke), the process is largely ceremonial. Once no team claims a player that has been designated for assignment, it's pretty much just like sending a player down to the minors. The only difference is that the player is no longer on the 40-man roster either, meaning they have to be put back on it to come back up to the majors.

The last paragraph is the extended way of saying both Corcoran and Balentien must be passed on by every other team in major league baseball to get sent to Tacoma. Some think Roy will make it through, but I have my doubts. Too many teams are looking for bullpen arms, and Corcoran would be a cheap, risk-free option coming off a good 2008 campaign, and a string of solid outings recently. If I had to hazard a guess, I would pick the Twins. My dark horse would be the Orioles though. Adding Corcoran might make it easier for them to ship away Danys Baez or George Sherrill, though teams having fire sales aren't usually all that worried about replacements. If Corcoran is not traded before the deadline, expect him to get assigned to Tacoma.

Balentien almost certainly will not make it through waivers. He's too young with too much power for some bad team to not take a chance on him. I would be surprised if he is not traded within the next week. The new M's dumping ground, the Kansas City Royals, could be where Wladimir ends up. If not there, I'd be surprised if he got past the Padres on waivers.

Promoting Michael Saunders is the riskiest move to date by the new regime. I'm curious to hear from both Wakamatsu and Z on it. Langerhans was doing fine in left field. He was giving the M's exactly what they could expect.

So, why Michael Saunders, and why now? Is this a move to try to bolster the offense the rest of the way? Or is this a little bit more about getting Michael's growing pains out of the way now so he can hit the ground running in 2010? It's probably a bit of both, but I want to hear what Wak and Z have to say about it.