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Fall Leaguers Announced

Arizona Fall League (AFL) rosters were announced yesterday. The AFL typically features a sampling of some of an organization's most interesting prospects in the upper levels of the minors. It's a bit of a guilty baseball pleasure to follow it, but future stars do hit the diamonds in Arizona on a regular basis.

The Mariners will send seven players to Arizona. Undoubtedly others will play in other winter leagues (Australia, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela all have leagues of their own), so this isn't an exhaustive list of players to keep tabs on in the off-season. However, it is our first glimpse of the M's off-season plan.

Here are the seven players, with some quick reaction to their selections:

A Grand Realignment Plan

Rumblings and grumblings continue to percolate that Major League Baseball may or may not expand the playoffs. It's pretty clear that there is momentum to add a wild card team to both leagues. However, it is everything else that makes this so complicated. While it seems inevitable that MLB will add playoff teams, it now appears just as inevitable that other dominoes must fall to make the change a reality.

That's fine by me.

Baseball is doing okay as is, but I've never been a fan of the unbalanced leagues. Adding playoff teams only exacerbates the problems with the current arrangement. It will become even easier to see that it is easier to make the playoffs in the American League, plain and simple. There are fewer teams, and the same number of slots up for grabs. 'Nuff said.

Somewhere near the start of the summer, a realignment idea hit me that makes a ton of sense - to me, at least. It's about time I threw the idea out there to the blogosphere to see if it resonates or not. Warning (if you only have a few spare minutes), there is a bunch of writing after the jump, to explain all the interconnected changes.

Anthony Vasquez Debuts Tonight

The Mariners have a double header today, literally starting right as I begin writing this post. The advantage of following a team out of playoff contention is that I can look ahead to this evening without talking about the game underway right now. Gotta keep the glass half full, right?

I want to talk about the next player to make his MLB debut for the Mariners this season, Anthony Vasquez. The lefty will get a spot start tonight thanks to the double-header. If I had to hazard a guess, it will be his only start before being sent back down to AAA Tacoma.

Vasquez is interesting in the way that a forester can find a piece of hanging bark remarkable, or a geologist can find a pebble on the beach mesmerizing. He won't sell tickets like Michael Pineda, but a hardcore fan can't help but take a closer look at him, and be satisfied that they did.

MLB Influence Rankings

My semi-hiatus from blogging is over! Today I'll release what might be the final influence rankings of the year. We'll see. I'm just not sure it will be interesting after today. As usual, click on the image below for a closer (in other words, bigger) look:

All the previous rankings can be found here. An explanation of what the bubble sizes and positions mean can be found here. Click "continue reading" for a few thoughts on the rankings.

Ides of August Loom

The number of first round picks that remain unsigned is staggering, particularly with about 24 hours to go before the deadline. Undoubtedly, Monday will be a busy day, but will it be busy enough for everyone to sign?

The sheer numbers, with no analysis at all, points to some folks walking away unsigned. For instance, the Rays alone will have to swing four deals tomorrow, and that's a ton to pull off in one day.

Muddying this year's negotiations are uncertainties over next year. Teams want stronger slotting of some sort, which would make draft picks cheaper to sign. Of course, players do not want that (and frankly, I side with the players on this one). Either way, the 2012 draft class also projects to be much weaker than the one drafted in June, so many prospects could conceivably make more money next season, even with a slotting system, simply because they are picked much higher.

Here are my fearless predictions on who will and won't sign:

Smoak About to get Pipped?

Mike Carp
I've been working a little closer to non-stop than usual the past few weeks, hence the lack of updates. August tends to be a dead baseball month anyway, though I've got a couple more general posts are brewing. However, after last night, I have to say something about Justin Smoak and Mike Carp.

Smoak, of course, took a ball off his face last night, and broke his nose. It's a tough break, literally, in a season that has been a series of unfortunate events for Smoak since April. Carp has already been getting regular playing time, but seems even more assured of it for the time being.

Here are some facts about Carp and Smoak:

Bedard Nets Pair of Young Hitters

Erik Bedard
This post is a day late, and I apologize, but better late than never. I probably don't even have time tonight, but I can only wait so long to say something. No need to worry - I was with good baseball friends when the trade deadline came and went, so I knew immediately. I just didn't have time to write immediately.

Before going much further, I probably should say what this post is all about. The Red Sox acquired Erik Bedard from the Mariners for Chieh-Hsien Chiang and Trayvon Robinson, both 23-year-old outfielders. Boston had to acquire Robinson from the Dodgers, so this is a three-team deal.

We probably all have a pretty decent idea what the Mariners just gave up. When Bedard is healthy, he is a darn good starter. Sometimes he racks up high pitch counts, but he typically is tough to square up. When Bedard's curveball is really working, he can be particularly tough. Erik certainly had a strong comeback campaign, and this trade reflects that. He has been untradeable for a few years, and now a contender wanted him to bolster their staff.

The inclusion of Trayvon Robinson says plenty about the deal. Clearly, the Red Sox wanted Bedard rather bad, because it is a bit of a hassle to pull an additional deal just to get another done. It also says something about how much the Mariners valued Bedard. They clearly had a type of player, or list of specific players, that would get the deal done. They did not budge until they got what they wanted. Otherwise, this would not have involved a third team.