Bonderman's signing speaks to a need on the Mariners roster. The starting five looks something like this as of right now:
- Felix Hernandez
- Hisashi Iwakuma
- Erasmo Ramirez
- Blake Beavan
- Hector Noesi/Danny Hultzen/Andrew Carraway/pray for rain
That's an interesting rotation in every sense of the word. Adding others to the mix would make the interest a little less dangerous.
There are good-interesting scenarios. Iwakuma could build on his solid second half. Ramirez could blossom into a dependable starter too. Hector Noesi could bounce back from a difficult 2012. The rotation, as is, could be respectable and get stronger as the young arms develop.
There are bad-interesting scenarios, where everyone under King Felix falls apart. It's a rather inexperienced group. Beavan has twice as many MLB starts as anyone else not named Felix in the group, and he doesn't feel like an established veteran because he isn't.
The Mariners rotation looks uncertain on paper, for better and for worse. The future looks bright with the prospects in the upper levels of the minors, and blocking that future doesn't make sense. The 40-man roster is full right now too, and hopefully another bat will arrive in free agency, sucking up most of the remaining financial resources.
Diminishing the risk in the rotation could be a bit tricky, particularly if the Mariners commit their remaining money to offense. I think it can be done though
The Mariners could create a pile of Jeremy Bonderman types - veterans looking for one last chance that might be out of gas, but perhaps have something left. Here are some pitchers still available in free agency that could join Bonderman:
- Aaron Cook - Cook's main pitch has always been a sinker. He still has decent velocity in the upper 80s and low 90s. Injuries have plagued him the last couple seasons, as well as ineffectiveness. Cook's strikeout rate plummeted the last couple seasons, while his home run rate has skyrocketed. These are indicators that he could be done - or, you could also look at the numbers and say that what he has given up is unsustainably high. If Cook has some regression in him he could be a veteran innings-eater that goes a long way towards replacing Jason Vargas. I'd take a gander in spring training if it only costs me a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.
- Roy Oswalt - Oswalt sat out until the second half last season, and his comeback with the Rangers didn't go as well as anyone had hoped. He was particularly stung by dingers at a rate twice as high as the rest of his career. Oswalt would have done okay if that rate had been lower, because most of his other numbers didn't look wildly off his career norms. I think Oswalt is a strong candidate for a comeback season. I also think he is looking to latch on with a contender. Maybe the Mariners can hand Oswalt a one-year-deal with a handshake promise that they will shop him at the deadline if he is pitching well and the M's are out of contention. That would clear room for a prospect like Hultzen when he is presumably/hopefully ready. Contenders might want to see Oswalt rebound before they take a chance on him at this point.
- Carl Pavano - First of all, a mustache dual between Pavano and Eric Wedge could be a highlight of the 2013 season. On the mound (mustache notwithstanding) Pavano reminds me a whole bunch of Kevin Millwood. He used to be rather good and has figured out how to survive largely as a pitch-to-contact innings-eater. Pavano's 2012 season got cut short due to an injury, but if he has something left in the gas tank he would be a consistent, stabilizing presence in the 2013 rotation. I could see him inking an invite to spring training with the Mariners if it looks like nobody will give him a guaranteed deal.
- Kevin Millwood - Speaking of guys that remind me of Kevin Millwood, Kevin Millwood reminds me a whole bunch of Kevin Millwood. Nobody seems interested in signing him. What's stopping the Mariners from signing him to a minor league contract with invite to spring training again? Millwood wasn't amazing last year, but he was more dependable than many realize.
- Erik Bedard - The Pirates cut Bedard mid-season and nobody picked him up. He might be done for, but he still posted an 8.45 K/9 rate in his 24 starts last season. Bedard still misses bats and he has history of success in Seattle when healthy. He might accept a spring training invite, especially from an organization that stuck with him through a couple major shoulder injuries.
- Freddy Garcia - "The Chief" found unexpected success with the Yankees the past few years. He doubles as King Felix's idol. The dwindling Mariners faithful that can actually recall good Mariners teams undoubtedly have fond memories of Freddy too. Signing Garcia would be a feel-good move on many levels, and he also could provide some veteran pitching depth that the team could use. If Garcia is willing to accept a non-roster spring training invite, there's no reason for this not to happen.