Thursday, December 12, 2013
Two lists to make you laugh and cry
By David Schoenfield
A list of players the Mariners have signed or acquired in the past three offseasons:
Has another team ever collected a similar group of unathletic first-base/DH types over such a relatively short period of time? What a strange obsession for general manager Jack Zduriencik, especially when considering Justin Smoak is still around. It reminds me of my Little League coach who batted the two best hitters on the team fourth and eighth because he wanted two cleanup hitters. What?!?!?
OK, Corey Hart was a good player with the Brewers, and from 2010 through 2012 he hit .279/.343/.514 while averaging 29 home runs; I agree that he's a worthwhile risk even after missing all of 2013. But while he twice stole 23 bases earlier in his career, he swiped just five in 2012 and underwent surgery on both knees last season. He's almost certainly limited to first base and DH now, although this is the team that gave the 41-year-old Ibanez 98 starts in the outfield in 2013, so who knows. Morrison is another guy with bad knees whom the Marlins had attempted playing outfield with dismal results. An outfield with Morrison and Hart could rival last year's Ibanez-Morse pairing for defensive ineptitude. (And, yes, it could happen; the Mariners could still re-sign Morales to DH and play Smoak at first and Hart/Morrison in the corners. And you wonder why everyone is buying Russell Wilson jerseys these days.)
Jeff Sullivan of the U.S.S. Mariner blog analyzed the moves here:
Morrison might well be a replacement-level player. Hart wasn't an asset in the outfield even before he busted both his knees. This would be an example of the Mariners both getting suckered again by Smoak-like potential, and ignoring the importance of defense as they did with Morse and Raul Ibanez. If anything the Mariners needed one fewer Smoak, not a second one, playing a defensive position he shouldn't play. Maybe if Morrison and Smoak were in a job share, you could wait to see if one stepped up. Maybe if the Mariners weren't in position of needing to win soon, you could wait to see if one stepped up. But Morrison doesn't look like a great gamble as a half-time outfielder, and Smoak and Hart are forcing him into that position. Though he has the prospect background, that's getting further and further away, and he's got 1,500 big league plate appearances suggesting what he is.
The mention of Morrison's one-time prospect status brings up this second list, Baseball America's top 100 prospect rankings from the spring of 2010:
4. Jesus Montero, Yankees
11. Dustin Ackley, Mariners
13. Justin Smoak, Rangers
20. Logan Morrison, Marlins
30. Michael Saunders, Mariners
We can analyze what's gone wrong this group in a 10,000-word post another time, but suffice it to say they're all now on the Mariners and all still unproven. Or proven to be far less than once predicted of them. Considering it's been four full seasons since that list, the odds of any of them becoming stars has slipped to just about zero.
Maybe you can chalk it to a bad year of prospects -- after all, other top-30 prospects that year included Brian Matusz, Alcides Escobar, Aaron Hicks, Tyler Matzek, Casey Kelly, Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace and Michael Taylor. Even some of the success stories have been moderate, guys such as Desmond Jennings, Pedro Alvarez, Neftali Feliz, Starlin Castro, Domonic Brown, Jeremy Hellickson and Chris Carter.
I don't really have a point here, other than to point out the obvious (prospects are risky) and that, back in 2010, any general managers would have loved to have those five guys on their team in 2014.
The Mariners have all five. And Robinson Cano. And Felix Hernandez. And might still not be a winning team.