Scouting the competition: Seattle Mariners

Here's a look at the Seattle Mariners and their prospects for next season.

The Seattle Mariners had quite an uproar in the middle of the season when Manager Mike Hargrove suddenly resigned. Who knows why; maybe it was his frosty relationship with then-free agent to be Ichiro Suzuki. Maybe he was really just tired and wanted to go home. But whatever the reason, losing your manager when you're in the middle of a winning month, is not easy.

So Seattle finished 88-74. They played well for John McLaren, who took over for Hargrove and then later on in the summer got the full-time gig. And while they were able to get Ichiro under contract for the long-term, the Mariners still have a lot of work to do this offseason.

They're not too far behind the Angels, who have been the class of the American League West the last few seasons. But the Mariners do need to figure out what in the world to do with the rotation, which like most in the game has a few good starters but just not enough.

Felix Hernandez is the ace. He was 14-7 in 2007 with a 3.92 ERA. Hernandez has one of the best young arms in the game and will only get better. Miguel Batista was a solid number two last season going 16-11 with a 4.29 ERA in 32 starts (18 quality starts). And while Jarrod Washburn's record was not very good (10-15), he did have 17 quality starts in 30 appearances.

Jeff Weaver made 27 starts, but only nine were quality starts. Now he's a free agent and Scott Boras will try to get someone stupid enough to overpay Weaver. How will Boras spin that 6.20 though? And former Brave Horacio Ramirez was equally bad with a 7.16 ERA in 20 starts.

The Mariners might turn to Cha Seung Baek (12 starts) or Ryan Feierbrend (nine starts), but they are more than likely going to turn elsewhere for help at the bottom of the rotation, which resembled the Braves' at time last season.

One possibility for the rotation is Hiroki Kuroda, a Japanese pitcher that requires no posting (as Dice-K did last year from the Red Sox).

The bullpen is in a bit better shape, as J.J. Putz is one of the best closers in the game. He had 40 saves in 68 games last season with a 1.38 ERA. George Sherill is a setup man that will rake in arbitration this winter. His 22 holds and 2.36 ERA led the bullpen behind Putz.

Former Brave Chris Reitsma is a free agent this winter. Don't expect him to get a huge deal after posting a 7.61 ERA in 26 games. Instead, the Mariners will turn to Sean Green (3.84 ERA and 22 holds in 73 games) and former top pick Brandon Morrow (18 holds in 60 games) for help behind Putz and Sherill.

Eric O'Flaherty (4.47 ERA in 56 games), Ryan Rowland-Smith (3.96 ERA in 26 games), Julio Mateo (3.75 ERA in nine games), and former Braves' prospect Sean White (5.60 ERA in 15 games) will round out the bullpen.

To the position players, where Seattle's offense finished seventh in runs scored (794), tenth in home runs (153), and third in batting average (.287).

Ichiro is obviously the star, and they have him under contract for the next five years. He's an outstanding hitter and if he doesn't watch out he'll be hearing Hall of Fame talk by the end of his contract. Ichiro just gets a hit every three times he's at bat and is a huge force in Seattle's lineup.

Jose Guillen is a free agent and the Mariners might bring him back. He hit .290 last season with 23 home runs and 99 RBI in 593 at bats. Raul Ibanez started 131 games in left field and drove in 105 runs. Adam Jones is a player the Mariners will turn to if Guillen leaves. He's a top outfield prospect who did well in limited major league action last season.

The infield has some power, but you wonder if the Mariners will try to rid themselves of Richie Sexson and his big $14 million dollar contract. Ben Broussard could possibly take over for Sexson, who hit only .205 last season in 434 at bats. It might be very difficult to move Sexson, unless Seattle eats part of that big contract.

Adrian Beltre almost duplicated his 2006 season as he hit .276 with 26 home runs and 99 RBI. He might not be worth the huge money he makes, but Beltre remains a tough out.

The middle infield has some light hitters in second baseman Jose Lopez (.252 with a .284 OBP) and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (.308 OBP). The Mariners might be tempted to use Lopez in a deal this winter and promote Yung Chi Chen, who is doing well in the Arizona Fall League.

Jose Vidro got some starts at first base and second base, but he was mainly a DH and hit .314 on the season.

Kenji Johjima was solid again behind the plate for the Mariners. He hit .287 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI in 485 at bats. Seattle has Jeff Clement behind Johjima and he's a solid prospect, but he might stay in Triple-A for a while longer while Jamie Burke returns as the backup.

The Mariners are one of the many teams that are looking for pitching help this offseason. If they are able to get some additional arms, they'll possibly give the Angels a run next season.

Eligible for Free Agency: Jeff Weaver, Jose Guillen, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Lee Rhodes, Rick White

Eligible for Arbitration: Aaron Small, George Sherill, Jeremy Reed, Horacio Ramirez, John Parrish, Ben Broussard,

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at

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