The Mariners made a move Monday afternoon that some fans doubted would ever come, designating RHP Kevin Jarvis for assignment, essentially ending his short-lived career in Seattle. After three weeks of inconsistent outings, the club sent the right-hander packing, and reached out for a 27-year-old former first round draft pick named Matt Thornton.
It's not a cleanup hitter with 30-homer and 100-RBI potential, but it's a start. Addition by subtraction was the MO as usual. The Mariners front office, however, has a lot of work to do to straighten things out this season. Jarvis was one move, and as I see it there are nine more to go.
The following are the moves the M's need to make to not only get back on track for 2004, but to amply prepare for next season when the likes of John Olerud, Edgar Martinez, Freddy Garcia, Rich Aurilia, and Dan Wilson will all probably not be back for reasons ranging from retirement to contract status.
No.9: Play Ben Davis regularly
There is not a catcher in the minor leagues that is even within two years of starting in the big leagues and Ben Davis has not been given the chance, in the regular season, to fail or succeed while starting as the everyday catcher. Spring Training performance can't possibly be the end of it for Davis. What happened to the organization's idea that he was to be given every chance to prove his worth? Basing everything on Davis' spring is pretty ridiculous. What's to lose? Davis either plays well and helps the team win while raising his trade value, or he plays horribly and the club will know once and for all that Davis is not any kind of answer at the catcher position in the future. Maybe the team already knows that. If so, then what is he doing rotting on the roster? Wiki Gonzalez and Pat Borders would at least contribute something when given a chance.
No.8: Call up Rainiers' left-hander George Sherrill
While Myers and Villone are doing okay, Sherrill is showing more than just flashes of complete dominance in Triple-A. How hard could it be to deal Mike Myers and his small 2004 contract? Sherrill could be the Arthur Rhodes of the future for the Mariners. Make the call before he becomes the first reliever to lead the league in strikeouts. At week's end Sherrill ranked 15th in punchouts in the PCL, but with the vast majority of the pitchers ahead of him likely to be called up to the majors, Sherrill could sneak into the top 10 easily and possibly even the top five.
No. 7: Do not wait around until July's deadline to make a major trade... Or two
The team's energy is as low as it's been this early in the season since 1992 when they lost 100 games. The middle-of-the order is not producing consistently and needs a can of Jolt inserted. Make a deal sooner rather than later. Many teams will believe their year is over in June and will sell to the highest bidder well before the trade deadline of July 31. There are even teams still in a playoff race that will occasionally swap a surplus item for a needed piece to their own puzzle. Cincinnati will still part with Griffey, even if the Reds are still within shouting distance. Toronto might be willing to cut bait early to save some cash. In any case, do not let the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Angels beat you to the punch. Seek a major offensive upgrade. Negotiate. Find a solid trade match. Make a deal… or two.
No. 6: Promote Jamal Strong
To do so, Quinton McCracken would likely be the odd man out, forcing another Jarvis type scenario. McCracken, however, has a lot more value than Jarvis, along with less than half the contract to push. Evidently McCracken was ideal for the M's due to his ability to play all three outfield positions, especially center field. His value was lessened, however, with the addition of utility-man Jolbert Cabrera, who can not only play all three outfield spots but all four infield positions as well. Cabrera is a better hitter than McCracken, lacking only a little bit of speed and the ability to switch-hit. McCracken is expendable. Strong may not be the most ideal candidate to come up and fill a reserve role but he is by far the most polished. His great speed, solid outfield defense, and improving bat would serve the M's well.
No. 5: If necessary, bench John Olerud
Unless his stroke returns to pre-2003 form he will be more of a hindrance to an offense starved team than he is an asset in the field. Rotating Olerud at 1B, DH, and pinch-hitting duties might keep both he and Edgar fresh, and would insert a more productive bat into the lineup. Maybe call up Justin Leone, who is swinging the hottest bat in the PCL right now, instead of Jamal Strong, and slide Spiezio to first for a few games a week. The one thing we know is that Olerud is not producing. Something needs to be done. Loyalty can only take you so far.
No. 4: Release the hounds!
Bob Melvin should not only give Ichiro Suzuki and Randy Winn the full green light to steal a bag anytime they feel like trying it, he should actually be giving them the steal sign, and OFTEN. The team is still reliant on small-ball to score and has not been manufacturing runs on a consistent basis. More hit and run, more swiping bases, more squeeze plays, more playing for one or two runs at a time. Playing for the three-run homer sure isn't working.
No. 3: Move Ichiro to CF
This one is pretty much a no-brainer but might have as much impact as any move the team can make outside of adding Barry Bonds to the cleanup spot. Ichiro played center field quite a bit in Japan and clearly has the range, the arm, and the natural instincts to cover a lot of ground at SAFECO. Such a move would allow Randy Winn to move back to LF where he is more than adequate, and slide Raul Ibanez to RF where he is fully capable of playing a decent defensive game. Not having a liability in any of the three outfield positions is crucial, especially in the middle. Right now there is one. Fix it.
No. 2: Take a risk
Stop worrying about losing the next Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson and use the farm system to land a bonafide answer in the middle of the batting order. Prospects are more suspects than they are sure things and can land the team a star player in an area that is desperately needed. Also, don't let a matter of 750k make the difference between getting a targeted player in trade and not getting anything at all. Calculate the risk but don't be chicken about it.
No. 1: Give GM Bill Bavasi more freedom over baseball operations
In-season moves not involving large sums of financial backlash should be left entirely up to Bavasi and his group of scouts and player development personnel. Let the baseball people make the baseball decisions. The "good guys only" philosophy is only effective for so long if the team isn't highly successful. Even considering ticket sales, winning is far more effective. Howard Lincoln and Co. need to allow Bavasi to bring in the best players. Not the best players that have impeccable character. If you can't trust your GM to bring in the right mix of people, then you should not have hired him in the first place.
I fully expect all of these moves to be made exactly as I have stated them and without a derailed objective. Yeah right.
Realistically there might be two or three of the above nine that happen. At best. But maybe Lincoln is changing his ways just a little bit. He made the call about Kevin Jarvis. He understood the need to make a move. He took the initiative to notify Bavasi that he would sign off on such a move. It's possible that Lincoln's job is on the line as well.
One can only hope. After all, with the way the M's have started the season hope may be the only thing left to cling to.
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