Mariners Should Move on Without Moyer in '06

Heading into the 1996 season, 33-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer was playing for the Boston Red Sox in what appeared to be the tail end of a mediocre pitching career. By the end of July, his career record stood at 66-77 and his time was running short in Bean Town. Then, Seattle came calling.

On July 30 of that year, the Red Sox traded Moyer to Seattle for 24-year-old outfielder Darren Bragg in a move that has since become the biggest steal in Mariners history. Moyer has gone on to become the winningest pitcher in team history (138 wins) and been one of the most consistent starters in all of baseball for an entire decade. Bragg, meanwhile, became merely a serviceable bench player, ending his career in 2004 as a .255 hitter.

Moyer, whose fastball reaches only the low-to-mid 80s, has done it with guts and smarts on the mound, making a name for himself with his bread-and-butter changeup. In the process, he's won over the hearts of countless Mariners fans, become a fixture in the Seattle community and engraved himself as one of the great players - not just pitchers - in the club's history.

Now, after 10 unforgettable seasons, it's time for Moyer to go.

It's time for Seattle to cut ties with the "ageless one," and move forward with a younger, cheaper replacement with more of a long-term future with the team. Retaining Moyer, even at a discount, in 2006, would be a one-year fix, a Band Aid for an organization that is being built for the future and likely won't compete for the division until 2007 anyway. And by discount, we're not talking $1 million but probably something in the neighborhood of $2-4 million.

Moyer's 12-7 record this season is deceiving. His ERA stands at 4.41 heading into what could very well be his final week in a Mariners uniform, and his 1.42 WHIP is only respectable when compared to the others in Seattle's rotation (Meche - 1.57, Pineiro - 1.46, Franklin - 1.45). On a larger scale, when compared to the rest of baseball, Moyer's WHIP isn't even mediocre, it's bad.

One of the most telling parts of the high WHIP is the amount of hits Moyer allowed this season. At his best, the crafty left-hander didn't allow even close to a hit per inning - as was the case from 2001-03 - but this year the opposite was true. Opposing batters has found little difficulty hammering Moyer's offerings for base hits - he's given up 220 in 192 innings, including 22 home runs.

While it might be worth hanging on to that type of pitcher if he were in his mid 20s with a decent upside - someone like Pineiro or Meche (ugh!) - the same isn't true of someone who will turn 43 by year's end. Production only worsens at that point in a career, even for the great ones. Roger Clemens may be the only exception in sports history.

Proponents of Moyer might argue that the southpaw has been exceptional at home this season, posting an undefeated 9-0 record and exceptional 3.08 ERA. While that may be true, and is admittedly quite impressive, the fact remains that Moyer has also been dreadful away from the friendly confines of Safeco Field. His stats away from home: 3-7 with a 6.11 ERA and 108 hits in 84 innings. The game has evolved over the years, yes, but not to the point where teams only use certain players at home.

Seattle would be better off going another route in '06, even if it means reaching into their pockets to do so. While the free agent market lacks the sure-fire starting pitchers it has in recent years, there are still some interesting options worth a look.

A.J. Burnett, Roger Clemens and Matt Morris are the top three names on the market, and each are expected to command top dollar. There's no chance Clemens will come to Seattle, and Burnett and Morris will likely come at too high of a price tag for the Mariners.

Still, options remain.

Kevin Millwood, a right-hander who signed a one-year deal with Cleveland last winter for $7 million, will be 31 in '06 and is coming off a great season with the Indians. Millwood was just 9-11, doomed by a lack of run support, but posted an impressive 2.92 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.

Paul Byrd, who'll be 35 next season, is right-hander who entered Tuesday 12-10 with a 3.73 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with the Los Angeles Angels. He made $5 million this season.

Jarrod Washburn, a lefty, will be 31 next season after an injury-plagued '05 with the Angels, and was 8-8 with a 3.23 ERA and 1.34 WHIP heading into Tuesday's action.

Righty Esteban Loaiza, who made $2.9 million this season with Washington, will be 34 next year. He entered play Tuesday 11-10 with a 3.63 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, and won't command top dollar.

Other options include Kenny Rogers and Jeff Weaver, but neither are likely fits in Seattle.

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