After 24 games the Seattle Mariners own a team ERA of 4.10, good for worst in the AL West and ninth overall in the American League. This would be okay if we were talking about the Mariners of 1998, but we're not. We're talking about a team that is supposedly built around pitching and defense.
That being said, the Mariners are only a couple of pieces away from being exciting to watch. Behind the likes of youngsters Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager and Alex Liddi, the Mariners are starting to develop an identity at the plate. They are giving fans something to cheer about and players to root for. As an organization Seattle is young and filled with talent. Unfortunately, too much of that youth is hidden in the minors.
It is time to bring a few of the young guns up to the big club.
The first step is to give Chone Figgins his outright release. He is an albatross in the Mariners lineup. His hitting over the last three years has been horrendous, and the likelihood of it getting better is slim. His recent 0-for-6 outing against the Tampa Bay Rays helped spoil another solid outing by Felix Hernandez.
Unfortunately the Mariners will be stuck holding the bag on almost $17 million if they just let him go. However, that begs the question; what is his value? With a lifetime batting average of .279, Figgins was never that great, and at 34 he is no longer even good. He finished last year with .188 batting average. This year he's sporting a .209 batting average. If the M's can manufacture a trade and get some value for him, all the better. That being said, he needs to go either way.
In his place the M's should call up Stefen Romero. The 23-year-old is currently batting .371 for the Class-A High Desert Mavericks. He is versatile and has the skills to play the infield or the outfield. More importantly he has a .952 OPS. Obviously, he is doing that in the minors, but that is still an amazing stat. If not Romero, then perhaps Denny Almonte.
Almonte is a 6'2" switch-hitting outfielder who is currently batting .337 with 6 HR in 86 at-bats for the Jackson Generals. Both Almonte and Romero are big kids with potential.
The next in line for the axe has got to be Kevin Millwood. The owner of 5.24 ERA and a 37-year-old arm, he pitched well enough during the spring, but since when has well enough been anything but, well...well enough? Since spring training broke, Millwood has been absolutely horrid. Millwood was brilliant early in his career, while playing for the Braves and later for Texas. However, the Braves were ten years ago and he is no longer close to being that pitcher. Perhaps it is time for Mariners to discover what Texas, Baltimore, New York and Boston had already determined. Millwood is a once-great player who is well past his prime.
Along with Mr. Millwood, Hector Noesi needs to be sent down. Unlike Millwood, Noesi is a young and possibly talented pitcher whose time has just not come. In four appearances he only has one quality start, and that was against the Oakland A's. In the other three starts, he was chased after one, three and five innings respectively. He will be carrying an 8.84 ERA into his next start.
It is time to stop the bleeding. Demote Noesi to Jackson and let him refine his delivery while building his stamina and rebuilding his psyche.
To fill the vacancy in the starting lineup, the Mariners need to call up two pitchers from the Jackson Generals staff.
The first hurler should be Andrew Carraway. The 25-year-old righty is dominating the Southern League in Double-A with a 2.65 ERA and 3-0 record in five starts. More importantly he is young, but not a baby. His body has had time to develop, and he should have the stamina to pitch at the major league level. His fastball tops out in the low 90's. He has a decent curve and a solid changeup. He won't be a staff ace—or even a No. 2 or No. 3 starter—but he will slide in nicely as a No. 5.
That leaves the No. 4 slot in the rotation for Danny Hultzen. The No. 2 overall pick in last year's amateur draft is showing why he was so highly touted coming out of University of Virginia (where he was Andrew Carraway's teammate). In 26.1 innings he is 2-2 with a 2.05 ERA. The 22-year-old southpaw has the poise of a veteran. He works quickly. His fastball averages between 93 and 95 mph, but can touch 98. He is 6'2". Hultzen will eventually develop into a No. 2 starter for the Mariners. Again, he is young, but not so young that his body can't handle the strain of pitching at the big league level.
These additions will lower the average age of the Mariners' starting rotation to 25 years old and the starting lineup to just over 27 years old. However, what they lack in experience will be more than made up in talent.
No, this current Seattle roster is nothing like that 1998 roster. However, they should have something in common with them. That 1998 roster was stocked with superstar products from the Mariners farm system. This roster should be too, and that time should be soon.