5 Possible Scenarios for the Seattle Mariners to Fill the Rotation
The Seattle Mariners are fresh off their first big move of the offseason.
On Thursday, Seattle sent Jason Vargas to Los Angeles for Kendrys Morales, finally giving Mariners fans something to talk about after a long period of nothing but speculation.
However, the biggest topic now is that the trade has left the Mariners with some issues in the rotation.
With Vargas out of the picture, manager Eric Wedge currently has a rotation consisting of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beaven and potentially one of the big three (James Paxton, Danny Hultzen or Taijuan Walker) if they are ready after spring training.
To make matters worse, if none of the big three shows promise in spring training, Seattle fans might be looking at the return of Hector Noesi, who currently has the most big league experience.
Unless Noesi can show more consistency this spring training, this may not be something the Mariners organization wants to have come April.
So with that in mind, whom will the Mariners go after to fill out the rotation? Here are the five most likely scenarios.
Writer's Note: Immediately after posting, the Mariners signed former Detroit Tiger Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league deal with a camp invite. Bonderman has not pitched since 2010 and will be attempting a comeback from elbow reconstruction surgery with the Mariners.
5. Sign Kyle Lohse
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Out of all the available scenarios, this is the least likeliest to happen.
The only reason Kyle Lohse is an option is because Seattle has yet to spend any money on anyone not named Jason Bay this offseason.
If the Mariners are unable to attract more free-agent bats to accompany Morales in the lineup, it might not be a bad idea to get a legitimate No. 2 starting pitcher to replace Jason Vargas.
That could be a bit of a problem.
Last season, Jackson was 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA and 168 strikeouts.
Kyle Lohse was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 143 strikeouts.
Unfortunately, this is the going price for average pitchers these days. Which means that Lohse will demand more than what Jackson was able to get from the Cubs.
Plus, at the age of 34, age becomes a bit of an issue when it comes to the amount of years Lohse is looking to get.
Don't forget the St. Louis Cardinals also made Lohse a qualifying offer. So signing Lohse would cost the M's a first-round pick in next year's draft.
Though it's an option, there are too many reasons against this happening. But without a viable No. 2 starter to slot behind Felix Hernandez right now, nothing can be ruled out.
4. Sign Joe Saunders
While this is more speculation, it is more realistic than Seattle signing Kyle Lohse.
As reported by Buster Olney (must have ESPN Insider access), Joe Saunders has become a hotter commodity now that Edwin Jackson is off the board, and four teams are interested in the Baltimore Orioles free agent.
Furthermore, Olney points out that veteran players are very high on Saunders and are wondering why it is taking so long for a team to pick him up.
It's tough to argue with Saunders' stats. He may not be spectacular, but a career 78-65 record with a 4.15 ERA and 662 strikeouts is nothing to complain about.
Saunders would be a perfect fit for the back of the Mariners rotation. He could possibly replace Blake Beaven if any of the big three show enough to earn a rotation spot as well.
It's not like he is looking for much either.
Olney thinks Saunders would bring in something north of the two-year, $15 million contract Joe Blanton received from the Los Angeles Angels. That's not a horrible price to pay for a serviceable big league pitcher.
The back of the rotation doesn't need to be solidified for years to come, especially with the talent waiting in the minors.
The Mariners are not looking for Mr. Right on the market—they are looking for Mr. Right Now.
3. Hector Noesi Backs His Way into the 5th Spot in Rotation
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The only reason Hector Noesi is even being mentioned in this article is for the worst-case scenario.
There are a handful of possibilities that lead to Noesi making it into the rotation next season.
Possibility No. 1: If the Mariners are unable to sign any free-agent starters available on the market.
Possibility No. 2: If James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Brandon Maurer don't show enough to earn their way on to the team in spring training, and the Mariners don't find anyone on the market.
Possibility No. 3: General manager Jack Zduriencik takes a vacation and doesn't even attempt to sign or trade for anyone whatsoever.
Needless to say, you can see where this is going.
It is highly unlikely that Noesi makes the rotation, but the Mariners haven't had the best reputation of getting a deal done when they have had to. So however unlikely it may be seeing Noesi in the rotation, it certainly cannot be ruled out.
Besides, if Zduriencik doesn't see any free agents who fit the rotation, he could always go out and trade for a starter.
Which leads me to my next point...
2. Trade for Rick Porcello
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This is only an option if Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is making Rick Porcello available.
According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, Porcello is available...and the Mariners are interested.
The Tigers have been looking for a power arm in the bullpen ever since they made it clear that Rafael Soriano was not in their plans.
Seattle just so happens to have a few of those at the major league level in relievers Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor.
A trade for Porcello would be an ideal situation for the Mariners if the big three aren't ready come April. Porcello will have team control until 2015 and has already logged almost three full years of major league experience.
The one big issue here is GM Dombrowski doesn't have to trade Porcello. Unless he is given an offer he can't turn down, don't expect Dombrowski to just give away two years of Porcello's services even if he is battling for the fifth spot in a loaded Detroit rotation.
The only way this happens is if Detroit sees Capps or Pryor as a must-have for its bullpen.
1. James Paxton or Danny Hultzen Make the Rotation
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If there was anything that made trading Jason Vargas much easier for GM Zduriencik, it was this.
Vargas had only one year left on his deal and was preparing to hit the free-agency market, so getting what Zduriencik could out of him now was a smart move.
If Kendrys Morales hits well and decides to make Seattle his new home, then the trade was a smarter move.
If James Paxton or Danny Hultzen—or better yet both of them—are ready for the rotation in 2013...then GM Z may have made his best trade yet.
Many will question whether or not Hultzen is ready for the show in April. After cruising through Double-A Jackson, Hultzen hit the wall in Tacoma.
Either hitters started to figure out Hultzen, or he just simply wore down at the end of the year. Most scouts will lean toward the latter, as made evident by his decrease in control as the season went on.
Paxton struggled at times in the beginning of the 2012 season and missed two months with a sore knee. However, he finished strong going 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his last 11 starts in Jackson.
With a strong spring training, nobody will be surprised to see either Paxton or Hultzen in the rotation, especially now with possibly two spots in the rotation up for grabs.
The Mariners took a big risk by trading away the only consistent pitcher not named Felix on the staff. But if either Paxton or Hultzen is ready, the fans may finally start to see the fruits of GM Z's labor come to life.