Whose Stock Is Rising or Falling for Seattle Mariners?
Heading into the New Year, many Seattle Mariners have seen their roles change over the last few months.
Certain players who had roles on the team last season suddenly find themselves wondering if their spot on the roster is now in jeopardy.
On the other hand, other players are now being expected to carry a bigger load and have a great impact for a team looking to avoid its fourth straight losing season.
So who's trending where in the Mariners' stock market?
Stock Down: Justin Smoak
Justin Smoak's stock has been pretty low these last few seasons, and it isn't getting any better.
With the previously mentioned trade that netted the Mariners Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak finds himself now competing for a job.
The last few years have been a struggle for Smoak, which culminated in his demotion to Triple-A Tacoma in late July.
At that point, Smoak was mired in the midst of an 0-19 slump which dropped his previously abysmal average to even lower depths.
Smoak performed very well in September, batting .338 with five homers, but this isn't the first time Smoak has shown Mariners fans glimpses of hope with strong Septembers.
He batted .301 with three homers and 11 RBI in September of 2011 and batted .325 with three homers and seven RBI in September 2010.
In fact, if Septembers are removed from Smoak's stat lines, he has only batted over .250 for a month three times in the last two and a half years, excluding months in which he has less than 25 AB.
Maybe the arrival of Morales will motivate Smoak to put it all together, but his track record says differently. It would not come as a shock to anyone of Smoak isn't in Seattle come 2013.
Stock Up: Hisashi Iwakuma
For a player who didn't start the season in the rotation, things are looking awfully bright for Hisashi Iwakuma these days.
Iwakuma was used strictly for relief earlier in the season, only appearing five times in the first two months of the season. Iwakuma didn't even get into a game until April 20th against the White Sox.
In early July, Iwakuma made a spot start against the Baltimore Orioles in place of Kevin Millwood, who was nursing a groin injury. Iwakuma pitched five innings and only allowed three hits, but wound up with the no-decision.
Two weeks later, Iwakuma was moved into the starting rotation. He was a victim of poor run support for most of July and failed to to record a win.
That is, until an eight-inning 13-strikeout performance at the end of the month put the Mariners' coaching staff on notice.
From that point, Iwakuma cruised the rest of the season, almost lowering his ERA a full run from July 30th until the end of the season, where he finished at 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA with 101 strikeouts.
The reason Iwakuma's stock is so high now is because of the confidence management is showing in him. General manager Jack Zduriencik had to think Iwakuma was good enough to be the No. 2 starter in the rotation when he traded away Jason Vargas.
If Iwakuma pitches like he did at the end of last season, he certainly will be.
Stock Down: Mike Carp
There may not be many more images like the one above for Mike Carp. With how things have gone this offseason, Carp may not being hitting for the Mariners faithful for much longer.
The guys over at U.S.S. Mariner documented how Carp is the one who was hurt most by the Morales deal.
Last night, we pointed out how acquiring Kendrys Morales does not necessarily mean that the team is ready to give up on Justin Smoak. There’s been a lot of focus on the fact that Smoak has an option left, and people have noted that perhaps the team would be better off with Mike Carp serving as part of the job share at 1B/DH and Smoak down in Tacoma playing everyday. The problem is, when you actually look at what Morales brings to the table, the reality is that Carp no longer fits on this roster in any way, shape, or form.
They are right.
Carp has not been able to stay healthy over the last few seasons, which led Mariners' management to use him more at first base than in the outfield.
Even worse for Carp, the signings of Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay have all but eliminated Carp's possibility as a designated hitter/outfielder for the Mariners moving forward.
Carp is in more trouble than Justin Smoak right now, and that is saying a lot.
Stock Up: Kendrys Morales
This one is a little obvious, but not for the reasons that many people think.
Kendrys Morales is currently going to be the vocal point of the Mariners' offense next year along with expected growth from players like Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders.
But Morales' new-found role as probable clean-up hitter isn't why his stock is up.
His stock is up because he is being highlighted in the Mariners' lineup as opposed to being lost in Los Angeles.
Last season, Morales was surrounded by Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Howard Kendrick and Mark Trumbo. When the Angels went out and signed Josh Hamilton, Morales became expendable.
He should be thanking them.
Morales could be in line for a huge payday, especially if he is able to come close to his 2009 season, in which he put up a stat line of .306/.355/.569 with 34 homers and 108 RBI.
Morales shouldn't be worried about his chance at the playoffs either, as Seattle would probably trade him to a contender in need of a bat if the Mariners are out of it by the July trade deadline.
If Morales hits like the Mariners think he can, he could be looking at a fat contract in 2014.
Stock Down: Casper Wells
Let it be known that Casper Wells needs more playing time. He has way too much talent to be juggled in and out of the lineup, and manager Eric Wedge needs to see what he has in the 28-year-old outfielder on a more consistent basis. That being said, Casper still saw his stock drop over the last month or so.
Casper continues to get buried on the bench with the additions of Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez, and he could see even less opportunities if Franklin Gutierrez comes back for a healthy 2013 campaign.
As of right now, Wells would most likely be either the fourth or fifth outfielder on the depth chart, and spot starting is not a good way to continue to develop him further.
Wells faired far better against lefties last season, with a .267/.364/.527 line with seven homers and 20 RBI than he did against righties, so the idea of him platooning isn't horrible. However, it appears as if those opportunities may be quite limited.
At this point, Wells looks destined to start the season in Tacoma, where he will continue to work on improving his .195 batting average against right-handed pitching.
Stock Up: Danny Hultzen and James Paxton
They may not be on the 25-man roster yet, but don't be surprised to see at least one of them in the Mariners' rotation to start 2013.
James Paxton maybe the favorite to land a spot in the rotation after his strong finish last season in Double-A Jackson, where he compiled a 2.40 ERA over his last 11 starts after returning from a knee injury earlier in the season.
Danny Hultzen is another candidate who can fill a spot in the rotation. He may have struggled a bit at the end of the year in Tacoma, but he isn't very far away from being a fixture in the Mariners' rotation for years to come.
All of these facts aside, Paxton and Hultzen had chances of making the rotation before Vargas was traded.
Now it would almost be a surprise if one of them weren't with the team Opening Day.