Seattle Mariners: Realistic Moves Team Should Consider
As exciting as the World Series has been, I'll be excited when it's over so the offseason can begin—usually the most exciting time of the year for Mariners fans.
General Manager Jack Zduriencik has a lot to think about this winter. Who will manage the team? What combination of young payers and veterans will there be? What's Franklin Gutierrez's future? Should he talk Jamie Moyer into a comeback?
All kidding aside, 2014 will be a critical season in terms of Jack Z's future with the organization. His tenure with Seattle has been a bad mixture of unfortunate free agent signings, ill-advised trades, and most of all, losing.
Here are some realistic moves the Mariners should make this offseason.
*All stats via MLB.com and ESPN.com.
Acquire a True Leadoff Hitter
Last season Mariners leadoff hitters hit just .247 and deployed eight different guys in the leadoff spot. Brad Miller had the most success, hitting .265/.319/.427 with eight homers, 33 RBI, nine doubles and six triples.
But ever since Ichiro's departure the top of Seattle's lineup has been lacking a spark plug, somebody who can get on base consistently and make pitchers uncomfortable. Jacoby Ellsbury's going to be tough to sign, but middle tier guys like Rajai Davis, Shin-Soo Choo and Nate McLouth are realistic options and they all had some success hitting leadoff in 2013.
The one downside to these guys is their selective hitting. Choo and McLouth struggle against left-handed pitching and Davis can't hit righties. There's a chance Seattle can sign Ellsbury with all the payroll they'll have available, but he'll have a ton of offers to choose from.
Decide on a Closer
Tom Wilhelmsen was having an all-star caliber season until he self-imploded and suddenly found himself in the minor leagues. In his absence, Danny Farquhar took over the closer's role and performed well, converting on 16 of 20 save opportunities and striking out nearly 13 batters per nine innings. Farquhar isn't the prototypical closer on paper at 5'9'', but he got the job done last year and will likely be in the running for closer next season, as will Wilhelmsen.
But there are other candidates who could easily fit the bill.
Charlie Furbush had the best WHIP (1.18) and opponent average (.199) among Mariners relievers. He's more suited for situational and matchup work, though.
Rookie Yoervis Medina turned out to be one of Seattle's most reliable relief pitchers and picked up one save. He was the best guy to have on the mound in the seventh inning or later but his lack of experience will likely eliminate him from contention.
Stephen Pryor missed a vast majority of the season with a triceps injury but looked strong in seven appearances and may very well be the Mariners closer next season. He has the stuff to blow guys away late in games and has the fearless swagger it takes to lock down wins. Pryor and the aforementioned guys all have good stuff, but their numbers from what was a very disappointing season for the bullpen as a whole, won't show it.
Promote Daren Brown
The hunt for the next Seattle skipper has begun. General Manager Jack Zduriencik has interviewed a reported handful of candidates out of what is said to be a list of a couple dozen, according to Jon Heyman. Oakland bench coach Chip Hale, Detroit hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and San Diego bench coach Rick Renteria have been mentioned as possibilities, but what about hiring from within?
Bench coach Daren Brown was named interim manager back in 2010 after Don Wakamatsu was let go and again this season when Eric Wedge was out due to health issues. Brown's been with the Mariners organization for 13 seasons and has managing experience at the minor league level with the Tacoma Rainiers and other teams.
Brown is familiar with the organization and the players in it and the transition would be a seamless and positive one. If Seattle hires a manager from outside the organization, players have to familiarize themselves with a new philosophy and personality. Remember, Brown managed many of these current Mariners in Tacoma and has postseason managing experience.