Ever since the Seattle Mariners lost Raul Ibanez, they have not had a reliable left fielder—unless you count Endy Chavez's few weeks or so.
Entering the season, that position was to be platooned by Michael Saunders and Milton Bradley. Lo and behold, Saunders was demoted and Bradley sent packing.
With Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro grossly underwhelming, the outfield suddenly became a glaring insecurity.
Since then, things have made a fortunate turn with newly acquired talent. But what does the future hold for this group?
Ichiro has seen a sharp decline in his production this year and his age may finally be catching up with him. Still, though, he brings a veteran presence to the team and can bat leadoff.
Scheduled to make $34 million over the next couple of years, he is a grossly overpaid icon that ownership won't even think to get rid of. Closing in on 40 years of age, he doesn't really fit into the long-term plans either.
But for the next two years—the window of opportunity for the M's—you can reasonably expect a . 280 hitter in Ichiro in right field.
In terms of the future, he's not the future because he's almost 38, but he'll keep right field warm for his heir and be reasonably productive during that time period.
Guti is "death to flying things"—well anywhere but at the plate.
A travesty offensively, Guti has just a .242 slugging percentage as power has seemingly been sapped of his swing; maybe by the serious stomach ailment to start the season.
That bug gave him essentially a free pass for a couple months for everyone's favorite center fielder, but after a while the fact remained that he could not even pass the Mendoza line.
Where does Guti fit into the future?
It's tough to say. Even if you completely discount this year, he's had one great and one mediocre season in an M's uniform.
His acrobatic catches have spoiled us and give new meaning to the old adage "a run saved is a run scored," but batting .199 he has collared an offense that has produced in spite of him.
Ideally, a team that is competing would like to have Guti as a fourth infielder—one that can be utilized mainly for his defense. The only reason why he's still the starting center fielder is there hasn't been any competition for his spot.
Not yet; the Mariners are reportedly calling up Trayvon Robinson from Triple-A Tacoma in place of Greg Halman, which may very well be the push to force better results from Guti.
His glove is among the best in baseball, so he will still be a part of the future if he can swing the bat decently well—only time will tell.
Wow, Casper "the friendly ghost" has been a pleasant surprise for the M's since being acquired from Detroit at the deadline in the Doug Fister deal.
I immediately took a liking to Wells when I heard of the trade, and he has become an instant fan favorite.
A refreshing change from the other outfielders without much pop, he has already flashed his power. The strikeout numbers are a bit high, but I expect that to go down.
At just 26 years of age, Wells looks to be a big part of the outfield future. He'll get even better as he develops and should be a fixture in the outfield for years to come.
I'm not saying he'll become a star, but he should be a solid producer in one of the RBI lineup spots with 20-plus home run power and a good outfield arm to boot.
Mariners fans should be excited with this youngster, who may be leading the outfield corps in the future.
Although Carp fits best as a designated hitter on the team, his ability to play left field makes him an option here.
Passed off as Four-A type player destined to play out his career as a minor leaguer, this past call-up was a renaissance of sorts for Carp. Something clicked and his average shot up from .200 flat to the near .290 currently.
The good thing here is that Carp can be your left fielder if there's no one else down the road, and he fits as a backup/when-needed reserve. Long term, it's best that he plays DH and one of the other prospects steps up.
I lump these two together because both have no business embarrassing themselves in the majors, but they do have potential. Both are also incredibly flawed, with no plate discipline to speak of or an ability to hit changeups.
One doesn't have much pop, the other an inconsistent glove. The fact that both are essentially rookies gives them a lot of slack and we haven't seen the best of either yet—consistently at least.
One of them might be a decent outfielder at this level, but it's not mutually exclusive. Long-term wise, they should absolutely be in the discussion for the future—gaining a starting job would mean ousting Gutierrez however.
Peguero reminds me a bit of Wladimir Balentien, who had a power swing but never made it at this level.
For now, they need to do what they can to become more polished players overall, working to correct their flaws in the minors. Next season will be critical in determining if they are worth much for long-term plans.
Ugh. Saunders has had his chance but did nothing last year as virtually the uncontested starter in left field.
Part of me still wants to give "The Condor" another chance, but the book is pretty much closed on him as a guy who just didn't make it in the Bigs.
A September call up is probably a now-or-never type of thing for the once highly regarded prospect. What a shame.
Pronounced "chee-shen chang," or "Cheech 'n Chong" if you prefer. That might be his nickname anyways.
Chiang is in Double-A right now and is a couple years away, but we have reason to be excited. Chiang has good plate discipline for his age and doesn't strike out much—unlike a lot of other outfield prospect coming up. He also has his diabetes issue under control, which is a positive.
The other prospect here is Trayvon Robinson, acquired from the Dodgers in the Erik Bedard deal. Robinson is in Triple-A Tacoma at the moment, but may be up as soon as this year. A switch-hitter, he provides a lot of versatility for Eric Wedge.
The word on the street is he's another big bat that will whiff a bunch—even more than Halman and Peguero. However, he has a good idea of the strike zone and will work a lot of walks, thus compensating for the strikeouts.
Both might never make it, but in time they will get their chance to prove whether or not they can be the future of the outfield.
Clearly, GM Jack Zduriencik made it a priority to add outfielders at the deadline, and there's a lot to like about the available talent.
Without a doubt, Ichiro is a fixture in right field for the next couple of years; but he's not the future. Casper Wells seems to be, and may even be groomed as Ichiro's heir.
After that, there are many question marks.
My prediction is that Guti turns things around some and the team allows him to start at center field long term. He'll hit about .240-.250 and there will be a part of the fanbase calling for his head, but he'll just be one of the those who plays insanely good defense.
Either Peguero or Halman sticks around as a reserve for the M's and Carp's ability to play outfield earns him a few spot starts as well when the team decides to mix it up a bit.
But down the road, I like Trayvon Robinson to become a stud in left field for years to come. His existing plate awareness translates into less strikeouts, and he becomes the multi-tooled left fielder the team has always looked for.
To recap, I am predicting the future of the outfield to be Robinson in left, Guti in center—if he can hold off competition—and Wells in right.