What Is the M's Nucleus?
Doesn't have to be epic, but has to be there

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At BJOL, James commented that the 2012 Red Sox collapsed mid-summer -- winding up 69-93 in the middle of a bunch of 93 win seasons -- because they were a quilt-patchwork roster, one with no cohesion, and that when the pressure started they just disintegrated.  By contrast he remarked that later, J.D. Martinez was able to integrate himself as a clubhouse regular within a month of arriving, which is unusual.  He was replying to a question on Dipoto's hectic roster churning, that lots of trades are one thing but if you never give yourself a chance to get a ballclub together, it won't play well under the fire of a pennant race.

In fairness, we'll note that last year's M's played VERY well, including late.  They were way over Pythag.

James observed that a baseball club has little chance to play well under pressure if its players are not all pulling for one another, are not in one anothers' corners.  It gets you to thinking, "Who are the guys who are going to be the nucleus for this team?"

Greg Johns at the M's site sez,

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But to take the desired step forward, this year remains about developing core pieces for the future and that means veterans who have driven this team’s early offense -- like Edwin EncarnacionJay BruceTim Beckham and Gordon -- could be traded if general manager Jerry Dipoto can get helpful prospects in return.

Yusei Kikuchi and Daniel Vogelbach have shown that they can join Marco Gonzales and Haniger in the future nucleus. Domingo Santana and Omar Narvaez are legitimate run producers.

But at some point, this year will also become more about the development of Smith, Crawford, Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, Braden Bishop, Shed Long and pitchers that we've not even seen yet. And that means taking inevitable lumps along the way.

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This idea, to me, suggests that the Mariners can't trade Mitch Haniger even though Dipoto has said the offers for him are well beyond normal value.  You've got to have some team captains.

There have been a few different sources this year stating that Mallex Smith remains part of the M's plans.  Leaving us with more potential "team captain" types than I'd realized we have:

  • Haniger RF
  • Vogelbach DH -- here's a juicy link for yer
  • Mallex CF
  • J.P. Crawford SS
  • Santana and Narvaez, possibly
  • Dylan Moore could be a years-long Bloomquist type.  Don't sell him short
  • Marc-O SP
  • Kikuchi SP (on a 4-year deal already)
  • Elias, Brennan, Sadzeck - possibly one or two of them
  • Seager at third could feasibly be there

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Interesting that Johns, relaying the M's vibe, puts Santana into the "IN" bucket.  Which is 4-6 position players here already, with 2 starting pitchers.  Granted, Kikuchi and Marco look better as #2 and #3, so we better hope that Justus Sheffield jells.  You're trying to develop the other half of your team, not buy other teams' used material, so Swanson-Dunn-Bishop-3 OF's-etc are key to the plan...

This is neither here nor there, but wow did Austin Adams have a big debut Friday night.  The slider was (1) exploding and (2) right at the knees.  If he threw those pitches every game, he'd wipe them out every game.

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Johns gives Encarnacion (who just hit the 350 doubles / 350 homers milestone), Dee Gordon, Tim Beckham and Bruce as primary guys for the trade block; again, it boggles my mind how many times we in Seattle had been hoping FOR players like Dee Gordon IN at the trade deadline.

BABVA,

Dr D

Comments

1

An interesting read, Dipoto's comments on Vogelbach.  There is more than a bit of a mea culpa, "I blew it!" tinge from the GM.

The Mariner's core:

Next year's OF is pretty set, and it looks pretty much like this year's OF.  At some point next season, Thompson-Williams and Fraley will knock on the door as Bishop has already done (he is rattling seats in Tacoma, again).  I would bump Fraley to Tacoma pretty dang soon.

The IF may be Seager, Crawford, Beckham, Healy.  I would prefer we keep Beckham going forward over Gordon.  I may be an outlier.  Gordon has restablished some trade value and next year will be his bi-annual bad year.  Ship him off before that happens.  Eat some salary.  I will point out that Healy's 104 OPS this season doesn't light up many Top-10 1B lists.  He's bagged a bunch more doubles than last season (he's on a carrer-high rate), and BB's (ditto), too.  Beyond that, he doesn't look that much different than last season.  Over the past 3 seasons, he's been barely a league average hitter.  And he's going to be back to 1B.  I suppose he could be used in a platoon with Vogelbach next season, but that means we have another DH on board, one without a split differential.  We could DH Santana, I suppose, if one of the young OF's grabs the LF spot.  Bishop, maybe?  Don't know, but we would have to give him some reps in the bigs to figure that out.....and I sort of think we will jack him around.

Shed Long and Moore are safe bets to be on the squad next season.  Could Long hit himself into a LF job?  Again, not without some whacks this season.  His bashing AAA season is fueled by a 1.188 OPS in 41 PA vs lefties.  He's only hitting .206/.716 vs. RHP.  He is OPSing .818 vs. older pitchers (MLB seasoned) in Tacoma, but that is also likely due to an unsustainable vL). Tim Lopes is the  other Tacoma guy we have who might push the door open a bit.

And I think we're satisfied with our catching set-up for now.  

Jay Bruce is basically untradeable.  Since last season, he's hitting approximately .215-.295-.415.  He costs $14M next season and he has no real position.  We alreeady got our Kelenic for him; sooner or later we just let him go.  If we are out of the WC race (as it seems to be), then every Bruce AB is costing somebody else a chance.  Jay Bruce has hit above .256 in his career exactly once, back in 2010, whn he was 23 years old.  This will be the 5th season that he's hit .223 or lower.  He doesn't walk a lot.  He's a crappy fielder.  What he does is hit 33-ish homeruns.  But to get him there, you have to play him.  He doesn't fit into our OF, or at DH...or at 1B.  Even if we trade EE, Seager is just about ready to move Healy to the left.  Bruce still won't really fit and there still won't be a market for him, unless we absorb $14M in somebody else's dead salary. 

Marco, Leake and Kikuchi are a nice trio....spending some FA money on another arm to go with them would be just fine.  Swanson and Sheffield need to be MLB ready. Sheffield needs to be able to find the strike zone, but we need to just give him the MLB reps until he does.  He's a 23-year old lefty.  Let him learn on the job. 

And I am all in on Kelenic making the bigs before he turns 21.  He turns 20 in 59 days.  OK, before September, next year.  He's all folks said he was.  YOung terrific talent needs to get to the bigs in a hurry.  I am glad more and more teams are doing just that.  

2

I've gotten a different sense.  It seems more plausible to me that Vog was his guy all along and Servais just didn't see it.  I could be wrong, of course. 

Next year's outfield potential also includes Lewis as well.  With Haniger and Santana bringing in good to outstanding offers, a 4-man outfield not far from the majors and J-Rod and J-Kel being the utmost of the farm and the next layer behind them.  It's seeming almost inevitable that one of Mitch or Mingo gets traded.

Bruce may be desired in the offseason if NL DH is inevitably starting in 2020.  The possibility of getting a flyer and someone else paying a small chunk of the money owed him at the deadline exists.  I fully expect Healy goes to an NL team before the deadline since they can play him at 1b and 3b for now if they like him as a DH next year.  He's not going to bring back much either but if he's an NL DH on the first year of there being any he'll probably be among or above the middle of the pack in the NL at least if not in general.  There's always cheap teams that'll fill the DH spot with a Cairo, Vidro or similar and I think Healy is better than that overall. 

I figure it's LeBlanc in Leake's spot and that if they're out in July Leake is trade bait already.  I don't think they'll be completely out yet so it seems more likely that waits until the offseason.  Not only do I agree acquiring a FA SP would be fine but if they do acquire another top 100ish prospect in deals that's also the most needed position even in the minors.

I agree about Kelenic making the jump next summer and thought the same about Poseidon until the injury.  We'll see how he comes back in the next couple weeks.  When he got injured Jarred was not yet hitting well, Julio was the only player on the Power that really was. 

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