Taijuan Walker
Savior, or trade gem?
As I said in the shouts, Dylan Bundy has now gone down with a blown UCL, and will need Tommy John surgery.  That basically takes him out of the equation until 2015, and simultaneously makes Taijuan Walker the best pitching prospect in all of baseball.
But what should he be to us?
First, let's talk about who is. 
If you haven't seen him throw, well, here's a clip from his first AAA start.  
Back yet?  Stop drooling.  That fastball just explodes out of his hand and he is scary with the occasional "effective wildness" of that pitch. It's hard for batters to see and it gets on em in a HURRY.  None of this Carter Capps throwing 97-but-easy-to-catch-up-to stuff.
The curve?  Basically over the hitter's head with 15 feet to go, drops in for a perfect strike.  The second it leaves Taijuan's hand the batter has no shot.  He's already geared up for the heat and just gives up even before the thing parachutes for a called strike 3.  
He did all this with a slidestep, btw - no lessening of stuff with runner on for this guy.
Taijuan's complaint about the game?  He didn't have his cutter.
"I feel like my fastball command could be a little bit better. That, and my cutter," he said. "I didn't really have my cutter at all tonight. That's one of my key pitches."  Taijuan was annoyed he didn't have every pitch available to kill the AAA hitters with, to embarrass them even more than he did with just a couple of pitches.  He's already imagining his next conquering performance being even more dominant when he unleashes his whole arsenal.
But his well-traveled catcher Jaramillo was impressed.  
"I've had the opportunity to be around a lot of special pitchers, but tonight you got to see one of the really good ones," he told the Seattle Times. "He's got the composure, he's got the stuff, he's got the talent; he's really blessed. Just being around him a couple of days now, he's special." 
That's what you call gushing. Jaramillo is saying that you can just FEEL the waves of Special wafting off Walker.  Some of the "special" pitchers he's been around? Well he was in the Phillies org when they won their WS (and several years before that) so he spent his Spring Trainings with Hamels and Moyer and crew.  When he's comparing Walker, it's probably to someone like Hamels.
So with a guy who has explosive primary heat, alternate pitches to offer to oppo-handed hitters, potentially devastating breaking stuff, is still climbing the mountain of specialness as the youngest guy in AAA, and who has the aura of greatness about him... Why on EARTH would you ever trade that guy?
In a perfect world you don't. In a perfect world you trade lesser players, or make good free agent moves, or have internal options that mean you'll never have to say, "I just traded Pedro Martinez and I am ashamed."
You would trade someone else.  Paxton has great potential - but his injury nicks and inconsistency drop his value. Plus let's face it, being the 4th best pitching prospect in an organization (behind Walker, Hultzen and E-Ram) means his relative value is low even though his absolute potential remains high.
Hultzen's injury has decreased his value until he can prove everything is back to perfect working order.  Same with E-Ram.  We've had some bad luck with pitching prospect health this season.  The guy with diamond-hard value IS Walker.  He will get you nearly anything you want in the right package. Nobody has any arm like him that they might be willing to part with.
But is what you can get back worth more than what Walker can be for you?  We made that call with Pineda, deciding that while he was a very good pitching prospect he had some things that might drag his value down over time.  We didn't get the value we wanted for him (stupid potentially-juicing catcher/DHs) but Pineda still hasn't thrown a pitch in the bigs for the Yankees a year and a half later.  We weren't wrong about trading Pineda while his value was high.
Is there any reason we need to trade Walker while his value is utterly maximized?
600.  That's the number of runs we're unlikely to get this year. If we don't, that'll be the 3rd time in 4 years we've failed to hit that mark.  The Astros, hapless as they are recently, have only failed to get to 600 twice in the last 30 years, and are on pace to surpass that number again this year.
The offense needs help.  Maybe there's enough internal help to enable us to keep most of our young talent.  After all, Franklin is killing it, Zunino is getting his feet wet, Miller should be here in a couple of weeks, Seager is playing like an all star, Saunders might find his mojo...
But as I've outlined before, the list of teams that have been contenders with 3 or more guys playing every day as 1st or 2nd year players is VERY small. Only 14 teams in the last 50+ years have even TRIED it.  For success stories, I guess you could look at the 1975 Bo Sox with Burleson, Lynn and Rice.  Sure, if we're adding Lynn and Rice to a team that has Fisk, Yaz, Cecil Cooper and Dwight Evans I'd feel pretty good about it too. Do we have those guys in a storage closet somewhere?
Most other teams do it because they're desperate. Are we desperate? Yes.  Is it likely to work? If Zunino is Posada and Franklin is Jeter then it might, I guess.  
Otherwise it's another year or two of development, and then roll the dice.  We HAVE talent.  We can absolutely wait on it, trust the process, and believe that 2016 or 2017 might be our year. 
If the new batch of hitters works out faster than the Ackley/Smoak/Montero trifecta.  If Walker and Hultzen and E-Ram all stay healthy.  When there are no stars other than Felix, the scrubs are going to have to play like stars while earning those scrub salaries.  So far, only Seager has.  If you believe that's an aberration, or that Ackley really is about to become a 5 WAR player, and Smoak can remember how to hit HRs, and Saunders is coming back from the edge of oblivion to be an impact player, then maybe we can wait it out.  Then the best move is simple promotion of yet more minor leaguers to replace our useless veteran players.
It took Tampa Bay an entire decade where they couldn't win more than 70 games in order to amass the kind of talent that could make them a contender.  Not win anything (well, to be fair they do have a pennant which is more than we have) but contend. Since the best the Ms have EVER done - even with multiple first-ballot HOF types on their teams - is contend, I definitely would not turn my nose up at that bar for success.  But can we obtain it with what we have?
Perhaps Walker is the Cole Hamels type who can win us a pennant. He's insanely talented. Maybe Franklin and Zunino and Miller and the rest really CAN set us up for a 6 year run at incredibly competitive ball, starting next year.
But if they can't take us over the hump to contention, is there anything that Zduriencik has done with FA that makes you think a savior is coming in that door without some talent going out it to procure that talent for us?
I do not want to trade Walker.  I also don't believe that we will simply promote the blue-chippers and hope it all falls into place.  Walker is backed up in the system by Hultzen, E-Ram, Maurer and Paxton, to say nothing of some interesting low-minors arms a few years away (one of whom, Diaz, has an electric arm much like Walker's that they are working on harnessing).
The offense can't afford too many trades out.  Seager or Franklin leaving could undo a lot of what any new bat acquisition might add, and we'll have to trade SOME of our top talent to get back anything useful, let alone All-Star.  Peguero + Triunfel + Gillheeney isn't getting us a sack of cold bricks.  Of course, if we had held on to Fister instead of trading him for junk we wouldn't be in quite this pickle with the middle-to-back of our rotation, either.  At some point hitters gotta hit, and all these great pitching prospects have to come up and pitch to that talent level. 
Walker's level is immense.  If someone would open the checkbook for Choo that would help us keep Walker. Even if he winds up being an overpay in the last couple years, we'll have our new TV money to eat it and a whole new batch of cheap young talent to help absorb it.  But how many high-priced FAs have we signed recently?  Or ever?
So that's the conundrum: how do we get out of neutral and make some progress on our next contender?  
Keep Walker and maybe utilize his amazing talent's along with those of some of our other young pitchers and create a wrecking-ball pitching staff even if our offense is merely adequate? 
Hope that the talent on offense congeals into something more than adequate with a few of the gems we do have?  
Trade some of those gems, maybe even the crown jewel in Walker to get what will hopefully be an ACTUAL lynchpin instead of a bunch of theoretical ones that don't pan out?
I'm open to suggestions.  All paths are fraught with peril.  Trading Walker is just as risky as keeping him.  If Stanton is a pipe dream I'd like a list of worthy trade pieces we COULD get for Walker.  That list is... short.
Which means we may keep Walker by default, because no one will part with a big enough monster at the plate to let us send Tall Pedro their way.
Maybe that'll be the best option, in the end.  Fingers crossed.  The first step is getting enough talent in the system, especially All-Star level talent, to even have this problem.
Step one is accomplished.  Now, about that winning record thing...



couldn't have said it better. Thanks, Gordon.
And in answer to who we could get worth Walker --- only one club in Baseball has a talent like that that has been alienated to the point that he is (probably/likely) available. My dream would be to get him using some of the pitching talent other than Walker. My nightmare is that Texas gets him.

KingCorran not-...'s picture

...if we want to keep Walker badly enough, why not overpay in other prospects? Even if they are relatively undervalued because of our depth?
Let's say Z is still calling the shots, and is unwilling to trade Kyle, Nick, Brad, Mike, and Dustin. Boy, is that a boy band or a country club roster? Either way, call it an infield (with Smoak) and a CF, and lets further conclude Saunders is stuck/wanted here. Do we *have* to trade Walker, or even Hultzen/Erasmo, to get Stanton?
I see a list in my head of names like Montero, Paxton, Capps, Morban, Carraway, Romero, Maurer, Pryor, Choi, etc etc... generally blue chippers rather than second-rate options, because we are just that deep. How big is X, where the offer is "Pick X players from this list," and Florida says yes? How big does it have to be for our offer to trump everyone else's, saving perhaps that our headliners aren't Walker/Profar/whomever? At some point, doesn't depth of A-minus and B-plus options outweigh fewer A and A-plus players?
Or am I totally overestimating these guys' value?

Rob's picture

I say we keep him and try for a Cleveland-style 2 bagger by overpaying for Choo & Ellsbury.

GLS's picture

Luckily, I'm not the one that has to make the decision to trade the player or not. We can weigh the pluses and minuses of that sort of decision all we want on sites like this and it won't matter a bit one way or the other. But, it's interesting to discuss nonetheless.
I think, obviously, the biggest reason to seek out this sort of trade is the risk of injury with young pitchers. From a productivity standpoint and weighing 6 years of team control vs. three, I'm not at all certain that a straight-up deal of Walker for Stanton is the best thing to do, and it gets worse if you include another major piece along with him. But, if you factor in the risk of injury of the young pitcher vs. the near certainty of production from Stanton, it makes more sense.
My main objection to the Stanton fixation is that I don't believe we need a power hitter to win. ISO by itself is not the answer. What we need are better players up and down the lineup. We don't need a difference maker or a lineup legitimizer, we just need better players, and not just offensively but in all aspects of the game.
For what it's worth, I think Walker will be up with the big club in a few weeks. There are two reasons for this: 1) by showing what he can do at the ML level, it will increase his value, and 2) by showing what he can do at the ML level, it may save some people their jobs.
A deal I would be trying to make right now is for Nick Castellanos. The Tigers are looking for a closer and we have a guy in Oliver Perez that's been close to unhittable this year. Apparently, they are willing to move Castellanos in the right deal. While I'm in no hurry to see Perez go, Castellanos has serious upside and if I were Jack, I would be working the phones to try and find a way to put something together.


So....does anyone really trust Jack to get value for Walker in trade? He's five months from offering up Walker, Franklin, Pryor and Furbush for Justin Upton.


Or shouldn't be the latter, in conjunction with a bevy of other good players. If the Trade were simply Walker for Stanton then all of baseball is in, if Stanton will sign long term. 7 guaranteed years of Walker is not worth giving up for 3 years of Stanton. If he would sign for 7 years, then I'm in.
But that is only on a straight up, one for one, trade. The big risk in a Walker for Stanton deal is the others everybody is assuming we will throw in. I like our others, a lot. I want to augment them....not use them for chum.
BTW, I think there is a lot of Stanton fixation going on here (not in your post, G....thank you). There are plenty of ways to skin the power bat cat. Almost all of them don't invovle giving up Walker ++. How about we explore those avenues, too.


I look at the 2013 roster and check the OPS+ column and what do I see?
I see a team that is getting adequate production out of EVERY corner position. (conceeding Smoak's 107 OPS+ is in its own particular surreal state of lying statistics).
The 2013 *offense* has problems where?
Catcher - 71 sOPS+
Second -- 74 sOPS+
Short -- 42 sOPS+
CF is a distant 4th at 83 sOPS+
So ... given where the club is ACTUALLY lacking ... which Catcher, 2B, and SS do you go after ... and is anyone going to complain when Zunino, Franklin and/or Miller are discarded?
Of course, from my perspective, the pitching was the larger issue coming into the season - is still the larger issue - and I'm not sure how one leverages Walker as a trade piece that actually improves the team 90 ERA+. Is there a scenario where we can trade Walker and net Kershaw or Stausburg or Wainwright or Sale? If so, I'm all ears.


Thus far, Zduriencik has one (ONE) trade on his resume that is really bad. The Fister trade. A few trades that were bad players in exchange for other bad players that neither team enjoyed, and several landmark spectacular trades that either didn't pan out due to bad luck on prospects or panned out wonderfully. I think his trade record is, overall, better than the average GMs.


Raul Ibanez is not a long term solution in the OF, Michael Saunders' OPS+ is on a rocket ride DOWN, Endy Chavez has been hitting into a ton of good luck and is getting WAY too much playing time for a rebuilding club, and Jason Bay is also faltering badly of late. That's essentially our ENTIRE outfield. And do we have some hot prospects coming up to FILL that outfield? No. No we don't. Romero might one day turn out to be good, but he's probably two or three years away from really getting established. Ackley is a crapshoot at this point and has little in the way of power upside until he can prove that he can consistently make solid contact...the club desperately needs a line-up stabilizing long term outfield bat.
They also desperately need a lead-off hitter and I agree that they need pitching prospects to start making a dent in the ERA+ issue, but they have those...lots of those. And many of them are close! You can't just look at the position OPSs and go "the real problems are..." and expect to make the right decision.


To be fair, one does need to look at the composition of the 2014 squad. The team's LF, RF and DH are all on one year deals and Jack's record of securing free agents to plug holes is mixed.


Those Cliff Lee and Pineda trades don't look too good. Pineda was basically Walker plus a very good rookie year. Jack fired and missed. The only thing that kept him from a franchise destroying trade for Upton was Upton himself.


Possible solution to keep Walker:
1) Forgo Stanton - he will cost too much with all the suiters that will be chasing him.
2) Submit QOs to Morse & Morales - keeping at least one to ensure 1B/DH is covered (with Smoak). If both sign, make Morse the 5th OF/back-up DH/back-up 1b.
3) Extend FA offers to Choo and Beltran for corner OF - plan to get 1, sacrificing #1 draft pick.
4) CF covered by Saunders/Ackley. Romero in OF mix if he progresses.
5) Pitching holes filled by Hultzen/Walker/E-Ram.
6) Need to fix the pen too, with most reliable reliever (Perez) on 1 - year contract. Perhaps GMZ could give him a 2-year extension???
7) Pray that Zunino is a fast learner.


Because we NEED our new rockstar 2B, and our converted 2B/CF, and our great catching prospect, and our slugging AAA SS, because we SUCK there.
So if you can't trade ANY of your really good hitting prospects because they're all filling positions of need, then I assume you're trading your best pitching prospect.
You can't say, "well the Ms are fine with Morales and Ibanez hitting for some power" because neither guy will be here next year.  Morse can't play 100 games a year, apparently.
So on the, "the offense is settled at X positions for 2014 and 2015" front we're going with 3rd base, and... and...
The club is ACTUALLY lacking stability and production everywhere.  That's why the rotation has holes, the lineup is just a couple of pieces in an ocean of suck, and the bullpen is staggering around like a drunken mime.
We have lots of talent, but we have very little in the way of expected production.  Smoak could crater tomorrow.  Ryan already has.  Saunders is plunging toward earth like a dinosaur-killing asteroid.  Franklin is the man, but Ackley was the man his first 2 months in the bigs too.  Miller hasn't gotten here yet.  Zunino was promoted VERY early in his development cycle, especially as a catcher, so hopefully that doesn't get him run over on the way to the production aisle.
Some of our blue-chippers will undoubtedly fail.  Which ones?  Dunno.  Maybe that means we should hang on to all of them, let half of them fail and become worthless, and keep the ones that work out. Maybe we'll just come up roses all around this time with Miller, Zunino and Franklin.  All those guys will post OPS+ numbers of 120 next year and we'll cruise into contention.  That's definitely the easy solution.
If we're gonna run a lineup of 26-and-unders out there, how successful is that likely to be?  We'll have 5 guys in that age range getting full-time ABs next year if Ackley, Seager, Franklin, Zunino and Miller all make the team. The only successful team I can think of in the last couple decades that started off that way was the 92 Indians.
The Bo Sox of the Rice/Lynn/Fisk era had a couple teams like that (won 99 games in 78) but those guys were young by age, not by seasons played.  All those kids came up 3 years earlier - they were all 25, 26 with experience and success, not rubes just out of the minors.  Also, their pitching staff was outstanding, to Sandy's point.
So if we're starting 5 guys under 27 and two more who just turned 27 (Saunders and Smoak)... who is leading that team to anything?  Is that Franklin's job? "Hey rook, go show these guys how to win in the big leagues."  I'm not all about veteran presence and grit, but those Bo Sox teams had Fisk who was already there and KILLING it as a HOFer.
The Royals have been trying it the last couple of years. The Giants are running out 4 dudes under 27 this year, but two of them are Kung Fu Panda and freakin Posey - not exactly raw.
Those 92 Indians are at least somewhat analagous.  They didn't have as many babies as we have, but they had an entire lineup under 28 except for one dude.  They finished league average on O ad 10 games under .500 with Belle and Lofton and Baerga and (Sandy) Alomar and Sorrento on that team.
Next year?  League average O, 10 games under .500.  Year after that? Well the year after that, Manny and Thome showed up and they started becoming a massive power - as you should with several serious HOF vote-getters in one offense.
Honestly, if we carry it out AND it's successful, that's the blueprint.  Scuffle a little longer, another year or two while Franklin and Seager and Zunino learn how to carry the O, then promote Choi/Wilson/Peterson (assuming they're working out, which the plan will need since Ackley and Smoak will be closing in on FA if they're even still here) and then become a force in 2016.
Assuming our young pitching comes through, and stays healthy, and Felix is still Felix. 
*shrugs* It's definitely an option. "Hold all our young players" is playing for 2016, though, with hopefully some really interesting performances in the meantime.  The good part is that even if the bats arean't ready to go for a year or two the arms MIGHT be able to come in for immediate impact.
But if the offense isn't ready for 2 more years, do you want to start the service time on all the arms?
This is the part of the game that Jack has to prove he has some idea of how to master: juggling all this talent and getting it to perform on the field without wasting service years just because we're in a bind.  If we wanna run all the young arms out there to stop the bleeding, then I'd like some bats so they don't ALL get the Felix Treatment of 9 Ks, 2 runs given up, and the loss.  Otherwise you're taking the opportunity to crush your young pitching staff under the burden of a dead-ball era offense.
If we're gonna run with all the young bats then I'd like to have some major vet monsters on the team to help buttress the offense while the kids come in underneath that tentpole and figure out how to be big-tops of their own. 
If we're just gonna try to wing it with every under-27 player we can find and hope for the best, then I'm going to be watching a different manager and GM pick up (trade off?) the pieces in a year or two - or simply claim success once the plan does work out in 2016 and 2017 after some brutal flailing around next season.
Pick your poison.


One reason to keep Walker is that his arm has virtually no mileage on it. He only pitched a couple of years in high school as basketball was his main sport. No college coach over-used his arm to advance his own career -- the M's have limited Walker's innings since he was 18 years old. His motion apparently is clean, causing no obvious strain. If there was ever a pitching prospect that was set up to avoid arm injuries and have a long career, it is Walker.


Odds of us being top 10 are pretty good right now.
I wouldn't QO Morse, but I would Morales.  And since Morales and Choo both have Boras as an agent I'd work on a two-for-one with that dude, get both guys here.  But again, we have to actually pull it off.  If you flop on Choo/Morales then you've got... well, you got an extra draft pick for Morales, but other than that you're pretty screwed.
I'd love to see this team rocking with our Franklin/ Miller/ Zunino / Seager infield, and a productive Ackley/ Saunders/ Choo OF, with Morales at DH and Morse at 1B.  That sounds pretty great.  In a couple/three years, Choi and Peterson should be ready if they are the real deal, and they can swap out for Morales and Morse at that time.  Wilson can take Saunders's place (don't worry, all awesome prospects work out in fantasy-land), and our rotation of Felix/ Iwakuma/ Walker/ Hultzen/ E-Ram is a killer.  Paxton is closing.
Success!  *grins* I like this version of reality very much.

GLS's picture

I like this line of thinking but I would say one way or the other we probably need two new outfielders. I wouldn't forgo Stanton completely, but I have to think real hard before I give up Taijuan Walker for him. Choo is a possibility for an overpay and Beltran would be great, though I suspect he'll re-up with St. Louis. I like Stefen Romero, but he'll need to force his way into the conversation with his play the rest of the year and in spring training. I worry a little bit that he loses AB's to players like Tenbrink. But, I expect him to be the guy next year that bounces back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle.
One avenue might be to look around for talented players hiding in 4th and 5th outfielder roles for other teams.
I mentioned Nick Castellanos earlier. I really hope Jack is in on those conversations. Wilhelmsen probably doesn't do it at this point given his recent performance, but Perez+ might.
For 2014, I hope Jack or whoever understands that we can't have Smoak/Morse/Morales/Ibanez. We can probably keep two of those guys, maybe three, but taking up four roster spots to fill 1B and DH just doesn't work very well and Ibanez or Morse in the outfield shouldn't be an option, especially with a young pitching staff taking up the BOR.


And I don't think the Cliff Lee trades were bad. In net, we gave three C+ prospects to get back half a season of Cliff Lee, Justin Smoak (who is coming around and starting to hit), Blake Beavan (who is at a minimum a useful org depth guy), Michael Morse (because we used Lueke to get Jaso and Jaso to get Morse) and a filler prospect. That's a GOOD trade sequence, Grizz...it's irrational to call it a bad one.

GLS's picture

I think the problem with the trade of Pineda for Montero was more in the tunnel vision of wanting a big bat and not evaluating properly what other skills the player brought to the table. In Montero's case, he offers little else other than his bat. Even moving him to 1B is a bit dicey because now you have a subpar defensive player and a right handed batter at a position that ideally would be filled by a power-hitting lefty. So all of that puts even more pressure on the bat to produce at an elite level.
And then of course we saw this same tunnel vision in this last offseason bringing in all of these other players to add to the 1B/DH logjam.


Agree can't keep Smoak/Morse/Morales/Rauuuuuuuuul. But I think that you can keep 3, assuming one (Morse or Ibanez) is 5th OFer and Gutierrez is gone so that 1st 4 OFers are more reliable. I prefer Morse to Rauuuul because we need RH bats and he is younger than the ageless wonder.

GLS's picture

This is where we're going to disagree. I don't think Morse or Raul have an business in the outfield. They're both butchers out there and Morse gets injured the second he tries to do anything the least bit athletic. Odd, since he came up as a SS.
Also, I forgot to add Montero into that mix. That's five roster spots competing for playing time at two positions.

Rob's picture

If Montero were hitting 280/340/450 like expected, we wouldn't be having this conversation. "Other skills" weren't the point. It was not a case of improper evaluation. (If the trade had been Pineda for Butler, everyone would have been thrilled. That's who we were trading for.)


If only because Montero is probably going to have to deal with a suspension and then getting back up to speed in AAA. I think the club lets him cool his heels in AAA all of 2014.

GLS's picture

I guess we're on opposite sides of this. I agree that they weren't looking at other skills, but to me that's exactly the problem with the decision process around making that trade. That same decision process, which is basically "more dingers", is a big part of why this team sucks right now. This is why we traded John Jaso for Michael Morse, who can barely play the outfield and is constantly hurt, and which is ultimately why we called up Mike Zunino way too soon. This is why we have a 41-year old DH playing the outfield and why we gave up an athletic fourth or fifth outfielder type for a 34-year old reclamation project. It's dingers, dingers, dingers and the result is a team that's really pretty awful.

RockiesJeff's picture

I don't want to add to all of the above, just thank you for your words and work!

RockiesJeff's picture

Something to be thankful for. Well two. Justin Upton saying no and Josh Hamilton saying CA. Don't trade the kid. Just because a pitcher might get hurt, you can't trade him. I hope to be able to watch Walker, Franklin and Pryor change the tide.


...not dingers. I don't think Z was eyeing more pop...Shoppach has some pop. I think he was after a guy who could be a field general behind the plate...which Zunino can.
Ibanez has done his job. Morse is getting hurt a lot, but it was far from clear that this was an established pattern before the deal...and Jaso isn't exactly world-beating in Oakland either. Morales is a contact hitter first and power hitter second. And we added Bay on a flyer hoping he'd be better than our lame young AAAA guys (like Peguero...who, BTW, hits plenty of dingers).
So no...I don't think the team was obsessing about just HRs...they wanted BATS. Difference-maker types. The fact that Montero flamed out doesn't mean there was something wrong about acquiring him.

GLS's picture

I don't think Zunino was called up to hit home runs. I think he was brought up out of desperation, probably more for defense than anything else, as you say. But, would we have called up Zunino if Jaso was there catching 4 of 6 games? John Jaso is a big part of why the A's are winning this year. Take a look at his numbers on Fangraphs. He has a 115 wRC+ and 1.2 WAR. By WAR, he's tied for 10th among major league catchers. Not too shabby. As for Morse and his injuries, while you may be correct that we didn't necessarily know that this would happen, the fact that they would pursue a player like that and view a player like Jaso as basically a spare part is an example of a very one-dimensional view of how to improve the team, i.e. get more dingers. It's also a view of a way to improve the team that doesn't work, as the win/loss totals make clear.
You can say that Ibanez has done his job, but he still isn't any good defensively in left field. The way he's being used essentially neutralizes his offensive contributions.


...Mariner fans gnashed their teeth when the club was obsessing about outfield defense to the extent that they were willing to start Endy Chavez back in 2009...they were saying "we need power...we need power at the corners!" And then the Mariners get power at the corners (Ibanez, Morse, Morales) and the fans complain that we ignored defense! Check the fangraphs numbers again...we're better than middle of the pack on team defense. Butcher or not, Ibanez isn't hurting the overall club defensive numbers, and neither was Morse. We have good gloves at glove positions...Ackley and now Franlkin at 2B, Ryan at SS, Guti/Saunders/Chavez in CF...all capable fielders. They called up Zunino because they wanted another good glove at a glove position. And they got one. But you want them to have the perfect player at every position...someone who's awesome with the glove and the bat.
I don't think the problem is that the club obsesses one-dimensionally about home runs. If they did, Miller would be our SS right now, not Ryan. If they did, we'd have spent big bucks on Swisher. Here's what I believe happened.
The team's plan A was to trade bulk for Justin Upton. He shot them down, so they went to plan B...get several players cheaply who could combine to hold us together until the kids were more marketable in trade or ready to be our mainstays. The cheaply available players were cheap FOR A REASON. They were one dimensional (Morse/Morales/Ibanez) or they were risky (Bay/Shoppach/J. Saunders) or they were struggling currently (Harang).
That's what HAPPENS when you're scrambling for plan Bs. You get one-dimensional players. The call on Jaso was based on the idea that they needed to see whether Montero could start behind the plate and the club's assessment that Jaso was not capable of being a full time starting catcher. Morse, when healthy is unquestionably a better hitter than Jaso and Jaso had a history of tiring easily with the Mariners. It's early in the year in Oakland and Jaso is hitting a tepid .280 or so and getting on base. That's nice, but hardly worth crying about, especially when he's very likely to struggle down the stretch due to overexposure and fatigue. The point is...they moved Jaso IMHO because they judged him to be not a good enough receiver to stick full time...not because they just wanted homers. The supporting moves were all about adding guys with upside on the cheap...there's nothing any deeper to it than that.


I think you're groping around for the source of your annoyance with deals like the Jaso/Morse swap...and your essential problem is that the team seems not to find balanced players. Specialists aren't necessarily bad, but you do need to have a team with weapons that are diverse enough to handle all comers and their various modes of attack. This year's plan-B group was a grab at guys the Ms hoped would legitimize the line-up with some power (not just dingers...slugging and hitting overall...Morales was hardly a play at 35 dingers...they just wanted a good all around bat). But every one of them was a bad walk-taker. Morse, Morales, Ibanez...none of them draw walks at this point in their careers (and some of them never have). Whereas Jaso does draw walks and get on base (though his Seattle power was a fluke and evinced by the collapse of his ISO in 2013). I still think the Jaso move was lateral at worst and it had logical upside with Morse. And I still say we're not suffering on defense at all...not enough to matter at any rate. But I will grant you that the club needed to consider two things this year that it evidently did not:
1) line-up structure and balance (we should have gone after Bourn or someone else who got on base more consistently to lead off, for example)...all ISO and no BB make offenses streaky (and bad against power pitchers).
2) Athleticism. Morales, Morse, Montero, Bay...these are not guys around whom you can build sustained success because they are not guys who are particularly SPRY fellows. Strong, yes, but not flexible...it makes them break more easily (as Guti does)...and there was some evidence in the case of both Morales and Morse (and Bay, BTW, who couldn't stay healthy in NY) that nagging injuries might be a problem. Perhaps the club considered all the injury questionmarks a minimal gamble, figuring the kids would be along to replace them in due time and it was a cheap upside move, not a long term play, but it is hard for kids to grow into roles if their support staff keeps getting hurt.
Most successful teams use pieces like Morse and Morales as "it would be nice if these guys contributed in reserve roles, but not critical" pieces...we used them as starters we NEEDED to succeed to have any chance at contention.
So if that's really what you're driving at...then I would agree.
But I don't think we got those guys because we just wanted homers. We got them because we weren't willing to overpay to get better, more athletic players.


My one minor quibble is I do believe the defensive decline has been large enough that it is having a significant negative pull on all of the pitching stats at this point.
While the defense might not be completely in the toilet yet, it is certainly contributing to the 90 ERA+ that needs to be closer to 115 if this team is going to ever challenge.


This year's BABIP allowed is .301
Last year's was .284
And the park got smaller too. So the defense has definitely gotten worse...but the park is part of that difference too I think...An argument could be made that the team's defense neutral ERA+ should be closer to 100 than 90 with a better defense.

GLS's picture

Fangraphs has the Mariners dead last in team defense. That's using the UZR/150 metric, which, to be perfectly honest I know nothing about. I'm assuming it's not good though.

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