Thursday, January 17, 2013
The M's roster crunch
By Jason A. Churchill
The Seattle Mariners have been in search of offense for some time now and they have added a few hitters this offseason. The problems is, there doesn't appear to be room on the field for all of them.
Among the additions are Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, who was acquired Wednesday in a three-team deal. Morales spent the past two seasons working his way back from a severe leg injury, but the expectation is that he can play first base regularly. That leaves the other three pickups -- each of whom are well below-average defenders in the outfield -- set to fill roles at designated hitter, left field and right field.
Morse, who came up through the minors as a shortstop, can play first base, perhaps even third base in a pinch, but can be an adventure in the outfield. Ibanez, now 39, has not been acceptable in the outfield for years. Bay, if 100 percent healthy, could be passable, but he's the lone addition without a guaranteed roster spot.
Jesus Montero is also expected to see time at designated hitter, since he's not viewed as a full-time catcher, and we haven't even talked about Justin Smoak, who appears to be the most likely to be traded between now and the start of the season.
My best guess is that Morse sees most of his time in a corner outfield spot, filling in at third and first on occasion, while Ibanez serves as a DH and left fielder. When the team needs defense, Casper Wells can come to the rescue. Assuming Bay makes the club, there's also a chance another outfielder is traded, with Franklin Gutierrez and Wells at the top of that list. If Wells remains, the crowded outfield could become even more of a mess if he starts to hit right-handed pitching with consistency.
After moving John Jaso to Oakland in the deal to land Morse, it's clear the Mariners will need another catcher. Prospect Mike Zunino is likely to start 2013 in Triple-A Tacoma, so the M's could be checking out the free agent market that includes Rod Barajas, Brian Schneider, Chris Snyder, Yorvit Torrealba, Chris Gimenez and Jesus Flores.
ESPN Insider's Keith Law has more on the Morse addition for the Mariners:
Keith LawMorse a bad fit for Seattle
"Even if you're an optimist on Morse and figured Jaso's playing time would be limited with all the first base/DH types already on the roster, the probable upgrade here for Seattle isn't more than an extra win in 2013 -- and Jaso will make up for that with what he delivers in 2014-15, while likely earning little more over the three years than Morse will earn this year. It's just not a great use of their assets, and doesn't fill a critical need for a club that has lots of fringy DH types on the roster."