The Mariners traded for Cliff Lee and signed Felix Hernandez to solidify the top of their rotation, but the back end of the rotation was still a glaring weakness that has many questioning how good the M’s could be.
After a couple weeks of spring training, not only have the questions not been answered, but more questions are piling up.
So far this spring, Cliff Lee has had minor foot surgery, pitched poorly in a couple of outings, and was given a five-game suspension for intentionally throwing at Chris Snyder of Arizona. Oh, and he strained an abdominal muscle and will probably begin the season on the DL.
If Lee misses 15 games while on the disabled list and then serves the suspension, the Mariner’s Nos. 3, 4, and 5 pitchers would be moved up a notch for the first month. Unfortunately, the Mariners aren’t even sure who those pitchers are.
Doug Fister recently suffered a deep bruise in his forearm after getting popped with a line drive. No structural damage, but a deep contusion/bruise will delay his chance to get ready for the opening of the season.
The news isn’t any better for Jason Vargas who had a “strong outing” recently despite giving up four home runs! That is not a ringing endorsement regardless of the tolerance for spring training outings.
The projected No. 3 guy, Ryan Rowland-Smith, currently has an 8.10 ERA this spring, hardly a vote of confidence to move him to the number two spot in the rotation.
Eric Bedard seems to be ahead of schedule with his recovery from surgery, but the Mariners are not going to rush him back early, so don’t expect help from that front until May or June at the earliest.
What are the other possibilities for Seattle?
For a team that seemed to have a bigger need for an offensive player to bolster an anemic 2009 offense that is still struggling this spring, a starting pitcher has become a more immediate, short-term necessity.
A free agent signing would make sense if there was a decent option. The fact that Kris Benson just signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks indicates the lack of value of available starters.
Here are the available free agents (and their age): Brandon Backe (32), Cha Seung Baek (30), Paul Byrd (39), Daniel Cabrera (29), Bartolo Colon (37), Adam Eaton (32), Mike Hampton (37), Braden Looper (35), Noah Lowry (29), Pedro Martinez (38), Eric Milton (34), Tomo Ohka (34), Odalis Perez (33), Yusmeiro Petit (25), Mark Prior (29), Jason Schmidt (37), John Smoltz (43), and Jarrod Washburn (35).
Things that make you go, “hmmm.” If someone held a gun to Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik’s head and forced him to chose one of these guys, he may just choose the bullet first.
If Lowry is healthy, he could be an option, but he hasn’t pitched in two years with arm troubles. Smoltz just took a TV gig as an analyst. The Mariners have already released Petit once this year. Perez was released from the National’s pathetic 2009 staff and hasn’t pitched since.
Prior, Hampton, Schmidt, Baek, and Byrd are all career injury casualties. The rest of this muck-list has never performed well enough to hold down a spot or are just too long in the tooth to give any consideration to.
Rumors are circling that Dontrelle Willis may be released by Detroit, but would he be a positive or negative addition to the aforementioned group of ilk?
The only viable option of the whole trash heap is…Jarrod Washburn. At least he’s a better option than the bullet, Jack!
He was great in Seattle last year. He knows the players, coaches, management, and fans. He would love to sign with Seattle or Minnesota.
The M’s got a player out Washburn last year in a trade with Detroit and if they sign him cheaply and he performs well, they could probably repeat that process (probably with a different team) if the rest of the rotation straightens itself out by the All-Star break or if the team is out of contention by then.
The other options for the Mariners would be to trade for a pitcher. Maybe they should go after Segio Mitre or Chad Gaudin of the Yankees. Both are fighting for a spot at the end of the Yanks’ rotation and the loser-out has no minor league options left.
How about Jeff Suppan or Dave Bush of Milwaukee? Expensive options that don’t seem to fit the M’s plans, but these are desperate times.
This spring has not been kind to Seattle’s hope that the bottom three in their rotation will step up to the challenge. Where most teams are looking to trim the fat off their rosters by making tough decisions about who gets released, the Mariners are looking at what spring training cast-offs may be a possible stop gap for their pitching woes.