There’s Noesi Way Out: Mariners DFA Struggling Reliever

Yesterday’s game was yet another painful chapter in the book of Hector Noesi.

It turned out to the be last.

The Mariners found themselves locked in a 2-2 extra inning tie against the Athletics with a chance to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 1985. The offense had struggled all night but the pitching staff held Oakland in check despite the best efforts of home plate umpire Sean Barber. Seattle needed to hold the A’s off the board in the bottom of the 12th for a chance to extend their early season perfection, but manager Lloyd McClendon decided it was time to wave the white flag.

The white flag named Hector Noesi.

Instead of turning to $8 million closer Fernando Rodney, Noesi was summoned from the bullpen, and two pitches later, the game was over. It didn’t come as a surprise to Seattle fans who have been watching him serve up home runs since 2012, but it was apparently the final straw for GM Jack Zduriencik (can’t we just fire him already so I don’t have to spell his last name anymore). Noesi, along with Jesus Montero, was a part of the ill-fated trade of Michael Pineda to the Yankees.

The trade looked awful for both sides the past two years but now Pineda is poised to return to the New York rotation while Montero is just, well, really fat. That left Noesi as the only salvageable piece of the deal, which is probably way Zduriencik didn’t cut him long ago. No general manager wants to admit they made a mistake and boy was this a doozy!

Noesi ends his Mariners career with a 2-14 record, 6.13 ERA and approximately zero fans in the Pacific Northwest.

So rejoice Mariners fans, the long nightmare of Hector Noesi is finally over. Just don’t get too excited; the man who kept him well past his expiration date is still in charge…

 

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H to the Izzo…V to the izz-A, Robinson Canoizzo is Coming to the Emerald City: Mariners Land Star 2B In Stunning Coup

“If you’re having run scoring problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a power hitting second baseman ain’t one.” – Jay Z  Jack Z

Seattle’s embattled general manager will have to drop more than just one fat beat to save his job and bring the Mariners back from the brink of irrelevance, but if Robinson Cano’s 10 year/$240 million dollar contract is any indication, Jack Z is just beginning to dust off the rhymes.

Let’s be clear about one thing — the contract is too much money for too long, but what choice did the Mariners have? Free agents aren’t going to come to Seattle for a chance to win a championship (not yet at least) or to improve their offensive numbers. Until the Mariners reverse 12 years of mediocrity, they’ll only come for the money.

Have the Mariners found their Holy Grail?

Have the Mariners found their Holy Grail?

This contract will probably look terrible in 5-6 years (although inflation will help offset this to a small degree) but signing Cano was about making the Mariners relevant NOW without worrying about what it would do to the franchise in the coming years. The only way Seattle made headlines the past few seasons was for utter chaos in its front office, and of course, that huge ass TV in centerfield. The time was right (as was the payroll) to make a splash, and in a limited free agent market, Cano was in a class by himself.

Power hitting second baseman who hold their own defensively don’t grow on trees (at least not in the northern hemisphere) and though he’s on the wrong side of 30, Cano is fresh off a 7.6 WAR season that included a triple slash of .314/.383/.516 (he would have led the 2013 Mariners in nearly every offensive category – shocking I know). In the last five seasons he’s never posted an OPS below .871, never failed to crack the 20 HR mark, and never played in less than 159 games — that’s consistency Seattle has been looking for since Russ Davis Edgar Martinez left town.

Robinson Cano is a superstar, and the Mariners didn’t have to give away any prospects to acquire him (although the superfluous Dustin Ackley or Nick Franklin may be on their way out). It’s obviously risky putting so many eggs ($$$) in one basket, but it’s better than piddling away your payroll on a bunch of Michael Morses and Jason Bays. There’s still plenty of work to be done with the roster if Seattle hopes to make a serious run at the postseason, but they have more cash to spend and three studs (Cano, Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager) along with a bevy of potential stars (Mike Zunino, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, D.J. Peterson, etc.) to build around.

There’s something in the air in Seattle and it’s not rain…it’s excitement about the Mariners.

Better grab an umbrella…ella…ella…eh…eh.

Selling High or Selling While High? Mariners Swap John Jaso for Mike Morse Because They Can.

John Jaso taught me how to smile again. (ELAINE THOMPSON/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE)

John Jaso taught me how to smile again. (ELAINE THOMPSON/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE)

“The Beard” is headed south while “The Beast” returns to his roots in the Pacific Northwest. 

In a three-way deal with Oakland and Washington, the Mariners sent catcher John Jaso to the Athletics in exchange for OF/1B Mike Morse, who spent the last four seasons with the Nationals after starting his career in Seattle from 2005-08.  

The move is certainly a head scratcher given the glut of 1B/DH/OF’s currently on the Mariners roster, but maybe positional redundancy is the new market inefficiency and Seattle is just outfoxing the rest of the league. Oh what’s the New York, you need an aging slugger who should never, ever play in the field? Too bad! We’ve got them all!

Losing Jaso hurts not just because he was the Mariners best hitter last year (.276/.395/.850) but also because he provided a number of highlights in an otherwise bleak 2012 season. Jaso was an easy guy to like; he had a great beard, he provided clutch hits, and he made us forget all about that Josh Lueke fiasco.

He wasn’t exactly the second coming of Johnny Bench defensively, but Seattle has been content to roll out catchers like Miguel Olivo, Rob Johnson, and Adam Moore over the past few seasons, so why the Mariners decided defense behind the plate was important all of a sudden is anyone’s guess. Jaso was under team control for the next three seasons, and despite his superb offensive performance in 2012, Seattle decided that his inability to hit lefties (in a very small sample) and the impending arrival of Mike Zunino was enough of an excuse to jettison a fan favorite.

In Morse, the Mariners get a player they once traded for Ryan Langerhans (LOL!) that developed into a productive slugger for Washington (64 HR from 2010-2012). Morse doesn’t draw many walks, strikes out a lot, and is a liability on the basepaths and in the outfield. As a designated hitter Morse would be a valuable asset for Seattle, but with that position likely filled by Kendrys Morales, he appears to be penciled in as the starting left fielder, which negates the majority of his value.

To his credit, Morse has said all the right things about his return to Seattle and  seems genuinely excited for a second chance with the Mariners. His power is good enough to play in any park and Safeco Field’s new dimensions might allow Morse to crack 25-30 longballs. Is one year of those home runs worth three years of Jaso’s advanced plate approach and high OBP?

And what happens to Raul Ibanez, who was brought in to spend time at 1B/DH/OF? Does he take time away from Michael Saunders in right and Justin Smoak at first or is he simply a waste of money and a roster spot?

No, this isn’t the worst move in franchise history. Neither was the signing of Ibanez, Jason Bay or Jeremy Bonderman, but taken together, they paint the picture of a front office that has lost its way.

You can’t keep treading water when Oakland, Texas, and Los Angeles are committed to contending for the playoffs every season. Seattle is going to start sinking…

Once, Twice, Three Times a Mariner: Seattle Does the Most Seattle Thing Possible, Signs Raul Ibanez. Again.

Unless Ibanez returns to catching, this deal just doesn't add up.

Unless Raul Ibanez returns to catching, this deal just doesn’t add up.

So the Mariners missed out on Josh Hamilton? No problem, we got Jason Bay! Nick Swisher chose to sign with Cleveland over Seattle? Big deal! Welcome back Raul Ibanez!

I keep hearing that Jack Zduriencik has a plan. At what point does it include building a winning team?

Seattle isn’t going to make the playoffs in 2013; I think everyone agrees on that. The team appears to be committed to building through the draft and letting young players get at-bats, so why are they dishing out $2.75 million to a 40-year-old on his last legs?

Is it the mythical, unquantifiable quality of leadership? I can’t think of any other reason to bring in another player to add to the logjam at 1B/DH/OF. Didn’t we just do that with Kendrys Morales? Is the front office admitting that the deals that brought in Casper Wells, Mike Carp, and Eric Thames (players who will lose at-bats or a roster spot to Ibanez) were failures?

Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of Raul, and think he can still contribute as a bat off the bench, but he’s not what the Mariners need right now. Ibanez  hit .208 with a .365 slugging percentage (four points below Seattle’s team average last season) away from Yankee Stadium in 2012, and the last time he played full-time in the outfield he was worth negative 23 runs. That’s not just bad, that’s cover-your-eyes bad.

Could the Mariners hide his Benny Hill act in the outfield by keeping the majority of his at-bats at DH? Sure, but then better hitters like Morales, John Jaso, and Jesus Montero would be forced to the bench, and on days when Ibanez is in the outfield, Michael Saunders or Wells would lose playing time – how exactly does that help their development?

The Mariners don’t need leadership right now, they need talent. Ibanez doesn’t make Seattle any better in 2013, and the belief that his veteran presence will make the M’s young hitters better in coming years is ludicrous. Is Raul going to make Montero stop swinging at sliders in the dirt, or is Montero going to figure that out on his own with (gasp!) playing time? Seattle wants its young players to improve? Hire a good coach; don’t send them to the bench so a star of bygone days can parade in front of an apathetic fan base.

I used to joke that the Mariners would finish fifth in the A.L. West. Now, with Houston in the division and a front office committed to ineptitude, it seems like a very real possibility…

At least Raul can provide something for the Mariners...laughs.

At least Raul can provide something for the Mariners…laughs.

CLICK PICTURE TO ENJOY RAUL IN THE OUTFIELD

 

Bay-Watch: Mariners Sign Free-Agent Outfielder, Mets Castoff

Another Canadian outfielder? I dunno know about this...

Two Canadians in the same outfield? What, did Matt Stairs not pick up the phone?

After being linked to nearly every big name bat on the market (Nick Swisher, Josh Hamilton, Raul Mondesi Jr, Justin Upton, etc.), the Mariners left the Winter Meetings instead with a player that the New York Mets paid to go away — let that sink in for a moment. Then drink copious amounts of liquor and try to understand Seattle’s thought process. Afterwards, dial 9-1-1 to seek treatment for alcohol poisoning.

No, Jason Bay isn’t the worst player in baseball, but he also isn’t close to the player who hit 36 home runs for Boston in 2009. Bay’s averaged has dropped every year since 2008, bottoming out at .165 in 194 at-bats for the Mets last season (a year in which he was paid $16,000,000 to produce -1.3 WAR). There’s a difference between a reclamation project and a reanimation project, and I’m not sure even Dr. Frankenstein could shock life make into Bay’s cadaverous career arc.

The move doesn’t come with a lot of risk ($1 million + incentives) but neither does eating at Applebee’s and I’m not lining up to try their newest sizzlin’ skillet. Seattle already has a younger version of Bay on the roster in the form of Casper Wells, so Bay’s presence is redudant unless veteran leadership is the only thing missing from a World Series roster. Here’s a hint, it isn’t.

It’s not an awful move, it’s just such a Mariners’ move. We’ve been down the washed up player looking for a change of scenery route before and it hasn’t worked out. Eric Wedge has a track record of giving more at-bats to players with “experience” (happy trails Miguel Olivo) so keeping Bay on the roster may steal playing time away from prospects who could make a difference when the M’s are ready to contend. What’s the upside?

Attendance is dwindling, Seattle hasn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade, Ichiro is gone, and this is the answer?

We don’t ask for much as Mariners fans, but we deserve better than Jason Bay.

Your move Jack Zduriencik.

Maligned Mariners Management Makes Move for Montero: Can Jesus Save Seattle’s Season?

Hopefully this card wasn't part of your retirement plan, because you know, he's a Mariner now.

Seattle Mariners fan(s) complained all winter long (with good reason–did you see the summer blockbuster, “2011: A Baseball Tragedy“?) about the lack of activity from the team’s front office, and now that a substantial and largely unexpected move (though Rob Lowe did tweet about it a few weeks ago) has been made, well, nobody knows quite how to feel.

On one hand, Seattle acquired a power-hitting catcher/DH in Jesus Montero who has long been considered one of the best power prospects in the minor leagues. On the flip side, the Mariners had to give up Michael Pineda, a towering right-hander who made the All-Star game in his first season and become a fan favorite for his sizzling fastball and gregarious personality.

So how does the trade rate on paper, and where does the move leave Seattle heading into the 2012 season?

If the Mariners organization has any strength (try to stifle your laughter), it’s their depth of pitching talent at both the major and minor league levels. Even with Pineda (and the second piece of the trade–Jose Campos) off to the Bronx, Seattle still boasts a farm system loaded with talented arms like Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and Taijuan Walker who aren’t that far away from contributing for the Mariners. So while it was difficult to give up Pineda and his 1.099 WHIP and 9.1 K/9, Seattle has a much better chance of replacing him from within than it did of acquiring a free-agent hitter at a palatable rate.

What the Mariners boast in pitching however, is negated by a lineup (Seattle scored 299 fewer runs than Texas in 2011) often described as “more unwatchable than Norbit“. Enter Jesus Montero, a burly slugger who has elicited comparisons to Miguel Cabrera and Paul Konerko while posting a career .308/.366/.501 slash line in the minor leagues, and hitting .328 with four HR’s in 61 AB’s for the Yankees in September. There are legitimate concerns that Montero won’t be able to stay at catcher, but even so, it’s hard to imagine him hitting worse than the combination of Jack Cust/Adam Kennedy at DH.

Though Safeco is a tough environment for right-handed hitters (somewhere, in a dark room, Richie Sexson quietly weeps), scouts have raved about Montero’s ability to drive the ball to the opposite field, something that allowed Brett Boone to set a major-league record for HR’s by a second baseman in 2001. If Montero lives up to his sizable potential, it’s easy to get excited about a heart of the lineup that also features Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Mike Carp. It’s not exactly the 1927 Yankees, but it sure is better than anything Mariners fans have seen lately.

The other pieces of the trade, Hector Noesi to Seattle and Jose Campos to New York, benefit the M’s in the short term as Noesi can slide in as a fourth or fifth starter in 2012. Noesi has proven he can handle major league hitters in the treacherous AL East, but he doesn’t have the upside of Campos, who dominated the Northwest League in 2011 to the tune of a 2.32 ERA, 0.971 WHIP, and a ridiculous 6.54 K/BB ratio. Campos looks like another Pineda in the making, but is years away from contributing at the major league level, and when it comes to pitching prospects, there’s no such thing as a guarantee (remember Ryan Anderson).

The Mariners aren’t going to compete for the AL West crown in 2012, but if nothing else, this move makes them infinitely more watchable. A full season of Montero, Ackley, Carp, and the possible return to form of Justin Smoak gives M’s fans reasons to believe that the worst of times are behind. Heck, Seattle might even flirt with .500 in 2012 (although they’re far too shy to ask it on a date). It’s not the end of the long climb back to respectability, but it’s a start.

Go Mariners.

The Future’s So Bright I’ve Got to Wear SPF 15: A Largely Uneducated Look at the Seattle Mariners’ Top Ten Prospects (Part 1).

Dan Cortes knows karate, Latin and how to throw gas.

When Bill Bavasi left Seattle the Mariners’ farm system was thinner than the spread at Oliver Twist’s orphanage. After years of bad drafting (Jeff Clement over Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki) and even worse trades (that whole Erik Bedard thing) the Mariners were devoid of talent at both the major and minor league levels. With the arrival of Jack Zduriencik as general manager the organization has worked tirelessly to restock their farm system, and though there is still quite a bit of catching up to do, the Mariners finally have some players capable of making a positive impact at the major league level. Without further ado, here’s a look at Seattle’s top 10 prospects for 2011:

10. Dan Cortes–RP–(9 wins-5.23 ERA-98 K’s/57 BB’s-1.53 WHIP): Dan Cortes was traded to Seattle from Kansas City for Yuniesky Betancourt in one of the best deals of the Zduriencik tenure, and since the organization moved him from starter to reliever, Cortes has been on the fast track to the bigs. Cortes got a cup of coffee (cream, no sugar) with Seattle in 2010 and though he continues to struggle with command his triple digit fastball has many penciling in Cortes as the Mariners’ closer of the future. He’ll likely start the year pitching in the 7th and 8th innings but with David Aardsma on his way out it won’t be long before Cortes will be closing out wins for the M’s…even if that’s only once a week or so.

9. Kyle Seager–2B/3B–(.345-14 HR’s-74 RBI’s-13 SB’s-.419 OBP-.921 OPS): A teammate of fellow Top 10 prospect Dustin Ackley at North Carolina, Kyle “The Silver Bullet” Seager enjoyed a breakout season in 2010, posting a stellar .921 OPS in 557 AB’s at Single-A High Desert (the whole league is a hitter’s haven, so take his numbers with a grain of salt). Seager is an extremely patient hitter (a trait long absent from the Mariners’ lineup) but he’s blocked in the organization at second base by Ackley and his lack of power doesn’t play well at third base. He’s an intriguing prospect for a talent starved organization, but unless his slugging improves or he shifts to shortstop, Seager is likely headed for a role as a utility man with a solid left-handed bat off the bench.

8. Marcus Littlewood–SS–(N/A): Despite the difficulty of growing up with a last name tailor-made for teasing (one can imagine it didn’t make things easy with the ladies either) Marcus Littlewood proved worthy of the challenge, playing for Team USA in high school before being drafted by the Mariners in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. The switch-hitting shortstop out of Florida was rated as one of the best defensive players in the draft but there are concerns that his lack of foot speed will eventually move Littlewood to the hot corner. At the plate he flashes good bat speed but limited pop, although some scouts feel that Littlewood will add power as he continues to grow. Littlewood is talented enough defensively that he’ll eventually be a utility man in the Majors but the development of his bat will determine whether or not he becomes a full-time player.

7. Johermyn Chavez–OF–(.315-32 HR’s-96 RBI’s-.387 OBP-.964 OPS): The lesser known piece of the Brandon Morrow for Brandon League swap (slaps forehead) Chavez is now the only hope of the Mariners have of avoiding another embarrassing and lopsided trade that drives them deeper into the AL West cellar (there’s a strong chance they’ll finish 5th in a four team division next season). Tabbed by B.A. as having the best power and best outfield arm in the system, Chavez had a monster season at the plate in 2010, slugging 32 longballs and chipping in 96 RBI’s. However, Chavez did play at one of the most hitter-friendly parks in all of minor league baseball and his 52/131 walk-to-strikeout ratio raises some red flags about his ability to adjust to off-speed pitching. At this point, Chavez looks like the rich man’s version of Greg Halman, and he’ll have to continue to develop his strike zone discipline if he wants to be a major part of the Mariners’ plans moving forward.

6. Mauricio Robles–SP–(9 wins-3.99 ERA-154 K’s/71 BB’s-1.35 WHIP): Mauricio Robles came to Seattle via the Jarrod Washburn trade and has quickly developed into the team’s top left-handed pitching prospect (he’s got a framed certificate in his den to prove it). Though Robles is listed at just 5’9″ he’s one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the organization with a fastball topping out in the mid-to-high 90’s and an emerging changeup and curveball. Robles clearly has the stuff to get hitters out (9.8 K’s/9 innings in 2010) but his lack of control (4.5 walks/9 innings) may eventually force a shift to the bullpen. Regardless of where the organization feels Robles fits best, the young fireballer has a shot to join the big league club in 2011, and could become the shutdown lefty that the Mariners have been without since Arthur Rhodes and his bling left town.

Stay tuned for the Mariners’ Top 5 prospects coming soon!