[QUOTE]Ichiro was an incredibly gifted player in his prime, but Ichiro never exuded the warmth of Felix Hernandez: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/jerrybrewer/2018934397_brewer17.html The amicable departure of Ichiro last month was liberating for many of the young Mariner players who can now focus on the future.
Posted by hill55[/QUOTE]
Moving Ichiro served two purposes. 1) Allowed Wedge to write out his lineup card without the pressure of making sure that Ichiro get's his due 2) It freed the organization from the burden of having to negotiate an new deal with him this offseason.
As for Felix Hernandez he's not going anywhere. The M's GM has stated on numerous occasions that Felix is the horse around which they're building the team. Just yesterday on a local radio show here in the northwest, he said as much. Then added that once they get to where they feel that they're ready to contend. Having a pitcher of Hernandez ability at the top of the rotation is as important as having a couple of solid run producing bats in the middle of the lineup. Using teams like Detriot as an example with Verlander, Fielder & Cabrera. Perhaps the most insightful quote, I took from listening to him. Was his reasoning for keeping Felix, was only bolstered by the teams that have shown interest in aquiring him. All of them were current contenders in search of an Ace to place at the top of thier rotations. A commodity who value is greater than any number of prosects one could aquire.
In the big picture the M's have until the middle of the 2014 season to put all the pieces together. Short of a change in leadership (rumors have it the team might be sold?) My guess is that, while they continue to retool the roster. They'll certainly listen to offers, but are not actively trying to put together a deal. Then if and when they conclude that they'd be better served to trade him and reap the benefits of multiple prospects/players in return. I doubt they'll have much trouble finding a partner.
The answer to this question lies in how well thier top prospects progress and if a combination of four or five of thier current young players on the major league roster continue to show they're capable of playing everyday at the big league level and producing with Ackley, Montero & Smoak all seen as impact middle of the lineup guys of the three one could argue that only Montero played to expectations this year. The other two struggled...Since one of the key's to fielding a championship club is building a lineup that goes 6 deep with 4 or 5 guys capable of driving the ball. In order for the Mariners to take the next step they have to access thier current roster of players that are part of the now, but more importantly seen as the nucleaus to build the depth of the roster around....They are 3B Seiger, 2B Ackley, DH/C Montero, 1B Smoak, OF/1B Carp, OF Wells & CF Saunders. Of this group Seiger, Montero and Saunders have all taken a step forward...Ackley & Smoak a step back. Wells & Carp incomplete. If we add Nick Franklin to the group (SS) he too would be graded incomplete. Suffice to say that if 4 or 5 of these guys can form the nucleaus around which the team is built. They can then add veterens and free agents to bolster the team and or look to thier system for the nexy best option (see top 20 prospects below). another very important commodity is stregnth up the middle since theres still questions about Montero being an everyday catcher at the big league level? They drafted cather Mike Zunino 3rd overall last year (not listed below) as insurance in case Montero fall short....The goods news is that the kid seems to be the real deal. Who was killing the ball in low A and recently was promoted to AA skipping A ball. Giving them two guys that projects to be middle of the order bats playing catcher. Hopefully one of them makes the grade and is fill another key cog in the big picture retool...
That said, they still have a ton of work ahead to retool this squad and aside from thier everyday players...They also have to access the readiness of Walker, Hultzen & Paxton. The timeline for each of them in concert with the development of the everyday roster along with Hernandez's contract terms. Make the 2014 deadline to be a legit contender one that could prove to be tough. So in the end, like it or not, if the Mariners want Felix to be the staff leader at some point in the next year and a half they're going to have to entertain the concept of signing him to an extension. A costly proposition if he continues to stay healthy and put up CY numbers...he might be the first pitcher to break 30M a year...ouch!
1) Jesus Montero, C, Grade A: Acquired from Yankees in Michael Pineda deal. I strongly, strongly believe in his bat, to the point of giving him a Grade A even with his highly-questionable defense.
2) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Grade A-: A future number one starter, if he stays healthy and builds on what he did in 2011. Combination of stuff, athleticism, and better-than-expected polish makes him special in my view.
3) Danny Hultzen, LHP, Grade A-: Less risk than Walker, but upside not quite as high. He still projects as a number two starter for me and he won't need long in the minors.
4) James Paxton, LHP, Grade B+: Borderline A-. Like Hultzen, he can be a number two starter with his plus stuff from the left side, although his command isn't as refined as Hultzen's. Can you imagine if the Blue Jays had signed Paxton in 2009? How good would that system look if they had another ace-quality arm?
5) Nick Franklin, SS, Grade B: Borderline B+. Don't be discouraged by the weird numbers at High Desert. He's got unusual pop for a middle infielder, and I think he has a decent chance to stick at shortstop
6) Vinnie Catricala, 3B-1B-OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. I don't know where he fits on defense but he should hit for average, get on base, and provide at least moderate power. B- might be too low, could go with straight B.
7) Francisco Martinez, 3B, Grade B-: It would be easier to get a read on this guy if the Tigers had handled him more cautiously, but he is very young and the bat has shown signs of coming around. Better chance to handle third base than Catricala, but needs more polish in all phases.
8) Alex Liddi, 3B, Grade B-: He ranks higher on my list than on most others, because I think his glove is better than his reputation. I suspect groupthink going on about his defense, but both visually and objectively it has gotten better, good enough to stay there in my view. Won't hit for average, but a guy who can hit 20 homers, play third, and is just 23 seems like a solid prospect to me.
9) Phillips Castillo, OF, Grade B-: High-ceiling bat, needs to improve plate discipline and hit outside the Arizona Rookie League, but very young. Could be best hitting prospect in the system a year from now.
10) Brad Miller, SS, Grade B-: Hitting style is unusual but he raked in college, controls the zone well, gets on base, runs well, and looked great with the bat in brief Midwest League debut. Lots of questions about his erratic glove, may end up at second but would be blocked there by Dustin Ackley.
11) Chance Ruffin, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+: His upside is limited, but he's ready now, and while he doesn't have classic closer stuff, it would not surprise me to see him get a shot in that role eventually.
12) Guillermo Pimentel, OF, Grade C+: Enormous raw power but with terrible plate discipline, young enough to improve. Like Castillo, he could rank much higher next year if he polishes his approach.
13) Stephen Pryor, RHP, Grade C+ High-ceiling relief arm was awful at High Desert but suddenly gained control at Double-A Jackson. Could help sooner than expected if that progress sticks.
14) Martin Peguero, SS, Grade C+: Signed as Estelion. Big bonus guy out of the Dominican, didn't really live up to expectations in Arizona Rookie League but was just 17. Very erratic defense.
15) Victor Sanchez, RHP, Grade C+: Big-bonus signee out of Venezuela at age 16, hasn't pitched yet, throws hard but we need to see him, etc.
16) Tyler Marlette, C, Grade C+: Talented, if somewhat raw, defender with a chance to hit if he can resolve some swing/discipline issues.
17) Stefen Romero, 2B-OF, Grade C+: Hit very well in the Midwest League. Oregon State product has a decent chance to keep hitting in my opinion, will have to see about glove. Some similarities to where Catricala was a year ago at this time, although Cat has an age/league advantage.
18) Carter Capps, RHP, Grade C+: High-ceiling arm from 2011 draft, mechanical questions will likely make him a reliever but he has the stuff to move quickly.
19) Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Grade C: Control artist lacks plus stuff but could develop into inning-eating starter, might sneak into major league role in 2012 with a bit of luck. Jackson teammate Andrew Carraway could do the same but is older and gets less respect from scouts.
20) Jabari Blash, OF, Grade C: Has excellent raw power, draws walks, but strikes out a lot and is unpolished for a 22-year-old. He's got upside though.