Sayonara Mike Carp and the Remaining Mariners’ Outfield Mess
by David G. Williams
Yesterday, the Mariners opened up Spring Training with a 9-3 loss to the San Diego Padres. In the coming weeks, I’ll be following both the Mariners Spring Training, and the World Baseball Classic. But, before I get too in to those, I want to take a step back, and offer a good-bye to Mike Carp. He was a player with potential. Carp also provided one of my favorite memories from the 2011 season, back when he was trying out the role of clean up hitter.
On August 29th, a few days after my wedding, my wife’s family was still in town from Japan. We had seats a few rows back in section 138, mostly so my in-laws could see Ichiro up close. The game was tied in the bottom of the 8th and it was looking like extra innings. With one runner on, Mike Carp stepped to the plate. My brother in-law and I looked at each other, and both had the same thought.
“It could be a home run,” I said in Japanese.
“Yea, it’s the number four hitter, so there’s a chance.” He replied in his native tounge.
Sure enough, a short while later, we watched in awe as Carp launched a ball that sailed right over our heads landing in the second deck. The crowd of about ten that we were there with all errupted in joy. The Mariners went on to close out the top of the eighth and we all went home happy. A couple of years later, we still talk about Carp when we bring up the game. It was a great Mariner moment, and what I will remember Mike Carp for.
While the details of his trade are uncertain, we do know that Mike Carp has been traded to the Boston Red Sox. In return we get either cash or a player to be named later. My guess is that what exactley the Mariners receive depends on the role that Carp will play with the Red Sox.
The move makes sense for both teams. The Mariners had already designated Carp for assignment, and wanted something in return. Furthermore, the Mariners have an abundance of players with similar skill sets to Carp. The Red Sox lack depth in the outfield and wanted a back up first baseman. Carp can play both spots.
It is true that Carp has solid power and decent potential, but with the signings of superior, established power hitters the Mariners simply didn’t need Carp. Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, and Michael Morse are all better players who can play first base, designated hitter, and (with the exception of Morales) the corner outfield spots. Jason Bay may be on the decline, but has had flashes of brilliance in the past, so removing Carp adds one less obstacle in the way of his comeback.
In addition to these additions to the club, there are also returning players who can play the corner outfield spots and/or first base as well as or better than Carp. Justin Smoak, for example is a better defensive first baseman with comparable offensive numbers, but higher potential. Casper Wells is a better outfielder with a more consistent bat. And, with the imminent emergence of Mike Zunino, Jesus Montero may end up seeing more games at first base and designated hitter, than at catcher.
Eric Wedge seems likely to start the season with Justin Smoak at first in what will amount to a final audition. Because of that, I assume that Kendrys Morales will assume the designated hitter duties. That leaves Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse, Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, Franklin Gutierrez, and Jason Bay competing for three outfield spots.
Bey seems like the odd man out, and most likely to be a minor role player this season (if he isn’t cut). Morse, Saunders, and Ibanez are the best bats of that group. But, Ibanez and Morse are less than stellar defenders. Wells and Gutierrez both have potential to be good at both defense and offense, but each have issues. Gutierrez has a history of injuries, and Wells is still inexperienced.
Basically, it makes my head hurt to speculate what the heck they are going to do with these players. I can only imagine that it’s the same for Manager Eric Wedge.
If I were manager, I would have a few different line ups, primarily with Morse in left, Saunders in center, and Wells in right. Ibanez would get some time in left, and at first base and designated hitter when others needed rest. Gutierrez would compete for a job with Wells, if Guti were to win, then I would put Wells on the Bench, and Start Gutierrez in center with Morse in left and Saunders in right. However, the Mariners’ official depth chart has Morse in left, Gutierrez in center, and Saunders in right. Ibanez is not listed first anywhere on the depth chart, and may have a role similar to what Mark McLemore did in the early 2000′s, a near full-time utility player.
Of course, if Smoak succeeds, this problem will persist all season. If he fails, Ibanez, and Morales can switch between first base and designated hitter. And Wells or Guti could see more playing time as a result. That is, until or if Mike Zunino gets called up. In that case Montero would get thrown in to the 1B/DH mix.
My guess is that at some point, somebody is going to have to get traded to make this puzzle work. Until then, it will be a challenge to get the big home run hitters, Morales, Morse, and Ibanez in the line up at the same time.
Just for fun here is my projected A-lineup:
1. Franklin Gutierrez CF
2. Dustin Ackley 2B
3. Michael Morse LF
4. Kendrys Morales DH
5. Kyle Seager 3B
6. Michael Saunders LF
7. Justin Smoak 1B
8. Jesus Montero C
9. Brenden Ryan SS
*When in the lineup, Ibanez is listed as the #2 DH and LF. He would probably hit 5-7
*Bay would be a PH, and replacement player for injury and rest purposes.
*Should Justin Smoak fail, I expect Morales to take over at 1B and Ibanez to take over at DH.
It looks like there is some potential in this line up, much more than in seasons past. I’ll make sure to write updates as the line up situation becomes clearer. Also expect to read something about the pitching staff in the coming weeks. Until them, Go M’s and Go Team USA!
(here is mlb.com’s recap of the 2011 game previously mentioned) http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_08_29_anamlb_seamlb_1&mode=wrap&c_id=mlb#gid=2011_08_29_anamlb_seamlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=sea
(here is the Mariner’s official depth chart) http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/team/depth_chart/index.jsp?c_id=sea