In recent years, the Mariners have boasted a good to very good rotation along with a lineup that couldn’t score any runs. This year is different. Despite a pretty strong bullpen, the Mariners’ overall pitching staff is average in strikeouts (per 9 innings) and below average in ERA +. The Mariners traded their rotation surplus (Doug Fister and Michael Pineda for example) to acquire hitters and more cost controlled players. It has had varying success. Charlie Furbush failed as a starter, but has been an excellent bullpen piece (but is now injured). Casper Wells, once allowed to play regularly, has been roughly an average corner outfielder. Others have been less successful so far (Jesus Montero and Francisco Martinez, although this is in no way writing them off). Now that the trade deadline has passed, we can speculate on what the 2013 Mariners rotation will look like.

Gone: Hisashi Iwakuma’s outing on Monday (which moved his fWAR by 2 runs) was stellar, but he will be a free agent at the end of the year. If he would have been more consistent, he probably would have been traded, but I heard no rumors about Iwakuma being moved. This is probably (unless there is some no trade clause he had that I am not aware of) because he simply wasn’t very good. While I still think he can be a serviceable starter down the stretch, I don’t see much reason to bring him back unless he is willing to sign a minor league contract.

Kevin Millwood was brought in on a minor league contract and has been really good, with a 3.46 FIP. I have a hard time believing that he will be re-signed though, which makes not trading him look stupid. There is no reason for Millwood to be on this team anymore if the Mariners have no plan on re-signing him. He will turn 38 years old in the off-season, there is no reason to re-sign him.

The Rotation: 1. Felix Hernandez: He costs a lot of money (19.5 million dollars in 2013), but is worth it and the team has no interest in moving him. He will be a free agent after the 2014 season.

2. Jason Vargas? Vargas was widely rumored to be traded but was not as the Mariners did not feel that they were getting a fair offer. He could still be moved in August through waivers if the right deal comes up. He will be a free agent after the 2013 season so this off-season is his last year in arbitration. He is making just shy of 5 million dollars this year, which I have argued is too much for his talent. With that said, non-tendering him at the end of the year would be unwise. They could decide to trade him in the off-season, but he is always going to have more value for the Mariners than he will for any other team (.656 OPS against at Safeco for his career, .809 OPS against on the road in his career). Maybe I’m crazy (probably), but I think that offering Vargas a 2 or 3 year extension in the off-season (and just recognizing him as a Safeco baby) would be a good idea.

3. Danny Hultzen? The command problems in Tacoma (the question was supposed to be about stuff with Hultzen, not his polish) have delayed his arrival to Seattle, but it would be surprising if he wasn’t part of the 2013 rotation to start the year. It appeared that he would get a call-up sometime this season, but his command problems along with a new report about the Mariners wanting to limit his innings for the rest of the year makes this unlikely.

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4. Erasmo Ramirez. Despite Monday’s awful rehab start in Tacoma, there is no reason to think that Erasmo shouldn’t be in the rotation. If the elbow is healthy, he will be back in the rotation soon and stay there. The last thing that he needs is to be yanked around from bullpen to starter. He has been pretty good too, with a 4.02 FIP and 3.58 SIERA, better than I expected.

5. Blake Beavan? Since being brought back up from Tacoma, Beavan has posted FIPs of 2.58, 1.83, and 2.18. This was after being terrible and being sent down before Hector Noesi. Pitch F/X has suggested that he has changed (as I talked about in a previous post) in some way since being demoted. He actually wasn’t any better in Tacoma this year (as far as peripherals go) than he was in previous years in the minors. I’ve never been a Blake Beavan fan, but fWAR suggests he is a MLB pitcher, although a back of the rotation type guy. His value will be as an innings eater, so he will have to be a starter and can’t be moved to the bullpen. The rest of the season should be his audition for the 2013 rotation.

Other options:

James Paxton is a guy that could be a mid-season call-up if everything goes right in 2013. He isn’t a guy that will begin the year in the Majors though.

I don’t consider Hector Noesi a starter, for reasons I have written about previously.

Taijuan Walker is probably not ready. He certainly won’t start the year with the Mariners. I imagine that (depending on the way the rest of this year plays out in Jackson) Walker will begin the year in AAA Tacoma. If he has a strong season and the Mariners are out of it late in the year, he could get a few starts at the big leagues. However, he isn’t a guy you should count on for 2013.

D.J. Mitchell was acquired in the Ichiro trade and I made a scouting report of him here. He doesn’t have much as far as stuff goes, but has had success in AAA, including so far in Tacoma. Ultimately, he is probably an up and down middle reliever, but he will probably get a shot in spring training to crack the rotation.

The best option may be signing a pitcher on the free agent market. Some potential older free agents that shouldn’t get long terms deals are Joe Blanton, Hiroki Kuroda, Ryan Dempster, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Joe Saunders. Some younger but risky free agents include Francisco Liriano, Brandon McCarthy, Edwin Jackson, and Anibal Sanchez. Zach Greinke will be available, but he should get a really big contract, and I find it doubtful that the Mariners would be in the mix for him.