So it is December, and the Winter Meetings have now passed. While the Mariners were rumored to be going after every hitter imaginable, the only player they got in the Winter Meetings was Jason Bay. Mauricio Robles was designated to make room for Bay and is currently in limbo while the Mariners 40 man roster is full. I find it unlikely that he will be claimed by anyone, meaning he could come back and stay in the Mariners system. Either way, this means that they got rid of the bottom 4 players in my rankings from August. They also lost (they designated him for assignment, and then lost him to the Cubs by free agency) Johermyn Chavez who I ranked at 21st, and they evidently wanted to change him into a pitcher. They also traded Trayvon Robinson (#19) for Robert Andino (more on him later). Kevin Millwood (#33) is unsigned, while they re-signed Hisashi Iwakuma (#34), Oliver Perez (#25) and tendered a contract (technically came to an undisclosed agreement) to Josh Kinney (#36), which I wasn’t sure they would do. They also added some players to the 40 man, which I will rank and address below.
Remember, this ranking is by my interpretation of each player’s value, considering contract/age/future/role etc. This is not a ranking of how good the players are (though pure talent obviously plays a huge role). You will notice that a lot of players dropped since August, and a lot of this has to do with the minor leaguers added to the 40 man being obviously more valuable than the ones they replaced.
1. Felix Hernandez. Extension seems unlikely now, but the organization has been clear that they are not going to trade him.
2. Erasmo Ramirez: Erasmo is basically a lock to make the Mariners’ 2013 rotation, and has a lot of team control. He looks like a mid-rotation type starter, and that has a lot of value, as long as he can stay healthy.
3. Kyle Seager: Notice that, other than an occasional Youkilis rumor, the Mariners haven’t been linked to a 3rd baseman. They seem to believe he can play at a good everyday level again, and I think so too.
4.Danny Hultzen: I put him behind Erasmo and Seager (which he was ahead of last time) because the above two are more known commodities. Hultzen just has to find the strike zone again, but he has a pretty high ceiling and if all goes well, he will be in the rotation sometime in 2013.
5. John Jaso: This is a high ranking for a guy without any real defensive value and big platoon splits. However, he is still cheap, and he was their best hitter in 2012.
6. Dustin Ackley: Obviously 2012 was an offensive disappointment, but there is too much team control, potential, and good defense to rate Ackley much lower.
7. Michael Saunders: He has more value in center, but he isn’t excellent there. Saunders is not quite a “tweener” (meaning he doesn’t have the bat for the corner, but not the defense for center), but he really needs to hit again like he did in 2012.
8. Charlie Furbush: I still like Furbush better than Wilhelmsen, but the elbow injury did scare me a bit. I think you could rate Wilhelmsen higher than Furbush, but left-handedness makes me lean toward Furbush.
9. Tom Wilhelmsen: I don’t put much value on the closer role, but Wilhelmsen had a very good 2012 season. He is a very key part of the bullpen.
10. Jesus Montero: I was criticized for ranking him so low last time, but I wasn’t a huge fan of Montero before the trade, and 2012 really showed nothing to make me change my mind. He has good power and is cheap with a lot of team control, but he lacks plate discipline, is a terrible defensive catcher, and will have to spent most of his time at DH. The moved in fences should help him, but it isn’t going to fix his flaws.
11. Brandon Maurer: Obviously injury is a concern, but Maurer’s first really healthy season was a big one and got him added to the 40 man roster. Sometime in 2013 may be unrealistic, but he is a guy who should be in the rotation very soon.
12. Stephen Pryor: The fastball alone gives him value, but his slider looked pretty good in the Majors as well. If he stays healthy, he could be a bullpen piece (or maybe even a trade piece) for years to come
13. Hisashi Iwakuma: A guy who continued to prove himself as the season wore on. The contract is very workable from a Mariner perspective, and we will see how real his home run problem is with moved in fences.
14. Carter Capps: Still have Pryor ranked higher, but Capps has the harder fastball and showed improved breaking pitches as the season went along.
15. Anthony Fernandez: At the very least, he should be a left-handed bullpen piece over the next few years. Pitched well in AA, may even get some AAA time in 2013. Probably at least another year from the Majors, maybe longer if he still looks like a starter.
16. Carlos Triunfel: I have basically talked myself into slotting him as a utility player for 2013. Still a lot of control, doubtful to hit, but perhaps still has some value.
17. Brendan Ryan: Being a free agent at the end of the year hurts his value a lot. However, the defensive wizard is the Mariners 2013 starter, and the market isn’t exactly saturated with shortstops. Depending on what Nick Franklin and Brad Miller do in 2013, he may be expendable, or it may be a good idea to extend him.
18. Julio Morban: I am not entirely sure how to rank Morban, who was added to the 40 man roster. He hasn’t played in AA yet, has been inconsistent as a hitter, and has had injury problems. I would like to see more, but as of now, I am not a huge fan (but obviously things that salary/control/potential makes him automatically rated pretty high).
19. Jason Vargas: New park dimensions will make this interesting and he is a free agent at the end of the year. I still think he should have been moved at the trade deadline, but it is possible that most teams are as cool on Vargas as I am. Unless some trade is on the horizon, he will start in the rotation again, but he could be a guy who is booted out if he struggles and some of the prospects are given a shot in the rotation.
20. Mike Carp: I’m sticking to my guns of Carp over Smoak, but Carp’s ceiling is certainly lower going forward and you have the injury history. There have been some trade rumors surrounding him, and he becomes very expendable if Smoak hits at all and Montero finally moves to first (which, as of now, the organization doesn’t want to do).
21. Franklin Gutierrez: Probably a starter going into the year, but 2013 is his last guaranteed year of his contract, and he has been inconsistent with the bat and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He could be ranked even lower, but his defense makes him a starter.
22. Casper Wells: Cheap platoon player, with some decent base running/defensive skills. Unless the Mariners find some real outfield help, he is an important part of the 2013 Mariners.
23. Francisco Martinez: He is still too young for me to give up on him. You can see the tools and ability, he just has to hit and put it all together.
24. Blake Beavan: Obviously Beavan’s inability to miss bats is frustrating, and ideally, you don’t want him in the starting rotation. However, there is a good chance that he will start the year there and he is still cheap with a lot of team control.
25. Hector Noesi: Obviously if you thought that Noesi would be a starter for the Mariners, (I have advocated him being used in the bullpen from day 1) you are disappointed. However, his stuff is too good for him to not succeed out of the bullpen, and he still has a lot of team control.
26. Oliver Perez: Re-signed a 1 year 3 million dollar deal in the off-season, which I liked. Even if he repeats his 2012 success, the value is somewhat limited, with other good left-handed relievers owned by the Mariners and the fact that he will be a free agent again at the end of the season.
27. Shawn Kelley: Certainly a capable piece in the bullpen, coming off a good season. Health is important and the Mariners have a lot of good relievers. Trades may be in order to get some value from what seems like a surplus.
28. Justin Smoak: Honestly, who knows where to rank this guy? He got really hot at the end of the year, but having him as the starting 1st baseman going in to start the season would be a disappointment. Mark Reynolds signing with the Indians hurts, but there is still a couple of options out there.
29. Lucas Luetge: Another good lefty bullpen piece, Luetge was a good Rule 5 pickup. Now, the Mariners could actually send him to Tacoma if they wanted to, and that may be where he ends up, at least to start the year.
30. Josh Kinney: Ideally a low leverage type guy, Eric Wedge definitely loved him. His delivery and constant sliders makes him somewhat hard to watch, and he isn’t going to provide a ton of value, but he was tendered a contract and I agree with the decision.
31. Chance Ruffin: He pitched better as the season went along, and would have to flop massively not to pitch in the Majors in 2013 (even though there isn’t a lot of room for him).
32. Vinnie Catricala: New to the 40 man, no defensive value, moving from third would be basically the death kneel to his value, but staying there and playing really bad defensively won’t help either. He really has to hit in Tacoma this year.
33. Bobby Lafromboise: You can never have enough pitching, but Lafromboise is the 4th reliever on the list and the 3rd of which is basically a LOOGY. There is some value there, but I am not real sure that they needed to add him to the 40 man. Similar pitcher Brian Moran was not taken in the Rule 5.
34. Robert Andino: Andino has less team control than Trayvon Robinson did, and we now know Andino can’t really hit, while there is still some potential for Robinson. I am still not sold on Andino’s defense, and he is out of options.
35. Eric Thames: I think he most likely starts the year in Tacoma, especially if they add another outfielder along with Bay. The extra option does give him some flexibility, but I just think that his lack of speed/defense/plate discipline will prevent him from becoming a very useful big league player. The ceiling is platoon slugger.
36. D.J. Mitchell: The player on the 40 man from the Ichiro trade, Mitchell’s stuff is sub par, but he may develop into a swingman thanks to pitchability, and he has options and team control.
37. Yeorvis Medina: Medina is just caught in a place where there are too many relievers on the roster. He really needs to be impressive in Tacoma this year. He has a good fastball, he just needs to gain some polish and command.
38. Alex Liddi: He takes a huge drop since I have come to the conclusion that he is not a big league player. He has no real position and has yet to really impress with the bat. I can’t see any way that he makes the 25 man roster out of spring training.
39. Jason Bay: As I wrote in my article on him, I am just not sold that he will help much. Not a good defender or baserunner, you are expecting a guy in his mid 30s to hit like he did when he was 29 to really have any value.
40. Carlos Peguero: He isn’t worth a 40 man roster spot, I would have designated him for assignment already. You can find AAA sluggers that won’t hit in the big leagues without using a 40 man spot. Assuming they sign someone else to a big league deal, Peguero should be the guy that goes.