What moves could we see the Mariners make?

Jul 9, 2012, 12:07 AM | Updated: 11:02 am

By Shannon Drayer

After Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the A’s in 13 innings, Eric Wedge held a brief team meeting. It was not an impromptu meeting; it had been on the board all morning as part of the day’s schedule and unfortunately, I am pretty sure the meeting went as planned. Perhaps another 7-1 win would have changed the script heading into the break a bit, but the one-run output was all too familiar.

We are at the break and changes should be coming. Just what changes we will see remains to be seen, but let’s take a look at what options Wedge and Jack Zduriencik have at this time.

I have read your comments and suggestions of what you think should be done. This post has little to do with what should happen. It is more about what realistically could be done taking into account what the Mariners have right now at Triple-A and what their focus is on as an organization.

Let’s start with that focus. The priority this season has been to identify and advance the “core guys,” the guys that Zduriencik ultimately hopes to add to and build around going forward. In talking with Zduriencik last week, it became clear that he is not ready to declare anyone to be anything at this point. The midpoint of the season is not an endpoint for his evaluations, which ultimately will take the entire season. That said, some players have seemed to stall in their development and if this is what is seen by the organization, then it most likely is time to send them down.

Many of you have noted in your comments and emails on the subject that moves can’t be made because there is no one at Triple-A who will do any better than those they are replacing. This shouldn’t be a consideration. If this year is truly about developing the young players, which it is and at this point really cannot be anything else, then it must be remembered that what is best for the young players may not result in wins this year. That doesn’t mean that other moves can’t be made to help the team win, but the majority of those would involve trades, which are more unpredictable than in-house moves.

The M’s could get by with two catchers if they decide to send down rookie Jesus Montero, who has struggled at the plate after a strong start. (AP)

The young players that should be discussed here are Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak. Three key pieces of what the Mariners hope to be the young core going forward. Three key pieces locked in various stages of ugly struggles. There are different things going on with all three.

For Smoak, the number one concern is his swing, with his pitch selection a close second. The swing is long and he will be the first to admit he has fallen into some other bad habits at the plate.

For Ackley, there are some swing issues as well as a tendency to get caught in between. He often talks about the need to be more aggressive at the plate yet he leads the team in strikeouts. I repeat, he leads the team in strikeouts. That should give you a clue as to how far off he is. He says he feels close, and that success at this point is just a matter of taking what he is doing in batting practice into the games. It clearly isn’t as easy as that.

Then there is Montero. I expected to see a more polished hitter in when he came over from New York. He got off to a good start but is just 3 of his last 29 and has hit just two home runs since May 12. Just as rare for Montero are walks. After walking 10 times in May he has walked just twice since. The most disturbing thing I have seen is his inability to go the opposite way with any kind of regularity. This has been his game since childhood and now it is a struggle. How much of a struggle? On the last homestand he was out on the field hitting off a tee trying to go the other way.

When you look at all three it is tough to say that any one is any less out of their baseball character, if you will, than the other. The question is, would time at Triple-A benefit any or all of them? That is the Mariners’ call. If they elect to do so there are moves that can be made.

Start with Montero. A move most likely wouldn’t even be necessary. Even before Montero suffered the concussion, Miguel Olivo was getting more and more starts behind the plate. If need be he can catch almost every day. For those of you who scream you don’t want to see Olivo behind the plate, I get it, but this is not about Olivo. It is about Montero’s development. Suck it up if it comes to this.

It is a bit risky going with just two catchers in this situation because John Jaso should be DHing quite a bit, but the reality of the situation is this: if something happens and they lose the DH for a portion of a game it is not a huge deal. They can get a catcher up from Tacoma the next day.

Should it be determined that Ackley is being sent down, a 40-man roster move most likely would be necessary. I have heard rave reviews from scouts about Nick Franklin but they have also said he is not ready for the big leagues. He too is a young player and should be treated as carefully as the core guys are. He should not be rushed. Carlos Triunfel is on the 40-man roster but I wouldn’t bring him up until he earns it. Shows more offense. If Ackley were to be sent down, I would hope to see a 40-man move (Yoervis Medina , who has survived a surprising number of 40-man cuts, or Mauricio Robles) to get Luis Rodriguez on the roster. Play him or Munenori Kawasaki at second until Ackley is ready to come back.

Smoak would be easy to replace. Bring up Alex Liddi until Mike Carp is ready. I don’t care what Liddi’s numbers are, he is on the 40-man and I don’t believe the up and down will hurt him. He has been through a lot of it already.

Three guys, three doable moves if deemed necessary.

Carlos Peguero most likely has until Franklin Gutierrez gets back to show more than he did in his first two games up. A starter, most likely Blake Beavan, will need to be brought up to cover an Erasmo Ramirez start after the break and either Josh Kinney or Steve Delabar (whose slider still needs work) would most likely be sent down.

What else could we see? Trades — sooner rather than later. I have heard from two separate sources that trades could figure prominently in the changes that we have been hearing about. If this is true then I would expect surprises.

I would imagine that Brendan Ryan could be available. Brandon League has been available but hasn’t been helping his cause at all. He could be a waiver deal after the trade deadline. I don’t see the Mariners giving up Kevin Millwood or Olivo without getting something of some significance back as Millwood can help win games in the second half and Olivo is insurance against Montero not being ready.

If Jason Vargas has a couple more strong outings he may bring something back in trade but I wouldn’t hold my breath. There were no takers for him last year and this year he is more expensive. He also is second only to Justin Verlander in innings pitched this year and leads the league in home runs given up. He would be viewed as a risk regardless of how he is pitching.

I mentioned this on the postgame show two weeks ago and it has been written about and discussed since, but if the Mariners want to get something of significance back in trade and not move a prized prospect or Felix Hernandez, then their best bet may be to trade Tom Wilhelmsen . This would hurt but it would be dealing from an area of organizational strength. This organization under Zduriencik has shown year-in and year-out the ability to identify and develop closers. In the long term he would be replaceable.

These are just the obvious moves. I think we may see more, although I don’t think we will see a move that involves Felix.

Then, of course, there is Chone Figgins. He is still here and I have no idea for how long.

So there you go, a somewhat quick look at what could happen. Unless there is a trade I don’t anticipate hearing about any moves until Thursday at the earliest, when the team holds a workout. Stay tuned.

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What moves could we see the Mariners make?