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49-52/Transaction Review

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UPDATE: uh, forget everything I say about Chris Snelling in this post, because apparently he's the one returning to Tacoma, not Dobbs (at least temporarily). Whoops.

I can't remember the last time being a Mariners fan made me this happy. I've seen them make good trades (no, really), and I've seen them win big games, but I don't know that the two have ever happened at the same time. Certainly not during my lifetime. When the biggest complaint you can make is that George Sherrill got squeezed on an inconsequential 3-2 fastball, you know it's been a good day.

The Mariners just finished 6-6 on a twelve-game stretch against three of the best teams in baseball. Three of the losses came in extra innings. One of them never should have happened in the first place. They did this despite giving 37 plate appearances to Carl Everett, easily the worst player on the team (he hit .194/.216/.278 in said PA's). Now the schedule gets easier and Everett has been replaced by a two-headed Eater of Souls while Joel Pineiro begins to prepare for what may be his last ever start in a Seattle uniform. Make no mistake: things are looking up.

The Mariners have six games against Cleveland and Baltimore before returning home for a critical series against Oakland. Over the same stretch, the A's get Toronto and Anaheim, the cute, harmless Angels get Boston and Oakland, and the Rangers get Kansas City before colliding with a white-hot Minnesota. With the tougher opponents behind them, now is the time for the M's to get rolling and take a little momentum into the Oakland series, which stands the potential of being absolutely huge. And while it's one thing to say that a 49-52 team needs to get rolling, it's quite another when that same 49-52 team is markedly better than its record would indicate. With the worst hitter on the team replaced by a platoon that should make DH the most potent slot in the lineup, and with the acquisition of another arm seemingly on the horizon if the next few games go well, the Mariners are starting to look like a legitimately good team. Get excited.

Chart it:

Biggest Contribution: Richie Sexson, +10.0%
Biggest Suckfest: Jose Lopez, -7.4%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez double, +10.6%
Most Important Pitch: Johnson DP, +16.6%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +14.6%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +28.4%

(What is this?)

After the way the game went, it would be easy to forget about the afternoon we all had, but, man, what an afternoon it was. When I think about the upgrade from Carl Everett to Ben Broussard/Eduardo Perez, I don't know if it's more satisfying to look at the actual numbers or to just remember how bad Everett's looked since he got here and imagine that there's no way on Earth that Broussard/Perez will be anything less than nine billion times better than that. I feel like I need to echo what Dave already said - we got rid of the worst hitter on the team and just about replaced him with an MVP-caliber platoon.

Carl Everett can't hit anymore. That much should be obvious to everyone by this point. He can't hit lefties, he can't hit righties, he can't hit in Safeco, and he can't hit on the road. When you're a baseball player who can't hit, you need to be able to field or at least play multiple positions to remain employed. Carl can't do that either. Let's take a look at the five different possible player types:

(1) Can hit, can field
(2) Can hit, can't field
(3) Can't hit, can field
(4) Can't hit, can't field
(5) Can't hit, can't field, is batshit crazy

Numbers 1-3 are guaranteed to find work. Number 4 might be able to if he has a good attitude and excels at things like calling for pop-ups and replacing the water cooler when it's empty. Number 5 gets to sit on his ass by the phone, swearing under his breath at all the GM's who don't give him a second thought and the agent who won't return his calls. That's Carl. That should've been Carl months ago, and the fact that he was able to hang around for even this long is a piss stain all over the season, but when your manager hand-selects a player to be on his roster, you're obligated to give that player a longer leash than you would anyone else, and in any case, it's better late than never.

So what do Broussard/Perez bring to the table, other than both halves of Cleveland's Opening Day 1B platoon? Well, qualifications, mainly, which is more than you could say for their predecessor. As we've talked about, Perez has a 1.041 OPS against lefties this season, and .890 for his career, while Broussard's at .982 and .833 against righties. Used properly (and there's no reason to expect them not to be), both of them are legitimate mashers, and while there may be some doubt regarding Broussard's development, he did hit .285/.395/.524 in the minors, so it's not like this production came out of nowhere. It's also worth pointing out that Safeco is a much better fit for Broussard than Jacobs Field, which has consistently played as a bad environment for left-handed hitters. I'll pull some numbers out of the 2006 Bill James Handbook:

Jacobs Field:

LHB-Avg: 94
LHB-HR: 79

Safeco Field:

LHB-Avg: 94
LHB-HR: 119

(Park factors are for the years 2003-2005, where 100 represents the average, and anything above it favors the hitters.)

Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez are going to hit. They're not just stopgap solutions either, as the former is under contract through 2008 and the latter through 2007. As of right now, the Mariners don't need to worry about their DH slot for another year and a half. They also have the option of exploring a Sexson trade this winter and moving the platoon to first if they so desire, so it's not like Bavasi is locked into anything.

Here's where it gets even more fun. One of the ways to exploit a platoon is by going to the bullpen for an opposite-handed pitcher, requiring the opposing manager to pinch-hit. Do that twice and he's left without either of his options, having to go to someone else on the bench. And rather than that bat being Greg Dobbs or Willie Ballgame or Rene Rivera or whoever, now it's Chris Snelling, who'll still be hitting ten years after he's dead, and who exhibits no particular platoon split. Put simply, Hargrove shouldn't find himself ever having to send the wrong DH to the plate for the rest of the year, barring some lengthy extra-inning contests. Perez shouldn't face many righties and Broussard shouldn't face many lefties because we've got a guy sitting on the bench who's perfectly capable of hitting them both, and who doesn't really have any other job. I guess the fear here is that Hargrove isn't close to being creative enough to do something like this, and that's perfectly legitimate, but at least in theory, we're looking pretty well-off.

Right now, Adam Jones is the only weak spot in the lineup, but unlike Everett, Jones actually has the potential to catch fire and carry the team on his back for a week until pitchers start throwing him curveballs again. If and when Jones heats up, this is going to be a dangerous batting order 1-through-9, with some weapons on the bench to counter calls to the bullpen.

The only person capable of messing this up is Mike Hargrove.

So I guess the M's made two sacrifices today - (1) Chris Snelling playing every day, and (2) Shin-soo Choo. As far as #1 is concerned, while it's going to kill him to sit on the bench (you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who enjoys playing more than he does), it'll keep him healthier, and it's not like he's never going to play. He'll get his share of big at bats over the next 2+ months, and who knows, maybe if Hargrove grows tired of Adam Jones we'll see a platoon in center. A more imaginative manager might even call on Snelling to pinch-hit for Ibanez against tough lefties, but that's probably going too far. The point is, having Snelling available on the bench is going to help more than it hurts, as his mere presence protects the team against injuries to any one of Ibanez, Jones, Ichiro, Sexson, Broussard, and Perez while also offering one heck of a bat. I'm fine with it.

#2 is more a point of contention, but here's one way to look at it - do you think Choo is ever going to post a two-and-a-half-year stretch like the one Broussard's going to have for the M's? I don't think he is, and for that reason I like the deal. He's going to have his uses, as he's mastered the ability to hit right-handed PCL pitching, but someone who can't play center field, hit many home runs, or touch lefties is going to have a difficult time establishing himself as a quality regular. Cleveland's got the right idea bringing him directly to the big club to platoon against righties, but there's a pretty good chance that that's all he'll ever be able to do, so why not trade one platoon hitter with a little potential for another platoon hitter with a successful track record?

Shin-soo Choo, like Asdrubal Cabrera, has been obvious trade bait since before the year began. There just wasn't room for him in Seattle, so Bavasi gave him a chance somewhere else in exchange for a player we can actually use. It's a good trade for both sides. Forced to choose, I'd much rather make this deal over again than the Perez/Cabrera one, because Perez only plays a third of the time, and I have reasonably high hopes of Cabrera becoming a quality middle infielder. Broussard plays more, and I like Choo less than Cabrera, so I don't have a problem with this one. I'm actually pretty stoked.

Cynics will point out that we've essentially lost both Cabrera and Choo because Mike Hargrove refused to play Roberto Petagine. It makes sense - had Petagine been given a chance to establish himself, it's entirely possible (and plausible) that the DH would've been one of our strong suits instead of a weak spot. However, it became readily apparent pretty quickly that, for whatever reason, Petagine just wasn't going to play, so Bavasi was faced with two options: either do nothing and watch Everett make outs, or address the issue by essentially forcing Hargrove to play better hitters. It sucks that we're losing quality young players because our manager can't spell 'cat', but he was going to suck anyway, so it's not appropriate to think about it like that. And hey, if Cabrera and/or Choo turn into studs, feel free to blame their losses on Hargrove if it helps you sleep better at night.

Richie Sexson is starting to hit, Adrian Beltre is starting to hit, and the Mariners have a shiny new DH slot and fourth outfielder. Come Thursday (when Broussard joins the squad), this will be a much better team than it was last night. That's awesome.

...now, I'm going to be honest with you, after floating around on cloud nine for a while this afternoon, I came home and prepared myself for the misery of having to face AJ Burnett (particularly with Greg Dobbs and Rene Rivera in the lineup) - getting shut out going into a travel day is a great way to harsh a buzz. So imagine my surprise when pretty much everyone but Jose Lopez got into the act of clobbering the guy to the tune of ten hits and six runs in four innings. Short of Carl's absence motivating the team to try harder (either out of fear of being the next player cut or because he was just bad for morale), there was no reason to expect this kind of game, especially with the way Jamie looked in his previous start. Not that he was really that much better this time around, but where Moyer was able to limit the damage, Burnett wasn't, and that was the story. At least, I thought it was until Julio Mateo ruined Jamie's "Limited Damage Index" by plating his two inherited runners in the sixth, trimming the lead to three. He's the baseball equivalent of a Monopoly card that make you go to Chance without passing Go or collecting $200; he's capable of turning a comfortable contest into an anxious nail-biter, and in the end you've generally lost more than you've gained. That only two runs scored under his watch tonight was something of a blessing, because it could've been worse. It can always get worse.

It was all downhill from there - there was a bit of a hiccup in the eighth inning when the Jays loaded the bases with one out, but since Mark Lowe : pitching as Kaz Sasaki : drinking, it wasn't a big deal. Reed Johnson should thank his lucky stars that Lowe took it easy on him and only bothered inducing the double play, because it could've been even more embarrassing somehow. Maybe Lowe could've pantsed him beforehand. I dunno. He's the phenom, not me. JJ also stumbled a bit with consecutive singles to lead off the ninth, but he blew through Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay with some crazy heat (including one fastball that FSN registered at 100mph) before getting Gregg Zaun to fly out to end the game. It's funny - I feel like Putz has tailed off a little bit since that abortion in Yankee Stadium, but in his last three appearances he's struck out Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez again, Troy Glaus, and Lyle Overbay. He's fine.

Can't really work up the stamina to say anything else, so I'm going to bed. After the way today went, if someone were to walk in and take a picture of me while I'm asleep, I'll probably be smiling.

(But seriously, please don't.)

Felix, Jeremy Sowers, Friday, 4:05pm PDT.