With just nine games left in the regular season, it's time we start seriously thinking about who the M's might bring on a potential postseason roster. First, let's figure out who would be eligible for the postseason roster in. The official rules for postseason eligibility are very long and boring so here's the short version: any player who was on the active roster or disabled list on August 31st is automatically eligible, no questions asked. Additionally, the Mariners are permitted to add two players who were in the minors on August 31st because Willie Bloomquist was placed on the 60-Day DL after August 31st and Roenis Elias is likely to be placed on the DL soon. This opens up roster spots for players such as Carson Smith, Humberto Quintero, Taijuan Walker, and the like should the M's choose to go that direction. With that in mind, let's begin.
Starting with the obvious: King Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Fernando Rodney are obviously going to be on the roster. Beyond that, Danny Farquhar seems very safe given his quietly solid performance this year. Tom Wilhelmsen's spot isn't being challenged by anyone since nobody can go multiple innings out of the bullpen as effectively as he can. Beyond those five, anything can happen.
Jack Z and McClendon deserve a ton of credit for squeezing some value out of this guy. I still have no idea how he does what he does, given his awful 4.89 K/9. He's been worth -0.2 fWAR, but keep in mind that Fangraphs WAR uses FIP instead of ERA. The only reason I can see the M's not taking him on the postseason roster is if they opt for only one lefty and decide they like Furbush better. That seems highly unlikely.
Paxton has essentially cemented his place on the roster with his dominance since his injury. Still, it's possible the Mariners decide they like Young better and only carry three starters into the postseason (and don't want Paxton as a reliever). A perfect storm that leaves him off the roster entirely seems pretty unlikely unless his health issues flare up again. Long live healthy Paxton.
I'm still puzzled by McClendon's unwavering faith in Medina. He seems like the most easily-expendable reliever on the team, yet he keeps getting thrust into important situations during games. And it's not like Medina is bad (2.29/3.26/3.61 line with 9.35 K/9), it's just that the rest of the bullpen is so good. Because of management's support of Medina, I find it very unlikely he doesn't end up on the roster. Especially after Bob Dutton's tweet the other night:
Can't see Medina being left off postseason roster. @thesportswizard I agree. He is playing really well and has outplayed medina— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) September 17, 2014
Dominic Leone/Brandon Maurer
These two have done fantastic jobs since being called up/converted to a reliever. Both have far exceeded any possible expectations. Unfortunately for them, they occupy similar roles (solid middle relief options with the ability to go multiple innings if need be). It's entirely possible the Mariners could take both, or one, or neither. They're likely the first ones to go if the M's decide to cut down on relievers.
Smith is the wild card. Since being called up during roster expansion, he's been amazing. If the M's decide to take extra relievers, he's a primary option. There's also a possibility they take him over someone like Leone/Maurer. It's hard not to get excited about this guy.
Given that the Mariners' only other lefty relief option is Beimel, Furbush's chances of making the roster are good despite a weird year for him (first on the team in K/9 with 10.35, but last in reliever ERA with 3.60). However, as said before, taking Paxton as a reliever in place of Furbush is always a possibility.
Chris Young/Taijuan Walker*
The Mariners certainly won't take five starters with them, but could they take four? And do they prefer Young or Paxton? How do Young and Walker perform in their last couple of starts? The answers to these questions will spell the fates of these two. If they're looking to take one as a starter, Young has the edge. If they want a reliever, Walker has a better shot.
That's 14 viable candidates. There's no way the Mariners take 14 pitchers, but could they take 13 or 12? Maybe the position players will help to sort this out.
Once again, let's knock out the obvious. Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino, Austin Jackson, and Logan Morrison are all in without question. Jesus Sucre is almost certainly in as well unless Humberto Quintero does something ridiculous in the next couple of weeks. Chris Taylor and Brad Miller are both making the team and will alternate starting at shortstop and serving as a utilityman. The rest?
Dustin Ackley/Michael Saunders
If fully healthy, there's little doubt either of these two would be left off the roster. Unfortunately, health has been a recent issue for both of them. Something that's also working against them is that they haven't been performing well recently (which could be health-related as well). A fully healthy Ackley/Jackson/Saunders postseason outfield would be a beautiful thing. A fully healthy Chavez/Jackson/Denorfia outfield? Not so much. Please don't let it come to that.
Believe it or not, Chavez has been basically a league-average hitter this year (97 wRC+). He's also been a better-than-average hitter for the Mariners (team wRC+ of 91). When you see it in that light, it becomes pretty hard to argue leaving him off the roster. Then again, he's still been worth -0.1 fWAR for the year.
The platoon outfielder has actually been worse against lefties this year than against righties (73 wRC+ vs 76 wRC+). Statistically, he doesn't have a whole lot going for him. However, management's continued use of him against lefties opens up the possibility of him being on the postseason roster.
Kendrys Morales/Justin Smoak*
If the Endy Chavez problem is considered a "good" problem to have, this is certainly a "bad" one. Morales has been horrid this year, yet he's been consistently batting fourth or fifth in the lineup. Smoak has also been horrible and it's highly likely that neither of them are in Mariner uniforms next year. Ultimately, Smoak has been better than Morales this season in every way imaginable. However, management loves Kendrys, and that's all that matters in the end.
This probably sounds a little crazy, but listen to this: James Jones was made for a postseason roster. He's the perfect pinch runner who can change the entire course of a game with his legs. In games with increased importance, that skill set is invaluable. Many games of postseasons past tell tales of young speedsters making huge impacts on the outcome of the game. It would be awesome if the M's could figure out a way to get Jones onto the roster.
The formation of the roster as a whole will be dependent on a lot of factors including the vision management has for the team. They could focus on keeping pitching fresh and effective by taking more relievers. They could focus on offensive match-ups and flexibility by taking more platoon players. Here's what the final postseason roster could end up looking like:
|SP||Felix Hernandez||C||Mike Zunino|
|SP||Hisashi Iwakuma||C||Jesus Sucre|
|SP||James Paxton||1B||Logan Morrison|
|SP||Chris Young||2B||Robinson Cano|
|RP||Fernando Rodney||SS||Chris Taylor|
|RP||Danny Farquhar||SS||Brad Miller|
|RP||Yoervis Medina||3B||Kyle Seager|
|RP||Tom Wilhelmsen||OF||Dustin Ackley|
|RP||Joe Beimel||OF||Michael Saunders|
|RP||Charlie Furbush||OF||Austin Jackson|
|RP||Dominic Leone||OF||Endy Chavez|
Feel free to comment with any thoughts or insights. Just the fact that we're able to discuss this is extremely exciting.
*Indicates player was not on Mariners' active roster as of August 31st.