It had seemed like the offseason was pretty much over, even though there was theoretical room for another addition to the roster. Everyone had mostly forgotten about Rickie Weeks, despite his 127 wRC+ in 2014 after being heavily platooned. It feels like Weeks is about 35 given that he debuted in 2003, but he's still only 32 and there's life left in the bat, at least when utilized correctly. A 97 wRC+ and 85 wRC+ combined with awful defense at second base through 2012 and 2013 put a death knell on his future as a starting second baseman, which is why he lost his job to Scooter Gennett. Furthermore, he refused to play in the outfield, something that surely hurt him in free agency. Or at least made him wait until April 11th to sign.
Signing Weeks to a 1 year, $2 million deal means a lot of things for the Mariners, and rounds out an offseason that is surely now complete, barring a major trade or injury. Here's what you need to know.
Willie Bloomquist isn't ready, gone, or one of Chris Taylor or Brad Miller is headed to AAA.
With Weeks being added as a backup, there's simply no room for Bloomquist on this roster if the Mariners decide to rotate Miller and Taylor like they did down the stretch in 2014. If Bloomquist isn't ready to return from his microfracture surgery soon (of which there's been rumblings that's the case), then both Taylor and Miller will have to make the opening day roster, simply because there's nobody else who would be able to back up shortstop. We'll see what comes of this in spring training, but my best guess is that Bloomquist won't be ready in time, and may find himself out of a role in favor of Weeks/Miller/Taylor when he's healthy. Then again, if they stash him on the disabled list and Weeks struggles, they'll be able to bring him back to replace Weeks. Insurance, all over the place.
Somebody is getting DFA'd.
My money is on Edgar Olmos.
The Mariners will open with a 7-man bullpen.
This is pretty much set in stone now. The only way eight men in the pen worked was if the Mariners didn't add anybody else and one of Taylor, Miller, or Bloomquist didn't make the opening 25-man roster. By adding another guaranteed contract on the position player side, two of the current batch is out. In no particular order:
- Fernando Rodney
- Yoervis Medina
- Charlie Furbush
- Carson Smith
- Danny Farquhar
- Tom Wilhelmsen
- Dominic Leone
- David Rollins (Rule 5)
- Erasmo Ramirez
Barring injuries, Erasmo Ramirez is getting traded or claimed by somebody else.
This is the second piece of bullpen fallout. The only way Ramirez is going to crack the already too-full rotation was if a couple people got hurt, and the only way he was making the bullpen as a long man was if they carried eight, as there's little chance he makes it over any of the top seven above. Since Ramirez is out of options, the Mariners will most likely carry him through spring training as insurance, then try to deal him to a team that needs a replacement starter on the cheap.
The Mariners wanted (and got) insurance, and Rickie Weeks is going to play outfield and first base.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how concerned I was that the Mariners hadn't secured enough depth on the roster, particularly behind Logan Morrison at first base. This is their remedy for that, along with the outfield, which was another point of very worrisome depth. Somehow, the M's managed to make their contingency plans at first base and the corner outfield with a player who hasn't played anywhere but second base. It's outside the box, it's risky, but it's also quite clever. Weeks' unwillingness to play anywhere but second makes him a potential bargain in this regard, and while he's hardly a lock for even adequate production if forced into a full-time role anywhere, this is a team that played James Jones, Stefen Romero, Endy Chavez, Cole Gillespie, Abraham Almonte, and Chris Denorfia in 349 games last year. Collectively, they were an unmitigated disaster. Weeks isn't going to be a door-buster impact player, but this is addition by subtraction. If he can even be replacement level, he'll improve on what the M's struggled to replace a year before. Again, the M's are working hard to improve their baseline. This isn't the kind of year where you roll the dice with depth like Stefen Romero yet again.
Jesus Montero, Endy Chavez, and James Jones will likely begin the year in AAA.
Montero's only shot of making the roster was at DH (filled by Nelson Cruz) or to backup first base (which will likely now belong to Dustin Ackley and Rickie Weeks.) The same goes for Chavez and Jones, who only had a shot if the M's carried seven in the bullpen and didn't acquire another outfielder.
The Mariners are going to platoon a lot.
Here's the big takeaway. Instead of splashing on multiple high-priced free agents or trades, the M's have opted to fill up the roster with lefty-mashers, starting with Nelson Cruz, moving to Justin Ruggiano, and ending with Rickie Weeks. Assuming full health, Weeks will find plenty of places to start against left-handed pitching. While Weeks hasn't exactly mashed LH pitching over the last three years (.775 OPS), he did it last year (.865) and if he's afforded the right opportunities, he can find starts in place of Dustin Ackley and Logan Morrison when the team faces a lefty. It's no secret that lefties shredded the M's last year, and now that the offseason is coming to a close it's apparent that balancing the lineup was this offseason's top priority.
This is a good move.
The Mariners desperately needed another semi-quality option in the outfield and first base given the inconsistency and injuries at each position. Rickie Weeks isn't going to shock the world or suddenly turn back into the hitter he was from 2009-2011, but there's a very good chance he upgrades on the current batch of alternate options the Mariners were currently faced with. The real question here is if Weeks can turn into an adequate corner outfielder, which remains to be seen. But for the cost and need for improved insurance, there's nothing to dislike about this one.