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The Mariners' lack of utility

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The twenty-fifth roster spot is being left to rot on the Mariners' roster, and it's a luxury they can't afford.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Mariners roster has bloat. This is not a pathetic attempt at a Dae-Ho Lee joke. Girth is not the same as bloat. Also Dae-Ho Lee is a treasure. Clap on.

Dae Ho Clap

With a dedicated first base and corner outfield platoon, every single spot on the Mariners' 25 man roster is a precious commodity. All the players on this team need to have a clear, definable utility or purpose; a role they fill more capably than any other candidate in the organization, while also balancing the present/future considerations of the club ably. This brings us to Luis Sardinas.

It made sense for Sardinas to break camp with the team. The former top-100 prospect had an excellent Spring, and largely outplayed Chris Taylor and Shawn O'Malley for Seattle's final roster spot. Ketel Marte was (and is, to an extent) still largely an unknown quantity, Robinson Cano was coming off of surgery, and first base was a mystery. The logic was easy to follow.

In practice, however, Scott Servais and the coaching staff have made it clear they don't see Sardinas as a viable part of the roster. He has started one game since April 20th, has twenty-four plate appearances on the season, and has seen his role diminished to late inning pinch runner/defensive substitute in blow outs. His primary defensive positions of 2B/3B/SS are all occupied by players who pride themselves on playing everyday, and who are playing at a level ranging from league average to Robinson Cano. Spot starts in the infield are going to be few and far between.

It's not an uncommon spot on a team, I'll grant you. The Willie Bloomquist Role, as we could probably coin it. The problem is that filling it with Luis Sardinas is neither best for the team nor the player. At twenty-two, with a bat that is still begging for development in Triple A, Sardinas has a chance, albeit a small one, to still develop into an everyday major league player.

With his best skill (infield utility) not a primary need on this roster, and his development stalled, it's best for the team and Sardinas to send him to Tacoma, and let him play everyday. So who should replace him? I see three candidates:

Chris Taylor

The easiest, and most Sardinas-like solution is to call up Chris Taylor. Like Sardinas, Taylor's primary positions are all over the infield, where he has flashed a league average to above glove at shortstop both in Tacoma and his brief times in Seattle. Unlike Sardinas, Taylor is twenty-five, and over the the past three seasons has put up a wRC+ of 133, 124, and 147 in Tacoma.

Whether Chris Taylor can be a quality everyday major leaguer is still in question, but he appears to have little left to learn in the minor leagues. He slots into the utility role, while Sardinas is given a chance to season further with regular playing time.

Shawn O'Malley

A personal favorite of mine, for reasons logical and illogical in equal measure, the Pride of Richland, and Kennewick, but NOT Pasco, has torn up PCL pitching in 2016, posting a .422 OBP and 147 wRC+ while continuing to play a variety of positions with his Willie Bloomquist-on-a-Golden-Mario-Kart-Mushroom style of play. At twenty-eight, in his eleventh season of professional baseball, O'Malley surely has no delusions of his place in the game, and would gladly acquit himself to whichever role the team asks. Unlike Sardinas or Taylor, O'Malley can also spot start as a RHH in center fielder to spell Leonys Martin without going full Nori Aoki. Never go full Aoki.

O'Malley's ceiling is, by far, the lowest of potential call up candidates. However, the utility/pinch runner/defensive sub role isn't one best used on hot young prospects anyway. Shawn O'Malley would provide the Mariners with much of the things they tried to tell themselves for years that Willie Bloomquist gave them, and they won't be harming his or anyone else's development in the process.

Stefen Romero

The longshot is everyone's third or fourth favorite Oregon State Beaver, Stefen Romero. Like Taylor and O'Malley Romero's bat appears to be ready to graduate from Tacoma. He has a wRC+ of 197, and is slugging .663. It is very likely that of all the players discussed in this article Romero has the highest offensive ceiling.

The problem? Well, his glove has no place on this roster. Romero's defense is "passable" at a corner outfield spot and, maybe if you squint, at first base. The Mariners don't need a part time, right-handed, corner outfielder or first baseman. They have a lot of those already, actually, and they are all better than Stefen Romero. I understand that Adam Lind's slow start and -0.8 fWAR (!) is frustrating to watch, but there simple is no place for Romero on this roster, barring significant injury.

*****

With a good but somewhat unwieldy roster of position players, the Mariners must seek to wring every possible drop of efficiency out of the roster spots they have available. The facts are telling us that Luis Sardinas isn't going to play, and if that's the case the team and the player are best served by sending him to Tacoma. In his place they should seek not necessarily the best player, but the best fit for the holes on the roster, while also balancing the development of a precariously thin farm system.

It's a juggling of present and future, organizational and player interests. It's hard, it's imprecise, and it's a decision that needs to be made sooner rather than later.

goms
(gobiz)