Restoring the rosters: No. 1 – Seattle

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
No. 9 – Toronto
No. 8 – Boston
No. 7 – Colorado
No. 6 – Montreal/Washington
No. 5 – New York (AL)
No. 4 – Philadelphia
No. 3 – Atlanta
No. 2 – Los Angeles (NL)
We finally made it. Here’s what, in my estimation, is the best roster that can be produced using only players originally signed by each team. That the Mariners top the rankings was certainly an unexpected result. Everyone knows about the superstars the organization has produced, but this is an outstanding club top to bottom.
Rotation
Felix Hernandez
Derek Lowe
Gil Meche
Joel Pineiro
Ryan Rowland-Smith
Bullpen
Rafael Soriano
Brian Fuentes
George Sherrill
Ryan Franklin
Matt Thornton
J.J. Putz
Mark Lowe
The rotation doesn’t quite match up with the Dodgers’ group, but there’s a true ace in King Felix and I don’t think Pineiro’s big season is a fluke at all. He’s actually the No. 2 starter in this group right now. Rowland-Smith claims the fifth spot over Brandon Morrow, Mike Hampton and Chris Tillman. The underrated left-hander has gone 6-4 with a fine 3.68 ERA in 22 career starts for Seattle.
The incredible bullpen includes four pitchers who have spent the bulk of this year as closers, plus one of the game’s top lefty setup men in Thornton. Morrow, who opened the year as Seattle’s closer, doesn’t even crack the list. Not does Damaso Marte, who is less than a year removed from getting a $12 million deal with the Yankees.
Lineup
RF Ichiro Suzuki
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
LF Shin-Soo Choo
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Raul Ibanez
CF Adam Jones
DH David Ortiz
2B Jose Lopez
C Jason Varitek
Bench
OF Ken Griffey Jr.
INF Omar Vizquel
INF-OF Willie Bloomquist
C Kenji Johjima
Yes, David Ortiz — or David Arias, as he was known then — was originally a Mariner. After he hit .322/.390/.511 for low Single-A Wisconsin in 1996, he was traded to Minnesota for Dave Hollins.
Cabrera was traded for Eduardo Perez. Choo was traded for Ben Broussard. Jones, Sherrill and Tillman were traded for Erik Bedard. Varitek and Lowe were traded for Heathcliff Slocumb. Soriano was traded for Horacio Ramirez. Thornton was traded for Joe Borchard.
Even with Varitek, Griffey and Vizquel long past their primes and Ortiz obviously on the downside as well, this is an excellent lineup with no real liabilities. There were no tough calls to make, except perhaps at catcher. But Varitek and Johjima should split time rather evenly there.
I’m not sure Griffey is really worth the bench spot at this point. Greg Dobbs is probably the better option, and there’s also Jeff Clement. Still, he is Griffey. Ramon Vazquez was a possible alternative to Vizquel and Bloomquist.
Summary
So, the No. 1 team in baseball at producing talent hasn’t gone to the postseason since 2001 and has never played in a World Series. Since a strong four-season run that ended in 2003, the team has finished in last place four times. This is shaping up as just the second season over .500 in six years.
Something else happened after 2003. Pat Gillick stepped down after a four-year run with the Mariners and was replaced by Bill Bavasi, who will have to go down as history as one of the worst general managers in baseball history. Cabrera, Choo, Jones, Sherrill, Soriano and Thornton were all shipped off on his watch. Also, there was the Carlos Guillen-for-Ramon Santiago deal, which, while meaningless in these rankings, qualifies as another extreme example of Bavasi’s incompetence.
The Mariners are just now beginning their recovery from a Bavasi era that lasted far too long and never even should have started in the first place. New GM Jack Zduriencik was largely responsible for the talent infusion in Milwaukee, and he’s off to a good start in Seattle. The team probably won’t take quite as much of a step forward in 2010 as it has this year, but things are clearly looking up, even if just six of the 25 players here are still around.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.