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.

Marlins still searching for starting pitching depth

Aaron Harang
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Marlins would like to add “another pitcher or two” before pitchers and catchers report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Among starting pitchers available, Kyle Lohse, Aaron Harang, and Alfredo Simon are candidates for the Marlins, but they may hold out for the possibility of inking a major league contract. Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee are other potential candidates, per Frisaro.

This offseason, the Marlins signed Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year, $80 million deal and Edwin Jackson for the major league minimum. The back of the rotation, though, is still a question mark as Jarred Cosart, Adam Conley, and Justin Nicolino will compete with Jackson for two spots. David Phelps is dealing with an elbow injury and may or not be ready by Opening Day, but he could function in a swingman capacity as well.

Shocker: Bruce Bochy tabs Madison Bumgarner to start Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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You might want to sit down for this news. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has tabbed ace Madison Bumgarner to start on Opening Day in Milwaukee against the Brewers, CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic reports. Shocking, I know.

The Giants had a busy offseason, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the starting rotation, but neither had a shot at getting the Opening Day nod considering what Bumgarner has done for the Giants over the last five seasons.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the 26-year-old lefty compiled a 3.05 ERA with 1,034 strikeouts and 239 walks across 1,050 innings. Among starters who logged at least 800 innings in that span of time, only Clayton Kershaw, Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Felix Hernandez have posted lower ERAs.  And Bumgarner is the only one among them with a championship ring. In fact, he has three.

Tony Clark is not happy so many players remain unsigned

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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We’re almost halfway through February. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training soon. And yet, there are more than a handful of solid free agents that remain unsigned. Among them: Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, and Dexter Fowler. All three have draft pick compensation tied to them, as each rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from his respective former team. That, undoubtedly, is a reason why they haven’t inked a contract yet.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark is unhappy about this reality and expects to discuss potential changes when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The current CBA expires after the 2016 season. Per the Associated Press, Clark said last week, “I think it’s disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining.”

Clark also mentioned, among other things, the possibility of a draft lottery, which would take away the incentive for teams to “tank”, or lose on purpose. The Astros and Phillies have notably done this in recent years, finishing with baseball’s worst record and thus netting the #1 overall draft pick.

These are, however, simply two items of many that will be discussed during the upcoming offseason. It will be interesting to see what solutions are eventually put in place.

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.