No, Vlad Guerrero would not have helped last night

5 Comments

Earlier today I observed that the decision to sit Vlad Guerrero and play Nelson Cruz in right field was a good one by Ron Washington, because Cruz got to a couple of balls in the outfield in the early innings that Vlad never would have reached.  One of them came on a ball towards the gap with a runner on base that almost certainly would have scored a run. Another fly out likely would have dropped for extra bases and could have led to a second run. While those plays ended up not mattering a ton given the final score, they seemed pretty big at the time.

Yet Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News thinks that sitting Vlad was a mistake, because it left a hole in the lineup:

Without Guerrero, the Rangers went back to what they were in 2009, a donut of a team. They had a great big hole in the middle. It ended up resulting in nearly a dozen donuts on the scoreboard in a 9-0 loss in Game 2. Sure, no balls bounced around in the outfield and no errors were made, but the Rangers offense offered up only the sound of silence . . . For all the fury in Josh Hamilton’s bat and all the thunder and lightning supplied by Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler in the bottom half of the order, the lineup works because Guerrero gives it real girth.

“Girth?”  That’s a new one to me. But whatever, it’s a pretty empty sentiment here, because Guerrero’s “girth” hasn’t helped the Rangers all that much lately.

Yes, he has driven in some runs this postseason — 6 in 12 games — but he has not been a force or anything. He’s 13 for 49 in with three doubles.  He hit .278/.322/.426 with only seven homers in the second half of the regular season.  If you extrapolated that performance over a whole year you’d have yourself one substandard DH. To the extent he’s provided any girth, it was provided between April and early July. Not much since.

Grant is a really good writer and blogger, but in this case I think he’s doing what I’ve been doing a lot of for the past couple of years: remembering the Vlad Guerrero who used to be rather than the Vlad Guerrero who currently plays baseball for the Texas Rangers.  That latter fellow is someone whose bat in no way makes up for his glove and who shouldn’t get a sniff of the outfield for the rest of the series.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

Getty Images
2 Comments

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.