With the Yankees and Mariners set to kick off a three-game set at Yankee Stadium tonight, weather permitting, Scott Weber of Lookout Landing was kind enough to answer a couple questions about the Mariners, a couple of our old former friends, and those never-ending trade rumors about Nick Franklin. I also answered some questions for Scott, which you can read by clicking here and heading over to Lookout Landing. I gush about Masahiro Tanaka, worry a little about Michael Pineda, and recite the story of the hero of our time, Yangervis Solarte.
Onto the Q&A!
1. The Mariners gave Robinson Cano a contract that far exceeded what the Yankees were willing to give their homegrown superstar. What were your feelings on the signing when it happened? Have those feelings changed at all now?
My feelings on the Cano contract are about the same as they were before. It isn't going to be worth it in the later years, but he should deliver close value early on. It was always about changing the culture in Seattle more than anything else, avoiding the stigma. The Mariners had their crack at a superstar and they took it, knowing that a sure thing is sometimes better than gambling on several individual pieces only to find out they had no interest, much like it seemed (thankfully) with Nelson Cruz. It's hard to worry too much about it now, Cano is such a pure hitter and a joy to watch that I will manage up the proper amount of concern when he starts to show signs of decline. Despite a slow start, I don't have any concerns yet.
2. With Michael Pineda finally making it back to the majors after recovering from shoulder surgery and finding quite a bit of success early on, do you have any hope left that Jesus Montero's career can help salvage that trade in your mind?
There's some, and I wrote about it a bit yesterday. (http://www.lookoutlanding.com/2014/4/28/5661558/jesus-montero-doing-things-in-tacoma) At this point, Montero has zero expectations. Nobody expects him to succeed, and the organization has pretty much moved on without him. But he's starting to hit in Tacoma, finally dominating a minor league level. He was always very good in the minors, but never great. The disclaimer was that he was young for the level, but it's good to see him really starting to impose his will. All the weight issues, the concerns about being lazy and unfocused, it just doesn't matter if he can't hit. He has to hit. Now, he's hitting, but it's also paired with a lot of strikeouts and not a lot of walks. Who knows. He has to develop into a hell of a hitter to justify the deal, even after Pineda's injuries and the pine tar. Montero is only 24, but he feels like he's 27. He's younger than many prospects who have yet to make their debut. His path isn't completed yet.
3. Everyone is familiar with how good Felix Hernandez has been and continues to be. How do you feel about the results from the other probable pitchers for this series, Chris Young and Roenis Elias, so far this season? What should Yankee batters expect to see from them?
Chris Young is an extreme fly ball pitcher who only throws in the mid 80s. You'd think he would get shelled, but his length allows the ball to appear faster than it really is, and somehow he's managed to make a career out of giving up long fly balls that stay in the park. That, as you can imagine, probably won't play very well in Yankee Stadium. Young has danced around the advanced metrics his entire career, keeping his ERA under his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. His batted ball profiles make him look like one of the worst pitchers in the league, but he's been solid, even late in his career, with his current skillset. It still feels like he's hanging on by a thread at all times.
Roenis Elias is an enigma, jumping up from AA and filling a spot nobody expected him to. He's our own sort of Yangervis Solarte. He'll come at batters with nasty breaking stuff, but consistency is key with him. He's bounced around a bunch of different arm angles/release points through his career, and making them more repeatable was something the Mariners really worked to fix. The returns have been tremendous so far, and while the ERA will probably come a little bit up from where it is now, he really looks like he could be a rotation staple for the Mariners this year as they deal with tons of arm injuries. He can be devastating against lefties when he locates his curveball on the inner half.
4. Nearly a month into the season, what do you think is the biggest strength of the Mariners? What is their biggest weakness so far?
The strength is their ability to stay respectable while the rotation is without Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton. That's it, really. They aren't doing a ton of things well outside of a few players, but are finding ways to stay afloat, at least somewhat, through a very difficult April. The weakness, as it has been in many years, is the offense. While Kyle Seager is now on fire, Brad Miller has struggled immensely, Abraham Almonte is not the player the Mariners hoped he would be, and Dustin Ackley is starting to sputter again. The outfield is thin and doesn't offer much in terms of defense. Corey Hart has been a bright spot, decidedly less rusty than a lot of us expected he would be.
5. Nick Franklin has been the subject of trade rumors for months. Do you think the Mariners move him at some point this season? What kind of hypothetical return would you expect if they did?
At this point, I have no idea what the Mariners are doing with Nick Franklin, and I'm not sure they do either. They didn't get the kind of offers they wanted, so they held onto him. He then only played second base and shortstop in AAA, killed it, earned a call-up, and played all over the field in scattered starts. It didn't go great, and they demoted him but not until after they stuck him in the outfield, since it's really the only position he can play for the Mariners in the future assuming Brad Miller fixes himself. He still hasn't played a game in the outfield in the minors. There's just no room for him, but he's still a young and promising player with a lot of offensive potential. If he can play the outfield, the Mariners might just hold onto him, giving their lack of depth in the organization at the position.
It's just tough because the Mariners don't really need more prospects at this point. They need immediate help, and a contending team that would want to trade for him wouldn't want to give up one of their current contributors just to get Franklin. It might happen, or it might not. But if they don't deal him this year, his value might take a dive as a post-hype guy. The most important thing for the Mariners, and Franklin, is to continue dominating in AAA.