The Mariners’ 2011 Rotation

Felix Hernandez may be the best pitcher in baseball, but you won't mistake any other Mariners starters for aces. Next year, some combination of current Seattle starters, prospects and free agent additions will likely follow Hernandez in the rotation. Here are the specifics.

We can safely assume that Jason Vargas and Doug Fister have earned tentative spots in next year's rotation. Vargas (3.55 ERA) and Fister (3.85 ERA) have been pleasant surprises in Seattle this year and will likely be back in the 2011 rotation.

Luke French and David Pauley have each started a handful of games for the M's this year, although it would be a surprise to see the Mariners hand either pitcher a rotation spot uncontested. French, who turns 25 later in the month, has a 4.13 ERA, but his strikeout rate (3.8 K/9), FIP (4.65) and xFIP (5.52) suggest his ERA is likely to rise. Pauley has a 51% ground ball rate, but he doesn't strike anyone out either (4.9 K/9). In fact, many Mariners starters have low strikeout rates; French, Pauley, Vargas and Fister all strike out 5.6 batters per nine or less.

The Mariners could turn to minor league right-hander Michael Pineda if they're looking to add another power arm to the rotation. The 21-year-old entered 2010 as the seventh-best prospect in the organization, according to Baseball America, and he has since had a tremendous season. Pineda posted a 3.36 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in the upper minors and the Mariners will presumably give him every opportunity to win a rotation job next spring.

Mauricio Robles and Blake Beavan have pitched well since joining the Mariners in recent mid-summer trades (the Jarrod Washburn and Cliff Lee deals). Robles, 21, has struck out more than a batter per inning in the upper minors (9.9 K/9), but has major command issues (4.7 BB/9). Baseball America suggested before the season that he could be a back-of-the-rotation starter, but Robles' future could just as easily be in the 'pen. Beavan, a 21-year-old right-hander, has flashed excellent command in the upper minors (1.1 BB/9), but like so many current Mariners, doesn't strike many opponents out (5.4 K/9). 

Ryan Rowland-Smith will go to arbitration for the first time this winter, but with a 6.96 ERA and more walks than strikeouts, Rowland-Smith won't have much of an arbitration case if the M's tender him a contract. Seattle could bring the left-hander back (probably for less than $1MM) and add him to the bullpen.

The Mariners will presumably decline the options for Ian Snell ($6.75MM option, likely non-tender) and Erik Bedard ($8MM mutual option, $250K buyout). It wouldn't be a surprise to see the team sign a free agent starter, though. Hernandez is a proven innings eater, but Vargas, Fister, Pineda, French and Pauley are not sure things, so the team may well be interested in signing a veteran starter to a short-term deal this offseason.

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12 Comments on "The Mariners’ 2011 Rotation"

5 years 1 day ago

Felix for the Cy Young!

5 years 1 day ago

What to do, what to do

5 years 1 day ago

“Next year, some combination of current Seattle starters, prospects and free agent additions”

You can use this to describe any rotation that’s not complete and utter trash that they have a mop-up guy in the rotation.

5 years 1 day ago

I think they’re selling Vargas a little short. I think his future is as a steady 3 guy and he’s done really well in that spot all year. Fister is a question for sure, but the stuff he showed prior to going on the DL was filthy. That’s a good nucleus of 3 starters. Ad Pineda to the mix and sign a FA starter (and guys like French) to battle for 5 spots and you should be good. The focus needs to be at the plate.

5 years 1 day ago

The rotation doesn´t matter for the M´s, they need offense, (maybe Kevin Millwood or Jarrod Washburn only), they need a DH like Dunn, they need a catcher, they need desperately a SS, I would like if Jack make a trade for a guy like Eduardo Nuñez or Brignac, Nick Franklin is young and Triunfel is a future third base, the outfield looks great, Ichi, Guti, and Saunders…

5 years 22 hours ago

In response to a few things:

a. “they need a DH like Dunn”

Doubtful they’ll have the money to afford Dunn, and Dunn may still want to play 1B, who knows? I think they may have as much as $8-$10 million for a DH, but not much more. We’ll have to wait and see. But they already have Milton Bradley under contract for 2011, so whoever they get will only be a platoon partner with Bradley in 2011, at best.

2. “they need a catcher”

They have one–he’s named Adam Moore, and while his upside may not be that of Carlos Santana, Buster Posey, or Matt Wieters, they like him enough to give him the starting job and 450 PA in 2011, I think. The only problem is that they paired him with Rob Johnson as the “veteran mentor” to start this year, and Rob Johnson barely qualifies as a major league catcher, which is why he was optioned to AAA.

The M’s need to find a good veteran catcher to mentor Moore for a year or so. Not sure who they could get–maybe call the Nationals and see what they want for Ivan Rodriguez(unless the Nats don’t pick up his option, in which case he’s a free agent that the M’s can sign).

3. “they need desperately a SS, I would like if Jack make a trade for a guy like Eduardo Nuñez or Brignac, Nick Franklin is young and Truiunfel is a future third base”

Well, again, they *have* a SS–he’s named Jack Wilson. After trading for him in 2009, the M’s tore up the 2010 option on his old contract and signed him to a new 2-year contract for 2010-2011. He doesn’t have much trade value, and with little else in the system(aside from Josh Wilson, who oddly enough is the everyday SS now that Jack is injured), they kind of have to go with him.

I’ve heard of Nunez and would love to have Brignac, but why trade assets to acquire Nunez or Brignac when it would unnecesarily block Nick Franklin, who could conceivably take over SS permanently by mid-2012? I figure mid-2012 because the way Franklin is going, he should easily enough spend a full year at AA in 2011, and 2 months at AAA in early 2012, and then hopefully be ready.

I instead advocate that the M’s sign someone like Felipe Lopez this offeason. Jose Lopez is a goner(they’ll decline his option and non-tender him, making him a free agent), then Chone Figgins will go to 3B. Dustin Ackley may not be ready immediately at the beginning of 2011, so the M’s can sign Lopez to a 2-year contract and have him fill in at 2B for the first 2 months until Ackley is ready. After that, Lopez can be a supersub at 2B, SS, 3B, and even the OF if needed. In 2012, he can be asked to man SS for the first few months until Franklin is ready to take over(an OK but not great plan since Lopez is aging and probably not great defensively at SS).

That way, the only uncertain infield position in 2012 and beyond is 3B–will Figgins rebound offensively, or will they trade him sometime in 2011 or before 2012 and seek out help at that position? We’ll have to wait and see, but 1B(Smoak), 2B(Ackley), and SS(Franklin) are all within the organization now. And yes, Triunfel may be a future 3B, but he may not amount to anything, either. It’s wait and see.

4. “the outfield looks great, Ichi, Guti, and Saunders… ”

Agreed–the outfield is set, although Saunder in LF will need a full season to continue to prove he deserves the job. 2011 will be a test for the M’s to see what they have in Saunders(LF), Moore(C), Smoak(1B), Ackley(2B), and Pineda(SP)(and to a lesser extent, 2 or 3 young arms in the bullpen like Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke). These guys will hopefully be at the heart of the next winning M’s team, I’m hoping, so 2011 will be exciting to see these guys play every day. :)

4 years 11 months ago

Excellent comments. Felipe Lopez may not be able to help defensively at ss but he is a good offensive player, versatile defensively and a switch-hitter. He’d be a good addition.

They will carry 7 relievers I’m guessing. That leaves 13 position player spots.

C-Moore & ??? (NOT Johnson!)
2b-F. Lopez
ss-Wilson & Wilson
3b-Figgins (please DFA J. Lopez)
DH-Branyan & Bradley

DH is a problem and they need a bat vs LHP. Too bad they will never be able to trade Bradley. This group just can’t hit, but it’s what they have.

5 years 1 day ago

I forgot, Felix deserves the Cy Young, he is the best pitcher in MLB, maybe with Halladay, Sabathia is good, Price is good, Buckholz is good, but Felix is better than all together…

5 years 1 day ago

Cliff Lee is a FA this winter………….

4 years 11 months ago

Spending any money on a free agent pitcher this off season is stupid. The M’s need offense much more, and there are plenty of arms that will be competing for a starter job in Spring Training.


4 years 11 months ago

Spending any money on a free agent pitcher this off season is stupid. The M’s need offense much more, and there are plenty of arms that will be competing for a starter job in Spring Training.


4 years 11 months ago

watch out for Robles coming out of spring with club. With Felix, Pineda, and Robles the M’s rotation looks good and young…finally. But Please get some bats this offseason.