Sep 9, 2009, 4:21 PM EDT
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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