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Restoring the rosters: No. 1 – Seattle

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.
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.

  1. Ari - Sep 9, 2009 at 5:17 PM

    “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.”
    I think it would be more accurate to say “the No. 1 team in baseball at signing talent”. Nothing in this study has ever suggested that the team deserves credit for developing, or in essence, “producing”, any of these guys.

  2. Hark - Sep 9, 2009 at 10:49 PM

    No, they had no development in Felix Hernandez, Ken Griffey, Omar Vizuel or Alex Rodriguez. I mean, Felix didn’t break into, and hasn’t been playing on, the big league club in late 2005; Griffey didn’t come up through the farm system to debut in ’89; Vizquel didn’t earn his first Gold Glove with the M’s, nor hit .294 in ’92 for the third highest BA of his career. A-Rod didn’t earn a batting title or go 40/40 with the M’s. Jones, Cabera, Choo all didn’t see any time in the majors with Seattle before being traded. Nope. They’re farm system is wack.
    Are you serious? Seattle signs and produces excellent talent. And then Bill Bavasi traded it all away.
    Wow.

  3. LunchBag - Sep 9, 2009 at 10:50 PM

    I haven’t really looked at the other “rosters”, but I wouldn’t really consider Ichiro (or any of the other Japanese players who came to the Major Leagues through the Japanese League) to be a player who was “originally signed” by the Mariners.

  4. nats apologist - Sep 9, 2009 at 11:24 PM

    So which major league team would you say first signed Ichiro if it wasn’t Seattle?
    Unbelievably poor trades, even pre-Bavasi. Did Gillick do the Varitek,Lowe/Heathcliff trade?

  5. VolsnCards5 - Sep 9, 2009 at 11:26 PM

    Then you are missing the entire point of this exercise LunchBag

  6. deep_to_right - Sep 9, 2009 at 11:50 PM

    No – that was Woody Woodward. Gillick didn’t do much trade wise to hurt the team (I think his nickname was Stand Pat). His drafts and length of contracts to free agents on the decline did cripple this team though.

  7. hop - Sep 9, 2009 at 11:53 PM

    Sorry this team isnt winning SQUAT! “98\”99 Yanks would murder this team just as they did back in the day. The M’s are forever losers and will always be so!

  8. hey hop - Sep 10, 2009 at 12:51 AM

    the yankees dont produce, they buy

  9. hey hop2 - Sep 10, 2009 at 1:19 AM

    please learn to completely miss the point of this article a little more, that would be fantastic… how many of those ’98/’99 Yanks were originally signed by Bombers?

  10. hey hop - Sep 10, 2009 at 1:21 AM

    Not only do the Yankees buy, but they also haven’t done squat in the playoffs for years — let’s call it the A-Rod jinx.

  11. Capper - Sep 10, 2009 at 1:40 AM

    No Edgar Martinez???!!! Blasphomy!!!!!

  12. ron - Sep 10, 2009 at 2:01 AM

    You have to Have Edgar Martinez. You just have to.

  13. Anthony - Sep 10, 2009 at 2:28 AM

    [i]“You have to Have Edgar Martinez. You just have to.”[/i] Edgar is not on any 25-man roster. That’s the point of this exercise. More to the point, the ’98/’99 Yankees included (since retired) Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Joe Girardi, Bernie Williams, David Cone, Jeff Nelson… Meaning it’s an irrelevant comparison. So, taking players currently on MLB rosters is the exercise. Got it?
    Given that, I think you could argue for any of the top five teams. It’s a fun exercise subjective to different interpretations based on how each individual values performance. It’s about as accurate as the BCS.

  14. Joey B - Sep 10, 2009 at 9:08 AM

    While Bavasi was to blame, you’d have thought someone else in the FO would step up and question his decisions. Wasn’t anyone in a review position to ask ‘Horacio has a 148/128 K/W ratio over the past three seasons with Atl.” or Silva with his equally dismal K/IP performance?
    I know that the best road to success is a 5-deep rotation, but if you start shelling out big bucks for #4 and #5 type SPs, you can’t afford anything else.
    It should’ve been self-evident, but if you sign 5 Silva’s for $12M each, you’ll have an ordinary, at best, rotation, and you’ll have, at most, $40M left for a closer, 9 position players, a bench and a BP. It can’t be done, and the math is not that difficult.

  15. roto-addicts.com - Sep 10, 2009 at 9:51 AM

    Matthew,
    What a great series! I agree with some who noted that the Yankees should be rated a few notches lower. I probably would have moved the Rockies up a bit (I had forgotten that Figgins was with the Rockies). And as a lifelong Reds fan, it was disconcerting to open up each post and see them at #30 over and over again. At least I have 1990 and the Big Red Machine to remind me why I still follow this team.

  16. MrGenre - Sep 10, 2009 at 3:36 PM

    This is a really interesting way to look at player development. I think what would be a little more telling is to just analyze 5 year increments of time. 80-85, 85-90, etc. That might warrant a more realistic view of who drafts well consistently and who just gets lucky. I also think of Ichiro and Joh as acquisitions picked up from another team and that they might skew these stats a little bit.
    But as an M’s fan, I’m not complaining. :)

  17. Purity Guaranteed - Sep 11, 2009 at 7:27 PM

    “More to the point, the ’98/’99 Yankees included (since retired) Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Joe Girardi, Bernie Williams, David Cone, Jeff Nelson…”
    More MORE to the point is that both Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson were acquired from Seattle after breaking in with the Mariners. If you want to get into crappy trades involving now-retired players, the Mariners are probably at the top of that list, too.

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