Yes, this blog is named for left field. But today, I want to talk about centerfield. Because, let's face it, after the news that Franklin Gutierrez will miss the remainder of Spring Training, the trip to Japan, and likely a lot more time than that, the Mariners have serious problems at that position.
Last season, the Mariners struggled to find an answer in centerfield, as Guti battled irritable bowel syndrome and never fully recovered. Michael Saunders started the season as the primary 8-man, but Guti, Trayvon Robinson, and Casper Wells also saw time in center. The Mariners didn't get consistent production from any of them.
But heading into this year, a healthy and in-shape Guti had the M's hoping for a radical turn of events. And then, hours after a press conference where he expressed his satisfaction with being as healthy as ever, he partially tore his pectoral muscle throwing a ball in the outfield. Really? If this doesn't perfectly describe the Mariner fan experience, I don't know what else does.
However, that's life. Shit happens. And now the Mariners have to evaluate their options in centerfield for Opening Day less than a month away in Japan. The Mariners have fairly limited options, but let's explore them anyway.
Option one: Michael Saunders
2011: .149/.207/.217, 2 HR, 8 RBI
Career: .196/.263/.306, 12 HR, 45 RBI
Michael Saunders hit ten home runs in 2010. That made me double-take a little bit. He hit .149 in 2011. That made me throw up in my mouth. But Saunders seems like the club favorite to make the Opening Day start in center. That really scares me. I have never, ever liked Michael Saunders. I think he sucks and always have. Maybe he can change that this year, knowing that if he doesn't, the Mariners will cut him. This is the Condor's last chance. He better take advantage. Chance of making Opening Day start: 50%
Option two: Casper Wells
2011: .237/.317/.442, 11 HR, 27 RBI
Career: .263/.330/.471, 15 HR, 44 RBI
If I happened to manage the Mariners this season, I would start Casper Wells in center on Opening Day. Unfortunately, I am not Eric Wedge. What Patrick!? You're not Eric Wedge? Who are you then? Just a guy with some ideas. And no power. Or insider information. But it still stands to reason that Casper Wells had four consecutive games with home runs in August last year, before Brandon Morrow (I hate you so much you asshole) beaned him in the head with a fastball. I was at that game. I was so angry. Apparently, Wells has resolved his balance issues that wrecked his season following his beaning, and is ready to take another step forward this year. With Guti out again, Eric Wedge should give him an opportunity to do so on a daily basis, until wasting games proving that Saunders officially sucks like they did last year with Milton Bradley and, well, Saunders. Chance of making Opening Day start: 40%
Option three: Chone Figgins
I refuse to post his stats. This blog will immediately cease to exist if Figgins gets the start in center in Japan. He would definitely be the smallest center fielder of all time. And he sucks. Another time waster this season for the M's. Please don't do this Eric Wedge. Chance of making Opening Day start: 0%
Option four: Trayvon Robinson
2011 (and career): .210/.250/.336, 2 HR, 14 RBI
I really like Tray. That shit cray, ain't it Tray? Sorry. I promise I'll never do that again. But Robinson should not get the Opening Day start in centerfield, even though he probably has more talent than any other outfielder other than Ichiro on the roster. Robinson belongs in the minors for a little while, because he needs to perfect his hitting and build confidence while learning to strike out less. As much as I want Tray in the majors, he needs Tacoma. It will help him and the team in the long run and the Mariners won't win this year, so the future takes precedent over the present. Chance of making Opening Day start: 10%
These aren't great options. Casper Wells would have made a great fourth outfielder, but if Saunders fails to step up, he will have to fill the role of center fielder. That would work fine for a while. Ultimately, for the Mariners to succeed in 2012 and 2013, Franklin Gutierrez needs to stay healthy. Until that happens, the Mariners can't make the leap to contender status. Go M's.