Time for another part of this series. Today I'll be taking a look at what the Mariners have for an infield.
We'll start off with the catching situation. Kenji Johjima looks to return for a third straight season as the Mariners' starting backstop. He's been a solid battery mate and put up some good offensive numbers. Joh has one more year and $6M left on his deal, making him a free agent after '08. Can we expect better numbers during a contract year? He has hit for a .289 BA over the last two seasons, so could he crack .300 in '08? A fantasy owner, such as myself would like that. Joh should also be good for another 15 HR's and 60 RBI's as his usual. I can't forget to mention that Joh is a top caliber defender too. Not too sure on the backup situation though. I don't know what the M's plans are with last year's backup Jamie Burke, but with knuckleballer RA Dickey looking for a job, you can guess that Burke will be in consideration. Another option is prospect Jeff Clement. If Clement is not traded, than having him start in AAA, and come up midseason or September to get him some at-bats. This position looks good.
With Richie Sexson on the last deal of his massive contract, in which he probably dissapointed, he probably won't be back. There's no one trying to push Sexson out of the way, so he's pretty much garunteed the first base job. Sexson has 40 HR power, but hasn't done so since 2005. His 24 long balls in 2006 were good, but only 21 in '07, with a .205 BA? Not cutting it. Sexson is a career .263 hitter. Sexson's parter in crime, Adrian Beltre needs to get a little more offensice production too. I don't see Beltre going back to his Dodger form, but a little more than 26 HR, 99 RBI, and a .276 BA would make his signing look better. Beltre finally got his Gold Glove last season after another great year at the hot corner. Like I said, if Beltre can improve his numbers a little bit more, then there probably won't be too much pressure on the pitching. Jose Lopez has gone from somebody way high in the Mariners' goodbooks, to somebody on the bubble. His 2006 All-Star campaign is looking more and more like a distant memory. His 11 HR and 62 RBI last season would look a lot better if he had more than his 132 hits and lowly .252 BA. If he can take his BA up to around .270 or so and maybe add on a few more HR's and RBI's, then maybe this guy can turn it around. Lopez also has to take put his defensive game into review. He's had the ability to make the plays, and is a better than average defender but tried too hard last season. He needs to slow things down and take more time to make sure of the play. Lopez's double play partner Yuniesky Betancourt keeps getting better, and is coming off of another pretty good season. Like Lopez, Yuni is a better defender with terrifac range. That left side with him and Beltre is a hard place for a ground ball to get through. His .289 BA last season looked good in over 530 AB's, along with good power numbers, 9 HR's and 67 RBI's. Could we see this guy get over the .300 line in '08?
Now that we've got the starters done, it's time for the bench players. Willie Bloomquist will start the year as he usually does; being a super-sub, playing all most all positions. He appeared in almost 100 games last season and put up a good .277 BA in '07. Miguel Cairo was picked up as a free agent, and will be another super-sub. In 82 games last season, Cairo hit .253 with no HR's and only 15 RBI's, but did steal 10 bases. A few others who will be looking for a spot: Mike Morse, Yung Chi Chen, and Rob Johnson.