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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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December 15, 2008 2:29 PM

Rebuilding the Mariners

Posted by Geoff Baker

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"We have not spoken about the term 'rebuilding.' That isn't a word in our vocabulary."

-- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik at last week's winter meetings

Perhaps it is true that the new Mariners administration is not trying to "rebuild" the team. It is possible this group is merely "reloading" in its estimation. But whatever the terminology, it should be a vastly different team taking the field next season. In reality, this roster has been hugely transformed from the one that finished the 2007 season with 88 wins.

Let's look at who is gone from that team:

RF Jose Guillen
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
DH Jose Vidro
C Jamie Burke
INF Willie Bloomquist
RP Chris Reitsma
RP J.J. Putz
RP Sean Green
RP George Sherrill
SP Jeff Weaver
SP Horacio Ramirez
OF Ben Broussard
OF Jason Ellison

That's 14 regulars gone off the 25-man roster that began the 2007 season. Nearly three-fifths of the team. And we're not even counting Adam Jones, Eric O'Flaherty or Cha Seung Baek. The entire coaching staff is gone as well, as is GM Bill Bavasi. Quite a turnover from the last "winning" team the M's had. And we're not even getting into positional switches. If you consider that Kenji Johjima is no longer the team's starting catcher, Ichiro has moved from center to right field and Miguel Batista is likely out of the rotation, the changes seem even greater still.

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Let's look at the transformation that's now set to occur between Opening Day of last season and next April:

Opening Day 2008

1B Richie Sexson (gone)
2B Jose Lopez
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Adrian Beltre
C Kenji Johjima (lost starting job)
LF Raul Ibanez (gone)
CF Ichiro (switched positions)
RF Brad Wilkerson (gone)
DH Jose Vidro (gone)

Bench

C Jamie Burke (gone)
INF Miguel Cairo (gone)
INF Willie Bloomquist (gone)
OF Charlton Jimerson (gone)
OF Mike Morse

Rotation

Erik Bedard
Felix Hernandez
Carlos Silva
Jarrod Washburn
Miguel Batista (switched to relief)

Bullpen

J.J. Putz (gone)
Eric O'Flaherty (gone)
Sean Green (gone)
Mark Lowe
Ryan Rowland-Smith (in rotation)
Cha Seung Baek (gone)

So, that's 12 players on the Opening Day roster from 2008 now gone from the organization completely. Mike Morse might be on his way out as well. Not only that, but guys we didn't see on Opening Day, but who were up with the team a good part of the year, like R.A. Dickey, Jeremy Reed and Arthur Rhodes, are out as well. By this time next year, Bedard and Beltre will almost certainly be with other teams, as will Washburn and Batista. So, that's the potential transformation of at least 17 players out of 25 from Opening Day 2008 to Opening Day 2010. Hard to argue that anything but a rebuilding is going on. Now, it might be a very quick rebuild and could turn out great.

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But really, given what we now know, by Opening Day 2010, if what the Mariners are attempting actually works out, the team will have -- compared to the start of 2008 -- a new:

Left fielder
Center Fielder
Right Fielder
Third baseman
First baseman
DH
Catcher

An entirely new bench

An entirely new bullpen except for Mark Lowe and Ryan Rowland-Smith

An entirely new starting rotation except for Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva

All of these changes could actually occur by Opening Day 2009 if the Mariners were to get really creative on the trade front. But we'll assume it all takes time and that things -- like Bedard coming back from injury -- develop gradually. It's possible that Kenji Johjima wins his starting job back, even this spring. But with Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson and Adam Moore still in the fold, it's entirely possible Johjima is completely out of the picture within a year.

So, in essence, the "core" of this team moving forward might only have Ichiro, Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt left over as position players from Opening Day 2008, by the time Opening Day 2010 rolls around. Sounds like a complete rebuild to me.

Pitching-wise, the team will likely only have Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Mark Lowe around from Opening Day 2008: a possibility of seven players from the 25-man roster in just a two-year period.

You can include Brandon Morrow on that latter list if you'd like, since he was hurt to start 2008 and obviously would have been around for Opening Day if healthy.

But whether it's seven or eight players still here by 2010, that's not just a minor reshaping. That's a complete transformation. Pretty much the "blow it up" scenario we discussed last summer. It doesn't matter that the Mariners got a head start on the rebuilding by calling up Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien in May. It's still rebuilding.

Not a word that GMs like to use. But what else is there to call it? When only three position players, two starters and a few bullpen members are likely to be around two opening days apart, that's a major restructuring of a team. And who knows? It might even work out very quickly.

But here's to calling it what it is.

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