You step away for the afternoon to watch a little college hoops and the whole world changes. Well, at least Marinerworld. And in my view, it's not a positive development – Brandon Morrow is going to the bullpen for good.
Apparently, Morrow started pondering the idea after J.J. Putz was traded. He then took it to the Mariners. It's surprising because all winter and spring the Mariners seemed to acknowledge that Morrow's arm was more valuable to the team as a starter than a reliever. Guess he's a pretty good salesman, or team brass just got tired of watching the ugly "battle" for the closer job that nobody seemed to want to win. What makes it more odd is that in December, Morrow said, "I don't want to have to go back to the bullpen. If I had to (close), I would, obviously, but I don't want to."
In any event, it creates quite the chain reaction:
Morrow closes. Jarrod Washburn and Carlos Silva bump up a spot in the rotation, and Ryan Rowland-Smith becomes the fifth starter. Tyler Walker was cut. Miguel Batista takes Rowland-Smith's job as the long reliever. Mark Lowe, Roy Corcoran and David Aardsma go to set-up/middle relief. Chad Cordero, who was a good bet to take over the closer job by May or so, suddenly has zero fantasy value. Barring a trade, Josh Fields goes from first-round pick to middle relief. And once (if) he arrives, that'll make two first-round picks in the bullpen. What a waste.
Siegrist wrote about how Jim Bowden is still haunting the Nationals. Well, Bill Bavasi is still haunting the Mariners. Had Bavasi and Mike Hargrove not thrown Morrow into the bullpen out of desperation a couple years ago, we wouldn't be at this point today.
What's more, the M's optioned Jeff Clement on Sunday, which could be an ominous foreshadowing. If he doesn't rip the ball at Triple-A and force the Mariners to recall him, he might be there for some time. The team is sufficiently unenthused with his defense, but it was also his inability to hit that got him demoted. The M's really don't have a reason to bring him back at this point, as surprising as that would have seemed a month ago. If Clement isn't going to hit, then it makes sense to go with the better defense of Rob Johnson as the backup.
So, let's recap the recent first-round picks:
2008, Fields – destined for middle relief if he isn't traded
2006, Morrow – closer
2005, Clement – apparently stuck at Triple-A barring a trade
2003, Adam Jones – lost to a bad trade
That's a heck of a record, Bavasi.