Tag: David Aardsma

The One Who Got Away: A Look at Brian Sabean’s Best & Worst Pitching Trades

The 2011 baseball season is upon us, and that can only mean one thing for eager fans: a fresh start.  With hopes of celebratory bliss, you announce confidently, “this is our year,” as you retrieve the enormous foam finger lodged behind your bed. The once prized possession is now dusted with crumb remnants and dead ants. 

While one’s prophecies for the upcoming season may be nothing more than fantasy, players must approach each year with the goal to maintain past success, improve on past failures, or return from an injury, thus proving they still are one of the elite.  No player is more eager to prove he can return to greatness than Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan.    

Nathan made great progress this spring and has reestablished himself as Minnesota’s closer to open the season. This tale, however, is not about Nathan’s return to the mound.  This is a tortuous reminder to all San Francisco Giants fans who still cringe when his name is spoken. A four-time All-Star, Nathan is nothing less than a savior to Minnesota  faithful, but to Giants aficionados, like the ex-girlfriend you let slip through your fingers when you stupidly answered yes to “do these jeans make me look fat,” he is merely the one who got away.  

This June, the Twins will visit San Francisco for the first time since the 2003 trade that sent Nathan to Minnesota. Like a nerd coming back for his twenty-year reunion driving a Porsche, and sporting a hot blonde on his arm, the elite closer will return with a chest full of accolades acquired since.

In November of 2003, Giants General Manager Brian Sabean, traded Nathan, along with Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano,  for catcher A.J. Piersynksi.  At the time, everything appeared safe.  Piersynksi was a player about to hit his prime at a hard-to- fill position, and only Nathan had any major league experience at that point. The result?  You’d be hard pressed to find one person who would argue against it being the worst trade in San Francisco’s history.

Sabean has made a career of upsetting fans at the time of a deal yet, somehow, many work out in the end.  So what happened with this one?  Was the departure of these now American League all-stars a result of miscalculation, poor scouting, and an itchy trigger finger, or just an anomaly, resulting in a case of inauspicious hindsight? 

How has Sabean really fared in his assessment of young pitching talent? At this point everyone knows the names Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner, but that staff didn’t get assembled without some bumps in the road; Nate Bumps to be exact.

Below are some of Sabean’s trades involving young pitchers. Some left fans day dreaming of memories past, while others left fellow GMs holding a bag of Sabean Fool’s Gold.  


4. Jeremy Accardo to Toronto for Vinnie Chulk & Shea Hillenbrand (July 2006)

Sure, Accardo hasn’t amounted to a whole lot since; however, the year after he was traded he racked up 30 saves and a 2.14 ERA for Toronto while loathed Giant closer Armando Benetiz saved just nine games, blew a handful of others and was traded mid-season.  

3. David Aardsma & Jerome Williams to Chicago Cubs for LaTroy Hawkins (May 2005)

Aardsma, one of many first round picks Sabean has dealt during his tenure, bounced around for a few seasons before finally settling in as the closer for Seattle in 2009.  That year he saved 38 games then followed it up with 31 in 2010.  When healthy, he is slated for closing duties again this season, proving to be a valued commodity in the Mariner’s bullpen.  Would the Giants have wanted to wait four years for a guy who would’ve just pissed off the team seamstress by using up all her “A” letters?  The prognosis is no, but good bullpen help is always hard to find, especially one with closing ability – just ask Armando Benetiz haters. 

2. Keith Foulke, Bobby Howry & others for Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin & Roberto Hernandez (July 1997)

All three players obtained somewhat helped bring a National League West title to San Francisco in 1997, but Sabean left the dog door open and Keith Foulke quietly escaped into the night to go on to save 191 career games, as well as bring a World Series title to Boston in 2004.  See aforementioned prognosis for Aardsma, minus the nagging seamstress.

1. Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano & Boof Bonser for A.J. Piersynksi (November 2003)

Looking to upgrade the catcher position after the departure of Benito Santiago, Sabean made what is regarded the worst trade of his tenure, giving up Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser, for problematic A.J. Piersynksi. Bonser, rated the 29th best prospect in 2002 was actually the prized piece of the deal, but he isn’t the one fans have lost sleep over. He has been no better than a 5th starter for any team since the deal. Liriano took the A.L. by storm when he broke into the majors a year later, and after being derailed by an arm injury he has once again established himself as one of the best lefties in the game atop the Twins rotation.   Nathan has gone on to make four all-star appearances, and has been one of the game’s best closers over the past six seasons.   

Piersysnki was released the following season.


5.  Jason Grilli & Nate Bump to Florida for Livan Hernandez (July 1999) 

Rarely in any sport do you see consecutive year first round picks traded in the same deal, but when the Giants dealt for inning-eater Livan Hernandez at the trade deadline in 1999 this rarity became a reality.  Grilli, the fourth overall pick in 1997 seemed poised for a brilliant major league career, but Sabean sent the Seton Hall alum to Miami along with 1998 first rounder Nate Bump.

Grilli was a top 50 prospect at the time, and Bump had shown promise in the minors, posting a sub 1.75 ERA in each of his first two seasons. Dealing two 1st round prospects for a pitcher who was 5-9 at the time would make even the most unknowledgeable fan question sanity, but amazingly Sabean came out smelling like a rose.   

Hernandez went on to win 45 games for the Giants while Grilli became nothing more than a journeyman reliever. Nate Bump pitched in just three partial seasons for Florida with the last being in 2005. 

4. Jesse Foppert (and Yorvit Torrealba) to Seattle for Randy Winn (July 2005)

Foppert, the fifth rated prospect by Baseball America in 2003 was San Francisco’s Lincecum, before there was Lincecum. He had a promising 2003 and was a fixture in the starting rotation for a team that won the National League Western Division, but promise quickly turned to pain killers as multiple injuries to his throwing elbow sent his career into a tailspin.

Before the completion of his comeback Sabean sent the once can’t-miss prospect to Seattle for consistent, but not flashy, Randy Winn.  Despite the injuries, the Bay Area product was a fan favorite, and many were sad to see him go. In the end it was the right move. Winn went on to start in right field for SF for the next four and a half seasons, and was seventh in the N.L. in hitting in 2008.  Foppert never pitched in the Majors again.  

3. Kurt Ainsworth (and Damian Moss) to Baltimore for Sidney Ponson (July 2003) 

Another first round pick (1999), Ainsworth followed the orange and black brick road right out of San Francisco, like his fellow first rounders of the past.  Like Foppert, Ainsworth cracked the rotation in 2003, posting a winning record and sub-4 ERA in 11 starts, but was traded before the deadline for often lazy and rarely effective Sidney Ponson.

Ponson won only three games the rest of year for SF, and cost the Giants in additional food catering services due to his insatiable appetite, but once again Sabean made the right call.  Ainsworth would pitch only two innings in the Majors after the trade, and is rumored to be working in the giraffe exhibit at a Baltimore zoo.  (Don’t get me wrong, giraffes are amazing creatures – I’m just saying.)

2. Tim Alderson to Pittsburgh for Freddie Sanchez (July 2009)

In what was regarded as a bit of a haphazard deal at the time, Sabean dealt the No. 2 prospect in the organization for a powerless and injury plagued second baseman.  At the time of the trade, Freddie Sanchez couldn’t even play due to injury.  Who trades the 45th ranked Major League prospect and his miniscule ERA for a beaten up player who can’t even suit up?   Could he have traded for someone better at the time? Yes. Could he have given up a lesser prospect to get Sanchez? Yes.  Did the trade work out?

Alderson posted a whopping 6.03 ERA in 25 minor league starts in 2010 and was demoted to Single-A before season’s end.  Sanchez went on to help San Francisco bring home its first World Championship, contributing with three doubles to set a World Series record in Game 1, and will take the field on opening day 2011.  Enough said.

1. Ryan Vogelsong (and Armando Rios) to Pittsburgh for Jason Schmidt (July 30th, 2001) 

Ok, so Ryan Vogelsong can hardly be considered a prospect, but then again neither was Jason Schmidt at the time.  Schmidt immediately blossomed in the organization, establishing himself as one of the top pitchers in the National League and led the team to post-season births in 2002 and 2003. Vogelsong amassed 10 wins over six seasons with the Pirates. He is now back with the organization this spring vying for a spot on San Francisco’s opening day roster. 

Honorable Mention:

Not trading Tim Lincecum for Alex Rios (after 2007 season)

San Francisco was desperate for a bat, and Lincecum was an emerging superstar.  The deal was more than just a rumor, but luckily dissipated like a phantom in the night once cries were heard from Giant faithful. 

All in all, Sabean has done a decent job at assessing pitching talent, confidently trading away first round pick after first round pick, only to see them flounder in their new homes. He has created one of the best starting pitching staffs and despite it taking 17 years, he hasn’t given up a whole lot (other than a guy 30th on the all-time saves list, one of the best left-handed starters in the American League and a guy who was on the mound when the Red Sox brought home a Championship after 86 years). 

When Nathan comes trotting out of the bullpen later this season during his team’s stop in San Franciso, Giant fans can dream about what could have been, but ultimately be happy about what has been. 

Sabean has been forgiven. 

Go Giants. 

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MLB 2011 Fantasy Baseball: Value Saves Options

Everybody loves Brian Wilson because of that crazy beard. Mariano Rivera is…the…best…closer…ever. However, the closer position, perhaps more than any other position, provides more value picks. Average Draft Positions are from Mock Draft Central.

Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers: Broxton had just 22 saves last year, and even lost his gig to Hong-Chih Kuo, but was one of the top closers in 2009 when he saved 36 games and struck out 114 batters in 76 innings. He has the closer gig back, and if he can hold onto it, a return to 30 saves with 90 strikeouts is a strong likelihood. His ADP is 164, making him the 15th-ranked closer, though he has top-five potential.

Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies: Lidge bounced back last year to save 27 games and post a 2.96 ERA. With the Phillies four aces, he should get plenty of save opportunities. With an ADP of 192 he’s a terrific value.

Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds: Cordero has averaged 39.3 saves over the past four seasons. His WHIP is usually a little more robust than you want from your closer, which can explain his 196 ADP, but if you’re looking for steady saves, Cordero is a great option.

Matt Thornton, Chicago White Sox: Thornton has been one of the best setup men in baseball the past few years and finally gets his crack at the closer position. Chris Sale is there if he falters, but he should be a solid value with his 203 ADP.

Ryan Franklin, St. Louis Cardinals: Franklin had 27 saves last year and 38 in 2009. His ERA jumped from 1.92 to 3.46, but his WHIP fell dramatically from 1.20 to 1.03. His ADP is 204.

Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins: Judging by Nathan’s 209 ADP, he’s at a discount because of concerns surrounding his return from Tommy John surgery. He was a top-five closer before being injured, so he’s worth the risk.

David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners: Aardsma comes at a discount (217 ADP) because he will miss the start of the season as he recovers from a hip injury. He had 69 saves the past two years so he should be a nice value pick when he returns.

The Rest

Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves (226) gets his first crack at closing.

Fernando Rodney, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (227) is wild, but will accumulate saves as long as he can lock down the gig.

Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates (230) has waiting in the wings if he struggles.

Kevin Gregg, Baltimore Orioles (236) will get first crack at closing in Baltimore, but they have options if he isn’t up to the task.

Frank Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays (248) faces a similar situation in Toronto.

Brandon Lyon, Houston Astros (249) is a decent option.

Leo Nunez, Florida Marlins (317) has anything but a firm grip on the Marlins’ closer gig.

Also check out:

2011 Fantasy Baseball Value Picks
2011 Fantasy Baseball Profiles

2011 Fantasy First Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy A.L. Only First Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy N.L. Only First Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy Second Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy A.L. Only Second Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy N.L. Only Second Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy Third Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy A.L. Only Third Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy N.L. Only Third Basemen Rankings

2011 Fantasy Shortstop Rankings

2011 Fantasy A.L. Only Shortstop Rankings

2011 Fantasy N.L. Only Shortstop Rankings

2011 Fantasy Catcher Rankings

2011 Fantasy A.L. Only Catcher Rankings

2011 Fantasy N.L. Only Catcher Rankings
2011 Fantasy Outfielder Rankings

2011 Fantasy A.L. Only Outfielder Rankings

2011 Fantasy N.L. Only Outfielder Rankings

2011 Fantasy Starting Pitcher Rankings

2011 Fantasy A.L. Only Starting Pitcher Rankings

2011 Fantasy N.L. Only Starting Pitcher Rankings
2011 Fantasy Closer Rankings

2011 Fantasy A.L. Only Closer Rankings

2011 Fantasy N.L. Only Closer Rankings

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Seattle Mariners: Ranking 10 Players Who’ll Have Much-Improved Seasons in 2011

Hey, did you hear? The Mariners were lousy in 2010. Terrible. Awful. Dreadful.

Ah, heck. I’ll just link you so you can see all the synonyms for “bad.”

That poor, poor dead horse.

Much has been ballyhooed about the shortcomings of the most recent episode of Mariners’ baseball. Especially due to the predicted success placed on them entering the season. No one had delusions of an express lane to the division title, but it was widely thought they could duke it out and hang in there in a weak AL West.

A knockout in round one is hardly hanging in there.

So, let’s all agree to officially move on. We’ll start by focusing on the immediate future to see how we can expect some of those let downs to turn around, becoming 2011 success stories.

When your baseline is so low, a relative term like “much” doesn’t seem so far-fetched, right?

However, I believe the improvement from certain players next season will unquestionably be seen as a large step forward.

Begin Slideshow

Seattle Mariners’ David Aardsma To Have Hip Surgery

Life is pretty funny sometimes. I was sitting in my office late in the afternoon thinking about what I was going to write about tonight.

I kid you not, I was really going to write a “David Aardsma: What’s His Trade Market?” post. It seemed pretty logical considering that the Seattle Mariners aren’t going anywhere in 2011 and Aardsma, coming off a year where he had 31 saves and a respectable 3.44 ERA, has some trade value.


That idea went up in smoke in about 10 minutes because it was reported earlier today that Aardsma will undergo left hip surgery to repair a torn labrum.

This news really came out of nowhere and really put an end to any trade rumor or value Aardsma had this offseason.

According to the Seattle Times, Aardsma been bothered by pain in his left hip area since the end of the season. Aardsma and the Mariners originally thought it was an oblique injury, but when the injury didn’t go away this offseason, Aardsma knew something was wrong.

That’s when he went to went to see Dr. Mark Phillipon and Dr. Phillipon recommended the surgery. Aardsma will go under the knife on Monday.

Happy New Year Mr. Aardsma!

Aardsma will be sidelined four-to-eight weeks. If that estimate is correct, then he should be ready for Opening Day.

Whether Aardsma is ready or not for Opening Day is not the issue here; the issue for the Mariners is that they can’t trade a guy who’s value now has appeared to peak in the last two seasons.

Now if the Mariners want to trade Aardsma during the season, they are going to have to let him re-establish his value. Considering that he saw his K/9 drop from 10.1 in 2009 to 8.9 in 2010 and his ERA rise from 2.52 to 3.44, that might be a tall task.

If Aardsma isn’t ready for Opening Day, look for Brandon League to get the first crack at closing games for the Mariners in 2011.


You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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L.A. Angels Bullpen Fails Dan Haren, Seattle Mariners Even Series, 3-1

In a much publicized battle of the aces, Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Dan Haren matched Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez pitch for pitch. Neither backed down.

After the two aces hit the showers, Seattle capitalized, scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the Angels, 3-1.

For seven innings, Haren and Hernandez gave the crowd at Safeco Field an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, tossing goose eggs until both tired after seven innings. Haren scattered seven hits and struck out eight, throwing 110 pitches, while Hernandez threw a gem of his own, giving up just three hits and striking out eight, throwing 103 pitches.

In the top of the eighth, the Angels scratched across a run. After Peter Bourjos struck out swinging, Alberto Callaspo doubled to left. Howie Kendrick then laced a double to left field, the ball bouncing into the stands for a ground-rule double, plating Callaspo with the game’s first run.

Bobby Abreu was then intentionally walked, putting runners on first and second. Torii Hunter ended the threat, grounding into a double play to end the inning.

Seattle answered in the bottom of the frame, and then some. Kevin Jepsen (2-4) replaced Haren on the mound. After Franklin Guitierrez struck out swinging, Russell Branyan walked. Matt Tuiasosopo pinch ran for Branyan, and was moved to third on a Jose Lopez single to center.

Casey Kotchman then walked, loading the bases for Michael Saunders. Saunders delivered with a single to center, scoring Tuiasosopo and evening the game at 1-1. Adam Moore followed with a broken bat single just over the reach of Howie Kendrick, scoring Lopez, and Josh Wilson followed suit, singling to center to score Kotchman.

Mariners closer David Aardsma came on to put down the Angels in the top of the ninth, earning his 26th save of the season.

Brandon League (9-6) got the win, despite giving up the first and only run to the Angels.

The Angels will look to take the rubber match of the three-game series on Wednesday night, sending Trevor Bell (1-4, 5.07 ERA) to the hill versus the Mariners’ Jason Vargas (9-7, 3.53 ERA).

You can contact Doug on Twitter, @desertdesperado.



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MLB Trade Rumors: Seattle Mariners Remaining Trade Chips

The Major League Baseball Trade Deadline passes this Saturday, and baseball’s buyers and sellers will be in negotiations all week over potential deadline trades.

The Seattle Mariners are undoubtedly sellers at this year’s trade deadline. At 39-60, the Mariners sit 18.5 games behind the AL West leading Texas Rangers, and have already traded away this year’s most sought after trade target, ace pitcher Cliff Lee.

Having made a clear move towards selling at the trade deadline, the pressure is now on Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik to prepare his team for contention in 2011. Zduriencik must now decide what other players, if any, he can deal at the deadline.

Here is a quick list of five current Mariners who could have new addresses by next week.

2B Jose Lopez

The Mariners seem to have a future built around LF Michael Saunders, C Adam Moore, 1B Justin Smoak, and last year’s first round draft pick, converted 2B Dustin Ackley.

Ackley was recently promoted from Double-A West Tennessee to Triple-A Tacoma, and in his first game in Tacoma, he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly. Ackley is a sure bet to factor into the Mariners’ future, and if they want to get him big-league experience this year , they may try and shop Lopez for additional prospects.

The Phillies are actively searching for a replacement middle infielder, as injuries have plagued regular 2B Chase Utley and 3B Placido Polanco. With Polanco currently filling in at second base, the Phillies have the flexibility of searching for a second baseman or third baseman.

Don’t be surprised if the Phillies make a play for a middle infielder—it might turn out to be Jose Lopez.

Chance of Being Traded: Medium

1B Russell Branyan/1B Casey Kotchman

The Seattle Mariners currently roster first basemen Justin Smoak, Casey Kotchman, and Russell Branyan, and have Mike Sweeney on the Disabled List with back problems. It’s a crowded infield, to say the least.

The simple fix to this situation would be dealing one-time-starter-but-now-ineffective Casey Kotchman to a contender as a late inning defensive replacement and occasional pinch hitter. Unfortunately, his .215/.294/.654 line is uninspiring, and is unlikely to coax a contender into exchanging prospects for his services.

Seattle’s acquisition of Russell Branyan in late June was so uncharacteristic that Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times thought the initial report of the trade was a hoax. At the time, Seattle was 14 games out of first place, and seemingly out of contention in 2010.

Now, if the Mariners want to deal a first baseman, Branyan may be the most attractive trade bait. It would be ironic for the Mariners to acquire and trade Branyan within a month, but the current roster makes him disappointingly expendable, and Jack Zduriencik might make a move that is best for business, and not just fan appeal.

Here’s to hoping that a rival executive wakes up and says, “I need a .200 bat with Gold Glove caliber defense.”

Chance of Being Traded: Low

RP David Aardsma/RP Brandon League

Every year, relief arms are dealt at the Major League Baseball trade deadline. Often, closers become set-up men and specialists are exchanged as teams race to acquire quality arms (a seemingly unending race). Since 2005, notable names such as Eric Gagne, LaTroy Hawkins, Kyle Farnsworth, Arthur Rhodes, and George Sherrill have been moved in deadline deals.

Jack Zduriencik has a malleable bullpen in front of him. Sending 26-year-old RP Mark Lowe to Texas in the Cliff Lee trade was shocking, even though Lowe was injured, because Lowe has a power arm and high potential. Now, Zduriencik must decide if he will also move 27-year-old Brandon League and 28-year-old David Aardsma.

Aardsma seems the most likely to leave Seattle. His 2.52 ERA last season is looking more and more like an exception to his career numbers, and some clubs have shown interest in his services.

League is a more complicated issue, because Zduriencik gave up former first round pick Brandon Morrow to acquire League earlier this year. Morrow’s 4.71 ERA is nothing impressive, but he has fanned 119 batters in 107 innings pitched, and is still in his mid-twenties.

If Zduriencik decides to move League, he could face criticism if he is unable to obtain at least a Morrow-caliber package in return.

Chance of Being Traded: High

It remains to be seen what the Mariners will do in the coming week, but don’t be surprised if any of these names move elsewhere as the Mariners build for 2011.

Do you agree with these potential trade candidates? Comment below with your thoughts!

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Seattle Mariners: What’s in Store for 2011?

Well Mariners fans, lets face it, the 2010 season is a bust.

There will be no comeback, no 1995 style legendary run to the post season. No, I’m afraid the last exciting moment for the Mariners will be watching who they dump in the upcoming midseason fire sale.

Cliff Lee is a lock to be traded, and rumor has it that everybody not named Felix or Ichiro is up for grabs. I’d expect a lot of familiar names to be playing in different markets come August.

So, what does that mean for the 2011 squad? What does the future hold for Seattle baseball?

Well for starters, expect a lot of call-ups here in the second half of 2010, young players auditioning for a role in the 2011 campaign.

I expect Mike Carp to get a lot of reps at first base the rest of the season. But I do not expect to see him starting there following the end of the year.

Who do I see as the Seattle first baseman in 2011?

Prince Fielder.

I imagine that the Seattle will make a heavy push for the hefty slugger in the offseason to anchor what is this year a horrid offense. This is more than just a pipe dream from a fan with an active imagination as Fielder has connections to the club.

The man who drafted Fielder, is current Seattle general manager Jack Zdurineck.

After his failure to improve the offense, while actually ending up with a worse team, Zdurineck must make a move like signing Fielder to save his job.

Felix Hernandez has been inconsistent this year to say the least, unable to capture his 2009 form that saw him finish second in the American League Cy Young voting.

He will still be the top starter in 2011, and I fully expect him to regain his consistent dominant form.

But who will follow him in the rotation?

Lee will be gone by the deadline, and even if they make the foolish mistake of hanging on to him all year, they will have virtually no chance to bring him back in the off season.

Rumor has it they have been talking with the Mets, about Jon Neise, but New York seems hell bent on keeping him around.

So who follows King Felix?

Doug Fister had been fantastic before going on the disabled list, and Jason Vargas has pitched way above his career standard.

But who would really be comfortable going into a make, or break year with them as your second and third options in the rotation?

I wouldn’t be, and I doubt anybody in the Seattle front office is either.

Look for them to pick up a decent, middle of the road guy in the offseason.

Tim Hudson, Jeremy Bonderman, Kevin Millwood could all be solid options to bridge the top and middle of the rotation.

That brings us to the bullpen.

For the rest of the 2010 season everybody in the bullpen will be auditioning for their own jobs.

Including David Aardsma.

After blowing onto the scene last year and being the definition of a lights out closer, he has regressed dramatically this year, posting a 5.85 ERA with four blown saves.

If he continues to struggle, look for a new gunslinger coming out in the final inning for Seattle.

The expectations will not be high in 2011, it will be a brand new team. One that needs to succeed for the people in charge to keep their jobs.



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