Inbox: Is there any news on Clement?
Beat reporter Jim Street answers fans' questions
The non-waiver Trade Deadline is getting closer by the day, and the Mariners must decide whether to swap one or more of their most marketable players, such as pitcher Jarrod Washburn, third baseman Adrian Beltre and perhaps a few others, or stand pat and hope the offense improves so the team can get back in the American League West race. What happens, one way or the other, could have a profound impact on the future. Meanwhile, here is the latest installment of the Inbox. Send in your questions, and I'll do my best to answer them.Why haven't we heard about Jeff Clement this year? He had good offensive production last August and has a very good bat. Are there any chances of seeing him this year?
-- Micah M., Bellingham, Wash. Clement, the Mariners' first-round choice in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, has spent the entire season at Triple-A Tacoma, where he has had a solid season as the designated hitter, batting .286 with 14 home runs and 67 RBIs through 91 games. Although he batted .325 in 77 at-bats last August, he had no home runs and 12 RBIs before undergoing season-ending knee surgery in September. His knee -- and the emergence of Adam Moore -- has limited the amount of time Clement has spent behind the plate this season, and he currently ranks behind Kenji Johjima, Rob Johnson and Moore on the defensive side of catching.
Unless Clement is traded, my guess is that he probably would be promoted to the Mariners in September when Major League rosters are expanded. Depending on what Ken Griffey Jr. decides to do after this season, Clement could figure in Seattle's DH plans for 2010.Where do the Mariners plan to play Dustin Ackley when he gets to the big leagues in a few years? And, where would he bat in the lineup? I'm guessing that when Ackley comes up, Ichiro Suzuki will be on his decline. So why not place him in right field and hit him leadoff? Ackley isn't known for his power, but his contact and speed are superb. Otherwise, if Ichiro is still hitting and running like he is today, will he play left field or maybe second base after shifting Jose Lopez to shortstop?
-- Tom K., Portland, Ore. Before anything happens, the Mariners and Ackley must reach agreement on a contract prior to 9 p.m. PT on Aug. 15. That is the deadline for college juniors to sign. I expect it to happen, but not much before the deadline. When they selected Ackley as the second overall Draft pick last month, the Mariners said they would put the sweet-swinging left-hander in the outfield, probably in center field. That is his natural position, although he played mostly first base for the University of North Carolina this past season.
But it's far too soon to predict which position Ackley eventually will wind up playing in the Major Leagues. A lot depends on who's on the team when he reaches the Majors. The way Ichiro is going, he could still be churning out 200-hit seasons for the next four or five years.
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Again, where he would bat in the lineup depends on the overall depth of the lineup.Several fans have asked which players from the '09 Draft have signed. As of Monday, 31 of the 50 players selected in the First-Year Player Draft have signed, while three others, including second-round pick Rich Poythress, a first baseman, have agreed to terms but are not officially signed. The first two selections, Ackley and shortstop Nick Franklin, from Lake Brantley High in Florida, remain unsigned, but the Mariners have inked 11 of their first 14 picks, including catcher Steven Baron (compensation choice between first and second rounds), Kyle Seager (third round) and James Jones (fourth round). Right-hander Tyler Blandford, the fifth-round selection from Oklahoma State, also remains unsigned. I am able to see Mariners pregame and then it is blacked out here in Indiana. Who's to blame for this? I am a fan, but have to check ESPN for updates.
-- Jane D., Connersville, Ind. I would suggest you contact your local service provider (cable, Direct TV, etc.) and ask them about subscribing to the MLB Extra Innings package or look into MLB.TV. Do you think Griffey will return next year?
-- Jesse S., Auburn, Wash. That's a good question, Jesse. Whatever Junior might be thinking right now, he's keeping it to himself. The offensive production he and the Mariners hoped he would provide has not materialized, but his value in the clubhouse has been immeasurable. He and fellow veteran Mike Sweeney have turned the clubhouse atmosphere around 180 degrees from where it was last season.
My gut feeling is that this will be Griffey's final season, but if his bat suddenly comes to life and he has a strong finish, perhaps he would want to return in 2010.Would it not make sense to trade Johjima for a better bat? I like "Joh" a lot, but considering how good Johnson is behind the plate, and with all the other young backstops in the farm system, isn't it logical? There are teams that need a catcher around the league. If not Johjima, why not Clement? He has great value since he's a former first-round Draft pick.
-- Tom K., Portland, Ore. Unless Johjima demanded to be traded, I doubt general manager Jack Zduriencik would receive permission from Nintendo of America (the majority owner) to swap the catcher, who has two years remaining on the contract extension he received last season. Therefore, I would say there is a better chance of Clement being traded. That being said, I still believe Clement can be a productive Major League hitter. He's still young, turning 26 on Aug. 21, and could be the potential DH of the future for the Mariners.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.