Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 5/30/15
Walker and Paxton are ready, 3rd rookie possible too. I’ve received a few emails and tweets about my support of the idea that Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are both likely to be in the Seattle Mariners’ rotation to start the 2014 season.  Most of them have been, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about the idea. Why? Sorry folks, I don’t get the fear some of you have on that one.  Walker is ready.  He was lights out in his cup of coffee with the M’s last September.  The same thing can be said about Paxton.  Both were dominant throughout AAA last year too. Bottom line:  They have nothing left to prove to anyone in the minors. Walker is the younger of the two at 21 years of age.  Paxton is 25.  Let me remind you that rotation ace Felix Hernandez is just 27 years old and he’s been in the rotation for more than eight years.  It’s hard to believe that the King has been around that long, but it’s true– look it up. Hernandez entered the M’s rotation as a 19-year-old — two years younger than Walker is set to do this year.   I really have zero problem in Walker and Paxton getting their much deserved shots this year even if it does mean two rookies in the rotation at the same time. Are Taijuan Walker and James Paxton starters? (Photo: The News Tribune) With that out of the way I can show you my projected rotation. Felix Hernandez Hisashi Iwakuma Taijuan Walker James Paxton TBD To me, the more interesting story that remains is who fills that fifth spot in the rotation.  If you listen to the scuttle out there, it appears the M’s are far more interested in signing another bat (ie Nelson Cruz) rather than another starting pitcher. That’s very shocking, especially if it is indeed Cruz.  While I agree that another bat is something M’s could get to protect monster investment Robinson Cano in the lineup, I’m not sure that a guy coming off a PED suspension is the right choice. Cruz is also an outfielder, and in case you didn’t notice, there is a log jam in the M’s outfield right now with Logan Morrison, Corey Hart, Franklin Gutierrez, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders. The M’s recently signed a new closer in Fernando Rodney, which is good news.  The bad news is that it appears that they had to overpay once again to get a player to come to Seattle.  The Mariner’s gave Rodney a two-year deal for $14 million.  That’s about $2 million more than they should have had to pay. At least one can understand overpaying to get someone good to come to Major League Baseball’s version of Siberia.   Regardless, the deal will help the M’s bullpen immensely with a veteran presence and the freedom to either move former closer Tom Wilhelmsen into a setup role or make him part of a package in another trade. Instead of once again overpaying for what in my mind is a questionable bat to big money and further crowding the outfield, Seattle should address that last spot in the rotation with the remaining cash.  This is made even more important by the fact that the team just announced that Iwakuma is questionable in regard to being able to start the season thanks to a ligament issue in his middle finger. From my standpoint, if there is only enough money left to go after just one more free agent, sign a starter to round out your rotation — don’t sign another bat. Unless Seattle signs another starter in the coming days, the last spot in the rotation will be a  competition between fellow youngsters Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer,  Blake Beavan and veteran non-roster invitee Scott Baker. Any of these four guys starting a game every fifth day is far more scary to me than being “forced” to have Justin Smoak or Kyle Seager hit behind Cano. However it winds up playing out, it appears this offseason isn’t going to end a single minute early this spring. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE MARINERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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