By Shannon Drayer
The Mariners should be very busy at the winter meetings as there are still many roster needs to fill. I will not be at the meetings this year but will do my best to keep you posted on what I am hearing and what is being reported from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, which will be home to nearly all of baseball the next four days.
The Robinson Cano deal is not official and will not be until he passes the physical. That is expected to take place Monday. I have yet to hear whether or not the press conference for his signing will take place here in Seattle or at the meetings. They could possibly do two with an introductory press conference taking place in Seattle next week. We will just have to wait and see.
Once that physical is passed and the contract is signed, the Mariners can cross “best free-agent hitter” off their list and move on to other needs. Of most concern is the outfield. If the season were to start today, Seattle’s outfield would be Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte and Dustin Ackley. Obviously some work to be done there.
Trading top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker for Rays ace David Price wouldn’t be a worthwhile move for the M’s. (AP)
While many believe Seattle to be a likely landing spot for Shin-Soo Choo, after the acquisition of Cano I have to question that – not because of the money but because of the handedness. The Mariners came into the offseason lefty-heavy and are even more so now. The team has shown interest in Nelson Cruz, Matt Kemp and Corey Hart. I like the idea of Rajai Davis in a platoon role. Ideally I would like to see the team pick up two outfielders, but that might be a stretch.
Another need is starting pitching.
David Price is available and the Mariners match up well with the Rays provided Seattle is willing to part with Taijuan Walker. I hope we do not see this for a number of reasons, the first being if Walker is my most valuable trade piece I sure as heck am not giving him up for another starting pitcher, let alone for one that you would have for only two years.
This is not Cliff Lee, Part II. Lee was traded for extra pieces the Mariners somehow had in the farm system at the time. This is different. Not only would they have to give up talent but they would have to also give up dollars. All for how many more wins over what Walker could possibly put up?
Another problem with trading Walker for Price would be that you still have a hole in your starting rotation. When I heard that general manager Jack Zduriencik’s plan was to add another pitcher I thought it was to fill out the rotation, giving them three established pitchers at the top with two prized prospects at that bottom. If you trade Walker, Erasmo Ramirez is in your rotation and you have lost your depth of starting pitching. There are some good options remaining that aren’t going to cost you players. Bartolo Colon would be one of those.
The final reason I don’t make the trade with Tampa Bay is simple. Tampa Bay likes Walker and a number of other prospects. You know what that says to me? You are on the right track. If the Rays like those players, the Mariners should like those players. Hang on to them. Or at least don’t give them all up for two years of a pitcher.
Zduriencik has also said that it would be nice to add another arm to the bullpen, and I agree. Up until last year, building a bullpen out of nothing seemed to be strength of this organization. Now they need a little help. Last year they got caught short in the depth department. No one was ready when Tom Wilhelmsen faltered. Oliver Perez was a second-half disaster last season and most likely will not be back. They have some nice young arms coming but could use an established arm to if not close at least provide a safety net for Danny Farquhar.
Those pitchers are going to have to throw to someone not named Mike Zunino occasionally and that person has yet to be found. Catcher is another area of concern in terms of depth, and Zduriencik needs to pick up at least one.
Last but not least, after the year of the first baseman/designated hitter roster, the team actually needs a DH. One name you haven’t heard at all this winter is Kendrys Morales. There flat-out aren’t a lot of teams that need a DH, let alone one they have to surrender a draft pick for. It will be interesting to see if Morales falls back to the Mariners. I have said all along that I believe that Zduriencik has a very specific price that he will pay for him and then be content to take the draft pick if Morales signs elsewhere. I don’t think this has changed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Morales is one of the later signees of the offseason.
It is quite a list of needs. The good news is that Zduriencik should still have a good amount of money to spend to round out the roster. We should see a trade or two as well. With the number of signings leading up to the meetings there is a good chance we see more actually get completed at the meetings this year than we have in the recent past. It should be a very busy week.