By Shannon Drayer
It is not by any means the blockbuster move that Mariners fans are waiting for this offseason but an area of need is close to being filled.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Nick Piecoro of azcentral.com were the first to report – and I have since confirmed – that Seattle is close to signing Willie Bloomquist. Pending a physical, a Mariners-Bloomquist reunion is set to happen with Piecoro reporting it’s a two-year deal worth $5-6 million.
Willie Bloomquist is a career .271 hitter during his 12 big-league seasons, the last three of which he spent with the Diamondbacks. (AP)
The Mariners needed a backup shortstop/utility player. With the current roster they have flexibility in that all positions can be covered, but a designated utility player is the preferable way to go. Bloomquist can play every infield position and you can throw him in left field in a pinch.
The pricetag is a bit eye-opening. A two-year contract at what would be a raise of at least a $500,000 per year at age 36 is what Bloomquist is looking at if the reported numbers are correct.
In addition to filling the need in the field, the Mariners are putting a premium on Bloomquist’s experience, which makes sense with the young infield they could go forward with. For as much derision that I see on Twitter and in various blogs over Bloomquist’s scrappiness, I will say this: He is a guy you want in your clubhouse.
Bloomquist brings an edge and a bit of a chip-on-the-shoulder-attitude that has been largely missing in that clubhouse. I have wondered at times if the learning environment that the Mariners have fostered the past two years has made things a bit too safe for the young players. They need to be allowed to make mistakes but I didn’t get the sense there was a lot of looking over the shoulders for the next guy if they didn’t get the job done. Bloomquist will help out with the young guys and share his 12 years of experience, but he will also give them a push.
So the Mariners are close to making their first move. It is a move that they can get done relatively quickly and move on. In years past they might have waited until much closer to spring training before signing a backup player, but in those years they didn’t have the payroll flexibility they have now. They don’t have to settle for whatever is left and they don’t have to wait to see if they have dollars remaining to sign the player they want rather than go with what is available.
This is a move they can make that shouldn’t impact anything else they want to do this offseason.
• Monday is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, and for the Mariners those are first baseman Justin Smoak and outfielder Michael Saunders.
• A winter-ball update: Soon-to-be new News Tribune Mariners beat writer (and soon-to-be former Kansas City Star writer) Bob Dutton reported this Monday morning:
Health issues continues for ex-Mariners OF Franklin Gutierrez; sidelined by virus infection in winter ball in Venezuela.
â€” Bob Dutton (@Royals_Report) December 2, 2013
• The news was better for Erasmo Ramirez, who is picking up innings he missed while on the disabled list last season with the Lara Cardenales. Ramirez has made three starts and allowed just one earned run in 14 innings.
• Finally, Jesus Montero has still not played in a game after requiring two stitches in his hand following a minor car accident in Venezuela. His last game played was Nov. 10.