By Shannon Drayer
Acquiring Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher may or may not have been plan A for the Mariners. We know of varying levels of interest but in reality, the names are not important. What is important is the production they could bring. That doesn’t mean that there are not others or other combinations of players that could bring production as well. In reality, plan A is to improve the offense. There are many ways to do that.
Yesterday we heard of two free agents the M’s could bring in to help the outfield situation. Mike Salk reported that the club was close, and there are reports that the deal is done pending physical, to signing Jason Bay and Geoff Baker learned that the Mariners have contacted the agent for Raul Ibanez. The team has also been looking at trade possibilities and has discussed Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, among others.
Cuddyer is someone the club had interest in last year but not the dollars to bring him in. With two years and $21 million remaining on his contract, he is an affordable right-handed bat. The concern with Cuddyer would be his age, 33, and the fact that he dealt with oblique problems last year that limited him to 101 games. A big plus is that he can play first base.
Kubel has consistently put up nice numbers and has just one year remaining on his contract at $7.5 million. He is left-handed and does not bring the flexibility that Cuddyer does but comes with less commitment, which may or may not be more attractive to the Mariners. Both players bring the veteran clubhouse presence that Jack Zduriencik values.
Both players are said to be available with the Rockies looking for starting pitching and the Diamondacks pitching, shortstop and third base.
Another option may be Jacoby Ellsbury, whom the Red Sox are said to be interested in moving. His upside, when he’s healthy, is tremendous. Keeping him healthy is the key. Despite the lower salary he most likely would cost more in player return than Kubel or Cuddyer and that may not be something Zduriencik is willing to do for one year. While he is open to making another Cliff Lee-like deal, the key with that trade was that Zduriencik gave up players that were not prized within the organization. I don’t think he can get away with that again. Still, Ellsbury in a contract year is an intriguing thought.