What’s next for the Mariners after their latest moves?
By Shannon Drayer
So, the Mariners’ soon-to-be-announced moves seem to have generated a general reaction of, “Great! Now what?”
In an attempt to figure this out and think it through clearly, I have taken two walks around the building and downed a bag of Skittles. With some information that has come available to me and dispatches from my peers at the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., I think I have a little bit more clarity on the situation. Let’s talk this through.
Corey Hart brings the bat the Mariners have desperately needed against lefties for years. You can almost start to make out a lineup card, which will still be lefty-heavy at the top, but one of those lefties fares decently against lefties. So what the Mariners do have is significant progress on paper with the offense.
The defense is a different story. Hart and Logan Morrison, who has reportedly been acquired in a trade with Miami, both have knee problems. Morrison was limited to first base last year while Hart missed the entire season after knee surgery. Despite that, the Mariners are looking at both as at least part-time outfielders. While both have yet to take their team physicals, the Mariners have had eyes on them and the belief is they will not be confined to first-base/designated-hitter roles.
In talking to numerous people in the organization, it is clear to me that they have not given up on Justin Smoak. With Morrison and Hart in the fold, however, they should have insurance in the form of a platoon partner should they need one for him from whatever side. Smoak struggled from the right side last year. The previous two years, he struggled from the left side.
Now with all that said, I am hearing that the Mariners very well may move one of their first-base/outfield types. One way or another, I would be very surprised if we didn’t see a trade in the next week to 10 days.
If the season were to begin today, what would the outfield look like? Numerous scouts have told me that Michael Saunders ideally should be in right field. Are you ready to put Dustin Ackley in center every day? Yeah, no, me neither. So now you have a logjam in left with Ackley/Morrison/Hart and Abraham Almonte in center. There is work to be done, and as I said before, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ackley is dealt.
A bunch of you have asked if the Mariners are in on Shin-Soo Choo. While his market appears to be small, his price somehow is still high. A number of teams indicated Wednesday that they are out of the race to sign him. He is said to have a seven-year deal in hand, and I would assume that it is for at least $20 million per year.
On Tuesday, Mariners general manager Zduriencik sounded like he was backing off Choo.
The Mariners may be out of the running for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo given the money they’ve already spent and the big deal he will likely command. (AP)
“Depending on where the dollars end up, there’s a breaking point for everybody,” he told “Wyman Mike and Moore” on 710 ESPN Seattle. “We’ve made one huge sign. You are not going to be able to go out and do two or three more. That just financially isn’t feasible for us. So we’ll see what happens. Certainly we have had conversations, but it does depend on where the dollars end up.”
While the market for Choo may be dwindling, I doubt the dollars will go down significantly. Scott Boras is Choo’s agent, and my guess is he will slow things down and attempt to rebuild that market. I wouldn’t expect to see him signed this week, and I probably wouldn’t expect to see him sign with the Mariners.
We don’t know what Zduriencik’s budget is but we do know that with Wednesday’s move – depending on how incentives are accounted for – he is getting closer to $80 million with multiple needs to still fill. The Mariners still need an outfielder, preferably a center fielder. I am going to say this and then duck, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if we now saw them bring back Franklin Gutierrez on a one-year, low-base, higher-incentive deal.
Could we see Kendrys Morales return? That is looking less and less likely unless they do indeed trade one of the first-base/outfield types.
As I said in my previous post, one of the benefits of Wednesday’s moves is they keep Zduriencik from getting held hostage over Morales by Boras. I don’t think that it is out of the question that Morales falls back to the Mariners as his market looks even weaker than Choo’s. It may be a challenge to find anyone who is willing to give up the draft pick they must to acquire him. His best hope may be a team which has already given up a pick, and so far that list includes the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox.
While Wednesday was about the offense for the Mariners, there are still pitching needs. Carter Capps, who was traded for Morrison, was expendable. The Mariners do need bullpen help, however, and I would expect that they find it via trade.
As for adding a starter, we really haven’t heard much other than the team being linked to Tampa Bay’s David Price. Bartolo Colon came off the board Wednesday, signing a two-year deal with the Mets and we still do not know if Masahiro Tanaka will be posted.
A quick question for you: If you could add one more big-contract player, which would you choose: Tanaka or Choo?
I will leave you with a few notes.
• Information keeps coming in about the Hart deal and what the Brewers were offering against what the Mariners did. Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt tweeted that Seattle’s offer was $6 million in base salary plus $7 million in incentives, while Milwaukee offered a $4 million base salary and $2.5 in incentives. Big difference there.
In his article on the deal, Haudricourt also pointed out that that Seattle had another advantage in that as an American League team, Hart would miss fewer days as he could DH and thus have a better shot at those incentives.
• If you are on Twitter (and you should be, follow me @shannondrayer) you may already know a little bit about Logan Morrison (@LoMomarlins). He is great about letting the fans in and does so in this article about being traded, which he wrote before he was traded. Good stuff.
• Last but certainly not least, the game will soon be getting safer for the backstops as MLB has plans to eliminate home-plate collisions. ESPN’s Buster Olney has the details on what this will look like.