The Mariners at the Meetings

Dec 6, 2010, 7:13 AM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:52 pm

By Mike Salk

I have to be honest, I went into this Hot Stove season not expecting to get too excited about anything the Mariners might do. After all, they should be in rebuilding mode and that generally involves waiting for the prospects to grow up and take their rightful spots on the roster.

But then I got it in my head that maybe the M’s could be players this offseason and rebuild all at once. Maybe they could follow the Cincinnati Reds model from 2009 when they pulled a deadline deal for an aging Scott Rolen despite being in fifth place, 10 games out of first. The next year, Rolen played a key role in the Reds run to the playoffs and was often credited as the veteran presence they relied on through their rebuilding. The point: the M’s may not be capable of winning their division in 2011, but signings/trades can last longer than one year and there may be some younger veterans who could help. That said, some of the money being thrown around the free agency market is shocking. Jayson Werth’s contract has shocked the industry and sent a message that there are teams with money to spend. Will the Mariners be one of those teams?

There are some intriguing names out there both in free agency and in the trade market. With the Winter Meetings starting on Monday, let’s take a look at the Mariners needs and some players who might fit.

Need: Power hitter

Potential spot: OF, 3B, DH

The top power threat on the free agent market was Adam Dunn, but he was lured to the south side of Chicago by the aggressive pitch White Sox GM Kenny Williams. The M’s likely won’t have the cash to go hard after other marquee names like Carl Crawford or (the now off-the-board) Jayson Werth, so they need to be a little more creative to find power.


-Mark Reynolds, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Update: The Baltimore Orioles have acquired Reynolds in a trade.

Like Dunn, Reynolds is close to being a “true outcome” hitter. He walks some (though less than Dunn), strikes out a ton, and has serious power. Two years ago, he walloped 44 home runs while playing in a pitcher’s park. Yes, his numbers dropped last year, but that is what makes him an available candidate on the trade market. He will turn 27 this season, which is an age where players often “put it together.” One strike against Reynolds: he is right-handed and there will obviously be concerns about a power hitting righty at Safeco. That said, for all the problems people claim Richie Sexson had in Seattle, he managed to belt 39 and 34 home runs in his first two seasons in Seattle. I think the problem with Sexson was that he got old (at 32), not that he was a righty.

Buster Olney told us a few weeks ago that Reynolds was available on the cheap. That seems to have created some buzz as the Orioles have been rumored to show serious interest. The Diamondbacks are said to be looking for hard throwing relievers, coincidentally the one thing the Mariners can offer!

-Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Upton would be the holy grail for the Mariners this off-season. He is the pie in the sky option. In many ways, he is the absolute, perfect fit. Upton was drafted #1 overall in 2005 out of high school. If he had been available the same year as M’s top prospect Dustin Ackley, he still would have gone #1. That is to say, Upton would be the best prospect in the M’s system, and to make him even more attractive, he has already shown that he can handle hitting big league pitchers to the tune of a .300 average, .366 on base percentage and 26 home runs in his second full season (2009). Did I mention he was just 21 years old when he put up those numbers? Now at 24, he is just starting to come into his prime years. Yes, it would take a lot to acquire him, but the upside is enormous. Upton is a true building block, loved by scouts (who think he has all the tools to be a super star) and stat geeks who love the numbers. And unlike some of the other major trades the M’s have made in the past, he is a young player who signed at a reasonable rate through 2015.

What would it take? Possibly some combination of Ackley, Michael Pineda, Franklin Gutierrez and Nick Franklin. Is it ideal? No. But could it happen? Absolutely.

-Jim Thome, DH, Free agent
-Russell Branyan, DH, Free agent
-Hideki Matsui, DH, Free agent

There are some intriguing name who would be candidates for one-year deals who could act as a left-handed DH, occasional first baseman and clubhouse leader. The M’s know what they have in Branyan. Thome would be a powerful force who could help mentor young players but would probably prefer to sign with a contender. Matsui’s name will always get connected to the M’s because of the Japanese ownership.

Need: Middle and back of the rotation starters:

The M’s will likely look to the bargain bin to fill out their rotation. They have a true ace in reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, a legit starter in Jason Vargas, an exciting prospect in Michael Pineda, some fringe starters in Doug Fister and David Pauley, and some help coming in Mauricio Robles.


-John Maine, RHP

Maine was once a promising prospect with the Mets whose career has deteriorated the last few years after injuries led to ineffectiveness. That led the Mets to non-tender him and allow him to hit free agency early. The price won’t be high, but the upside potential is there.

-Jeff Francis, RHP

Like Maine, Francis was once a big prospect but he actually had some legitimate success before injuries derailed his career. It was just three years ago that he started Game 1 of the World Series! The M’s are believed to be one of a few teams to offer him a minor league deal and a chance to make the club.

-Jeremy Bonderman, RHP

Need: Veteran Catcher

I’m told the Mariners had some interest in bringing in Jason Varitek as a veteran leader who could help develop Adam Moore while contributing on the field and off of it. Varitek, however, resigned with the Red Sox so that spot is still open.


-Gregg Zaun, C,
-Dioner Navarro
-Bengie Molina
-Gerald Laird

I thought the M’s might have had interest in Ramon Hernandez for this spot but he signed a three-year deal to stay in Cincinnati. The rest of this group consists of veterans who know the game well and could provide the team with some of the same qualities as Varitek without the name recognition. Zaun has never been great, and injuries have hurt him recently, but if he could be had on the cheap, he would provide a significant amount of saltiness and personality that the club was lacking last season. Navarro has had some successful years in Tampa.

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