A Thin Free Agent Class
After a 75-win season, we saw some obvious improvement from this young Seattle Mariners team. But there is still plenty of work to be done with this roster before the Mariners are going to make a run at the postseason.
You will likely see a similar pitching staff that you saw last year, including the re-signing of Jason Vargas.
For the Mariners to be successful, they will need to acquire some bats to get them over the hump offensively. I expect that most moves during the offseason will be focused on offense.
The problem for the Mariners is that acquiring a big bat through free agency won’t be easy. This season’s list of free agents is on the weaker side, especialy when compared to last season.
The big prize this year is Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. I could see the Mariners willing to part ways with Franklin Gutierrez for the opportunity to get someone like Hamilton, but that is a pretty big if.
There is also the option of playing Hamilton at left field and keeping Franklin Gutierrez in center. A month ago, I was certain that Hamilton would want no part in the hitter’s grave yard that is Safeco Field; however, with the Mariners moving in the fences, they have a better chance to acquire a big bat if the price is right.
Another option in the outfield is Nick Swisher, who is unlikely to re-sign with the New York Yankees. He plays right field, but can also move in to play first base.
I wouldn’t say that this is the “big bat” solution in Seattle, but it is always nice to get a veteran presence among a young group of outfielders.
Melky Cabrera, who was just reinstated after his 50-game suspension for using illegal substances, will also be on the market, and it is hard to say what his demand will be coming off the suspension; but it is definitely something to keep in mind.
Prior to his suspension, he was batting .346 with 11 home runs. BJ Upton, Raul Ibanez and David Ortiz are also schedule to hit the market as well.
The Mariners have some decisions to make in the infield. Brendan Ryan’s contract has expired, but is still under team control until after the 2013 season. Ryan is one of the elite short stops in the major league, but this team is desperate for offense.
The one thing that might keep Ryan here is the lack of free agents available, not only at the short stop position, but in the infield as a whole.
If the Mariners are looking to replace Ryan, they will have to do it with a minor league promotion or in a trade.
The only infield free agent I can see for the Mariners is someone like Mike Napoli who can hit for power. Napoli is listed as a catcher, but he can also play first base and would more than likely be a regular DH if signed by the Mariners.
I doubt we will see Miguel Olivo back, and the addition of someone like Napoli would be a more consistent offensive threat.
It will be interesting to see what direction Jack Zduriencik and the rest of the Mariners front office go.
High powered offensive free agents are hard to come by with this class, but there are some available.
We know that Zduriencik has pulled off a few trades in his tenure with the Mariners, and that may be the direction the team has to go if they are unable to attract the big bats they need—it may be the only option left.