Thursday, January 21, 2010

posted by James - 3:48 PM

There's a lot of discussion out there about what the Seattle Mariners should do with the rest of their offseason after signing ace Felix Hernandez to a long-term deal, which was pretty sweet for all sides. They've already been buZy, buZy beeZ (the capital Z is for Zduriencik) setting up their team to take another step in 2010, following a shocking improvement in 2009.

The team still needs help in the lineup, the bullpen (just for depth really and getting left-handed batters out) and the back of the rotation.

How much each area really NEEDS improvement is up for debate, but they have money to spend and a playoff-calibre team right now. Even marginal improvements over what they have would be worth the money spent.

Unlike some, I don't limit the Mariners potential options to what might "fit." Sure, you can treat a roster like a jigsaw puzzle... but you really can just jam the pieces in to a baseball team and make it work as long as you get the production you're looking for.

For example, common thinking has the Mariners needing more right-handed hitting in the outfield to platoon with Ryan Langerhans and Milton Bradley or Casey Kotchman at first base. I'm not looking past options such as Hank Blalock, because I'm not at all certain what the Mariners have at first base and DH to overlook a player that can help them where other options fail. He didn't play but one game at third base last year, but he has for most of his career and could help the Mariners there if they had to move Chone Figgins around to compensate for other injuries. Sure, it wouldn't be an ideal situation, but we're talking about the 24th roster spot (Junior Griffey is 25th, if we're going for full-blown honesty). It doesn't have to be ideal to be a good fit.

Johnny Damon is another left-handed hitter who would be a tough fit for the Mariners with Ichiro, Bradley, Langerhans and prospect Michael Saunders as left-handed outfielder options, but he is coming off his best offensive output in many seasons, would hit great in SafeCo Field and could come cheap with the Yankees spurning him after he led them to their first World series win in nine years. He's also not going to hurt the team if he were giving Franklin Gutierrez or Ichiro an occasional day off.

I'm not going to advocate signing just anybody just because he's the best offensive option regardless of handedness. If I were, Jim Thome is obviously that guy, but disaster would have to happen for them to have anywhere to play him.

A right-handed hitter would be the best fit for this team whether it's backing up the infield or part of a platoon in left. Former Yankee Xavier Nady could fit in a little of both.

He's coming off a lost 2009 season, but he made great strides offensively in the two seasons previous and has always hit left-handed pitching pretty good. He's played every outfield position and has experience at first base. He's probably the top of my list to complement Kotchman in a platoon at first base while getting time in the outfield and maybe DH, too. he wouldn't be too expensive, and the Mariners wouldn't miss him too much if he took a while to come all the way back from Tommy John surgery on his elbow.

Jermaine Dye has put up numbers I'd like to have on any team for a long while. Sure, he's benefited from playing at New Comiskey, but he's going to hit left-handed pitching where ever he plays. He's probably the worst defender of all the options, but he could really add punch to the middle of the lineup a few times per week and as a pinch hitter. He might even get some time at first base, if he was serious about getting more time on the field.

Miguel Tejada is also an interesting name when you consider the fragility of incumbent shortstop/defensive drool inducer Jack Wilson. Having him back up short and third (second even?) could prove invaluable, but I worry about his bat away from some of the comfier home parks he's had to hit in since he left Oakland. I would still want him the lineup far more than Josh Wilson if Jack Wilson were to continue his injury maladies.

Fernando Tatis has a strange career I won't really get into here. I suppose he could play more positions than Tejada (although probably not shortstop) and hit better at a fraction of the price, leaving more money to improve the pitching staff.

It's surprising there are still many starting pitching options out there worth committing a chunk of payroll to. But the Mariners now have a chunk of payroll to throw around, so they get to look at it where other teams can't.

Ben Sheets is getting a long look from some teams, and the only reason he doesn't have a contract already is his continuing health problems. He sure can pitch when he's healthy, though. He'd be a fool to not sign with the Mariners and take advantage of the deep rotation and pitcher-friendly environment and defense. If he can stay relatively healthy for a whole year, he'll be able to cash in next year.

Erik Bedard... ummm... moving right along.

No, seriously, nothing to see here. If they're even thinking of Bedard (for reasons other than having to take names off the backs of all those jerseys so they can sew someone else's name on it), they should just throw more money at Sheets and get that done.

Jarrod Washburn, Chien-Mien Wang, Jon Garland... I'm fine with all of these guys. They would all shine in SafeCo and in front of Gutierrez and Ichiro.

It's not that I think any of these guys would be much better than Ian Snell, Doug Fister, Jason Vargas or Luke French... but getting one of the above pitchers would open up your room for error greatly and provide a lot of depth should one or more of them go down with an injury.

I have absolutely no idea who they'd get to help their bullpen. I've heard Wil Ohman's name, but I don't have a great impression of him from his days with the Cubs. Just means he'll come to Seattle and be great.

Just in case you're wondering, I'm deliberately talking about the Mariners so I don't have to think about the Cubs.

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