For the offseason as a whole, General Manager Jack Zduriencik and the Seattle Mariners get a pretty poor grade, having done next to nothing during a time that necessitates extreme action. The few moves they have done, however, can be classified as steps in a positive direction.
The most glaring need for the Mariners this offseason is power at the plate. The crumbled bullpen and incomplete rotation are also areas that require attention, but finding players who can produce runs is tantamount to future success.
Here is a critique of each (yes, I can fit them all into one slideshow, believe it or not) of the Mariners' offseason moves so far.
Catcher John Jaso came to the Seattle Mariners in a trade that sent Josh Lueke and a player to be named later or cash considerations to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Over the course of the 2011 season, Lueke pitched in 25 games, accumulating 33 innings pitched and a 6.06 ERA—an earned run average that high is especially dangerous in Seattle.
At their current level, they can't score runs, so the only way to win games is by not allowing the other team to score any runs. Giving up six runs a game would drop their win total to something dismal. Felix Hernandez usually manages to eek out a positive win differential only by keeping his ERA around 3.00.
It is likely that Lueke will improve with time but the Mariners have enough of that type of player—they need more immediate results. Enter John Jaso.
Jaso is certainly no savior for the Mariners, but he will complement current catcher Miguel Olivo in a what will likely turn out to be a platooning scheme. Olivo hits from the right while Jaso hits from the left.
Jaso's left-handedness is also more suited to SAFECO Field even if it is a pitcher's park.
This move is not nearly enough to bolster the batting order, but, like I said, it is a step in the right direction.
Grade: B. Hopefully this sets a precedent for acquisitions to come.
The Seattle Mariners signed LHP George Sherrill to a one-year $1.1 million deal last month. Sherrill began his major league career with the Mariners in 2004.
The only two players who have remained in the starting lineup since he left in 2007 are Felix Hernandez and Ichiro Suzuki. That is a testament to the changeover or rebuilding or whatever you like to call it that we have seen since Bill Bavasi left in 2008. Players like Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen have been replaced with Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp.
Sherrill, now 34, was brought in partly for his pitching and partly for his experience. In 2011 he appeared in 51 games and maintained a 3.00 ERA. He is chiefly a situational pitcher with a career opponent batting average against lefties at .180 and against righties at .272.
He will be a valuable tool in the bullpen for both late-game, high-pressure scenarios and acting as a mentor to younger pitchers.
The Mariners will only be tied down for a year and a small sum of cash if things do not work out, but Sherrill also expressed that he wouldn't mind finishing his career off in one place, as opposed to bouncing around the league in his final years.
Grade: A. Welcome back, George.
Here is a list of the names that the Mariners have signed to minor league deals: Luis Rodruigez, Matt Fox, Jarrett Grube, Jeff Marquez, Steve Garrison, Sean Henn, Guillermo Quiroz, Scott Patterson and Lucas Luetge.
They have all received invitations to spring training where they will have an opportunity to prove their respective worths.
All of these players except Grube and Luetge have seen limited success in the majors, so there is certainly some promise. And Grube and Luetge, both pitchers, have had respectable minor league stints.
Fox, Grube, Marquez, Garrison, Henn, Patterson and Luetge are all pitchers.
It is a little discouraging that only three of the eleven new players mentioned in this article are hitters, and Jaso is the only one likely to make an impact in 2011, but hopefully that just indicates that Jack Zdurienick isn't done with the offseason yet.
Grade: B-. I trust Jack Z and his scouts to make wise signings, but can't we get some better hitting prospects for spring training?
So what is left to do? A lot.
Mainly, sign Prince Fielder.
The latest rumors indicate that the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles are potential destinations for Fielder, and Fielder recently visited the nation's capital with agent Scott Boras. However, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo indicated that Adam LaRoche would start at first in 2012.
Since there is no designated hitter spot in the NL, that would leave Fielder without a starting spot, which seems unlikely—though it is possible, of course, that Rizzo would change his mind if he was able to sign Fielder.
The Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs are still in the bidding for Fielder, and although the Mariners have dropped into the background for now I still think they have a good shot at winning Fielder.
Fielder's deal will continue to decrease in magnitude as it delays longer and longer after the Albert Pujols deal which is good for Jack Z and the ownership.
Many opponents to the Fielder-to-Seattle campaign cite Fielder's reluctance to go to a baseball team coming off a 67-win season and to a city in the "far removed" northwest.
Without Fielder, the Mariners will undoubtedly move some length closer to a .500 winning percentage since they have lost nothing and gained experience. And Fielder must know that he can make an impact on a team to match the one he makes on a couch. Those two factors together could hoist the Mariners pretty close to a .500 season in 2012.
Fielder is just 27 so he should not be worried about puttering out anytime soon. Next season (2013) and the one after will be even better for the Mariners as Jack Z's farm grows into the majors.
As for publicity and such, the Mariners have a wide fanbase that covers multiple states and countries. Fielder would become one of the biggest names in Seattle and he would be vigorously marketed.
Attendance has been down for the past few years in Seattle, but that makes sense given their poor performance. Fielder would not just bring fans because of his presence, but also because of the wins he would help to create.
Jack Z just needs to make the right offer, and soon. He needs to step it up for the remainder of the offseason since he has just two more months.
If the offseason ends in just two months, that means spring training is in two months! That's right, we have almost made it through the cold, dark winter of NBA lockouts and football blowouts—baseball is on the horizon.