There are always questions with the Seattle Mariners.
While other teams are readying for playoff runs in 2013, the Mariners faithful are left to wonder if their team will be competitive. After the weak hitting of the last few years, just being relevant would be nice.
Seattle missed out on Josh Hamilton, but moves are being made. Kendrys Morales is a solid addition, and perhaps Jason Bay will rediscover his power stroke with the Mariners.
Still, there are lingering questions that remain unanswered. This is a team that is definitively in progress, and there are multiple areas of weakness.
With that in mind, here are five big offseason Seattle Mariners questions that need to be answered.
The free-agent talk is beginning to die down as players find new homes and teams move on with internal options.
Are the Mariners going to sign any new players from the existing free-agent pool?
The marquee players are mostly gone, and Seattle is not necessarily the type of team that is anxious to overpay for anyone that is left.
There was talk about Michael Bourn in past weeks, but that seems to have dwindled, as Seattle is no longer regarded as a major player (via Bleacher Report).
Seattle may add a smaller piece or two, but most of the shopping may be done.
Then again, the Mariners reportedly offered Hamilton four years and $100 million, though Hamilton recently minimized the aggressiveness of Seattle (via the Seattle Times).
In theory, some of that money may still be available if Seattle is willing to do some spending. The question is whether there is anything left that is worth buying.
Kendrys Morales was a good start. Is Jack Zduriencik done?
Conventional wisdom suggests that upgrading the Mariners at this point may be best accomplished by completing another trade.
The question is whether the Mariners have desirable assets that they are willing to let go.
There may be a bevy of pitching talent in the minors, but you suspect that the Mariners are going to be hesitant to send away future members of the rotation without some strong consideration.
Now that Jason Vargas is gone, the Mariners will need someone else to slot into the role of starting pitcher. Therefore, the time of trading a pitching prospect may have passed.
We will have to see if Jack has more deals up his sleeve.
Speaking of Jason Vargas, he is now a member of the Los Angeles Angels. He will need to be replaced.
The listed starting rotation (via ESPN.com) include Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez and Hector Noesi.
One might assume that the Mariners will look for an upgrade over Noesi, given that the 25-year-old was 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA in 2012. Perhaps Hector will rebound in 2013, but the Mariners might look for an affordable veteran.
As noted by NBC Sports, the Mariners are rumored to be talking with the Detroit Tigers about Rick Porcello. In addition, Jeremy Bonderman will have a shot at making the rotation after signing with the Mariners.
Or will one of the youngsters dazzle in spring training and make the Opening Day roster? The Mariners have high hopes for the likes of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.
Perhaps one of those three will be the 2013 replacement for Vargas.
The acquisition of Kendrys Morales may create a roster situation where someone else has to be moved.
It seems reasonable that Morales would split time between first base and designated hitter, which is what Smoak might have done before Kendrys arrived.
The tandem of Jesus Montero and John Jaso split time between catcher and DH in 2012. Now, add in recently acquired Raul Ibanez, who might also see time at first base or DH.
Are you sensing the problem here?
Ultimately, the Mariners are not going to have enough first base and DH opportunities to go around, particularly if Seattle eventually wants to move Montero out from behind the plate.
Do not be shocked if Smoak or Jaso end up being discussed in future trade rumors.
Is the outfield too crowded?
A logjam is building in the outfield, as the addition of Ibanez creates yet another situation where there are too many players and not enough playing time.
In the outfield, the Mariners could have Ibanez, Michael Saunders, Jason Bay, Franklin Gutierrez, Eric Thames, Casper Wells and Mike Carp. You could also add Carlos Peguero and Alex Liddi to that mix of players.
For those of you that are scoring at home, that is nine players. Oh, and there is always the possibility that Seattle could still sign Michael Bourn. That makes 10.
Injuries and slumps may take care of some roster spots, but this is still a collection of players that has potential but a general lack of star power.
Depth is nice and all, but not that much depth. Something will have to give.