It's that time again. The time between New Year's and Spring Training. The time of year when you start to itch for baseball, especially when you know that football could end in a heartbeat.
For the moment the overwhelming majority of sports fans in the Pacific Northwest are waiting for Sunday afternoon when the Seahawks face the Washington Redskins in their highly anticipated Wildcard matchup.
Yet instead of talking about Russell Wilson, the 'Hawks defense or Pete Carroll, I get the feeling that Mariners fans are waiting. Waiting for something. Waiting for a move that will validate what the team's front office is looking to achieve before pitchers and catchers report.
Much of the waiting revolves around the Mariners outfield and whether or not general manager Jack Zduriencik has another move up his sleeve this winter that will help soothe a fanbase unsure of whether this team can simply compete in 2013.
Last week I stressed that the team needs to find a good outfielder between now and Spring Training; however, passionate pleas to sign Michael Bourn or trade for either Giancarlo Stanton or Justin Upton may seem well intended, but are not without complications.
Can the M's really get Bourn to sign with them?
Does Jack Z have the intestinal fortitude to part with one or more of his top prospects to land either Stanton or Upton?
Perhaps I'm jaded, but I have a hard time as seeing any of these options as realistic even if the Marlins talking about Stanton?" The M's are talking to the Marlins about Stanton according to FoxSports Jon Paul Morosi.
Instead I think the the Mariners are more or less forced to work from the opposite end of the spectrum when you consider the outfield options---at least in free agency---still available according to Yahoo!Sports Jeff Passan.
Beyond Bourn, the options are a ghastly mix of broken toys and washed up veterans, none of which you would be pleased to see the team invest much time or money in at this point.
Sadly, beyond Young you start looking at players like Grady Sizemore, who would be a low risk-high reward player, but would join the growing ranks of Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez as players coming to Seattle five years too late.
If all else fails though, don't be shocked to see Sizemore at Spring Training looking for one last shot at redemption as Jack Z hopes that someone out of that aging trio can come to life for just one more year and do something meaningful with 400-plus at bats.
Until that time all that can be done is hope that Jack Z proves me wrong and makes a move bold enough to reshape the Mariners.
The trade for Jesus Montero last January and more recently for Kendrys Morales both show he's capable of making surprise deals and taking on some risks, but a blockbuster deal for Stanton or Upton both seem too steep for Jack to jump.
In both cases, Arizona and Miami have most if not all the leverage and therefore can deal from strength with their proven commodities. Where as Jack Z has prospects and little else other than Felix Hernandez.
Ultimately it's a game of chicken that I can't see Jack giving in to, yet I do think he can continue dancing with both clubs.
After reaching a stalemate, I can see him moving towards "Plan B" by focusing on the likes of either a Jason Kubel or Logan Morrison. That may not sound as exciting, but could probably be acquired for a more reasonable price to play left field.
In essence, a move like that---similar to the one for Kendrys Morales---as a compromise will buy Jack Z time. Time to shuffle the cards in the deck to see what he has to work with on the field at Seattle and time to let his prospects like Danny Hultzen and Mike Zunino make their ways to the big leagues.
It's not sexy and it could easily blow up in the process, but it is what I believe is realistic at this point in time.