Mariners: Grading Team M's Offseason Moves so Far
On Tuesday when the Seattle Seahawks signed a 33-year-old personal trainer to help fill the gaping hole left following pass rusher Chris Clemons season-ending knee injury, I couldn't help but laugh.
While a move like this seems in many ways ridiculous, 'Hawks general manager John Schneider will probably be given the benefit of the doubt on this move based on his past success of finding talent in the strangest of places.
Unfortunately M's general manager Jack Zduriencik has yet to earn the same benefit of the doubt as Schneider given the team's poor track record in recent years; nevertheless that hasn't stopped him from trying to make moves to rebuild the ballclub.
This winter Jack Z once again has the unenviable task of retooling a roster that even though we are just weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, still appears to be at least one move short of completion.
Ever since the end of this past season, rumors have linked the Mariners to potential blockbuster trades for the likes of Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton and top shelf free agents like Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn, while ultimately yielding nothing.
Rather than speculate on the hearsay and conjecture in connection to those players, I figured it might be worthwhile to evaluate the moves the M's have actually made to this point.
So perhaps Jack Z has yet to make a blockbuster move that will win the hearts of fans and pundits alike, for the moment let's see if we can hand out some grades on the early returns of this past offseason.
Hisashi Iwakuma in his first season stateside initially struggled to adjust, but during the season's second half, the righty from Japan quietly made his case as a solid addition to the team's starting rotation.
Understanding the issues of adjusting to a foreign environment all too well, early in the season I urged caution on judging him too soon and by August was impressed enough to believe that the M's should keep him.
Hopefully in his second full season, Iwakuma will continue to build upon his solid second half from this past season and cement his place in the rotation.
For the moment though the pressure will be up a bit from last year as it would appear that Iwakuma will be slotted behind Felix Hernandez in the M's rotation as the No. 2 starter.
Can he fill that role with Jason Vargas now gone?
One would like to think so even if I don't necessarily believe that he is an ideal No. 2 starter, but if we face up to the facts, he's the M's best option.
When you factor in the reasonable terms of the deal to get him back in the fold, the Mariners first move of the offseason was arguably one of their best.
Having a veteran lefty like Perez coming out of the bullpen for $1.5 million for one year is a steal.
This move may not have a huge impact on the team long-term, but it's a smart move that should work out well for the Mariners.
Hopefully he too continues to pitch well like he did last year, otherwise it's only a small loss as his deal won't handcuff the team if he flops.
One man's trash is another man's treasure?
With all due respect to Andino, the deal that brought him to Seattle in exchange for Trayvon Robinson is essentially a wash given both players were essentially left without much of a role in 2013 for their respective clubs.
On the bright side Andino can fill in all over the diamond if necessary and should be an improvement at shortstop over last year's back up for Brendan Ryan, Munenori Kawasaki, but in the grand scheme of things for the Mariners this move probably won't generate much of an impact.
As for moves that could generate an impact, the signing of Jason Bay does have some potential as I'm not quite ready to throw dirt on him yet.
If he's reasonably healthy and productive, this low cost / low risk move could pay high dividends as the Mariners need all the outfield help they can get this season.
If not, it's certainly better than watching Chone Figgins sit for another season.
After missing the past two seasons due to injuries, Jeremy Bonderman seems ready to give it one last shot.
Similar to Jason Bay, I consider the signing of Bonderman to a minor league deal a low risk / high reward bargain bin find.
Whether he emerges as a starter remains to be seen, but perhaps he could find a role as a long-man out of the bullpen?
Either way he might be a good guy to have around for spring training to help some of the M's young pitching prospects get adjusted.
The deal for Kendrys Morales in exchange for Jason Vargas came as a bit of a surprise, but not much of a shock.
With the Mariners moving in the fences in left field next season, Vargas future in Seattle looked a bit cloudy. Rather than take a chance in seeing how he would fare, general manager Jack Zduriencik opted to take advantage of the Los Angeles Angels log-jam of offensive talent by working out a deal for Morales.
Immediately following the trade I pieced together some thoughts on what Morales would bring to the Mariners and still consider those points valid, even after the next move on the list.
Morales, like everyone else on this list, comes with a laundry list of questions, but is probably the most important player here.
The success of the Morales deal, even if it is only a potential rental for one season, will be critical to how the Mariners look this season and possibly for the next several.
If Morales is healthy and can solidify the middle of the order, it could help quite a few people keep their jobs, including that of Jack Z.
However, if Morales is a bust, only the emergence of the players that he is supposed to help support will hopefully keep the Mariners afloat this season.
All in all it's a risky proposition; however, for today it's the only move that Jack Z has made thus far this winter that will likely have much effect on the status quo.
Finally there is Raul Ibanez.
While I understand that Ibanez is a fan-favorite, I'm not convinced this is a good move.
Beyond the obvious comparisons with the Ken Griffey Jr. comeback tours in 2009 and 2010 that in so many words was good, bad, and ugly, there is a point that Dave Cameron made over at USS Mariner that I hadn't fully considered:
If the Mariners had a good team, and didn’t need any more talent, hey, fine, blow a roster spot on a chemistry guy. But the Mariners don’t have a good team, and they do need more talent, and it’s a near certainty that Raul Ibanez is going to take the roster spot of a younger, better player who could actually help the Mariners on the field. The most vulnerable guy is probably Casper Wells. Not Mike Carp, who was already a goner. Before signing Ibanez, you could probably squeeze Wells and Jason Bay onto the same roster. Now, there’s no way to make it work. The Mariners are going to have to pick one of the two in spring training, and you can bet that if Bay shows anything in Peoria, they’re going to pick the veteran.
Whether you agree or not, it certainly made me think.
If Ibanez weren't guaranteed real money, perhaps I would feel differently.
Besides even if Wells stays for whatever reason, the M's still need a real outfielder.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that Jack Zduriencik once again looks like he's left on the outside looking in, especially on the free agent front.
While I don't think the M's should have paid the not so small fortune the Angels did for Josh Hamilton, I'm unsure as to whether Jack Z can do something meaningful with the options still available.
Making matters worse is that rumors involving Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton seem more entertaining than real, especially if you consider that Jack Z rarely if ever makes the most obvious move.
That doesn't necessarily mean the M's are destined to fall short, it's more the fact that none of us really know how things are going to unfold. Last winter it appeared the Mariners weren't going anywhere fast, but then come January they signed Hisashi Iwakuma and later traded for Jesus Montero.
Essentially we need to be patient as you never know what deals can be worked out between now and the start of the season. Otherwise the M's are going to need just about everybody on this list to exceed expectations, especially Kendrys Morales if they intend to be competitive in the AL West.
Until then, fingers crossed as hopefully the signing of Raul Ibanez isn't the last major move for Jack Z this winter as this move along with all of the others here fail to inspire much confidence in changing how the Mariners will perform on the field.