Seattle Mariners: Grading Team's Moves so Far This Offseason
The Seattle Mariners have already made plenty of noise this winter, and if early signs are any indication, they'll continue to be busy until spring training.
The moves have not only been unexpected, but monumental as well and heavily focused on hitting. A new skipper is at the helm and a new superstar in town.
The following moves are the biggest ones made by the Mariners so far, with their grades reflecting the quality of player/coach and value of their contracts.
*All stats via ESPN.com and Baseball-Reference.com.
The first major change the Mariners made was at the top, hiring Detroit Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon to manage the team in 2014.
McClendon's ability to manage is cloudy, given that his prior experience was with a talent-impaired Pittsburgh Pirates team that lost an average of 89 games per season during McClendon's tenure.
As a hitting coach in Detroit, McClendon fronted an offense that averaged sixth in the league in OPS over seven seasons and saw four American League batting title winners, including three-time champ Miguel Cabrera.
That being said, it makes perfect sense for Maringers general manager Jack Zduriencik to hire McClendon. He's made it clear through his moves this offseason that he's emphasizing offense, so McClendon is the perfect fit for that strategy.
Something to remember about McClendon's success as Detroit's hitting coach was that he was given gifted hitters to work with such as Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez, Prince Fielder and, of course, the best hitter on the planet in Cabrera.
That isn't to say McClendon isn't a good hitting coach, but his success as such should be taken with a grain of salt because of the talent he was surrounded with in Detroit.
The Mariners made a huge, huge splash by landing Robinson Cano. He'll give the franchise another superstar, another reason for fans to attend games and, most importantly, another offensive contributor.
Cano is fastened into Mariners teal for the next decade and will give other marquee free agents a reason to buy in. The potential for success is huge. Unfortunately, so is the potential for failure.
The move felt forced by Zduriencik. The team's biggest need is in the outfield, but Cano was the biggest name on the market and happens to be outstanding offensively. Zduriencik offered Cano a contract he couldn't refuse, not because Cano directly filled the team's needs, but because he's a superstar who can hit and who Zduriencik felt he needed to sign.
Cano's contract will pay him $24 million annually over the next 10 seasons, meaning that simple math affirms Cano will indeed make $24 million for playing at age 41. If Seattle wins one World Series in that time, it will absolutely be worth it.
There's no question that adding Cano will make the Mariners a better baseball team. The ultimate success or failure of the deal, however, will be determined by how Zduriencik builds around Cano to help the franchise flourish while it has a talent like Cano on the roster.
Your move, Jack.
The Mariners signed former Milwaukee Brewers slugger Corey Hart to a one-year deal, adding more power to the middle of their lineup and a corner outfielder/designated hitter.
Hart missed the entire 2013 season with knee issues, so the signing isn't without risk. On the bright side, Hart fills a need for Seattle and was picked up on a bargain deal of $5 million with a possible additional $8 million in incentives.
Hart provides protection in the lineup for Cano and has 30 HR, 100 RBI capabilities. He just has to stay healthy.
One thing Hart won't provide, and even less so now that he's in recovery mode, is fielding. Hart's positional ranking of "outfielder" is misleading, as he's best suited as a DH, which is still a position that Seattle needed to fill.
If Hart can cut down on his strikeouts and be limited to a DH role, he'll be a nice fit.
Former Mariners utility man Willie Bloomquist is back for his second stint with Seattle after signing a two-year, $5.8 million contract.
Bloomquist likely won't have an everyday type of role, but he can literally play any position and is a viable starter if needed. In fact, he may end up snagging a starting outfield job if no other outfielders are added over the offseason.
Bloomquist hit well over the past two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks (.302, .317) and can be slotted at the top or bottom of the order.
He may not seem like a significant signing, but Bloomquist brings a lot to the table in terms of experience and versatility. He will prove to be a valuable asset for the Mariners.
The same day that Hart was signed by the Mariners, Zduriencik traded reliever Carter Capps to the Miami Marlins for first baseman Logan Morrison.
Not a bad move, but an interesting one.
Morrison was brought in to hit, and perhaps motivate and challenge Justin Smoak for the starting job at first base.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Smoak is available to be traded, along with catcher Jesus Montero:
The #Mariners are letting teams know that Jesus Montero, as well as Justin Smoak, are available in trades.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 12, 2013
Are the Mariners finally giving up on Smoak? The acquisitions of Hart and Morrison allude to such, and dumping Smoak would make the first base/DH spot a lot less overflowing.
Morrison is 26 years old and has been inconsistent through his four seasons, but he has some pop and has good plate discipline. Given the chance to play a full slate of games, he could be a solid producer in the middle of the order.