The Hot Stove League has kicked off, and the Seattle Mariners have many things to do. Let's review what needs to be done this winter and candidates who can fill some holes.
Veteran backup catcher
Kenji Johjima left the Mariners this winter for more playing time. The Mariners now have two young catchers in the big leagues, Rob Johnson and Adam Moore, but it would be nice if they had a veteran catcher to platoon and teach them.
Some candidates are Rod Barajas, Jose Molina, Ivan Rodriguez (Type B), and Jason Varitek (Type B).
Varitek should be a good fit as he is an excellent catcher defensively and will be a good example for Johnson and Moore. The Red Sox already declined his club option as Victor Martinez will be their everyday catcher, so it all depends on whether he picks up his player option. If he doesn't, the Mariners should go after him.
Edit: Varitek picked up his player option so he is now off market.
The Mariners should bring back either Endy Chavez or Ryan Langerhans. Both are decent defensively, as Chavez's UZR was 7.8 and Langerhans' was 5.5. Chavez looks better statistically, but the M's first need to know whether he's ready to come back or not after a nasty collision with Yuniesky Betancourt that ended his season.
Ken Griffey, Jr. was our starting DH this year, but he wasn't sharp. He said he'd return, but Griffey is at best a backup DH at this point.
World Series MVP Hideki Matsui should be a nice addition for the Mariners, as he posted .274 BA/.367 OBP/.504 SLG/.876 OPS along with 28 HRs and 90 RBI. The Mariners have the worst offense in the league, so adding a guy like Matsui should help. Matsui slipped just short of being a Type B free agent, so there are not many reasons for the Yankees to offer him arbitration.
Other candidates are Vladimir Guerrero, Hank Blalock, and Jim Thome.
No. 2 (and No. 3 if possible) starter
The Mariners dealt Jarrod Washburn at the deadline and likely will let go Erik Bedard as well, so the Mariners are in need of a starter after Felix Hernandez. John Lackey and Randy Wolf are the top starting pitchers available this winter, but they're Type A, so signing them will cost a draft pick, which the Mariners don't want to do as they are still rebuilding.
Ben Sheets or/and Rich Harden (Type B) should be good additions to the rotation, but of course, both are injury risks just like Bedard.
Russell Branyan and Jack Wilson are guys who should return next year. Branyan was a pleasant surprise, posting .251 BA/.347 OBP/.520 SLG/.867 OPS with 31 HRs. His back is a concern, but the Mariners lineup needs him.
Wilson, acquired from the Pirates at the deadline, is considered one of the best shortstops defensively. Wilson's UZR was at 14.0, best among all shortstops in MLB. His option is a bit expensive for a defensive-minded shortstop, but if the Mariners can rework his contract, he should help the Mariners' already impressive defense.
The Mariners recently offered both a contract, but both rejected the offer.
The Mariners must extend Felix Hernandez's contract immediately. Hernandez will become a free agent in two years, and many teams with bigger markets than the Mariners will try to sign him.
Teams like the Yankees can offer $200 million-plus for the young ace, and the Mariners won't be able to match that. So if the Mariners want King Felix to stay, offer him a big contract that he can't reject now.
There's a lot to do this winter. Can Jack Zduriencik do all of this? Well, this winter will be fun to watch.