John Lackey, A.J. Burnett, and Felix Hernandez don't seem to have a lot in common, but after a recent contract extension for Hernandez, their salaries are all very similar. Fortunately for the Mariners and general manager Jack Zduriencik, they seem to have made the best investment of the three teams.
At 23 years old, King Felix is already a better pitcher than Lackey and Burnett, and the future looks even brighter. Hernandez's extension seems like the capper for a phenomenal offseason by the Mariners front office.
Here is just a few of the moves that Zduriencik has made that will make the Mariners an AL West favorite for this year and beyond.
- Signing center fielder Franklin Gutierrez to a very affordable extension makes sure the Mariners have one of the most valued defense outfielders in baseball. Add in the stellar defense with a .283 avg, 18 hrs and 70 rbi and Gutierrez is a solid investment for Seattle.
- Signing Chone Figgins to play third base and, more importantly, presumably bat behind Ichiro in a lineup that features a lack of power bats. But the speed of Figgins and Ichiro will wreak havoc on opposing pitchers.
- Trading utility man Bill Hall to Boston for first baseman Casey Kotchman to replace Russell Branyan. While Kotchman may not hit half of Branyan's 31 bombs, the line-drive hitting, slick fielding first sacker will give the Mariners a potential 90-100 rbi guy in the middle of their lineup.
- Perhaps the biggest coup was adding Cliff Lee to team with Hernandez to form arguably the best 1-2 duo in the major leagues. While pitching prospect Phillippe Aumont does have a live arm, his future seems to be as a closer, and they are valued significantly less than starters.
- Trading Brandon Morrow to Toronto for Brandon League may be the one move that hurts the Mariners in the future, but League gives them another power arm in the bullpen for the 2010 season.
After losing Figgins, Lackey, and Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels seem to no longer be the class of the AL West and the Mariners have certainly positioned themselves for success in 2010 and beyond.