The Mariners are going to need a new closer.
Still on crutches, David Aardsma is not getting traded as many expected. He's also likely to start the season on the disabled list, so the Mariners will need to call on someone else to close out their late inning leads.
Granted, we shouldn't expect many save opportunities in the three weeks Aardsma may start the season on the shelf. I'll liberally guess the Mariners will have 11 to 13 of those chances in April.
So they're going to need someone to step up.
Here's a look at the 10 arms that have the best chance to slide into that role.
Here's your dark horse candidate.
If Bedard is healthy and his stuff is working, he's got to be in the rotation to maximize his value.
However, if he doesn't have the stamina right away to start and none of the other options look good, you could have worse options than Bedard having a few back-inning outings before going to Tacoma to stretch out.
Again, it's a long shot if he's healthy. But it's something to keep in mind for the short term.
Since we're on the topic of long shots, meet Garrett Olson.
Well, you probably are already familiar with him. He's a funny guy that you want to root for, but the talent just hasn't been what we'd have liked in the majors.
While Olson doesn't fit your normal profile for a closer, the lefty could lean on Safeco Field being kind to his skillset in short spurts (closing games). He'd only be an option if the others don't pan out.
Since we're on the topic of guys who might be better in short spurts, here's David Pauley.
Pauley isn't going to blow you away with anything and is probably a better fit for mop-up and long relief work. He's just another option if the Mariners end up in a closer by committee situation.
There's a decent chance none of the options the Mariners are hopeful for work.
There's a better chance, in my eyes, of a closer by committee than there is to see Dan Cortes or Josh Lueke in Seattle at the beginning of the season.
If none of Manny Delcarmen, Chris Ray or Brandon League are effective, they'll probably share the role until Aardsma returns.
There has been much ballyhoo about the Josh Lueke acquisition and his legal issues.
We're past that now, though. He's obviously part of the team, and if your personal feelings about his being retained are negative, they don't appear to be shared by the Mariners.
Lueke has a big arm. He's just turned 26 and should be primed to hit the major league ground running. He has a fastball in the upper 90s and has 10 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 abilities.
He's an option, but the Mariners are likely to play the service time game with him. Even if he builds on his good 2010 and exceptional Arizona Fall League, he's probably going to head back to Tacoma.
The impeding arrival of Josh Lueke and thousands of rehashed words will happen in 2010, but it probably won't be until May or June at the earliest.
League has only saved eight games in his career, with six of those coming last season in place of Aardsma.
While he may have the best closer stuff on the staff, with one of the best swing-and-miss knockout pitches in baseball, there is one big reason he could be passed over: money.
The 2011 Seattle Mariners are not a top-notch closer away from contention, so even if League retained the post all season and fired off a truckload of saves, all it would do is hurt the 2012 Mariners.
League obtained Super Two status while with Toronto, so he'll get a fourth year of arbitration in 2012. The Mariners will do themselves no favors by ensuring he gets a huge raise by handing him the closer reins. They have enough big young arms in the system to avoid that.
Dan Cortes will open your eyes.
One of the nice things about minor league baseball is the intimate setting. By about the sixth inning, there are plenty of front row seats available to snag, and the ushers either aren't in sight or simply don't care.
That's good news if you want to watch a power-armed reliever like Dan Cortes. While a mere few feet from the catcher at Cheney Stadium, you can hear the ball sizzle and the glove go pop.
Cortes turns 24 in March, and while I'd love to see him bring that heat to Safeco Field, the Mariners simply must refrain and let him sit in Tacoma for another couple months.
The Mariners might not think 33 pitchers is enough.
Rumors have the M's as the favorite, or one of two, to land Durbin. As probably the best remaining free agent reliever on the market, it would be a nice add if they get him on the cheap.
While he'd probably be more of a sixth and seventh inning transition guy, he could find himself in the role if the other options don't pan out or after Aardsma eventually gets traded if he's having a good season.
He has to sign here first, though.
Delcarmen isn't a proven closer.
If you're into that sort of thing when seeking your ninth-inning stopper, you may not want to consider him.
Having only saved three games in 17 chances, he's not the ideal guy you want to stop the bleeding. Though most of those blown saves came in seventh or eighth inning work, giving up a late lead is never a good thing.
So why would the Mariners want to use him? For the same reason they might not want to use Brandon League.
Delcarmen is on a minor league deal. He'd be a cheap, high upside stopgap for a team that needs to save service time for youngsters and money for arbitration-eligible guys. The damage he could do with a poor performance would be limited to a small window.
If five years ago counts, Chris Ray is the closest thing the Mariners have to a "proven closer."
He saved 33 games for the Orioles in 2006 and 16 more a year later. He spent the next year being injured and the year after that being lousy. His 2010 saw some improvement in 63 games, so it appears he's healthy and ably to contribute.
His peripherals and a move back to the American League send up a regression flag, but being in the AL West is certainly better than being in the AL East.
For the same reason Delcarmen could have a shot at this role, Ray could be considered simply for his contract status and any flaws being limited to a short stretch.
He spurned other major league offers in favor of a minor league deal with the M's with the possibility of closing or setting up games to rebuild value.