The Seattle Mariners need to win at least half their games in 2012—at least to regain some fan confidence and improve attendance. The all-or-nothing approach to running a team is not what I see in the future of a Jack Zduriencik team. He will try to get the Mariners into winning shape soon without burning the bridges between current talent and potential post-2012 playoff glories.
As I have said before, as have others, the Mariners need to score more runs. They score so few runs right now, recent road trip excluded, that most of the moves I envision the team making this offseason involve improvements to the offense.
Zduriencik is no stranger to large, multi-player, multi-team trades. I expect a big trade this offseason because such a trade has precedents, including the trade involving J.J. Putz and Franklin Gutierrez and the Justin Smoak/Cliff Lee transaction.
The following slides address areas most likely to be involved in some sort of winter deal.
The Seattle Mariners' hitting woes include many positions, but catcher is among the worst. Miguel Olivo has not turned in much of a hitting performance, especially not during the second half.
A trade involving Olivo and a young player not named Dustin Ackley or Michael Pineda would not surprise me, and it might even involve multiple teams.
Right now the offensive hole at catcher is so large that it wouldn't take much to improve the position. The team might be able to spend a little cash or burn a few youth resources to get a quick return in the form of more runs scored.
Improving the offense quickly with a change at third will be expensive. The Seattle Mariners are stuck with Chone Figgins, and they might be in for a wait if they choose to play Kyle Seager regularly at the hot corner.
I could see the team shucking Figgins along with a young player like Trayvon Robinson to make the pill less bitter for another team. The Cincinnati Reds have been rumored to have interest in Figgins, which is at least evidence that SOME team might take him on, especially if Seattle eats a chunk of his salary and throws in some youngster to sweeten the deal.
I don't see the third-base acquisition being anything special—just a player who is league-average, offense-wise. Plugging a few league-average players into the Mariners lineup would help greatly.
I don't think Brendan Ryan is a long-term solution at short. He might be a short-term Seattle Mariner as a backup middle infielder. He is only getting playing time now because of the paucity of hitting.
Also, Ryan is 29 years old—too old to be in any long-term plans for the team. I could see him platooning now and then with Ackley, when Ackley needs a day off and there is a lefty throwing. I don't see Ryan as a long-term starter, which means a trade involving a shortstop coming to Seattle shouldn't be a surprise.
The Mariners have an offensive hole in right field, or whatever outfield position Ichiro plays. It is almost unthinkable that he would be traded, but I also thought the deal for Cliff Lee was unthinkable.
I think there might be a team out there ready to overestimate a 2012 bounce-back from Ichiro. If that team exists, and if the Mariners can scrounge a few more runs with such a deal, get ready.
A trade of Ichiro would send a message to Seattle: Nothing is sacred. I think now is a good time to send that message, with fan confidence low. It would clearly say that the team puts winning first, as Ichiro's value to the Mariner fanbase is largely sentimental at this point.
The Seattle Mariners don't need another starting pitcher, but they could use one if coupled with an offensive upgrade at one of the positions already mentioned. Should the Mariners acquire a player even close to the quality of Cliff Lee, the team would have an incredibly imposing rotation in 2012, so much so that a below-league-average offense could do well.
Another reason I suggest this is there are three rotation slots that could be improved—the three slots not taken by Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda. While the Mariners have more than adequate pitchers filling the back end of the rotation, they have an opportunity to make a move that could leave the team with three great starters, all of whom could be aces on many other teams.
Among the young players who could move, I include Trayvon Robinson. Even though the team just acquired him, his superlative performance at the plate might lead other teams to overrate him right now in ways the Mariners might not.