MLB Free Agency: Predicting the Seattle Mariners' Offseason Deals
The winter talks are over, and the Mariners didn't really get anything done. Most teams didn't really get anything done, but Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, two of the biggest free agents of this year's class, signed with the LA Angels.
Of course, there are plenty of fish left in the sea, but the biggest ones are now sticking out more. GM Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners needs to act quickly and effectively so that they can come out on top in a year that is crucial to the future of the team.
It's also important to take out the trash, though, so that there's room for fresh talent to move in. I'm sure Jack Z has a solid grasp on what that entails, so he must realize that at least a few major moves would significantly benefit the team going into the 2012 season.
Here are the biggest deals he'll be working on for the remainder of the offseason.
Dumping Chone Figgins
I really wish Jack Z had gotten rid of Figgins by now. I'm not 100 percent opposed to the idea of keeping him like I used to be, but I still think it's a much better idea to get rid of him before the 2012 season.
Obviously, no one is going to want to pay for his contract, so the M's might end up eating that, but they need to cut their losses. Figgins has struggled in Seattle, and there's no reason to believe he'll improve at all next year.
The only scenario I can think of that might work better than last year involving Figgins is switching him to leadoff. He hit very well from the leadoff spot when he was with the Angels, so his game might perk up a bit. Wedge has indicated that Ichiro may not hit first next year, and there aren't any other prototypical leadoff hitters on the M's.
If the M's do hang onto Figgins, I think that's the best course of action. He could hit leadoff for a year or two while Alex Liddi and Kyle Seager develop a little bit more, possibly splitting time.
But that's only if they hang onto him. Like I said, I'd rather see him go to another team.
Adding a Starting Pitcher
The Mariners starting rotation is currently three-fifths full. Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas have all locked up spots (as long as they all remain in Seattle, which I'm sure they will).
Danny Hultzen, the Mariners' first-round draft pick from the 2011 draft, has a decent shot at the fifth spot in the rotation.
That leaves one more spot and a bunch of misfit pitchers. None of the three who saw time at the end of last year (Anthony Vasquez, Charlie Furbush and Blake Beavan) made a convincing case for the spot, but they're all still possibilities, however unlikely.
James Paxton is another option since he's been stellar in the minors, but too much youth in the rotation could be dangerous. Also, a rotation with three young starters would have too many holes at the end of the season when the innings limits set in.
Possibilities from the free agent market include Roy Oswalt and Javier Vasquez. An older pitcher isn't a bad fit since those aforementioned youngsters will be ready to move in a year or two if they don't come up this year.
Signing Prince Fielder
There are three components of this deal that we need to consider.
First, do we want him in Seattle? There are valid arguments for both sides here. Some say that he'll be the next Adrian Beltre or Richie Sexon bust and that SAFECO Field will ensure a drop in his numbers. They argue that spending all of our money in one place is foolish since we aren't be just one piece away from a championship team.
The other side claims that Fielder is the perfect solution to the Mariners' hitting problem. There is an upcoming wave of hitters in Seattle that has a promising future, but there isn't a superstar slugger like Fielder. They say he's the missing puzzle piece, and that when combined with the young talent and lethal pitching in Seattle, Fielder will prosper.
Personally, I side with the latter camp. Money is not the premiere issue to be concerned about right now—the owners aren't losing money. In fact, the franchise has been an economic success as of late due in major part to the dedicated fanbase.
Performance is the issue at hand. It's unquestionable that Fielder would increase the level of performance of the Mariners offense if he were to come to Seattle. And that's a pleasant thought for the scoring-deprived Mariners.
Second, does he want to come to Seattle? Well, this is much less objective, and it will probably depend a good deal on how much he's offered, but as far as I know, he hasn't expressed any disinclinations toward Seattle.
It's true that SAFECO is a pitcher's park, but as a lefty, he has the advantage.
Third, can we afford him? Yes. There's not really a discussion to be had about this. The owners have the money, and he would inevitably return profits from advertising and increased fan attendance.
The real question here is: Should the M's spend a lot on Fielder, or should they spread it out and add a few less-talented players. I vote for Fielder again. There isn't a lot of room in the Mariners lineup these days.
Sure, there's plenty of flexibility since very few of the players on the M's have truly earned their spots (yet), but why pay extra to fill spots that you could fill with pure, homegrown talent.
An additional reason for bringing Fielder to Seattle is the allure of having him with the Mariners, Albert Pujols with the Angels and Nelson Cruz with the Rangers—that's three of the top hitters in the league, all in the AL West.
And if for no other reason, Fielder should come to Seattle just so we can have King Felix and Prince Fielder.