Mariners Free Agent Rumors: 10 Players They Need to Pursue This Winter
The first two months and the winter meetings have passed, and GM Jack Zduriencik has yet to make the necessary moves to sufficiently bolster the Mariners' starting lineup for 2012.
It is not too late for Jack Z to do some major fixing up: there is an abundance of great talent still up for grabs, but it is slowly diminishing as we near spring training 2012 (okay, there are still two and a half months, but one of them only has 29 days).
There are some glaring needs that require addressing. With those needs in mind, here are 10 players for Jack Z and the Mariners to pursue this winter.
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The first addition that the Mariners are considering at length is another starting pitcher for the rotation. They currently have a young, talented set of pitchers both in the majors and minors, but the exaggerated youth of those pitchers is a weakness.
Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas and Michael Pineda* are the only starting pitchers on the team who are at full-season capacity. None of the other guys, comprised of Charlie Furbush, Blake Beavan, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and others, have seen a full season of major league work.
A veteran starter who could pitch from the fourth or fifth spot would provide some stability in an otherwise volatile pitching staff.
Kevin Millwood is a nice fit for the spot. He's had a great career, but it's beginning to wind down, which is good for the Mariners because Millwood won't be expecting a super-deal like one we might see with Yu Darvish or Hiroki Kuroda.
The Mariners could tack Millwood onto the rotation for just one or two years while the younger guys (including Taijuan Walker, who is just a little farther back in his development) get ready for the real deal.
*Pineda pitched pretty much up until the end of the season, but we did see a decrease in his workload starting in August. I think they'll let the reins out even more on him in 2012.
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Forty-nine-year-old Jamie Moyer wants to pitch next year! It's not as crazy as it sounds, I promise.
Moyer has pitched his entire career with a much less destructive style than his flamethrowing contemporaries, and that has contributed to his extraordinary longevity.
I'm not saying Jack Z should definitely sign Moyer, but Jack Z should keep an eye on him—he could come in handy if all of the other viable options are scooped up by other team who are closer to contention than the M's.
It would be a pretty nostalgic homecoming if Moyer did come back to Seattle though. I know I haven't forgotten him, and I doubt many other fans have. Wouldn't it be cool to have the circle-changing, tactical Moyer back?
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Jeff Francis is my third option for an older starter who could come to Seattle as a sort of interim pitcher. In fact, all three of these guys were mentioned by Greg Johns in an article on the Mariners MLB.com homepage. Greg and I are on the same page.
Francis is younger than the other two, but he's at a similar point in his career. He was unable to lock down a long-term deal with the Rockies or the Royals, so he's drifting through free agency. The Mariners could easily get him for a cheap, short contract.
Of course, the Mariners should not and will not sign all three of these guys, but I think one of them could make matters run much more smoothly at least at the start of the 2012 season. If things are not looking up come June or July, the Mariners could easily dump the vet and bring in one of the younger pitchers.
A six-man rotation is another possibility; not necessarily in the traditional sense (not that a six-man rotation is traditional), but just cycling a variety of starters through the end of the rotation until one locks in.
If you have other ideas for starters the M's might want to be pursuing this winter, feel free to comment below. There's certainly an interesting discussion revolving around the future of the rotation in Seattle.
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That brings me to my first position player. Chase Headley is on the trading block this winter, and there are plenty of team who would love to trade for him. Headley has been improving since coming up to the big leagues in 2007, both at third base and at the plate.
The Mariners are currently in a predicament with regard to third base. They still have Chone Figgins around, who has become a negative impact on the fan community, whether it's his fault or not. He may get the start in 2012 if he's still around, and he may even leadoff since Ichiro might switch down in the order.
Alex Liddi and Kyle Seager also saw time at the hot corner last year, but neither was particularly promising. Headley would be a great solution; he could even turn into a franchise player, even though that's not what Jack Z is on the market for right now.
Headley put up respectable hitting numbers last year despite playing half of his games at Petco Park, where fun goes to die...or is that the University of Chicago? Either way, it is never a fun time for hitters in San Diego.
Headley has not shown an impressive ability to whack the ball out of the park, which is really what everyone in Seattle is craving, but a real hitter mixed into the lineup would undoubtedly be refreshing.
We can expect to see some other competitive teams in the hunt for Headley, but Jack Z should pursue the third baseman to some degree. If for no other reason, just to get the poor guy out of that camo uniform...
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Wouldn't it be nice to have Raul back in the lineup? He'll be 40 next year, which would make him an outlier in Seattle (along with the aging Ichiro), but the Mariners wouldn't bring him in as a long-term solution.
Bringing a player in just to try to extract from him a few final years of solid baseball would, in a way, go against Jack Z's philosophy, but the Mariners truly need to actively address the power problem that has haunted them for too long.
Ibanez could spend just a year or two platooning at DH or in left, depending on where Mike Carp starts next year. Wedge has hinted at Carp starting in left, but the Seattle outfield has lacked continuity as of late, so nothing is certain.
Ibanez isn't a perfect solution, but he's a decent option to keep open as the winter progresses.
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Carlos Quentin is going into his last year of arbitration with the Chicago White Sox, which is looking to be a pretty good time to trade him. The Sox won't be contending very soon, so there's no advantage in keeping him around.
They recently tendered him a deal through arbitration, but it was pretty weak, and there is apparently a replacement lined up.
In 2011, Quentin hit .254/.340/.499—slightly above-average numbers for him. He is a guy who the Mariners could hang on to for a little while since he's shown consistency and is still relatively young.
Like Raul Ibanez, Quentin would probably platoon in the outfield or at DH and hit in the four or five spot in the batting order. Unlike Ibanez, Quentin would require something in return, since he isn't yet a free agent.
The Mariners may be disinclined to send any of their young players away, but they should pursue Quentin as an option.
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Derek Lee has jumped around for the past few years from the Braves to the Orioles to the Pirates and now into free agency. He has not been able to replicate the hitting prowess he displayed while he was with the cubs from 2003 to 2010, but he's been above average.
Already this offseason, the Pirates have recovered Nate McLouth from the Braves and signed Erik Bedard (we didn't really want him anyway...), so Derek Lee probably will not be heading back there.
Lee is, like most of the guys in this slideshow, nearing the end of his career. That makes him less appealing to a lot of teams looking for a first baseman who they can rely on for a few years to come. The Mariners would only bring Lee in to DH for a year or two since Justin Smoak has first base covered.
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Carlos Pena is a bit more of stretch for a number of reasons, but he is absolutely someone Jack Z should be considering. He's a free agent, and he can kill the ball. And those are the top two criteria for offseason moves this year.
Pena will probably sign a deal longer and more expensive than what the Mariners are looking for, but free-agent signing is a dynamic process that reverberates throughout the MLB, so one surprising deal could shake everything up.
Interesting fact: Of active players, Carlos Pena has the longest average time between pitches at 27.6 seconds. Michael Bourn is at the other end of the spectrum with 18.7 seconds between pitches. Ichiro was third fastest...have some Mariner pride!
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Here's an interesting option for the Mariners. Call Johnny Damon what you want, but he will always be a good baseball player. Most of us still have fond memories of Damon as the hairy "idiot" from the 2004 Red Sox, but he has since moved on from those times.
What Damon needs is a break from the AL East to rejuvenate his career. We all have to understand that playing in the AL East is incredibly stressful. I mean, you have to play the Red Sox and Yankees 18times each, unless you're on of those teams, in which case, you have a vicious rivalry to worry about.
So bring Damon out to Seattle where he can swipe bags as he pleases and enjoy the easy-going mentality along with Albert Pujols, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Michael Young...wow, I guess it wasn't as docile as I had originally thought.
Damon is an interesting option to consider, and Jack Z should definitely pursue him, but maybe what we need in Seattle is more of a monstrous, ball-swatting home run champion...
Which brings me to...
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You guessed it! The Prince!
Fielder has a big bat and a lot of swagger, and the Mariners are lacking in both. With Ichiro on his way out, Fielder could be the next icon in Seattle. The Mariners are currently in the mix for Fielder, and Jack Z definitely needs to continue to pursue him.
Landing Fielder this winter would be a huge boost for the team and the fans. Bring on the veggies.