5 Best Options Left for Seattle Mariners to Improve

J.J. Matthews@@thajagepageContributor IIIJanuary 5, 2013

5 Best Options Left for Seattle Mariners to Improve

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    With the clock ticking down to the beginning of Spring Training, General Manager Jack Zduriencik and the Seattle Mariners continue to search high and low for ways to improve their roster.

    To recap, GM Z has made a slew of minor moves including the acquisition of Robert Andino, re-signing Hisashi Iwakuma and Oliver Perez, and bringing in veteran outfielders Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay.

    To date Seattle has made only one "big" move, trading Jason Vargas to the Los Angeles Angels for 1B/DH Kendrys Morales.

    With questions still remaining on how the Mariners will improve their roster, GM Z and the rest of ownership have a bevy of options still available to them.

    Here's a look at the top five ways the Mariners can improve before spring training.

5. Trade for Andre Ethier

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    There are a few dilemmas with acquiring Andre Ethier.

    First of all Ethier is currently signed to a five-year $85 million extension that begins in 2013. That same $85 million very easily could have been offered to a similar player like Nick Swisher. Also, remember that the $85 million that would be committed to Ethier would only be $15 million less than Seattle was offering Josh Hamilton. Andre Ethier may be good, but he is not Josh Hamilton.

    Second of all, Ethier has shown an inability to hit left handed pitching. From 2010-2012, Ethier has batted .225 against left handed pitching as opposed to a .321 average against right-handers. If Seattle plans on investing $85 million in a player, it better not be for one who may become a platoon player in a year or two.

    However, not all is bad in an acquisition of Andre Ethier. As Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times points out, there are ways to make an Andre Ethier trade make sense. One of the biggest ways would be including Chris Capuano in the deal as well.

    This deal may not be the best for the M's, but as offensively deprived as this team is, beggars can't be choosers.

4. Sign Michael Bourn

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    Even though this would be the biggest offensive free agent signing remaining, it doesn't mean it's the right one.

    Michael Bourn would be a solid addition to the lineup, if he had more people behind him to knock him in. There are the numbers that illustrate he means much more than hitting, such as his 22.5 UZR in 2012 or his 6.4 WAR last season according to fangraphs.com. But Seattle has a player like that on the roster already.

    His name is Franklin Gutierrez.

    In fact, in 2009 Guti posted a higher UZR at 28.9 and had a 6.3 WAR. Now that was in 2009 and Guti has had his fair share of problems staying healthy since then. But with positive reports coming out of the Venezuelan Winter League, those problems may soon be behind him.

    Michael Bourn is a talented player no doubt and would still make this team better. But GM Z may still see the same thing in Gutierrez, and it won't cost him a draft pick.

3. Sign Joe Saunders

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    Signing someone like Joe Saunders makes much more sense than signing a pitcher like Kyle Lohse.

    Like the before mentioned Michael Bourn, a pitcher like Kyle Lohse would cost Seattle the 12th overall pick in the upcoming draft since he declined a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Saunders on the other hand would be a cheap and solid addition to a rotation that suddenly has some holes in it.

    Over the last three seasons, Saunders has pitched 590 innings while compiling a 4.07 ERA. Now that may not be spectacular, but it presents a better option than other in-house candidates such as Hector Noesi.

    Saunders would be a perfect option to bridge the gap between now and when the young pitching talent like Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Brandon Maurer are ready to step in to the rotation (assuming they are all still here).

    It may not be the hitting the M's need, but with Jason Vargas pitching in Los Angeles now, Seattle still needs to find bodies to fill out it's rotation.

2. Trade for Giancarlo Stanton

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    Before anyone starts rioting because this may not be the best option for Seattle, let's look at all of the factors here.

    In order to acquire a player like Giancarlo Stanton, the M's would have to all but empty their farm system. Sure, Seattle may be able to hold on to one of the big three. They may be able to hold on to either Brad Miller or Nick Franklin. But farm system players wouldn't be enough to get the deal done.

    Miami is going to want proven MLB talent to fill their roster. This means someone like Kyle Seager would most likely have to be included in any deal.

    GM Z could try and pitch the idea of including Dustin Ackley instead of Seager, but with Ackley's season last year, his value is simply not what it was before.

    The problem with a trade involving Seager is that it leaves the Mariners with no depth at third in the entire organization. Baseball America doesn't list one third basemen in the top 10 Mariner prospects and MLB.com only lists Vinny Catricala in the top 10, and he batted just .229 in Tacoma last season.

    Now in no way shape or form will the Mariners decline a trade for Giancarlo Stanton just because of Kyle Seager and the hole at third base, but it is something the organization has most likely thought about before.

    Don't get me wrong, Giancarlo Stanton would make any team he joins better. His bat would be a fixture in the middle of the Mariners lineup for years, and Seattle would finally have the power hitting face-of-the-franchise it has been missing since the days of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. But the amount of talent it would take to get him is why he's not the best option for Seattle.

1. Trade for Justin Upton

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    Justin Upton still makes the most sense for the Mariners for the long term, and for right now.

    Upton is a young star who's play may very well have been hampered by the constant trade rumors that have surrounded him for the last few years.

    I have highlighted into much further depth why Upton would alter the course of the Mariner franchise before, and that opinion still hasn't changed.

    Justin Upton still presents the best option for the Mariners, even with Seattle on his no-trade list. Remember, Michael Young waived his no-trade clause to go to Philadelphia already this offseason. Even if Upton has Seattle on the list just to get a longer extension, there would be no reason to withhold the extra money from Upton to get him to the Emerald City.

    Either way, Seattle still has moves to make before the beginning of the 2013 season. Mariner fans are just hoping they make the right ones.