There are a few dozen free agents out there and time is running out for these players as teams are reporting to spring training camps. As a disclaimer I am in no way endorsing any team sign any of these players. Jimmy Rollins is 37, and Marlon Byrd is 38, still young for most people, but in baseball years they are senior citizen. So there are certain players that you see no future for, that you understand why there is no interest, but . . .
Austin Jackson is 29, a decent outfielder who can steal bases and hit a few homers. He has been a starter, maybe he still wants to be one, but as a fourth outfielder, to platoon against lefties, he still has a future. Does he want too much money? Is that keeping him off a roster? Another outfielder is Drew Stubbs who had his best year in 2014 hitting .283 for the Rockies. He is 31, but last year hit .195 between Colorado and Texas and though he strikes out 34% of the time and is a .244 career hitter, he could be a fifth outfielder for someone. Does anyone use the phrase ‘veteran presence’ anymore?
Need an infielder? Ian Desmond is 30, and hit .255 and .233 the last two years, but hit 43 home runs and stole 37 bases. He and Jackson can still win some games for somebody. Again is it money? Another player to help win games is David Freese, 32, and former World Series hero. What, nobody wants this guy. He hit .257 with 14 homers for the Angels in 2015.
Starting pitching is still available. Tim Lincecum is 31 and his ERA since 2012 has been 5.18, 4.37, 4.74, and last year 4.13 in 15 starts. But he is smart, a two time Cy Young winner, and can still be a fourth or fifth starter. Rumor has it he will sign with someone shortly as he has looked good in workouts. So who started the rumor is my question.
But I understand why teams avoid Chad Billingsley, 31, who made two starts in 2013, missed all of 2014 and last year in seven starts with the Phillies did not look good at all. A 5.84 ERA and 53 hits in 37 innings, but only 8 walks.
Two players I intended to mention were Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, but as I was writing the draft for this piece it was announced Gallardo signed with the Orioles and it was expected Fowler would also join the Orioles. Gallardo got a three year deal. So perhaps the last dominos are beginning to fall.
Baseball is a tough journey for some players; some stars fall out of the baseball galaxy. Not all go out with a blaze of glory. Some just disappear.
If history is an indicator in 2016 Seth Smith will hit 31 doubles, 5 triples and 12 homeruns. I cite with confidence because those are his numbers for each of the last two years. Yes, he hit 31 doubles in both 2014 and 2015 along with those 5 triples, and 12 homers. His average season, based on 162 games is 31-5-16. The 33 year old outfielder has been consistent, though his .248 average was down from his .266 2014 season.
But there is a possibility he may be traded. Is his defense the type that Jerry Dipoto, Mariners GM, is looking for? Probably not as his range is not that great. He may be the fourth outfielder and if so, those projections will drop.
The outfield is still in flux. They received a young player Boog Powell in a trade, but he may not make opening day roster. Seattle also picked up outfielder Daniel Robertson on waivers from the Angels, but he is not guaranteed a job. Neither Powell or Robertson have power. Franklin Gutierrez has resigned, but I have heard that that his contract is contingent on making the team next spring.
There are some free agents like Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, and Justin Upton, but their contract expectations will not fit within the budget because of the contracts of Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz. Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra, or Denard Span are affordable free agents, or another trade, might be looming. I like Parra who is 28 and has a great arm and is considered a top outfielder. Span is a good second choice.
The baseball winter meeting will be held in Nashville December 6-10. What will Dipoto to then, and maybe before?
The Seattle Mariner outfield is more questionable than their infield for 2015.
Austin Jackson hit a mere .229 with no homers and 14 rbis after coming over from Detroit in a trade. He did steal 11 bases, decent for a leadoff man, but he also struck out 26% of the time, not good for a leadoff hitter. He is under contract for one year so he is likely to man center in 2015, perhaps to tutor James Jones who was 27 of 28 in stolen bases in 108 games and is a great weapon if his hitting becomes consistent and his outfield play improves, thus the Jackson mentorship.
Left and right field have questions. Dustin Ackley finished with a .245 average, 14 homers and 65 rbis. He hit .365 in July after a terrible start, then .280 in August, but .149 in September. The Mariners still do not know who the real Dustin Ackley is. He is eligible for arbitration and it will be interesting to see how the negotiations go. If he gets a one year deal that means this is the year to prove who he is. Another mediocre year and he will be gone. Michael Saunders has hit .231 in 551 games for Seattle, his best year was 2012 when he hit .247 with 19 homers and 65 rbis. He will be 29 next season and like Ackley is eligible for arbitration. Both bat left handed and the Mariners are seeking a bat from the right side.
One free agent who looks good-on the surface-is Michael Cuddyer who hit .332 last season with 10 homers and .331, but in only 49 games. The year before he hit .331 with 20 homers and 84 rbis. But he will be 36 next season and those statistics are misleading for he played in Colorado where the hits just keep on coming. He spent most of his career in Minnesota hitting between .236 and .284.
The Mariners may be best served by making a trade for a right handed bat, but I am not inclined to offer who or for whom, because any trade proposal is wishful thinking, and pure fantasy speculation.
But do not be surprised with trades as the Mariners came within one game of the playoffs and the time for developing is over and the time to make a move is now. They need to take the next step forward, staying put will no longer do.
At baseball’s winter meetings much was done with trades and free agents. It was a hot stove of activity for fans to talk about, but now the stove is ice cold. I know NFL playoffs are going on, but there are still five top free agents sitting on their couch waiting to find out where they will be spending spring training.
After further review I don’t think the Seattle Mariners need Nelson Cruz, but they could use another starting pitcher. Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are my top choices, with Bronson Arroyo coming in third, and A.J. Burnett not placing.
From recent comments by Trader jack, Seattle’s GM, it sounds the Mariners may be done. I hope some trades are coming, but if there isn’t, Jack will make the usual ” we tried to make a trade, but we could not get value for value.” Blah, Blah, Blah.
Other than Robinson Cano, the Mariners have done the usual in signing players hoping for a comeback. Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, and Franklin Gutierrez, all have had health and injury problems. It is a gamble. At the moment Cano should lead the league in walks, as he will get no protection if Hart, et al don’t hit.
It is easy to say Seattle needs to make, if not a blockbuster trade, at least one that gives the team more balance. I am not going to offer any proposals, as anyone can play that game. Fans tend to think trade proposals are as easy as trading baseball cards. They aren’t. But I, like all fans, am greedy. I want to see new faces, ones that give the Mariners a better chance to move up in the standings. But Texas and those pesky Angels have improved, with Texas my early favorite. Oakland is always in the hunt, usually with players no one has heard of. At the moment Seattle is destined for 4th place.
Cano needs help, Seattle needs help, and I would be itching for the season to start, but the M’s need to scratch that itch.
Seattle has five free agents. One is Raul Ibanez who will be 42 next June and while he hit .267 with 24 homers and 56 rbi before the all-star game, the second half he only hit .203, 5 homers, and 9 rbi. It could be the second half he was tired, age can do that. Oliver Perez, a lefty reliever, always a sought after commodity, had a good first half, sporting a 1.75 ERA, but in second half saw an unsporting 7.94 ERA. Hard to know if Seattle wants either of these players back.
I am sure they will go without catcher Humberto Quintero and possibly Endy Chavez. The fifth, Seattle would like to sign, Kendrys Morales. But with a decent year at the plate and Scott Boras as an agent, he will be tough to sign. However, Morales’ options are limited as he is primarily a DH, so how many offers he gets is the question.
The picture above is the Good Ship Mariner coming into port, where the ship will dock and look for additional crew members, some of whom, may be shanghaied from local drinking establishments in Pioneer Square
Sailing right along, the Mariners declined options on Franklin Gutierrez, 30, because he has only played in 173 games out of the last 486 games due to injuries. Seattle can still negotiate with him. Considering how many games he missed there may not be many teams offering him a job. The Mariners could get him back cheap. He has been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory problem. He is taking medication to control the problem and the thinking is the inflammatory issue may have contributed to his other health issues. For the right price, he is worth the risk, but might be better suited for a fourth outfielder or in a platoon.
Joe Saunders is the other player whose option year was declined and his contract bought out. Left handed starters may be desired, but an 11-16 record, with a 5.26 ERA and a horrid .311 batting average against make this lefty less attractive. If they want to add a veteran free agent pitcher, which they seem to do every year, they could pursue free agent pitchers like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, or dropping down one level, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, or Scott Feldman. I say pass on A.J. Burnett, but doing so makes me think that is who they would get.
What everyday free agents the Mariners will pursue is anyone’s guess. They could use a first baseman, but only Mike Napoli, James Loney, Corey Hart (knee problems) and Justin Morneau are out there. If the M’s can’t get Morneau or Napoli (unlikely) than take a pass. The free agent market is not strong for Mariners needs, and many players want to go to a team that not only can win, but one they think is in the continental United States.
There are still free agents looking for a team in 2011, but are the Mariners looking to sign any players?
The Mariners need an upgrade at shortstop where age and injuries have made Jack Wilson questionable. Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria are still available. The M’s got Brendan Ryan in a trade and that is one position he can play, so perhaps the M’s with little money to spend will pass on those two stars in favor of Ryan.
Pedro Feliz can play third and he had a down year, just the kind of player the M’s look for. But according to one plan, Figgins will be moved to third, with either Ryan or Ackley playing second. Hey, shortstop is open in that plan!
Derrek Lee and Johnny Damon? They want what the Mariners don’t have, money.
Every team could use pitching and there is Rafael Soriano for the back end of the bullpen, or starters like Jeff Francis, Chris Young, Carl Pavano, Jeff Suppan, Bruce Chen, Brad Penny, or Freddy Garcia. Brandon Webb has not pitched since April of 09 and we already have Eric Bedard so we need not add another pitcher who may not be able to pitch a season.
Of that group Young and Chen may be more likely.
But the problem besides spending money is that the Mariners would have to release a player to stay at the 40 man roster if they sign a free agent. There are players who could be released like Jack Wilson, Matt Tuiasosopo, Garrett Olson, Josh Wilson, Milton Bradley, or Tom Wilhelmsen (p) to name a few.
Besides the free agents I named there are other lesser luminaries available.
I can not believe the Mariners will stand pat between now and opening day. It is just a matter of releasing a player or two, dumping their salary for the new player. It is logistics and balancing the dollar signs.
It is time for Trader Jack to be creative
The Mariners are unlikely to sign big name free agents because they do not have the financial flexibility to add a lot of payroll.
But they have been linked to some players desperately in need of a job.
Eric Chavez, once a power hitting third baseman for Oakland has played 64 games in three years, hitting .247; .100; and .234 with 3 homers. He can play first or third, but do the M’s need a 33 year old injury prone back up. They should take a pass.
Then there is catcher Greg Zaun who will be 40 in April. He has played for nine teams since he broke in as a rookie in 1995. Last season for Milwaukee he played in 28 games, hit .265 with 2 homers and 14 rbis. The Mariners need a veteran back up catcher for Adam Moore. Must be a thin market for catchers, but he should come cheap.
Matt Diaz, who will be 33 in March is from Portland, Oregon, and played 84 games for Atlanta, hitting .250 with 7 homers and 31 rbis. A left fielder, he would be a good veteran pickup. He does have a lifetime average of .301 and in 2009 hit .313 in 125 games. Definitely worth siging.
The Mariners are also rumored to be interested in Hideki Matsui as a designated hitter. He hit .274 with the Angels in 2010 with 21 homers and 84 rbis. A left handed hitter he would be a good fit for Safeco. The problem is Oakland is also high on Matsui and they are willing to spend more money.
The Mariners are unlikely to get Matsui, should pass on Chavez, but Diaz and Zaun would be fine.
But the winter meetings are just starting. There will be more rumors and trade possibilities. The hot stove has barely heated up.