Here’s an interesting debate topic for Mariners fans as they gather for the holidays while awaiting the next move by general manager Jerry Dipoto:
The online gaming folks at www.SportsBettingDime.com sent out a news release Friday in which they listed the Mariners as a 12/1 shot at signing Bautista, a free-agent outfielder who was an All-Star at Toronto from 2011-15.
Here’s the necessary disclaimer: There’s been little, if any, indication from the Mariners that they are interested in such a move. No whispers last week at the Winter Meetings near Washington, D.C. Nothing.
But Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore once said the trades and free-agent signings that actually happen are usually the ones you don’t hear about until the last minute.
So who knows?
It does appear to be the longest of long shots. Bautista is 36 and coming off an injury-interrupted year. He wants a multi-year deal that includes an annual raise over the $14 million he made in each of the last five seasons.
Since Toronto extended a qualifying offer to Bautista, which he rejected, any club (except the Blue Jays) that signs him would also lose a draft pick. Even SportsBettingDime.com posts 1/5 odds that Bautista returns to Toronto.
Further, the Mariners already have a regular designated hitter in Nelson Cruz, who is also 36. Cruz is ticketed for some outfield duty, but club officials are wary as to whether his legs can hold up if he plays there on a full-time basis.
Dipoto has also steadily acknowledged the club’s "working plan" is for rookies Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger to get extended looks in the outfield corners with Danny Valencia, Seth Smith and possibly Guillermo Heredia in reserve.
But the Mariners also show a willingness to trade Smith, particularly if such a deal nets a much-desired veteran starting pitcher in return. Dealing Smith could — could — prompt the Mariners to seek another proven hitter.
Baseball Prospectus released its ranking of the Mariners’ Top 10 prospects earlier this, and it closely resembles the Baseball America rankings, which came out in late November.
Lewis, 21, is generally viewed as having the higher ceiling, but is he also recovering from a major knee injury and subsequent surgery. He isn’t expected to return to the field until June.
O’Neill, 21, was the organization’s minor-league hitter of the year after a breakout season at Double-A Jackson. He will get an invitation to big-league camp, but he is expected to open the season at Triple-A Tacoma.
The rest of the Prospectus Top 10: LHP Luiz Gohara, RHP Max Povse, RHP Andrew Moore, RHP Nick Neidert, 1B Dan Vogelbach, OF Mitch Haniger, OF Brayan Hernandez and SS Drew Jackson.
The rest of the Baseball America Top 10: Gohara, Neidert, Haniger, Moore, Jackson, Povse, RHP Dan Altavilla and Vogelbach.
CLIMBING SUPPORT FOR EDGAR
Maybe, just maybe, the rest the baseball world is beginning to realize just how good Edgar Martinez was during his 18-year career with the Mariners.
Martinez, 53, is in his eighth season (of a possible 10) on the Hall of Fame ballot and, from early indications, appears poised to make a significant move toward the 75-percent threshold required for election. He had 43.4 percent a year ago.
The balloting by more than 400 qualified electors from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America continues through the end the month. Results won’t be announced until Jan. 18.
Many electors, however, reveal their selections in advance, and Ryan Thibodaux closely tracks those announcements in an online spreadsheet at http://bit.ly/bbhof2017.
As of Friday morning, Thibodaux had recorded 50 ballots, and Martinez was tracking at 64 percent and showing a plus-8 over ballots revealed last year by those same voters.
It’s generally believed that Martinez, the Mariners’ current hitting coach, must reach roughly 60 percent this season to have a realistic shot at gaining election within his 10 years of eligibility.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners