It's been an off-season aimed toward building a contending team in Seattle, and the Mariners have added Chone Figgins, Cliff Lee, Brandon League, Milton Bradley and Casey Kotchman.
In the process, they've improved the rotation and bullpen, given that pitching staff a solid defense - Kotchman's range at first base will allow the Mariners to let Jose Lopez shade more toward the middle at second base.
For all that, if the season began today, the team would be hugely dependent upon the bat - not just the clubhouse presence - of Ken GriffeyJr.
Jack Zduriencik may have another move or two coming. One thing Zduriencik has proven in 14 1/2 months on the job is he's never idle. But as it stands today, Junior is the left-handed DH.
That means he's going to wind up somewhere in the heart of the Seattle lineup again, in the mix of a 3-4-5 order that's likely to mix and match Bradley, Lopez and Griffey.
And that means, if the Mariners are going to take advantage of Ichiro and Figgins atop their lineup, Griffey can't hit .214 again - not if Seattle is going to improve upon that 85-win season.
This isn't about home runs. Junior hit 19 of those in 387 at-bat last season, and if he hits 19 more this season the team can live with it happily. What the Mariners can't have is a primary DH who bats .214 in the heart of the order - or one who hits .174 on the road.
Griffey, now 40, doesn't have to hit his career average (.285) for the Mariners to win. And until last season, he'd never batted lower than .249 in a year.
The good news? Junior didn't re-sign in Seattle just to come back and keep his teammates spirits high. That comes naturally to him, the product of growing up in major league clubhouses with that Junior personality.
Griffey wants the team to succeed in 2010 and knows as well as anyone that for it to happen, he'll have to produce. That means singles to keep innings and rallies alive, and RBI when there's a runner at third base and two out - not just when there are less than two outs.
It means more work to keep that 40-year-old body fresh, and acceptance that hitting in the heart of the order - or never being pinch-hit for against lefties late in the game - are not guarantees, any longer.
A year ago, Griffey on occasion was penciled in to bat sixth in the lineup, and didn't care for it. This season, manager Don Wakamatsu may be forced do that again.
Junior, of course, controls all that. If he hits, he's in the 3-4-5 rotation - and the Mariners have their strongest lineup. If he doesn't, they're a team that's not going to out-score anyone in the American League West.
In that scenario, they're likely to finish third again.
Now, a few links:
- Outfielder Carlos Beltran underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to correct a 'worsening situation' and will miss opening day for the Mets. Far more intriguing: He apparently did so without the permission of the team.
- Free agent Ben Sheets, who didn't pitch in 2009, will hold a throwing session next week in Louisiana, where as many as six teams may show up to watch. Will the Mariners be among them? They won't say.
- In Cleveland, the Indians are crossing their fingers and naming Jake Westbrook as their likely opening day starter. That's because Westbrook hasn't pitched in two years and is coming off Tommy John surgery.
- After walking away from a two-year, $17 million deal with San Francisco, Adam LaRoche has apparently signed a one-year contract with Arizona for about $4 million. Oops.
- Fox Sports is reporting the Mariners have interest in Fernando Tatis, a utility player who can play most anywhere and batted .282 in 125 games last season.
- A Giants fan, you say? Here's the 2010 opening day lineup - at least one-through-five - with Aubrey Huff hitting cleanup.