The last two years at the winter meetings the Mariners and GM Jack Zduriencik made headlines. Two years ago, Zduriencik pulled off the monster three-team, 12-player trade that netted Seattle - Franklin Gutierrez and Jason Vargas.
Last season, the news of the Chone Figgins signing was also pretty newsworthy.
And this year?
Well not so much.
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As has been talked about often in the last few days, the Mariners simply don't have the money to be bidding on these big name free agents.
So who are they looking at?
Well, the Mariners have been linked to a handful of free agents - most of them considered low-cost or second-tier players. Such is the life when you have about $12-15 million to work with.
From what I've heard, Seattle seems to be focusing on acquiring catching first. That position wasn't exactly a strength for the Mariners. Last season, Rob Johnson, Adam Moore, Josh Bard, Eliezer Alfonzo and Guillermo Quiroz all took turns behind the plate. As a group, they combined to hit .201 (109-for-541) with 10 homers and 42 RBI. The unit produced a .263 on-base percentage and a .303 slugging percentage with 43 walks, while striking out 146 times.
Oh, and they weren't great defensively either. Johnson and Moore combined for 16 passed balls.
Obviously, the Mariners would love Moore to be the catcher they thought he could be a few years ago. He's shown glimpses of it. But remember he only has 242 big league plate appearances so it's tough to say he will never be good. Will he be an all-star catcher? It seems doubtful, but I think most people believe that he's better than he's shown.
And yet, the Mariners would be wise to bring another catcher in for the 2011 season.They either need a veteran back-up for Moore since Johnson seems to have fallen out of favor with the front office. Or else they need a bit of insurance in case Moore struggles. They simply can't afford to have that position struggle as much as it did last year.
If the Mariners are looking for a back-up catcher, a decent bat off the bench and a mentor for Moore you go with Zaun. He's been playing in the big leagues since 1995. Last season he played in just 28 games for the Brewers and hit .265 with 2 homers and 14 RBI. He's a switch hitter with a lifetime .252 batting average. Is Zaun an injury risk? Of course, he's almost 40 years old.
The Olivo rumors seem curious to me. I don't know who has a worse memory when it comes to this - the Mariners or Olivo. Do neither of them remember he can't hit at Safeco Field?
Yes, he's hit more than 10 homers in every season since he left Seattle, including 23 in Kansas City in 2009 and 14 last year in Colorado. But Safeco? Olivo was an absolute mess when he was in Seattle.
In 104 games with the Mariners, he hit .176 with a .218 on-base percentage and a .333 slugging. Yeah he was kid at the time, and a little overwhelmed. But he was also clearly bothered by the dimensions of Safeco. He likes to pull the ball to left. And well, we know how that goes. He wants to pull the ball out to left, so he swings hard and chases more pitches to do so.
I could get into some saber stats about park factors, and tell you that to left field in Safeco is in the 80s, while Coors Field to left is like +115. But just simply watching games, you can see the difference to. It's far easier to hit the ball out of Coors Field or the recently re-configured Kaufman Stadium (coincidentally the same year as Olivo's big year) than it is Safeco Field.
If you want a reminder of what Olivo's hitting approach can be like. Just close your eyes and envision Jose Lopez. Did you feel that cold chill? Olivo had only one season where he's posted an on-base percentage of more than .300 and that was this past year.
Also if you sign Olivo, it's probably a two-year deal for at least $4 million per season, considering he made $2.5 million last year. And he's going to have play, meaning Moore is back in Triple A yet again. And we all know he can play at the Triple A level, what they need to find out is if he can play at the big league level.
Obviously, Olivo has matured some as a hitter. But do you really want to bring him in for possibly 10 home runs a year at that contract?
This just doesn't seem like a good idea, at all.
Quickly some other names ...
DH Hideki Matsui - Talked to a source, who said this isn't going to happen and never was going to happen.
DH Jack Cust - Strikeouts, walks and homers. You get them all with Cust. What you don't get is defense, he cannot reasonably play any position other than DH. Though the times the A's put him in left field it was highly entertaining. The Mariners have a DH right now - Milton Bradley. Obviously, they would like to move Milton but that doesn't seem likely. So it would seem odd to bring in a guy like Cust, who really can only play one position.
DH Eric Chavez - Yeah, he's played 154 games since 2007 and 54 games the last two seasons. The guy was great. He works his tail off. And for a while, he was damn good. But he can't play in the field every day and he really only is a DH.
RHP Rich Harden - Ahh, the hard-throwing Canadian, who seems to find his way on the DL, at least twice a season. Hmm. Haven't we heard this before. Look when and if he's healthy, Harden is dominant. He's got overpowering stuff and can miss bats. And Safeco Field would be ideal for him. But I would not give him more than a 1-year contract with an option and it would be low base of $5 or 6 million and the rest in incentives for innings pitched and starts made.
LHP Mark Hendrickson - this one just came out from JP Morosi. Most people in the area are familiar with Hendrickson, who is a Mount Vernon native and WSU grad. He was mostly a reliever for the Orioles the past two seasons, making 11 starts in 2009 and 1 start last season. He threw 75 innings and had a plus 5 ERA. The logic would say the Mariners could use him situationally, but he wasn't that dominant against lefties, who hit .317 with an .807 OPS, right-handers hit .311 with an .815 OPS.
2B Luis Valbuena -- If you are saying to yourself, "that name sounds familiar. It is. Valbuena was in the M's system and was part of the JJ Putz trade. I will let Dave Cameron of fangraphs and USS Mariner handle this explanation. But I agree with him.
And watch this classic ...
3B/1B Jorge Cantu -- maybe if this was 2006 or 2007 this would seem like a good idea. But Cantu has really regressed the last year. And he's not good at third base either. .