SEATTLE — It’s been quite a week for the Mariners.
One day after confirming a new seven-year deal with third baseman Kyle Seager, the club held a news conference Wednesday at Safeco Field to herald his new status as a $100 million player.
They also traded outfielder Michael Saunders to Toronto for pitcher J.A. Happ before announcing plans for another news conference Thursday — presumably to confirm their signing of free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz.
With all that, it was easy, perhaps, to overlook the lofty goals that manager Lloyd McClendon set for Seager, whom he labeled as having the “type of personality and work ethic that should take him to a MVP-type of season.”
Not only that.
“I think,” McClendon said, “you may see a home run title in his future.”
Seager absorbed it all as best he could.
“It’s incredible this whole experience," he said, “to hear your skipper say those kinds of things about you. This is a very special time for me, for sure.”
Seager admitted he hasn’t yet grasped the scope of his $100 million deal, which binds him to the Mariners through 2021. The club also holds an option for 2022 that could boost the deal’s value by another $15-20 million.
“No; that’s…no,” he said. “I’m so thankful to everybody to have that much faith in me.”
General manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledged such long-term deals pose a risk but insisted Seager’s age (27) and work ethic are worth the gamble.
“You look at his body,” Zduriencik said, “you look at his style of play — and how he handles himself and prepares himself — I think you’re real comfortable with this investment into this player for his body of work.
“And he’s going to continue to grow; he’ll continue to get better. He’s got a good maintenance body, too. It not one of these types of frames that breaks down. As far as investments go in players, this is a sound investment.”
The Mariners are now poised to shell out another $58 million over the next four years for Cruz, who spent Wednesday undergoing a standard pre-signing physical examination.
The deal sending Saunders to Toronto also adds urgency to their quest to acquire a right-handed-hitting outfielder, which figures to boost the payroll to its highest level in franchise history.
“When I took this job,” McClendon joked, “I said this was a golden era for the Seattle Mariners. I didn’t know it was going to be this much gold, though.”
Zduriencik said the escalation shows the Mariners are fulfilling a promise made to their fans through the often-painful rebuilding years.
“We said…we would get to a point where we were going to be able to reward some of our players,” he said. “In the last couple of years, I think you’ve seen that.
“You’ve seen that with Felix (Hernandez). You’ve seen that with the addition of some of our free agents, like Robinson Cano. Now, a long-term commitment to Kyle.”
The yearly breakdown for Cruz’s package isn’t known, but a straight split would pay him $14.5 million for next year and boost the club’s projected payroll to roughly $117 million for the 25-man roster on opening day.
That nearly matches the franchise record of $117.7 million for the 2008 season and marks a substantial hike from the $90.2 million for the 25-man roster in last season’s opener.
That commitment, Seager said, helped make it an easy decision to sign a long-term extension rather than go year-to-year in the arbitration process and test his value on the free-agent market.
“There are a lot of factors that go into it (signing the deal),” he said. “First and foremost, me and my wife love it here. We love the organization. It’s been great to us. Seattle is a wonderful place.
“From the other side of it, we know what we have here. We know we have a good group of guys. We know we’re going to be competitive and take this thing to the next level. It was a very easy decision.”
The Blue Jays signed former Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak to a one-year deal for $1 million less than a day after not tendering him a contract prior to the deadline.
The move enabled the Jays to retain Smoak at a lower salary. His previous deal, negotiated last spring with the Mariners, called for a club option in 2015 for $3.65 million that Toronto previously declined.
The Jays acquired Smoak, 27, from the Mariners in an Oct 28 waiver claim. He batted .202 last season with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 80 games.
*Right-hander Blake Beavan, another former Mariner, recently signed a minor-league deal with Arizona.