Mariners Insider Blog

LINKAGE: Rumors about Varitek, Counsell and Heilman

Greetings to you on a relatively sunny Monday, well at least after the morning fog cleared. I'm actually sneaking in a few high school games up at the Bank of America Arena.

Anyway, let's get to a few links of some relative interest.

Boston Globe national baseball columnist Nick Cafardo always has one of the best and most informative Sunday columns. In this week's column, he mentions that the Mariners are interested in possibly bringing in free agent catcher Jason Varitek, a one-time Mariners prospect, as a possible mentor for the slew of young catchers as well as work with the Seattle pitching staff.

1. Jason Varitek, C, free agent: If the Sox can't come up with a young catcher like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, or even Miguel Montero, Varitek will likely be back. While it doesn't seem an obvious fit, a couple of Mariner advisers have talked up Varitek as someone who could help improve the Seattle pitching staff.

I can hear some Mariners fans screaming, "NOOOOOOOOOO!!" at that possibility.

And I'd be in total agreement. I can't tell you how bad of an idea that would be and it seems rather unlikely for any number of reasons. Let me preface that by saying, that I'm a huge fan of Varitek (I wrote a big story on him last season, but I can't link because of the paid archives and if for no other reason than the picture above). I respect his leadership, the way he handles his pitchers and his intensity. He's a class act and I think would be great for Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Brandon Morrow and Ryan Rowland-Smith. You wouldn't here any bickering about his game calling, like we did with Kenji Johjima. But right now, signing Varitek doesn't seem to fit in with what new GM Jack Zduriencik has been trying to do since taking over. And he's not what this team needs for a number of reasons.

&bull There is the sharp decline in numbers. Varitek might be good for a pitching staff, but offensively his numbers are in sharp decline, this year he posted a .220/.313/.359 and at times looked simply overwhelmed. The Sox moved him to the bottom of the order and he looked like he would be a candidate to be platooned on any other team. Do I think Varitek's offensive numbers will stay that anemic this season, it remains to be seen. But I don't think they can stay that bad. He is 36 and was battling through a divorce and also bothered by a couple different bouts with sickness and infection.

&bull Varitek wants a fair amount of compensation. Wait his agent, Satan, er, Scott Boras, doesn't always believe in "fair" compensation. Or at least fair meaning logical to most people. Anyway, Varitek passed up on salary arbitration in December which probably would have got him $10 million for this season on Boras' advice. Boras instead believed that Varitek could at least get a multi-year deal at a similar annual figure from another team, which seems preposterous even at first glance. Now as you look at the recent free agent signings and more importantly the lack of some signings and would you put Varitek's worth much higher than the contract Gregg Zaun just signed with the Orioles? Not really. So to give him even a two-year deal at say $5 million a year is too much.

&bull And there is the other form of compensation that any team would have to give up in signing Varitek, who is a type A free agent and refused salary arbitration from the Red Sox. Any team who signs him would have to give up a first-round draft pick for him, but not the Mariners since the first 15 picks of the draft are protected. Instead the Mariners would give up their first pick of the second round. That doesn't sound like much to some, but Zduriencik has a reputation for being a solid drafter. Just look at the quote in this blog from an an MLB general manager about that possibility. Perhaps it's why Varitek has not received an offer from any MLB team according to most sources.

&bull Then there is the fact that the Mariners have plenty of catching coming into spring training with Kenji Johjima, Jeff Clement, Jamie Burke, Rob Johnson and Adam Moore. Notice I didn't say outstanding catching. But each of the five have their obvious strengths and weaknesses. With his contract, Johjima is untradeable (yes, even to a Japanese team), the team still wants to see Clement log more innings behind the plate before officially turning him into a DH, you know what you're going to get with Burke, a steady solid back-up and a solid professional, Johnson showed some glimpses last season but still needs to improve offensively and get more big league innings while Moore is a few years away.

Looking at those five is there really a need for Varitek? Sure, he'd be better and cheaper than Johjima, but that's the bed Bavasi made and the Mariners must lie in it, unless they just want to eat that contract and release Joh, which isn't going to happen. If Johjima wasn't around, and the Mariners were concerned about turning over the reins to any combo of Clement, Burke and Johnson for the season, I could see bringing in Varitek. But for better or worse, the Mariners seem to be stuck with the catching situation they are in for the time being and adding Varitek doesn't seem like an answer and would only make things complicated.

Do I think that signing Varitek is a real possibility? Not really. It doesn't seem to fit in with the type of moves Zduriencik has made so far. But this is coming from a guy that picked the Mariners to win 88 games (more on that later).

Now that I've ripped off a quick 1000 words on that, let's get to some more links.

Fox sports Ken Rosenthal mentions in his latest piece that the Mariners are interested in possibly acquiring veteran free agent utility man Craig Counsell and his awkward batting stance.

Photo from Getty Images

Rosenthal also mentions that the Mariners are open to trading recently acquired pitcher Aaron Heilman, who was part of the J.J. Putz trade. Obviously, Heilman wasn't the key part of the trade for Seattle - getting Franklin Gutierrez was. Heilman has also expressed his desire to be a starter and the Mariners already have plenty of candidates for the rotation. Now what Heilman wants and what happens are two different things entirely, but he also struggled in the closing role for the Mets and may not have the mental make up to be a closer. Parting with Heilman for perhaps some offensive help might be worth looking into.

Speaking of closing games, the Everett Herald's Kirby Arnold caught up with the always entertaining Roy Corcoran, and Corcoran said he would love to close games this season.

ESPN's Buster Olney
had a nice blog post about Jamie and Karen Moyer spending their Christmas in Guatemala at the orphanage where their youngest daughter Yennifer was adopted from.

The San Diego Union Tribune's Tom Krasovic posted on his blog about the off chance that the Pads, who have the No. 3 in this year's amateur draft, might somehow luck into having consensus No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg somehow fall to them.

Um, that isn't happening. If the Nationals, who have the top pick, don't take him, the Mariners would never let him slide past at No. 2. But just the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin chimes in with the fact that the Nats still like Strasburg for the pick.

That is all ... for now