How hard is it to get excited about the Mariners? Well, let’s take a look at their off-season so far:
Signed Robinson Cano – 10 years/$240 million
Signed Corey Hart – 1 year/$6 million
Signed Willie Bloomquist – 2 years(!)/$5.8 million
Signed John Buck – 1 year/$1 million
Signed Franklin Gutierrez (!!!) – 1 year/$1 million
Signed Endy Chavez to a Minor League Deal (YAHOO!)
Signed Scott Baket to a Minor League Deal
Traded Carter Capps for Logan Morrison.
I know a bunch of Mariner fans are really excited by the Cano signing, but, as I have written before, I don’t think that it benefits the team. The Mariners aren’t near contending and I honestly think that they are probably 2-3 years from POTENTIALLY being there, and by the time they get there, Cano will be in the decline phase of his career and that contract is going to look horrible. That contract is so bad that I know Yankee fans who are happy their team didn’t offer Cano anywhere near those years or dollars – and these are people who think Cano is the best player in the league. That should tell you something. It also probably means that the Mariners have given up on Nick Franklin since he no longer has a position to play. So much for the youth movement.
The other problem with all of those signings is that you don’t really improve on the positions that you have deficiencies in. One of the Mariners biggest issues was lousy outfield defense. There is absolutely no way that the Mariners should have every put Raul Ibanez in LF for the 100+ games that he was (the Colossus of Rhodes has more range than Raul) and they had the revolving door in both CF and RF and on occasion were playing 3 left fielders in their outfield at any given time. So what do they do, go out and replace Ibanez and Morse with Hart and Morrison – basically 2 OF who are horrible defensively and probably aren’t any better offensively than Ibanez and Morse. Add to that they still don’t have a centerfielder (I think they have given up on Ackley there too) or a right fielder. Kind of makes you miss the days of Ichiro, doesn’t it.
The catching situation is definitely up in the air. The John Buck signing is an important one because it tells me that the M’s still have questions about Zunino’s ability to hit at the MLB level. Buck isn’t going to win an MVP award, but he is decent enough to catch about 2/3 of your team’s games, so this didn’t strike me as a “sign a backup guy” type move. My prediction is that Buck is your opening day catcher and Zunino starts the year in Tacoma.
The M’s didn’t address the need for another starting pitcher. Sure they have a bunch of young guns in the system, but you never know how those guys are going to hold up over a full season (take a look at Brandon Maurer last year) so you need an insurance policy. The 2 best starters left on the market are Ubaldo Jiminez and Ervin Santana. It is probably going to take a 4 year/ $50 – $60 million dollar deal to land one of those guys and I have the feeling that the M’s will sign one of the two of them and then regret that move by the end of the season. The problem is that neither is consistent enough to warrant the money you will have to spend for them and there is a good chance that neither would be pitching for the Mariners by the end of their contract should they get signed by the team. The M’s need to show fans they are trying to win and the way they seem to approach that is by overpaying for talent. The other option is to sign a scrap heap started (see Joe Saunders last year, that is what the Scott Baker deal is this year) and hope that the young guns actually can contribute. If they don’t, you probably just lost another 20% of your already eroded fan base.
The other two guys whose names keep getting associated with the Mariners are Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz. Both guys were looking for huge contracts and neither one is going to get one, so at least if you sign them, you probably can do it on a one year deal. The issue is that you already have a bunch of horrible defense/1B/DH/LF types on the roster and how much of an improvement are these guys anyway over the mass of players you have?
We still have a few weeks before the start of spring training and there is always the possibility that the Mariners will make some unexpected moves, but right now, this looks and feels like a 77-80 win team at best. On the bright side, at least the Astros will keep the M’s from finishing last in the division and I am willing to bet that Zdurencik gets fired if this team is not playing at least .500 ball at the all-star break.
Oh, in case you don’t agree with me, Dave Schoenfield is much more pessimistic about the Mariners outlook:
Yes, signing Cano will make the Mariners interesting at the start of the season. But … well, what else is there? The Mariners are desperately counting on their young players — Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, Dustin Ackley (is he still a young player?), Justin Smoak (ditto) and Michael Saunders (ditto) to improve — and all have huge question marks. They’re counting on two rookies in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton for the rotation. They hope Hart and Morrison are healthy, but even then they’re basically replacing the production Morales provided last year. Cano should be great, but I’m having trouble seeing where the improvement is going to come from unless Walker and Paxton are much better than anticipated.