So the winter meetings have come and gone. It’s time to see whether your Seattle Mariners will be winners or bystanders. Just talking about the M’s these days raises such levels of bile and distrust in me–let alone the angry legions of front office haters that have been front office haters for years. I think this is the year when I’ve finally lost it and believe they just need to get something done dammit.
Of course this is the season of the Hot Stove League, and the HSL is nothing if not filled with rumors stocked by Major League Trade Rumors.com and reporters like John Paul Morosi over at Fox Sports. It’s hard to know what to think of the stuff that’s spewed through cyberspace.
Something that’s not a mystery is that the Mariners need hitting. Preferably including some thump. Though some of the M’s young ‘ens progressed and showed future promise, few showed signs of providing the kind of power a team can count on everyday. Dustin Ackley regressed offensively. Much as I really like Brendan Ryan’s glove, he is an offensive black hole at shortstop. Justin Smoak made his annual September surge. He’s one I’m really conflicted about because I believe he’s going to figure it out and be a switch-hitting monster. I’m just not sure the M’s can or will wait long enough for that to happen. He’ll be back with the Rangers hitting 40 dingers and we’ll have–a Mike Carp clone.
The M’s, in their search for hitting are mentioned with a lot of guys who are first base/DH types. Billy Butler, Mike Morse, Garrett Jones. Yes I want to get more clout at the plate, but they need to have a position. Not some guy who can really only DH and then transform into a statue with a glove on one hand a couple days a week. Unfortunately the M’s signing of Jason Bay conjures just that sort of image for me. An outfield version of Chone Figgins-without the athleticism. And multiple injuries. And three years of launch failures with the Mets.
My big hope is the M’s will sign Nick Swisher. Swisher is a right fielder with some pop. His slash line is .272/364/.473. He plays his position well, but can also shift to first base if Justin Smoak implodes again. Swisher is a bonafide grinder at the plate, can really work through an at-bat, and I believe he could be a great example for the M’s young and largely clueless hitters.
I know Josh Hamilton is the hitter for the masses. No question Hamilton is a good hitter with the kind of power the M’s haven’t had in many years. However, he is an all or nothing kind of guy, not a role model. Jon Paul Morosi writes that signing Hamilton only makes sense if the M’s pick up at least one other hitter. Morosi notes that Hamilton can’t carry the hitting weight by himself, that a number four hitter is really needed and for Hamilton to be a run producer, the M’s will need have much more effective one and two hitters. The M’s had the lowest OBP of any team from the top two spots in the order.
The best of all possible worlds would be if the M’s could come up with two bats. They are anything but certain in the outfield, with Saunders and possibly Gutierrez if the latter can stay healthy. Bringing in Hamilton and Swisher, or adding Michael Bourn or some other veteran outfield bat would add a lot to this team. It’s not as though the farm system is on the verge of adding a productive outfielder to the mix. If the M’s could add a more productive bat on the infield via trade that would be fine too. They definitely have some chips with the Big Three pitchers, Nick Franklin and other prospects to deal. With the exception of Felix, none of the young players should be off limits either.
In order to recapture the interest of M’s fans, General Manager Jack Zdurencik must act. I like him. He can be creative. He’s re-stocked the farm system, and is rebuilding the team the right way. I’m just as certain the M’s are aware they’ve lost more of their fans, including season ticket holders, than any other team in baseball over the last ten years. In terms of popularity, this team is in freefall. Last summer I was in Baltimore and caught an Orioles game. The O’s were just out of first place in the east, and it was a gorgeous day in Camden Yards, arguably the nicest ballpark in America. There was nobody there. In the middle of a pennant race. Spending 14 years out of the running left their fan base dry. Making the playoffs can make a difference, and it’s the kind of difference maker the Mariners need. This offseason must point them in that direction.