Monday, August 15, 2011
Some thoughts on Free Agency
Jack Zduriencik's goal is to build a team that can contend year after year with it's number one resource being internal talent, building from the farm. That does not mean this team will not spend money. How much? We do not know. That is dictated by ownership.
The biggest problem with this team now, is that $45 million of next year's budget is wrapped up in three players who in the simplest of terms do not hit home runs. Nearly one half of the budget is not going to score you runs. I can't argue with what Felix Hernandez will get paid and his value to the team. Chone Figgins obviously has been a bust and Ichiro will be in the final year of a contract he signed when he was still on the upswing, we can only pray he retires. What happens after that final year, if he doesn not retire? Does he bounce back and will he be here and at what cost? Will the team be able trade Figgins and recover any of his remaining dollars? We shall see, but for now this is a challenge to roster construction.
Of course it doesn't help that Figgins and Ichiro are in traditional power positions. Pointing out the question of whether or not Franklin Gutierrez can be counted on to bring any sort of offense in center... Lets look further into this.
First of all, RF is not going anywhere. Cross off that need. But yes, you want power there and if you don't get it you better get it somewhere else. Left Field and DH, have you found them? Keep free agents or trades out of this for a minute. Are you writing Mike Carp into your lineup next year? If so, he is at one of those positions. Is Casper Wells really a right-handed bat that can hit the ball out at Safeco Field? So far so good. Small sample size of course but definitely warrants a further look. Left Field, DH or fourth outfielder? He could be a fit. Greg Halman or Carlos Peguero, do you allow for the possibility that one of these guys can break through next year? Possible options. Trades or free agents are also possible options. At the very least it would appear that one of these positions can be filled adequately internally next season, however I would like to find at least one of these awnsers in free agency.
I don't see Figgins at third next year nor do I see Kyle Seager there. With Ichiro in right and Gutierrez in center you must get offense and some power numbers from that position and Figgins hasn't done it, and while I like Seager I don't see the power. I would hope that we would get a look at Alex Liddi in September but he most likely is not the answer yet. This appears to be a position they will have to fill from the outside. Catcher? Good luck. Everyone is looking for a catcher.
The good news is that whatever dollars they have to spend should be much more than last year and keep them out of blue light special territory (K-Mart). Can they or should they make a run at Prince Fielder? YES. What that contract could be after what we saw last year during the winter is very concerning, however. At this point, and I can change my mind, I would feel more comfortable signing more complimentary bats and trading for the impact bat, I usually just try and pull people's chains. Can the Mariners do this?
Sure they can. Will they? They will have to explore it. At some point Zduriencik is going to have to deal some of his pitching. Next year may seem too soon right now but if the right major league bat is out there it may have to be done. I am not talking Felix here but anyone else system-wide should be fair game.
We are so accustomed to thinking spend, spend, spend, free agent, free agent, free agent in Seattle because for years that has been the only option. They have another option now. An option that Zduriencik has already utilized despite the fact that his resources were limited when he first came on board. Those resources are growing.
Is it enough? Will there be a trade partner? What will the budget be? There are still a lot of questions but it appears that we will leave this season with more answers than we have had in recent history. They shouldn't have to look for starting pitching. They have their answer at second base. They very well could have LF/DH figured out but will have the flexibility should something else come their way. Shortstop is nailed down at least for one year and while he has had an up and down season, Justin Smoak is locked in at first, for now.
Yes, the pen will need work but Zduriencik has had a knack for finding bullpen arms and I believe he will get that sorted out without spending significant money. Gutierrez has been a huge question mark but has shown that there is something still there offensively in the last two weeks. Definitely an incomplete grade but still time to find out in a season that has been all about finding out.
This offseason will be exciting and interesting. At the end of the day, however mad we get at this team and management, we still are Mariner fans at heart. We were raised right to be diehards, and love the Mariners. So I will leave you with this full hearted, GO MARINERS!