With Michael Bourn finally signing, with the Cleveland Indians of all teams, and with Spring Training officially underway, I’m officially calling it the End of the Offseason. The Mariners have made ALL the moves they’re going to make, and their precious unprotected #12 draft pick is securely in their possession. So, consider that their first move of the offseason: keeping their draft pick (which they would’ve lost had they signed a premier free agent like Bourn or Josh Hamilton). It’ll be interesting to see what that guy turns into, considering I’m hearing rumors that this isn’t the strongest of all draft classes.
The Mariners have made moves, both major and minor. I’m not going to get into those Arbitration-Eligible players the Mariners had. Just, rest assured, they eventually came to an agreement with all of them.
The Major Moves are as follows:
- Felix Hernandez signs 7-year, $175 million deal
- Jason Vargas is traded to Anaheim for Kendrys Morales
- John Jaso is indirectly traded to Oakland for Washington’s Michael Morse
- Hisashi Iwakuma signs 2-year, $14 million deal
- Joe Saunders signs 1-year, $6.5 million deal (plus mutual option for 2014)
These are the guarantees. Felix is obviously the biggie; he really deserves to be in a class all his own. Because, aside from his deal, Iwakuma’s deal, and possibly Saunders’ deal, everything else the Mariners have done this offseason has been strictly for 2013 and no more. That isn’t to say the Mariners won’t re-sign Morales or Morse or anyone else, but without the guarantee on the table, we really can’t count on anything long-term, now can we?
As a gentle aside, I would point out that it’s quite unwise to dismiss Geoff Baker’s assessment out of hand that the Mariners aren’t gearing up for a transition of organizational power in the near future. All the Mariners have at the moment are Felix, young guys on rookie contracts, a bunch of stiffs on 1-year deals, and the last year of Chone Figgins’ contract. After 2013, we can forget that Chone Figgins ever happened, and all those stiffs will be dust in the wind. Think about it. For a franchise going into serious negotiations with a potential Regional Sports Network (be it Root Sports, Comcast, or some other entity yet to be determined), you’re looking at some SERIOUS fucking value. Do the right thing, Nintendo, sell to a committed buyer whose primary and only obligation is to WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS!
So, Felix stays, Saunders replaces Vargas, Iwakuma gets a chance to build on his solid second half of last year, Morales fills the DH role shared by Montero and Jaso, and Morse fills the corner outfield role that was spread evenly between Ichiro and a bunch of AAA knuckleheads.
Our offseason will be defined by these major moves, but they’re not the only moves. While our OFFSEASON will be defined by those five guys, our level of success in the regular season might just hinge on some of these minor deals we made. It’s going to be more difficult ranking these guys as I did with the five above, but I’ll do my best.
- Jon Garland signs 1-year minor league deal
- Raul Ibanez signs 1-year Major League deal for $2.75 million plus incentives
- Oliver Perez signs 1-year, $1.5 million deal
- Trayvon Robinson is traded to Baltimore for Robert Andino
- Kelly Shoppach signs 1-year deal for $1.5 million
- Jason Bay signs 1-year deal for $1 million (if he makes the team), with only $500,000 guaranteed
- Jeremy Bonderman signs 1-year minor league deal
- Kameron Loe signs 1-year minor league deal
Obviously, there are a lot of question marks about these guys. I have a feeling that Garland is going to come back and make an impact, but that’s really just a feeling. Then again, of these 8 guys, he has the most potential to make the biggest impact on this team, being a regular in the starting rotation.
Ibanez is here to be a veteran presence and a bat off the bench. He will get his share of starts, but I wouldn’t call him a “starter” by any stretch.
Perez, the Mariners rescued off the scrap heap before last season. He threw in our bullpen for half a season and acquitted himself quite well. He’s a hard-throwing left-hander with experience who should be able to lock down the 7th and/or 8th innings in a close game.
Robert Andino is the man nobody talks about, but that’s ridiculous because he IS our infield bench. He’s the only guy on the roster who can play 3rd, 2nd, and short stop, and should be a huge upgrade over unofficial 2012 Mariners mascot Munenori Kawasaki. Considering the fact that this team is going to have a catcher and two other guys who strictly play outfield (Ibanez and either Casper Wells or Jason Bay), Robert Andino is going to have the weight of the world upon him as he’s pencilled in to spell three of the four infield positions for an entire season.
Shoppach is a backup catcher. He replaces Miguel Olivo as a veteran catcher presence and he also replaces John Jaso as our primary (and only, thank Christ) backup catcher. I like Jaso as much as anyone, but it was KILLING me having three catchers on the same team. Killing me. Shoppach probably won’t be much better at the plate than Olivo, and he’s probably going to let his share of passed balls slip between his legs, but he’s NOT Miguel Olivo, so that buys him at least a month of reprieve from the likes of me.
Jason Bay is to the New York Mets what Chone Figgins was to us. He was a big contract, a huge disappointment, and cut after the third year of his 4-year deal. Now Jason Bay is to us what Chone Figgins is to the Florida Marlins: a reclamation project on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite and a real chance to resurrect his Major League career while playing for a terrible, terrible organization. It would be wise for you to expect nothing of Jason Bay. As it stands right now, he’s going to have to prove in the coming weeks that he’s more valuable to us as a 34 year old veteran on a 1-year deal whose last good offensive season was in 2009 than a 28 year old Casper Wells who still has some team control left on a relatively inexpensive contract (and who is capable of playing all three outfield positions fairly well, while Bay plays only one outfield position downright horribly). His odds are long, put it at that. Then again, Eric Wedge is Old School (to put it kindly). It’ll be interesting if Bay puts up solid offensive numbers in Spring, because this organization has the feel of one that’s looking for any and every reason to get rid of Casper Wells.
Jeremy Bonderman is, like Garland, on a 1-year minor league deal to try to regain his Major League career. Considering he was worse than Garland when both were in their primes, I find it hard to believe Bonderman has much of a chance in Hell. Then again, you never know. You just never know, but I REALLY wouldn’t count on this one.
Kameron Loe was just signed to essentially replace Shawn Kelley. Kelley was re-signed for nearly a million dollars earlier this offseason (he was one of those Arbitration Eligible guys), then cut for seemingly no reason, except for the fact that he was on the 40-man roster and this team needed to make some cuts to bring in guys like Joe Saunders and Kelly Shoppach. The difference is, Loe is on a minor league deal, so if he sucks, whatever. If he’s good, then obviously the Mariners will have to make a move before the regular season starts. Either way, he’s a bullpen arm and one without much of a future with this team considering his age and his track record of late. At best, he’s insurance in case one of our bullpen studs (Carter Capps or Stephen Pryor) fall apart and need to start the season in the minors.
Finally, you can’t talk about this offseason without talking about the guys who are Mariners no more.
Chone Figgins was the first piece to fall, hail Satan. We’re still paying him upwards of $8 million to run around in the tropical sun with the Florida Marlins, so bully for him.
Losing Jaso is probably the one that stung the most at the point of impact and it’s probably the one that still stings the most to this day. He was consistently our best hitter in 2012 (which, obviously, isn’t saying a whole helluva lot, but still) and a guy I know we all loved watch play. He had a knack for late-game heroics, he could get on base with the best of ’em, and shit, he caught Felix’s perfect game! AND, as a catcher, he batted left-handed, which is about as rare as it gets!
The main problem, of course, was where he was going to see his playing time. Ultimately, it would’ve been split between catcher and DH in some Devil’s Three-Way with Montero and Morales (with Morales being the other half of the DH platoon and Montero being the other half of the catcher platoon). Ultimately, you’re talking about three quality (or supposedly-quality) bats for two positions. Which means you’re talking about not exactly maximizing your bang for the buck.
With the trade for Morse, the Mariners are essentially going all-in with Montero. Morse isn’t necessarily “better” than Jaso, but he has more power, so he’s a different KIND of “better”. And he plays a position of need for this team (corner outfield). We were logjammed with first base/DH/Catcher types; now we aren’t. It’s as simple as that. If we can get a similar OPS out of Morse (with slugging substituting for Jaso’s on-base percentage) than we would have with Jaso, while Montero continues to improve and Morales continues to be solid, then that’s a win-win in my book.
If that doesn’t happen, then we just made a huge mistake and gave Oakland the piece it needed to move over the hump in the playoffs this year.
The other big loss was Jason Vargas. But, of course, we now have Joe Saunders. While they aren’t exactly the same pitcher, they’re close enough. In the end, I think we get the same production out of Saunders as we would have out of Vargas, so again we’re talking win-win with the boost we’ll hopefully get from Morales.
Trayvon Robinson was traded, but he’s not a huge loss. We have PLENTY of AAA outfielders who can’t hit in the Majors. Getting rid of one and getting back a solid infield bench player is about as much as anyone could’ve hoped for.
Recently, Shawn Kelley was DFA’d and ultimately traded to the New York Yankees for a AA center fielder. I guess that’s great for the Jackson Generals and great for the Yankees (who were looking for cheap bullpen depth), but I don’t really see how this move helps the Mariners. But, whatever.
Even more recently, Mike Carp was DFA’d. We’re still in the period where the Mariners can trade him, but I wouldn’t expect much. Mike Carp has always struck me as being the next Michael Morse – a quality bat with terrible defensive skills who just needs an opportunity to play everyday to show what he can do (and who never got that opportunity with the Mariners because he couldn’t stay healthy). In other words, look for the Mariners to trade for Mike Carp in about five years. You know, once he’s proven himself and has already had his very-best seasons with another team willing to give a guy a fucking chance.
There might be more moves as Spring Training progresses – Pitchers & Catchers have only just started up this past week – but for the most part, the offseason has come and gone.
Do I think the Mariners have improved? Well, that’s a subject for part two of this post, to be released tomorrow.