Notice: Trying to get property 'display_name' of non-object in /var/www/html/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/src/generators/schema/article.php on line 52

Mariners hope their biggest splash is yet to come
Nine days ago, the Mariners acquired Kendrys Morales from the Angels for Jason Vargas, adding the first baseman/designated hitter to their free-agent haul of Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez. Those three moves should help to revitalize an offense that last season placed last in the American League with a .252 TAv, but for an offseason that saw Seattle emerge as a finalist for Josh Hamilton—getting “very close,” according to Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times—they rank as a collective disappointment and leave the Safeco Field faithful wanting more.

General manager Jack Zduriencik is cognizant of his fans’ wishes, and he told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Thursday that he is “wide open” to further reinforcements for his lineup, ideally including a “leadoff man” and “middle-of-the-order bat.” Hamilton denied earlier this week that the Mariners were seriously involved in his sweepstakes, but Zduriencik said on the KJR 950 radio show, “Mitch in the Morning,” that Seattle offered him a four-year deal worth $100 million, with vesting options for 2017 and 2018. The competitiveness of that proposal is debatable, but the GM’s transparency eliminates any doubt that he has abundant payroll flexibility with which to continue improving the team.

That’s a good thing for Zduriencik, because—as Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller mentioned in response to a listener’s email on yesterday’s “Effectively Wild” podcast—Jack Z. is entering his fifth year at the helm, the point when, in most cases, a general manager can be held fully responsible for the state of his organization. Zduriencik’s seat may not be so hot that he would get sacked if the Mariners fail to earn a post-season berth in 2013, but a fourth consecutive losing season won’t be easy for the brass to swallow.

Based on Rosenthal’s description of Zduriencik’s holiday wish list, a certain dawdling center fielder seems a perfect match, as Ben noted in his overview of the possible fits for Bourn yesterday. The Mariners were first connected to Michael Bourn at the Winter Meetings, in this blog post by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, and most of the other teams that Heyman mentioned have since plugged their center-field holes. His bidding is most likely down to the Mariners and Rangers, and while his agent, Scott Boras, is in no hurry to finalize a deal, Zduriencik—given the aforementioned five-year window—might be every bit as desperate as his counterpart, Jon Daniels.

Some hesitation to commit big money to Bourn is understandable on Zduriencik’s part, considering that his four-year, $36 million hitch with Chone Figgins devolved into a fiasco. Coming off of a 7.2 WARP campaign for the Angels, the now-34-year-old Figgins cost the Mariners 2.4 wins over three seasons, before finally getting designated for assignment in November. Bourn is a similar player to Figgins, in that speed and defense play a significant role in his overall value, but unlike Figgins, he is an up-the-middle defender with a relatively clean injury history and a more consistent track record of 3.0- to 4.0-win production.

Another hindrance to signing Bourn, from Seattle’s standpoint, is that he declined a qualifying offer from the Braves, and thus would require the Mariners to cough up the 12th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. As is evident from the top-10 list compiled by our prospect staff, Zduriencik’s system is teeming with high-ceiling pitchers but suffers from a dearth of impact bats, with last year’s first-rounder, catcher Mike Zunino, possibly representing a notable exception. Zduriencik, perhaps because of the importance of the coming year or two, was willing to part with the pick to sign Hamilton; whether he would surrender it for Bourn remains to be seen.

With Hamilton and Nick Swisher already signed, if the Mariners choose to look past Bourn, Zduriencik will probably turn to the trade market. And while the Mariners may not match up especially well with the pitching-rich Diamondbacks, Kevin Towers can expect plenty of calls from other teams in the coming days…

Guess who might be back on the block? Justin Upton
… because, as a source told Heyman (and as was widely expected following the Cody Ross signing last week), “someone will go.” Someone could mean Jason Kubel or Gerardo Parra, with the member of that duo who stays sharing left field with Ross, but it could also mean Upton, if the right return package comes along.

The problem with trading Kubel, as an executive told Rosenthal on Thursday, is that the Diamondbacks “wouldn’t get a lot for him.” A part-time player (.257 career TAv versus left-handed pitching) with poor range, even for a corner outfielder, Kubel is best utilized in a designated-hitter platoon, and he has not delivered more than 0.6 WARP in a season since 2009. With a $7.5 million payday coming for 2013, to go with a $1 million buyout on an equally rich 2014 option, Kubel also is not a bargain. Put those two factors together, and it’s easy to see why Towers will struggle to extract a useful piece in exchange for the 30-year-old former Twin.

Upton, as Heyman wrote, is unlikely to be moved unless the Rangers cave on Towers’ demand of a young shortstop—namely, either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. So far, there have been no signs that Daniels is inclined to include either of them, and it’s possible that both could contribute to the Rangers in 2013, if second baseman Ian Kinsler moves to first. The Mariners could make a play for Upton, but they lack the young left-side infielders that Towers covets, and the Rays, who were once among the rumored suitors, have since reeled in Wil Myers from the Royals. 

That leaves Parra, who, like Kubel, bats left-handed, but, unlike Kubel, is a very good defensive outfielder. Trading Parra would leave the Diamondbacks with a $12.5 million Kubel-Ross timeshare in left field, and potentially a need to supplant Kubel after the season. It would also entail a steadfast commitment to either Adam Eaton or A.J. Pollock in center field, since none of the other incumbents can adequately handle the position. On the other hand, Parra—who is arbitration eligible for the first time this winter—could attract far more suitors and fetch a much more enticing piece than Kubel would.

With Bourn representing the last man standing in the free-agent outfield market, the ball is in Towers’ court—and, as R.J. Anderson pointed out in his analysis of the Ross signing—the veteran GM “once called himself a sludge merchant for a reason.” Someone will go, but to find out who it will be, all we can do is wait.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
You make the following statement:

" The Mariners could make a play for Upton, but they lack the young left-side infielders that Towers covets...."

My comment is as follows:

Can we assume that Towers is still coveting a left-side infielder after acquiring Gregorius? Sure, Didi doesn't fill a void at 3B and his contributions at SS may be limited by his bat, but I doubt that Towers would dump Bauer for such an underwhelming package unless he had some good vibes for Didi.

However, in looking at Arizona's depth chart, I am not convinced that Towers won't pursue more pitching. Kennedy and Cahill are solid enough (though neither is an ace), but there are questions afterwards. Is Miley really as good as last season? Can McCarthy and Hudson be healthy and productive? Can Skaggs be productive at the major league level (TINSTAAPP)? That's an awful lot of question marks for a team with a solid chance of contending in the NL West.

If the D-backs move Upton, it could very well be to a team with a surplus of Major-league starting pitching. Would Towers trade Upton to the Cubs for a package centered around Matt Garza (with perhaps Vitters included as a reclamation project?)

Lots of good points, JoshC77, and thanks for reading.

In the context of that sentence, what I meant is that the Mariners don't have an Andrus or a Profar, and that Towers has suggested he would still make a trade for one of them, even after acquiring Gregorius.

I could see the Diamondbacks trying to add one more starting pitcher for depth, especially given McCarthy's shoulder-injury history. That said, I'm not sure that would put the Mariners back into play; the Vargas-for-Morales trade left Seattle with question marks toward the rear of the rotation, too, and Zduriencik might need to put Taijuan Walker on the table as a starting point. That could well be a nonstarter.

The Cubs might be a more likely destination, and they definitely could use an impact outfielder after adding Nate Schierholtz earlier this offseason. Once Edwin Jackson's deal becomes official, a Garza-led package is a possibility, though given that he is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season, Towers would almost certainly ask for a strong secondary piece (either in addition to, or along with Vitters).
Well thank you for writing Daniel, nothing like some good trade rumors to spice up a cold, snowy December. The Ross signing really set things up nicely for some good old fashioned trade speculation :)

To your point, I am sure that most GMs would make a deal for Andrus or Profar. If Towers had an opportunity to acquire either for a reasonable cost, he'd be a fool not to. I think that Towers should also strongly consider Mike Olt to fill 3B with an above-average player. A deal centered around Mike Olt and Leonys Martin (other pieces thrown in) would also be intriguing as a return for Upton if Towers isn't going for pitching. Olt can play 3B with the D-backs going out there with an OF of Kubel/Martin/Ross (Parra as the 4th OF).

With that said, Towers has cheaply filled the more immediate holes at SS and 3B. While Pennington/Chavez are stopgap measures, they are decent enough to fill the holes for this season, particularly if the rest of the lineup is solid. This is why I think Towers should take a long look at that rotation as a more immediate concern for any deal involving Upton.

For the reasons you stated, the Mariners are not a good fit for an Upton deal. A package of Hultzen/Franklin or Paxton/Franklin is probably not good enough and like you, I can't imagine the M's giving up Walker. I think the M's are probably out of the Upton sweepstakes.

As outlined above, the Cubs might be the best match (although I do agree that Garza/Vitters alone would not be enough even if a deal was contingent on a Garza extension). Few other teams in need of a corner OF have rotation depth (although I could see the Braves doing something, moving Prado to 3B to accommodate Justin).

It really is a darn shame that the D-backs are a NL team though. In the AL, they could shift Kubel to DH and they would be set without trading any of these guys. But then, all of our fun speculating would be at an end....
These are good points, but I could see Towers hedging against Gregorious with one of the TEX shortstops. If they both develop, you can move one of them for huge returns. No prospect is a sure thing, and teams will pay for huge up the middle players.

This hinges on the assumption that Towers wants Upton off his roster. It could make sense, if KT doesn't think they'll compete in the next few years and/or Upton is "just" a 2-4 win player.

I agree it doesn't make a ton of sense, but if Towers is serious, i have to question his situation.
Any body else thinking about what Elizabeth Kubel-Ross would look like? Or what this 2 headed monster's ideas on death and dying would be?
Did MLB do away with the rule that teams in the top half of the draft (picks 1-15) don't have to forfeit their 1st round pick? If the Ms signed Bourn I think they would give up a 2nd.
Only the top 10 picks are protected under the new CBA, instead of the top 15, so the Mariners' pick at 12 would be the one they would surrender.
Just as an addendum, under the new CBA, not only does the pick go away, but the team also loses the associated allotment from its bonus pool.
This has been an unusually bad offseason for the Dbacks. They trade 5 years of cost control on Trevor Bauer for a no hit shortstop propspect. They commit to 3 years of a past 30 Cody Ross, who was not really more than a platoon player in his prime, albeit a good one. They continue to think about dealing a young, pre-prime Upton whose upside is monstrous, and who produces even in a "down" year. The only move I sort of understand was the relatively cheap deal given to McCarthy which seems like a worthwhile risk if he can overcome his head injury. But man, I just dont understand where this franchise is going, particularly given their excellent performance in 2011 and their assemblage of a still decent core of young talent.
I totally forgot to mention the headscratching trade of Chris Young for Pennington.
Don't forget about that key acquisition of Heath Bell.....