(Sorry for the late post; I had some personal business to attend to this morning)
The three-day general manager’s meetings in Chicago are over, and as almost always is the case, no deals emerged. In the years I’ve attended or followed the GM Meetings, I can recall just one major transaction taking place: Shawn Green being traded from Toronto to the Dodgers for Raul Mondosi (when Mondosi was a star, if you can remember that far back) in 1999.
But that doesn’t mean the event wasn’t productive. These meetings are where GMs plant the seeds for future deals, and by all accounts, the Mariners’ Jack Zduriencik was quite active in laying the groundwork for the winter meetings (Dec. 7-10 in Indianapolis) and beyond. With money to spend and numerous holes to fill, there’s little doubt the Mariners will be active in both the trade and free agent market, so it’s not surprising that the M’s were featured in numerous rumors floating out of Chicago.
Here are the players that have been linked to the Mariners in one way or another in recent days (if I missed someone, let me know):
Hideki Matsui. Rumors of Matsui joining up with Ichiro in Seattle have been constant since the World Series. It makes some sense, even with Ken Griffey Jr.’s return, but I still think he’ll wind up with the Yankees. This story mentions the Red Sox, Rays, Mets and Angels as possible suitors. My first question is whether Matsui and Ichiro could co-exist; that is to say, would Matsui want to share his national affection — greater than ever after being the World Series MVP — with Ichiro? I’ve heard varying opinions from people with knowledge of the situation, but the consensus I get is that it wouldn’t work; in fact, that Matsui might be more apt to sign with the Angels so he could compete with Ichiro. The second issue is, I believe the Mariners would prefer a DH that could also play in the field at times, and Matsui, with his ailing knees, doesn’t fill that bill. I don’t see it happening. But Zduriencik has made it clear that signing Griffey does not preclude acquiring a DH.
John Lackey. I believe the Mariners will look deeply into this, with the feeling that a Felix Hernandez-Lackey combination at the top of the rotation would be one of the best in the league and allow the rest of the rotation to fall into place without the pressure of finding a No. 2. Don Wakamatsu managed Lackey in Erie (Class A) in 2000, so there’s a relationship. But I don’t think the Mariners will get into any ridiculous bidding or overpay as the M’s have in the past. If the market stagnates and Lackey is affordable, I think they’ll make a big push. Suffice it to say, they won’t cough up any $100 million deals if the bidding gets that high. But all the talk now is how the free-agent market is going to be depressed — so much talk that the union is whispering collusion.
Jason Bay. I still feel Bay will wind up back with the Red Sox. I just don’t see the Mariners making a major play when the bidding is destined to be north of $75 million for one of the “Big Three” free agents (along with Matt Holliday and Lackey). For those who think the M’s have an edge because Bay lives in Kirkland, where his wife grew up, this is what his agent, Joe Urbon, told me yesterday, while declining to discuss any specifics: “The only thing I’ll say is geography will not play a role with Jason. He’s not going to limit himself to one geographic locale. The reality is, he’s spent almost his entire professional baseball career on the East Coast, but he’s going to consider every team interested in him if he ends up not signing back with the Red Sox.”
Urbon, by the way, thinks the Mariners are a good match for for another one of his clients: veteran catcher Mike Redmond, especially with the departure of Kenji Johjima.
“I think it’s a great fit, ” Urbon said. “Not only because of his familiarity with the area growing up in Eastern Washington, going to Gonzaga, and having family in Seattle; but it’s a fit with that team being the type of very strong receiver, caller of a game, captain of the field when he plays, and having the ability to play multiple days in a row, but also the ability to back up and play once a week, like he did with (Joe) Mauer, and do it well. He’s certainly not a power guy, but he’s a guy with strong offensive numbers, and no one’s ever questioned his defensive ability. He’s about as good as it gets.”
If the Mariners decide they need a veteran backup presence at catcher, Redmond seems a logical guy.
Orlando Hudson. When Hudson was ranked as a Class A free agent this week, it no doubt doused a lot of team’s interest — as happened to him last year, when teams shyed away from Hudson because he was a Class A that had turned down Arizona’s offer of arbitration. That meant that signing him required giving up a first-round pick. The Dodgers eventually decided to pay the price and signed Hudson on Feb. 20. But they had to give up their first round pick — No. 17 overall. I don’t see the Mariners being willing to do that with their unprotected No. 18 pick in the 2010 draft — not for Orlando Hudson. Lackey perhaps, Hudson no.
Lyle Overbay. I just don’t see it, not with Overbay being owed $7 million next year, and possessing just middling stats. Could it be that the Mariners want to make Russ Branyan a little nervous? Nah, they wouldn’t do that sort of thing.
Doug Davis. I just read this one today. Perhaps if other pitching options fall through.
Jarrod Washburn. There’s certainly an appreciation for Washburn by the Mariners, but I see Washburn signing with either the Brewers or Twins to be near his home in Wisconsin.
Mark DeRosa. DeRosa offers versatility (DeRosa played first, second, third, left and right in 2009), but he’s going to be 34 in February, and his on-base percentage dropped from .376 in 2008 to .319 last year with the Indians and Cardinals. But Wakamatsu knows and likes him from his Texas days, so you never know.
Rich Harden. I’ve felt all along that Harden would be a good gamble to take. Yes, he always seems to be hurt, but he did make 26 starts last year, his most since 2004. And he struck 171 in 141 innings. His s tuff is tremendous, among the best in the league. One of these days, he’s going to stay healthy, put it all together and contend for a Cy Young. His Northwest connection might make Seattle appealing (the Mariners actually drafted Harden once, but didn’t sign him). This one has legs.
Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo and the Mariners have some history — the Mariners were rumored to be after Arroyo in the winter of 2005, when he was traded from the Red Sox to the Reds. Now Cincinnati is rumored to be ready to clean house in an effort to cut the payroll, so Arroyo is available after winning 15 games and pitching 220 innings. Teams love workhorses like Arroyo, so I think it’s plausible.
Believe me, the Mariners have, and will, explore many other free agents, and target many other trade candidates, than just these; the picture will begin to clear at the winter meetings next month, but it won’t end there, with the non-tender class of free agents hitting the market two days after the winter meetings.
One interesting new development is word that the Reds and Tigers are both offering tenured veterans like Arroyo, Brandon Phillips and Francisco Cordero, and Curtis Granderson. , Edwin Jackson and perhaps Brandon Inge (according to SI’s Jon Heyman)
The rumor mill has already started to churn, which is what makes this time of year so fun.
(Photo by Getty Images)