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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 13, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Remaining free agents (not named Prince Fielder): Slim pickings for Mariners

(Just learned that Mariners manager Eric Wedge and special consultant Ken Griffey Jr. are flying to Tokyo today for a press conference Monday promoting the Mariners’ season-opening games against Oakland on March 28 and 29 at the Tokyo Dome. M’s senior director of baseball information Tim Hevly will accompany them. Oakland manager Bob Melvin — a former Mariner manager — will represent the A’s).

We are now less than one month away from the opening of Mariners spring-training camp, and still no one knows where Prince Fielder is going to land. One day we hear that it’s 99 percent sure the Nationals won’t sign him, and then today I read ESPN’s Jayson Stark cites an MLB executive who speaks regularly with the Nationals brass, “who is so sure that Washington will be Fielder’s eventual destination,” that he told Stark, “Every morning, I wake up and expect to see [that deal] done.”

Also today comes a tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Rangers are meeting with Fielder today at a Dallas-area hotel. That’s a potentially huge development, because if the Ranger get involved, they have a lot to offer Fielder. As I wrote a month ago, the prospect of Albert Pujols in Anaheim and Fielder in Arlington is a daunting one for the Mariners.

As for the Mariners, a Fielder-to-Seattle scenario remains a longshot, I beieve, for the same two reasons as always — the Mariners’ desire to pay him the requisite salary, and Fielder’s desire to play in Seattle. Perhaps both could still be worked out, but I’m getting more skeptical by the day.

And if Fielder signs elsewhere, that means the Mariners, if they want to do something to boost their offense besides adding a second catcher (John Jaso) and backup infielder (Munenori Kawasaki), have two choices. They will have to go either the trade route, or shop from the remains of the free-agent list, which has already been picked clean of most of the top players.

According to this list on MLBtraderumors.com, there are still 124 unsigned free agents. Sounds like a lot. But for the Mariner purposes of improving their offense, we’ll cross out 55 pitchers (unless you count Micah Owings, who remains unsigned, contrary to what I wrote here yesterday).

Now we’re down to 69. If you subtract the seven catchers, nine second basemen and six shortstops, the total is down to 47 players at positions that could possibly interest the Mariners — nine first basemen, eight third basemen, 25 outfielders, and five designated hitters.

But that includes people like Jorge Posada, who is going to retire, and Milton Bradley, who will never play again, and Omar Vizquel, who is 45 years old. The list of viable free-agent options is pretty thin. Here are the non-Fielder names for Jack Zduriencik to peruse, with the player’s age in parenthesis:

First base:

Russell Branyan (36)

Ross Gload (36)

Brad Hawpe (33)

Dan Johnson (32)

Casey Kotchman (29)

Derrek Lee (36)

Xavier Nady (34)

Carlos Pena (34)

Third base

Wilson Betemit (30)

Eric Chavez (34)

Craig Counsell (41)

Wes Helms (36)

Kevin Kouzmanoff (30)

Felipe Lopez (32)

Miguel Tejada (38)

Omar Vizquel (45)

Left fielders

Pat Burrell (35)

Johnny Damon (37)

Jay Gibbons (35)

Jonny Gomes (31)

Carlos Guillen (36)

Bill Hall (32)

Willie Harris (34)

Raul Ibanez (40)

Conor Jackson (30)

Austin Kearns (32)

Fred Lewis (31)

Ryan Ludwick (33)

Juan Pierre (34)

Ryan Spilborghs (32)

Marcus Thames (35)

Center fielders

Alfredo Amezaga (34)

Rick Ankiel (32)

Yoenis Cespedes (26)

Corey Patterson (32)

Cody Ross (31)

Right fielders

J.D. Drew (36)

Kosuke Fukudome (35)

Willie Harris (34)

Brad Hawpe (33)

Xavier Nady (33)

Magglio Ordonez (38)

Designated hitters

Milton Bradley (34)

Vlad Guerrero (37)

Hideki Matsui (38)

Jorge Posada (40)

Manny Ramirez (40)

As you can see, it’s a lot of reserves, and a lot of guys on the back end of their career (to put it generously). The only player in his prime with star power that I see is Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, but the Marlins are going all-out to sign him and I’d be surprised if he ended up elsewhere.

Carlos Pena is interesting (particularly against right-handers), but I don’t think the Mariners want to move Justin Smoak off first base for anything less than Fielder.

Otherwise, I don’t see anyone that will knock your socks off. If the Mariners lose out on Fielder, it appears any impact move to improve the offense would have to come via trade.

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