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Hot Stone League

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

February 8, 2013 at 9:50 AM

After Thursday’s whirlwind, assessing the Mariners’ off-season

Yesterday turned into quite a momentous day for the Mariners, with word that Felix Hernandez is going to re-up for five more years, and Joe Saunders is headed for the rotation. They also finalized their deal with Kelly Shoppach and cut loose Shawn Kelley – a pretty full day’s work for Jack Zduriencik and company.

There’s still a chance the Mariners might do some last-minute tinkering before the first workout of spring training next Wednesday. But this seems like a good time to take a big-picture view of what they’ve done this winter. Hopefully, I didn’t forget anything.

New players

Infielder Robert Andino (acquired from Baltimore in trade for Trayvon Robinson, Nov. 20, 2012)

Outfielder Jason Bay (signed as free agent, Dec. 8, 2012; one-year, $500,00 guaranteed, with another $500,000 if he makes the team out of spring training, plus performance bonuses).

First baseman/DH Kendrys Morales (acquired from Angels in trade for Jason Vargas, Dec. 19, 2012)

Outfielder Raul Ibanez (signed as free agent, Dec. 26, 2012; one-year, $2.75 million, plus performance bonuses)

Outfielder Michael Morse (obtained from Washington in three-way trade, Jan. 16, 2013; Mariners send catcher John Jaso to Oakland).

Catcher Kelly Shoppach (signed as free agent, Feb. 7, 2013; one-year, $1.5 million plus performance bonuses).

Pitcher Joe Saunders (signing as free agent imminent; one-year contract, terms undisclosed).

Players retained

Pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (signed as free agent to two-year, $14-million contract on Nov. 2, 2012)

Pitcher Oliver Perez (signed as free agent to one-year, $1.5-million contract on Nov. 3, 2012

Players lost

Infielder Munenori Kawasaki (released, Oct. 24, 2012)

Catcher Miguel Olivo (2013 option declined, Oct. 24, 2012)

Infielder Chone Figgins (released, Nov. 28, 2012)

Outfielder Trayvon Robinson (traded to Baltimore)

Catcher John Jaso (traded to Oakland)

Pitcher Jason Vargas (traded to Anaheim)

Pitcher Kevin Millwood (retired)

Pitcher Shawn Kelley (designated for assignment)

Trade not made

Pitcher Taijuan Walker, infielder Nick Franklin, pitcher Stephen Pryor to Arizona for outfielderJustin Upton (Upton invoked no-trade clause).

Pitcher retained

Felix Hernandez, reportedly on verge of extending contract through 2019)

In sum, it looks like a solid winter’s work to me. Though they struck out on many big targets – Billy Butler, Torii Hunter, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Upton, to name a few — the Mariners did boost their power significantly with the additions of Morse and Morales. And by signing Saunders, who essentially fills the exact same role as Vargas, it means that they get a Vargas-like left-handed innings eater for next year, plus a guy in Morales who can hit 25 homers. That’s a pretty nifty sleight of hand by Jack Zduriencik.

Giving up Jaso, probably their most consistent hitter last year, was tough to do, but I really like Morse and what he brings to the Mariners’ lineup (even with his defensive liabilities). Yes, Jaso is under control for two more years beyond this one, unlike free-agent to be Morse, but with Mike Zunino on the way, I can see why the Mariners felt he was expendable.

They’ve improved their depth with Ibanez, Andino and Shoppach. They have a reclaimation project in Bay who didn’t cost much if he doesn’t pan out. They have some potential trade chips at the deadline in Morales, Morse and Saunders. Perhaps most importantly, they didn’t give up any of their highly touted prospects (though they were willing to do so to get Upton). Oh, yeah — they have the feel-good extension for Felix, assuming it gets consummated, which I’m confident it will.

I would have liked to see the Mariners get a long-term offensive cog, like a Hamilton, to build around now and in the future. Instead, they face the prospect of watching Morse and Morales have strong years and leave via free agency. But that would at least show future free agents that it’s possible for a hitter to thrive at Safeco Field.

To me, the key to the success of the Mariners in 2013 and beyond will be development by players who were already in the organization — the likes of Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak. The players they’ve acquired should make it easier for them to slide into less pressurized roles.

Overall, I’d give Zduriencik a B for this offseason, with the option to re-assess if more moves are made.

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