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December 2, 2009 at 9:28 AM

What yesterday’s arbitration deadline means for the Mariners in terms of who they can sign

Now that the arbitration deadline has come and gone, let’s look at how this may impact the Mariners in terms of free agents they might want to sign.
First off, under MLB rules, teams don’t give up any Type B compensatory draft picks they may have acquired if they go out and sign a Type B free agent of their own. In other words, if the M’s gain a Type B pick once Adrian Beltre declines arbitration and signs elsewhere, they won’t forfeit that pick by signing another Type B free agent.
So, that eliminates any concerns over signing Type B free agents offered arbitration yesterday. If the Mariners want to sign free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd to play left field, they can do so without forfeiting their eventual Beltre pick.
Got it?
No, the Mariners won’t sign Byrd. But one such Type B free agent they could sign is catcher Gregg Zaun (Photo Credit: Getty Images). Zauin was offered arbitration by the Rays yesterday, but as I said, this has no bearing on the M’s, who undoubtedly consider him a frontrunner for the veteran mentor job behind the plate in Seattle. Adam Moore has only a taste of big league ball while Rob Johnson heads into his sophomore season.
Zaun has done this type of thing before, whether for Guillermo Quiroz in Toronto, or Matt Wieters in Baltimore. The other free agent getting a lot of press as a possible signee is local boy Mike Redmond, who brings slightly less to the table. Zaun is a switch-hitter who batted for a .761 OPS last season (including .801 as a lefty), and has a strong reputation as a game-caller.
Redmond is a righty batter who posted a sub-.600 OPS last season and while he is revered for his game-calling skills, he has a weak arm and his offensive numbers suggest he’s declining with age. Zaun got a much later start as a major league regular (he became a No. 1 catcher only in 2004) and thus the physical toll on his body is somewhat less than it would be for other 39-year-olds at his position,
Zaun is clearly the better choice here and nothing that happened yesterday changes that.
On to other positions of need, the Mariners have a desire to improve their middle infield and saw some opportunities present themselves yesterday.
Unlike Type B free agents, there is a forfeiture of a team’s first or second-round pick if it signs a Type A candidate. In Seattle’s case, the club would stand to lose lose a No. 17 overall pick next June by signing a Type A free agent.
But in terms of middle infielders, two Type A candidates — Placido Polanco of the Tigers and Orlando Hudson (Photo Credit: AP) of the Dodgers — were not offered arbitration. That means, the
M’s can now sign either and not forfeit a pick.

There is a downside to what happened yesterday, namely that every other team in baseball can also go after Polanco or Hudson without fear. That will drive up their asking price and, frankly, the M’s have to be leery of that given that either would be a stopgap until Dustin Ackley is ready to arrive by 2011 or 2012.
Hudson in particular has shown signs of declining in the field. He bashed his body up pretty good when he first broke in earlier this decade by constantly diving for balls. He still plays the game that way and sometimes can make routine plays look flashier than they are because of it.
He’d definitely be an improvement over Lopez in the field and at the plate, but the question is, by how much? I can tell you the M’s are interested in Hudson, but if he becomes a bank breaker, this would give them reason for pause.
One possibility if that becomes the case is that the Mariners could turn their interest to Felipe Lopez, a onetime shortstop who posted an .810 OPS as a second baseman for Arizona and Milwaukee last season. He’s a better fielder than Jose Lopez as well and a Type B free agent who should command less money than either Polanco or Hudson.
Acquiring another middle infielder gives the M’s the option of moving Lopez to a corner infield spot, or dealing him as part of what could be a very impressive package.
Moving on, there are plenty of options out there for the booming lefty 1B/DH bat the Mariners still need.
We’ve already mentioned Carlos Delgado and Nick Johnson, both of which make a lot of sense for this team but are hampered by injury concerns. They are Type B free agents, so what happened yesterday doesn’t impact them. Jermaine Dye is a Type A right fielder who would make an interesting DH candidate for the M’s and was not offered arbitration by the White Sox. So, throw his name on to the list of potential targets made easier by yesterday’s events, though he is a righthanded hitter, which isn’t optimal at Safeco Field. In other words, while he’s out there, I’d say it’s a longshot he signs here.
On to other spots, if the Mariners want to upgrade in left field, then Matt Holliday is one guy they might not mind giving up a first-round pick for. Holliday is a Type A free-agent who was offered arbitration, but, as the St. Louis Cardinals found out in the second half of last season, he can be a game-changer at the plate. He’s also above average in the field, despite blowing a ninth-inning catch in Game 2 of the Division Series.
One Type A pitcher who could also be worth forfeiting a first-rounder for is, of course, John Lackey of the Angels, who was also offered arbitration. Lackey is a legit staff ace who would radically transform the Mariners’ rotation, so the fact he was offered arbitration should not impact any desire Seattle had to sign him. Randy Wolf is a Type A free agent who wasn’t offered arbitration by the Dodgers, meaning it could be open season for his services. Wolf would be a legit third starter, maybe a No. 2 starter, for the M’s, but he’s an NL pitcher and I doubt he wants to cross over to the AL at this stage of his career. Still, he’s out there and comes with no draft pick strings attached. Rich Harden is a more likely M’s target, though as a Type B free-agent, the fact he wasn’t offered arbitration yesterday has zero impact on the Mariners.
Another Type A free agent the M’s would have undoubtedly taken a look at is Chone Figgins of the Angels, a fine choice as the heir apparent to Beltre at third. The M’s might still consider Figgins, but he was offered arbitration yesterday. So, it would cost a first round pick to sign him. Unlike Holliday or Lackey, Figgins is not an automatic franchise changer. This would be a tougher call than either of the other two and I’m not sure the M’s would go there. On the upside, the fact Figgins was offered arbitration means fewer teams might come calling. In theory, this could keep the cost down. That’s now a heavier consideration for the M’s, considering they know they’d be giving up a draft pick for him.
There you have it. The Mariners saw some more opportunities open up for them yesterday. They have plenty of holes to fill. Should be an interesting few weeks ahead.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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