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December 3, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Mariners need a right handed power bat

UPDATE: 6:49 p.m.: Throw the name of third baseman Chone Figgins in among the free agent bats being sought by the M’s, according to this FoxSports report. The story says the M’s are frontrunners to land the switch-hitter and that he’d move over to second base if Adrian Beltre accepts arbitration. Placido Polanco may have helped set the third base market today, signing a three-year, $18-million deal with the Phillies.
Glad to see so many of you weighing in with your opinions on Jason Bay possibly coming to Seattle. I’ve seen some good arguments, pro and con, especially with regards to his defense. The one thing I haven’t seen, is anyone pointing out the obvious.
That as much as the Mariners have placed a priority on left handed sluggers, given how Safeco Field tends to favor them, this team is in need of some power from the opposite side. The pending departure of third baseman Adrian Beltre means that, as of right now, Jose Lopez and Franklin Gutierrez are the lone righthanded bats posing any type of power threat for the M’s.
With apologies to Rob Johnson, that’s not good enough from the right side. Especially when it’s looking more and more as if Lopez has one more year at most with this M’s club.
A lineup needs more balance than that, especially in a division like the AL West. There were days this past season when the Mariners had to face three or four lefty starters in a row. As much as lefty power is a need at Safeco, you do have to counteract the southpaws that so many AL West clubs can throw your way.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik mentioned as much about an hour ago in a conference call with local beat writers.
Photo Credit: AP

Zduriencik did not mention any trade or free agent targets by name. But he did say that: “We’d probably be interested in a right handed bat somewhere along the way.”
He quickly added that such a bat could come from the first base or DH slot. Some of that could depend on what happens with Russell Branyan and whether he’s ready to re-sign with Seattle or not. Branyan had righty-swinging Mike Sweeney to spell him at times last season when he couldn’t play the field.
But I’m not sure how many games Sweeney has left in him and whether those should be coming in the field. As a DH, yes, Sweeney was a workable solution from the right side. But he’s a free agent and — last I checked — not here yet.
What does this have to do with Bay?
Well, he presents a power solution for the right side of the plate.
Sign him and he could share time in left field with Michael Saunders as the latter breaks into the big leagues and tries to show he can hit consistently. And then, on days there’s a lefthander on the mound, Bay could be the DH.
Is it a perfect solution? No, but then again, things rarely work out perfectly.
It would make the Mariners a better, more-balanced team than their lefty-heavy lineup presents right now. A lineup, remember, that was among baseball’s worst last season and is about to lose Beltre.
With the LF/DH arrangement, you could maybe play Bay six days a week — four in left field and two at DH — while working Saunders in three days a week in left. If he gradually earns more playing time, then you can always rework the LF-DH weighting for Bay. Maybe Saunders gets traded down the road, who knows? Perhaps the M’s see Bay as a full-time DH by Year 3 of any deal. I have no idea and neither do you. Some are suggesting that Bay would cost too much for a team planning to use him even partially as a DH. How do any of you know that? He hasn’t signed for a dime yet. If the Red Sox go and get another left fielder, Bay’s pricetag could quickly drop. And for those who say that a good DH can be had on-the-cheap, I’ll suggest the M’s haven’t had a good one for five years since Edgar Martinez retired. By the way, Edgar was a righty slugger.
As I’ve said, this scenario with Bay is merely one suggestion. And the Mariners, I’m sure, are looking at all options out there to upgrade an offense in serious need of power and more balance.
Are the Mariners sold on Saunders being the everyday left fielder next season? Here’s what Zduriencik offered up to us today.
“Left field is still a little bit up in the air,” he said.
Zduriencik then threw out the names of Saunders, Ryan Langerhans and Bill Hall as guys who played in left last season and added that the team isn’t yet certain how things with shake out there. Doesn’t sound like the job belongs to Saunders just yet.
The GM also said the team would not be averse to signing a Type A free agent that could help the ballclub. And that the team’s draft position, 17th overall, is not so high up that it would make the decision to sign a Type A free agent an excruciating one as long as that player could help the team for years to come.
Anyhow, it’s going to be an exciting winter meetings.
For the record, I agree that Matt Holliday is a better all-around player than Bay and younger at that. But Holliday has to want to come back to the American League, which he didn’t fare so well in with Oakland the first half of last year. He also has to want to come to Seattle, which isn’t a problem with Bay, who already lives here. Holliday is also going to cost more than Bay, which will be a consideration for a team hoping to sign Felix Hernandez long term.
I don’t want this to be misconstrued as me pimping Bay’s services here in Seattle. Far from it, I don’t have a dog in this hunt and don’t care who signs him.
But to rule it out as a possibility, merely because Saunders is already here, or because Bay is a righty hitter and not so good with the glove, ignores the reality of the situation: that he would make the Mariners better than they are right now.
Forget who the best dollar-per-dollar value is. Again, it’s not your money and the team will eventually have to overpay for somebody at one or two spots in building a playoff contender. You seek the best value you can at a number of positions, but eventually, you have to go out and pay for power — either on the mound or at the plate.
Maybe Bay will be the guy the teams loosens the wallet for. And maybe, the club saves that for somebody else. Bay is one solution for this team. One it doesn’t have the luxury of dismissing at the moment unless something better comes along.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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