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August 15, 2011 at 6:25 AM

Mariners go down to the wire with many top draft picks

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We’ll have Geoff Baker Live! at 6:10 p.m. PT today from FX McRory’s as we count down to the draft deadline
This is a bit of a big day for the Mariners as far as keeping their rebuilding plan going. They are coming off a nice series victory over the Boston Red Sox this past weekend. But all of that will be quickly forgotten if one thing doesn’t happen by 9 p.m. PT tonight.
They must sign No. 1 draft pick Danny Hultzen (Photo Credit: AP).
Forget about the money it’s going to cost — and reports are that it could be in the high seven-figures or more in a multi-year contract. Forget about the fact that other teams are having trouble as well getting picks in the first 10 rounds to sign. Forget about what may or may not happen with Seattle’s picks from the second and third rounds of the draft. Forget about the fact that if the M’s don’t sign Hultzen, they’d still get the third overall pick next June.
Those are just excuses and rationalization. They must get Hultzen done.
You cannot lose 101 games for the second time in three years and then fail to come away with a No. 2 overall pick. You can’t tell your fanbase to be patient about a rebuilding plan now about to embark on a fourth year and then throw a whole year away on one of the key components of that plan.
And yes, Hultzen, a left-hander out of the University of Virginia, will be a key component. As will the other pitchers this team keeps stockpiling in the minors. Guys like James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. I’m willing to bet that, if and when this rebuilding plan finally takes shape on the field in terms of wins and losses, not all of those guys (Hultzen, Paxton, Walker) and current M’s Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, will still be here.
This rebuilding plan looks in need of a blockbuster trade or two. And again, I’ll bet one of those arms gets shipped out at some point. But first, for that plan to work, you have to get all the big arms here. Hultzen is one of them.
Am I worried? No. Hultzen will sign. Too many reputations riding on it in the M’s front office. Not signing him would be too big a blow for the Jack Zduriencik regime because of all of what I just mentioned above.
The past few days, my sources within the team have assured me that things will start happening today. That a plethora of signings will be announced in the final hours.
Hultzen will be one of them.
The other guys? Most of the big ones will sign. But probably not all. There are just too many left to get done at this late stage and you’d figure some would already be inked if they were really going to come on-board.


Second-rounder Brad Miller, a shortstop out of Clemson, and third-rounder Kevin Cron, a high school catcher/first baseman, are the biggest names still out there, since relief pitcher Carter Capps, a supplemental third rounder, and fifth-rounder Tyler Marlette, also a catcher, did deals last week.
I’d say Cron is looking like the odd man out here. He’s already committed to TCU and bats right-handed, meaning the big part of his game — offense — might not translate all that well to Safeco Field. His catching skills are said to leave plenty to be desired and the M’s already have Marlette and fourth-round catcher John Hicks on board.
So, a right-handed power-hitting first baseman? I’m not seeing it with Cron and Seattle and guessing he might not either. A few years with the Horned Frogs and maybe he ups his draft slot. This was a bit of a gamble by the M’s, given signability concerns (so was Hultzen, for that matter) and I’m thinking that proves itself out and Cron doesn’t stick.
But if he goes, you’d have to think the M’s go all out to get Miller in here.
Losing one of your top three picks is one thing. But two of them? It happens, but it can’t really happen with a team like the M’s. Not if you want this rebuilding to move forward. You just can’t squander chances to pick up talent.
And again, you have to bring in Hultzen. Do that and the M’s will have secured five of their top-six picks (including supplemental third-rounder Capps) and could call it a successful draft. But you need to get the No. 2 overall guy into the organization or the rest of it rings hollow. The M’s aren’t the Red Sox or Yankees. They aren’t a winning team that can absorb the loss of such a high end pick and afford to wait another year.
There are necessities that must happen for a club in Seattle’s situation that override what more successful clubs can use as the excuse of the week. And this is one of them.
There are a few other guys still unsigned on the back-end of the top-10 rounds. But for today, the Big Three that I’ve mentioned here are the real important ones. They will help deepen the arsenal of bigger-name, potentially tradeable talent for this organization.
And the M’s must get two of those three in here. And Hultzen had best be one of them.
If not, this could be a dark day indeed for the team. I’m guessing they get it done.

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