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August 16, 2011 at 9:26 AM

Mariners have bolstered depth in three key areas in just under three weeks time

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You may have missed Geoff Baker Live! (see replay below), but we ran down the list of the top three unsigned picks for the M’s heading into deadline day and looked at why the team had to get at least two of them done. A viewer asked me whether the M’s are hoping to boost Franklin Gutierrez’s trade value in August and September. Not as their primary goal, no. They’d like him to be their center fielder of the future. Someone asked about the report that Jason Vargas had cleared waivers, so I looked at what it realistically might mean. Mike Carp hit another two home runs. A viewer asked whether Carp could replace Justin Smoak as the first baseman going forward. Not a chance. Somebody else asked me whether Dustin Ackley can win Rookie of the Year. As good as he’s been, hasn’t played long enough. And finally, somebody asked me who I felt would be the highest-profile trade candidate on the Mariners this coming winter. My answer? Has to be Felix Hernandez. A deal might not get done, but the M’s will certainly get some intriguing offers they will at least have to look at.
On to the post…
That was quite an impressive three weeks for the Mariners front office when it comes to laying the groundwork for what needs to be done this off-season.
Putting aside for a moment, the emergence of Mike Carp, which may have answered a few key questions going forward — including whether to spend $100 million-plus on a DH in Prince Fielder when the money might best be used at other spots — the M’s since July 30 have added depth at three key spots.
Those spots are: the outfield, pitching staff and shortstop.
I’m not just speaking about the major league level. We’re talking upper reaches of the minors as well. The kind of depth a team can parlay into some more serious trades with the guys who don’t factor into the future.

Those trades don’t all have to be made this winter. But this team is certainly a lot better positioned than it was three weeks ago.
We’ve discussed the outfield for a while now. Between Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Michael Saunders, Carlos Peguero, Greg Halman, Johermyn Chavez , Chih-Hsien Chiang and others, this team now has a surplus of talent that can be added to any deal.
On the pitching front, last night’s addition of Danny Hultzen (Photo Credit: AP) — a guy who will compete for a spot as early as next spring — is coupled with the trade that brought Charlie Furbush here from Detroit to add to a pile of arms that includes Blake Beavan, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and Taijuan Walker. All of a sudden, even right now, if you want to move Jason Vargas in an August waiver deal, you look to at least have a pile of bodies that can compete to fill the spot.
But that’s not all. There was an underrated component to what we saw happen last night.


And that component would be the team’s second round draft pick, Clemson University shortstop Brad Miller.
The M’s will be bringing him into a fold that already includes Brendan Ryan at the major league level and Nick Franklin and Carlos Triunfel in the minors. Now, I know, I know, many have said for years that Triunfel won’t pan out as a shortstop. OK then, but let’s not forget, he’s still only in his early 20s. The point is, not too long ago, Triunfel was the “can’t miss” prospect this team could not afford to give up. Now, he’s just one of several bodies in an increasingly crowded middle infield.
Before yesterday, you couldn’t dream of trading a guy like Franklin, either. Now, depending on how quickly Miller can progress in the minors, you may have a duplication of talented guys at that key up-the-middle position. Oh yeah, how can I forget? Kyle Seager is also a middle-infield type, currently playing third base.
The thing is, the talent pool of middle infielders on the cusp of the big leagues is now looking a whole lot deeper. The addition of Miller gives the M’s options going forward should they decide to add somebody like Franklin or Triunfel to a trade package. Not saying they will, but they do have the option now.
The M’s like Ryan as their shortstop going forward. It isn’t all about stats. They think he has the winning attitude and the inner fire — where he has to be literally carried off the field to stay out of thel ineup — that a winning team needs to have. Not a 101-loss team or a mediocre team. A winning team. And when you’re trying to build a winner, you need to start looking for those intangibles right away.
If Ryan already has them, then as talented a guy as Franklin — or whoever else in your system you want to pinpoint — may be, they are rendered to backup or surplus status.
We’ll see how it all unfolds.
But with these recent moves, culminating with two key signings this team absolutely needed to get done last night, the M’s are now is a position to try to make some impact moves in December. Moves this team needs to have happen if they want to win something that matters at any time in the next few years.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan

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