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October 26, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Here’s one potential upgrade for retained Mariners coaching staff: Grady Sizemore

Now that the Mariners have done what most people knew they were going to do and retained their entire coaching staff — which was announced today — it’s time to get manager Eric Wedge and company a better team.
Yeah, you can sit around and hope to develop every young player who passed through Seattle like it was conducting an open casting call for extras in a movie. Or, you can be realistic and understand that a process like that might start to bear fruit just after Felix Hernandez leaves town as a free agent in 2015.
Once again, it bears repeating that this team does not have unlimited time to become a contender. Hernandez is under contract only three more seasons and you’d have to think about trading him midway through those if you get the sense he’d seek free agency. So, the process of contending — real contending, not being satisified with a .500 record or some meaningless 87-win season backloaded in September — has to be quickened.
And that means taking some risks. You can’t play it safe all the time. That isn’t the “right” way to build a team. The Texas Rangers took a risk in trading for Josh Hamilton and it paid off for them big-time. You can have homegrown players, sure. But at some point, you need good players all around — no matter where they began their careers.
As many of you have mentioned, the Mariners are more than just a Prince Fielder away from contending. By all means, go get Fielder. He’s better than anything the M’s have on offense right now and it really isn’t close. But you do have to round out the rest of an offense that’s been historically bad for two straight seasons and just plain bad for four consecutive years.
Here’s one suggestion. Go make a bid for Grady Sizemore and bring him to Seattle as your potential left fielder in 2012.
Actually, we’re still a few days away from a Sizemore signing being possible. But as this story out of Cleveland today indicates, the Indians likely will pass on picking up Sizemore’s option for 2012.
That means, by early next month, the M’s could pick Sizemore up in free agency and likely for far less than the $9 million option currently on the table.
There are reasons the Indians might bid farewell to their onetime superstar center fielder. Some of them are issues the Mariners would have to grapple with, namely, the money Sizemore could make.
Clearly, if he seeks $9 million per year, that’s too much for the M’s to take that much of a chance on a guy who isn’t more of a sure thing. Sizemore is, after all, coming off microfracture surgery in his knee and some smaller surgeries that are less consequential.
But the microfracture surgery, which Sizemore had in 2010, is the biggie and the reason why the Indians might let him go. As the story states, the Indians can’t afford to spend too much payroll on Sizemore and then a fallback outfield option if the knee doesn’t rebound to full form by 2012.
Ah, but the M’s are in somewhat of a different boat.
Photo Credit: AP

You see, the M’s already have plenty of fallback options for left field. They have about a dozen guys claiming to be left fielders who are lining up for a shot at that position. OK, maybe not a full dozen, but it sure feels that way.
None of those guys has proven they can handle the job for 150 games the way Sizemore could when healthy. But if Sizemore were to come here and bomb, then the M’s could just go with Plan B — which right now looks like it happens to be their Plan A.
Sizemore is also a center fielder first. The M’s already have Franklin Gutierrez for that spot. But heck, nothing is cast in stone. If Gutierrez can’t rebound and Sizemore shows the knee is returning to form, by all means, play the latter in center. But if Gutierrez can stay healthy, Sizemore in left would be a nice upgrade for this team and he’s young enough to stick around for a while.
Sizemore’s knee surgery is very tricky and tough to predict. It’s not like recovering from a torn ACL. I’ve had both types of surgery on my knees and with microfracture, no matter how hard you work at rehabilitation, it often takes two or more years for the knee to stabilize enough to where you can move like an elite athlete has to. Some guys never get back to that. The Indians just don’t know right now. Neither do the M’s.
Point is, the M’s are in a better position than Cleveland to take the risk. This is the kind of risk-reward player the Mariners should be looking at to fill some roster holes with. Sizemore at his peak is a better player than what the Mariners have right now. And the money it will take to retain him — while too big a gamble for Cleveland — is entirely doable for the Mariners. They already have the in-house, cheap fallback options if Sizemore isn’t quite ready.
And signing Sizemore for the kind of money it will take — I’m guessing low-to-mid seven figures per annum (over at least two years) with incentive clauses attached — should also not prevent the M’s from making a much bigger splash for Prince Fielder or some other proven bat that would be less of a risk. Yes, it might involve a payroll hike. But that isn’t the fans’ problem and they really should stop doing the team’s dirty work when it comes to arguing for frugality. Let the M’s explain why they won’t spend the money after putting such lousy teams on the field the past few years. Fans shouldn’t be making excuses for the squad. It’s the team that has to figure out how to keep drawing fans to its business product before they stop coming for good.
Making the team better so it can finally contend one of these days will go a long way to accomplishing that. And Sizemore at his best could give the Mariners a Hamilton-esque type of boost that the Rangers — for all of their homegrown talent — truly needed to get where they are today.
You can’t just sit around for years waiting for young guys to develop. Especially not with the Hernandez clock ticking. The whole nature of rebuilding is to get better, whether with young players, older players, risk-reward gambles or all of the above.
It’s not the age on the birth certificates. It’s how good the players are.
And this coaching staff — returning in 2012 — needs better players.



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