I’ve been looking into things a bit more and am told that playing first base has not entered into the discussions between the Mariners and some of the older bat options they’ve looked at with Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez. Now, that doesn’t mean either guy couldn’t play there, but let’s not overthink this and instead try to keep things simple.
Here’s how an Ibanez or Bay signing helps in conjunction with a signing of Nick Swisher:
On days Swisher plays first base, Ibanez can move to right field. Or, he can also start in left and have Michael Saunders play right if need be.
Now, if Bay is the guy signed, he only plays left field. On days Swisher plays first base, Saunders can move to right field while Bay goes to left.
Now, if the Mariners sign Michael Bourn, they would move Franklin Gutierrez to right field. But they would still need Ibanez or Bay to give Gutierrez some days off every week. If the right-handed Bay was the guy signed, he could be in a partial left-right platoon with Saunders and also cover left field on days Gutierrez needs time off, with Saunders sliding to right.
If Ibanez is signed, he could spell Gutierrez two days a week in right and also give Saunders a rest now and then in left.
You wouldn’t have Swisher sliding over to first base to replace Justin Smoak if needed in this case, but you still could move John Jaso or Jesus Montero to that bag and go with Ibanez or Bay as a DH depending on the handedness of the pitcher if you wanted.
Nothing is set in stone here. But these are just some examples of how the Mariners could improve multiple positions while spending big on only one guy.
There are other options as well that the Mariners have looked at. One of them was right fielder/first baseman Garrett Jones of the Pirates, who is younger and will likely be more productive. But he will also likely cost more, since he’s expected to earn about $4 million in arbitration plus the player or players the Mariners will have to give up via trade to get him.
Having Jones and Swisher would be an easy outfield/first base upgrade because you could run them back and forth between two positions. But it would also mean giving up on Justin Smoak, something you don’t have to do if you go with the Ibanez or Bay option.
Anyhow, this is why the Mariners would be considering this kind of arrangment. It doesn’t sound like much. But the opportunity for Ibanez or Bay to share time with Gutierrez and Saunders in an outfield with Bourn in center makes that a pretty solid outfield overall with some better depth at all spots than we’ve seen. I mean, a right field platoon of Ibanez and Gutierrez is far preferable to Casper Wells and Eric Thames for now.
Having Swisher there with Gutierrez in center and Ibanez or Bay lets you upgrade the outfield corners and first base while hoping for a Gutierrez rebound in center.
Just more stuff to think about. But no, the Mariners are not planning an old-timers reunion on the field. They are hoping to better the team in a cheaper fashion and allocate more dollars to a bigger free agent prize.
And if that prize ultimately falls through, they can still have the minimal upgrade from Ibanez or Bay in the corners (or from some other older guy we haven’t heard about) and at least not come out of the off-season empty handed.