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Topic: nick swisher

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December 23, 2012 at 9:45 AM

Raul Ibanez expects to get look at three or four spots with Mariners

Raul Ibanez had been planning to move family back to Seattle full-time in 2013 regardless of where he played. Photo Credit: AP

Just got done talking to Raul Ibanez, who said he isn’t sure exactly where he’ll get the most playing time this coming season with the Mariners, but does expect to get a fair number of at-bats doing it. Ibanez and the Mariners had talks a year ago when he was also a free agent, but “the opportunity for at-bats just wasn’t there.”

For Ibanez, the at-bats were key because of the leadership role the Mariners expect him to fill in their clubhouse.

“I think the best way to lead is by example,” Ibanez said. “And the best way to lead by example is by actually having the opportunity to get out there and produce.”

Ibanez said the Mariners have talked to him about playing left field, but also in right, where he played extensively with the Phillies and Yankees after leaving the Mariners following the 2008 season.

They also talked about Ibanez serving as a DH, as well as at first base, where Ibanez played a fair bit when with the Royals earlier last decade.

“They mentioned to me that if I can play first base, they might need it,” he said. “I can play first base, I’ve done it before so we’llsee what winds up happening.”

The Mariners, as I’d suspected last week, did not go hard after Nick Swisher once they traded for first baseman Kendrys Morales. Swisher has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal with the Cleveland Indians, a contract much lower than he was initially expected to garner.

But much of Swisher’s value to the Mariners would have been his ability to move back and forth between right field and first base. Once Morales took care of their first base needs, the team opted to go the cheaper route with Ibanez as a fallback option there and as a left-handed hitting corner outfield platoon option — rather than paying Swisher $14 million per season to play right on a full-time basis. We discussed much of this scenario during the winter meetings, when we broke the news that the Mariners had contacted Ibanez’s agent. The Mariners have an opportunity to upgrade the outfield corners on a piecemeal basis, rather than one big splash.

And this can make a whole lot of sense, as long as the team deploys its financial resources in other areas. Just making small moves like this and then standing pat won’t help all that much since the Ibanez and Morales acquisitions are only guaranteed for one year and don’t help the team get better long term — at least not yet. But the winter is not over yet and there is still time — and obviously plenty of money left over — for the Mariners to make a more impact move that could help now and down the road.

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0 Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: Jack Zduriencik, nick swisher, Raul Ibanez

December 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Look for Michael Saunders to play much more right field for Mariners this year

Look for Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders to see more action in right field this year as part of upgrades in a revamped home ballpark. Photo Credit AP

There are only so many more things we can say about the Kendrys Morales deal before we find out who’s still here in spring training and see how they play. Yes, the Mariners could now, in theory, trade either Justin Smoak or Jesus Montero if the right deal comes along. Personally, I’d like to see how they fare in the revamped Safeco Field confines first. Also, until we know for sure that Morales can play first base more than a few times per week, he’ll have to have another guy there to replace him and it won’t be Montero or John Jaso, who the Mariners have already ruled out as realistic first base options.

One guy I still believe this deal dramatically lessens the chances of the Mariners getting is Nick Swisher, primarily because a lot of his value to Seattle lay in his ability to play first base as well as right field. Well, you now have Morales and Smoak as switch-hitting first basemen, so adding Swisher there really crowds the field. Also, I’m not sure the Mariners will be willing to spend the money needed to get Swisher. The money is still there, since the Mariners are actually saving a couple of million by flipping the Jason Vargas arbitration cost for that of Morales.

But having the money there, in theory, is not the same as actually spending it.

So, we’ll see what the Mariners actually do. If I’m wrong and they do indeed make a push for Swisher — and actually land him instead of finishing second — then you’d have a longer-term guy than Morales as a first base option. That part makes sense when it comes to protecting the team, as well as providing some leverage in what to do with Morales as you look towards an extension.

But still, Swisher is looking for impact-performer type money and the Mariners don’t view him as an impact bat in the Hamilton mode. I wrote about this last week when we discussed slugging percentages and the impact a one-swing game-changer can have on a lineup. So, for me, with Swisher, the money will be the big factor. The Mariners just got a guy I’m sure they view as more of an impact bat in Morales and they got him plenty cheaper than the Swish will wind up signing for.

Just my take. Feel free to disagree.

As for what will happen in the outfield this year, the one guy who could play a very prominent role in it is Michael Saunders. And I can see him performing that role more from right field this year than most of the people I read are really envisioning at this point.

Now, that would change if Swisher is signed. But since I really don’t see that happening, I do feel Saunders will be seeing quite a bit of time in the other outfield corner. The fact that Saunders is seen more as a left fielder and center fielder has more to do with Safeco Field than anyplace else.┬áSafeco has always made it tough for left field defenders because of the way it’s configured and so, the Mariners naturally try to get their better outfield defenders at that spot.

But with the fences moving in, that will likely change.

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0 Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: kendrys morales, Michael Bourn, michael saunders

December 13, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Who? Who? Who? Who’s left for Mariners now that Josh Hamilton is off the table?

Michael Bourn was an all-star caliber center fielder in Houston for years before moving on to Atlanta last season. Photo Credit: AP

Every year, we get into a “Who? Who? Who?” debate on this blog about whether there were ever really any bats out there that the last-place Mariners could possibly have acquired to help them. Just to run down the list from this winter one more time, in reference to free agents and trade targets already off the board that could have helped make Seattle better: Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan, Kevin Youkilis, Shin-Soo Choo, Torii Hunter, Ryan Ludwick, Shane Victorino, Melky Cabrera.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a bunch, but feel free to default to that list next summer when the “Who? Who? Who?” owls make their annual pilgrimage to the comments section, set up nests and start unleashing their droppings.

In the spirit of keeping the list current and raising the spirits of fans who assume all hope was lost today when Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels, there still exist some offensive avenues for the team to explore that do not include Hamilton.

For me, the most intriguing one doesn’t even involve Nick Swisher. Most people and their laptop technicians now expect Swisher to jump to the Texas Rangers to fill the outfield void left by Hamilton’s big bat. Thing is, Swisher is not Hamilton and probably never will be. Sure, you can make a case that some of their statistics are similar, including their on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) and their WAR (wins above replacement level). But the similarities end there when it comes to the type of presence and impact each can have on a lineup.

With Hamilton, you know the game can change with one swing of his bat — no matter what ballpark he is playing in — because his raw power places him amongst the elite of the game. With Swisher, the high OPS is attributable more to his walk rate and on-base ability, where Hamilton tends to be a free swinger and send the ball a long, long way when he does connect.

And when it comes to the impact on any given lineup, the thought of Hamilton sitting smack dab in the middle of it has the ability to terrify opposing pitchers, even when they are several batters away from facing him. You’re going to think twice and then three times before putting anybody on base ahead of Hamilton — even if “ahead” means three or four spots up in the batting order. With Swisher, not as much. That’s a major difference between the two and why Hamilton is considered more of an “impact” bat and will get the bigger money from teams willing to spend on such intangibles.

It’s why you see guys like GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge saying they’d have chosen Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout for MVP despite Trout having similar numbers and a higher WAR. It’s for the lineup impact. You can’t measure it. But the folks running real baseball teams and throwing pitches in actual MLB games know what it’s all about. And it’s possibily the biggest reason why so many pitchers have taken so many liberties with the Mariners over the last several seasons — the non-existence of anything in the heart of the order that would make pitchers really afraid of putting guys on base.

Swisher isn’t one of those types of bats, even though his better walk rate and defense keeps his WAR up there on a similar level to Hamilton.

Now, that doesn’t mean Swisher would not constitute a major upgrade for Seattle. The Mariners need good bats and Swisher has one. He can also play right field and first base, which are two areas of need for the Mariners.

But the fact remains, he is not Hamilton. His bat will not impact Seattle’s offense the way Hamilton’s would have. It will make the offense better, but not in the game-changing way that Hamilton’s might have. And for me, that factor alone means that the Mariners losing out on Hamilton does not automatically default them towards Swisher as a fallback plan.

It is not “Swisher or Bust” as one commenter suggested to me earlier.

For me, knowing that any chance of a pure power, middle-of-the-order guy has now vanished, I’d be more inclined to take a look at Michael Bourn as the team’s primary option going forward. To be honest, the Bourn option has always intrigued me because of the so very different approach to bettering the team that it provides.

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0 Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: franklin gutierrez, josh hamilton, Michael Bourn

December 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM

Josh Hamilton agrees to reported 5-year, $125 million deal with the Angels

Josh Hamilton will be smiling a little more today after agreeing to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for a reported five years, $125 million. Photo Credit: AP

Take another one off the board for the Mariners, with the Los Angeles Angels showing Josh Hamilton the money to the tune of a reported five years, $125 million.

The deal with Hamilton comes one week after the conclusion of the baseball winter meetings in Nashville, in which the Mariners engaged with talks with the slugger’s camp but were unable to complete anything. There had been talk of Seattle discussing a series of three-year deals with Hamilton, and the Mariners were said to be ready to move quickly if the Texas Rangers fell out of the running.

But the Angels just blew everybody out of the water with this.

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0 Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: angels, Jack Zduriencik, josh hamilton

December 13, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Josh Hamilton reportedly close to a deal…with the Angels

Josh Hamilton is reportedly close to signing a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Photo Credit: AP

Prepare to go into total fanbase meltdown mode in a bit as multiple reports have surfaced that the Los Angeles Angels are on the verge of a deal that would put Josh Hamilton in a Halos uniform.

The fun began with this tweet not too long ago.

The good news, I suppose, is that the loss of Hamilton would weaken a 93-win Texas Rangers squad.

The bad news is what it would mean for an 89-win Angels team. Remember, the Mariners likely have to overtake at least one of those teams at some point to have a hope at even a second wild-card spot.

As usual, don’t worry about the money. The Angels would be paying for this on the strength of that $3-billion regional sports network deal that enabled them to pick up Albert Pujols last year.

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0 Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: angels, josh hamilton, Michael Bourn