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Topic: trades

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December 27, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Relax on the Raul Ibanez proclamations until we see what additional moves the Mariners have planned

Raul Ibanez put up an OPS of .812 against right-handed pitching in 2012, a split the Mariners hope to benefit from in 2013. Photo Credit: AP

Figured it wouldn’t take long for the Raul Ibanez signing to generate some angst in the local fanbase. Yes, I know, he’s 40 years old and he plays positions that the Mariners have some much younger guys slotted for. He’s not Josh Hamilton and he’s not Nick Swisher.

Here’s the thing, though. Ibanez is a part-time player now and a pretty good one at that. He is envisioned for part-time roles at multiple positions where the Mariners, quite frankly, need upgrades.

And we’re still only in December. The season begins in April.

Part of the challenge of doing proper baseball analysis is to view each move as a piece to a whole puzzle. And when you take a few deep breaths, consider where the pieces fit, then look at the Ibanez move for what it is, it is pretty easy to envision where it could all head as long as the Mariners hold up their end of the bargain. By that, I mean, as long as the Mariners don’t try to hold Ibanez up alongside Kendrys Morales as the showpiece of their winter moves. If that’s what they try to do come April 1, then by all means, throw an angst party.

Believe me, we’ve been on to that part of the team’s m.o. for some time now. Those of you just figuring that part out, welcome to the party. Yes, the Mariners have money to spend this winter — or so they keep saying — and it’s been difficult watching free agent after free agent sign with other teams when you know they have the OBP, the slugging, whatever, to help a Mariners team in big need of both. No more “Who? Who? Who?” this season, please. Put the owls to sleep. There have been a plethora of guys who could have helped the Mariners via free agency or trade.

And there still are.

I’ve mentioned Michael Bourn before and did it again in today’s paper. I listed his age last night at 29, but he actually turns 30 today, so he’s no spring chicken. Thing is, he still runs like one. He’s an answer to what will soon be a long-term need for the team in center field and he’s a solution for a present need at leadoff.

No, he doesn’t hit a lot of home runs. But we’ve said all winter long that there are various different ways the Mariners can go about bettering their team and this is one of them. Not every guy who looks and plays like Bourn has to turn into Chone Figgins. There are plenty of guys who have looked and played like Bourn who did very well at his age. One of them, Ichiro, even put up great numbers at that age playing home games at Safeco Field.

If not Bourn, the Mariners can try to swing a trade for somebody else. But I mention Bourn simply because the field of competition for him has narrowed, the Mariners will need a center fielder after Franklin Gutierrez’s contract runs out (unless they feel like paying a $7.5 million option in 2014 to a guy who hasn’t had a healthy season since 2008 — remember he had the knee tendinitis in 2009) and they need a real leadoff guy right now. The Mariners also have a glut of potential platoon type guys for the outfield corners and I spelled out for you all at the winter meetings how that could actually work with a guy like Bourn anchoring center field.

Personally, I like the idea of rotating Gutierrez, Michael Saunders and Ibanez around the outfield corners with Jason Bay and/or Casper Wells. Those are much stronger corners than the team had last year, plus, you’d get a huge upgrade in center.

And you’d get that upgrade for years to come.

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0 Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: Jack Zduriencik, Michael Bourn, Raul Ibanez

December 19, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Off-season additions having immediate impact on World Series odds

The Toronto Blue Jays have become favorites to win World Series after acquiring R.A. Dickey, according to online gaming site Bovada. Photo Credit: AP

Just got the latest World Series odds courtesy of online gaming site Bovada and they list the Toronto Blue Jays as favorites to win the World Series following their acquisition of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the Mets. The Blue Jays were at 12/1 odds to win it all before the acquisition, but now have moved up to 15/2, just slightly ahead of the Los Angeles Angels at 17/2.

It’s worth noting that last week, after the Angels acquired free agent Josh Hamilton, they became Bovada’s favorite to win the World Series. So, that lasted less than a week. The Dodgers are third (tied for second, really) at 17/2, followed by the Nationals at 9/1 and the Tigers at 10/1.

The Mariners are a bit further down the list at 75/1, in a four-way tie with the Mets, Indians and Twins.

What’s interesting about these odds is that they do reflect a changing-of-the-guard of sorts in the game, especially with the Yankees not making an appearance until No. 8 on the list at 14/1. That’s just behind two other playoff teams, the Rangers and Reds, who are at 12/1. But we don’t see any previous division winners in the top three, which is somewhat unusual based on my experience of looking at these odds.

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0 Comments | More in odds | Topics: free agents, payroll, r.a. dickey

December 5, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Jason Bay looking like only player Mariners will come out of winter meetings with

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, as I mentioned earlier, is meeting with some agents and teams tonight before the winter meetings wrap up tomorrow morning with the Rule 5 draft. The Mariners don’t expect to be active in the draft, since their roster is maxed out at 40 players and they are only picking 12th.

In other words, unless something big happens tonight — and I’ve just gotten word that it’s not likely anything will — these meetings are pretty much done for the Mariners without any impact pieces being added. Now, that’s not the end of the world, since many times you’ll see the bigger free agents and trades go down after the meetings. In fact, this might be the first year I’ve ever attended a winter meetings where the main stage in the media room was not used to announce any trades.

The only free agent signing in which the stage was used happened this morning when David Wright’s extension with the New York Mets was officially announced. For the Mariners, you had word today that free agent outfielder Jason Bay was on the verge of inking a one-year pact with the ballclub, though that is not expected to be finalized until after the meetings are done.

Zduriencik said this afternoon, in his briefing with Seattle-area writers, that he can’t comment directly about Bay. But he did reply when I asked him a general question about his desire to land a more veteran bat — knowing full well I was thinking about Bay when I asked the question.

“I think we said from the very beginning that if we could come up with a veteran player —  preferably our needs would be a corner outfielder, a corner player, a DH, a right-handed bat — it would be very helpful,” Zduriencik said. “So, that’s one of the things that has been on our agenda. It doesn’t limit us, but it’s certainly something that we have focused on.”

Zduriencik said that his team is by no means done trying to improve.

“We’ve had several meetings today with clubs as well as player representatives,” he added. “We have some tonight as well, so we’re just going to continue to push forward and explore every option. And if it leads to a road well-taken by both parties, then hopefully something gets done. Otherwise, you just keep doing it. You keep doing the work and hope something clicks.”

As I wrote earlier, though, in my post about Michael Bourn, it doesn’t seem likely that much will click over the next 15 hours or so before most team executives will check out of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel for good.

“It looks that way,” Zduriencik said. “I think that if you’re looking at some players still out there, the meetings will be over tomorrow. So, unless something happens between from now until some time in the morning, it forces it to go into post-meeting deals if you will.”

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0 Comments | More in Winter meetings | Topics: free agents, Jack Zduriencik, trades

December 4, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Here’s a nice winter meetings tie-in: Billy Butler of the Royals wins Edgar Martinez DH Award

Day 2 of the baseball winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville

ADDITIONAL NOTE 12:56 p.m.: Here’s an update from the Pittsburgh side of things on talks between the Pirates and Mariners on first baseman/right fielder Garrett Jones. The Pirates are said to have asked for Taijuan Walker in return but were rebuffed. I’ll be starting a live chat here in just a few minutes.

Greetings from Day 2 of the baseball winter meetings, where I spent a good part of the morning engaged in BBWAA meetings. Here’s a nice winter meetings tie-in with a Seattle twist.

Billy Butler of the Royals, one of many, many bats the Mariners have been linked to at these meetings, has just been named winner of the 2012 Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.

How’s that for some symmetry?

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0 Comments | More in Winter meetings | Topics: billy butler, free agents, josh hamilton

December 3, 2012 at 11:01 PM

One thing we can determine from Mariners conduct so far: Justin Smoak should be worried

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik speaking with Seattle-based reporters at the winter meetings in Nashville earlier today.

We’ve heard a ton of rumors involving the Mariners being in on just about every hitter alive via either trade or free agency. And the one thing we can be certain about through all of this is that Justin Smoak should be a bit worried.

I mean, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik keeps saying all the right things about how Smoak looked better in September and will hopefully carry his adjustments over to next season. But you can’t really get around the fact that so many of the hitters the Mariners continue to be linked to happen to be either first basemen or DH types. You don’t usually see that from teams planning to build their futures around first basemen who are former first rounders, were rushed to the majors less than three years ago and still haven’t become arbitraiton eligible yet.

But it’s tough to read it any other way.

“As much as I would love for Smoak to be (improved) — and I love what I saw out of him in September — there’s still some proving he’s got to do,” Zduriencik said to us earlier today. “And the same thing with (Mike) Carp. I mean, Carp a year ago was pretty doggone good. And last year, he was disappointing because of a lot of factors, the injury being one of them.

“So, that’s a bit of an unproven position.”

And it looks like the Mariners want to avoid that if at all possible in 2013.

Some fans didn’t want to believe the Mariners were in on Mike Napoli. But Zduriencik came right out today and admitted he was even though he really didn’t have to.

Some other fans didn’t want to believe weeks ago that the Mariners were talking to the Royals about Billy Butler. And yet, guess what? They are still talking to the Royals about Butler.

Some fans don’t like that the Mariners are being linked to Adam LaRoche. Or to Mike Morse.

There are fans who didn’t like that I wrote they were talking to the Pirates about Garrett Jones.

Doesn’t matter. What matters about all of those guys is that they can play first base. And teams with a young, cost-controllable player at that position won’t do those things unless they feel they have to protect themselves and start considering other options. We’ve been suggesting that in this space for a while now and the Mariners seem to have figured it out on their own: they can’t go into 2013 rolling the dice on Smoak yet again.

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0 Comments | More in Winter meetings | Topics: free agents, Jack Zduriencik, Mike Napoli

December 2, 2012 at 7:06 PM

Here’s a trade possibility for the Mariners you haven’t heard about yet: Pirates slugger Garrett Jones

The lobby at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville was filled with reporters and team executives by late this afternoon.

Things are bustling in the hallways of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel here in Nashville as team executives check in for the baseball winter meetings, watched ever-so-closely by media types from around the country,as well as Japan, Latin America and Canada. I saw Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik heading off with team president Chuck Armstrong not too long ago. Zduriencik got here yesterday and has been involved in an assortment of meetings both with his own staffers as well as others.

Earlier today, I outlined a series of potential trades and free agent signings the Mariners might pursue on the bigger end of the spectrum if they want to make an impact.

But I’ve also been told that the Mariners, in weeks leading up to these meetings, have had talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates concerning first baseman/right fielder Garrett Jones. Now, let me repeat: this is just one of many conversations the Mariners have had with various teams, but I’m told it got beyond the mere single phone call/hang up and that some actual names were bandied about between the squads.

One proposal went something along the lines of the left-handed hitting Jones and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan going to the Mariners with potentially one other throw-in, in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher John Jaso and starting pitcher Hector Noesi.

Again, I don’t know that this was the only set of names tossed about and you can be pretty certain that it wasn’t. But there it is.

This is exactly the type of under-the-radar move Zduriencik likes to make that takes everybody by surprise and leaves them wondering why they’d never had an inkling of it beforehand. Doesn’t mean the two teams will ever pull the trigger on it. But it does show you that there can be more than one type of trade beyond the premium guys that the Mariners could explore and theoretically use to get better.

Let’s look at the particulars of this proposed deal and why it fits within the realm of the possible.

First off, Jones would give the Mariners a guy who hit 27 home runs and slugged .516 with an .833 OPS in the majors last season and can potentially cover two positions of need for Seattle, albeit likely as a plattoon guy against mainly right-handed pitchers. He is 31, but under club control through the 2016 season.

Second, Hanrahan, 31, would give the Mariners a proven, more veteran back-end reliever as insurance in case Tom Wilhelmsen falters — and remember, Wilhelmsen has only been a closer less than one full season — as well as a needed set-up man from the right side. While the Mariners have youngsters Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps profiling as potential late-inning righties, they lack experience in the role and could be better suited rounding into the majors earlier on in games while Hanrahan handles the eighth or ninth for a year before he hits free agency.

Third, the Mariners can pull this move off without giving up any of their top-rated prospects, other than Smoak, of course, who is technically no longer a prospect despite his first-round pedigree and status as the prime return in the Cliff Lee deal.

Fourth, getting a slugging first base/right field type in a deal like this would cost the Mariners far less short and long-term than some other avenues they’ve explored and leave them financially able to pursue another bat via free agency. Let’s face it, bringing in Jones on his own would not be nearly as interesting as adding him and using the saved money to bring in a premium bat or another player he could share playing time with at two positions.

Why would the Pirates do it? Easy: for the salary relief.

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0 Comments | More in Winter meetings | Topics: Garrett Jones, John Jaso, Justin Smoak

December 2, 2012 at 9:10 AM

Mariners have work cut out for them if aim is to significantly improve at winter meetings

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik needs to make some tough, risky choices via trade or free agency if he hopes to vault team forward. Photo Credit: AP

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for the Mariners to head off to the annual baseball winter meetings — this time, in Nashville — while carrying the hopes and dreams of a fanbase on their back. Five years ago, the Mariners came to Nashville and then-GM Bill Bavasi used the meetings to lay groundwork for the Erik Bedard trade.

Clearly, that deal did not work out and Bavasi was subsequently fired. In the aftermath of the deal, which saw outfielder Adam Jones dealt to Baltimore along with pitcher Chris Tillman and several others, many Mariners fans have been understandably “gun shy” about seeing more young prospects dealt to bring proven MLB players back to Seattle in return. But as the meetings get underway this week — and I’ll be there later today to cover them for you — the Mariners are going to be hard-pressed to get significantly better without fundamentally changing an approach both they and a vocal part of the fanbase has been reluctant to alter.

They will either have to:

a) Spend a lot more money on payroll

b) Trade away young prospects for proven players

In this morning’s paper, I outlined some of what GM Jack Zduriencik faces as he looks for that elusive mid-order bat he has failed to bring home the last three consecutive winters preceeding league-worst offensive seasons. And make no mistake, this will be a challenge. It’s stating the obvious to say that top free agents are going to make the Mariners “overpay” with more money, more years, or both, to go to a geographically isolated Seattle area that has played last place baseball since 2009 ended. With salaries for players of all levels being driven up by new revenues from both national and local television deals.

Former Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden, now a radio analyst for Sirius XM, spelled it out rather nicely on 710 ESPN Seattle the other day when he estimated the free agent market has seen a 10 percent bump and that payrolls might have to climb 20 percent higher for teams to stay even on a competitive level with where they thought it might cost them heading into this winter. In other words, if you budgeted for a $90 million payroll — which the Mariners are telling people behind the scenes is roughly the number they can climb to — you now need to spend close to $110 million to get the players you thought you could land and actually get better than your opponents who are also upgrading.

I agree with Bowden on that front and have thought for years the Mariners needed a payroll in excess of $100 million just to overcome the money taken up by both Ichiro and Chone Figgins. Now, even with Ichiro’s $18 million off the books, that number has all but been eaten up by Bowden’s estimated 20 percent inflationary impact on payroll ($18 million being 20 percent of $90 million). In other words, field a $90 million payroll in 2013 and it will be the same for the Mariners as if Ichiro was still here and being paid what he was last season.

The natural fallback plan, if the Mariners do not want to take payroll any higher than they’d already planned, is to secure the needed talent upgrades via trade.

But here, we run into Problem No. 2.

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0 Comments | More in Winter meetings | Topics: free agents, Jack Zduriencik, trades

November 20, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Robert Andino looking forward to joining the Mariners, but admits it’s ‘bittersweet’ to leave Baltimore after playoff appearance

andinosox.jpg

Photo Credit: AP

Newest Mariners infielder Robert Andino is still recovering a bit from the surprise of being dealt to Seattle by the Orioles today for outfielder Trayvon Robinson. The Mariners have yet to tell him anything about what they expect, other than for him to come in to spring training and compete for a job.

Andino, 28, had been with the Orioles for several seasons and developed a close bond with his teammates when they made an improbable playoff appearance this year.

“It teaches you a lot of things about winning,” Andino told me moments ago by phone. “Just little things inside of the game that you need in order to come out on top.”

The Orioles, you may recall, won a record number of consecutive extra-inning games, including some where it looked like victory was impossible.

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0 Comments | More in Transactions | Topics: Baltimore Orioles, robert andino, trades

November 20, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Mariners acquire Robert Andino in a trade for Trayvon Robinson

andino.jpg

Photo Credit: AP

The Mariners look like they’ve filled some of their backup infielder needs with today’s acquisition of Robert Andino from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Trayvon Robinson.

Seattle had needed some infield depth after releasing Munenori Kawasaki from his contract. Truth be told, they needed it last year when Kawasaki was still on the team.

“The addition of Robert Andino gives us some experienced infield depth with a player who has played multiple positions” Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said in a release. “With Robert having Major League and playoff experience and still relatively young, we thought that it made sense to make this trade and let him come in and compete.”

Andino won’t set the world on fire, but he’s an upgrade in terms of need over what Robinson was for this team. The Mariners are a club long on fourth and fifth outfielder types, but short on quality infield backups and starting outfielders. Being able to play shortstop is a key here, since the durability of Brendan Ryan is always a concern.

Andino, who turns 29 in April, hit .211 with a .588 OPS for the playoff-bound Orioles last season and that just screams backup player. He earned $1.3 million last season and is arbitration eligible, but I wouldn’t expect him to get anything beyond $2 million.

If anything his raise might be about the most minimal possible given the lack of production. He’s out of minor league options, so hell have to make the team out of spring training or the M’s risk losing him via a waiver claim.

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0 Comments | More in Transactions | Topics: Baltimore Orioles, Munenori Kawasaki, robert andino