12/04/08 5:10 PM EST
Mariners need offense as Meetings near
Club looking to roll dice while filling trio of positions in Vegas
By Jim Street / MLB.com
Run-producing first baseman: The Mariners' offense needs at least one shot in the arm, and it might take a trade to fill this big hole that became Grand Canyon-like when Richie Sexson's struggles continued last season. There are some internal options, such as moving second baseman Jose Lopez to first, but the ideal solution would be acquiring a natural first baseman who has displayed power capabilities.
Productive left fielder: If Raul Ibanez departs via free agency as expected, new GM Jack Zduriencik must find a way to replace 23 home runs and 110 RBIs. Wladimir Balentien would be a left-field candidate, but the power he has shown in the Minors has yet to go on display in the Majors. Mike Morse, who also bats right-handed and is coming off a serious left shoulder injury, could be another possibility.
Full-time designated hitter: An organization that produced perhaps the finest DH in history -- Edgar Martinez -- has fallen upon hard times of late. It's been such hard times that a club-record 17 players were used in the DH role last season. Many Mariners fans hope the organization brings back Ken Griffey Jr. to fill the spot, and stranger things have happened. It might not be a bad idea, but the big question is can the Mariners afford him? If that doesn't work out, left-handed hitting Jeff Clement could get first crack at the DH job.
Whom they can or need to trade
Closer J.J. Putz: With right-hander Brandon Morrow available, Putz could be the bargaining chip Zduriencik needs to add a productive bat to the lineup. His $5 million salary in 2009 and $8.6 million option (or $1 million buyout) in '10 is a bargain these days.
LHP Jarrod Washburn: Lack of run support and mounting losses have soured the veteran pitcher. He was extremely disappointed last season when he wasn't traded to the Twins, and it probably would benefit Washburn and the Mariners to have him finish the four-year contract he signed prior to the 2006 season with another organization.
3B Adrian Beltre: The Giants tried hard to acquire Beltre prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, but the Mariners were never offered what they considered "equal value" in return. Beltre is entering the final year of a five-year contract and figures to be more of a pre-deadline trade candidate than a preseason one. The last time he went through the final year of a contract was in 2004, when he was with the Dodgers. He batted .334, hit 48 home runs and drove in 121 runs. He hasn't come close to those numbers since, but has won two Gold Gloves and still provides a big chunk of the Mariners' offense.
OF Jeremy Reed: The stellar defensive player would be a good fit on a team that doesn't need power. But Seattle isn't one of those teams, and he could be on the market for a Minor League pitcher or included in a multi-player swap.
Top prospects: INF Carlos Triunfel, 3B Matt Tuiasosopo, C Adam Moore, OF Greg Halman, RHP Andy Baldwin, DH Victor Diaz. Unless the Mariners go through another season in 2009 as they did in '08, you might not see any of these players until September.
Big contracts they might unload: Beltre ($12 million) and Washburn ($10.37 million) could be gone at midseason if the team is not a contender.
Arbitration eligible for '09: LHP Erik Bedard; C Jamie Burke; RHP R.A. Dickey; RHP Felix Hernandez; OF Reed.
Payroll summation: The Mariners are expected to slice the payroll from $120 million last season to slightly more than $100 million in 2009. The nine players already signed through the '09 season take up more than $79 million, leaving roughly $20-22 million for the remainder of the roster.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.