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Seattle Mariners off Season Report
- Updated: December 13, 2008
Season Wrap Up
Despite having the ninth ranked payroll in the major leagues at $118 million (and bringing the face of their franchise, Ichiro Suzuki, back in the off season), the Mariners still managed to lose 101 games and finish in last place in 2008. Prior to the season, many believed that the Mariners had the fire power to compete in their division. While winning it outright may have seemed like a stretch, no one expected them to fall to the level which they did and end up just one game from having the worst record in the entire league. While they avoided attaining the worst record in the league, they also missed nabbing the number one draft slot by one game, something that would have really helped a now depleted farm system. At one point this off season, the Mariners did not have a general manager, manager or hitting coach. With those rolls now filled, the team will have to look forward to 2009 and figure that it simply can’t go any worse than last season did. The Mariners finished close to last in nearly every offensive and pitching category possible including runs scored (13th in the AL with 671) and allowed (11th with 811), OPS (13th with .707) and ERA (11th with 4.73).
Holes to Fill
The main holes to fill can be found in the everyday line-up where, asides from Ichiro, not only did they have trouble scoring runs, but they also had trouble getting on base. During the season, they let two of their high paid veterans go in Jose Vidro and Richie Sexson (neither of which was living up to their billing). Sexson in particular had been given a huge deal to put up big homerun and RBI numbers, neither of which he was doing on any sort of a consistent basis in Seattle. While Seattle has not made the best decisions in the past, they have shown that they are willing to spend money. That might be the calling this off season when they go out on the open market to look for a new starting player for possibly four positions including a first baseman, designated hitter, center fielder and left fielder. Last off season they sent a lot of young prospects to Baltimore in order to secure starting pitcher Erik Bedard. Bedard looked promising in the games he played, the problem was that he did not appear in a game after the All Star break so there weren’t really that many games for him to appear promising in. He eventually ended up having shoulder surgery in September and should be ready by opening day, if not by spring training.
Due to Bedard’s hopeful return to the rotation next season, pitching is not as much of a concern for newly hired general manager Jack Zduriencik as hitting.
Zduriencik will still probably look to find at least one veteran arm for his rotation as well as a couple for the bullpen (although it seems the Mariners will try to get at least one more season out of J.J. Putz in the closer role).
The Mariners currently have three players out on the free agent market looking for their next home with infielder Miguel Cairo, utility man Willie Bloomquist and outfielder Raul Ibanez all looking for new deals. Ibanez is no doubt the first name on this list the Mariners will be looking at this off season and they will probably make a very serious offer to bring him back. Ibanez was one of the few players in a Mariners jersey last season who actually showed some ability to get on base and drive in runs. On a team where not many were hitting for average or power, Ibanez somehow managed to have 110 RBIs, which accounts for almost one sixth of the team’s total runs last season. At this point, it is hard to tell what the Mariners are going to do with Cairo. There are points where it seems like they may bring him back, but he is probably going to command a larger deal than he is really worth and with so many other holes to fill, the Mariners will probably chose to look elsewhere to spend their money. If Bloomquist is still around late in the free agency period, the M’s may make an offer to bring him back to Seattle as someone who can come off the bench and play pretty much anywhere once again.
It would be hard for the Mariners to be as bad as they were in 2008 in 2009. Even though the team has had pretty much a complete overhaul, one has to believe that they are somehow going to find a way to avoid the 100 loss plateau for the second season in a row. The only thing halfway decent about the team last season was their fielding percentage which ranked a modest seventh in the AL at .984. Other than that, the M’s should aim to improve in every team category. If the pieces fall in the right places, they should be able to move up at least one spot in the division. It would be virtually impossible for them to dream to compete with the Angels (who had almost the exact opposite record as the Mariners last season), but rising to compete with the Rangers or A’s may be a possibility. The baseball world will quickly learn if Zduriencik has what it takes to be the head of a front office at the big league level this off season as it seems like he has many pieces that are movable on his veteran team. The main everyday player that will be put up on the trading block will be Adrian Beltre. Everyone in baseball remembers the last time he had a walk year, especially the Mariners front office who handsomely rewarded him for one season of good baseball only to witness four average ones. This and his expiring contract could make him a very attractive piece for teams who are either looking to dump salary at the end of next season or who believe that Beltre could provide some sort of push in a playoff race. Seattle also has a few veteran pitchers, including Putz and starter Jarrod Washburn, who appear to be on the block for the right deal. If teams wait on Washburn, they can probably acquire him for less than if they try to make a deal now because his perceived value in the league only seems to be heading south even during the off season. While at least three farm hands saw a good chunk of playing time last season, the Mariners still have a few others in the wings that could be fighting with veterans for starting positions come spring training. At the same time, the talent that is available doesn’t seem to be the type that Zduriencik really likes to have in his farm system.
Bill Jordan is a contributor to BaseballReflections.com and can be reached by e-mail at BillJordaniv@yahoo.com.