This post would have been easier for me to tackle if I had actually written a complete off season plan back in October, but I’ll do what I can.
Up until about a week ago, I think most of us were pretty confident as to what we wanted the Mariners to accomplish this off season. Personally, I wanted us to sign Nick Johnson, Russell Branyan, and Rich Harden. I certainly didn’t see the Figgins signing coming, and I had come to accept the fact that we were likely to be dealing with a Hall/Hannahan platoon situation at third base in 2010. Then, we inked Chone Figgins, and my expectations for next season completely changed, for the better in this case.
On the other side of things, I pretty much had my heart set on Rich Harden being our new #2 starter. He was by far the best fit, and I’d come to expect that Jack Z was going to be able to land pretty much anyone he wanted. Which was of course, pretty irrational. Now, Harden’s off the table, and what I want out of this off season has become a lot less clear.
My point is, with a business like baseball, it’s essential that you always have a backup plan. With free agents, there are just so many things that could happen to keep you from getting your man. You have to be able to shift your focus at the drop of a hat. And that’s what the Mariners now must do. Obviously, I don’t know for sure what GMZ’s plans for the Mariners are. Only GMZ knows that. However, Harden was just too perfect of a fit for Z not to want him, and now he isn’t available.
So now, Jack Z and the rest of the front office have to decide what their next course of action will be. For all we know, losing Harden could only be a small deterrent in the Mariners plan, and they could, as of right now, be completely confident in what they want to do. If that’s the case, awesome, but I can’t be sure – so this is what I’d like to see happen:
1) Sign Nick Johnson to a one year deal for $8 million, with a $9 million club option for 2011
The word on the street is that Nick Johnson is attempting to hold out for a two year deal. Unfortunately for him, the injury risk that comes with him is simply too much to justify that kind of a risk. I don’t see anyone guaranteeing him two years, so I think in the end a one year deal with an option in 2011 will be enough to get it done. Signing Johnson would add a lot of offense to this still weak lineup, while filling up either the DH role or first base role.
2) Sign Russell Branyan to a one year deal for $4 million, with a $4.5 million option for 2011
Basically everything I just said about Nick Johnson goes for Branyan as well. His back issues are just too much of a risk to give him a multi year deal. Bringing Branyan back to play first base, and bringing in Nick Johnson to DH would be the ideal situation for this team.
3) Sign Ben Sheets to a one year deal for $7 million, with innings based incentives valuing up to an extra $2 million
Apparently, Ben Sheets is trying to get a guaranteed $12 million for 2010 right now. Frankly, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Sheets didn’t throw a single inning in 2009, and although we know he’s extremely talented, he can’t seriously expect anyone to guarantee him that much money with so much risk involved. I figure that by mid January or so, when no team has been willing to meet his demands, he’ll be forced to lower his asking price – that’s when GMZ swoops down for the kill. He may not be as perfect of a fit as Harden, but if he could stay healthy and give us a reasonable amount of innings, he’d fill the #2 hole in the starting rotation nicely.
4*) Sign Matt Holliday to a 5 year, $90 million dollar deal
I realize that the Mariners landing Holliday is quite a long shot, but we have money to spend, and if we aren’t able to land a good staring pitcher, we’ll have to go the route of going after big hitters. Holliday is a much better option than Jason Bay, for three simple reasons; he can play defense, he’s a year younger, and he’s a better hitter. To get him, we’ll have to compete with at least the Cardinals and the Red Sox, but it would certainly be worth it to at least give it a shot. Also, if we were able to land Holliday, Michael Saunders could become an excellent trading chip to use towards going after some pitching.
*Likely only a possibility, and only necessary, if we don’t sign any significant starting pitching.
And of course,
5) Re-sign Felix Hernandez
Just do it please.
If we could get either 1, 2, 3, and 5 or 1, 2, 4, and 5 done, it would certainly push us up to contender status in the 2010 AL West race. Clearly, two of these suggestions are much more realistic than the other two – however, signing Chone Figgins to a four year deal didn’t seem all that likely 10 days ago either, did it?
The thing to remember, is that in the world of baseball, almost anything can happen. That doesn’t mean I will, but if I were Jack Zduriencik, my goal would be to lock up Nick Johnson, Russell Branyan, and either Ben Sheets or Matt Holliday.