This was never going to be anything like the big winter the Mariners had last year, and we all knew it. 2010 was clearly being viewed as a “win now” type of season, and the front office made what was, at the time, an appropriate splash in both the free agent and trade markets. 2011 isn’t a “win now” year, and the front office has known that since July, which is why this off season has seemed much more dull. There was still work to be done, though, just to get this team into good enough shape to be competitive while they make the transition back to being a contender. It was certainly a different task for GMZ & crew, though not necessarily an easier one, and it’s hard to be too disappointed with how they handled it.
When you’re not expecting your finished product to be a contender, it’s less about filling holes with big names and more about putting together a group of role players – and that’s exactly what the Mariners have done. I’ll now go over each significant move that the Mariners have made this off season.
12/2/2010 – Mariners re-sign Erik Bedard to one-year, non guaranteed contract
While Bedard’s name probably isn’t associated with too much positive in the city of Seattle, bringing him back on this type of a contract was a no-brainer. We know how good he can be when he’s healthy, and the team really had nothing to lose by signing him. Who knows? He might even contribute.
12/3/2010 – Mariners trade non-tendered Jose Lopez to Rockies for RHP Chaz Roe
Chaz Roe isn’t anything special, but the Mariners had already non-tendered Lopez, and at that point, you may as well take whatever you can get.
12/9/2010 – Mariners sign Miguel Olivo to two-year, $7 million deal
This is the one move I’m still not so sure about. It’s nice to have a catcher that isn’t completely incompetent at the plate, but he brings with him several negatives, and giving him multiple years at age 32 seems iffy. He’s got power, but it’s all pull power, and he’s one of the biggest free swingers out there. He may come with a more subtle value though, and that’s potentially being able to tutor the much younger Adam Moore and help him along.
12/10/2010 – Mariners sign Jack Cust to one-year, $2.5 million deal
I’ve been a fan of this move from the start, and I don’t know who wouldn’t be. Not only is Jack an improvement at the team’s biggest black hole in 2010, but he came at a good price, and is also an excellent fit for Safeco Field. He has both home run power and a good plate approach – as long as they keep him out of the field and he can keep the strikeouts under control, there’s nothing to dislike about this signing.
12/12/2010 – Mariners acquire Brendan Ryan from Cardinals for RHP Maikel Cleto
Bringing in some type of a middle infielder was a necessity for this team – Jack Wilson’s health just isn’t reliable, and Dustin Ackley could use a little bit more time in Tacoma. Brendan Ryan fit the bill, and Maikel Cleto, though not long ago seen as an impressive pitching prospect, wasn’t all that much to give up.
Most of Ryan’s value comes from his excellent defense, but there’s still some reason to believe that, while healthy, he can provide some value at the plate too. He posted a .324 wOBA in 2009, which is fairly solid for a slick-fielding shortstop, and better than anything we could expect to get out of Jack Wilson. He suffered a large drop off last year, but it seems like his wrist problems were probably a contributor to that.
1/10/2011 – Mariners sign Adam Kennedy to minor league deal
This one’s only a minor league contract, but I’ve included it, as it’s likely to make more of an impact than most of the other minor league deals. Kennedy’s a light-hitting second baseman, who has, for the most part, been above average defensively. His two biggest assets are his left-handed bat, and his ability to draw walks and get on base, making him a worthwhile piece for this team. He won’t win any MVP’s, but he has been worth at least one win in each of the last three season, and he comes extremely cheap.
3/2/2011 – Mariners acquire Aaron Laffey from Indians for IF Matt Lawson
Aaron Laffey isn’t very good, mainly due to a walk problem and inability to miss bats, but bringing him in does add depth, and I doubt anyone’s going to really miss Matt Lawson (Remember him? We got him in the Cliff Lee trade!).
On top of all these moves, the Mariners also brought in a butt load of players, particularly pitchers, on minor league deals with invites to Spring Training. Most of these type moves don’t end up making a big difference, but as they say, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and having such an abundance of minor league depth can only be a good thing down the stretch.