In an off season that is more vital than in years past, none of the free agent first basemen make sense in the Seattle Mariners future plans.
There is a number of reasons I reached this conclusion. Some are because of age, some due to money or a combination of both.
There is one name I’d like to see Jack Z. make a run at, but more for a outfield/DH option. That is Nick Swisher. He has the potential to be a de facto extra hitting coach for the young hitters in the lineup. His presence might help young hitters Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero refine their approach. Just having someone else to talk hitting and approach with, someone who has dug through slumps and learned from them might be a good change. The M’s clubhouse has been without that type of leader for a while.
Of course Swish could plug in at first to give Smoak or Montero an occasional day off.
Now onto some of the other big name free agent first basemen. That’s what the Hot Stove is all about, dreaming of big names.
Adam LaRoche is the player on the list who is most intriguing to me. He’s 32, so he should still have years of productivity left before he declines. There’s no good reason for the Mariners not to attempt to sign him, but I don’t see him making Safeco his launching pad, as a Mariner at least. He’s coming off a great year and will be sought after, so LaRoche will have some choices. I don’t see Seattle as number one in this race.
Carlos Pena could be had at a bargain price coming off a sub-par year for the Rays. His left-handed bat could help the M’s, but the question is if his best years are behind him. At the right price he might be worth a flier as a short-term solution, but I don’t see him as the bat to build this offense around anymore.
James Loney has not met his expectations he had coming up as a young Dodgers prospect. For someone who will be 29 shortly after opening day and seven years big league experience it is unlikely he will figure it out if he hasn’t done so yet. I’m not high on Loney and hope the Mariners pass on him.
Mike Napoli is primarily a 1B and DH at this point in his career, but he could catch in a pinch if needed to. His power is awesome, but he is not a very well rounded hitter. His average–aside from 2011 when he hit .320–has been around the .240-.270 range. The discouraging and frustrating thing about Napoli is that he has struck out 450 times between 2009-’12, averaging 113 K’s per year in that span. Napoli knows AL West pitching, spending his first five years in a Halos uniform before spending the last two years with Texas. Napoli could plug in well to the Mariners lineup, however I see little chance of the Mariners landing him.
Beyond the first baseman listed, I don’t see any fits for the Mariners roster. What do you think?
Of course there are other options aside from free agency. Next week I will take a look at some first base trade options–realistic and otherwise–that the Mariners could pursue this off season.
Some may see my views as being a little bold, so please feel free to debate in the comments and share your thoughts.