Breaking down how the crop of first base free agents fit the Mariners plans

Free agent Nick Swisher/Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

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.

Free agent first basemen Adam LaRoche/Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

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.

First baseman James Loney/Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

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.

 

Free agent Mike Napoli/Credit: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE

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.

Topics: Free Agent First Base Options, Seattle Mariners

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  • Aaron Somers

    Given the expected fiscal restraints that the Mariners will be operating within, I’d have to venture a guess that Pena would be the most viable option from the aforementioned group. He could probably be signed on a one or two year deal for a moderate cost, at least relative to the rest of the options you mentioned (Swisher, LaRoche, and Napoli are going to command longer contracts for higher dollars.).

    That said, I’m not sold that the Mariners need to focus on first base this winter. Sure, Smoak has been a disappointment so far but is the team really prepared to “give up” on him this early? Should he falter again, couldn’t the organization then give that playing time to some combination of Mike Carp and Jesus Montero?

    Personally, I’d rather see the Mariners make an investment in their coaching staff rather than sign a big-name first baseman. Bring Edgar Martinez in as hitting coach. Nobody has understood playing in Seattle better than him, he’s arguably the best offensive threat the organization has ever possessed (outside of Griffey, of course), and he’d instantly command a level of respect that would help the team’s younger players learn from.

  • JJ Allen Keller

    I don’t think 1st base is a huge need. Even if Smoak doesn’t figure it out, we have Zunino pretty soon, and then Montero/Jaso can play 1st. OF is where we need to go

    I don’t think we have ton of restraints either Aaron. They said they wanna open it up, and we are at 62 million right now. We can get a bat or two.

  • maqman

    I too don’t see 1B as a must fill situation this off season, what with Smoak, Carp, Jaso, Montero or even Ackley possibly being able to play the position. I like Swisher but he will be too expensive and cost us our first draft pick. Pena is washed up, so is Loney, Napoli had a down year and wants to catch. LaRoche is coming off a career year and will be overpaid and probably under-produce expectations. A trade might be a better option. A guy like the Royals Mike Moustakas can play 3B or 1B and could be available for an arm package according to a Royals blogger.