On Big Name Free Agents


Right now, there are a lot of different theories out there, among fans, bloggers, beat writers, everyone, about how the Mariners should go about building this team for next season. I won’t even attempt to cover all of them – I couldn’t if I wanted to, but, I do want to take a look at one of the more common ones – which is focusing primarily on the offense, and more specifically, going after big name, impact free agents.

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with this type of a plan. It’s worked for plenty of teams – the ones with big payrolls, any way. However, it certainly isn’t a good route for every team, and I don’t think it’s a good route for the 2010 Mariners.

The first big issue, as it is with most things, is the money. Now, we aren’t the Florida Marlins or the Texas Rangers – we have some money to spend – but we aren’t exactly rolling in dough either. We are limited as to what we can spend, and we have to be wise with our budget if we want to turn this team into a contender. Putting large amounts of your money towards one, big name, generally very good player, isn’t always the best allocation of resources. For further explanation as to why that is, I advise you to take a look at one of Taylor’s recent articles, here.

Now, back to the Mariners. The two biggest reasons why I don’t expect a huge free agent signing or blockbuster trade this off season, are availability and need. First of all, just look at the positions that we seriously need to upgrade. It’s pretty much just DH, starting pitching, and probably third base. Some would argue that left field, shortstop, and catcher should be in that group – I disagree. I expect both Adam Moore and Michael Saunders to be ready to take on starting roles by the start of the 2010 season, and I’d be just fine with keeping Jack Wilson around, at a reasonable price of course.

So, if we focus on DH, third base, and starting pitching, who’s available in terms of big name free agents? The names I’ve seen thrown around a lot are John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Brandon Webb, Rich Harden, Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Jason Bay, and Hideki Matsui. For reference, I don’t consider Nick Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Jim Thome, Ben Sheets, or Jarrod Washburn big name free agents – not anymore, at least

So let’s work with that list. Well, you can cross off Brandon Webb and Cliff Lee right now, as both of their options are more than likely to be picked up. So in terms of pitchers, that leaves us with just John Lackey and Rich Harden. Both of which are good pitchers, but both of which have some red flags. Lackey would be an excellent number two to compliment Felix, but he’s going to be expensive, and he’s heading towards the end of his prime. Could he be worth a one or two year deal? Maybe, but probably nothing more. He’s more than likely got at least a couple of good years left, but we don’t want to re-live the Jarrod Washburn experience.

Rich Harden, on the other hand, would be more of a high-risk, high-reward signing. His injury history is extremely off-putting, but he’s young and very talented. Signing him to a fairly cheap deal, laden with incentives, could turn out to be very worthwhile. It could also turn out horribly, with Harden suffering a career-ending injury – but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Onto the position players.  Vlad and Jason Bay are both in decline and terrible fits for Safeco Field – nothing to see here.

That brings us to the last two on the list – Chone Figgins and Hideki Matsui. Both of these guys would be good fits in Seattle, but both are going to be expensive, and at least one of them will most likely be subject to a bidding war. I honestly don’t see Matsui leaving New York, so I’ll just say that he would be a nice fix for the DH situation, but is far from the only option.

As for Figgins, he might leave the Angels, but whichever team does sign him is going to need to offer up quite a bit of cash, and I don’t see the Mariners getting too far into that competition. Figgins is an excellent little player, and I’d love to see him in a Mariners uniform, but I suspect that there’s a way to handle the third base situation within the system.

I know this article rambled a bit, but I guess the point I was trying to make, was that there just aren’t that many big name free agents, or impact players, or whatever you want to call them, out there right now that make sense for the Mariners to seriously go after. If we had a bit more money to spend, and really needed a big, right handed, power hitting left fielder, than yeah, there might be something we could do about that. But we don’t, so we’re probably going to end up going the unconventional route once again this off season.

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