[Griffin’s Note]: Might as well take this opportunity to announce that Nathan is now officially a permanent contributor to SoDo Mojo. We’re really happy with what we’ve seen from him so far, and look forward to many more excellent contributions. Congratulations!

Smell that? Smell it? That, my friends, that’s baseball. It’s waiting just ’round the bend. A mere seven more days until the first Mariners game of the Cactus League. Woo!

So you know what that means, right? A time to build excitement for the upcoming season? To stay up too late unable to resist studying small spring training sample sizes while telling your friends to ignore them? NOPE! Destination: FUTURE!

Anticipated 2011 Seattle Mariners

CA Adam Moore
1B Casey Kotchman
2B Jose Lopez
3B Chone Figgins
SS Jack Wilson
LF Michael Saunders
CF Franklin Gutierrez
RF Ichiro!
DH Milton Bradley

CA2 Rob Johnson
MIFJack Hannahan
CIF Ryan Garko

SP1 Felix Hernandez
SP2 Ryan Rowland-Smith
SP3 Ian Snell
SP4 Jason Vargas
SP5 Doug Fister

[Taylor’s Note: There is a 0% chance that Vargas and Fister will both be in the 2011 rotation, barring a complete collapse or the Apocalypse.  Nathan is simply considering the pitchers currently under team control.  Jack Z will without a doubt sign, trade for, or acquire another starting pitcher for 2011.]

CL David Aardsma

SU Mark Lowe
SU Brandon League
MR Shawn Kelley
MR Sean White
MR Josh Fields
LR Garrett Olson

Arbitration eligible players:
Casey Kotchman – Arb 4
David Aardsma – Arb 2
Mark Lowe – Arb 2
Brandon League – Arb 3
Ryan Garko – Arb 2
Garrett Olson – Arb 1
Ryan Rowland-Smith – Arb 1
Jack Hannahan – Arb 1

Ian Snell has a $6.75 mil club option
Jose Lopez has a $4.5 mil club option
Erik Bedard has a mutual option

We’re on the hook to Yuniesky for a cool $1 mil
Carlos Silva continues his reign of consumption eating a hefty $3.5 mil

Estimated payroll: ~$98 mil

Players who may be ready by 2011 include:
1B Mike Carp – Blocked by Kotchman and Garko
2B Dustin Ackley – Blocked by Lopez
3B? Matt Tuiasosopo – Blocked by Figgins, blocked on the bench by Hannahan and Garko

Wow. A couple things stand out.
1. We have a lot of returning characters. Not many people are leaving via free agency.
2. The bullpen’s gonna start to get expensive. So are the role players.
3. There’s not a lot of high upside starting pitching close to ready.
4. There’s not a lot of flexability.

Lots of things can and will happen over the course of this season. Some players will breakout, some will fall flat, some will improve, and some will decline. Roster construction is a dynamic process in which the variables change constantly.

Are we in a better position to contend next year if we end up on the outside of the playoffs looking in this year? It’s tough to say that we are. Jack Z’s administration has to find a way to balance bringing in new talent while shedding aging, more expensive talent. All without sacrificing wins. I have faith that they can do it but sure don’t know how. They’re gonna have to maintain the excellence that got Jack the 2009 Executive of the Year. That’s a tough row to hoe.

During this season look for the trades that’d help us next year. 1B, High upside SP, cheap RPs, and cheap role players. Look for them to unload some of the arb guys. I don’t think Kotchman’s or Garko’s stay in blue and teal is going to be very long. We’re one big 1B acquisition away from them being unnecessary even as bench fodder. Hannahan had better watch his back. Lowe and Aardsma are the types of RPs that’d bring a shiny return while reducing salary in 2011. Enjoy 2010, but be sure to keep an eye to the future.