Mariners return to Seattle reloaded for 2014
Lineup boasts additions Cano, Hart, LoMo as Winter Meetings come to a close
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- General manager Jack Zduriencik's shopping list this winter has grown considerably shorter after some interesting maneuvering both before and during the Winter Meetings, with Seattle's offense adding significant thump through free agency and a trade.
After luring five-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, the biggest star in the free-agent pool, with a blockbuster $240 million contract a week earlier, the Mariners made some smaller splashes by adding two-time All-Star Corey Hart and the intriguing potential of Logan Morrison on Wednesday.
That makes three potential impact bats for new manager Lloyd McClendon, who also is high on utility man Willie Bloomquist's addition in another free-agent move prior to the meetings.
"I think we addressed some needs," Zduriencik said. "With Willie, we really needed a veteran utility infielder -- a guy who could play all three spots -- and we are lucky with him that he can play the outfield, too. That was really important to us. Otherwise it was going to be some young kid.
"You have to be very excited about Robinson Cano, the guy is a superstar. And coming here, one of the things we talked about is a right-handed bat, we really needed it. We were so left-handed oriented."
That's where Hart fits in and, if he can return to full strength after sitting out last season following microfracture surgeries on both knees, then the Mariners have another legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter to plant behind Cano.
Morrison is a year removed from two less-invasive knee surgeries that limited him to first-base duties last year and the plan is to have he and Hart compete both at the corner-outfield spots and designated hitter.
With Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley and September callup Abraham Almonte the only returning outfielders, there is likely a need for one of the newcomers to contribute in the outfield.
It remains to be seen how much more the Mariners attempt to do before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in February. Zduriencik has talked of adding another starting pitcher, but the premium arms haven't moved yet and it's not clear if Seattle will spring for another big-ticket free agent after throwing huge money at Cano.
"It'd be nice to be able to add another starting pitcher," said Zduriencik, "but you have to look at your options, which we are going to do. We'll continue to look. Eventually cost is going to be a factor."
Translation: The agents for Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo may be elevating their clients beyond the reach of Seattle's budget. But there are still free-agent options -- both high- and low-end starters and relievers -- who could be interested in pitching in Safeco Field. So Zduriencik will wait and see how things play out, while knowing already that his young offensive lineup has already taken on some interesting additions.
Deals done: Though nothing has been officially announced, pending physicals, Hart agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with a potential $7 million more in bonuses. And the Mariners acquired Morrison from the Marlins for reliever Carter Capps.
Even before getting to Florida, Zduriencik made the blockbuster move of the offseason by landing Cano to his 10-year whopper, while also signing Bloomquist to a two-year, $5.8 million agreement.
Rule 5 Draft activity: The Mariners passed with their pick (the sixth overall) in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, but they lost left-handed reliever Brian Moran to the Blue Jays in the same phase.
Moran was then traded by Toronto to the Angels in exchange for international bonus slot money.
Goals accomplished: The Mariners wanted to back up the Cano signing by adding a couple of bats, and they found two potential impact hitters in Hart and Morrison, though both have had knee issues in recent years.
Unfinished business: Zduriencik had talked of adding a veteran starter to the rotation, but the asking price remains sky high on the top-end free agents and Seattle may shy away from that battle after dropping $240 million on Cano. The Mariners also have yet to add any bullpen pieces or a backup catcher and may lean more toward non-roster invitees or low-risk veterans to fill those holes.
Team's bottom line: "I think our guys understand that, for the most part, the maturation process is just about over with. Now it's time to step up and start getting it done. I think we have some pieces in place that can hopefully get that done for us in the near future." -- McClendon.