To the delight of rumor weeds and otherwise desperate baseball fans everywhere, the Winter Meetings got underway in Nashville on Monday. With supposed Mariner targets Mike Napoli and Russell Martin being taken off the market by the Red Sox and Pirates, respectively, here's a rundown of some possible alternatives being bandied about.
Billy Butler - The Kansas City DH has been connected to the Mariners a couple times this offseason, the idea being that the Mariners have the young arms required to obtain him. The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton confirms and disputes this simultaneously by writing that "the Mariners and Orioles show strong interest in Butler, although Seattle appears to lack the ready-now impact arm the Royals covet," adding that the Royals would prefer someone like Jon Lester or James Shields, and without Felix Hernandez on the table "seemed to characterize Seattle as a fall-back option."
Butler's value is limited as a full-time DH, especially on a team with capable hitters Jesus Montero and John Jaso only crouching behind the plate until Mike Zunino is ready (in theory). While Butler is a undeniably talented hitter fresh off of setting a career high with 29 home runs, the positional adjustment keeps his impact down (between 1.8 to 3.2 fWAR over the past four years) leading some fans and analysts to object to the thought of the Mariners giving up a substancial haul to get him. We don't know the price, but it should be noted that GM Jack Zduriencik has had no problem using his pitching depth to overpay for pieces he believes he needs.
Mike Morse and Adam LaRoche - Zduriencik may have misjudged Morse's ability to hit for power and stay healthy when he sent him to Washington for Ryan Langerhans, but he could bring the former-shortstop-turned-first-baseman/DH/emergency-outfielder back if the Nationals decide to keep free agent LaRoche instead, reports FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi. The Mariners could also be interested in LaRoche should he walk away from the Nationals, according to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore.
Morse has the power that the Mariners covet but he isn't expected to cost much in trade given that he's coming off a down year, doesn't walk much, subtracts value defensively, and will be a free agent after this season. Still, the 31-year-old owns a career .295/.347/.492 batting line and could help the Mariners at first base, DH and as a fifth outfielder.
LaRoche seems to have been a rumored target of Seattle's for six years or so, going back to Bill Bavasi allegedly nixing a trade that would have sent Yuniesky Betancourt to Pittsburgh for the up-and-coming Pirates first baseman. (Bavasi also declined a Betancourt-for-Billy Butler swap around the same time.) Fast forward to the present and the 33-year-old LaRoche is coming off a resurgent season that saw him hit .271/.343/.510 with a career high 33 home runs as the Nationals' everyday first baseman. LaRoche would likely serve as a stopgap at first base should the Mariners decide that Justin Smoak doesn't deserve another season to try and prove himself.
Garrett Jones and Joel Hanrahan - The Seattle Times' Geoff Baker reports that the Mariners have exchanged names with the Pirates as part of negotiations for first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones, and that "one proposal went something along the lines of the left-handed hitting Jones and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan going to the Mariners with potentially one other throw-in, in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher John Jaso and starting pitcher Hector Noesi." USS Mariner's Dave Cameron scoffed at the idea, declaring Jaso the more valuable player and calling the notion "so ridiculous on its face that you should just reject it out of hand. The idea of throwing in additional value to make the Jaso/Jones swap is beyond laughable. There’s no reason to think that this was ever seriously discussed."
While I hope Cameron is right, manager Eric Wedge's reluctance to use Jaso and the Mariners' connection to free agent catchers this offseason could make you question the team's fondness for the Jaso.
Jones adds legitimate power from the left side but, like Morse, has plenty of holes in his game and is on the wrong side of 30.
- The Mariners met with Josh Hamilton, according to FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi, who plays up the idea that Hamilton isn't chasing the biggest pay day.
- The Mariners and Diamondbacks met to discuss a potential Justin Upton swap, reports CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
- The Mariners "checked in" on Tigers free agent Delmon Young (according to FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi) and Ryan Ludwick (according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman). Ludwick is coming off a very strong 2012 season while Young is coming off a horrible career but strong 2012 postseason.
- Zduriencik told reporters (including the News Tribune's Ryan Divish) that the Mariners could pursue a "defensive receiver."
- The Mariners are not pursuing free agent A.J. Pierzynski in the wake of the Napoli and Martin signings, reports CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
- 710 ESPN Seattle's Mike Salk reports that there is a "good chance" the Mariners land free agent outfielder Jason Bay. Bay is coming off a horrible stretch with the Mets and could be expected to sign a dirt cheap deal to play in his hometown as he tries to resurrect his career.
In other news, Robert Andino was non-tendered and re-signed to a deal the Mariners liked a little better, Chone Figgins was officially released and new Mariner Scott Cousins was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Angels. With the Mariners paying Figgins the bulk of his 2013 salary, it wouldn't be surprising to me to see him get a big league deal despite his dreadful performance in Seattle.
Anything else floating around out there?