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Big League Stew

Mariners will move in Safeco Field fences in 2013

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(AP)

If you're already making preparations for your 2013 fantasy baseball draft, go ahead and give Seattle Mariners hitters like Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley a nice little bump up your rankings while downgrading pitchers Jason Vargas and Blake Beavan.

Seriously. I'm not kidding.

Those adjustments are completely necessary because the team announced on Tuesday afternoon that Safeco Field — one of baseball's most pitcher-friendly ballparks since its opening in July of 1999 — will be undergoing some alterations this winter, and those alterations revolve around moving the fences in — in some areas drastically — to help even the playing field among hitters and pitchers.

From Greg Johns at MLB.com:

The fence will be moved in from four to 17 feet at different points in left field and four feet from straight center field to the right-center gap. Additionally, the 16-foot-high hand-operated scoreboard down the left-field line will be moved back and no longer be part of the fence, so the outfield wall will be eight-feet high all the way around the park.

Distances directly down the lines will remain the same, so the changes primarily affect the power alleys in left-center and right-center.

"Our goal was to create an environment that is fair for both hitters and pitchers," general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a statement. "Considering the current field dimensions, as well as the climate in and around Safeco Field, we feel this will be accomplished with this new layout."

The image below might give you a better idea of the Mariners' plans, which by the way have already been approved by Major League Baseball.

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(MLB.com)

Obviously that fence in left-center field will be a much more inviting target for right-handed sluggers, and will also be more accessible for left-handers. That's the downside for the pitchers. But the upside could be that it will cut down on triples hit to that area of the park that would typically be doubles elsewhere. It's not a complete defeat for them, but seeing that fence 17-feet closer will definitely change the way they attack some hitters.

In addition to those adjustments for the pitchers, it'll be very interesting to see how much this changes (if at all) the attitude of impending free-agent hitters who may have crossed the Mariners off their lists early due to the pitcher-friendly atmosphere. Obviously that's not a factor for all hitters, but those looking to rehab their numbers for a payday down the road may be more inclined to field and accept Seattle's offer.

Time will tell us how that all works out, but this looks like a pretty smart — if not overdue — move for the Mariners to make heading into 2013.

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