Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series is in reverse order of team quality and continues at No. 7 with the Seattle Mariners.
2009 record: 85-77
2009 finish: Third place, American League West
2009 final payroll: $102 million
Estimated 2010 opening-day payroll: $90 million
Congratulations, Jack Zduriencik. Your Mariners had the most productive offseason in baseball, hands down. And as a reward, they will begin the 2010 season with the same 0-0 record as AL West competitors the Angels, Rangers and Athletics.
To his credit, Seattle's second-year general manager is aware that well-received moves in December don't necessarily translate to victories in September. "I'm cautious," he said recently. "Fans are excited, but we finished third last year. We won't know how good we are until we put the team on the field."
Still, nobody can take away the throng of fans that showed up at last week's fanfest, double the number of a year ago. And nobody can dispute that Zduriencik traded for ace left-hander Cliff Lee(notes), talented if unpredictable outfielder Milton Bradley(notes) and sure-handed first baseman Casey Kotchman(notes). Or that he signed free-agent sparkplug third baseman Chone Figgins(notes). Or that he sewed up ace right-hander Felix Hernandez(notes) for five years and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez(notes) for four. Or that he brought back shortstop Jack Wilson(notes) and franchise icon Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) Or that he was able to dump overpaid pitcher Carlos Silva(notes).
If only one among the lesser additions – Erik Bedard(notes), Ryan Garko(notes), Eric Byrnes(notes), Brandon League(notes) – makes a considerable contribution, the Mariners could eclipse the uneven Rangers and sagging Angels.
Despite the widely lauded offseason moves, Seattle is deficient in several key areas: Starting pitching beyond Hernandez and Lee, power and catching. Also, Bradley could blow his stack and be released by June. Even worse, he could be mildly, insidiously disruptive all season.
The rotation is filled out by the unproven and/or hittable likes of Ryan Rowland-Smith(notes) and Ian Snell(notes), with Luke French(notes), Garrett Olson(notes), Jason Vargas and (notes), Doug Fister(notes) vying for the fifth spot. Bedard, who has had shoulder surgery each of the last two years, could be ready to pitch by late May.
The Mariners were outscored 692-640 last season, meaning their finish eight games above .500 was partially the product of good fortune. No one in their lineup is projected to hit 30 home runs. Second baseman and cleanup hitter Jose Lopez(notes) belted 25 last year and is due for a regression. Ichiro Suzuki(notes) and Figgins might become the best top-of-the-order duo in baseball, but they might be stranded quite often.
Catcher Rob Johnson(notes) had two hip surgeries this offseason and it's questionable whether he'll be ready for opening day. Prospect Adam Moore(notes) and veteran Josh Bard(notes) will get long looks.
Those questions aside, the Mariners were the feel-good story of the offseason, the rare team in a wobbly economy to take risks and aggressively attempt to improve. And they trimmed payroll while doing so. Congratulations, Jack Zduriencik. Now start winning.
MARINERS IN HAIKU
A Seattle slew
Of moves by new trader Jack
And sun peeks through clouds
Next: Colorado Rockies
- Jack Zduriencik