The Seattle Mariners have improved recently, from 61 wins in 2010 to 67 in 2011 to 75 in 2012.
With only a few free agents on their roster, and only one that should be actively pursued, the club has an excellent opportunity to return to a winning record in 2013.
The Mariners' free agents include:
Miguel Olivo was signed to a two-year contract in 2011, with an option for 2013. In his second stint with Seattle (remember 2004-05?), earning fans' appreciation for his work ethic, Olivo has caught more than 200 games and managed the pitching staff well. I support the club's decision to decline Olivo's 2013 option and look forward to watching Jesus Montero, John Jaso, and Mike Zunino battle for the starting job in the spring.
The Mariners brought George Sherrill back to their bullpen in 2012. Unfortunately, after appearing in only two games, he underwent Tommy John surgery May 4. The nine-year MLB veteran, who previously pitched for Seattle from 2004 to 2007, may recover nicely, but I would not compete in a bidding war for his services.
Millwood, a 16-year MLB veteran, secured a spot in the rotation and provided more than 160 professional innings. With his best years behind him, he has indicated he may be ready to retire. I would thank Kevin Millwood for his work and wish him well.
After Iwakuma made the adjustment from Japanese baseball to MLB, he was very impressive. Seattle won eight of the last 10 games he started, with Hisashi posting a 2.65 ERA and averaging more than six innings per outing. The Mariners need to aggressively pursue a multi-year deal for Hisashi Iwakuma, preferably coming to terms before he starts receiving other offers.
The Mariners need to reach agreements with three players who are eligible for arbitration. Jason Vargas is the left-hander to join Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of the pitching rotation. Brendan Ryan is a potential Gold Glove candidate at shortstop. John Jaso, a proven pinch hitter, may be able to earn a starting role behind the plate or as the designated hitter.
Recognizing the need to attract a power hitter, Seattle is changing the dimensions of Safeco Field. In addition to moving the left field fence four feet closer to home plate, the hand-operated scoreboard will no longer be in play, considerably shortening the effective home run distance for a right-handed pull hitter. In drawings I've seen, the fence in the left-center power alley is moving in by at least 12 feet.
The Mariners have not signed a power-hitting free agent since 2005 (Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson) and were unable to attract Prince Fielder last offseason. The new dimensions at Safeco may be helpful if they choose to pursue someone like Josh Hamilton, David Wright, or even Nick Swisher.
Harold Andrews has been a Mariners fan since 1977. He is still looking forward to their first World Series appearance.Sources:
- Sports & Recreation
- Seattle Mariners
- Hisashi Iwakuma
- Kevin Millwood
- Miguel Olivo