The Seattle Mariners made a big splash on Friday when they signed All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to the third-biggest contract in sports history — 10 years, $240 million.
It's an almost absurd commitment for a team that finished 71-91 in 2013, has multiple holes to fill and doesn't typically hand out mega-contracts. When viewed from that perspective, the signing has largely been tabbed a head-scratcher with disaster potential in its later years. However, as Yahoo's Jeff Passan noted on Friday, the Mariners have an opportunity to make it a meaningful signing in the immediate future, but to do so they must continue striking while the iron is hot and focus on short-term success.
That means they'll need to stay aggressive — and likely continue overpaying — on additional free agents and trade targets to supplement their roster for the next two or three seasons. As we've seen in recent seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins, this strategy is more often a recipe for disaster than success, but once you've put that first foot through the door it's difficult to go back.
With that in mind, here's a look at a few potential targets that have been linked to Seattle that would qualify as quick impact acquisitions.
1. David Price: According to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, such a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays would have to include top prospect Taijuan Walker. That's a hefty price of a different for sort Seattle, but a starting rotation that includes Price, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma immediately makes them relevant in the AL West. If you're in it to win now, there's no better player available to target on the trade market. And besides that, how many truly elite pitchers will become available over the next two seasons?
For whatever it's worth, Taijuan Walker would prefer to stay with Seattle.
All these trade rumors are crazy Flattered to be mentioned in rumors for Price but I really hope to stay in seattle and win a championship
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) December 7, 2013
2. Shin-Soo Choo: Based on recent reports the Mariners were showing more interest in Mike Napoli until he re-signed with Boston on Friday night, but Fox Sports' Jon Morosi confirms Seattle is still very much in on Choo. Though they already have a handful of capable young hitters on their roster in Mike Zunino, Brad Miller and Kyle Seager, general manager Jack Zduriencik understands the importance of adding a proven bat to provide protection for Cano. Choo could be that guy, though again the price will be high as he likely becomes the centerpiece free agent at the winter meetings.
3. Nelson Cruz:With Mike Napoli and Carlos Beltran coming off the board Friday night, Nelson Cruz earns a more prominent spot on Seattle's radar. Cruz would bring right-handed power potential to the table, which creates ideal balance for their lineup. He'll continue to be a defensive liability though, and he has baggage from his Biogenesis suspension.
4. Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza: ESPN's Buster Olney recently suggested that Seattle is bound to sign one of the three veteran right-handers listed. If that proves to be true, a David Price trade would become unlikely, but at this point it's impossible to determine which of the three is most likely to land with Seattle. We could get a better idea if the starting pitching market heats up at the winter meetings beginning on Monday. However, some believe that won't be the case until Rakuten makes a decision on posting Masahiro Tanaka. That sounds like an indefinite holding pattern to us.
5. Billy Butler: A name Jeff Passan suggested on Friday that was contingent on the Royals signing Carlos Beltran. That did not happen, so it's a longshot Kansas City would make their designed hitter available. However, if they did, Seattle would be an excellent fit based on their interest in Mike Napoli.
Keep in mind this has been a wild winter so far. Targets change quickly and it's entirely possible four months from now we won't be addressing any of these players as members of the Mariners. As things stand now, though, it feels like a safe bet that at least one will end up playing at Safeco Field next season. If Zduriencik plays his cards right, perhaps it will be more, and perhaps Seattle bucks the trend by rebuilding in one aggressive offseason.
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