M's leave Vegas with power in numbers
Seattle acquires several potential contributors at Meetings
LAS VEGAS -- The Mariners' goal coming into the Winter Meetings was to bolster an offense that lacked the kind of power typical in the slugging-minded American League.They left this gambling mecca on Thursday afternoon with power -- in numbers. "Between yesterday and today," general manager Jack Zduriencik said on Thursday, "we've brought nine new players into the organization, and that was important to us."
Just a few hours after being part of a 12-player, three-team trade with the Mets and Indians, a whopper of a deal that sent seven players to Seattle, the Mariners added a switch-hitting infielder and left-handed pitcher via the Rule 5 Draft.Zduriencik and his baseball operations staff returned to Seattle with hopes that some of the groundwork laid during these meetings eventually will result in other moves. "You never know how far those are going to take you," he said. "They may not go anywhere, but there are discussions going on, in our mind, to improve the ballclub." One of those conversations involves free-agent left fielder Raul Ibanez. While it appears that the Mariners' left fielder for the past five seasons will jump ship and sign with another organization -- a hot rumor here had him being pursued by the AL West-rival Angels -- Zduriencik hasn't given up on the 36-year-old, who led the team in RBIs last season with 110. If the season started today, Endy Chavez, one of seven players acquired in Wednesday night's blockbuster, probably would be playing left field. But that might not be the best option for a team still looking for some home-run power. "We may or may not be able to do anything, but Ibanez is still out there," the GM said. "We'll still talk to his agent and see where that takes us. I wouldn't want to close the door to that opportunity." Of the thousand or so calls Zduriencik made during the Meetings, one went to Ibanez's agents. "We explained what we were thinking, what we would like to do," Zduriencik said. "I didn't get a feeling one or the other which way he might go." The Mariners, who offered Ibanez salary arbitration, have been reluctant to offer Ibanez more than a one-year contract. But Zduriencik said he "would be prepared to discuss [multi-year] options" to retain the slugger's services. The current roster new manager Don Wakamatsu has at his disposal includes just one player -- third baseman Adrian Beltre -- who hit more than 20 home runs last season. Beltre led the team with 25 and finished third to Ibanez and second baseman Jose Lopez (89) with 77 RBIs. The recent signing of free-agent first baseman Russell Branyan will help, but the projected lineup isn't exactly a Home Run Derby group. "[Franklin] Gutierrez addressed some needs in center field," Zduriencik said of the former Indian, the key player for Seattle in the blockbuster trade. "We think he has some offensive potential, and certainly Branyan adds some to it, along with [Jeff] Clement, who's going to get a real chance to be a part of the ballclub. It's possible they'll be big-time contributors. "You'd love to address everything, but sometimes that's not always possible in a short period of time. Sometimes, you have to go with what you have and do what you can and accumulate talent over a period of time." It will be a gradual process, no doubt, one that didn't end in Las Vegas.
Deals done: The Mariners were part of a whopping 12-player, three-team trade that highlighted the four days of meetings.
Rule 5 activity: Selecting second, the Mariners drafted Reegie Corona from the Yankees system. He will compete for a utility infield job during Spring Training. Seattle worked out a deal with the Royals to purchase left-handed pitcher Jose Lugo.
Goals accomplished: Seattle improved its outfield defense with the acquisition of Gutierrez and Chavez, adding two strong throwing arms to the one that has helped right fielder Ichiro Suzuki capture eight straight Gold Gloves. The Mariners also bolstered their Minor League pitching depth, which was hit hard in last February's five-for-one trade for left-hander Erik Bedard.
Unfinished business: The club still needs a powerful bat to put in the middle of the lineup. Zduriencik hasn't given up on the idea of re-signing Ibanez, but if that doesn't pan out, bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back to the Northwest and putting him in left field could be an option. A BB-gun offense in the American League usually doesn't work well.
GM's bottom line: "Our primary goal this offseason has been to accumulate talent, both at the Major League level and in our Minor League system. We believe the players we have acquired have a chance to help make us a better team, either immediately or in the near future." -- Zduriencik
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.