The Seattle Mariners are desperate to make something happen. For years, free agents rebuffed their advances, leaving the Mariners stuck in development hell. They have their victories, and Felix Hernandez is a fine trophy on which to hang your hat. The Mariners take great pains to ensure Felix stays the King of the Pacific Northwest for essentially his entire career.
But you cannot build a winner with just an ace. You can build around an ace but even Felix Hernandez watches 80% of his team’s games from the bench. Despite their player development shortcomings in the pasts, the Mariners once again find themselves with a clutch of prospects attracting attention around the league.
Rather than wait for their latest cohort to graduate, it seems the Mariners want to accelerate their timeline. With change looming, the Mariners are bound and determined to remake their team overnight. Rumors of the Seattle’s pursuit of Robinson Cano continue on a slow boil, with the second baseman’s representatives (but not the man himself) meeting with the M’s front office for a meet-cute in the Emerald City.
SEA: so have you met King Felix Cano: SEA: isn't he the best Cano: SEA: he's the best Cano: SEA: okay how much money do you want
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) December 5, 2013
In addition to plying Robinson Cano with cash, the Mariners have stepped up their pursuit of Rays ace David Price. Reports suggest it would cost the Mariners their top prospect Taijuan Walker, their second base project Nick Franklin and at least one other prospect to land the 2012 AL Cy Young.
Mariners fans seem resigned to their fate, believe that should this deal go through, Price will go the way of Erik Bedard while Walker Adam Jones‘s his way through the AL East. Mariners fans are shellshocked so their reservations are understandable, but David Price is no Erik Bedard. Price is younger and more reliable than Bedard was the Mariners made their fateful trade for the former Orioles ace and Seattle would be lucky to have Price in their mix.
But would adding Price, or Cano, or both, remake the Mariners into a winner? It would surely make their roster more expensive and adding this handful of wins gets them closer to contention than staying the course, but is it enough? Would they be able to sign David Price to an extension when he appears bound and determined to test the market?
These are all important questions for the Mariners. But acquiring David Price is most definitely something that helps their team. It helps them a lot. But there are still so, so many other pieces they need to add before they can be considered contenders. The 2013 Blue Jays added a raft of good players, took on salary and made their team better. Well, not better, but more top heavy.
The difference between the 2013 Mariners and the 2012 Blue Jays and the 2012 Royals is not insignificant. The Mariners still have gaping holes at…well every position except third base.
The question becomes how many bullets would the Mariners have left in their pistol if they pull off these two moves (a huge ‘if’ in its own right.) An improved team still looking up at Oakland and Texas in its own division.
Which isn’t to say trading Taijuan Walker is an unthinkable move, just that the Mariners shoving all their chips into the middle like this might not net them a very big pot. Looking around the diamond, it might serve the Mariners better to make a move like the Price trade (however fictional it might be) and then spreading Cano’s money around a little bit more, seeking balance in the lineup or some, you know, actual offense.
Of course, all this could be nothing. In all likelihood, the Mariners won’t be able to make either of these blockbuster trades. They’ll still be the Mariners, desperate to give someone their money only to be left holding the bag. Forever. In lush green surroundings.
Nori Aoki Craves a Different Kind of Buzz
The Kansas City Royals grabbing Nori Aoki from the Brewers is a great little move for a team looking to add production wherever it can. The Royals have quite a bit of depth in their outfield but in Aoki they add a player who can play everyday and make an impact at the top of the lineup right away.
It is easy to like Aoki’s game, a modern spin on the traditional leadoff hitter. Aoki gets on base and swipes bags, though he has next to no extra base power. The ability to pencil his name at the top of the lineup makes him a significant upgrade over talented but limited players like Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain, and Justin Maxwell. Players who play good defense but struggle to hit at even a league-average level.
A nice pickup for a team inching ever closer to competing for playoff spots. After an 86 win season, any upgrade is a big one and every win counts when those playoff revenues are on the line.