The Roster As It Stands
The Mariners are very clearly focused on adding an outfielder who can hit, and Josh Hamilton looks like their preferred option. They’ve also talked about upgrading the back end of the rotation and adding a third catcher. They just signed Jason Bay, and so far, they haven’t gotten rid of anyone besides Trayvon Robinson. So, let’s take a look at what the current roster looks like, and what pieces might fit together based on who is acquired.
|C||John Jaso||$1,300,000||SP||Felix Hernandez||$20,700,000|
|1B||Justin Smoak||$550,000||SP||Hisashi Iwakuma||$6,500,000|
|2B||Dustin Ackley||$1,500,000||SP||Jason Vargas||$6,500,000|
|SS||Brendan Ryan||$3,000,000||SP||Erasmo Ramirez||$500,000|
|3B||Kyle Seager||$550,000||SP||Blake Beavan||$500,000|
|CF||Franklin Gutierrez||$7,500,000||CL||Tom Wilhelmsen||$500,000|
|DH||Jesus Montero||$500,000||LH||Charlie Furbush||$500,000|
|IF||Robert Andino||$1,000,000||LH||Oliver Perez||$1,500,000|
|OF||Jason Bay||$1,000,000||RH||Josh Kinney||$700,000|
|1B||Mike Carp||OF||Eric Thames|
|IF||Carlos Triunfel||RH||Hector Noesi|
There are two currently open roster spots, though since Bay and Wells are mostly redundant, odds are decent that the team only carries one of those two, so it’s probably more like three open roster spots on offense. And maybe a fourth if the organization decides to replace Blake Beavan with a better pitcher, which they should, because he’s bad.
If we set the pitching spot aside for now, that leaves the team with three roster spots, and in need of a starting right fielder, a guy who can catch, and a corner infielder who can push or replace Justin Smoak, depending on the size of the leash that the team wants to give him for 2013. And, realistically, an outfield that depends on the simultaneous health of Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Bay, and maybe Josh Hamilton is ridiculously thin, so you could argue that the team is likely to need five guys capable of playing outfield on the opening day roster.
And that’s why you see the Mariners checking in on such a wide variety of players, ranging from Josh Hamilton down to Dee Gordon. For as much as everyone talks about the team just needing to upgrade the offense, the reality is that the Mariners can’t just squeeze a couple more 1B/DH types onto this team. They need an outfielder, and they need a catcher, and they need a corner infielder.
One possible solution to this roster crunch is to add a guy who can cover several of these spots by himself. For instance, one of the advantages of adding Nick Swisher is that you can slot him in as your right fielder while also ensuring that the team has a guy who can easily take over first base if Justin Smoak flops again. Jack has also talked about finding a catcher who can do other things besides catch, but in reality, there just aren’t very many guys like that.
Ryan Doumit, Chris Gimenez, Yan Gomes, and Jordan Pacheco pretty much comprise the entire list of catchers who could also represent some kind of depth at either the infield or outfield, and Doumit/Gomes/Pacheco are probably out after Jack talked about wanting to add a “defensive catcher” to complement Jaso and Montero. Don’t get too excited about that option.
So, if we assume that the third catcher is pretty much going to be just a catcher, that leaves them with two spots for starting RF and reserve 3B/1B. And that’s why I wouldn’t be totally shocked if they ended up acquiring a guy that they haven’t yet been linked to – Mike Olt.
Olt is reportedly being dangled to the Mets as bait to get R.A. Dickey to Texas, and he’s been rumored to be part of the three or four team trade that involves the Rangers, Diamondbacks, and either the Rays, Mariners, or Royals, depending on the incarnation of the moment. When word broke at the meetings that the Mariners were part of those discussions, the report suggested that the Mariners would acquire Derek Holland, but it was left unexplained why the Mariners would help the Rangers land Justin Upton in a deal where they didn’t add any hitters themselves.
My guess — and it’s just a guess — is that the Mariners are involved in those multi-team discussions because Olt is the Rangers best piece of trade bait but there isn’t an obvious fit for where he should land. The Mets already have David Wright at third base, and after the Lucas Duda experiment, they probably aren’t too excited about another IF-to-OF conversion project. The Rays already have Evan Longoria, and they value defense more than any other team in baseball. The Diamondbacks just signed Eric Chavez to be their third baseman for 2013, a sign that they’re willing to go with a stopgap until prospect Matt Davidson is ready for the big leagues in a year or two.
Just like the Mariners prospects aren’t a great fit for a trade with the Royals, Olt’s not a great fit for the teams that Texas is apparently trying to strike a deal with. But he would be a pretty interesting fit for the Mariners.
We’ve talked about how the team is absurdly thin at third base behind Kyle Seager, so talks of moving him to second base are essentially a non-starter because it’d be creating a bigger hole than it would fill. Right now, if Seager got himself hurt, Robert Andino would be the team’s starting third baseman; Andino has a career wRC+ of 67. If Seager got himself hurt on a day when Andino was already subbing in for the brittle Brendan Ryan, the team’s third baseman would be… a random fan who brought his glove to the park, apparently. It’s safe to say that the Mariners need a guy who can play a little third base.
And, as we saw last year, Wedge is willing to use Seager as a second baseman on days when Dustin Ackley gets the day off, so a right-handed corner infielder could essentially serve as a back-up for Ackley as well. While the Mariners might not have a gaping hole at third base, they do have infield at-bats to give out, and they’re in need of another first base option behind Justin Smoak. If the team lands a pure outfielder rather than a 1B/OF type, Olt could provide the infield depth the team is looking for, while also giving Jack the kind of cost-controlled young hitter he’s willing to move a young arm for.
And that’s why I could see the Mariners getting involved in a three or four team trade with the Rangers. They make some sense as a third wheel in a Rangers-Mets trade that ships R.A. Dickey to Texas, as they could offer up a package of young player who could potentially have more value to the Mets than Olt would — Nick Franklin would probably interest them (or Tampa Bay, if the deal was for Shields instead of Dickey) as a second baseman, and they’ve been collecting upside arms like James Paxton for the last year — and might have enough extra guys on the roster to sweeten the deal for Texas if need be. As you can see above, Mike Carp and Shawn Kelley are likely on the outside looking in, and I don’t think Jack would hesitate to let the Rangers have Carp as an Olt replacement if they wanted a corner bench bat back in the deal, or give them Kelley if they wanted another relief arm for the bullpen.
All winter long, we’ve been hearing that the organization was looking to make a prospect-for-prospect swap, turning one of their young arms (and/or Nick Franklin) into a guy who can step in and fill a hole on the big league roster right away. Most of the focus has been on Wil Myers, but Olt might actually be an even better fit.
Texas has more reasons to trade him, and his positional flexibility makes him a better fit on the 2013 roster if the Mariners are also planning on signing a full-time outfielder. Where acquiring Hamilton would force Myers to beat out Saunders/Gutierrez for a job, Olt would be unaffected by the signing of another OF, as his playing time could come at 3B/1B/DH, and he’d give the team depth behind Smoak, Seager, Ackley, and Montero while only taking up one roster spot.
In-division trades aren’t that common, but we’ve already seen the Rangers ship Justin Smoak to Seattle, so they’re clearly not afraid to deal promising young hitters when they feel like the Mariners are enabling them to get the kind of ace starter they’re looking for. The Mariners don’t have that kind of starter available right now, but they might have the pieces to help Texas land a guy like Dickey or Shields.
If they can expand the deal to also bring Derek Holland to Seattle, well, awesome, because he’s a good fit here too. But I’d be willing to bet that the Mariners insertion into the talks with Texas weren’t primarily about bringing Holland to Seattle, but instead, would be Jack trying to land Mike Olt as another young offensive building block for the future.
Whether it happens or not, who knows. But given the state of the roster and the kinds of players we know that the Mariners are shopping for in free agency, Olt looks like a pretty good fit. If Texas ends up trading him, I wouldn’t be too shocked if he ultimately made his way to Seattle.