The Seattle Mariners added Mike Morse from the Washington Nationals during the week to probably complete their major upgrade attempts for an offense that has been hiding in the cellar for the past several seasons. Morse, Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales and even Jason Bay give the Mariners the possibility to run out much more thump than they’ve had in their recent history. Infielder Robert Andino also fills a valuable role for the club as a versatile utility infielder that can adequately handle second base, third base and shortstop. The club will most likely be scouring the rather uninspiring list of remaining free agent catchers (a list that still includes Miguel Olivo) to find someone to share time with -- and hopefully help mentor -- Jesus Montero, who now stands to get a lot more time behind the plate in 2013. Eric Wedge has ties to Olivo and Kelly Shoppach, who played for Wedge in Cleveland.
Outside of the need to add a catcher, the roster needs of the Mariners actually appear to boil down to one need. A quality starting pitcher -- or possibly two -- to lengthen the quality of the rotation. After Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma Seattle has a bevy of young MLB arms and top prospects, but really no one that has stepped up and claimed a rotation spot as of yet. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times did a great rundown of the M's payroll commitments yesterday that you can see here. As Stone pointed out, the starting pitcher is the obvious need, and the payroll is there to open a lot of possibilities.
Veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse has enjoyed the highest level of most recent success of those starters on the free agent market, but he would cost the Mariners their first round pick -- something that they’ve seemingly very consciously avoided surrendering -- along with something probably north of 4 years and $55 million to lure to the Northwest. Other free agents like Jair Jurrjens, Shawn Marcum, Joe Saunders, and former Mariners Derek Lowe, Kevin Millwood, Freddy Garcia and Erik Bedard are also still available. Oh, and Jamie Moyer. Although, at 50 now and going on five years from his last productive and extended action, the ageless Moyer may actually finally be done with his MLB career. There are some injury bounce-back hopefuls there, a few somewhat interesting names and a few ‘no thank you’ type names. No one, at least in my opinion, that really jumps out as a great fit for the Mariners.
Looking at all of those options, the trade market may prove the best route for the M’s to take here and there are some intriguing names that could be available. "Operation Fire Sale, 3.0" has been set in motion by Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins and they still have one big ticket item on the payroll. Right-hander Ricky Nolasco is in the final season of his 3-year/$26.5m contract and is owed $11.5m for the 2013 season. Nolasco has struggled with a plummeting strikeout rate over the last few seasons since he had right knee surgery, seeing his K/9 drop from a career-best 9.5 in 2009 to just 5.9 last season while his average fastball velocity has dropped nearly 2 full MPH. He has also struggled throughout his career with the home run, and while that rate has fallen down below 1.0/9 over the past two years in Florida, he also has only posted an ERA under 4.48 once in his career. Nolasco does have very good control and has reportedly asked out of Miami, but his apparent decline in stuff, profile and price tag may not be the type of pitcher Seattle is looking for to better their rotation.
The Chicago Cubs' top pitcher is Matt Garza, who just agreed to a $10.25m deal for 2013 during his final season of arbitration. Garza, who has seemingly been a hot trade commodity ever since 2007 and has in fact been dealt twice in that time, missed the final two-plus months of the season last year with a stress "reaction" in his throwing elbow. That injury did not require surgery and the 29-year-old right-hander reportedly is on schedule to be ready for Opening Day. He has been pretty healthy during his seven seasons in the big leagues. Over the last five years, Garza has posted a 3.74 ERA and 1.24 WHIP for Tampa Bay and the Cubs. It sounds like Chicago is looking to hang on to him for now and then possibly look at dealing him around the deadline if (i.e., when) they are out of contention, though, so his price tag will probably be high right now. Given his age and track record, the M's would be wise to at least inquire, but he may simply not be available at a price Seattle is willing to pay.
While Nolasco and, even more so Garza, certainly would represent an upgrade, the Mariners are currently staring at the possibility of having all right-handed pitchers in their rotation. While the changing dimensions of Safeco Field should mean a more balanced park for lefties and righties, the club would assuredly like to offset that by picking up a left-hander, so that is where we'll look now.
The Colorado Rockies are always looking to acquire pitching themselves, but they have a left-handed starter by the name of Jorge De La Rosa who may interest Seattle. De La Rosa won 16 games and struck out better than a hitter an inning back in 2009, but he injured a ligament in his finger in 2010 and had Tommy John surgery in 2011 that caused him to miss most of the last two seasons. He was touched up quite a bit last September (9.28 ERA, 1.78 WHIP), but he showed solid recovery in his velocity in those three late seasons starts and the pounding he took can probably be attributed to being rusty from so much time off. He exercised his $11m 2013 option after last season and might possibly be dangled by Colorado to land some younger, cheaper options as they've reportedly had discussions on some of their starters already this off-season. Center fielder Dexter Fowler has also been widely discussed this winter, with the demand from the Rockies always being pitching in return. Jorge posted a 3.63 ERA outside of Colorado between 2009 and 2011 (29 starts).
The Los Angeles Dodgers are currently employing at least seven starting pitchers on their roster, and one of those -- left-hander Chris Capuano -- appears to be on the outside of their rotation looking in. Capuano is one of eight pitchers on the Dodgers with a salary north of $6m for 2013, and his name and availability has been all over MLBTradeRumors.com since the 2012 season ended and the Dodgers started their spending, with the Mariners being linked to him on several occasions. I've mentioned several times on Twitter that I think he would be a great fit in Seattle on a 1-year deal, too. Capuano is a three-time Tommy John patient, but he has started 64 games over the last two seasons and pitched very well for the Dodgers last year, posting career bests with a 3.72 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. LA has well over $200m committed to 2013 salary and looks to have a pretty full MLB roster, so Capuano could come relatively cheap and not even require a high ranking prospect to get. To this point the Mariners have added a number of pieces to their roster without sacrificing anything from their rich farm system. Capuano fits into that plan, too.
Of course Seattle and General Manager Jack Zduriencik may feel comfortable enough heading into 2013 with the prospects on the horizon that a short-term fill for the rotation isn't made. But if the club does decide to add from the list of potentially available players, Capuano looks like the best fit.
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