Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/3/12
The Fences Are Coming In! The question is: With young outfielders everywhere, what should the Seattle Mariners do this offseason to solidify 7, 8 & 9? The heart of the matter in Seattle is that the Mariners need more production from their bats. With the strength of Jack Zduriencik’s draft classes in the infield, mainly 2B Dustin Ackley, 3B Kyle Seager, and eventually SS Nick Franklin and C Mike Zunino, the M’s have looked elsewhere for the outfield. Perhaps it is time to dip into the well one more time. Even though CF Franklin Gutierrez has a Gold Glove in his living room, the only safe assumption for Seattle’s 2013 OF is on CF/LF Michael Saunders, who’s career year left him one HR shy of a 20/20 season and a spot in the lineup. With Guti’s injury plagued legs, stomach, and arms, it is uncertain what the Mariners will do. Signed through 2014, Guti’s inability to play consistently has hurt the team’s ability to bring in a new player full time, or promote from within with confidence. Don’t be surprised if the “Death to Flying Things” is involved in a trade this offseason and Saunders assumes the CF role. Is Josh Hamilton worth pursuing? There are quite a few intriguing sides to this idea. The first, and perhaps most rational, is that Hamilton would not sign with a Mariners team that is a year or two short of a postseason run (Best case scenario). While Hamilton’s Texas Rangers were one out away from being World Series Champs as recently as last October. The second and more fun option is the revenge factor. Nolan Ryan, the Ranger’s president, had strong words about Hamilton this season during slumps. The team’s lack of desire to re-sign the former MVP frustrated the outfielder; maybe the opportunity to stay in the division and hurt the team that slighted him would be a selling point. Also, Seattle may be a good place for the recovering addict, not exactly known for it’s lavish beaches and party scenes; Seattle could be a soft and smart place to land. Eric Thames only played in 40 games for the M’s in 2013 after a midseason trade from Toronto, but he made his presence felt. If the price tag is upward of $100 million over 4 years, I suspect the Mariners will pass, but at the same time, a bat like his in the lineup could help young players like Jesus Montero see better pitches behind him, therefore affecting the team in a $25 million/year kind of way. Players in the Clubhouse RF Eric Thames only played in 40 games (the same number as Guti) for the M’s in 2013 after a midseason trade from Toronto, but he made his presence felt. Despite a .220 batting average, Thames showed some pop with a .439 slugging percentage and had a few clutch hits, including the game-winning RBI on August 22 over the Indians for the team’s eighth straight win. The Mariners made a fantastic run post All-Star break, boasting a 25-13 record, tops in the AL, and Thames played a key role in that stretch. After spot starting most of his career in Toronto, maybe an opportunity to start everyday will help develop the 25-year-old. Thames is the leader for the RF position going into Spring Training. Assuming manager Eric Wedge will never, ever play Chone Figgins again in LF, the M’s still have plenty of options. From Mike Carp, Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, or the giant Carlos Peguero, the Mariners have some decisions to make. After reading that list of possibilities, most Mariners fans began reconsidering the massive contract for Hamilton. Maybe that isn’t such a bad idea. As of now, the edge is with Wells or Robinson, both of whom showed signs of becoming quality everyday ball players, but neither of them took the opportunities and ran away with them. This season may be both players’ last opportunities in Seattle, let’s hope one of these players progresses immensely during the offseason. Prediction: Thames in RF, Michael Saunders in CF, and Robinson playing the majority of the time in LF. If Hamilton can help the Mariners avoid a platoon situation in the OF again, I am all for it. What do you think? CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE MARINERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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