The Seattle Mariners and their general manager, Jack Zduriencik, are making leaps and bounds in progress over this 2012-13 offseason.
For starts, the Mariners picked up additional middle infield talent (see: http://t.co/QAJryJH1) in Robert Andino and in the Triple-A portion of the Winter Meetings, we selected 2nd baseman Eric Ferris from the Brewers. Our middle infield starters, Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley, are also on the mend. Throughout 2012 both had painful bone spurs, which was unbeknownst until season’s end when it was announced that both would undergo surgery. From all accounts, they went well! Word on the street is that Ackley, supposedly, is very good when healthy—and, I’ll be honest, when we won our first game of the season in Tokyo because of his solo home run, I was impressed.
Again referencing my aforementioned 2012 postseason article, the Mariners have gotten rid of Jason Vargas. In addition, they picked up new hitting talent in Kendrys Morales of the hard-hitting Los Angeles Angels (.273 with 22 home runs and 73 RBIs in 134 games), and the 6’ 5, 245-pound beast Michael Morse of the Washington Nationals (.291, with 18 home runs, and 62 RBIs in 406 at-bats).
With these additions, it will also be great to see what becomes of last year’s hitters, especially Justin Smoak. Although the fielder may have competition for 1st base with Morse and Morales, I think that his switch-hitting bat (which is also an attribute of Morales) will come alive—even more-so than his late-season 2012 antics. In a recent Greg Johns (Mariners MLB sports writer) article, when interviewed from his offseason South Carolina home, Smoak said, "When you've got protection in the lineup, it's awesome…It's something that's going to be fun.”
It appears that we have signed many players that either have living connections to the Seattle area, and/or have played for the Mariners in the past. See Michael Morse coming up in Mariners organization as a shortstop, outfielder/slugger, Jason Bay (Career High: 36 home runs and 119 RBIs in 2009), being from Kirkland, former 10-year Mariner Raul Ibanez (brought from the Yankees), and still one more Minor League acquisition who lives in the Tri-Cities! (That acquisition is former Detroit Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman, who has been sidelined since 2010 due to shoulder injuries. My hope is that he can pick up where veteran Kevin Millwood left off, assuming he’ll make it back to Big Leagues). As for Bay, “It’s worth finding out,” said Mariners writer Johns, “what this guy’s made of after time has aged him. I’d also like to see Casper Wells get a lot of playing time in the outfield as well.”
One of my favorite offseason Zduriencik quotes, which came after the Winter MLB Meetings in Nashville and the failure to acquire top prospect Josh Hamilton, was: “I’m not willing to trade two apples for one orange.” Well, kudos to him, because in my humble opinion his aptitude is paying off dividends in our new team structure, and I am surely excited to see what this 2013 season will bring!
In preparation for this season, many players seem to be going the extra mile. In addition to general strength and conditioning, and hitting and fielding workouts, our 2010 Rawlings Gold Glove award winner for center field, Franklin Gutierrez, played in the Venezuelan Winter League. He hit well (though I still think that he should only be playing left field for us. Too many things have gone wrong for him to be counted on). We also have a few players that will be competing for their home countries in the 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC), in March. These players and countries are: Felix Hernandez of Venezuela, Alex Liddi of Italy, Michael Saunders of Canada, and pitcher Oliver Perez of Mexico.
The Mariners’ season opener will be in Oakland on April 1st. There they will take on last year’s playoff contenders, the A’s, and their long-lost buddy, John Jaso.