So what do the Seattle Mariners do now?
They are in different territory as they head into the 2013 Major League Baseball winter meetings on Monday at the Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla.
In the past few years, they went into the winter meetings with a desperate need to land a high-level free agent to supplement their anemic roster. But this year, general manager Jack Zduriencik and his entourage roll into the meetings with the best free agent on the market already committed to them for the next decade.
All-star second baseman Robinson Cano has yet to sign his 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners. But all indications say it will happen this week. Cano, who flew back to his native Dominican Republic and was shown on television wearing a Mariners cap, likely will take an extensive physical in the next few days.
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“It was a clear goal of ours to get us to a point where we would have young and inexpensive players throughout the lineup and I think we’ve accomplished that goal,” Zduriencik said just days before the Cano news came out. “I always felt there would be a time when we would have to augment this club. I think we are at that time.”
Final details aside, Seattle has been the talk of the baseball world since the deal was reported. But Zduriencik likely won’t be taking time to bask in his accomplishment.
The Mariners know they must invest around their investment.
But how will they do it?
The free-agent market is one option and the Mariners appear to be active in it. If a decent player is available, the Mariners have been mentioned in rumors about acquiring them.
“The fact that we are linked to a lot of people, well, we probably should be, based on the work we’ve done,” Zduriencik said Wednesday.
The Mariners have money to spend with a payroll budgeted for near $100 million.
However, the market is slowly starting to dwindle. After the Cano news broke, there was a minor domino effect in free-agent activity. Three Mariners targets all agreed to deals within 24 hours of the news breaking. The Yankees immediately compensated for the loss of Cano by inking outfielder Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45-million contract. Fellow outfielder Curtis Granderson moved across town from the Yankees to the Mets, agreeing to a four-year, $60-million deal. Meanwhile, slugging first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli agreed to a two-year, $32-million contract to stay with the Red Sox.
There are still possibilities.
Outfielder and former Mariners prospect Shin-Soo Choo is a player Seattle likes, but so do several other teams, including the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers. Choo’s price tag is slowly creeping up over $100 million with each passing day. Another outfielder available is Nelson Cruz, who has been a menace to Mariners pitching during his time with the Rangers. There seems to be no repercussions of Cruz’s suspension for performance-enhancing drugs last season. He’s reportedly asking for $75 million over four years.
Zduriencik admitted the team could use some outfield help. The team has just Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte and Dustin Ackley as viable options.
The Mariners also are rumored to be working on possible trades. The addition of Cano has made either Ackley or Nick Franklin, or both, expendable. There was a possible swap with the Royals that would have sent Franklin and possibly a minor-leaguer to Kansas City in exchange for designated hitter Billy Butler. But since the Royals failed to sign Beltran, that trade proposal likely has been scuttled. The Mariners also have been linked to possible trades for Dodgers all-star outfielder Matt Kemp.
Also, Zduriencik has been adamant that the team would like to add an experienced starting pitcher to join Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the rotation. The team has been linked to free agents Bartolo Colon, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana. Seattle also is interested in acquiring Rays’ ace pitcher and former Cy Young Award winner David Price. A Rays source said any deal for Price would require prized prospect Taijuan Walker.
“You’d prefer not to, but you never know how it’s going to play out,” Zduriencik said of trading young talent. “You don’t know how you’re going to cross that bridge until the discussions get very specific in terms of players. We like the young core group of guys here. We like the arms that are here. But, again, if you have an opportunity to make your ballclub better, you have to always keep the door open, always make yourself available for discussion and see where it ends up.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.