Mariners added hitters and veteran leadership, while not trading away key, young major-leaguers.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik took a strange route in getting to where he wanted to be this spring.
Outbid on free-agent slugger Josh Hamilton, then having Justin Upton invoke his no-trade clause to Seattle to thwart a planned trade with the Diamondbacks, Zduriencik had to get creative. And while his biggest moves lack any real permanence given the players involved are mainly on one-year deals, Zduriencik said his main goals for 2013 were accomplished.
“We never got away from what we really wanted to do,” Zduriencik said. “As it ended up, we did accomplish all of our goals.”
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Zduriencik said his three biggest priorities for this season were: bring in middle-of-the-lineup hitters, add a veteran presence and hold on to his young major-league players.
He took care of most of the first two goals by adding sluggers Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales in trades. Zduriencik dealt catcher John Jaso in a three-way swap with Washington and Oakland that landed Morse from the Nationals.
He acquired Morales from the Angels for left-handed starter Jason Vargas, saved about $2 million in salary differential, then used some of that to sign free-agent pitcher Joe Saunders to fill the rotation’s southpaw void.
Free-agent outfielders Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay were added as well for additional veteran presence and to serve part-time and bench needs. The Mariners now have multiple players capable of filling corner infield and outfield spots, important if Justin Smoak struggles at first base or Franklin Gutierrez gets hurt again and forces Michael Saunders to center field.
Zduriencik had already given himself the luxury of carrying a fifth outfielder by trading Trayvon Robinson to the Orioles for infielder Robert Andino.
The ability of Andino to play multiple positions — including shortstop — allows the team to carry just one backup infielder instead of two. Having Andino, a former starter in Baltimore, also gives the Mariners leeway to use him more in spelling infielders like Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley should they struggle, as they did last season.
Zduriencik later added free agent Kelly Shoppach as catching insurance behind a question-filled Jesus Montero while the team waits for 2012 No. 3 overall pick Mike Zunino to make the majors.
All of the additions have playoff experience. Zduriencik insists it was by design.
“It’s something we had talked about extensively this winter,” he said. “The need to have players who could come in and show our younger players what it takes to win at this level.”