Zduriencik showing Mariners mean business
After landing Cano, general manager continues to add thump to lineup
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the Mariners arrived at the Winter Meetings, general manager Jack Zduriencik warned not to be surprised if there were a bevy of rumors involving the club having trade talks with other teams and negotiating for free agents.
And for good reason.
Last week, the Mariners made a major investment in free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano, agreeing to a 10-year, $240 million deal that will become official once Cano completes his physical in Seattle on Thursday.
You don't hang the Mona Lisa in the garage, and you don't bring in a player of Cano's caliber without making sure he has a veteran support system if you are serious about bringing a a quick end to more than a decade of disappointments.
So when the Mariners were made aware that the Dodgers were not looking to deal Matt Kemp, and with agent Scott Boras continuing to draw out contract talks for teams interested in free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, the M's found a couple answers elsewhere on Wednesday.
Seattle signed free agent Corey Hart and sent reliever Carter Capps to Miami for outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison. Both have offensive potential. Hart hit 87 home runs for Milwaukee from 2010-12, and Morrison had 23 home runs for the Marlins in '11.
The Mariners aren't making any announcements until each of the players passes a physical.
They both are a health concern.
Hart didn't hit any home runs last year, because he underwent two knee surgeries and spent the season on the disabled list. Morrison underwent knee surgeries each of the past two Decembers, which limited him to 17 home runs and just 178 games over the past two seasons.
Both, however, have the ability to add the veteran offensive pieces to a lineup that will provide some protection for Cano, who may be one of the game's elite players but isn't Superman, capable of carrying a team on his own into the postseason.
And the Mariners are looking to undo a lot of disappointments in a hurry.
The Mariners have been left out of the postseason the past 12 years. They have had a winning record in only two of the past 10 years. The M's not only have lost 374 games combined the last four seasons, but they avoided a fourth consecutive last-place finish in the American League West in 2013 only because a fifth team, Houston, was added to the division and finished behind the Mariners.
That's why the Mariners brought in new manager Lloyd McClendon and have focused on giving him new options on his roster.
Seattle would still like to add another starter for a rotation that is led by the impressive duo of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. The sights are set on acquiring David Price from Tampa Bay, although word surfaced Wednesday that Price, two years away from free agency, might consider a multiyear contract with several teams, but not Seattle, at least not now. Given the fact the Mariners would have to part with top prospect Taijuan Walker in a deal for Price, the M's would have to swallow hard if they weren't confident they could tie Price up for more than two years.
That could prompt the Mariners to pick up their talks with a free-agent pitcher such as Matt Garza.
The Mariners would seem to have their quest for offensive help answered, however, with Hart and Morrison.
Now comes the process of McClendon figuring out just where the new faces fit in the lineup.
There's no debate on Cano's spot.
McClendon said third was a good fit, but with a smile he said, "He bats where he wants to bat."
After a pause, McClendon added, "I said [last week in the manager's] office, 'That couch over there is mine, and that one is yours, but if you'd like that one, you can have it.'"
With Hart and Morrison, there's going to be more give-and-take with the rest of the roster. They both can play first base. They both can play the outfield. They both could serve as the designated hitter.
The Mariners do have Justin Smoak returning at first base, but last year's primary DH, Kendrys Morales, left fielder Raul Ibanez and right fielder Mike Morse are all on the free-agent market.
The Mariners' current outfield depth chart provides ample options for McClendon, who could provide rest for the aching knees of the two additions by using them occasionally in the DH role.
That, however, is the easy part.
The challenge was to add the quality options to the roster.
That mission has been accomplished.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.