Unless the Mariners unveil a miracle leaning against a lamppost in the next week or two, they are going to launch spring training with an allegedly “improved” offense consisting of four new parts, each a veteran who will be operating on a one-year contract: Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, Jason Bay and Mike Morse. This is not exactly what a rapidly dwindling fan base had in mind when the Mariners closed out 2012 in last place for the sixth time in eight years.
But, hey, things happen. Or don’t happen. General Manager Jack Zduriencik attempted to negotiate several big deals over the winter in order to pump some juice into the American League’s most moribund offense, but none panned out. Josh Hamilton, a prime target, signed with the Angels, and Arizona’s Justin Upton exercised his right not to be traded to anywhere near the Space Needle.
Say this for Zdruiencik: At least he did not over-commit money to a big-time free agent.
So, for now, Ibanez, Morales, Bay and Morse are charged with pumping life into a Mariners’ offense reeking with dead flesh.
Ibanez, acquired largely because he provides leadership, will bring 41-year-old legs and a .240 batting average from 2012 to left field. This will mark his third go-around with the Mariners, who hope he can duplicate the 19 home runs and 62 RBIs he produced for the Yankees last season.
Morales, 29, is the major hired gun. He hit .273 and banged 22 home runs with the Angels last year after missing all of 2011 while recovering from an injury (fractured lower left leg) sustained while celebrating a walk-off homer against the Mariners.
“We have been focused on adding offense this off-season, and feel that Kendrys will be a middle-of-the-order bat for us,” Zduriencik said after the Mariners acquired Morales in exchange for Jason Vargas.
“He’s a switch-hitter with power who has played, and hit, in the AL West. He’s familiar with the teams and parks and is a proven run-producer. We hate to part with Jason, and really appreciate everything he’s done for us, but we are in a situation where we had to give up talent to acquire talent.”
Bay is coming off a three-year stint with the Mets that only Jeff Cirillo could appreciate: .234 batting average and 26 home runs in 288 games. But Bay, 33, had a lot of injury issues and, if he’s healthy, who knows?
Morse is a Mariner for a second time, and cost Seattle John Jaso, its leading hitter in 2012, which actually isn’t saying much. The first time, the club couldn’t find a position for Morse, but will use him as a corner outfielder. He hit 18 home runs for the Washington Nationals last season and probably would have hit a lot more if he hadn’t been sidelined until June with a strained back muscle. In 2011, he had a breakout year, hitting .303 with 31 home runs.
“My main goal is to play every single game. I’m so excited,” said Morse. “Words can’t describe what me and my family are going through right now. Seattle is where I got my first shot,” he said. “I’m glad to be back home.”
Question is, are you happy with Zduriencik’s strategy of hiring these four veterans on one-year contracts to make presentable the 2013 offense? Comments are, of course, encouraged.