BY Adam Lewis 06:30AM 02/25/2014

Poll: How can Mariners’ Jack Z improve roster?

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik might have to wait until June if he plans to sign designated hitter Kendrys Morales or pitcher Ervin Santana.

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has plenty of options (and money) to improve the Mariners. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

After a pair of signings by the Baltimore Orioles thinned the free-agent market last week, Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik still has options.

Saturday outfielder Nelson Cruz and Baltimore agreed to terms on a one-year, $8 million deal, which included an additional $750,000 in incentives. The contract was a massive financial letdown for Cruz, who in November spurned a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Rangers. 

The Orioles also gambled last week when they signed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, 30, to a four-year, $50 million deal. In 2013 with the Indians, Jimenez started 32 games, went 13-9 and posted a 3.30 ERA in 182.2 innings. His resurgence was a mild surprise after he spent the previous two years dealing with injuries and control problems exacerbated by his jerky, unorthodox delivery.

The red flags on both players didn’t deter Zduriencik, who is working under a one-year contract and facing mounting pressure from a hostile fan base, from having discussions with Jimenez and Cruz, the latter a confirmed PED user and right fielder with below-average range.

In early February, multiple reports indicated the Mariners were close to signing Cruz. Negotiations stalled when both sides couldn’t agree on terms for a contract. It didn’t help that Cruz was wary of playing home games at Safeco Field, a stadium where he struggled while with AL West-rival Texas.

With Opening Day five weeks away, free agent designated hitter Kendrys Morales is the market’s last power bat available. Morales, 30, turned down Seattle’s one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer in November after hitting .277/.336/.449 last season with 23 home runs and 80 RBIs. He posted a .785 OPS and was durable, appearing in 156 games.

Re-signing him could prove challenging.

Morales might wait until after June’s MLB draft before agreeing to a deal, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. The move would allow his new team to avoid surrendering compensation (a first-round pick) to Seattle, his former team. A loophole in the MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, the provision gives clubs incentive to wait until June before making a deal.

Cruz chose a different route. He didn’t want to miss the first part of the season, so he settled by signing for less. Morales, who is represented by agent Scott Boras, might not.

In Rosenthal’s story, Ervin Santana’s agent said his pitcher will hold out, if necessary. The 31-year-old remains unsigned after refusing the Royals’ qualifying offer.

The Mariners were in discussions to add Santana as a No. 3 starter. It made sense because it would bridge the gap between aces Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and projected starters Taijaun Walker and James Paxton. The latter pair has never pitched through an entire major league season.

Per ESPN New York, Zduriencik is also interested in trading shortstop Nick Franklin to the Mets for top pitching prospect Rafael Montero.

As of Monday, the Mariners’ projected Opening Day payroll was near $75.5 million, about $4 million more than last season. The small discrepancy means Zdruriencik still has the financial flexibility to improve a club that finished 71-91 in 2013.

Zduriencik claimed he spoke to every available free agent this offseason. Most assume he isn’t done making a final push to save his job.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    First and foremost, sign Morales. The club has invested heavily in Cano so they’ve got to protect that investment. Morales is that rare hitter that hits well at Safeco Field plus he was nearly as consistent on the road. I’d offer him a two year deal with a third year option. He would keep the DH position stable. It would not surprise me if Hart or Morrison become this years Eric Byrnes.

    Second, get a #3 veteran pitcher in ASAP. I’m disappointed that this need from last year is a need this year. With two rookies in the rotation I don’t see the logic in trading Franklin for another. I think Baker can have a good season but I’d rather see him in the #4 slot. If the M’s get Santana at least he’s familar with the Angels though the last Angels pitcher the M’s got, Jarrod Washburn, was hit and miss.

    If Franklin is to be traded it should be for a leadoff hitter. I’m not convinced Ackley fill that role. If anything, I question if Franklin could be that hitter instead of Ackley. Ackley struggled so much last season I’d rather see him lower in the order.

    With Tom Wilhelmsen still on the team I’m wondering just how reliable he’ll be. Farquar was also inconsistent last year so a veteran righty might be in order for the bullpen. What’s Oliver Perez doing right now?

    • lee cousins

      Good post, we really could use another pitcher in the rotation along with a centerfielder, I’m a little concern about how J.Z. has approached these needs the window of opportunity is becoming smaller, I don’t know about you but he makes me nervous, he’s got a painting hanging on the wall that’s not finished.

    • Bernard Middlebrook

      Brad Miller is the likely leadoff hitter ,not Ackley.

  • Wade M. Tonkin

    Where the hell would they play Morales? They already have Smoak, Morrison, and Hart signed and none of those guys have any business manning the outfield in the Safe.

    • lee cousins

      Morales would be an insurance policy, or the better bat in the lineup, how comfortable are you with Morrison or Hart’s wheels, remember it’s a long season ahead, although your point is well taken it might be better to have a pleasant problem then that other kind.

      • Edgar Martinez

        Yeah, the chances of Morrison and Hart not working out are too great. As of right now there are way too many question marks in this lineup and way too good a chance of disaster with absolutely nobody protecting Cano. I just can’t believe that Z would be willing to roll the dice with the lineup as is.

    • zigzags

      I think I see what Jack Z is doing here: He’s gonna put all 3 guys at first base. No ball hit to the right side of the infield would ever get through! It’s brilliant!

  • K

    Trade for Samardzjia. Three team deal w/Franklin and Smoak to Mets…Mets top pitcher and Paxton to Cubs. We then go out and sign Morales. Hart to LF, Logan 1b, and Morales at DH.

    • lee cousins

      Let’s see, you won’t to what? give up three players for one? it’s time to get back on your medication!

    • Bernard Middlebrook

      that’s a lot of talent to give up for a guy who’s just had his first 200-inning season and who only has two years of club control left. Paxton may well have a better career going forward than Jeff S, at much lower cost.

  • Bernard Middlebrook

    Not sure why you wrote here — in the headline no less! — that the Mariners might have to wait until June to sign Kendrys Morales. Since the M’s are the ones that made Morales the Qualifying Offer, they would not give up a draft pick to re-sign him. The reason Morales would wait is so that other teams, who would have to give up a high draft pick if they signed him before the June draft, would give him more dollars and more years. The M’s have no such obstacle to signing Morales before June.

    • zigzags

      Unless the M’s offer up a ridiculous offer for Morales, they’ll likely have to wait for Morales to view all his options, which open up considerably after the June deadline.

      That’s why the headline said they might have to wait until June to sign him. It’s Morales waiting it out, not the M’s. Article clearly explains that.

      • Bernard Middlebrook

        “They’ll likely have to wait for Morales to view all his options” Oh yes, those various and sundry options! Cause the floodgates are going to open up after he’s missed spring training and 2+ months of the season. I’m sure several National League teams are going to pay him $15 mil a year to DH in their 10 interleague contests in AL parks. The correct move for Morales was to do a long-term deal last July when Seattle was interested (or accept the qualifying offer for $14.1 million for 2014. But Boras was too arrogant, misread the market, thought he could pull a rabbit out of his hat with a “mystery team.” Apparently Scott wasn’t paying attention when Adam LaRoche, a guy coming off a better season in 2012, had to go crawling back to the Nats on a two-year, $24 mil deal. At least LaRoche played a position, expanding the potential list of suitors. The writing was on the wall in July…

        • Bernard Middlebrook

          Boras is Boras, but if the M’s offer him 3/35 for Morales and tell him they’re moving on and won’t be interested come June, he’d be a dope not to take that deal.

          • Bernard Middlebrook

            But right now Scott is too busy ruining the career of Stephen Drew, demanding big $$$ deals with opt-out clause after the first year. For a guy who posted decent enough stats in ’13, but who was awful the previous two seasons.

      • Bernard Middlebrook

        What would you consider a ridiculous offer for Morales at this point in time? 2/25? 3/35? He isn’t getting a much better deal than that even if he waits til after the draft. Seattle was and always has been the best (and perhaps only) fit for Morales. They’re the team that traded for him a year ago, he produced well for them, even at Safeco, he’s well-liked in the clubhouse. Despite those articles planted by Boras about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ supposed interest, a deal there has no materialized.

  • PatrickthePragmatist

    Morales works for me as long as Smoak is traded. Even if they plan on Hart playing in the OF I would not want to see them locked into that. Santana wants a lot but he would be a decent veteran to add to a staff that has an ace and some young arms that could be good in the future. Trading Franklin is not something I am happy about but if it must happen I want to see a good return. Waiting is not going to get us Morales, if he waits he is going to cash in with a team desperate for offense later, he will go to a good team with a hitter friendly park. Waiting to trade Franklin might be a good move, but if there is no plan to convert him to the OF than risking him getting hurt and losing all value is pointless. if he is blocked in this organization they might as well deal him. Hopefully the player(s) they get pan out. A straight up deal is best. The M’s are not so sadly lacking depth that they need to go for multiple players here. Take the best player available for him and sink or swim with that.

  • Moose

    Trading for pitching prospects makes no sense at all, this team needs hitters, and outfielders in particular, in the minor league system who are close to breaking in. Trading Franklin, who a year ago was the best hitting prospect not eating his way out of a job, for pitching (a strength) is also incredibly stupid. The management has given Smoak, Ackley, and Saunders years of chances and literally hundreds of AB’s at the big league level with little to no production, and now you want to jettison a good hitting prospect who had a bad second half in his first full year in the big leagues? This team’s management is raising the amount of alcoholics and suicide rates all over the NW. Thank the good Lord above for the Seahawks!

  • ROFLMAOAY

    Jack should resign. That would instantly make the M’s a better ball club!

  • tedsfrozenhead

    Where is the option “Jack resigns” ?