The Mariners have signed three veteran free agents in the past week. But the news is not generating much excitement. Sports commentator Art Thiel tells KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick that’s because the Mariners are embarking on a rebuilding year, which could have them entertaining offers for star pitcher Felix Hernandez.
More on the Hernandez rumors in a moment. First, let's discuss who the Mariners signed in the past week. They acquired second baseman Brendan Ryan to replace Jose Lopez. Art says Ryan is coming off a very bad year in 2010 and a good year in 2009. Art thinks he'll be better defensively and, perhaps, offensively, than Lopez.
The Mariners also signed catcher Miguel Olivo, who Art says is an average catcher but will be much better than Adam Moore and Rob Johnson, who he says were "terrible" for the Mariners last year. Olivo spent two seasons in Seattle during 2004-2005.
The Mariners also acquired designated hitter Jack Cust, who will fill the void left by Ken Griffey Junior and Mike Sweeney.
Art says these three players are moderate upgrades signed to short-term contracts who will help the Mariners rebuild. He says it's a strategy the Mariners should have employed years ago, rather than spending lots of money on veteran free agents and trying to contend every year.
Art says another problem is the Mariners are spending too much money on the likes of Ichiro Suzuki ($18 million), Milton Bradley ($12 million), and Chone Figgins ($9 million) .
"That's way too much salary devoted to players who aren't as productive as they should be for that kind of money. So until those salaries go away, until the Mariners develop their young people in the farm system, this is how they have to operate. And I think it's a smart thing, even if it's not going to be comfortable for a lot of Mariner fans."
One player who's been very productive for the Mariners is 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez. There are rumors the Yankees may want to trade for him, after losing former Mariner and World Series Texas Ranger pitcher Cliff Lee to the Phillies. Art says the Mariners should listen to a serious offer from the Yankees:
"If the Yankees are truly desperate and if they really do want to offer a premium package of elite prospects, the Mariners owe it to all of us to listen."
Art says Felix Hernandez could win 20 games next year on a team that wins 75. He says it would be squandering an asset. Art says he's not saying the Mariners SHOULD trade Hernandez, but he says, quote, "If the Yankees' offer is blow-your-doors-off great, I think the Mariners really need to think about it."
You can now find Art's work at the web site Sportspress Northwest.