Hello Lawton; goodbye Reed?
Tim Chalberg • Thursday, December 22, 2005
Tonight the Mariners announced that they had signed free agent OF Matt Lawton to a 1 year contract with a base salary of $400,000, though incentives could escalate it to well over $1 million. Also included in the deal was a limited no-trade clause.
This deal is interesting for several reasons. First of all, Lawton will have to serve a 10 game suspension at the start of the season for testing positive for steroids at the end of last year. Lawton admits to taking them but also says that he only took them once. The Mariners believe him, and I believe him too. As interesting as this is, Lawton's signing is even more intriguing from a pure baseball standpoint.
When the Mariners signed Jarrod Washburn, it looked like their offseason was complete. Bill Bavasi had publicly stated that his offseason goals were to improve the catching, get a left-handed bat, and improve the starting pitching. Once Washburn was signed, every objective had been addressed. Then, out of nowhere, the Mariners add Matt Lawton. I really like the signing (personally, I think he is a much better player than Carl Everett, which makes me wonder why the Mariners did not just sign him in the first place instead of Everett) but it does not all add up to me. Bavasi did not specify what Lawton's role would be on the team, though he did say that Lawton can play a variety of roles, namely all three outfield positions. This is noteworthy because Bavasi tends to be very clear about defining player's roles. For example, when he signed Carl Everett, he clearly stated that Everett would primarily be the designated hitter and spell Raul Ibanez in left field from time to time. It just seems out of character for Bavasi to be as vague as he was about Matt Lawton's role.
To me, this is a clear signal that the rumors involving Jeremy Reed going to the Red Sox are legitimate. A deal may not be imminent quite yet, but I think Boston and Seattle are in serious discussions right now. It is no coincidence that the deal for Matt Lawton came right on the heels of the Johnny Damon signing, and also that Bill Bavasi was not willing to talk about Lawton's specific role.
Whether Jeremy Reed is traded or not, Matt Lawton was a great signing for the Mariners, especially at such a ridiculously low price. He will be the starting center-fielder if Reed is dealt, and I bet he will be a started very quickly even if Reed is not dealt. This was an outstanding move for the Mariners and it also may be a signal of things to come.