There are plenty of big names available this off-season, but the Mariners are unlikely to make any big moves. However, there are tons of minor league free agents, and given the current state of the franchise, there are several names out there that could help out. Here are nine in particular still available that could help the Mariners out:
9. Callix Crabbe, 2B - A Rule 5 draft pick of the Padres just a year ago, Crabbe did not last long in the majors before being returned. He did not produce in 2008 the same way he did in 2007, but he still showed good patience, and the ability to make contact. Furthermore, Crabbe already has some experience playing the outfield, and could develop into a versatile bench player. Also attractive is that he is still relatively young, as he will be 26 years old on opening day 2009. Crabbe could easily replace Miguel Cairo and/or Willie Bloomquist for a fraction of the price.
8. Matt Craig, 1B - Craig has split time between AA and AAA the past two seasons, but produced at a rather high level. He is also a switch-hitter, and while he does not have prototypical power for a first baseman, nobody does in the M's organization that is remotely close to ready for the majors. Craig could probably push LaHair for the starting spot right now, and he is at least as good of a prospect as LaHair heading into the future.
7. Brett Harper, 1B - Harper has one great strength: power. He also has one great weakness: strikeouts. If he had a little better plate discipline he would be higher on this list. Still, Harper produced in AAA this year, and he provides an offensive tool the M's really need (power), at a position where they desperately could use some more talent.
6. Joseph Torres, LHP - Even though the M's already have a decent bullpen, Torres is too intriguing to pass up. He has not pitched above AA, but he was simply unhittable. Torres held hitters to a .164 batting average, and struck out over a batter an inning. Though Torres is a fly ball pitcher, any problems with that would be somewhat masked by Safeco Field. Plus, his strengths have well outweighed his weaknesses so far. There is virtually no risk in signing any player to a minor-league contract, and with Torres the M's could put him in AAA and potentially end up with a quality southpaw for the bullpen for years to come.
5. Kevin Cameron, RHP - Cameron was a 2007 Rule 5 draft pick, and he did very well that year for the Padres, posting an ERA out of the bullpen under 3.00. Between a slow start and injuries this past year, his numbers don't say much either way about him. Still, Cameron's previous success and stunningly low home run rate (as in no home runs allowed the past two years) make him a bullpen arm worth signing.
4. Todd Linden, OF - A couple years ago Linden was a rather well-regarded prospect in the Giants organization. Since then, he has bounced around some, but never shown much in the majors. However, he is a switch-hitter with power, and he plays a position where the M's could use some depth. As an added bonus, he is from Edmonds, so he is local.
3. Victor Diaz, OF - The Mariners do not have to look far for a scouting report on Diaz. He spent nearly all of last season in Tacoma. He brings power to the table, though with lots of strikeouts and limited defensive ability. Still, his power has translated to the major league level in limited at-bats, and he would provide some needed offense at a needed position for the Mariners.
2. R.J. Swindle, LHP - At 25 years old, Swindle is young by minor league free agent standards. He has risen quickly through the Twins system the last couple years, but posted dominant numbers at every level. His rapid development is enticing, especially considering that he is young enough to conceivably develop even more. Swindle may be good enough now to make be a contributing member to a solid MLB bullpen, and if he continues to develop at the pace he has the last couple years, he could be quite good.
1. Jesus Guzman, 3B- Guzman is former Mariners property, but he was lost as a minor league free agent to the A's last year. He had a huge year in AA in 2008, and he is off to a fast start in the Venezualen Winter league too. Guzman has no great strength, but his skills are pretty good across the board. He will be only 24 years old at the start of the season, and he is ready for AAA. If he continues to hit the way he has the last couple years, he could develop into a starting infielder.
There rarely are any stars to be found in minor league free agency, but there are always several ballplayers who can fill out a roster just as well as a number of player who will get bigger and longer contracts. For a team looking to rebuild, they could do much worse than looking at these players for stopgaps before prospects are ready and/or more salary frees up to pursue free agents or bigger trades.