Yesterday the Mariners made a nice little move by signing RHP Tyler Walker to a one-year deal for $750,000, with a series of $25,000 bonuses based on appearances. At 32 years old, he has little upside, but he is a solid, proven commodity. Walker says the Mariners were his first choice when he became a free agent, so that is a definite plus.
As is often the case with smaller deals like this, the implications for other players on the roster are a much bigger deal. Walker will reportedly be in the mix to become the closer, along with Aaron Heilman, Mark Lowe, Miguel Batista, and perhaps Roy Corcoran too. More importantly, signing Walker makes it much easier for the Mariners to keep Brandon Morrow in the starting rotation.
I continue to be impressed by the job Jack Zduriencik is doing. He understands that this team's best days are still in front of them. He is building towards the future, and so key young players like Brandon Morrow are being put in positions where they can develop and hopefully become the cornerstones of the roster. Not that Brandon Morrow would be small piece if he became a dominant closer, but a top of the rotation starter trumps a closer any day.
However, Zduriencik is not giving up on this year. Guys like Tyler Walker and Russell Branyan are not superstars, but they fit team needs at the right price. The more I look at this roster and the other teams in the west, I'm starting to believe that with a little luck the Mariners could hang tough in the pennant race for longer than many expect.