The time has come for a revised off-season plan. You can check out my first here. It came before the M's had made any moves. Obviously, much has changed between then and now, most notably the stunning deals for Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley. Here is what I'd be doing now, in order of priority:
- One more bat - I think packaging Brandon Morrow and Jose Lopez could bring in a quality hitter. I'd have to figure out who, but that is who I would offer. That would leave a hole at second base, but that can be filled in free agency by a guy like Kelly Johnson, Orlando Hudson, or Felipe Lopez. One alternative to this I would look at is signing Jason Bay. I would offer 3 years, $30 million or so with a vesting option for a 4th year, and if that's enough, I'd be happy to have him. That clearly would not have been at the start of the off-season, but the climate has changed. If Bay really wants to be a Mariner, that might be enough. We could at least find out. If neither a trade nor Bay pan out, I'd secure Russell Branyan.
- One more dependable starter - The M's are more then set at the top with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. What would be ideal is to find another dependable guy to go with Ryan Rowland-Smith. Someone who will throw a solid six innings on a consistent basis. If you are looking for an intriguing free agent name, there is Randy Johnson. More realistic free agent targets are Jarrod Washburn, Jon Garland, Doug Davis, and Joel Pineiro. Of the bunch, I probably like Garland best, though the price for Washburn might be right. I am not sure there is a logical guy to trade for out there.
- Sign Felix Hernandez to a long-term deal - The King likes Seattle right now, and he should only like it even more with the way the off-season has gone. Also, he won't earn as much money in arbitration as he would in a contract extension, and all of a sudden that couple million saved might be worth placing towards a different piece of the puzzle. The M's look like an 85-88 win team on paper right now. Another four victories or so, and they go from probably on the outside of the playoffs to probably in. In other words, the Mariners are right in the vicinity where spending money even on rather small improvements is well worth it. That was not the case at the start of the off-season. Felix can wait at least until possible free-agent fits are no longer available. Still, the fact remains that Felix is an integral part of this team's long-term future.
- Sign some catchers to minor league deals - They already have Eliezer Alfonzo, but I want more. Sign as many as possible, and keep the best ones. That's how I prefer to use the minor league free agent process.
The best-case scenario is a trade that brings in a cost-effective player. However, there are free agents out there that make the 2010 Mariners a playoff contender, especially if the Angels continue to get shut out of major aquisitions.
Looking at the free agent options I suggested in this plan, it may take $15-$20 million to secure all the pieces. That is probably more than the M's have to play with. I would be interested to see if ownership is willing to go over payroll. I would push for that with this team, because they are at a point where one player might be the difference between going to the playoffs or not. That, by itself, is remarkable, especially given where this team was about 15 months ago.
UPDATE (9:14 PM) - The plan is already blown. Looks like Brandon Morrow is going to Toronto for Brandon League and a prospect. Interested to hear details, but clearly he is no centerpiece of a deal for a hitter.
UPDATE (9:28 PM) - As of now, it's looking like the prospect is C J.P. Arencibia. There goes my idea of adding minor league catchers too. I should stop trying to make up off-season plans. This deal, whoever is involved, is post-worthy.