The Mariners seem to want a lot of things this off-season. Not only are they connected to just about every available free agent hitter, but they're also connected to every trade possibility, and they're about to get linked to every marquee pitcher as well.
Seattle Mariners have indicated winter priorities to others: No. 2-type starting pitcher (Garza?); closer; two frontline power hitters.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 15, 2013
This was met with cynicism, fear, and laughs. It's ambitious to the point of being ridiculous, and there seems to be a general assumption from many that the Mariners will take the worst possible path to achieve these goals. People are damning this front office before they even make a move, or get linked to a specific player, let alone an offer on the table. Even Olney discounts this by placing a question mark after a mention Matt Garza - he doesn't really know what's going on here either.
A #2-type starting pitcher could mean a lot of things. It could mean a pitcher who has filled that role before, like Ervin Santana or Matt Garza, or it could mean somebody who could return to that role, like Josh Johnson. It could also mean Masahiro Tanaka, for all we know. It could even mean Bronson Arroyo. A closer? That's weird and doesn't make sense, even with the Mariners having some uncertainty in that position. Two front-line power bats - that's where the Matt Kemp rumor gains some legs, considering that Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo aren't really traditional power bats. Nelson Cruz fits that bill, but Corey Hart might too. Or Carlos Beltran. Nobody has any idea what the Mariners define as front-line.
Admittedly, I don't have a lot of faith in Jack Zduriencik anymore. He's made bad trades, bad free agent acquisitions, and almost made a trade for Justin Upton last year that still makes my stomach churn. But I don't believe in prosecuting a man for a crime he hasn't committed. This is a stated level of interest in getting many good players to play baseball for the Seattle Mariners. This, in isolation, is a great thing. There is no indication as to how he plans to achieve said goal, and it is unfair to assume the worst. Skepticism is healthy. Cynicism is not.
Much of this city has become tremendously bi-polar in their desires for this franchise. Building from the bottom only lasts for so long, and cries to drop huge money on major free agents has been a large voice among fans for two winters. When this accomplishment appears to be a more sincere goal than ever before, the overwhelming reaction I witnessed, among that same group, is snark, fear, and impending doom. You either want this franchise to step up to the plate, or you don't. This is what you asked for. Pick a side.
It's unfair to characterize all Mariner fans as the same. Lookout Landing has a well-measured, intelligent group of readers who aren't nearly as prone to the wild swings in emotion. Everybody is reactionary to some degree, and had Olney said Ervin Santana instead of Matt Garza, I'd probably be melting down a little bit inside as well. But as I wrote to myself earlier this week, perspective is key. Olney's tweet is all the rage today, and next week it will be something else. Perhaps they'll get linked to some great trade targets, or maybe somebody else will say they want a new third baseman and confusion will rain down. There's going to be dozens of tweets from dozens of sources, casting a wide net of rumors that can't possibly make any sense when put together into one bucket that is labeled "Mariners off-season." Some of this is crap, and some of this is true. It's hard to discern what's what.
Buster Olney is a respected and reliable source. When he says something like this, I pay attention, because he wouldn't say it if he hadn't heard it from somebody he trusts. But where did that person hear it? Who told the person before that? Free agent rumors are often a game of telephone, and while Matt spoke to how there can be real truth to them yesterday, there is all too often no truth to them at all. What if the rumblings about the team's disinterest in Jacoby Ellsbury are true? That would ruin months of speculation from many sources, including one of the most reliable one of all, Ken Rosenthal. Why would the Mariners make their intentions known anyways? Do they have a history of leaking out their interest in major free agent signings or trade targets? Where were you when you heard about Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero, or acquiring Cliff Lee for a bag of baseballs? What about when the Mariners signed Chone Figgins, was there a significant amount of chatter that the M's were interested in bringing on another leadoff hitter?
It makes you wonder why the Mariners would leak something like this, if it's true. There's a chance they just want to let free agents know that they plan to be contenders right away, and that signing with them is just the beginning. The Mariners don't have a good reputation as a free agent destination around the league, and indicating that they're about to step up helps lay down some red carpet for the first free agent.
Maybe this tweet is true, and maybe it isn't. I want a lot of things, but I know I'm probably not going to get them unless they fall into my lap. In one way or another, the Mariners want to make this team better, and they want to do it this off-season. Until we know exactly how they plan to do that, it's ultimately hollow. I am glad to hear something that says the Mariners are aware they need a lot of fixing - or maybe I don't know anything at all. Now, we wait.
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