Beltran, Napoli gone - where do M's look for bats?

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Where do the Mariners look for right-handed hitters? Corey Hart? Matt Kemp? Jose Bautista? ....Mike Morse?

When Robinson Cano's deal was announced, rumors started flying about all the pieces the Mariners could be in the market to sign. They still needed right-handed power, and they desperately need outfielders. Two of the names that Mariners were instantly connected to were Mike Napoli and Carlos Beltran, who promptly accepted less money to sign with the monsters of the AL East.

So where do the Mariners go from here? The only major free agent outfielders remaining are Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. Choo is left-handed and dismal against lefties, and he's going to command a massive deal that is likely to end up over $100 million. There will be a significant amount of suitors for his services, and he's one of the few players remaining who may enjoy a winter meetings bidding war. I can't see the Mariners having a shot at his inevitable price tag with so many other holes to fill. Cruz is in decline, coming off a PED suspension, and a career 95 wRC+ hitter away from Texas. He hasn't been worth more than 1.5 WAR since 2010, and he's going to command a sizable deal. I'm not touching Nelson Cruz for anything over 3 years, $30 million, and that contract still makes me squirm.

The rest of the right-handed free agent outfielders is a wasteland. Franklin Gutierrez is starting to look a little more attractive to reunite with than he did a few months ago, but his bad luck has continued in Venezuela, sidelined with a viral infection. Rajai Davis is available, but has virtually no upside and wouldn't be an upgrade from Michael Saunders or Dustin Ackley in the outfield.

Strangely enough, Mike Morse is looking like a potential bargain. There has been zero buzz about his services, and it might actually be possible for the Mariners to snag him on a single year deal. Morse has the quality that the Mariners are most desperate for, right-handed power, and all of the red flags surrounding him could be offset by his cost. If the Mariners can limit him to mostly 1B/DH, they'll reduce his risk of injury, and Morse may actually be able to provide a win or two of value, as opposed to losing it all in the outfield. When combined with Corey Hart, who's still available, the Mariners can add a decent amount of offense to the lineup without spending much money, which they'll probably sink into an outfielder via trade or a starting pitcher. Given what's transpired, Hart is a perfect fit.

Morse and Hart don't solve the outfield issue though, and that's where the attention once again gets turned to Matt Kemp. While I'm not particularly a fan of Kemp, as I laid out in my initial post about him, he does represent one of the few clearly available potential upgrades. The Dodgers are relying on Alexander Guerrero to man second base, but he's a question mark and Hanley Ramirez may go back to third base. There's an open spot in the Dodgers infield. They could certainly be interested in Nick Franklin, and even though their rotation is more than full, James Paxton is a wonderful contingency plan or power reliever on their roster. I'm not sure a package of Franklin/Paxton is exactly what they're looking for, but it's a very strong offer if the Dodgers eat $30 million of Kemp's salary. Perhaps they're more interested in a developmental arm than Paxton since they don't have space for him.

If it's not Kemp, the Mariners could turn their sights to Jose Bautista, who is still controlled for three more seasons. Bautista was once a popular trade chip, but talks have quieted on him. While I doubt Franklin/Paxton gets it done for Toronto, it's an offer I wouldn't have any problem making. Bautista is in decline and has struggled with injuries, but he's owned just $14 million/year over the next three seasons. He's also the right-handed power outfielder they've coveted for a while, and he carries a lot less risk than Matt Kemp.

If the Mariners are going to compete in this window, they have to think big with their acquisitions, but they have to achieve it without trading Taijuan Walker. It's going to be incredibly difficult, and with possible targets shrinking, I'm nervous to see what they do.

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