Let me start this by saying that I thought the moves over the offseason were, in general, very good. I was somewhat surprised when the spring drew nearer and nearer without any big signings, but looking back now I am glad we did not sign Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, Bourn or any of the other big names out there. (This could all change if we once again finish under .500 this year.) Unless Seattle suddenly becomes a $150 million team, paying a star other than Felix $20+/year on a long term deal seems like it would be a risk too big to take on.
I will miss Jaso, but am not enraged by the Morse/Jaso swap like a lot of LLers were. The acquisition of Morales via subtraction of Vargas 1.0 and later addition of Vargas 2.0 was brilliant. The signings of Ibanez, Bay, and Garland will be okay if Wedge doesn't play veterans over more talented players for the sake of veteranness. I would rather have Wells over Bay for depth, but if Gutierrez can play 120+ games then the difference between Bay and Wells this year should not be all that much.
The problem I see with this offseason is that so many players are here for only one year. Even if the stars align and the Mariners get into the playoffs this year, my initial thought is that they could go back to a mediocre team the following year with so many players leaving. So I am going to attempt to see what gaps will be in the team in 2014 and whether Zduriencik will be able to do next offseason what many wanted him to do this offseason, which is to sign big names in the obvious black holes without jeopardizing the future.
I guess I'll just go through team by position.
I guess Montero would be considered the depth here. Hicks won't be here in 2014, but maybe 2015?
There really is no depth here in the minors, so if Smoak fizzles again this year Jack's going to have to spend money on a free agent next year.
Solid depth with Franklin, Romero. I don't want to consider the possibility that Ackley won't bounce back this year.
Like 1B not much depth at this position but Seager doesn't have the same question marks as Smoak.
I don't want Ryan to be gone but if he doesn't improve offensively will Miller, Triunfel, or Franklin be ready to handle this position?
OF:Saunders, ?, ?
I believe Morban is considered out best OF prospect, but he's going to start in AA this year so should not be ready in 2014. If Gutierrez is healthy this year, his option will be picked up next year. So healthy Guti means 1 spot to fill next year. Otherwise 2 spots.
The plan is that Zunino replaces Montero at C while Montero shows his bat is worthy of DHing. If not, then no idea what will happen with this position. Maybe another Raul next year. Or Morse wants to stay?
SP: Felix, Iwakuma, Ramirez, ?, ?
Hopefully two of the Big Four will be ready come Opening Day next season. Hultzen and Maurer seem the closest and that would be a solid rotation next year trending up to awesome when they gain experience as big league starters. If only one makes it up, Beavan is a solid #5 guy in my opinion.
Bullpen: Wilhelmsen, Capps, Pryor, Furbush, Luetge, ?, ?
Filling the pen won't be an issue.
So I see SS, OF, OF as positions Jack could add to significantly next year.
And we should have plenty of payroll flexibility as well since Felix(23.5) and Iwakuma(6.5) are the only substantial contracts that I see right now. Gutierrez(7.5) getting his option picked up would mean only 2 major spots needing to be filled next year. The rest of the players make minimum or arbitration salaries, which might be significant. I don't know how much that could add. 30/40 million? That seems high to me, but it looks like there should be at least 20 or 30 million to spend on 2 spots next year and if Brendan Ryan is kept his cost wouldn't be that high, leaving a lot of money for an outfielder.
Looking quickly through this Ellsbury, Granderson, Choo, Morse, and Pence are the only ones that really jump out at me. I mainly follow the Mariners so maybe there are some good hitters I don't recognize. The problem with these is that they're all 30+ and probably want long contracts. They won't demand Hamilton/Fielder/Pujols contracts, though, so maybe it's a risk that the Mariners can afford.
I don't see any SSs better than Ryan as 2014 FAs. And they're all older than him anyway. Miller is our SS of the future though and looks to be 1 or 2 years away. I doubt Ryan would consider signing a one year deal just to stay with the Mariners.
So, yeah. I'm going to be disappointed if the Mariners aren't good in 2014. Jack should be able to find a solid OFer and SS over the offseason through FA or trades. Of course, this all falls apart if the can't-miss prospects all miss and the Seager/Saunders/Smoak/Ackleys don't continue to develop. Like that would ever happen.