Seattle Mariners hover over panic button after early spring setbacks

The division rivals purchased their "easy buttons" from Staples early on. The Texas Rangers traded for Prince Fielder and signed J.P. Arencibia and Shin-Soo Choo. The Oakland Athletics signed Scott Kazmir (still questionable for Billy Beane's philosophy) and Eric O'Flaherty, extended Coco Crisp's contract and traded for Craig Gentry and Jim Johnson. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a near-healthy Albert Pujols, a beefed-up Josh Hamilton and acquired Tyler Skaggs, David Freese and Raul Ibanez. The Houston Astros made small moves and feel their prospects are just a small step away from contributing to the big league club. These four teams seem ready for the spring.

The Seattle Mariners bought the generic easy button. They signed Robinson Cano to a 1,000-year contract for 2.4 billion dollars (or something like that). They are banking on Corey Hart (who I'd love to see have a bounce-back season after injury) and incumbents such as Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak to--maybe, just maybe--finally figure it all out.

But after this past week of out-of-shape once-prospects, chronic stomach issues and an injured finger, the Mariners may now be in a "Well, that escalated quickly" mode. Perhaps the bluffs have been called by the free agents. I feel now the Mariners are scrambling for an easy button, but they've all been purchased. Now all that's left are panic buttons.

Reports link Nelson Cruz to Seattle. Seattle, in desperate need of a right-handed bat, were in a spot to possibly overpay for Cruz or at least give him one too many years. Before Hisashi Iwakuma's injury, it seems we'd pin our hopes on Cruz and run with what we have. Now, we need a starter, but we still need Cruz, and maybe a solid lefty reliever, and more money.

Ervin Santana is still sitting there, but he's right there by that panic button. Ubaldo Jimenez seems to be a slighty more conservative option, but could have a hefty price tag as well. Chris Capuano and Oliver Perez sit on the clearance shelf, waiting. Capuano has lowered his contract demands to one measly year. Perez was overworked last year by the Mariners, but, hey, he's still available. A Valentine's Day miracle would be to reunite Perez and the Ms.

Perhaps a trade is in the works. Earlier this offseason, rumors of David Price to the Mariners floated around cyberspace but Seattle is one team Price could not see himself signing an extension with. David Price could be this year's Justin Upton--a dodged bullet of a trade.

Price and Santana would be panic moves by the Mariners. Instead, General Manager Jack Zdurienick needs to play it close to the sleeve. Now, more than ever, minor upgrades will play major parts. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors wonders if the franchise has the money for Cruz AND Santana. Instead of wondering, Zdurienick needs to pick one and trade to fill the other. Now, more than ever, research needs to be done, phone calls need to be made, and those old school scales need to be put to use. Which is needed more: a right-handed bat or a starter? Whichever one weighs more heavily, throw money at that. Trade for the other. Santana OR Cruz is a conservative ploy; Santana AND Cruz is a panic move.

Suk-min Yoon will head to the Orioles, so that possibility is out the window unless he tweets himself wearing a Mariners cap next week. Erik Bedard (forgive me, Father, for I bring this name up) will most likely a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Joe Saunders is Joe Saunders. Sorry, forget I brought him up. "No, Joe, I said 'Joe's Anders.' Go back to whatever you do in the offseason." The Mariners were reported scouting Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz. Depth is great, but we need another shortstop, right? Because Brad Miller, Nick Franklin and Chris Taylor are chopped liver already.

If it were Jan. 14 and not Feb. 14, this situation may not be as dire, but we are two weeks from the first spring training game, and more questions are arising than being answered, and maybe at too fast of a pace.

Right now, MLB Depth Charts pegs Scott Baker as the Opening Day No. 2 starter. I'll let that sink in for a bit. That should tell you what the situation is right now. I wouldn't be surprised if a deal is reached with a new piece in some capacity within the next week. But like the high school student who was placed in the accelerated class, has a 15-page paper due tomorrow and has done as much as type his name, the Mariners may be in a panic situation that could cause them to repeat senior year before graduating.

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