First things first: say goodbye to our 1999 1st round draft pick. Christianson has signed a minor league contract with Tampa Bay after spending the better part of seven seasons in the Mariners organization. Although he'll only be 25 next season, Christianson has never put everything together, posting a career batting line of .254/.327/.410 during what has thusfar been an injury-plagued career. He's been a disappointment, to say the least, and you'd like to see him get a cup of coffee, but now that he's gone I have no problem with saying that he comes off as kind of a dick, and Tampa Bay is an appropriate place for him and his attitude.
Moving on: Scott Hatteberg. Only, not so much.
Although I'm glad that the team isn't in serious negotiations with Scott Hatteberg, it's more than a little aggravating to know that they've looked in his direction without giving so much as a passing glance to Russ Branyan. I guess the fact that Branyan is younger, better, and almost certainly cheaper doesn't really appeal to a front office that gave Carl Everett $4m, but a man can dream.
The thing that really gets to me, though, is this:
Looking at trades? Fine. Looking at making the pitching staff better? Fine. But the bench? The way I understood it before, talks with Hatteberg had died down because there was no longer a need for his kind of player, what with Matt Lawton hanging around as the top lefty bench bat. It seems I was wrong. The bench currently looks like this:
Backup catcher: Rene Rivera
Utility infielder: Willie Ballgame
Utility outfielder: Matt Lawton
Extra corner IF/OF: Mike Morse?
With a four-man bench, the only competition will come in that last slot, where the Mariners may want to insert a veteran (Hatteberg) so that Morse can slide back to AAA. With Carl Everett now acting as the team's emergency fifth outfielder, instead of Willie, the team has a little more flexibility, in that whoever occupies Morse's slot doesn't need to have middle infield experience. That already makes Branyan look both desirable and entirely plausible. Should they go with a five-man bench, though, then there's room for pretty much any additional bat that they want, since he wouldn't really have to play defense at all. Look at that, room for Branyan.
I guess the problem is that, even if there's room for Branyan on the bench, having Everett around blocks him from getting consistent playing time, and his track record when he gets inconsistent at bats is less than impressive. And that's understandable, if not a little disappointing, since an easy solution would be to eat Everett's contract and release him right now to make space for a better player. But in the end, we're talking about a guy who wouldn't get more than 150-200 at bats off the bench, and as cool as it would be to have him around, the difference he'd make isn't big enough to keep hammering the point home. So I digress.