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Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, And Michael Bourn

"a hitter?"
"a hitter?"

Yesterday afternoon, the Seattle Mariners unofficially agreed to terms with not very good baseball player Jason Bay on a one-year contract. The Mariners won't confirm it, and the Mariners aren't going to sign Bay and call the rest of the offseason quits, but what the Mariners didn't really need was for Bay to be the acquisition of the winter meetings. Fans are impatient, Mariners fans are impatient and frustrated, and Jason Bay is a Canadianer Chone Figgins. If one had his druthers, Bay's a guy you get after you get the guy or two you actually want and intend to use. All the Bay news did was get people yelling, electronically and probably but hopefully not literally, out loud, with their voices.

But Bay wasn't all we got yesterday, in terms of Mariners rumors. In the weird and uncertain hours between Wednesday and Thursday, it was reported the Mariners were "very close" to signing Josh Hamilton. In truth, the Mariners probably aren't "very close", and even the initial report suggested the Mariners getting Hamilton depended on the Rangers getting Zack Greinke, but what's clear is that the Mariners aren't out on Hamilton at all. They're in there, as serious contenders, and we're all just kind of waiting on Greinke to make a decision. When Greinke topples over, the other players should begin to topple over. This is another and stranger way of referring to the players as dominoes.

We've talked about Hamilton a bunch before, and the sense is that he'll sign a shorter contract with a higher average annual value. The Rangers are apparently open to bringing him back -- very open! perhaps -- but they can't afford both him and Greinke, probably. And they're in on Greinke, and Justin Upton. Something needs to happen with the Rangers. Then the rest of the things can happen. There do not seem to be very many teams in on Hamilton at this point, so the Mariners could well be the fallback if the Rangers decide to go in another direction. According to Chuck Armstrong, the Mariners and Hamilton haven't discussed terms or any numbers, but we know the sides have talked and they've expressed some degrees of interest in one another.

Josh Hamilton could really happen. He also could really not, but at this point it isn't Josh Hamilton or bust for the Mariners, because there are these other guys too. Nick Swisher hasn't yet signed anywhere, and he's seen his pool of potential suitors shrink. The Red Sox appear to be out, Swisher appears to be too expensive for the Giants, and the Orioles keep denying involvement. A report yesterday said Swisher's primary suitors are the Mariners and the Indians, and the Indians supposedly made a large bid for Shane Victorino before he wound up signing with Boston. The Indians do have money to spend, but they might be one of the rare teams beside whom the Mariners look desirable.

For the Mariners, Swisher seems like almost too good of a fit. He comes with far less uncertainty than Josh Hamilton does, and he offers the right sort of positional flexibility. He hasn't yet fallen into the Mariners' lap, but he's getting there, and depending on the Hamilton situation the Mariners could present to Swisher his biggest offer. Then it would be a matter of Swisher deciding whether or not to take it, since the biggest offer isn't always automatic. Swisher undoubtedly has his preferences, but his preferences might not have Nick Swisher as a preference.

And then there's Michael Bourn. We haven't talked about him the way we've talked about Hamilton and Swisher, since he's less obvious of a fit, but the Mariners have been strongly linked to Bourn lately and the Phillies just today traded for Ben Revere to handle their center field. The Phillies apparently decided they'd rather overpay in resources for Revere than overpay in money for Bourn. Bourn is represented by Scott Boras, so this could easily drag out, but the teams that needed center fielders have pretty much all found their center fielders. The Phillies got Revere, the Braves got B.J. Upton, the Giants got Angel Pagan, the Red Sox got Shane Victorino, and the Nationals got Denard Span. Bourn's market is shriveling up, and the Mariners do have space. The Twins suddenly need a center fielder after dealing away two of them, but the Twins, like the Indians, probably look worse to a free agent than the Mariners do.

Bourn isn't the guy I want the most, and surely there are other teams out there who are going to have interest as Bourn's asking price presumably comes down, but Bourn's a good player and what the Mariners need the most are more good players. Especially good players who play the outfield. The fan base might not be receptive to a Bourn-type, but they'd come to like him if he didn't suck a lot, which he might not do. They're not all Chone Figgins. Sometimes they're even their own people.

Hamilton's out there, Swisher's out there, Bourn's out there, and the Mariners are out there, with fewer teams still being out there than before. I don't know if the Mariners are going to get any of these guys, but they're going to try, and Jason Bay isn't the end of it. The winter meetings aren't all about making moves. They're also about gaining clarity when it comes to future moves. A lot more is known now than was known a few days ago, and what we know now is that the Mariners are in decent position to make a splash. A splash not out of desperation, but out of an attempt to make the 2013 team a fringe playoff contender.