In case you missed it, the big Seattle Mariners news of the day was nothing. The remaining Seattle Mariners news of the day was that Kendrys Morales and Brendan Ryan both agreed to one-year contracts, settling in advance of arbitration. Shawn Kelley didn't settle, and he submitted a $1.2 million salary while the Mariners countered with a $0.75 million salary, but they could still settle before the actual arbitration hearing, and more importantly, the difference here hardly matters. Try not to think about how you don't care about a difference of four hundred thousand fifty dollars. "That's nothing," you say, opening a can of soup and making sure the heat is off in the rooms you aren't occupying.
Morales, of course, is one year from free agency. Ryan, too. Kelley's still under team control through 2015. Morales signed for $5.25 million, while Ryan signed for $3.25 million. They were projected to sign for about $4.8 million and $2.3 million, respectively, so they'll be getting more than we thought, but we thought what the model thought, and the model might need to be updated to account for the new CBA. Most importantly, now that we know all this, we can more accurately map out the state of the Mariners' payroll.
I don't even have to do it myself, because Larry Stone already did. Go through and read his whole post for his methodology, and for explanations on how he arrived at certain numbers. The bottom line is that he arrived at a current payroll of $78.3 million. Which basically means he arrived at a current payroll of $75-80 million, including $1 million for whoever the backup catcher turns out to be. That was a guess on Stone's part, and we can account for it.
Earlier in the offseason, the Mariners talked about raising payroll beyond $90 million. Their reported offer to Josh Hamilton clearly demonstrated a willingness to spend. We can't guarantee that the Mariners will use the budget room they apparently have remaining, but we can say that flexibility is there. The Mariners can spend more, and they have places where they could spend it. The alternative would be not spending it, but for whatever reason I don't trust the Mariners to make that saved money re-available at a later date. Call me a cynic.
So what now? Most glaringly, the Mariners need to get that catcher, since their current backup stands to be Jesus Sucre. What you know about Jesus Sucre is that his name is Jesus Sucre, and you're probably taking his position on faith. But there's also room in the starting rotation -- for not necessarily just one arm, but two. It kind of depends on what you think about Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi, and all of the prospects. And Jeremy Bonderman, if you forgot about the Mariners having Jeremy Bonderman now. I wouldn't count on Jeremy Bonderman. I wouldn't count anything on Jeremy Bonderman. "Why are you stacking apples on top of Jeremy Bonderman?" "I was just c--yeah okay I can see how this looks."
Among free-agent options still out there, there's Kyle Lohse, and Joe Saunders, and Shaun Marcum, and Erik Bedard! The Mariners have been linked to Lohse and Saunders, Saunders most recently. I can't imagine the Mariners would want to surrender a first-round pick for the privilege of giving Kyle Lohse too many years, although I guess there is a price point at which he makes sense. Saunders is about as uninteresting as this following blockquoted paragraph:
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It's not that Saunders wouldn't be of some use, but his career adjusted ERA is average, his career peripherals are below average, and he's 31 years old. As a Mariner, he could contribute, and I would have zero interest in actually watching any of his starts, assuming the Mariners don't end up in a playoff race. Joe Saunders isn't just a bowl of oatmeal. He's a bowl of Dustin Ackley's oatmeal. The active ingredient in Lunesta are flakes of Joe Saunders' dry, shed skin.
The Mariners could sign a free agent, though. And/or they could pursue a trade, having been linked in recent days to Rick Porcello. Porcello is expendable, he's under control through 2015, and he's young enough to be not completely uninteresting. What the Tigers would want, I can't be certain, but presumably it would be "something", so use that as your starting point. Porcello also isn't the only available starter on the trade market; he's just the guy the Mariners can't get away from in the rumor mill. The Mariners could conceivably trade for Roy Halladay in the time in between when I finish this post and when I publish and set this post on the front page.
The Mariners still have money to spend. Maybe they'll spend it. Maybe they'll spend it on players we like. I instruct you to stay tuned, but not really, because it's the weekend now, so go, get out of here, do something with your hours. Let the Mariners worry about the Mariners. There's hockey tomorrow! Go do hockey!