The Mariners have taken their sweet time this offseason, and they're starting to get burned. The past 24 hours has seen an insane amount of action, with the A's making several trades bagging Luke Gregerson, Jim Johnson, and Craig Gentry, Doug Fister being shipped to the Nationals, Dexter Fowler being dealt to the Astros, Heath Bell and Ryan Hanigan moving to the Rays in a three-way deal, Justin Morneau closing in with the Rockies, and Carlos Beltran entertaining a three-year offer that now appears like it might be from the Royals. The Tigers signed Joe Nathan, the Dodgers are close with Brian Wilson, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is joining the Marlins, A.J. Pierzynski finalized a deal with the Red Sox The Mariners...signed Willie Bloomquist.
Meanwhile, the Mariners are sitting around, being connected to players instead of acquiring them. Now, it appears they might be losing their most commonly connected name, and one of the biggest free agents left.
Jon Heyman is reporting that the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury are closing in on a seven-year-deal that would top the $142 million Carl Crawford got from Boston a few years back. Joel Sherman confirms, even adding that Ellsbury is already on his way to New York for a physical. Mark Feinsand has the numbers, and it's huge: $153 million over seven years.
The Mariners don't have to make the first moves, they have to make the right ones. And many of the names that are getting crossed off the available list are ones that weren't great targets anyways - but as the list grows smaller, those teams who have been left in the cold grow more and more desperate, and now there's reports that the Tigers have been clearing all this money for a run at Shin-Soo Choo. Jeff Passan thinks the Yankees still have room for Cano or Choo and a starting pitcher as well. These teams print money. If the Mariners want to play with the big boys, it's incredibly clear they have to overpay.
Ellsbury made more sense for the Mariners than any of the marquee free agent bats, and now they've missed their chance to land him. In our off-season plan, which has already been thoroughly busted, he was a back-up plan to Masahiro Tanaka. It's getting hard to shake the feeling that this off-season is going to be practically over before it begins, and the Mariners are once again going to be standing alone in the cold, left throwing whatever they can to land Nelson Cruz. This market is developing too fast for them to sit and wait for bargains if they really do want to make the splashes they've been rumored to desire. Perhaps you feel that $153 million is too much for Jacoby Ellsbury, but if you want to play the free agent game and steal marquee players away from big markets, that's what it's going to take. I'm not advocating that the Mariners should have stepped up and offered the $170-180 million needed to sway Ellsbury away from an organization like the Yankees.
$200 million isn't going to get it done for Robinson Cano. Either you step up, or you step aside. The Mariners are getting completely steamrolled. For this kind of deal, it was probably smart. But how smart will it look if they're left with nothing again? Either this team starts printing money like the rest of the league, or they figure out other ways to win. Since they've proven to be fairly poor at the latter, neither scenario is too encouraging.